July 23, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes on the day)
Today, the New Hampshire delegates, John Langdon and Nicolas Gilman arrived in Convention and took their seats. The delegates agreed to requiring an oath by both national and states officials to support the new governing document. They agreed to submit the Constitution to conventions of people of the states for ratification and decided to revisit the way the executive was elected. Influences on the Delegates
Influences on the Delegates
Gorham from Massachusetts tipped his hat to the clergy in his support for ratification by an assembly of the people rather than have ratification come via the elected state legislatures. He said in Convention:
3. In the States, many of the ablest men are excluded from the Legislatures, but may be elected into a convention. Among these may be ranked many of the clergy, who are generally friends to good government. Their services were found to be valuable in the formation and establishment of the Constitution of Massachusetts.
Far from proving a biblical basis for the Constitution, this statement nonetheless indicates a friendliness to participation of religiously devout people in government. Then, the clergy were friends to good government. Now, many of those who purport to be leaders among evangelicals hope to establish Christianity as a quasi-religion of the state.
Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania supported the idea of a people’s convention to ratify the Constitution since the people are the ultimate authority.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS considered the inference of Mr. ELLSWORTH from the plea of necessity, as applied to the establishment of a new system, on the consent of the people of a part of the States, in favor of a like establishment, on the consent of a part of the Legislatures, as a non-sequitur. If the Confederation is to be pursued, no alteration can be made without the unanimous consent of the Legislatures. Legislative alterations not conformable to the Federal compact would clearly not be valid. The Judges would consider them as null and void. Whereas, in case of an appeal to the people of the United States, the supreme authority, the Federal compact may be altered by a majority of them, in like manner as the Constitution of a particular State may be altered by a majority of the people of the State. The amendment moved by Mr. ELLSWORTH erroneously supposes, that we are proceeding on the basis of the Confederation. This Convention is unknown to the Confederation.
The consent of the governed is where government derives just powers. Rather than consider the Bible or Christianity as supreme authority, Morris asserted that in a republican government the people via their representatives decide.
As a reminder that the Southern states wanted to bake slavery into their Constitution cake, General Pinckney said near the end of the session on this day:
General PINCKNEY reminded the Convention, that if the Committee should fail to insert some security to the Southern States against an emancipation of slaves, and taxes on exports, he should be bound by duty to his State to vote against their report.
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)
To follow on social media, click the following links:
Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)