Ratification of the U.S. Constitution was a closely run thing. In New York, the state’s ratifying convention to replace the Articles of Confederation with the proposed Constitution barely said ‘yes’ by a vote of 30 to 27. North Carolina and Rhode Island would not ratify until late 1789 and 1790, respectively. Thus, when George Washington became president in April 1789, there were just eleven United States. North Carolina and Rhode Island had the status of sovereign nations.
The Preamble wastes no time stating the intent of the Constitution – which is to “…establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty…”
The early arguments for ratification, The Federalist 2 – 8, emphasized defense as a selling point. European countries required large and costly standing armies to protect against incursions by their neighbors. “…the very strength of a united America would eliminate the need for a large standing army in peacetime. The result would be enormous peace dividends in both dollars and democracy” [Amar]. Individual states would have no need to maintain standing armies to protect against their neighbors in a United States. Hamilton closed out The Federalist series of papers with #85, noting that the Constitution would prevent “…extensive military establishments, which could not fail to grow out of wars between the States in a disunited situation.”
I’ll be summarizing key points from Akhil Reed Amar’s America’s Constitution – A Biography (2005) as I make my way through the book. But what is fascinating is how much of what occurred in our most recent election was by deliberate design. The moderates were swayed to ratify the Constitution “…not because they distrusted their own democratic state lawmakers…but rather because they needed to rein in other states’ legislatures” [Amar]. This is the very notion of “tyranny of the majority.” We may not like the outcome here in California, but the middle of the country sees that the electoral college has functioned as intended by checking the popular vote. In a very real sense, the rest of the country is reacting against the progressive platforms and legislators of the coastal United States.
Based on the “real” news I see daily, it is apparent that very few politicians understand the Constitution. Neither does the media, and it is to their everlasting shame that news sources do not take this opportunity to educate the country. My knowledge of the Constitution is weak at best. This stuff is vitally important, and the state of the country must not be left to the political parties and courts to sort out…they’ll just fuck it up some more. Hence this erudition and humble monograph. Remember the opening phrase of the Constitution – “We the People…”
Onward…Article I is next.