US Constitution ratified 224 years ago TODAY
US CONSTITUTION RATIFIED 224 years ago TODAY – June 21, 1788 after having been signed and sent to the states for ratification on September 27, 1787.
The arduous task of ratifying our US Constitution is very meaningful and informative. We can be thankful for the debate generated by the Federalists and Antifederalists which clarified the values and principles of our republic.
It was the state of NEW HAMPSHIRE which became the 9th of the 13 states to ratify the Constitution to make it LEGALLY ratified. If you want to look through the list of state ratifications, the Teaching American History website has it, use this link for “State-by-State Ratification Table."
For the broader discussion of the whole ratification process, that website has the feature section, “Ratification of the Constitution."
The MOST significant dynamic of the ratification process was the debate as to the values and principles of our republic by the Federalists vs. Antifederalists. One readily identifies the continuing ideological dynamic of those discussions. I believe the issues are significant and need to be considered in an environment which is open and civil.
If you want to review the basics of each of these ideological groups, again the "Teaching American History" website has valuable resources which I recommend.
“Introduction to The Federalist.” The Federalist essays response to Antifederalist “attack” on the new constitution.
“Introduction to the Antifederalists." It is important to know the meaning of “antifederalists” as Gordon Lloyd, author of the introduction clarifies developing the meaning of “federal” which, he asserts had “…a particular American character. In the 1780s, those folks who wanted a firmer and more connected union became known as federal men. People like George Washington, Gouverneur Morris, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and James Wilson were known as federal men who wanted a firmer federal, or even national, union. And those people like Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, George Clinton, Melancton Smith, and Roger Sherman, who opposed or who raised doubts about the merits of a firmer and more energetic union acquired the name of antifederal men who opposed an inclination to strengthen the ties of Union with a focus on centralized direction.”
So, as Lloyd describes the content of the position of the Antifederalists, “…a commitment to local government and limited general government, frequent elections and rotation in office, and to writing things down because our liberties are safer as a result.”
Readers will readily recognize that the debate continues actively today. It is important NOT to idealize the discussions of the 18th century – they were definitely just as contentious and uncivil as those today. That does NOT, however, redeem the lack of civility.
I KNOW that I am among the citizens of our republic who are grateful to the Antifederalists for their conscientious and committed work for a BILL OF RIGHTS to be added to the US Constitution. There were 12 originally, but only 10 were immediately ratified. One was ratified finally at the end of the 20th century. One more has never been ratified. Do YOU know what the 2 amendments NOT ratified with the 10 provided for? Watching for your comments.
And then there is the process by which the BILL OF RIGHTS which was ORIGINALLY focused on the national/federal government were gradually applied to the states after the ratification of the 14th Amendment and with developments in the early 20th century. That process is called, “incorporation.” If you want to read about that process in-depth, I suggest the Wikipedia article,
“Incorporation of the Bill of Rights.” That article details the “incorporation” of the individual amendments of our Bill of Rights.
Rather than summarily deciding that the BILL OF RIGHTS applied to the states, the US Supreme Court has gone the route of ruling case-by-case one-by-one on the BILL OF RIGHTS applying to the states of the United States. That long process of incorporation is fascinating to me. Do YOU know which of the Bill of Rights was most recently “incorporated”?
This is a key reason that I think it is IMPORTANT to note that our US Constitution is a LIVING DOCUMENT designed to provide the foundation for a dynamic maturing republic. I do not understand the argument of “original intent” to be the key principle to interpret our US Constitution. What is YOUR view?
Consider the case decided by our US Supreme Court this week reported by Reuters, “Top court rejects DNA lab test analyst questioning.” The Supreme Court case is Williams v. Illinois, No. 10-8505.
The Court has been wrestling for years with the 21st century meaning of the Constitution's "Confrontation Clause" guaranteeing that criminal defendants "be confronted with the witnesses against him." Consider the 6th Amendment. For a detailed discussion, read Wikipedia’s article, “Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution” – “Confrontation” section. This article provides an overview of the struggle the court has had with modern technology and the 6th amendment’s requirement of “confrontation.” What is YOUR stance on “confrontation”?
We celebrate as a national day the day on which the US Constitution was SIGNED and sent to the states for ratification on September 17th. It is, in fact, mandated that all schools receiving federal money observe this date. I doubt that any reader of my WE THE PEOPLE blog today is aware that TODAY is the significant date on which that US Constriction legally went into effect with 9 states having ratified it.
And then, with 12 states having ratified the US Constitution of 1787, the US Government on March 4, 1789. George Washington was inaugurated first US President on April 30, 1789.
And then, at long last, Rhode Island ratified the US Constitution on May 29, 1790. That completed the full 13 original states in under the US Constitution.
Our WRITTEN US Constitution is the constitution which has been in place governing a nation longer than any other nation with a WRITTEN constitution in the world.
As we observe this date on which our US Constitution of 1787 was RATIFIED and started to go into effect, let’s re-read and reflect on the FULL meaning of the PREAMBLE of that very significant LEGAL document. Our reflection is enriched by the informative Wikipedia article,
“Preamble to the United States Constitution,” with the discussion of its judicial relevance and the interpretation of each clause.
“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.”
Here we go…
John Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor of political science at UW-Waukesha and an advocate for democracy/civics education in Wisconsin high schools. John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.