Happy 4th of July and thank God for our Founding Fathers and their vision which has kept America vital for over 235 years. I read an interesting book recently, The Founding Lawyers and America’s Quest for Justice by Stuart M. Speiser, published by the Pound Civil Justice Institute.
The second chapter of Speiser’s book takes a fascinating look at the writing and ratifying of the United States Constitution. The delegates met in the late Spring of 1787 in Philadelphia for the Constiutional Convention, although Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, among others, quickly moved to rename it the "Foederal [federal] convention because the federal mandate had been to allow them to "amend" Articles of Confederation. George Washington was name president of the convention by acclamation. James Madison and Governor Edmund Randolph whipped together the "Viriginia Plan."
"So it was that when the Convention began to address its main business on May 29, 1787, the delegates were presented with the Virginia Plan, which in broad outline called for a new national government with three independent branches: a national executive, a national judiciary, and a national legislature of two houses — the representatives, to be elected by the people, and the senators to be elected by the representatives."
A vigorous debate ensured and the outcome of the Convention was in doubt on July 11, 1787 when Washington wrote to Alexander Hamilton "that he despaired of seeing a favorable outcome." A Committee of Detail was appointed to work out the problems and this committee came up with a reformulation of the "23 articles which roughly expressed the sense of the Convention thus far." But they decided to refer "the most vexing problems to a Committee on Postponed matters." This became known as the Committee of Eleven, or the Brearly Committee. This committee included, James Madison, Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, among others. The committee was dominated by lawyers who had done most of the work of creating the Constitution.
Finally the Constitution was ready to be written and this task was entrusted to the "Committee of Style and Arrangement." The five members of this committee were chosen by ballot and they were all lawyers: "Judge William Johnson of Connecticut (the chairman), Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Rufus King and Gouverneur Morris."
Although all five contributed, it was Gouverneur Morris who did most of the drafting and editing. His artistry appears in the preamble, in which with a stroke of him pen, he wrote:
"We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Morris and the committee boiled the 23 Articles down to just seven. Each article was meant to provide a framework of a workable government with enough "vagueness, generality and flexibility" to allow the Constitution to develop with the country.
As the author Speiser says:
"Its vitality today as the world’s oldest functioning constitution confirms the prescience of the lawyers who created it. For reasons explained in the next chapter, we shall call them the Founding Lawyers."
I hope to be blogging more about Stuart Speiser’s book, the Founding Lawyers, which can be purchased through the Pound Institute which is a non-profit organization or you can find it on Amazon. Happy 4th of July and please pray for our men and women overseas who help preserve our freedom.