Signing the Constitution on September 17, 1787 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. (How many Founding Fathers can you find?)
55 of some of the greatest American political minds of the 18th century (Thomas Jefferson called them “demi-gods”) met in the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia to create the U.S. Constitution that is still going strong after almost 250 years.
Goal of the Constitutional Convention in 1787:
“Do we want a confederation [of 13 independent states] or a nation?”
Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania, May 30, 1787 Philadelphia
None of the famous Founding Fathers got what they wanted at the Constitutional Convention in 1787:
George Washington didn’t want to be there at all. He felt that after winning a grueling 8 year long war against the biggest superpower of the 18th century, he deserved a well earned retirement as a gentleman planter at his beloved Mt. Vernon estate in Virginia. But out of a deep sense of duty he came anyway because his country needed him once again.
Thomas Jefferson, who did want to be there, wasn’t because he was in Paris as our ambassador to France.
That left James Madison of Virginia to earn the title of “Father of the Constitution”. He hated the “Great Compromise” that produced the clearly undemocratic equal state representation in the Senate, instead of the very democratic representation by population in the House. (Did I mention the “Great Compromise” also gave the Southern slave states extra seats in the House and the Electoral College by counting 3/5 of their slaves, that were treated as property and of course could not vote, as “real people” for representation purposes.) He also thought state governments were so self centered that they would destroy the country if the federal government didn’t have the power to negate any state law he didn’t like. (Well, technically the Supreme Court does have that power, but they’re so conservative they only do that once in a while instead of for all the state laws Madison didn’t like.)
Alexander Hamilton wanted the president to be elected for life, effectively making him an elected king. That went over like a lead balloon. In fact he got less of what he wanted in the Constitution than anybody else and then did the magnanimous thing of working harder than anybody else to get the necessary nine states to ratify the Constitution to make it the supreme law of the land.
Benjamin Franklin wanted the President to be a volunteer job without pay. Because he was the second most respected man in the country, after George Washington, the rest of the delegates very politely ignored that proposal.
Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania (Yes, I know he’s not famous, but he should be because he wrote those very famous words at the beginning of the Constitution, “We the People”). He wanted the Senate to be made up of only wealthy aristocrats, like himself, and had to settle for the Senate being the “most exclusive club” in the world.
James Wilson of Pennsylvania is my hero because in 1787 he was the only Founding Father who trusted the people to elect all of the members of the House, all of the members of the Senate and even the president. (He had to wait until the 17th Amendment in 1913 for Senators to be elected by the people instead of by state legislatures as in the original Constitution. And he had to wait until 2029 for the the president to be elected by the people when the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact was instituted. Don’t worry, by 2029 you will know what this is.)
Actually I “misspoke” at the beginning when I said nobody got what they wanted. They all got one wish granted. They all wanted to create a Constitution* that would change 13 independent, squabbling, weak states in 1787 into one great nation that someday would become the biggest and best democracy in the world.** After debating, arguing and compromising for four months in the heat of a Philadelphia summer that’s what they did.
*Except for the six Founding Fathers you’ve never heard of because they got even less of what they wanted and refused to join the other 39 in signing the Constitution on September 17, 1787.
** Actually India is the biggest democracy in the world but Americans are so proud of being American nobody will admit it.
And they all lived happily ever after. Well, except for Alexander Hamilton and Richard Spaight who were killed in duels and James Wilson who died while running away from the sheriff who wanted to put him in debtor’s prison because he lost so much money speculating in western land.
So you can skip reading the rest of my blog post because this is all you need to know to pass the test at the end. (I’m not kidding. There really is a test at the end.)
But if you want to read one of the most “interesting and exciting nonfiction stories about American history” and get all the details of why our Founding Fathers created the complicated Electoral College to chose our president instead of just letting the people choose the president in a simple election, like all the other democracies in the world do, you can read the next 50 “pages” of my blog post.
“One of the most interesting and exciting nonfiction stories about American history I have read in a long time. Easy to read; you won’t need a Ph.D. in history or constitutional law to understand what our Founding Fathers were really thinking when they decided in 1787 to create the Electoral College. I especially enjoyed the author’s humor. No other author could make reading about the Constitutional Convention in 1787 actually funny and entertaining, as well as informative. Lots of interesting characters (The “John Wayne” of the 18th century, the most handsome man in all of New Hampshire and of course Alexander Hamilton, that’s THE Alexander Hamilton of Broadway play fame), as well as all the drama and suspense of a good novel. No real bad guys (Except for one Founding Father who was a louse, but he reformed himself in the end.) It even has sex, violence and a surprise twist ending. This is made for the average voter who wants to know more about why America is the only democracy in the world that uses an Electoral College to choose its leader, but doesn’t have time to read the 800 page tome on the subject with 180 pages of footnotes. Can’t wait to read the author’s soon to be released sequel, Ranked Choice Voting is “da Bomb”!
Steve Scott, President, If You Want It Done Right, Do It Yourself
Some of the following ideas on the Electoral College are mine but most have been taken from these 20 great sources, unless specifically noted. Since this blog post is meant for the average voter, not constitutional scholars, I have included few footnotes. (One of my sources actually has 180 pages of footnotes!) My high school English teachers would role over in their graves over my egregious lack of footnotes, so please don’t tell them.
Note: Amazon.com prices are subject to change. That’s legalize for the prices listed here may be wrong. Caveat emptor. That’s Latin for “buyer beware”.
Amazon.com $17.60 by Akhil Reed Amar (Professor, Yale Law School)
Amazon.com $20.60 by William Peters (Director Yale University Films)
Amazon.com $12.30 by Calvin Jillson (Professor Political Science, University of Colorado)
. Amazon.com $9.30 by Christopher Collier (Professor of History, Univ. of Connecticut & James Collier)
Amazon.com $15.16 by Jack N. Rakove (Professor of American History, Stanford University)
Source # 11
Amazon.com $15.79 by Pauline Maier (Professor American History, Mass. Institute of Technology)
Amazon.com $14.35 by Edward Larson (Professor of History & Law, Univ. of Georgia & Michael Winship Professor of History, Univ. of Georgia)
Source # 14
(Needs better picture) Amazon.com $5.98 (Used) by Richard Morris (Professor of History, Columbia University)
Amazon.com $4.69 by Dennis Fradin (Children’s Author)
Amazon.com $30.40 by Max Farrand (Professor of History, Yale University)
Amazon.com $14.50, Vol. II by Max Farrand (Professor of History, Yale University)
Amazon.com $14.33 by David Stewart (Lawyer in Washington, D.C.)
Amazon.com $13.80 by Woody Holton (Professor of History, Univ. of Richmond)
(I don’t agree with a lot of his ideas, but many others do. And that’s what makes America great; we don’t all have to agree.
Amazon.com $11.51 by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah)
Despite the author’s glaring contradiction of worshiping our Constitution while praising “The Forgotten Founders” who tried to kill it in 1787. Despite the author’s failure to emphasize that for most their main reason for opposing the Constitution was its lack of a Bill of Rights, which was corrected in 1791, it’s still included in the 20 most important sources for my blog post. Why? Because it’s a prime example of what you can learn from listening to people you disagree with.
The story begins here of what the Founding Fathers were thinking when they created the the Electoral College in 1787 to choose our president:
The 13 original states, acting more like 13 different countries jealously guarding their independence, were afraid of creating a powerful, tyrannical government in America after getting rid of a powerful, tyrannical government in Great Britain. So they deliberately created a weak national government under the Articles of Confederation.
But only four years after winning independence from Great Britain, the national government they created was too weak and was just not working. The country was on the verge of collapse. Many feared their freedom won in the Revolutionary War would be lost.
The actual room in Philadelphia where the Constitution was created in 1787. George Washington sat in the tall chair in the background.
So 55 men, a.k.a. Founding Fathers, met at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia for four months in that hot summer in 1787 to fix the Articles of Confederation.
They were the “elites” of their day: wealthy, well educated, lawyers, politicians or all of the above. Not a small farmer or working class man among them.
