The 1787 Constitutional Convention – The Powers of Congress

August 16, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)


The delegates took up debate on the powers of Congress. They easily agreed that Congress should have power to lay and collect taxes, regulate international and interstate commerce, coin money, regulate foreign coin, fix standards of weights and measures, and to establish post roads and post offices. They voted down a clause allowing Congress to print paper money (“emit bills”).

Influences on the Delegates

The one biblical reference in today’s proceedings was to the book of Revelation. Delaware’s George Read said:

Mr. READ thought the words, if not struck out, would be as alarming as the mark of the Beast in Revelation.

Read made these comments at the end of a debate on the power of Congress to “emit bills on the credit of the United States.” Gouverneur Morris moved to strike that clause followed by strenuous discussion. Bills of credit or paper money had become a problem in some states and was in great disfavor. The delegates voted to remove the clause, 9 in favor, 2 opposed. Read’s comment was followed by New Hampshire’s Langdon who said:

Mr. LANGDON had rather reject the whole plan, than retain the three words, “and emit bills.”

The matter was of great importance to the delegates as indicated by the strong words and lopsided vote. Thus, Read’s comment was rhetorical and not indicative of using the Bible in a policy making manner.
As is obvious, things have surely changed. If paper money was hated, can you imagine their bewilderment and distrust of digital transactions. This discussion of paper money is a reminder that visiting the past through these journals is like visiting another world. They lived in an entirely different environment with difference conditions. What the founders did can’t always or perhaps even frequently be our guide.

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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