Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The People Debate the Constitution


As Pauline Maier describes in Ratification, there was no easy road in getting the Constitution ratified.  After 10 years of living together as a loosely knit confederation, a few forward thinking men decided that the Articles of Confederation no longer worked and it was time to forge a Constitution.  Washington would not go until he could be assured something would come of the convention and that there would be an august body of gentlemen to carry the changes through.  But, ultimately Maier describes it was the people who would determine the fate of the new Constitution.

This is a reading group for Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution 1787-1788.  The book has been well received by fellow historians like Jack Rakove, among others.  Maier has drawn from a wealth of research piecing together a story that tells the arduous battle in getting the Constitution ratified.  A battle no less significant than that Americans fought for independence.

165 comments:

  1. Gintaras, you are terrific! I loved opening the site to this page already for the discussion.

    As I recall from the reading I've already done, Washington didn't want to go at all, but finally agreed assuming that it was not going to be much of a time commitment. Seems like it took a lot longer than he expected.

    I have the book packed and will keep reading on the plane. Will try to be back tomorrow night or Wednesday.

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  2. In my school years we were always taught there was a strong unanimity among our Founders. They dropped what they were doing to answer the call of ''the British are coming''. The transition from 13 Colonies post war era to 13 States was smooth, enthused, and unanimous. Disney's ''Johnny Tremain'' and ''Swamp Fox'' added to this impression.

    Well, we were taught wrong!

    History tells us this pristine image was totally at odds with reality.

    So now we know the truth!

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  3. What is also interesting to read are all the misgivings the delegates to the Convention had, given all the compromises that were made. No one thought the Constitution perfect. But, most pushed the Constitution through their state legislatures because they feared the alternative was even worse. Really looking forward to reading about the battles that took place. Here is a site on the Massachusetts Ratification Convention,

    http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/massachusetts.html

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  4. I haven't been able to track all the differences that the reps have had with what many considered a first draft. I think I may have to read the opening over.

    What has interested me is the sense of urgency that some have had, fearing that Europe could start chipping away states or they could lose control of the government to debtors. There seemed to be a lot of fear motivating the creation of this document (in secret) which I don't remember reading about before.

    I was also interested in what constitutes a free press -- free to present both sides of an argument. Again, that's one of those asides that I hadn't thought about.

    And I loved the comment about not allowing people to attack the Constitution anonymously. Seemed a bit like the Internet with anyone able to blast away as Lon as they didn't have to identify themselves.

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  5. As long as ....

    Darn that auto correct....

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  6. I have 30 pages to go...it was a very well written book and our discussion is sure to reflect that.

    Avrs: The Union was very fragile then--there weresecession movements in New England and in the West (not so much in the South)....the great fear was the Spanish influene in the West, in the Mississoppi River--that States would secede to Spain. The fear was well grounded and contnued into Jefferson's Administration with the "Burr Conspiracy." There are not many books about early secession movements involving Spain during the Confederation period--but thats why you see fear of dissolution and chaos should the Constitution be rejected. I'll try to jog my memory and get some title for you.

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  7. I'm going to look and see what I have on trouble with Spain from 1783 to 1788---

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  8. I remember reading about all those fears but can remember which book. I think it was in Kukla's book, A Wilderness So Immense. States like Pennsylania had long reaches back then, extending well into what is modern day Ohio, with very porous back yards. This is why settlement was so important. These states had to establish better control over their territorial limits, but many of the settlers were German immigrants in the case of Pennsylvania, and so Maier notes that copies of the Constitution were printed in German. For the first time, it seems, the US was trying to reach out to all its new settlers in its broad appeal for a new Constitution that would bring the nation together as one.

    Yes, Robert, Maier writes beautifully. It is a pleasure to read the book.

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  9. Articles of Confederation:

    http://www.usconstitution.net/articles.html

    On the surface, it appears to be a sufficient foundation for a truly UNITED states. After all, the Revolutionary war was fought while it was in force. Wasn't that enough proof? Well, our Founders did not think it was forceful or unifying enough. This is why they insisted on a new convention in order to create a new Constitution.

