Creating the Constitution
Aug 13, 2007
When was the last time you successfully changed anyone's mind about anything? Or gotten even a small group of people to agree on what movie to see. Now try to imagine this. 55 men getting together in Philadelphia won muggy summer in 1787, trying to create a nation. Now imagine that most of them were lawyers. Well, that's what it was like. And it would take three and a half months of quarreling and compromise, but somehow those men managed to hammer out the framework for our nation's constitution. Pretty soon there were some basic questions in the room about the very things they had fought so hard for. Freedom and power. It wasn't so long ago that colonists had won their freedom from the king of England. So no one was in a hurry to hand over too much power to any government. Even their own. And wouldn't a stronger central government mean weaker individual states? Ultimately, those 55 delegates came up with a brilliant compromise, a balance between federal power and states rights that still hangs delicately today, and as for how the government should actually be set up. Well, they settled on the remarkable idea of dividing it into three branches. The executive, the judiciary, and the legislative. When it was all over, these men forged a document that defined a country, complete with built in checks and balances, designed to keep everyone honest. But the document wasn't perfect. For all its promise of freedom and justice, it included compromises like slavery that would take years, even bloodshed to resolve. Some critics felt it also overlooked some crucial fundamental rights. The first ten amendments called the Bill of Rights took care of that. However, imperfect the document, it begins with three perfect words. We the people. For over 200 years, presidents, lawyers, senators, judges, politicians, and protesters have been examining the we in we the people pulling at it, trying to get it to expand or contract, and in doing so, shaping the character of our nation.