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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Constitutional Convention

The U.S. Constitution is considered a work of art and has served as a blueprint for governing a democracy for more than 200 years. Washington served as president of the 1787 Constitutional Convention that drafted the document, but as Joseph Ellis explains, he was “simultaneously the most important person at the Constitutional Convention and the least involved in the debate that shaped the document that emerged.” (p. 177).

While debates raged on state vs. federal rights, executive, legislative and judicial powers, as well as other issues, Washington participated only once – on the last day. He supported a revision that reduced the number of constituents in a congressional district from 40,000 to 30,000, probably to go on the record as more than just a signer of the document.

Delegates were sworn to secrecy, so not much is known about how Washington felt about the document. In a letter he wrote a day after the Convention ended, he wrote: “. . . What will be the General opinion on, or reception of it, is not for me to decide, nor shall I say anything for or against it – if it be good I suppose it will work its way good – if bad it will recoil on the Framers.” (p. 179)

The document is admired to this day for its artful simplicity.

For more on the Constitution, try these books:

The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution
by David O. Stewart

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitutionby Kevin Gutzman

Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits and the Struggle for the Constitutionby Lawrence Goldstone

Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution
by Carol Berkin

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