What is amazing is that after only a week of hearings the Congress approved the Constitution as it was presented to them by the delegates of the convention. There wasn’t all the political – liberal vs. conservative tension – that exists today.
It was after the Congress approved it that it was made public to the people.
When this happened, there was immediate opposition to the Constitution. Why was this the case? People expected something in the form of a series of amendments to the Articles of Confederation. Instead, they were given something that had never been seen in the world before – a three part national government, with (1) executive, (2) legislative, and (3) judicial branches.
A DRAGON VS. A LIZARD
One commentator said, “We’ve been given a dragon when we expected a lizard.”
The founders knew they had taken four months to agree on this new national picture, and so the expected it to take time before the American people would embrace it. Some members had refused to sign the Constitution because they said the federal government had too much power, there was no cabinet to guide the President, there was no bill of rights for the individual, and the federal courts be able to trump any state courts. These men were widely quoted by news commentators who were opposed to the Constitution.
Those in favor of the Constitution were federalists, and those opposed, state rights advocates.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams campaigned extensively for the Constitution to be approved, and are credited with swaying many of the voting people.
THE CONTROVERSY PROVED TO BE POSITIVE
The debate, controversy, and dissention over the Constitution turned out to be positive. People studied the Constitution, and raise issues regarding its weaknesses (which later became addressed by the Bill of Rights). There were almost 200 suggested amendments to the Constitution by the various states. But 10 of them became law in the form of the first 10 amendments: “The Bill of Rights.”
Plus what became called “The Federalist Papers” were published by men including Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. This was like ‘A Commentary on the Constitution,’ in which all of the various aspects of the Constitution were examined and explained in everyday English everyone could understand.
THE PREAMBLE TO THE CONSTITUTION
Also during this time, the preamble to the Constitution was written. In this preamble, six main purposes of good government were set forth, and many consider these to be all-inclusive, with nothing else needed to be added to it:
“We the people of the United States,
(1) in order to form a more perfect union,
(2) establish justice,
(3) insure domestic tranquility,
(4) provide for the common defense,
(5) promote the general welfare, and
(6) secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
This short proclamation can be memorized easily by any grade school student, plus it is easy to understand by anyone who can read English. It is not complex.
RATIFICATION OF THE CONSTITUTION
With some real fights, all of the states finally ratified the Constitution over a three year period. It took about one and one-half years to really get the new government established, and up and running after the states ratified the Constitution. It was not an easy process, and it took a lot of work. And of course this all followed the years of Revolutionary War with England that had stressed and strained people. So from about 1775 to about 1790, or 15 years, was a time of tremendous strain on us.