as we learned in my previous post, in 1788 the u.s. constitution, sans the bill of rights, became the law of the land. nine of the 13 states had banded together to become the united states of america. in november of 1789 north carolina joined the union with rhode island making it complete in may of 1790.
there had been much blood, sweat and tears shed to get to this point. it was truly amazing that 13 states had VOLUNTARILY joined together to form this union. i say voluntarily because that was the intention of the founders and the federalists - you know those people who were promoting the constitution?
"Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution."
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 39, 1788)
so just what did our ancestors in those 13 states agree to with their ratification of the constitution? let's look, shall we?
to prove the point (made by goat and jess and others) that the constitution is a support document for the declaration of independence, let's start there. in the doi, jefferson penned (and it was unamimously adopted by the delegates):
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.
and then in closing in the doi:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
now look at the opening (preamble) to the constiution:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
there are other things in the grievances list put forth in the doi that are borne out in the constitution as well. i may or may not touch on those specifics as i go through the document. but i hope that you can see that the preamble to the u.s. constitution addresses both the opening and closing of the doi.
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
nothing to question there, but what are these people going to do?!?!?
section 2 is a little more involved. it defines how the population of citizens shall be counted for purposes of manning the house of representatives as well as how "direct taxes" will be levied to the individual states. it says that the electors (those who elect) for the u.s. congress must meet the minimum requirements for voting in the state's "most numerous branch of the state legislature" - essentially leaving it up to each state what the voting requirements were even for federal elections.
as an aside, this is also where the federal population count is mandated. it is required to be done every 10 years, thus the reason it is called the "census".
it also defines the rules for a "person" becoming a representative. one must be 25 years old by the time they take office, have been a citizen for seven years and be an inhabitant (doesn't state recognized citizen) of "the state in which he shall be chosen." each state's executive will set special elections should vacancies arise outside of the normal election cycle.
additionally, the house of representatives is responsible for selecting its own speaker and other officers. additionally it is stated in the last line of this section that the house of representatives "...shall have the sole Power of Impeachment."
section 3 pertains to the senate. how many of you knew that u.s. senators were never intended to "run" for election? it's true:
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
it was meant to balance out the contest of the directly elected members of the house and to link the states' governments to the federal government. it is explained by alexander hamiltn or james madison (we're not sure which) in federalist #62:
II. It is equally unnecessary to dilate on the appointment of senators by the State legislatures. Among the various modes which might have been devised for constituting this branch of the government, that which has been proposed by the convention is probably the most congenial with the public opinion. It is recommended by the double advantage of favoring a select appointment, and of giving to the State governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government as must secure the authority of the former, and may form a convenient link between the two systems.
this served to guard against democracy which is not a stable sort of government. our founders had some pretty strong views on why they chose a representative republic rather than a democracy. in federalist #10 (titled the same subject continued: the union as a safeguard against domestic faction and insurrection) madison wrote:
...democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. ...politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.
A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union.
this is perhaps my most favorite federalist article, combined with #9, of course. it gives a wonderful contrast and comparison between a democracy and a republic. i highly recommend that everyone read it, if not all of the federalist papers.
but i digress...
section 3 of article 1 of the constitutions says that the senators will be appointed by the states' legislature and that each term will last six years. each senator must be 30 years old and have been a u.s. citizen for at least 9 years when he takes office and he must be an inhabitant of the state for which he is elected.
there are two more paragraphs in the third section than in the second section, but oh so much more to dissect. i think we'll leave off here for today and i'll complete this section next.
questions? comments? please leave them all.