General Lincoln’s Massachusetts militia firing at “protesters”, a.k.a. armed rebels, at the Springfield Armory. (6 rebels were killed in Shay’s Rebellion and 1? state militia man.)
Background: In Shay’s Rebellion (1786-87) 4000 farmers in western Massachusetts, mostly former Revolutionary War soldiers, protested the high taxes imposed by the Massachusetts “East Coast Elites” (Sound familiar?). The farmers didn’t have the hard currency (gold and silver) to pay their debts and taxes and the courts were foreclosing on their farms. So they ran the judges out of town, when they wren’t burning down their court houses. Then they attacked the Springfield armory, with real guns, to get more weapons so they could march on the state Capitol in Boston to “lobby” the legislature for a tax cut for “middle class” farmers like themselves
Well, the “elites” in the country said, “We can ignore the people complaining about high taxes when they just write letters. But when they start using guns we have to actually do something. So let’s have a Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and create a better Constitution so we won’t have more armed revolts by the people.”
And that’s the real reason the Founding Fathers decided to write a new Constitution. (At least according to Steve Scott and Wikipedia)
The first major problem was how to create a stronger national government that would work effectively without creating too strong a national government and lose their literally hard fought freedoms gained in the Revolutionary War.
The second major problem was the small population states feared the large states would gang up on them and always outvote them in Congress. The small states threatened to leave the union if the large states had too much power in the new constitution.
(Politician, Princeton University graduate and attorney general for Delaware)
“You dare not dissolve the [Articles of Confederation of the 13 States]; if you do, the small states will find some foreign ally of more honor and good faith who will take them by the hand and do them justice.” (Think France, Spain or even Great Britain.)
The third major problem was slavery. The Southern slave states wanted to keep slavery, which was the basis of their wealth and way of life.
But the Northern states wanted to abolish slavery.
(Needs new picture) All Times, All Peoples: A World History of Slavery by Milton Meltzer, Illustrated by Michael McCurdy, p. 27, Amazon.com $5.48 (Used)
“His brothers and sisters were bid off as his mother watched, holding his hand. Then her turn came and she was sold. As Josiah [age 5] was put on the auction block, his mother, half mad with grief, clung to the knees of the man who bought her. She begged him to buy Josiah too, so she could keep at least one of her children. Refusing to listen, he struck and kicked her. ‘As she crawled away from the brutal man,’ as Josiah recalled years later, I heard her sob out, ‘Oh Lord Jesus, how long, how long shall I suffer this way?”
No wonder the Northern states wanted to abolish slavery.
The five Southern slave states (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) would have left the union if the new constitution abolished slavery.
“It was the turn of the [Southern] slave states to threaten to leave the Convention. A similar threat seemed to have worked wonders for the small states’ interests. So Davie of North Carolina [Princeton University graduate, lawyer, and Colonel in the Revolutionary War]…was sure ‘that North Carolina will never confederate on any terms that do not rate the blacks at least as three-fifths. If the [Northern] states…exclude [blacks] altogether, the business is at an end.” (Source: #? p. 96)
These three problems were a huge challenge facing the Founding Fathers. (The Constitutional Convention was supposed to start on May 14 but they couldn’t get a quorum until May 25. And you thought our Founding Fathers were perfect.) They knew if they failed to create a better constitution than the Articles of Confederation, the infant democracy of America would not survive. No pressure at all.
The delegates argued bitterly for a whole month about one thing: representation in Congress. Would there be one equal vote for each of the 13 states or would the votes of the states be determined by population? The small states wanted one vote for each state. And no surprise here, the large states wanted representation by population so they could have more power in the government.
By July 2 the convention delegates were so divided that tempers were flaring. So Benjamin Franklin recommended the convention start each day with prayer asking for divine guidance. (And you thought today’s politicians were the most divided in U.S. history.) They voted his suggestion down, partly because there was no money to pay for a chaplain.
The dissension got so bad the convention threatened to break up without creating a new constitution. In a few years the 13 states would have split into 3 or 4 separate countries and we would have no fireworks or BBQ’s on the Fourth of July.
Then the “John Wayne” of the 18th century, Abraham Baldwin of Georgia, came to save the day. (Yale University graduate, lawyer and member of the Continental Congress.)
The vote to have both the House and the Senate representation by population was 5 to 5 with Georgia the last to vote. If this vote passed Baldwin knew the small states would walk out; no new constitution and the United States would be no more.
Georgia was expected to vote “aye”, meaning the measure would pass. Though Baldwin favored representation by population in both houses of Congress he voted “no”. Since the other Georgia delegate voted “aye” the state of Georgia was divided 1-1 and the final vote was 5 states “aye”, 5 “no” and 1 divided with the measure failing to get enough votes to pass.
The delegates then voted to form a committee to try to break the impasse.
Alexander Hamilton of New York left on June 30 because he wasn’t getting along with the other two delegates from New York. (He was an illegitimate child and an orphan at age 13, born on the Caribbean island of Nevis in the British West Indies, Columbia University graduate, aide to Washington during the Revolutionary War and wanted the president to be elected for life.)
The most moving scene in “A More Perfect Union” (Source #4) was July 5 when the remaining two New York delegates left. A hush fell over the entire room. The delegates were scared. If more states left, the Constitutional Convention would fail. Not only would the grand experiment in democracy fail, called the United States of America, but the delegates had staked their reputations on the success of this convention. And no delegate had more to lose in reputation than the biggest “demi-god” of them all, George Washington.
New York said the new constitution would create a national government that was too powerful and trample on the rights of the states, including ending New York’s lucrative state import duties.
Also, Congress had only authorized the Convention to revise the Articles of Confederation not create a whole new constitution. New York felt the new constitution was illegal. But the other states seemed to be more flexible and breaking the law to create a new constitution was not a problem for them.
New Hampshire missed the whole raucous fighting on the representation in Congress because they didn’t show up until July 23; something about the state not wanting to reimburse their delegates’ travel expenses. No fat expense accounts for the delegates from cheap New Hampshire.
Rhode Island never did send a delegation to the convention. They felt the new Constitution would trample on their state rights too, including the right for Rhode Island to print its own money. (Comes in real handy when its time to pay your bills). So after July 5 both New York and Rhode Island had no legal say in writing the Constitution.
Then Roger Sherman of Connecticut (Wealthy, lawyer and father of 15 children by two wives) proposed the House be apportioned by population and the Senate have two equal votes for each state.
“As the large and small state delegates argued, their hostility for one another increased until on July 16 some men wanted to adjourn the convention….and the convention might have ended without producing a constitution.” (Source: Founders, p. 11)
Jacob Broom of Delaware (Lawyer, prosperous businessman and “a plain good Man”)
“Suddenly Jacob Broom leaped to his feet. They must not part in anger without producing a constitution, he insisted. Coming from the gentlemanly and soft-spoken Delawarean, this speech convinced the delegates to work out their disagreements. Some historians credit Jacob Bloom with saving the convention.” (Source: Founders, p.11)
Anecdote: Because many of his friends and family were Quakers, who did not believe in killing because it was agsinst their religion, Broom would not fight in the Revolution. (I have great respect for the Quakers because at a time when nearly everyone accepted slavery without question they were the first group to say slavery was morally wrong and actively worked to abolish it.)
By the end of July 16 the small states and the large states made a deal on representation in Congress based on Roger Sherman’s “Great Compromise”. The Founding Fathers were more willing to compromise than today’s politicians.
Note: The “Great Compromise” also included the 3/5 rule allowing the Southern slave states to have extra representatives in the House Of Representatives and the Electoral College because 3/5 of the number of their slaves would be counted as “real” people for representation purposes as was done under the Articles of Confederation.
Slaves were 30% of the population in the 5 Southern slave states and 3%? of the population in the 8 Northern states (per 1790 census). Only Massachusetts had outlawed slavery by 1787.
“[The Constitution] was done by bargain and compromise…on the adoption of it depends…whether we shall become a respectable nation or a people torn to pieces by commotions and rendered contemptible for ages.” Nicholas Gilman of New Hampshire (Source: Founders, p. 107-8)
He served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and in the Continental Congress. He was considered the most handsome man in New Hampshire. (So ladies, what do you think? Is he really that handsome?) He made no speeches but believed that the Constitution was the only thing that would save the Nation.
