Many of us have heard of the great document the United State’s Constitution. Some of us might have had the opportunity to read it and think about it. If you have not had the time to do so, I recommend taking a look at it. The Constitution is not only beautifully written, but also contains the basic blueprint of our country and system of law. It is what guided the country in the early days, and it is what continues to guide us to this day. Although a little complex, and at times rather vague, the Constitution was designed to create a very specific set of checks and balances on power in the United States. It was partly because the issue of power was so important at the time that it was created. You might not know it, but before there was a Constitution, there was another similar document, the Articles of Confederation. This document was a sort of rough constitution that outlined issues relating to state’s rights. This was a particularly hot topic at the time, because after breaking with England, the colonies were unclear as to how to organize themselves or to limit the powers of various groups. Some new document, a document that was clearly worded and articulated, needed to appear quickly. As a result, a group of leaders met from May 25th to September 17th 1787 to draft the United State’s Constitution. It was a long and laborious process, with many people arguing for many different things. This meeting, which is probably the most important in United State’s history, is known as the Constitutional Convention. At first the convention was simply intended to change the existing Articles of Confederation and not to create a new government. However, at the time there were certain men and women who felt that some drastic changes needed to be made. Among these were Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. George Washington presided over the convention.
While the convention was in progress, several different people and states suggested various plans for a constitution. There was great argument and strife over different opinions. One major issue of contention was slavery. Several states had already stopped trading slaves, while some were still very much engaged in the process. Some states wanted to tax slaves like normal citizens. It was not clear what to do at the time with this very divisive issue. No doubt the lack of resolution is what partly led to the civil war in later years.
Many delegates did not want to sign the new constitution. Some demanded that a bill or rights be attached to it before it was signed. This was a compromise at the convention that led to the United State’s Bill of Rights, a document that contains the first ten amendments to the United State’s Constitution.
Among the many great minds that drafted the United State’s Constitution, one of the most important was James Madison, who is often called the “Father of the Constitution.” Benjamin Franklin actually said that he did not approve of everything in the Constitution, but he did think it was as good as it was going to get. For those of us who are from the United States, we need to remember that the Constitution did not simply rise out of thin air. It resulted from a great deal of argumentation, strife, and deliberation. It took months to finish and agree upon, and even then there were several parties that did not like it. To this day many people would like to change it, trying to pass constitutional amendments. While the document isn’t perfect, it is the most successful in the world at regulating a republic.