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  10. Shays Rebellion:

    http://shaysrebellion.stcc.edu/

    Farmers and others couldn't pay their debts and this escalated into a small war. Certain financial interests believed this proved the country was not united and was in jeopardy of foreign invasion. Also, there was no unified currency - some states printed their own money and this diminished commerce. Therefore, it was thought that a new government and constitution was needed.

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  11. That's where I wish I had a better sense of the background. The stories are amazing -- like the delegates who simply didn't want to attend to keep from voting, and her description of it being like a faculty meeting arguing over who needs to be there and whether or not you can make them stay.....

    So I'm loving the drama, but look forward to more background from you all.

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  12. Gee, Gintaras,,WILDERNESS AT DAWN is the book I found in my library. I remember reading it and it was filled with just the intrigue and dangers we were facing then.
    Just to give the others a brief summary: The Spanish were still a world power, waning-but still to be reckoned with. They refused to recognize the cession under the Anglo/American Peace Treaty granting America all the lands from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River and land north of the Ohioto Canada. In fact they claimed all thelands from Florida in a squint line to the Ohioh River. They controlled the Mississippi River and wanted to sever the western sections of America---Kentucky, Tennessee and have those section and others under their control... The Confederation was so fragile that this prospect engendered fear in many a man---if the Spanish could direct western trade to the Mississippi, it would most likely break ip the new Union. Secession movements arose--the danger was real and a present danger. In Ratification, the author alludes to roblem every so often.
    As to Shays Rebellion--that arose as the Confederation economy was loosely organized, had little national credit--and had rather harsh systems to overcome its problems--basically, nobody and no state adhered to its goverance and when Shays closed foreclosure courts in his state an insurrection began and was quickly put down. It exposed the weakness of the Confederation and led directly to The Consitutional Convention.
    We did not fight the Revolution under the Confederation, which was ptoposed in 1777 but didn't become operational until 1781...the Revolution ended in 1783.

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  13. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is on TCM... There's a new biography of T E Lawrene entitled HERO--I'm going to read a sample tomorrow or Friday... then look for a short, but interestin interlude to relax with -- abot two or three hundred pages...

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  14. ''We did not fight the Revolution under the Confederation''


    You might say we did so ''de facto'' with cessation and peace accords signed under it.

    There had also been some frontier wars with Native Americans which stirred up hostilities among those who regarded them as less than fully human. This paranoia also contributed to the idea that greater unification was needed to fight off what were perceived as enemies.

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  15. One other factor that gave rise to the call for a new constitution and government was the lack of a strong naval force.

    Maryland's Dr James McHenry wrote to Washington on Aug 14, 1785 the following:

    ''Dear Sir,

    Congress have had it under consideration to recommend to the several States to vest them with the power of regulating trade of the States, as well with each other as with foreign nations ... its object to enable Congress to lay as heavy duties and restrictions upon the trade of foreign nations, as foreign nations impose upon the trade of the Union ... we ought to lay the foundation for a marine [that is, a strong navy] and therefore ought to begin to discourage foreign shipping and encouraging our own for the riches of buying what we want cheap and selling what we raise dear will avail us nothing without a navy to protect them ... Congress [must] frame a Navigation Act.''

    A new Constitution would be needed to give this proper effect.

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  16. To me what is funny about all this banter over "original intent" today is that most of the conservatives who argue this would probably prefer the Articles of Confederation over the Constitution, as they are such big advocates of states rights. The Constitution aimed to subordinate the States to the Union and establish a strong Federal government, which is anathema to present day conservatives. It also wanted the power to tax, which would send shivers down today's teabaggers' collective spine. I wish books like this could get wider circulation so that more persons really could understand the "original intent" of the Constitution. Of course, reading the Constitution would help too.

