HOT TOPIC: Constitution
Volume 3, Issue 2 - September 17, 2006
"Monday, September 18th is Constitution Day. For 200 years the Constitution has served as the cornerstone of American democracy. It serves as a visible and common bond among the diverse people of the United States.
Throughout the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia, delegates from twelve States debated the proper form a new government should take. The 39 delegates who signed the Constitution on September 17th wanted it to provide a permanent guarantee of the liberties achieved in the Revolution. The challenge was to create a republican form of government that could accommodate the thirteen states and anticipate future growth. The checks and balances between legislative, executive, and judicial branches was a first of its kind attempt to create a strong central government while preserving the sovereignty of the American people.
The longest debate of the Convention concerned the composition and election of the Congress. The conflict between small states who wanted to perpetuate equal representation (like they had in the Continental Congress) and large States who proposed representation by population almost brought the proceedings to a halt. Over several weeks the delegates developed a complicated compromise that provided for equal representation of the States in a Senate elected by State legislature and proportional representation in a popularly-elected House of Representatives. The conflict between large and small States disappeared in the early years of the nation.
The debates in State ratification conventions made it clear that amendments were needed to the basic framework drafted in Philadelphia. The Federalist Papers served as the dialogue that developed these principles. Beginning with Massachusetts, a number of State conventions ratified the Constitution with the request that a bill of rights be added to protect certain liberties. The First Congress approved these amendments now known as the Bill of Rights in 1791.
In the history of humankind, no living plan for government has demonstrated the genius and endurance evidenced in the American Constitution. As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the modern Constitution Day, make time to examine and appreciate this historic document."