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ur father In 1966 an extremely talented writer, Catherine Drinker Bowen, published an exciting and absorbing book Miracle at Philadelphia. She had previously written biographical works on Justice Holmes, John Adams and Sir Edward Coke. She justly called the creation of the Constitution a miracle but as she, herself said, she was not the first to do so. In February of 1788, George Washington wrote to Lafayette "It appears to me, then little short of a miracle, that the delegates from so many different states (which states you know are also different from each other)-should unite in forming a system of National Government, so little liable to well founded objections." James Madison, in writing to Thomas Jefferson, also called it a miracle. As one considers the matter, the realization comes that the miracle of the Constitution was only the last of a series. In fact, the whole circumstances of the founding of the new nation take on a miraculous aspect. The meeting at Philadelphia was the last act in a dramatic sequence of events that occurred from 1776 to 1787. The first impetus to national union had been given by the Declaration of Independence. The first move toward a constitutional convention took root in the supple mind of Jefferson's neighbor, James Madison. He had no trouble in enlisting George Washington in the cause. Although Madison had been brooding on the State of the Confederation for some time his ideas began to take definite form at a Commission held in Annapolis in 1786 to settle a controversy between Maryland and Virginia over the navigation of the Potomac River. There Madison met Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was to become Madison's principal collaborator in The Federalist Papers published in 1788 which proved to be a powerful tool in securing ratification of the Constitution. This was a fateful meeting as Hamilton has been called-"the most potent single influence toward calling the convention of 1787." In any event, Hamilton and Madison between them influenced the Annapolis Commission to recommend to Congress (the words are Hamilton's) "that all thirteen States appoint delegates to convene at Philadelphia on May 2nd next, to take into consideration the trade and commerce of the United States." This phrasing was a slightly deceptive description of what the Convention could attempt but the collaborators knew what they were about. They had no intention of exciting alarms from New England to Georgia. But, let's get back to our series of miracles. Was it not extraordinary that a young, thirty-three year old backwoods lawyer from Albemarle should be chosen to draft that fateful Declaration of Independence? But, whoever else in that Continental Congress of 1776 could have composed the inspired flow of words that give the document its immortality? This was followed by another miracubus event when a lieutenant-colonel of the Virginia militia was appointed general of the Continental Army. Who could have foretold the development of that indomitable fortitude which in the face of almost insuperable obstacles and mortifying defeats would enable Washington to gain the victory? And, once again, what other member of that Continental Congress could have achieved that result? Another extraordinarily inspired event was the sending of Dr. Benjamin Franklin to Paris to seek French support for American arms. The success of that charismatic diplomat in convincing the French to send armies and fleets to aid the colonies was an indispensable ingredient in securing the victory. To return to the Constitutional Convention one must recognize that in those days conventions were unusual, practically an innovation. One of the delegates, Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, said-"A new set of ideas seemed to have crept in since the Articles of Confederation had been established. Conventions of the people, or with power derived expressly from the people, were not then thought of." It had been the state legislatures which had addressed themselves to establishing or changing constitutions. But, now to many Americans, and in particular James Madison, it had become obvious that this should be done "by a power superior to that of the ordinary legislature, the people themselves." Thus had ensued the recommendation of the Annapolis Commission to Congress which that body had adopted. However, Congress had authorized the Convention "for the sole purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation." It had said nothing about a new Constitution. Neither the country at large nor most of the delegates themselves fully understood that they were setting up what became known as a constitutional convention. However, Washington and Madison and Hamilton knew what was required. They knew their task was to educate and to lead the representatives of the people. Seventy-four delegates were named to the Convention; only fifty-five attended. These included some of the most distinguished men in America. Aside from our redoubtable triumvirate of Washington and Madison and Hamilton, there were Benjamin Franklin, John Rutledge and the two Pinckneys, from South Carolina; Robert and Gouverneur Morris; John Dickinson of Delaware; George Wythe, George Mason and John Blair from Virginia; Roger Sherman of Connecticut; Rufus King and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. Many were young men; Charles Pinckney was twenty-nine, Hamilton, thirty, Gouverneur Morris, thirty-five and Madison, thirty-six. At eighty-one Franklin was the patriarch. Twelve states were represented. Rhode Island sent no delegates. Jefferson called it "an assembly of demi-gods." Jefferson, himself, in Paris, and John Adams, in London, were unavoidably