It’s now July 17th and they could start on how to choose the president. They had three options and all were seriously flawed.
(The Declaration of Independence was read to the people of Massachusetts from this balcony in 1776.)
#1. The 13 state legislatures would select the president. But the whole purpose of creating a new constitution was to increase the power of the federal government in relation to the states. If the states selected the president, the states would have too much power over the president.
#2. Why not elect the president by popular vote of the people? James Wilson of Pennsylvania thought this was a great idea and tried to get the other delegates to support him. (James Wilson studied at St. Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities in Scotland but never earned a degree. He came to America and became a successful lawyer and served on the first U.S. Supreme Court.)
The vote on July 17 to elect the president by popular vote was defeated 9 states to 1! The Founding Fathers clearly did not want the people to choose the president in 1787.
“In fact, only a small minority of delegates believed that the ordinary citizens of America were insufficiently intelligent to make a wise choice for their president….Rather, nearly all of the delegates–with the notable exception of Wilson–believed that the sheer expanse of America would frustrate any effort to create an informed electorate.” (Source #9?, p. 130-131)
It’s 1100 miles from Maine to Georgia at a time when people and news traveling by horse drawn carriage averaged 20 miles/day by land and sailing vessels averaged 5 miles/hour by sea. (Not counting storms, the wind blowing the wrong way and shipwrecks) (Source: Wikipedia)
You do the math to see how long news takes to reach Portland, Maine from Savannah, Georgia. No staying up til 2 am on election night to see who won the election.
In 1787 most people would have gone by sea instead of driving their SUV 16 hours and 50 minutes on Route 95 (Not counting construction on the Jersey Turnpike, traffic in New York, and a pit stop at my favorite Friendly’s restaurant in Mystic, Connecticut.)
“[most] Founders intended the Electoral College to be a buffer against the potential abuses of democracy [a.k.a. “Mob rule”]….They did not want a demagogue, a despot, or a tyrant, who would flatter the people for votes, and thought it was better to have an appointed executive [rather than a president elected by the people]. (Source: The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution by Brian McClanahan p. 129) He is a conservative, author and holds a Ph.D in American History from the Univ. of South Carolina.
This is what “Mob rule” looked like in 18th century America and why so many Founding Fathers were afraid of an “excess of democracy” by the “people”.
Picture James Wilson
“Fort Wilson” story, 1779
Constitutionalists (Hardworking farmers from rural western Pennsylvania (a.k.a. “Flyover States”, 18th century style) vs. Republicans (wealthy, well educated bankers and lawyers from large cities in eastern Pennsylvania, like Philadelphia. That’s the 18th century version of wealthy, well educated bankers and lawyers from large cities in the east coast today, like Philadelphia.)
Well the Republicans (no relation to today’s Republican Party) rigged the elections, according to the Constitutionalists, with voter suppression and gerrymandering, or whatever the 18th century version was, so they decided the only way to get “freedom and justice for all” was to do that Revolutionary War thing and start an armed revolt (Hey, it worked in ’76, so why not?)
Well, since future Founding Father James Wilson was one of those wealthy lawyers from Philadelphia they decided to attack his home, with real guns, to get more favorable legislation on tax & debt relief “passed” for the “middle class”, like them.
In response Wilson and his Republican friends barricaded his house (and ever since his home was known as “Fort Wilson”). Since Wilson was a lawyer I’m sure he was in “reasonable fear” for his safety and “deadly” force was justified under the 19th century version of “Stand your ground” laws.
The result: Six rebels dead and one of Wilson’s Republican friends. The rebels didn’t burn down his house and tar and feather all of the inhabitants. The Governor pardoned most of the rebels, except of course the 6 who were dead, because if he hadn’t the rebels might have come to HIS house next. (Source: James Wilson, Founding Father, 1742-1798 by Charles Page Smith)
Brian McClanahan thinks the delegates believed the uneducated people could be duped by a demagogue. (Some people today still think the “average voter” is not intelligent enough to make good choices for president.)
“The objections to a popular election…were a lack of confidence [both] in the knowledge and judgement of the people…” (Source: #?, The Framing, p. 166)
There were two other reasons why the vote was 9-1 against choosing the president by the people. The Southern slave states would be at a disadvantage since 30% of their population were slaves and couldn’t vote. And the small states were afraid of always being outvoted by the big population states.
#3. The third option was for Congress to choose the president, like in Great Britain. Their Prime Minister was elected by parliament, not by the people.
Congress already had the power to impeach the president and if Congress selected the president too it could “hire and fire” the president. Then the president would be beholden to Congress for his job and would not have enough independence to act as a check on excessive power by Congress.
These were their only options but they had to figure out some way to chose a president. They finally decided to have Congress choose the president as the “lesser of three evils”.
On August 24 selecting the president by the Electoral College came up again, after being previously rejected. They voted against having the people choose the Electors in the Electoral College by a vote of 6 states to five (Close, but no cigar).
Not only did our Founding Fathers not want the people to choose the president they didn’t even want the people to choose the Electors in the Electoral College so they could choose the president. In our democracy (which in Greek means rule of the people) the Founding Fathers really didn’t have much faith in the people to run the country. I can only imagine their horror at finding out today we actually let the people vote directly on state ballot measures to change laws themselves. No wonder they called the first democracy in the world a republic instead of a democracy. If fact the word democracy doesn’t appear anywhere in the Constitution.
Sidebar: Creating a new constitution to save the country from chaos and ruin was a very serious business. But there was one instance of levity at the convention.
Rufus King of Massachusetts (Maine), Lawyer, wealthy, Harvard graduate, staunch opponent of slavery, future U.S. senator from New York and ambassador to Great Britain
(Add funny story from previous saved version)
It’s now August 31 with only 17 days before the delegates ended the convention and went home. To address the many issues still left to decide, they created the Committee of Eleven on Postponed Matters with one member from each state to make recommendations on how to finish the Constitution so they all could go back home to their families, farms and businesses after debating and arguing for four months in the summer heat.
“Committee people were chosen for their ability to compromise and work with others.”, (Source: Hugh Williamson’s biography, p. 188) That’s the difference between statesmen and politicians.
And remember, no A/C in 1787. And to make the heat even worse, the windows were closed to keep out the biting flies and eavesdroppers because the convention rules required the proceedings to be secret.
The committee was chaired by David Brearley of New Jersey (lawyer, Colonel in New Jersey during the Revolutionary War and Chief Justice of New Jersey’s Supreme Court.)
We’re finally getting to the part where the Constitutional Convention decides to use the Electoral College to choose the president.
The committee recommended Congress choose the president. But when John Dickinson (Lawyer and previous governor of Delaware and Pennsylvania), suggested they reconsider having Congress choose the president, Gouverneur Morris from Pennsylvania (Born wealthy, Columbia University graduate and lawyer) jumped at the chance to choose the president by any way other than Congress. (No, that’s not a typo, Gouverneur really was his first name.) He had seen way too much politics in state legislatures and the Continental Congress to want the new Congress to choose the president.
So Gouverneur Morris and James Madison (Although his soft voice made him a poor speaker, he addressed the convention 150 times and served in the Virginia legislature and the Continental Congress.) revived the Electoral College to choose the president. Since no one was really happy with Congress choosing the president, the other delegates listened to their arguments why the Electoral College would be a better way to choose the president.
The Electors in the Electoral College would be chosen by a method decided by each of the states. That would get the support of the states who feared a too powerful national government.
Each state would get one Elector for each of their representatives in the House of Representatives and one for each senator in the Senate. That would give the large states an advantage when the Electoral College voted, although not as big an advantage if the voting was by the people. In 1787 the largest state, Virginia, would outnumber the smallest state, Delaware, by 10 to 1 in the House of Representatives but only by 12 to 3(= 4 to 1) in the Electoral College.)
(Today California, the largest state, outnumbers Wyoming, the smallest state, by 53 to 1 in the House of Representatives but only by 55 to 3 (= 18.3 to 1) in the Electoral College.)
