It happened this day in history, 230 years ago. On May 25, 1787, delegates convened a Constitutional Convention to write a new Constitution for the United States. George Washington presided.
Also known as the Federal Convention, the meeting lasted until September 17. The session was formed to cement the direction of the fledgling country, which had been operating under the Articles of Confederation following independence from Great Britain. Although the Convention was intended to revise the Articles of Confederation, the objective from the outset, of many of its proponents, including James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, was to create a new government rather than fix the existing one.
The result of the Convention was the creation of the U.S. Constitution, placing the Convention among the most significant events in the history of the United States.
The most contentious disputes revolved around the composition and election of the Senate, how “proportional representation” was to be defined (whether to include slaves or other property), whether to divide the executive power between three persons or invest the power into a single president, how to elect the president, how long the term was to be, and whether he could stand for re-election, what offenses should be impeachable, the nature of a fugitive slave clause, whether to allow the abolition of the slave trade, and whether judges should be chosen by the legislature or executive branch. Most of the time during the Convention was spent on deciding these issues, while the powers of legislature, executive, and judiciary were not heavily disputed.
Once the Convention began, the delegates first agreed on the principles of the Convention, then they agreed on Madison’s Virginia Plan and began to modify it. A Committee of Detail assembled during the July 4 recess and produced a rough draft. Most of this rough draft remained in place, and can be found in the final version of the Constitution. After the final issues were resolved, the Committee on Style produced the final version, and it was voted on and sent to the states.
The miracle of the Constitutional Convention is that a group of men, with little experience is such things, produced a document that has guided the greatest nation on Earth for well over 200 years, with only limited amendments. Remember that, the next time a politician tries to circumvent this great document under the guise of calling it a “living, breathing document.” That is just code for “let’s ignore the Constitution for our own political purposes.”
The men who gathered 230 years ago today were statesmen and patriots. For them we should all be grateful – today and always.