Establishing the people’s control over the government and not the other way around, the delegates designed a central government consisting of 3 “separate but equal” branches: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. Care was taken to make sure each branch had their own specific duties and authorities, as well as precise restrictions and boundaries. “Checks and balances” were developed instructing each branch to keep the other branches within their limitations. Included were measures, specifically impeachment, to remove anyone who abused or overstepped their boundaries, whether it be a Congressmen, Justice, or President.
The delegates worked through the hot days of summer in Philadelphia fighting, arguing, compromising and developing an amazing document. As Jefferson is the “Father of the Declaration of Independence”, James Madison was given the honor of authoring the majority of this instrument which earned him the title “Father of the Constitution”. Forty-one delegates were present on September 17th when the Constitution was presented for signatures. Three refused to sign at the time with thirty-nine putting their name on the document. Upon exiting the proceedings, Benjamin Franklin was asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”. Franklin replied without hesitation, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Many states were skeptical regarding the new Constitution and wanted more clarity on the rights of personal freedoms. More importantly, they desired additional limits on the federal government in its authority and further restrictions to reduce their ability to abuse its power. Also sought was the retention of some powers to the states and to the citizens. After the Constitution was ratified in 1788, Congress moved to address these issues. James Madison proposed 39 Amendments of which Congress approved twelve on September 25, 1789, with eventually 10 being ratified by the states. These ten clauses became known as the Bill of Rights, the first of which gave ultimate freedom of speech and religion to the citizens. (see Ratifying Liberty)
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
After fighting a war against a King who not only controlled religion but executed those who spoke against him, the Founding Fathers of the Country made sure that the people of America would be free to speak and worship as they choose. But the only way to secure that freedom was to guarantee a tyrannical government couldn’t overpower them. This was achieved by giving citizens the right to defend themselves, not against intruders and other citizens, but from a government seeking to become a totalitarian governing body.
The delegates borrowed elements and ideas from other documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. As a whole, though, the Constitution of the United States of America was an unprecedented governing contract that had never been seen before. It was an agreement that limited the powers of the national government, giving the control to the states and personal rights to the citizens of the country. The Constitution and Bill of Rights were very specific in not informing the federal government what it could do, but what it couldn't. They are explicitly meant to tie the hands of those writing, enforcing, and judging our laws to prevent them from hindering our liberties and freedoms.
President George W. Bush ushered into law a bill honoring the 39 brave men who signed the document. It designated September 17th Constitution Day which America first celebrated in 2005. How fantastic we are re-familiarizing ourselves with such an important document. It’s easy for a government to take away freedoms that citizens aren’t even aware they have. But God help those who try to remove liberties while citizens are wide awake.
That’s my 2 cents.
September 17, 2015
While July 4th is a pivotal day for our country, it was on this day in 1787 that the backbone of our nation's governing system was cemented with the U.S. Constitution.
The nation had built up a substantial debt fighting the Revolutionary War. The First Continental Congress allowed the government to print money of which it actively did. By the end of the war, the bills had depreciated so much simply because there were so many of them, they were turned into a joke with the common phrase “not worth a continental”.
As George Washington and the Continental Army fought King George III, the 13 colonies gathered for the Second Continental Congress to agree on the Articles of Confederation, the first American Constitution. It was a simple document but it had its issues. The only means of revenue for the new government was taxation but since the Articles did not grant enforcement powers, most states did not pay. Those who did contribute barely covered the interest owed for their state. Adding in states producing their own currency, the economy of the new nation was failing fast. The country was on the verge of bankruptcy and she was barely 10 years old. (see Reading the Riot Act)
For America to survive on the world stage, there had to be some common unity between the states. The Articles did establish a structure for the states to vote on proposals affecting the country, but it allowed any one state the ability to veto a bill. It also lacked instruction on managing affairs, specifically internationally, of the nation and failed to provide the guidance and support needed from a strong, central but still limited, government. Seeking a resolution, another Constitutional Convention was called. State legislatures chose 74 delegates to attend but only 55 showed up on May 25, 1787, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The original purpose was to amend the Articles of Confederation. The delegates soon realized the best action was to start over with a new Constitution.
As demonstrated in “Jamestown: A City Upon A Hill” and “Thanks Be To God”, the concept of self-governing was instilled in the hearts of Americans from the very first settlers. The new Constitution highlighted this concept, beginning with the words “We the People”. It was this phrase that set the stage for the historical document that grants rights and power to the citizens, not a person or entity.