In 1776 it took John Adams two weeks to travel 350 miles by horse drawn carriage from Boston to Philadelphia.
(Picture of 18th Newspaper)
The “Mass Media” were 2-4 page mostly weekly newspapers only available in the larger cities and towns when 10% of the Northern population was illiterate and 30% in the South. (Source needed) Most voters wouldn’t have a clue about candidates for president in neighboring states, let alone 1,000 miles away.
Because of poor transportation and communication in 1787 the delegates at the convention expected 95% of the time (according to George Mason of Virginia) that the Electors would vote for “favorite sons” from their home state and no candidate would receive a majority of the Electoral College votes. Then the Senate (later changed to the House of Representatives with each state getting one equal vote), would choose the president from the top five vote getters in the Electoral College (later changed to the top three by the 12th Amendment in 1804). That would get the support of the small states (Delaware, Georgia, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New Jersey) since there were more small states than large states in the country (Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts). Note: they voted by the 13 states not by the 65 individual members of the House.
The Southern slave states (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) liked the Electoral College because they got extra votes in the Electoral College because their slaves, which they treated as property, were counted as 3/5 of a “real” person in representation in the House and as an Elector in the Electoral College.
The wealthy “elites”, just about every delegate at the convention, liked the Electoral College because it prevented the “ignorant poor” from electing a president that favored “Leveling Laws” that redistributed wealth from the “elites” to the poorer “average citizens” (18th Century version of socialism).
And everyone saw that if the Electoral College chose the president the president could maintain his independence from Congress and be a check on Congress from becoming too powerful and tyrannical.
All of the factions at the convention got some of what they wanted. On September 6 they approved the Electoral College to choose the president by a vote of 10 states to 1.
On September 17 the final version of the Constitution was signed by 39 delegates. These three delegates refused to sign because they thought the new Constitution made the federal government too powerful over their states or it lacked a Bill of Rights. There were three other delegates that didn’t like the Constitution and left early.
1. George Mason of Virginia (Wealthy plantation owner and author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776.) He later was a major player in getting the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution.
2. Edmund Randolph, (Governor of Virginia, lawyer and aide-de-camp to Washington during the Revolutionary War) He later changed his mind and helped Virginia approve the Constitution at Virginia’s state ratifying convention in 1788.
3. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts (Wealthy, Harvard graduate and politician). He invented gerrymandering in 1812. He didn’t like the Constitution because it lacked a Bill of Rights.
Gerrymandering: “Printed in March 1812, this political cartoon was drawn in reaction to the newly drawn state senate election district of South Essex created by the Massachusetts legislature to favor the Democratic-Republican Party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry over the Federalists. The caricature satirizes the bizarre shape of a district in Essex County, Massachusetts as a dragon-like “monster”. Federalist newspaper editors and others at the time likened the district shape to a salamander, and the word gerrymander was a blend of that word and Governor Gerry’s last name.” (Wikipedia)
Neither Thomas Jefferson nor John Adams signed the Constitution because they weren’t there. Jefferson was in Paris as ambassador to France and Adams was in London as ambassador to Great Britain.
Patrick Henry, of Revolutionary War fame, “Give me Liberty, or give me death!”, was invited to the Constitutional Convention but declined. He thought the new constitution would make the national government too powerful. He was the leading opponent of the Constitution in the Virginia state ratifying convention. The delegates included representatives from Kentucky and West Virginia, which were still part of Virginia in 1787. Thanks to Madison’s arguments, Virginia was the 10th state to ratify the Constitution by a vote of 89 to 79 on June 21, 1788.
Benjamin Franklin’s closing address to the convention:
“I confess that I do not entirely approve this Constitution at present; but sir, I am not sure I will never approve it. For having lived long  I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that, the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgement and pay more respect to the judgement of others….I agree to this Constitution with all its faults…I doubt too, whether any other convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution….It therefore astonishes me, sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does…Thus I consent, sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best.”
“After signing [the Constitution on September 17, 1787] the delegates adjourned to the City Tavern…for a farewell dinner. Behind the conviviality lurked unspoken fears, and Washington, for one, doubted that the new federal government would survive…twenty years.” (Source: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, p. 241)
After the Constitutional Convention ended Mrs. Palmer, the wife of the mayor of Philadelphia, asked Benjamin Franklin, “Do we have a monarchy or a republic?” Franklin famously replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” The Founding Fathers fought to keep the republic in 1787. We’re still fighting to keep it today.
p.s. When most of the 55 Constitutional Convention delegates arrived in Philadelphia in May and June of 1787 they came representing the 13 original states. That is evident by the original wording of the preamble to the Constitution:
“We the people of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, South-Carolina, and Georgia, do ordain, declare, and establish the following Constitution for the Government of Ourselves and Our Posterity.” (Source: TenthAmendmentCenter.com, “The Original, Forgotten Preamble to the Constitution” by Gary North, June 28, 2016.)
By four months later the delegates began to change. They started to think of themselves, not as citizens of 13 separate states, but as citizens of one United States of America.
Thanks to Gouverneur Morris, who changed the preamble at the last minute, when the 39 delegates signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787 the preamble read:
“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 Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America.”
Picture of my poster with RCV on my bike (Take better picture on Sep 15 after I lose more weight and shave beard)
Yes, that’s me with my bike. (Cars are so 20th century!) Picture of me wearing Register to Vote T Shirt and All U.S.?Citizens Should Vote Hat and DC & PR and Steve Scott buttons(No beard)
Arts & Communication take picture in front of blank wall!
With all the talk today of abolishing the Electoral College and replacing it with direct popular is that a good idea or not?
You will have to wait for my next blog post for the answer.
Steve Scott, U.S. Citizen and Voter, Sarasota, Florida
Character sketches of the 20 most important delegates (out of the 55 that attended the Constitutional Conventiom) by fellow delegate William Pierce of Georgia.
William Pierce of Georgia, Army officer in the Revolutionary War, Merchant, Polititian and studied art under Charles Willson Peale.
Pierce did not sign the Constitution because he left the convention on June 30 to attend the Confederation Congress in New York and for personal business reasons. [for a duel that was ironically prevented by his second, and fellow convention delegate, Alexander Hamilton.?]
The delegates of the 12 states represented at the convention are in geographical order from North to South as per the method of calling for votes at the convention, with Rhode Island absent.
1. New Hampshire
(Wealthy, fought in the Revolutionary War & built privateer ships to fight the British, member of the Continental Congress, Governor of New Hampshire and the first delegate to sign the Constitution.)
New Hampshire’s two delegates arrived two months late to the convention on July 23 because the state was too cheap to pay their travel expenses. If Mr. Langdon hadn’t paid the travel expenses for the two delegates out of his own pocket, New Hampshire might never have taken part in the Constitutional Convention.
My favorite quote: “Langdon built ships for the new American Navy [during the Revolutionary War], including the Ranger, which naval hero John Paul Jones commanded. [“I have not yet begun to fight!”] In the summer of 1777, the Ranger became the first warship to fly the new American flag, the Stars and Stripes.” (Source: Founders, p. 104)
Sidebar: You have to read the exciting story of how John Paul Jones defeated the 50 gun British ship H.M.S. Serapis in 1779. (a.k.a. “Kicked their butts. Go USA!!”) in the book, John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy by Evan Thomas (Amazon.com $9.86)
“Mr. Langdon is a Man of considerable fortune, possesses a liberal mind, and a good plain understanding. about 40 years old.”
(Wealthy, Harvard Graduate and Politician. Elbridge Gerry invented gerrymandering in 1812.6 Refused to sign the Constitution because it didn’t have a Bill of Rights.)
My favorite quote: “If we do not come to some agreement among our ourselves some foreign sword will probably do the work for us.”
“Mr. Gerry’s character is marked for integrity and perseverance. He is a hesitating and laborious speaker; —possesses a great degree of confidence and goes extensively into all subjects that he speaks on, without respect to elegance or flower of diction. He…cherishes as his first virtue, a love for his Country. Mr. Gerry is very much of a Gentleman.”