absent. They were, however, intensely and patriotically concerned. Adams' now book on American constitutions circulated among the members. Madison sought advice from Jefferson and, characteristically, Jefferson sent him a small library on constitutions and confederacies. In Philadelphia in May the weather was hot and sultry. Contemporaneous accounts called it the worst summer since 1750. Madison, arrived in Philadelphia eleven days early. He was a member of Congress and rode over from New York. He has been described as "a small man, slight of figure-no bigger than half a piece of soap. He had a quiet voice and delegates frequently called out, asking him to speak louder. Of the entire convention no one was better prepared intellectually." The State House, now called Independence Hall, was the place where the Continental Congress had sat and had signed the Declaration of Independence. The east chamber was a large and handsome room, some forty by forty, with lofty windows on two sides. On a small platform against the east wall was the high-backed chair of the presiding officer. Delegates were seated in windsor chairs, state by state, at tables covered with green baize. Such was the scene on which the curtain was about to rise. George Washington arrived on May 13th, a Sunday, and was received with military honors. The opening was set for the following day. The last act of the drama that forged the union of all the states was about to be played. There will be three stars, five supporting actors including a villain and thirty supernumeraries. In theatrical terms it was a disappointing opening. Only Virginia and Georgia were represented. Virginia was proud of her delegation of seven; she had been the first to appoint delegates. Although nominated, Patrick Henry, looking ancient at fifty-one, declined saying he "smelt a rat." He continued, "I stumble at the threshold. I meet with a National Government instead of a Union of Sovereign States." He was to become the most virulent opponent of ratification. Of Georgia's four delegates, two, like Madison, came over from Congress in New York. It was the twenty-fifth of May before a quorum was obtained. This presented an opportunity for the Virginians to draft the fifteen resolves which were to be the basis of the Constitution. The last delegate, John Francis Mercer of Maryland, did not arrive until August 6th. In the meantime, members came and went as they pleased and no more than eleven states were represented at one time and scarcely more than thirty delegates at any meeting. As each delegate arrived he presented his 'credientials from his state legislature. The credentials consisted mostly of the various ideas the states had formed of the proper objectives of the Convention. Virginia's preamble, however, declared in ringing terms- "the necessity of extending the revision of the federal system to all its defects. The crisis is arrived at which the good people of America are to decide the solemn question whether they will by just and magnanimous Efforts reap the just fruits of that Independence which they have so gloriously acquired and of that Union which they have cemented with so much of their common blood." On the twenty-fifth of May, when a quorum was present, Washington was unanimously elected President of the Convention and escorted to the chair. Characteristically, he made a little speech in deprecation of his own abilities. Washington proved an exemplary presiding officer. Courteous but firm and extremely sparing of speech. The universal respect accorded him caused the delegates to glance toward him whenever they made a point as though seeking his approval. He responded not with words but with a slight smile or occasionaly a frown. It has been said that for four months his "August presence kept the Federal convention together, kept it going, just as his presence had kept a straggling, ill-conditioned army together during the terrible years of war." The Convention was soon ready to get down to business. Edmund Randolph, Governor of Virginia, thirty-three years old, was a handsome man of nearly six feet. In oratorical fashion he presented the Virginia resolves which envisaged an entirely new national government with a national executive, a national judiciary and a national legislature of two branches. Everyone understood the intention of the resolves and felt that here indeed were-that dread word to some-innovations. They also realized that here was something to work on. The Virginia plan provided a point of departure and, although many did not fully realize this, it would form the basis of the United States Constitution. It is sad and ironic that Randolph in the end found himself unable to sign the Constitution. He was followed by Charles Pinckney who generally supported the principles of the Virginia plan. "The house then resolved," wrote delegate Yates of New York, "that they would the next day form themselves into a Committee of the Whole, to take into consideration, the state of the Nation." The next few weeks were given over to debate on the fifteen Virginia resolves. The content of these articles evoked great controversy. For discussion and voting Washington stepped down from his chair and took his place with the Virginia delegation. The first subject for consideration and the most vital was the establishment of a supreme national authority as against a federal compact among the States. This not unnaturally evoked a storm of debate for several days. New actors appeared on the scene. One-legged Gouverneur Morris, a brilliant and a compulsive talker left no doubt as to his position. "We had better take a supreme government now than a despot twenty years hence" and, he continued-"This generation will die away and give place to a race of