July 18, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes on the day’s debate)
Today was more harmonious but not without debate. The delegates agreed that the president would have veto power over Congress but that a 2/3 vote of the legislature could override the veto. They considered but remained deadlocked on who — executive v. Senate — would appoint the judges. They agreed to create district courts under the Supreme Court and began considering the need for republican governments in all of the states.
Influences on the Delegates
Most of the delegates relied on their experience in the states. For instance, Gorham said Massachusetts’ approach to the judiciary worked well.
Mr. GORHAM moved, “that the Judges be nominated and appointed by the Executive, by and with the advice and consent of the second branch; and every such nomination shall be made at least — days prior to such appointment.” This mode, he said, had been ratified by the experience of a hundred and forty years in Massachusetts. If the appointment should be left to either branch of the Legislature it will be a mere piece of jobbing.
Regarding the appointment of judges, Madison proposed what was very close to what eventually was included in the Constitution, but it was not ratified just yet.
Mr. MADISON moved, “that the Judges should be nominated by the Executive, and such nomination should become an appointment if not disagreed to within — days by two-thirds of the second branch.”
Since the delegates considered judges and the lower courts, today’s session is one where the Bible could have come up. Specifically, the example of Moses and the advice he received from his father-in-law Jethro to set up judges to handle the disputes of the people would have been relevant. Some delegates didn’t want lower federal courts, they wanted the state courts to handle lesser matters. However, no one raised the experience of the Hebrews or the authority of the Bible. They looked to their own experience or what seemed proper and wise in their own eyes.
If David Barton’s assertions about the biblical basis of the Constitution are true, one would expect to see more references to the Bible. One would expect some delegate or delegates to regularly use the Bible as an authority and a basis for the opinions expressed. However, reading through the debates makes it abundantly clear that the Bible was not used as a source of ideas or authority in any obvious way.
1787 Constitutional Convention Series
To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here. In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
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