Miniature by John Trumbull p. 137, “Rufus King, American Federalist” by Robert Ernst. Amazon.com $10.00 (Used)
(Lawyer, wealthy, Harvard graduate, staunch opponent of slavery, future U.S. senator from New York and ambassador to Great Britain)
My favorite quote: “King’s best known work in his two and a half years in the Confederation Congress was in pushing for the exclusion of slavery in the Northwest Territory [Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin]…after Massachusetts abolished [slavery] he was not much aroused by its persistence in other states since they had sole jurisdiction over slavery within their borders. But slavery in federal territory [the West] was quite a different thing, and from 1785 until his death Rufus King decried slavery on federal lands.” (Source: “Rufus King, American Federalist” by Robert Ernst, p. 53-54), Amazon.com $5.48 (Used))
“Mr. King is a Man much distinguished for his eloquence and great parliamentary talents. He was educated in Massachusetts, and is said to have good classical as well as legal knowledge. He has served for three years in the Congress of the United States with great and deserved applause….This Gentleman is about thirty three years of age….his public speaking…is natural, swimming, and graceful, but there is a rudeness of manner sometimes accompanying it…he may with propriety be ranked among the Luminaries of the present Age.”
(Wealthy, lawyer, Mayor of New Haven, CT and father of 15 children by two wives)
My favorite quote: “…the equality of votes [in the Senate] not so much as a security for the small States; as for the State Govts, which could not be preserved unless they were represented & had a negative in the Genl. Government.” (See source below, p. 98)
(Sherman was the original supporter for limited government and for states rights to balance the voices at the Constitutional Convention for a very powerful federal government, as we now have in Washington. (Source: “Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic” by Mark David Hall, p. 121), Amazon.com $30.00)
“Mr. Sherman exhibits the oddest shaped character I ever remember to have met with. He is awkward, un-meaning, and unaccountably strange in his manner. But in his train of thinking there is something regular, deep, and comprehensive; yet the oddity of his address, the vulgarisms that accompany his public speaking, and that strange new England cant which runs through his public as well as his private speaking make everything that is connected with him grotesque and laughable; —and yet he deserves infinite praise, —no Man has a better Heart or a clearer Head. If he cannot embellish he can furnish thoughts that are wise and useful. He is an able politician, and extremely artful in accomplishing any particular object; —it is remarked that he seldom fails. I am told he sits on the Bench in Connecticut, and is very correct in the discharge of his Judicial functions. In the early part of his life he was a Shoe-maker; —but despising the lowness of his condition, he turned Almanack maker, and so progressed upwards to a Judge. He has been several years a Member of Congress, and discharged the duties of his Office with honor and credit to himself, and advantage to the State he represented. He is about 60.”
(Lawyer, judge and 3rd Chief Justice of the U.S., Princeton graduate and a member of the Continental Congress. He left the convention on August 24 to attend to his judicial duties in Connecticut and so did not sign the Constitution.)
My favorite quote: “….the only chance we have to support a [national] government is, to graft it on the state governments. I want to proceed in this ground, as the safest, and I believe no other plan is practicable.”, “The Life of Oliver Ellsworth” by William Garrett Brown, Amazon.com. $10.45
“Mr. Elsworth is a Judge of the Supreme Court in Connecticut; —he is a Gentleman of a clear, deep, and copious understanding; eloquent, and connected in public debate; and always attentive to his duty. He is very happy in a reply, and choice in selecting such parts of his adver-
Oliver Ellsworth’s choice in selecting such parts of his adversary’s arguments as he finds make the strongest impressions, —in order to take off the force of them, so as to admit the power of his own. Mr. Elsworth is about 37 years of age, a Man much respected for his integrity, and veneratedt for his abilities.”
4. New York
(He was an illegitimate child born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, British West Indies, attended Columbia University, an aide to Washington during the Revolutionary War, lawyer and wanted the president to be elected for life.
My favorite quote, “Best of wives and best of women.” Written about his beloved wife Eliza. He married her at age 25 and remained married until he was killed in a duel at age 49. They had 8 children.
He Left on June 30 because of a dispute with the other two delegates from New York, but returned after George Washington “asked” him to come back. He returned for one week in early August and returned again on September 6 to become a member of the Committee on Style which put the finishing touches on the Constitution, including the opening words, “We the People….”.
But because New York required two delegates to have a legal quorum and Hamilton was the sole delegate from New York, Hamilton could take part in debates but when it came time to vote on issues he was not allowed to vote.
Hamilton was killed in a famous duel with his political rival Aaron Burr in 1804.
No delegate had more proposals for the Constitution voted down. And no delegate worked harder to get the states to ratify the Constitution because he knew that without this new Constitution the country was doomed.
“Colo. Hamilton is…a practitioner of the Law, and reputed to be a finished Scholar…it is my opinion that he is rather a convincing Speaker, [than] a blazing Orator. Colo. Hamilton requires time to think, —he enquires into every part of his subject with the searchings of philosophy, and when he comes forward he comes highly charged with interesting matter….He is about 33 years old, of small stature, and lean…His manners are tinctured with stiffness, and sometimes with a degree of vanity that is highly disagreeable.”
5. New Jersey
(Brearley went to Princeton University, but did not graduate, served with Washington at Valley Forge, lawyer and Chief Justice of New Jersey’s Supreme Court. Chair of the important Committee on Postponed Matters that was responsible for the Electoral College choosing the President.)
“Mr. Brearly is a man of good, rather than of brilliant parts…and is very much in the esteem of the people. As an Orator he has little to boast of, but as a Man he has every virtue to recommend him. Mr. Brearly is about 40 years of age.”
“James Wilson, Founding Father, 1742-1798” by Charles Page Smith, Amazon.com $58.
(Immigrant from Scotland, lawyer, served on the first U.S. Supreme Court, first law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and would die in poverty facing debtor’s prison due to speculation in western land.)
My favorite quote: “Can we forget for whom we are forming a government? Is it for men or the imaginary beings called states?”
“Mr. Wilson ranks among the foremost in legal and political knowledge…Government seems to have been his peculiar Study, all the political institutions of the World he knows in detail, and can trace the causes and effects of every revolution from the earliest stages of the Grecian commonwealth down to the present time….he draws the attention not by the charm of his eloquence, but by the force of his reasoning. He is about 45 years old.”
(Born wealthy, graduated from Columbia University at age 16 and lawyer. He was absent the entire month of June for personal business reasons, but still spoke at the convention 173 times, more than any other delegate. He was famous for his wooden leg when he was run over by a carriage while fleeing from the irate husband of one of his lovers.)
My favorite quotes: “[May 30] Morris…bluntly asked the question, ‘Do we want a confederation or a nation?” (Source: Hugh Williamson, Physician, Patriot, and Founder by George F. Sheldon, MD, p. 173)
“…the inhabitant of Georgia and South Carolina who goes to the coast of Africa and, in defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity, tears away his fellow creatures from their dearest connections and damns them to the most cruel bondages, shall have more votes in government [because slaves, although treated as property, were counted as 3/5 of a “real” person when counting representation in the House of Representatives and therefore also in the Electoral College.] instituted for the protection of the rights of mankind than the citizen of Pennsylvania or New York who views with laudable horror so nefarious a practice.” (Source: “Gentleman Revolutionary, The Rake Who Wrote the Constitution” by Richard Brookhiser, p. 85-86)
“damns them to the most cruel bondages“
“His brothers and sisters were bid off as his mother watched, holding his hand. Then her turn came and she was sold. As Josiah [five] was put on the auction block, his mother, half mad with grief, clung to the knees of the man who had bought her. She begged him to buy Josiah too, so she could keep at least one of her children. Refusing to listen, he struck her and kicked her. ‘As she crawled away from the brutal man,’ Josiah recalled years later, ‘I heard her sob out, ‘Oh, Lord Jesus, how long, how long shall I suffer this way?'” (Source: All Times, All Peoples: A world history of Slavery by Milton Meltzer, p. 27), Amazon.com $5.48 (Used)
“Like many flirtatious men who oozed charm. The ‘Tall Boy’ was thought superficial, even decadent, by more austere observers. [like John Adams]….According to John Jay, First Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, ‘Gouverneur’s leg has been a tax on my heart. I am also tempted to wish he had lost something else.’ Morris’s peg leg did not seem to detract from his sexual appeal and may even have enhanced it.” (Source: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, p. 240)
Anecdote: “Hamilton and Morris were discussing how Washington signaled to people that they should remain a respectful distance and not behave too familiarly with him. Hamilton wagered Morris that he would not dare to accost Washington with a friendly slap on the back. Taking up the challenge, Morris found Washington standing by the fireplace in a drawing room and genially cuffed him on the shoulder: ‘My dear general, how happy I am to see you look so well.’ Washington fixed Morris with such a frigid gaze that Morris was sorry that he had ever taken up Hamilton’s dare.” (Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, p. 240)
“Mr. Governeur Morris is one of those Genius’s in whom every species of talents combine to render him conspicuous and flourishing in public debate…But with all these powers he is fickle and inconstant, —never pursuing one train of thinking…No Man has more wit, —nor can any one engage the attention more than Mr. Morris. He was bred to the Law, but I am told he disliked the profession, and turned Merchant…This Gentleman is about 38 years old, he has been unfortunate in losing one of his Legs, and getting all the flesh taken off his right arm by a scald, when a youth.”