Americans." In 1966 an extremely talented writer, Catherine Drinker Bowen, published an exciting and absorbing book Miracle at Philadelphia. She had previously written biographical works on Justice Holmes, John Adams and Sir Edward Coke. She justly called the creation of the Constitution a miracle but as she, herself said, she was not the first to do so. In February of 1788, George Washington wrote to Lafayette "It appears to me, then little short of a miracle, that the delegates from so many different states (which states you know are also different from each other)-should unite in forming a system of National Government, so little liable to well founded objections." James Madison, in writing to Thomas Jefferson, also called it a miracle. As one considers the matter, the realization comes that the miracle of the Constitution was only the last of a series. In fact, the whole circumstances of the founding of the new nation take on a miraculous aspect. The meeting at Philadelphia was the last act in a dramatic sequence of events that occurred from 1776 to 1787. The first impetus to national union had been given by the Declaration of Independence. The first move toward a constitutional convention took root in the supple mind of Jefferson's neighbor, James Madison. He had no trouble in enlisting George Washington in the cause. Although Madison had been brooding on the State of the Confederation for some time his ideas began to take definite form at a Commission held in Annapolis in 1786 to settle a controversy between Maryland and Virginia over the navigation of the Potomac River. There Madison met Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was to become Madison's principal collaborator in The Federalist Papers published in 1788 which proved to be a powerful tool in securing ratification of the Constitution. This was a fateful meeting as Hamilton has been called-"the most potent single influence toward calling the convention of 1787." In any event, Hamilton and Madison between them influenced the Annapolis Commission to recommend to Congress (the words are Hamilton's) "that all thirteen States appoint delegates to convene at Philadelphia on May 2nd next, to take into consideration the trade and commerce of the United States." This phrasing was a slightly deceptive description of what the Convention could attempt but the collaborators knew what they were about. They had no intention of exciting alarms from New England to Georgia. But, let's get back to our series of miracles. Was it not extraordinary that a young, thirty-three year old backwoods lawyer from Albemarle should be chosen to draft that fateful Declaration of Independence? But, whoever else in that Continental Congress of 1776 could have composed the inspired flow of words that give the document its immortality? This was followed by another miracubus event when a lieutenant-colonel of the Virginia militia was appointed general of the Continental Army. Who could have foretold the development of that indomitable fortitude which in the face of almost insuperable obstacles and mortifying defeats would enable Washington to gain the victory? And, once again, what other member of that Continental Congress could have achieved that result? Another extraordinarily inspired event was the sending of Dr. Benjamin Franklin to Paris to seek French support for American arms. The success of that charismatic diplomat in convincing the French to send armies and fleets to aid the colonies was an indispensable ingredient in securing the victory. To return to the Constitutional Convention one must recognize that in those days conventions were unusual, practically an innovation. One of the delegates, Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, said-"A new set of ideas seemed to have crept in since the Articles of Confederation had been established. Conventions of the people, or with power derived expressly from the people, were not then thought of." It had been the state legislatures which had addressed themselves to establishing or changing constitutions. But, now to many Americans, and in particular James Madison, it had become obvious that this should be done "by a power superior to that of the ordinary legislature, the people themselves." Thus had ensued the recommendation of the Annapolis Commission to Congress which that body had adopted. However, Congress had authorized the Convention "for the sole purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation." It had said nothing about a new Constitution. Neither the country at large nor most of the delegates themselves fully understood that they were setting up what became known as a constitutional convention. However, Washington and Madison and Hamilton knew what was required. They knew their task was to educate and to lead the representatives of the people. Seventy-four delegates were named to the Convention; only fifty-five attended. These included some of the most distinguished men in America. Aside from our redoubtable triumvirate of Washington and Madison and Hamilton, there were Benjamin Franklin, John Rutledge and the two Pinckneys, from South Carolina; Robert and Gouverneur Morris; John Dickinson of Delaware; George Wythe, George Mason and John Blair from Virginia; Roger Sherman of Connecticut; Rufus King and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. Many were young men; Charles Pinckney was twenty-nine, Hamilton, thirty, Gouverneur Morris, thirty-five and Madison, thirty-six. At eighty-one Franklin was the patriarch. Twelve states were represented. Rhode Island sent no delegates. Jefferson called it "an assembly of demi-gods." Jefferson, himself, in Paris, and John Adams, in London, were unavoidably absent. They were, however, intensely and patriotically