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  17. It is interesting that thus far few critics argued for states' rights. Persons like Randolph, Mason and Gerry supported the Constitution in principle, but felt there were some shortcomings in it and wanted it amended. The equal Senate seemed to mollify most of these potential dissenters. Most Americans were in favor of a stronger Union, given the glaring problems with the Articles of Confederation. A stronger federal government would be a boon to trade and commerce, which still holds true today.

    The battle of ratification makes me think of the current battle over an EU constitution, with many countries against it for fear of losing their sovereignty. The Euro has for the most part been a success. Trade and commerce have flourished over the years, and has been a big boon to Eastern European countries which joined the EU back in 2004.

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  18. ''original intent''

    That subject alone is worthy of an entire book.

    I agree that, in theory, the tea baggers and the conservatives would be delighted if the Articles were in effect. But that would mean a loss of farm subsidies (so that a hypocrite like Michelle Bachmann would lose her annual $250,000 payout), a lose of corporate subsidies (so that corporate welfare recipients like Wall Street and Iacocca types would lose their annual multibillion dollar handouts), and tea baggers would lose their food stamps and welfare checks.

    How many billion dollar banks, brokerage houses, and insurance companies, along with dumpy roadside taverns and welfare check cashing joints would close down overnight?

    These whiny right wingers have it real good under the present Constitution. They should count their blessing instead of shooting their mouths about it while counting their handout money every year.

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  19. True indeed, trip, which is why they are such hypocrites. All this talk of the Constitution and they have no idea what it means. From the beginning the "Founding Fathers" tried to create a Union not a confederation of states. They had no interest in states rights until Jefferson and Madison decided to have second thoughts and challenge the Federalists.

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  20. Although wasn't that one of the initial arguments against the Constitutiion? That it would usurp state powers?

    Interesting event today in Madison that reminded me of the convention (I think it was part of the PA delegation):

    Wisconsin leislators who didn't want to vote on the governor's draconian measures left the state ... But I guess they were found in Illinois and brought back....!

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  21. It was interesting to see that Madison wanted the Senate, like the House, to be proportional to state population. Of course, Virginia was a big state back then, so I guess he didn't like the idea of Rhode Island or Connecticut getting equal representation. It was one of many tough compromises. The most insane was the 3/5 rule, which surprisingly Maier didn't pick up on in the early chapters. Maybe she comes back to it in the later chapters.

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  22. Good point, Gintaras...The Confederation was a confederation of states which couldn't seem to get together to solve common problems and states which were subjects to such rules that mmade day to day operation cumbersome to the point of impracticality. This was Congressional Government with w a weak executive who was almost powerless. The Article were an agreement anong the States. The Constitution was from the people---and therein hung the difference. The founders devised a strong central government. The conservatives of today insist they devised a limited central government, which has been distorted over the years, that the federal goverment has trampled on the rights of the states and has taken on too much power over everything. Well, there is some truth in that, but I submit the major error is the thought that the founder wanted a limited goverment---THEY HAD A LIMITED GOVERNMEN WITH STATES RIGHTS BEING SUPERIOR---AND THE DAMNED THING DIDN'T WORK-- the country was nearing default and economic disaster.That's why they called a convention to modify the Article. But the convention agreed the Articles could't be amended--so they ignored the resolution to amend and proceeded to create a new structure of government---A STRONG CENTRAL GOVERNMENT--but this time one emerging from the people meeting through conventions of their representatives--one based,not in the ststes--it is not a union of States, but a compact to form a more perfect union....Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun never saw the subtle differences between a contract among the states and a compact of the people. There are still people out there who still can't see difference---We had a system based on state rights and the states blew it and damned near killed the country inthe process. I am constantly shocked at prominent political leaders who seem ignorant of what really went on in 1786-1788-1787. Some even think that the hand of God inspired the Constitution, that it was some sort of quasi-religious event-that the document is sacred...the reality is that 56 rather wise men hammered out compromise after compromise to produce a rather inique structure of government whose foudation rested on the PEOPLE--operating throght states and which was divided by a separation of Poerwers..it was and is a strong central government--that was the fundamental overall original meaning--those were the plain words of the Constitution. You want states rights--reinsitue the Article of Confederation
    Lastly, remember Confederate States of America--their constitution was based on our constitution, but specificall guaranteed states rights and the result was the squbling began again and hamstrung its government until its collapse in 1865--anyone wanna try again?