(He made so much money as a printer he was able to retire at age 42. He invented bifocals, the lightning rod and was ambassador to France. He was critical in getting France to be our ally, without whose support we would not have won the Revolutionary War.)
Note: “Since his gout and kidney stones made it painful for him to walk, he was carried to the daily sessions [of the convention] in a sedan chair he had brought from Paris–a chair balanced on long poles held aloft by four husky prisoners from the Walnut Street jail.” (Source: Becoming Franklin, How a Candle-Maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame Of Liberty by Russell Freedman, Amazon.com $18.56)
My favrite quote: “Our new Constitution is now established , and has an appearance thatpromises permanency.; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
“Dr. Franklin is well known to be the greatest phylosopher (sic) of the present age; all the operations of nature he seems to understand, —the very heavens obey him, and the Clouds yield up their Lightning to be imprisoned in his rod….he is no Speaker…he is, however, a most extraordinary Man, and tells a story in a style more engaging than anything I ever heard…He is 82 years old, and possesses an activity of mind equal to a youth of 25 years of age.”
(Lawyer and governor of both Delaware and Pennsylvania. Princeton University(Honorary LLd). Served in Revolutionary War. He missed many debates due to illness and even had to have fellow delegate from Delaware, George Reed, sign for him on September 17.)
“Mr. Dickinson has been famed through all America, for his Farmers Letters; he is a Scholar, and said to be a Man of very extensive information….I had often heard that he was a great Orator, but I found him an indifferent Speaker….He is, however, a good writer and will be ever considered one of the most important char-acters (sic) in the United States. He is about 55 years old, and was bred a Quaker.”
(Lawyer and graduate of Princeton University. He left on September 5 and did not sign the Constitution because he thought the new Constitution would create a powerful national government that would destroy the states that were the true source of liberty.)
My favorite quote: “The tireless champion of the sovereignty of the states…” (The original “states rights” defender.) (Source: Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet, The Life of Luther Martin” by Bill Kaufman, p. XIX), Amazon.com $23.82
“Mr. Martin was educated for the Bar, and is Attorney general for the State of Maryland. This Gentleman possesses a good deal of information, but he has a very bad delivery, and so extremely prolix [given to speaking or writing at great or tedious length] that he never speaks without tiring the patience of all who hear him. He is about 34 years of age.”
(He was elected presiding officer of the convention unanimously and to remain neutral only voiced his opinion once on the last day of the convention. Without his great national prestige the Constitutional Convention would have failed and our Constitution would never have become the supreme law of the land.)
Note: Washington owned 317 slaves and freed all 123 slaves that he owned after his death, unlike Thomas Jefferson who did not free his 600 slaves. But legally Washington was not able to free the 194 slaves owned by his wife Mary.
My favorite quote, “[political parties]…are likely in course of time…by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government….”
Anecdote: (Nathaniel Gorham, delegate from Massachusetts, prosperous merchant and served in the Massachusetts legislature and the Continental Congress)
Note: This quote has nothing to do with George Washington but I really like it. Since I don’t have a bio of Nathaniel Gorham I stuck it here. Also I knew everyone would read George Washington’s bio; Abraham Baldwin’s not so much.
“Convinced that only a very powerful leader could hold the new nation together, Gorham wrote to Prince Henry of Prussia (a German Kingdom), asking him to consider becoming king of the United States. Fortunately, few people besides Nathaniel Gorham took his proposal seriously.” (Source: Framer. p. 72)
On September 17, the last day of the convention, the Constitution was all printed and the 39 delegates were getting ready to get the quill pen to sign the famous document when Nathaniel Gorham made a literally last minute change. He proposed that in the House of Representatives the states should have one representative for each 30,000 people instead of 40,000, (Today it’s about 700,000.) thereby increasing the total number of representatives in the House to 65 (vs. 435 today). George Washington thought this was a great idea and couldn’t resist voicing his approval. The convention would probably have voted this proposal down but when Washington said he liked it, the proposal was passed unanimously. This was why George Washington never participated in the debates before.
Because the Constitution was already printed in its final form they had to insert a hand written addition for this last minute change. Since there was no Microsoft Word in 1787, the printer had to print that page all over again for distribution.
“Genl. Washington is well known as the Commander in chief of the late American Army. Having conducted these States to independence and peace….now only seeks for the approbation of his Countrymen by being virtuous and useful. The General was conducted to the Chair as President of the Convention by the unanimous voice of its Members. He is in the 52d. year of his age.”
(Although his soft voice made him a poor speaker, he addressed the convention 150 times and served in both the Continental Congress and the Virginia legislature. Madison owned 100 slaves and later was a member of the American Colonization Society which promoted resettling former slaves in Africa. And of course Madison was our 4th president, 1809-1817.
He is known as the “Father of the Constitution” and arrived in Philadelphia for the convention a week before the opening date of May 14 when many other delegates didn’t arrive for days or even weeks after the official start date.)
My favorite quote: “[Madison thought] the small states need not worry about being dominated by the larger ones like…New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia, were all so different from each other that they would never form an alliance…at the expense of the small states. [He] also thought other states with similar economic and social conditions could ally with a large one, making the point of large state dominance a moot one.” (Source: “The Constitutional Convention of 1787” by Charles River Editors, p.4)
“Mr. Maddison….blends together the profound politician, with the Scholar…tho’ he cannot be called an Orator, he is a most agreable, eloquent, and convincing Speaker…he always comes forward the best informed Man of any point in debate. The affairs of the United States, he perhaps, has the most correct knowledge of, of any Man in the Union. He has been twice a Member of Congress, and was always thought one of the ablest Members that ever sat in that Council. Mr. Maddison is about 37 years of age…”
(Wealthy plantation owner and owned 600? slaves, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776 and later was a major player in getting the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution. Refused to sign the Constitution because it didn’t protect the economic interests of his state of Virginia, created a too powerful president and lacked a Bill of Rights.)
“In reality, the omission of a bill of rights may have owed as much to the delegates’ desire to go home as it did to constitutional theory. Mason undoubtedly could have provided a draft [of a Bill of Rights] within a matter of hours; [on September 12, only five days before the end of the convention] how long it would have taken the convention to agree on a draft is another matter.” (Source: “George Mason, Forgotten Founder” by Jeff Broadwater, p. 203)
My favorite quote: August 31, “I would sooner chop off my right hand than put it to the Constitution as it now stands….I wish to see some points not yet decided brought to a decision before being compelled to give a final opinion on this article. Should these points be improperly settled, my wish would then be to bring the whole subject before another general convention.”
On September 15 Randolph of Virginia proposed state ratifying conventions could submit amendments to a second Constitutional Convention….No state voted “aye”. (Source: “George Mason, Forgotten Founder” by Jeff Broadwater, p. 204-205).
(After four months of grueling debates, arguing and almost giving up several times, no way were the delegates going to come back and do it again with no guarantee that they would reach a second agreement.)
