June 21 is an
important date in U.S. history; the official date of the ratification of the US
constitution, the oldest written constitution in the world.
Convention had been convened in May of 1787 to write a constitution to replace
the Articles of Confederation. George
Washington himself moderated the debates that took place at Independence Hall
in Philadelphia. It took three months
for the assembled representatives to argue their way to a conclusion and the
debate then – as now – centered on how much influence the central government
should have. On one side, the
Federalists argued for a stronger central government; anti-Federalists argued
against. One of the antifederalist’s
chief concerns was an interest in the preservation of individual rights and
fear that a strong central government would override them.
which came out of this debate created a strong federal government, but imposed
a system of checks and balances intended to allay the fears of
antifederalists. The document was signed
by 38 of the 41 delegates who had lasted till the end of the convention, but
according to the document itself, it would not become the law of the land until
it was agreed to by nine of the 13 states.
Our forebears may
have been a little better at compromise than we seem to be today, but they were
no less contentious. Connecticut,
Delaware, Georgia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey ratified the new constitution
quickly. Other states were not so quick
to agree. Massachusetts, in particular,
was very opposed to the constitution as it was drafted by the convention. Massachusetts, supported by other states,
argued that the states should retain any powers not specifically given to the
central government and that certain basic rights should be guaranteed,
including freedom of speech, religion, and the press. It took until February of 1788 to engineer a
compromise where Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the
Constitution with the guarantee that amendments would be proposed immediately
to plug some of the holes. Massachusetts
ratified the Constitution on February 8, 1788 and was followed by Maryland and
South Carolina. Finally, on June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state
to ratify the Constitution and the United States of America had a governing
document – if not a government. It was
agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4,
1789. Virginia did ratify the Constitution in June as well, followed by New
York in July, but by then it was all over but the shouting. North Carolina
became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution in November 1789. Rhode Island, the smallest state, opposed
federal control of currency and was unhappy about a compromise on the issue of
slavery. They actually resisted
ratifying the Constitution until May of 1790 when the U.S. government
threatened to sever commercial relations with the state.
The new US
government did uphold its end of the bargain with Massachusetts and the first
Congress of the United States debated and adopted 12 amendments to the U.S.Constitution—the Bill of Rights. Ten of
these amendments were ratified in 1791.
So what happened
to the other two amendments? All twelve
amendments were submitted to the states, but only ten were ratified. The two “missing” amendments:
Article the first
… After the first enumeration required by the first article of the
Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand,
until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall
be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred
Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand
persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after
which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be
less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for
every fifty thousand persons.
second … No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators
and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives
shall have intervened.
amendments are interesting. The first
amendment because, if honored literally over the years, would mean congress
could have one representative for every 50,000 people. With our current population at a bit over 300
million, that is about 6,000 congressional representatives. Imagine that in today’s political
article is equally interesting and may be of interest to those cynical about
the interests of our elected representatives.
It would appear to bar congress from raising its own salary – at least
not without another congress agreeing to it.
We hope you will
join us at Homer Smith Insurance, your Washington insurance agency on the
peninsula in wishing our constitution a very happy birthday and hope it
continues to serve as well as it has for over 300 years.