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  23. I promise I'll post shorter items, the last two were way too long.

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  24. ''union ... STRONG CENTRAL GOVERNMENT''

    Contrary to the rebels of the Confederate States, the Fox network, or the delusional Tea Baggers, it is clear that Washington, like so many of the other Founders, believed in an ''indissoluble Union of the States under one Federal Head ... to realize the promises of the Revolution ... paying the Nation's debts ... and urged the States to 'abandon local prejudices and policies' where necessary for 'the interests of the community'.''

    p 6


    The Confederates, like Gov Perry of Texas, could not find a shred of evidence to prove their claim that states could secede. Nor can they present the slightest hint that states rights override Federal rights. Indeed, all they have to do is to actually READ the Constitution to see the Supremacy Clause {Article VI, Clause 2} and the Necessary & Proper Clause {Article I, Section 8, Clause 18}.

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  25. What bothers me is that the Democrats seem so quiet these days that they won't exclaim that the Constitution was all about creating a strong federal government that would make up for the glaring shortfalls in the Articles of Confederation, which robert noted. I remember Mario Cuomo was so good at pointing out the value of a strong federal government, against all the states rights advocates during the height of Reaganism.

    I think the only reason religious conservative think the Constitution is "sacred" is because of the 10 Bills of Rights, which in their deluded minds mirror the 10 Commandments. They don't even understand the Bill of Rights, since the Second Amendment is about maintaining state militias, not about any "god-given" right to bear arms.

    But, Maier for the most part avoids these highly charged issues and sticks to the ratification process which is so fascinating in itself, and would be a valuable history lesson for contemporary politicians.

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  26. Washington and the Order of the Cincinnati:

    http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/articles/grizzard_2.html

    This is rather long but summarizes why Washington felt compelled to join this group. Like the historic Cincinnatus, he wished to leave war behind and retire to his farm. But he knew that cessation of onfield hostilities does not necessarily mean an end to a war and that the new democracy would have to remain armed and ready to avert troubles arising from conflict. There would have to be a settlement of accounts such as unpaid wages to soldiers and officers, and re-settlement into civilian lives for those who made their livelihood from war. The Order was supposed to facilitate such a transition but its proposed rules suggested that it was an elitist group more intended to enrich certain people whose backgrounds were upper class. Washington balked at certain proposed rules and almost refused to join the group. But the untimely (or perhaps well timed) intervention of former French war allies made him change his mind. Because of that, the Order was created.

    ''Peace had come, but completing the Revolution would require, he later wrote James Madison, that "prejudices, unreasonable jealousies, and local interest yield to reason and liberality. Let us look to our NATIONAL CHARACTER and to things beyond the present period."''

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  27. The Pennsylvania ratification debates were fascinating. I can see why Findley, Smilie and Whitfield had concerns, especially in regard to adding a Bill of Rights. Like so many critics, they didn't feel the Constitution went far enough. They were supportive of it in principle. The big mistake, as Washington noted, was the attempt by the Federalists to shove it down the convention's throat. But, of course attempting to take all these proposed "amendments" into account probably would have forestalled ratification indefinitely.

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  28. Who knew Benjamin Rush was such a corker? Or maybe it was Smilie who saw the "humor" in his remarks. Some of the asides had me laughing out loud.

    Interesting too that in a town like Philadelphia they voted down Rush's idea of opening with a prayer in support of religious diversity. Another one of those historical facts that the right doesn't want to know about.

    That chapter also had a nice overview of some of the origins of the second amendment.