“Mr. Mason is a Gentleman of remarkable strong powers, and possesses a clear and copious understanding. He is able and convincing in debate, steady and firm in his principles, and undoubtedly one of the best politicians in America. Mr. Mason is about 60 years old…”
(Governor of Virginia, lawyer and aide-de-camp to Washington in the Revolutionary War. Refused to sign the Constitution, but later changed his mind and helped Virginia to vote for it at the Virginia state ratifying convention in 1788.)
My favorite quote: “[I support] a firm energetic government; to enforce my objections to the Constitution, and to concur in any practical scheme of amendments, but I never will assent to any scheme that will operate [toward] a dissolution of the Union…”
“Mr. Randolph is Governor of Virginia, —a young Gentleman in whom unite all the accomplishments of the Scholar, and the Statesman. He came forward with the…first principles, on which the Convention acted, and he supported them with a force of eloquence and reasoning that did him great honor. He has a most harmonious voice, a fine person and striking manners. Mr. Randolph is about 32 years of age.”
10. North Carolina
(Princeton graduate, born in England, Colonel in the Revolutionary War, lawyer and founder of the University of North Carolina in 1793. He left the convention on August 11 for legal business, so did not sign the Constitution. But he supported ratification in the two North Carolina ratifying conventions of 1788 and 1789.)
My favorite quote, “…North Carolina will never confederate on any terms that do not rate the blacks at least as three-fifths. If the [Northern] states…exclude [blacks] altogether, the business is at an end.”
“Mr. Davey is a Lawyer of some eminence in his State. He is said to have a good classical education, and is a Gentleman of considerable literary talents. He was silent in the Convention [but not in the North Carolina delegation]…but his opinion was always respected. Mr. Davy is about 30 years of age.”
(Doctor to North Carolina Troops in the Revolutionary War, scientist like Ben Franklin, graduate University of Pennsylvania, served in North Carolina legislature and the Continental Congress)
My favorite quote: “In September [Williamson] moved to have the three-fouths majority in both houses required to override the president’s veto changed to two-thirds, as the former put too much power in the president’s hands.” (Source: Hugh Williamson, Physician, Patriot, and Founding Father by George F. Sheldon, MD, p. 176)
“Mr. Williamson is a Gentleman of education and talents. He enters freely into public debate from his close attention to most subjects, but he is no Orator. There is a great degree of good humour and pleasantry in his character; and in his manners there is a strong trait of the Gentleman. He is about 48 years of age.”
11. South Carolina
(Governor and Chief Justice of South Carolina, wealthy [owned 60 slaves, but at his death owned just one.], lawyer, Named his son “States”, attempted suicide after the death of his wife and was saved by a slave)
My favorite quote: “If the Constitution abolishes slavery South and North Carolina and Georgia will never sign,” (Source: Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina by Richard Barry, p. 328)
Chairman of the Committee of Detail. The committee labored for 11 days from July 26 to August 6 to write the first complete draft of the Constitution, while the rest of the delegates were relaxing on break. (George Washington went fishing with Gouverneur Morris. Later Washington visited Valley Forge where he and his troops spent that terrible winter in 1777-78.)
“Mr. Rutledge is one of those characters who was highly mounted at the commencement of the late revolution; —his reputation in the first Congress gave him a distinguished rank among the American Worthies. He was bred to the Law, and now acts as one of the Chancellors of South Carolina. This Gentleman is much famed in his own State as an Orator, but in my opinion he is too rapid in his public speaking to be denominated an agreeable Orator. He is undoubtedly a man of abilities, and a Gentleman of distinction and fortune. Mr. Rutledge was once Governor of South Carolina. He is about 48 years of age.”
(Yale graduate, not rich, Chaplain to Continental Army in the Revolutionary War and Lawyer. Born in Connecticut and then moved to Georgia. Helped found University of Georgia, the first publicly supported college in the country and last delegate to sign the Constitution.)
“Mr. Baldwin is a Gentleman of superior abilities, and joins in a public debate with great art and eloquence. Having laid the foundation of a complete classical education at Harvard College, he pursues every other study with ease. He is well acquainted with Books and Characters, and has an accommodating turn of mind, which enables him to gain the con-fidence of Men, and to understand them. He is a practicing Attorney in Georgia, and has been twice a Member of Congress. Mr. Baldwin is about 38 years of age.”
Anecdotes of 12 other delegates:
Charles Pinckney of South Carolina, “For two years he had been in love with Mary Eleanor Laurens, a 16 year old South Carolina girl known as Polly. But Polly’s father had decided that she was too young to marry and must wait until she was eighteen. The very day of her eighteenth birthday, Polly and Charles Pinckney were wed.” (Source: Founders p. 100-101)
Robert Morris of Pennsylvania, One of America’s richest men. To finance the Battle of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War he reported spent a million dollars out of his own pocket. Partly because he had spent so much of his own money helping to win the Revolution, he spent three and a half years in debtors’ prison. (Source: Framers, p. 28-29)
Dr. James McHenry of Maryland, Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, where the flag flew that inspired Francis Scott Key to compose ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ in 1814, was named for James McHenry.
Daniel of St. Thomas Jennifer of Maryland, His middle name was really “of St. Thomas”. He also helped survey the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland which became the famous “Mason Dixon Line” that separated the North from the South in the Civil War.
William Blount of North Carolina, During the Revolutionary War he was paymaster for North Carolina soldiers and made large profits selling goods to the soldiers. He also claimed he “lost” $300,000 of the soldiers’ payroll. During the convention he didn’t take part in the debates. But he made up for his shortcomings by helping to persuade North Carolina to adopt the Constitution on November 21, 1789, the next to the last state to ratify the Constitution. (Source: Founders, p. 134-135)
George Wythe of Virginia? (“Wythe” rhymes with “Smith”) Left on date? after attending only ?? days of the convention to attend to his dying wife.
Pierce Butler of South Carolina, Had he not suggested the proceedings be kept secret, the state legislatures would have found out that the convention was illegally creating a whole new constitution, instead of just amending the Articles of Confederation. Then many states would have withdrawn their delegates to the convention, ala New York, and we would have had no Constitution and therefore no more United States of America. (Source needed)
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina. His wife Eliza introduced the Indigo plant (used to make blue dye), which along with rice, were the two most important crops in South Carolina before Eli Whitney’s cotton gin made cotton the “King of the South”.
Richard Spaight of North Carolina, Like Alexander Hamilton, he was killed in a duel in 1802.
Alexander Martin of North Carolina left August 1 because he ran out of money.
William Houstoun of Georgia (June 1 – July 23) Why left?
Dr. James McClurg of Virginia left in early August. Why?
William Churchill Houston of New Jersey Left after only one week (when?) due to illness.
Appendix B – Order of states that ratified the Constitution with vote tallies (ayes-noes)
1. Delaware, December 7, 1787, 30-0
2. Pennsylvania, December 12, 1787, 46-23
3. New Jersey, December 18, 1787, 38-0
4. Georgia, January 2, 1788, 26-0
Note: Parts of Alabama and Mississippi were part of Georgia in 1787.
5. Connecticut, January 9, 1788, 128-40
6. Massachusetts, February 6, 1788, 187-168 (52.7%)
Note: Maine was a part of Massachusetts in 1787.
7. Maryland, April 28, 1788, 63-11
8. South Carolina, May 23, 1788, 149-73
9. New Hampshire, June 21, 1788, 57-47 (54.8%)
10. Virginia, June 27, 1787, 89-79 (53.0%)
Note: West Virginia and Kentucky were part of Virginia in 1787.
11. New York, July 26, 1788, 30-27 (52.6%)
Note: Vermont was a part of New York in 1787.
Note: The following two states ratified too late to participate in the first presidential election in 1788-89.
12. North Carolina, November 21, 1789, 194-77
Note: Tennessee was part of North Carolina in 1787.
The first time North Carolina voted on ratification, August 4, 1788 it voted 184-84 “neither to ratify nor reject the Constitution proposed for the government of the United States.” (Legally this was the same as voting not to ratify.)
