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Friday, June 08, 2018

Parchment Barriers Were Made To Be Trumped

A motion was made and seconded, that the House do come to a resolution, stating certain specific amendments, proper to be proposed by Congress to the Legislatures of the States, to become, if ratified by three-fourths thereof, part of the Constitution of the United States.

 - Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Monday, June 8, 1789

Father of the Constitution, James Madison, made some notes other than the famous ones he took in Philly.  These were for his introduction of what would become the Bill of Rights in the First Congress:

Objectns. of 3 kinds vs the Constn:
1. vs. the theory of its structure
2. vs. the substance of its powers—elections & direct taxes
3. vs omission of guards in favr. of rights & liberts
The last most urged & easiest obviated.
Read the amendments-
They relate 1st. to private rights-
Bill of Rights-useful-not essential-

Jemmy actually had announced his intentions on May 4, but when his target of May 25 rolled around, there was too much other stuff going on.  That's a major objection to Madison's move: we have, you know, a bunch of stuff to bootstrap this government under your precious Constitution, so why you bothering us with this crap now?

So he was given the blow off before he could started by several other Representatives with varying levels of disdain for the idea of amending the Constitution (some were for it, but not so early):

  • Smith (MD) was not inclined to interrupt the measures which the public were so anxiously expecting
  • Jackson was of the opinion we ought not to be in a hurry with respect to altering the constitution
  • Goodhue was opposed to the consideration of the amendments altogether
  • Burke thought amendments to the constitution necessary, but this was not the proper time
  • [Madison gets a word in]
  • Sherman was willing that this matter should be brought before the House at a proper tiume
  • White hoped the House would not spend much time on this subject, till the more pressing business is dispatched
  • Smith (SC) thought the important and pressing business of the Government prevents their entering upon that subject at present
  • Page thought those who dread the assembling of a convention would do well to acquiesce to the present motion
  • Vining said it was not the most facile subject that can come before the Legislature of the Union

Yet Madison kept at it.  Here's how he finally set the stage in June:

I am sorry to be accessary to the loss of a single moment of time by the House...

I will state my reasons why I think it proper to propose amendments, and state the amendments themselves, so far as I think they ought to be proposed. If I thought I could fulfil the duty which I owe to myself and my constituents, to let the subject pass over in silence, I most certainly should not trespass upon the indulgence of this House. But I cannot do this, and am therefore compelled to beg a patient hearing to what I have to lay before you. And I do most sincerely believe, that if Congress will devote but one day to this subject, so far as to satisfy the public that we do not disregard their wishes, it will have a salutary influence on the public councils, and prepare the way for a favorable reception of our future measures. It appears to me that this House is bound by every motive of prudence, not to let the first session pass over without proposing to the State Legislatures some things to be incorporated into the constitution, that will render it as acceptable to the whole people of the United States, as it has been found acceptable to a majority of them.

His colleagues still didn't buy what he was selling for a while.  But, duh, Congress eventually put a proposed slate of amendments to the Several States and it was ratified and everything was perfect in all the land.  Though we shouldn't forget, once again, acceptance of the Constitution and the BoR was not universal, nor does it confer unlimited rights.  Or these days, any rights..


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June 8, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink


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