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  29. Interesting comment about the Cincinnati Society to Madison. Seems like George got wrapped up in something that may or may not have been what he intended -- protecting widows and children vs promoting the heroes of war and their warrior sons.

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  30. I like the idea that states righters should go back to the confederation. Makes the choice very clear.

    It 's also amazing when you think about it that they didn 't just desolve the states. As she notes, it's hard to have two levels of governence -- I guess that one idea of it resting with the people and the consent of the governed (at all levels) really was revolutionary.

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  31. Interesting article about GW, Trippler. Thanks!.

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  32. Avrds---I never thought of why they just didn't abolish the states. I suppose it has to do with the fact that states considered themselves as being nations--Jefferson always described Virginia as such. The Articles were a pact oran agreements among them, they were the iperational entities which made up the Union.No one would ever have thought to dissolve the union...they sought to preserve it by making a more perfect union...but I'll see if I can find an an answer for you. Its Sunday and I'm going to relax and watch IN COLD BLOOD (for the upteenth time)
    I sent the article on the Cincinati to My Favorites until I can read better. Thaks Tripp--Is there an "e" at rhen end of your name? I can't decipher last letters sometimes--my field of vision is still very slightly impaired. Isn't thst a weird quirk--? Yet I can read separate letters separated from words...I need to write a long article one day on recovery and its quirkiness, a la Oliver Sacks.

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  33. Have a good day --be back tomorrow

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  34. I suppose there would have been no way to get the Constitution ratified if it meant the elimination of the states. Of course, the convention delegates had no way to conceive there would eventually be 50 states. I suppose they considered the 13 states manageable within the Union. Looking deeper, as Maier does, you see all the divisions within the states as well, which exist to this day.

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  35. Glad to see that folks liked that Cincinnati article. :)

    As for the conventioneers, the negative part of the meeting(s) is the fact that, clearly, these were white men of property. With very few exceptions, almost all of them who met at the national or local convention had money or political power. The little guy, the poor farmer, the common laborer, blacks, impoverished veterans - these groups (which sacrificed so much during the Revolutionary war*) were left out of those meetings. Yes, the conventioneers claimed to represent all - but did they?


    * I am reminded again of Weincek's belief that as many as 40% of Washington's troops were black

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  36. The question of whether only property owners should serve in the House of Representatives was brought up in the Massachusetts ratification convention. After some debate, the delegates decided that there should be no such requirements. I suppose that was one small step toward broader representation.

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  37. Back to the states rights issue. It does seem as though the Constitution did defer a great deal to the states especially in the Senate, by allowing each state equal representation, much to the chagrin of larger states like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts which felt the Senate should be proportional just like the House. But, in the end, these states acquiesced to the majority opinion.

    The big issue was taxation. States felt they would lose their power to tax to the federal government. Of course, the smaller states loved this as they were already having to pay taxes to larger states for "imports," but most states felt internal taxes should remain a state matter.

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  38. Keep in mind that we were not a democracy.While some states allowed white males to vote with little other qualifications, in most stayes restrictions were imposed. While yhe varios conventions were composed of delegates chosen by the people, the lists of people eligible to be delegates were chosen by the legislatures. Delegates to the original Constitutional Convention wre chosen because of their position in society, their wealth and their influence--it was the belief in colnial America that we should be led by an elite--that the common man had not the wherewithall to do so. Vwry few people voted in 1787 & 1788.

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  39. That raises another question about the decisions made in the Constitution.

    I am still in part II of Massachusetts so maybe this will come up when I get to NY or VA, but so far no one seems to be questioning the 3/5 rule. One delegate as I recall questioned the taxing of slaves as part of the end of the slave trade, but there doesn't seem to be much expressed concern about slavery one way or the other so far.

    I know this is another one of those counter-factual questions, but even the compromise doesn't make all that much sense in that time period. Slaves and women (and children) couldn't vote, so why would you want to count any of them as part of a representative government? Why not a census of just those eligible for representation?

