Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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...Ratification, Bill of Rights and Other Amendments
The 1787 Constitution lacked a Bill of Rights. Few except Madison himself were opposed to adding one, but many other delegates would have failed election without promising it. Negotiations at the Convention had proved so excitingly innovative that time ran out before the Convention had to adjourn with only a promise of a Bill of Rights, first thing. Almost immediately, political America was thrown into a year of state ratification conventions. Massachusetts initiated the concept of ratifying the Constitution, attached with eight or nine amendment proposals for the Bill of Rights. When the First Congress finally convened, it faced almost two hundred proposed amendments, and Madison made sure he was chairman of a committee to deal with them. Practically alone he pared them down to a succinct twelve which survived as the first order of business of the new Congress. Almost unnoticed, he made a deal with Oliver Ellsworth the leader of the Senate, to pass the Bill of Rights in exchange for passing the Senate's Judiciary Act in the House of Representatives. Out of this combined beginning, the power and scope of the Judiciary Branch was born. But while that is a subject for later chapters, Madison never achieved a more skillful moment in his political life, than this pivotal one.

Federalism Slowly Conquers the States
Thirteen sovereign colonies voluntarily combined their power for the common good. But for two hundred years, the new federal government kept taking more power for itself.

Tenth Amendment: Nothing Up Our Sleeve

The Tenth and Eleventh Amendments are the high-water mark of state power in the American Republic. The main 1787 Constitution lists what the Federal organization might do and might not do, but it only lists a few other things the states may not do. By implication, the states could do everything else. But a great many promises had been made during the ratification campaign, some of them weakened by the atmosphere of salesmanship. The members of the First Congress convened the new government with a long list of hostile, suspicious proposals for amending what many of their constituents regarded as merely honeyed promises. In effect, the anti-federalists were demanding to "have it in writing". Under the circumstances, the most effective promise was one that was simple and short:

{top quote}
Amendment X The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people {bottom quote}
The Tenth Amendment


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