I have always been thankful that so many of our country’s greatest leaders and statesmen were able to be on this earth at the same time and place to draft the Constitution. As a lifelong student of history and government, we were blessed as a nation to have individuals that put self-interest and sectionalism aside to debate, argue, draft and sign the Constitution. Our Constitution has been that beacon upon the hill, that guiding star at night, and that shining city that millions of persons around the word have longed to be guided by within their own countries.
It is my privilege to have introduced H. Res. 734 honoring the Constitution of the United States and the freedoms and rights it has given to every American. Today, the Constitution is not read or studied by enough Americans. I am sure that many people would tell you that some early Americans got together and with the wave of the hand produced the document. I am sure it would be with disbelief to many to find out how it took four hard and acrimonious months from May to September 17, 1787, to actually bring fruition to their labor. The citizens that attended the Convention in Philadelphia were some of our greatest scholars of government and history; Madison, Franklin, Hamilton, Morris, and Washington were just a few of these men. James Madison had studied many forms of government from the ancients to the nations of his day. He reached out to others not only for their opinions but to citizens from around the country. Discussion, debate, and compromise all were the order of the Convention.
Many different ideas were brought to the Convention. Were they only empowered to amend the Articles of Confederation? Could they go further and start from scratch? Many a discussion was held in Philadelphia’s boarding houses and taverns. These members began debates on creating three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. Madison brought his ideas while others had theirs. There was no air conditioning. Secrecy of the proceedings mandated that all windows and doors be shut. The summer days were hot and tempers flared. But through it all, they worked. These men knew that they would be creating a document for a nation and the ages. A new nation was being watched by the powers of the world. Would this new democracy survive, or would it succumb to infighting and intrigue? Fortunately for us, cooler heads would prevail when impasses occurred. Recesses and adjournments would be called. Personally, I marvel at these giants. Strong willed men would discuss and agree to points that they would not have had it not been for the persuasive and well reasoned arguments that were presented. No one received everything they wanted, and some even went home- but the majority of them stayed to give us our Constitution. It was reported that Benjamin Franklin was asked what (you) have given us. He is said to have replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
After the document was signed on September17, 1787, the next massive task began. The Constitution had to be ratified. The men returned to their states to explain why the Constitution should be ratified. Speeches were made, debates were held, letters were written, and people were persuaded. In true American style, nothing came easy. Today’s citizens should look for guidance from our forefathers. Let all Americans sit down and read this great document. Since the Constitution’s ratification, it has been the framework for our great nation. Not only did great men bring it forth, but for two hundred twenty-two years this Constitution has been paid for by hundreds of thousands of lives- the lives of our brave military men and women. Let the living give thanks to our honored dead who have paid the ultimate sacrifice that the Constitution of the United States remains our guiding light.
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