    I know the basic answer is like with the states -- it's the only way the convention could come to an agreement for political reasons. But seems like both are reasonable questions to raise nonetheless.

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  40. As I recall, it was Madison who argued for the equal representation in the Senate as a way to get the small states to buy into the Constitution. Otherwise they would have had no incentive to join.

    But this book raises so many interesting questions (to me at least) that I need to go back and read something about the actual writing of the document again. I might also try her book on the Declaration.

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  41. And yes, these men seem like the elite of the elite, except for those contrarians from Western Pennsylvania.

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  42. I don't think the 3/5 rule had a major impact on representation as it would later. The Northern states still outnumbered the Southern states by a relatively wide margin. The idea then, as expressed by several Massachusetts delegates, is that slavery would die out relatively quickly, and the 3/5 rule along with the 20-year waiting period on abolition of the overseas slave trade, were simple enough compromises to get the Southern states to ratify the Constitution. Little did they know ...

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  43. Quite a few of the delegates in the Massachusetts convention were of very modest means, and were quite put off when they heard that they would get their travel expenses paid only if the Constitution was ratified. Maier noted that a young John Q. Adams criticized the "meanness" of the Federalists, who apparently didn't cover much of the travel expenses anyway. Even still, it was a surprisingly close vote given all the drama surrounding John Hancock and the addition of recommended amendments to the Constitution. The first state to do so.

    But, maybe we should take these major ratification conventions one at a time? Maier highlights the Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia and New York conventions, with 2+ chapters on each one. We haven't said much about the Pennsylvania convention and we have our resident Penn. historian in Robert to lead us through the convention.

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  44. Sure, Pennsylvania would be a good place to start and give those of us laggards a chance to catch up.

    The Pennsylvania convention was interesting in that it seemed to depend on which side of the economic divide you sat. But as she notes, the opposition arguments seem to be largely erased from the record so it's hard to track what exactly was argued against. The pro-Constitution folks seemed to be arguing with ghosts she wrote at one point.

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  45. Just one last thought on origin intent and the creation of a union ~

    With the modernization of the world in mind, Washington wrote ''all the world is becoming commercial ... we must endeavor to share as large a portion of this wealth''. Therefore, he urged the use of public money to invest in expanding the Potomac into the Ohio as this would promote commerce. While he had personal financial gain in mind, he also thought that this expansionism was of 'political importance' as it would unify the new nation and undermine Spain's planned expansionism into the area.

    Thus, contrary to the ideas of the Fox network and others of the far right, our Founders did intend to use government money (via the power of taxation) to build the infrastructure and create national unity.

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  46. There's also Section 8 of Article 1 that outlines all sorts of things the government can raise taxes to support, including the establishment of a post office and roads to deliver the mail. This really does lay down the first layer of infrastructure and communication in the country.

    It also allows for supporting the defense and general welfare of the country. I can think of nothing more important to the long-term health, welfare and defense of the nation than universal access to health care.

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  47. Years ago I read where the term 'commonweal(th)' meant just that ~ common weal (good). Later on the term evolved into 'commonwealth' and was used to denote a political entity.

    Back then, you got your water from a nearby stream, ate fish from that stream or the ocean, picked herbs or roots from lands not owned by anyone, and hunted for dinner. It was land and water held and used by the commons. Thus, when people united to create a 'commonwealth' (that is, a political entity) it was with a view towards advancing the health and well being of the people. Common welfare, not corporate welfare.

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  48. A thought occurred to me which I may have mentioned here previously ~ back in 1968 I was on the outskirts of my birthplace which is Mayaguez, Puerto Rico visiting family friends. I well remember how wild fruits such as mangoes, coconuts, and guavas were there for the picking. My mom's friend told me to take all I wanted and I took full advantage of that invitation. This is how many people lived back in the days of the Revolutionary period. True, you didn't have TV or modern amenities. But depending on where you lived, there was plenty of common'wealth' that one could enjoy. Too bad society does not foster that type of life anymore.