concerned. Adams' now book on American constitutions circulated among the members. Madison sought advice from Jefferson and, characteristically, Jefferson sent him a small library on constitutions and confederacies. In Philadelphia in May the weather was hot and sultry. Contemporaneous accounts called it the worst summer since 1750. Madison, arrived in Philadelphia eleven days early. He was a member of Congress and rode over from New York. He has been described as "a small man, slight of figure-no bigger than half a piece of soap. He had a quiet voice and delegates frequently called out, asking him to speak louder. Of the entire convention no one was better prepared intellectually." The State House, now called Independence Hall, was the place where the Continental Congress had sat and had signed the Declaration of Independence. The east chamber was a large and handsome room, some forty by forty, with lofty windows on two sides. On a small platform against the east wall was the high-backed chair of the presiding officer. Delegates were seated in windsor chairs, state by state, at tables covered with green baize. Such was the scene on which the curtain was about to rise. George Washington arrived on May 13th, a Sunday, and was received with military honors. The opening was set for the following day. The last act of the drama that forged the union of all the states was about to be played. There will be three stars, five supporting actors including a villain and thirty supernumeraries. In theatrical terms it was a disappointing opening. Only Virginia and Georgia were represented. Virginia was proud of her delegation of seven; she had been the first to appoint delegates. Although nominated, Patrick Henry, looking ancient at fifty-one, declined saying he "smelt a rat." He continued, "I stumble at the threshold. I meet with a National Government instead of a Union of Sovereign States." He was to become the most virulent opponent of ratification. Of Georgia's four delegates, two, like Madison, came over from Congress in New York. It was the twenty-fifth of May before a quorum was obtained. This presented an opportunity for the Virginians to draft the fifteen resolves which were to be the basis of the Constitution. The last delegate, John Francis Mercer of Maryland, did not arrive until August 6th. In the meantime, members came and went as they pleased and no more than eleven states were represented at one time and scarcely more than thirty delegates at any meeting. As each delegate arrived he presented his 'credientials from his state legislature. The credentials consisted mostly of the various ideas the states had formed of the proper objectives of the Convention. Virginia's preamble, however, declared in ringing terms- "the necessity of extending the revision of the federal system to all its defects. The crisis is arrived at which the good people of America are to decide the solemn question whether they will by just and magnanimous Efforts reap the just fruits of that Independence which they have so gloriously acquired and of that Union which they have cemented with so much of their common blood." On the twenty-fifth of May, when a quorum was present, Washington was unanimously elected President of the Convention and escorted to the chair. Characteristically, he made a little speech in deprecation of his own abilities. Washington proved an exemplary presiding officer. Courteous but firm and extremely sparing of speech. The universal respect accorded him caused the delegates to glance toward him whenever they made a point as though seeking his approval. He responded not with words but with a slight smile or occasionaly a frown. It has been said that for four months his "August presence kept the Federal convention together, kept it going, just as his presence had kept a straggling, ill-conditioned army together during the terrible years of war." The Convention was soon ready to get down to business. Edmund Randolph, Governor of Virginia, thirty-three years old, was a handsome man of nearly six feet. In oratorical fashion he presented the Virginia resolves which envisaged an entirely new national government with a national executive, a national judiciary and a national legislature of two branches. Everyone understood the intention of the resolves and felt that here indeed were-that dread word to some-innovations. They also realized that here was something to work on. The Virginia plan provided a point of departure and, although many did not fully realize this, it would form the basis of the United States Constitution. It is sad and ironic that Randolph in the end found himself unable to sign the Constitution. He was followed by Charles Pinckney who generally supported the principles of the Virginia plan. "The house then resolved," wrote delegate Yates of New York, "that they would the next day form themselves into a Committee of the Whole, to take into consideration, the state of the Nation." The next few weeks were given over to debate on the fifteen Virginia resolves. The content of these articles evoked great controversy. For discussion and voting Washington stepped down from his chair and took his place with the Virginia delegation. The first subject for consideration and the most vital was the establishment of a supreme national authority as against a federal compact among the States. This not unnaturally evoked a storm of debate for several days. New actors appeared on the scene. One-legged Gouverneur Morris, a brilliant and a compulsive talker left no doubt as to his position. "We had better take a supreme government now than a despot twenty years hence" and, he continued-"This generation will die away and give place to a race of Americans."

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