The Modern Federalist Papers (2010)

Origional Federalist Papers
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MODERN FEDERALIST. No. 8

The Preamble
For the Independent Thinker.
Robert Briscoe

To the People of the Unites States of America:

The Preamble: Form a more Perfect Union

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was the first constitution of the United States of America. It comprised delegates appointed by the legislatures of the states. The Congress had little power and without the external threat of a war against the British, it became more difficult to get enough delegates to meet to form a quorum.

In September 1786, commissioners from five states met in the Annapolis Convention to discuss adjustments to the Articles of Confederation that would improve commerce. They invited state representatives to convene in Philadelphia to discuss improvements to the federal government. After debate, the Congress of the Confederation endorsed the plan to revise the Articles of Confederation on February 21, 1787. Twelve states, Rhode Island being the only exception, accepted this invitation and sent delegates to convene in May 1787. The resolution calling the Convention specified that its purpose was to propose amendments to the Articles, but through discussion and debate it became clear by mid-June that, rather than amend the existing Articles, the Convention decided to propose a rewritten Constitution.

The Philadelphia Convention voted to keep the debates secret, so that the delegates could speak freely. They also decided to draft a new fundamental government design. Despite Article 13 of the Articles of Confederation stating that the union created under the Articles was "perpetual" and that any alteration must be "agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State," Article VII of the proposed constitution stipulated that only nine of the thirteen states would have to ratify for the new government to go into effect (for the participating states). Current knowledge of the drafting and construction of the United States Constitution comes primarily from the diaries left by James Madison, who kept a complete record of the proceedings at the Constitutional Convention.

Work of the Philadelphia Convention

The Virginia Plan was the unofficial agenda for the Convention, and was drafted chiefly by James Madison, considered to be "The Father of the Constitution" for his major contributions. It was weighted toward the interests of the larger states, and proposed among other points:

  • A powerful bicameral legislature with a House and a Senate
  • An executive chosen by the legislature
  • A judiciary, with life-terms of service and vague powers
  • The national legislature would be able to veto state laws

In the Philadelphia Convention an alternative proposal, William Paterson's New Jersey Plan, includes the following points that countered the previous proposal that favored the larger states, among others:

  • A unicameral legislature with all states represented in equal numbers in order to insure fairness
  • An executive branch appointed by the legislature
  • A judicial branch appointed by the executive.

Roger Sherman of Connecticut brokered The Great Compromise whereby the House would represent the people, a Senate would represent the states, and a president would be elected by electors.

Several ideas in the Constitution were new, and a large number were drawn from the experiences of the 13 states, and the British experience with mixed government. The most important influence from the European continent was from Montesquieu, who emphasized the need to have balanced forces pushing against each other to prevent tyranny.

The United States Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments added to the Constitution in 1791, as supporters of the Constitution had promised critics during the debates of 1788. These amendments require jury trials, contain a right to keep and bear arms, prohibit excessive bail and forbid "cruel and unusual punishments."

PUBLIUS.

 

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