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  49. I think you are romanticizing it a bit, trippler. By the 1780s much of the land within the 13 states was owned by someone. Of course, many persons squatted on corners of these vast holdings, as Washington found when taking one of his horseback rides over his properties, and weren't about to move short of violence. To read Breen's "Marketplace of Revolution" many Americans were landholders to one extent or another, and were quite protective of their newly acquired property, which is why he states it was so hard to establish industry in colonial and revolutionary America. No one wanted to work for someone unless forced to do so as a slave or indentured servant. The dream was to physically own a piece of America, till the soil and carve out your own existence.

    Maier makes it clear early on that the conventions all dealt with the schisms in their states between the mercantile and farming classes that had evolved in society. The interior farmers were fiercely independent. They feared strong government and the taxes they saw coming with it. The merchants saw the opportunity to expand their networks through interstate trade, and if tax dollars built canals and made the interior more navigable then they benefited from it. Obviously, the new proposed Constitution served their interests greatly.

    Maier also points out that many of these farmers were well informed and while not as erudite as their mercantile counterparts, understood what the Constitution meant. Interesting how this split became ideological over the years and came to shape the American electorate as a whole.

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  50. You remind me of how Trinity church and King's College (now Columbia University) owned practically all of down town Manhattan. Both schools still do.

    I know that churches owned a lot of land in the 1780s but do not know to what extent. Some of that land (which was tax free under existing law which exempted eleemosynary institutions) was leased to farmers/squatters/or whomever. We discussed eleemosynary law when we read Prof Mark McGarvie about 5 years ago where the term ''communal enclave'' was used to illustrate the lifestyles fostered by churches and laws at that time. But you are correct as not everyone benefited from this. Indeed, there would not have been as much dislocation with people living as squatters if they had had access to this type of lifestyle.

    I will have to read Breen to get a little more insight into the marketplace which existed at that time.

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  51. Freedom of the press ~ after the Convention, word of the Constitution was spread via the newspapers which were readily available throughout many localities. Like the internet today, these papers got many anonymous letters from people who were either pro or anti Constitution. Anonymity was a good idea in that threats against people were made for either approving or disapproving its ratification. For example, the threat of ''TAR and FEATHERS'' was made for certain people who failed to approve.

    But much criticism of the proposed Constitution was well founded. The lack of a bill of rights, the lack of guaranteed free press, the lack of guaranteed jury trial, and the fact that 'direct taxes' was not clearly defined left many potential voters in doubt as to whether they should ratify.

    Chief among the 'dissenters' who were not readily disposed to ratify where George Mason, Edmund Randolph, Luther Martin, and Eldridge Gerry. These very the heavy hitters of their time and the effort to ratify became a more formidable task because of them.

    ~ Chapter Three ~

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  52. I can understand the feeling many persons felt that they were getting this Constitution shoved down their throat. This was particularly the case in Pennsylvania, as Maier notes, were the Federalists knew they had the numbers for ratification and were not prepare to accept any amendments from the "anti-Federalists," many of whom supported the Constitution in principle.

    It seems the Federalists felt they had compromised the Constitution as it was at the national convention and didn't want to go through that process again. For them it was a matter of PR now.

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  53. I've created a post with links to the Pennsylvania convention, but best to comment in this post.

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  54. mY EYES ARE RATHER POOR TODAY, SO i'LL PUT OFF POSTING UNTIL TOMORRROW.I'll rest for the balance of the day and see if I can get my history of Pennsylvania and scan it for relevant informatio. It's fascinating to study Pennsylvania because the Pennsylvania Constitution was very controversial and affecyed how their delegates approached the new federal document.

    I should be OK by later tonight--I have bad days every so often--nothing unusual, nothing to be concerned with--just a momentary discomodiation (likr that word--Dr Moriarity's complaint to Sherlock Holmes---"you have discomodiated me ..."

