Amazingly some such as libertarians embrace the myth that our federal government was intended to be restricted to matters not handled first and well by the States. Just the opposite is true. That had been tried with the Articles of Confederation, a mere agreement among the Colonies that proved ineffectual in conducting the Revolutionary War because it lacked the power to tax the Colonies. It was to STRENGTHEN the central government that the Constitutional Convention was convened the summer of 1787. Secondly, the Articles were between the States whereas the Constitution is between the PEOPLE—subordinating the rights and powers of the States to the central government. It took the Civil War to convince the southern slave states of this truth. [1]

Power to the States

Amazingly some such as libertarians embrace the myth that our federal government was intended to be restricted to matters not handled first and well by the States. Just the opposite is true. That had been tried with the Articles of Confederation, a mere agreement among the Colonies that proved ineffectual in conducting the Revolutionary War because it lacked the power to tax the Colonies. It was to STRENGTHEN the central government that the Constitutional Convention was convened the summer of 1787. Secondly, the Articles were between the States whereas the Constitution is between the PEOPLE—subordinating the rights and powers of the States to the central government. It took the Civil War to convince the southern slave states of this truth. [1]

Democracy

The U.S. was never intended to be a direct democracy which population alone makes impractical. We are a representative democracy of, by, and for the people. However, the Founders were pretty careful in their definition of WHICH people could vote. The masses were deemed ‘ignorant and dangerous’ by some. [In truth, only 10% were literate.] For one thing, the Founders were themselves relatively highly educated, experienced, and informed about matters of State and wanted to keep government in the hands of such individuals who today would be castigated as “elites” and “career politicians.”

This matter came in two defining issues at the Convention. First, election of Representatives in the House was by population which initially averaged 40,000 voters and increased with each decennial census. [In 2016 there were on average 711,000 eligible voters for each of the 435 U.S. Congressional Districts.] Second they created a Senate selected by State legislatures with eligibility for office restricted solely to property holders—a mere 10% of the population. Man-on-the street interviews and formal polls now reveal citizens know very little about civics, government structure, or the facts of key issues and policies.

Founders’ Intent

Some today called “originalist” want verdicts of the Supreme Court based on the “original intent” of those who wrote the Constitution. One problem is the writers were delegates representing views of State governments rather than solely personal intent. Secondly, they intended it to be a living document the interpretation of which would evolve with the times. ”The problems of government, like the problems of marriage, it would seem, must be approached newly with every occasion. And each generation must find its own words.” The problem is the historical record is at best ambiguous, and statements can readily be found to support either side of a proposition. [2]

The Bible was also open to new revelation as times change .[ John 16:13; 21:25] Legalists read the Ten Commandments as rules or fences dictating behavior. In fact they are general principals requiring interpretation and judgment. This permits adaptation as times and circumstances change. [As a rule “thou shall not kill” bans eating animals God gave man for food as well as banning wars and capital punishment. [It is more properly written murder.’]

Compromise

Another myth is that compromise in Congress is evil. Democracy and our Constitution created a balance of power among competing regions and ideologies encouraging compromise. Compromise protects the minority but, of course, diminishes efficiency. ”It has been said that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” [Winston Churchill, House of Commons, 1947]

The biggest dispute and one that almost scuttled the entire Convention was allocating the power to govern based on population which would have allowed populous northern states to dominate sparsely populated rural slave states in the South. It was the question that agitated delegates all summer and was settled by a “bargain” in which each State would be equally represented by two senators and election to the House would be by population. “The Constitution could not have gone through without [this] slavery compromise. The spirit behind the Federal Convention was the spirit of compromise, …not chipping off of the best to suit the worst. In the Constitutional Convention the spirit of compromise reigned in grace and glory. “[1]

King Washington

Following the Revolutionary War, Washington could have been king. The Declaration of Independence consists mostly of a litany of grievances in governing the Colonies committed by “He” [British King.] The ‘declaration’ was to and against the king, and in 1887 they came to the Convention to create a new government without “a king for America.” So important was this issue it took sixty ballots to decide just the method of selecting the President and the powers of the office. Washington’s character traits precluded him becoming king. He was “self-effacing, not vain, unostentatious and had no interest in pride and dignity of office. He rejected the title “His Highness the President,” preferring simply “President.” Rooming with Robert Morris, he would nightly humbly “slip into the house unannounced.”

“The doctrine of the separation of powers was adopted not to promote efficiency but to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power….to save the people from autocracy.” [2] The Magna Charta [1215] limited the power of even British kings by requiring them to govern according to established rules of law. Our President can veto proposed laws, but Congress can override vetoes by a two-thirds vote. If a President ignored the rule of law, Congress could impeach him or her. .

[1]Bowen, Catherine Drinker, Miracle at Philadelphia, NY: Little, Brown and Co., 1966.

[2] Pelikan , Jarislav, Interpreting the Bible & the Constitution, Yale Press, 2004. 31,99.