The more I study history the more I am amazed and inspired by the reality that the men who hammered out the agreement to formulate our Constitution and then the Bill of Rights were ordinary men with problems, quirks, and difficulties, not supermen as some make them. They were men of like passions, problems, idiosyncrasies and personal failures. Yet, they were men who listened, studied, prayed and found solutions through intelligence and determination. They inspire me because they were not all super-brains but men who saw a problem and wanted to fix it and leave to posterity a nation that could survive the test of time and remain a limited government and free as a Republic. They inspire me because they were DETERMINED and REFUSED TO GIVE UP!
However, there were some little known and surprising facts about the delegates. Some of what I share could cause some to question their wisdom and for others, it will be a comfort knowing that they had kinks in the armor like the rest of us, yet prevailed in establishing the best system of government modern man has known. Due to the fact that several of them met untimely deaths some have suggested that there was a “curse of the Constitution” at work. I heard a sermon years ago about the Kennedy curse and the preacher attempted to take Joseph Kennedy’s trafficking in alcohol the basis of that curse. I do not believe there was a “Constitutional Curse” because of the hand of God I see in the finished product.
Alexander Hamilton was killed by Aaron Burr in 1804 in a duel but he was not the first to have a duel with a political rival. In 1802, North Carolina delegate Richard Spaight was mortally wounded in a duel with Congressman John Stanly. Pennsylvania delegate Gouverneur Morris died in 1816 after a ghastly self-surgery where he unsuccessfully attempted to dislodge a urinary tract blockage with a piece of whalebone. There were others but anger and lack of good judgment cost them their lives. Yet, those men were key players in the formation of our new Republic.
The smallest state, Rhode Island was possibly the most independent of the thirteen original states and boycotted the convention because of their distrust of a powerful federal government. That is Amazing, because today, that Democrat stronghold supports a massive federal bureaucracy which limits state’s power and authority. That rankled even the incredibly temperate and diplomatic George Washington and he wrote in 1787, “Rhode Island… still perseveres in that impolitic, unjust, and one might add without much impropriety scandalous conduct, which seems to have marked all her public councils of late.” It was only after the promise that the Bill of Rights would be included did Rhode Island become the thirteenth state to ratify the Constitution on May 29, 1790, more than a year after George Washington was sworn in as president.
Some of the biggest names of the Revolutionary War were absent from the convention, yet their influence was felt in a very significant manner. Thomas Jefferson called the Constitutional Convention delegates “an assembly of demigods.” Was he just being full of himself? Not really for Jefferson was in Paris serving as minister to France and longed for our Republic to be secure and viable. John Adams was also abroad, serving as minister to Great Britain. Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Patrick Henry were absent as well. Yet, those men ultimately supported the formulation of a federal constitution but contended for some modifications. Jefferson, Hancock, and Henry all were staunch limited government advocates and Adams distrusted Big Government but felt that a federal government was necessary to preserve the unity and allow the new republic to survive.
It took weeks to achieve a quorum. Attendance was not much better than some in Congress today and although James Madison boasted that he never left the proceedings from more than a casual fraction of an hour the others were not so punctual. Nineteen of the seventy-four delegates never attended a single session and of the 55 delegates who did show up in Philadelphia, only 30 stayed the full four months. New Hampshire’s delegates arrived two months late and by that time two of New York’s three delegates had left in opposition to the proceedings. That left Alexander Hamilton behind as the state’s only representative and prompted George Washington to write that the Constitution was signed by “Eleven states and Colonel Hamilton.”
Not all the delegates that attended the convention signed the Constitution. There were 55 delegates who participated in the proceedings there were only 39 that signed the document. Fourteen had already left Philadelphia and were not present at the signing and only the delegate from Delaware, John Dickinson had a proxy sign for him. Three delegates – Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, Edmond Randolph and George Mason of Virginia were sufficiently dissatisfied with the document they refused to put their names on the document.
The iconic opening of the Constitution, “We the People of the United States” was not included in the early drafts. It read, “We the people of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts…” and so forth. A five-person Committee of Style offered this present wording. Those men were Hamilton, Madison, Morris, William Samuel Johnson, and Rufus King. Morris is believed to be responsible for composing much of the final text including the preamble.
The man who handwrote the Constitution was not a delegate. That was none other than Jacob Shallus, the assistant clerk of the Pennsylvania State Assembly and was paid the sum of $30 and given just two days to write most of the documents 4,543 words on four sheets of vellum parchment. His handwriting was exquisite, Shallum wasn’t totally flawless. Between the first article and the delegate signatures on the Constitution’s final page is an “errata” paragraph listing some of the minor errors he had made along with their corrections.
Those me were not without flaw but the work they produced has proven to be one of the most inspiring systems of government known to man. Our Constitution has demonstrated a timelessness that is nothing short of amazing and if we allow it to be altered without going through the proper process of Amendments ratified by the States we do it, the Framers, ourselves, and our posterity a disservice. That is another reason that I oppose the Leftist Liberal Progressive Socialist Agenda and work diligently to defeat the Liberal Democrats in every election. Freedom is too precious to allow it to be trampled underfoot by those who do not treasure and appreciate what we have in our Republic.
God bless you and God bless America!