The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Supreme Law and State Militias

photo-1444850321296-e568c6a10d26_optAugust 23, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes on the day)


The delegates declined titles of nobility either here or from other lands while serving in the new government. The delegates showed distrust of standing armies during a discussion of the role of the general and state governments. Some wanted more national control over the militias while others believed more national control would not be accepted by the state governments. The delegates approved a clause which described the Constitution as “the supreme law of the several States and of their citizens and inhabitants.”

Influences on the Delegates

The delegates considered many things today although it is not obvious what influenced their opinions. On one occasion, the delegates referred to the King of England as a way to illustrate their various points regarding the making of treaties. Wilson wanted to give Congress power to ratify all treaties.

Mr. WILSON. In the most important treaties, the King of Great Britain, being obliged to resort to Parliament for the execution of them, is under the same fetters as the amendment of Mr. MORRIS will impose on the Senate. It was refused yesterday to permit even the Legislature to lay duties on exports. Under the clause without the amendment, the Senate alone can make a treaty requiring all the rice of South Carolina to be sent to some one particular port.
Mr. DICKINSON concurred in the amendment, as most safe and proper, though he was sensible it was unfavorable to the little States, which would otherwise have an equal share in making treaties.
Doctor JOHNSON thought there was something of solecism in saying that the acts of a minister with plenipotentiary powers from one body should depend for ratification on another body. The example of the King of Great Britain was not parallel. Full and complete power was vested in him. If the Parliament should fail to provide the necessary means of execution, the treaty would be violated.

The matter was deferred for the time being.

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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