13. Rhode Island, May 29, 1790, 34-32 (51.5%)
Rhode Island never sent any delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 nor did they hold a state ratifying convention. Rhode Island really didn’t like the new Constitution, partly because the new Constitution wouldn’t let Rhode Island print their own money. (Really comes in handy when it’s time to pay your bills.)
Final Notes: After the constitution was signed on September 17, 1787, it still had to be ratified by 9 of the 13 states to become the law of the land. The first state was Delaware on December 7, 1787. This is why the motto on Delaware’s license plate is, “The First State”. New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify on June 21, 1788. To find out how the struggle for ratification was won, read, “Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788” by Pauline Maier. Amazon.com $16.01
“The delegates decided that the Constitution would take effect when nine state conventions approved it. For tactical and philosophical reasons, state legislatures were bypassed in favor of independent ratifying conventions. This would prevent state officials who were hostile to the new federal government from killing it off. Also, by having autonomous conventions approve the Constitution, the new republic would derive its legitimacy not from the state houses but directly from the [people], enabling federal law to supersede state legislation.” (Source: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, p. 241)
This is political maneuvering 18th century style. You still think our Founding Fathers were all great statesmen and not shrewd politicians?
The Last Word
(Add Madison Quote about small states being wrong about large states ganging up on them and always outvoting them.)
The Last Word (Really)
(Add Ben Franklin’s quote on same subject.
(Examples today to prove true)
Since I enrolled in a Masters in Education program at Cambridge College(MA), and like James Wilson never earned a degree, it’s now time for your test. Don’t worry, only a dozen easy questions.
1. Name 3 of the 55 Founding Fathers that wrote our Constitution in Philadelphia in the hot summer of 1787. And you better not say Thomas Jefferson because he was in Paris drinking wine as part of his duties as our ambassador to France.
a. James Wilson of Pennsylvania is my hero because he was the only delegate at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that actually thought it was a great idea to have “We the People” elect the president, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
b. James Madison (Seeanswer to #5.)
c. This Founding Father spoke 173 times at the convention, more than any other delegate. On July 17 he proposed that “We the People” directly elect the president. He lost. The vote was 9 states ‘”no” and 1 state “aye” (his own, Pennsylvania). The rest of the delegates thought it would be better to have Congress choose the president, like in Great Britain (The United Kingdom today) when Parliament chooses their Prime Minister. He was a member of the Committee of Style and was responsible for most of the final wording of the Constitution and especially the beginning words, “We the People”.
Still don’t know who this is? See question #6
d. You could list (Name?), but he left after only one week to take care of his dying wife and didn’t contribute much to the Constitution.
2. List the three major problems the Founding Fathers had to deal with in writing the Constitution.
Hint: Cliff Notes says:
a. How to create a more powerful national government so that it would be more effective but not too powerful and lose their literally hard fought freedoms won in the Revolutionary War that ended only four years prior.
b. How to keep the Southern slave states from seceding from the union in 1787, instead of 1861, if the Northern states abolished slavery in the Constitution.
c. How to keep the small states from seceding from the union in 1787 because they were afraid the large states would gang up on them and always outvote them if the new Constitution gave the large states too much power in Congress.
(And remember you didn’t hear this from me.)
3. With no A/C why did they keep the windows closed for four months in the hot summer of 1787? There were two reasons but you only need to list one to get credit. (Did I tell you this is an “open book” test?)
4. True or False? The reason the original Constitution didn’t include a Bill of Rights was after debating and arguing for four months in the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia, away from their home, family and their plantation/business, they finally signed the Constitution on September 17 and it was the best democratic constitution ever created in the history of the world and it didn’t need a Bill of Rights. (See the answer to question #3 before you answer this question).
5. Multiple Choice: James Madison from Virginia is called the “Father of the Constitution” because:
a. He arrived a week before the Constitutional Convention start date to prepare the famous “Virginia Plan” which became the foundation of the entire Constitution.
b. He knew more about every democracy that had ever existed in the history of the world because Thomas Jefferson had sent him a trunk full of books from Paris on the subject and he actually read them all.
c. He and Alexander Hamilton wrote most of the “Federalist Papers” to help convince the necessary nine states to ratify the Constitution in order to make it the supreme law of the land.
d. He was the best at “reaching across the aisle” to work with all the factions at the convention because he told the best bawdy jokes when they met after work for a couple of beers (or did they drink ale in 1787?) at the City Tavern and Indian Queen pubs.
e. All of the above.
6. Which Founding Father lost his leg in a carriage accident while fleeing the irate husband of one of his lovers? If you don’t know the answer to this question that tells me you never bothered to read my great blog post at all and you’ve been busted! (This question has nothing to do with what the Founding Fathers were thinking in 1787, but it’s my favorite fact that I learned from all my research on the Electoral College.)
7. Another multiple choice question:
Which slave owning Founding Father freed his slaves after his death? (Who didn’t really want to attend the Constitutional Convention at all and only showed up because James Madison kept reminding him if he didn’t come he would get blamed for the end of the United States as he knew it.)
a. George Washington
b. George Washington
c. George Washington
d. All of the above
8. (I really like multiple choice questions.)
Which slave owning Founding Father, who kept complaining about how bad slavery was, didn’t free his slaves even after his death? (Who didn’t even attend the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia because he was drinking wine in Paris as our ambassador to France.)
a. Thomas Jefferson
b. Thomas Jefferson
c. Thomas Jefferson
d. All of the above
9. Fill in the blank.
The Electoral College has lasted for almost 250 years because:
________________________ (Any answer is acceptable as long as you take the time to really think about what a good answer would be.)
10. How long would it take news by ship of George Washington’s big campaign rally in Savannah, Georgia in the first presidential election in 1788 to reach voters in Portland, Maine? (Wait, his campaign rally couldn’t have been in Savannah; Georgia isn’t a swing state. (Did they have swing states in 1788?). Actually any answer is correct because this is a trick question. Like you I’m too lazy to do the math to figure how long a ship would take to cover 1111 miles at 5 miles/hour. (And I don’t have a 5th grader to do the math problem for me.)
11. 39 Founding Fathers signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787 (Constitution Day). But that was only step #1. 9 of the 13 states (2/3) still had to ratify the Constitution before it could become the supreme law of the land. What’s the best book to learn how this second struggle was won?
a. Ratification, The People Debate the Constitution 1787-1789 by Pauline Meier (History professor at MIT?)
12. True or False? This blog post would make great reading at the beach, even better than a Danielle Steele or Tom Clancy novel.
13. Yes I know I told you that there were only a dozen questions on this test but this is a “baker’s dozen” (13).
39 Founding Fathers signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787. Six didn’t like parts of it and so did not sign. Name one of them and what state they came from.
The final “Jeopardy” answer is:
History says the “Great Compromise”, where the House representation was by population and the Senate has two equal Senators for each state, was a brilliant political solution but the real reason the House and the Senate aren’t both by population, which the big states wanted, is that the small states forced the large states to cave in by threatening to walk out of the convention, and thereby ending the United States as a country, if they didn’t get their way of equal representation in the Senate.p
Oops. My bad. That’s the final “Jeopardy” answer for next week’s blog. The correct final “Jeopardy” answer is:
Madison and Franklin said small states were wrong about large states ganging up and always outvoting them in Congress.
11-13 Correct This test is way too hard for anyone to score this high.
9-10 Correct – In your next life you should be a Constitutional Scholar at an Ivy League school.
7-8 Correct – Good job! But you could have done better if you had been watching the teacher instead of that cute boy/girl in the next row in your high school government class.
5-6 Correct – Hell, you didn’t want to go to college anyway. Besides you’re making more money as a plumber/electrician/hairdresser at the beauty salon you own, then your friends who graduated from “State” with $50,000 in student debt.
Anything less than 5 Correct – Do not recommend you become a contestant on “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?”.
After 200 years with elections dominated by two national political parties, which the Founding Fathers never planned for because political parties didn’t exist in 1787, how does the Electoral College work today in choosing the president compared to how the Founding Fathers thought it would work?
Turn the page (that’s 18th century speak for wait for my next blog post) for the answer to this question.