    Be back tomorrow--after my beauty rest...

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  55. Sorry, but perhaps I missed something ~ why was a separate topic thread started for discussions on Pennsylvania?

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  56. Discussion remains in here, trippler. I just posted the thread for information sake and the picture of Wilson.

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  57. Take care, robert. It was interesting how the Federalists in Pennsylvania thought they would have the inside track on being the host state of the nation's capitol, if they were the first to ratify the Constitution. I suppose this is why the Feds chose to "railroad" the ratification vote. Delaware similarly felt they would be part of the capitol sweepstakes, also allotting 10 square miles for the capitol site.

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  58. Pennsylvanian colonial politics probably takes credit for their attitude. Before I re-read the chapter, though and comment on it, here's a bit of info on the divisions in the state. In the 1760's the state had two political factions or partys: The PROPRIATARY PARTY--the supporters of the Penn family and the proprietary classification of government, and the Quaker Party, dedicated to ending that form of goverance in favor of being redesignated as a Royal Colony. The Penns were no longer Quakers--they were now members of the Church of England--they paid no taxes as they were proprietors. Ben Franklin belonged to the Quaker Party. He lost an electiob bid in 1764 and the Colony appointed him as their agent to England, commissioned to petition the king for a Royal Charter. (The Quakers held a majority in the Assembly)...so, as weird as it may be the Proprietors were the opponrnts of the Quakers...
    Now,fast forward to 1776--and Franklin is back and the Declaration of Independence is signed.Pennsylania hplds a Constitutional Convention and adopts a Constitution embodying rights outlined in the Declaration---and immediatly a schism emerges and two parties are formed--the Constitutionalists--supporting the new constitution and the Republicans opposing it. This dispute raged until 1790. Whe the Ratification of the Federal Constitution came up, The Consitutionalists opposed the document, while the other pary supported it. So the situation was rhetorically confusing.
    Meier clarifys this by amending the designations--otherwise you'd never decipher who's who...
    Now forget what I just said and follow her lines. It's so much easier...and you can better see why the Federalists did what they did. The Constitutionalists believe the Federal document betrayed the Revolution and the declaration and the amendments they wanted were, some of them, slready in the Pennsylvania State Constitution.

    Confused? Don't feel bad, so were a lot of Pennsylvanians.....

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  59. My eyes are amuch better tonight. I have to learn to rest more often. I overdo things because I feel really good, but my doctor reminds me I feel really good in part because I rest often..so I have to slow dow down and remember that.
    I'l re-read the chapter and catch up and be back tomorrow.

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  60. The "Constitutionalists" crop up in several cases. Seems that they believed the state constitutions should have primacy over the Constitution, as they apparently had over the Articles of Confederation. Lots of grumbling over a Federal Government having supreme jurisdiction, not to mention sole authority when it came to printing money and raising taxes.

    Apparently, "Rogue Island" had bailed itself out of a post-war crisis by printing its own paper money, and forcing state merchants to accept it. You can see the battle initial shape up in Pennsylvania and then come to dominate following conventions.

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  61. Funny, I once stood on a street corner with Constitutionalists to protest Dick Cheney and the war on Iraq. Sometimes protesters make strange (very strange) bedfellows.

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  62. Maier does give an excellent account of the Philadelphia convention.

    My first thought on it was about James Wilson of whom I know or knew virtually nothing. Evidently he was a big defender of the Constitution and staunchly defended the notion that it contained many safeguards against government tyranny. He pointed out that a Bill of Rights was not essential as it would imply that government had certain powers which had not been enumerated. ''To declare that it [government] could not exercise power it did not have, such as to interfere with freedom of speech or of the press, was ... 'preposterous'. ''

    He did not fear representative government as it was composed of people speaking and voting on behalf of the people who remained the real power authorities.

    While Wilson spoke with great eloquence, the opposition was formidable and its spokesmen were equally gifted. The one issue that was settled immediately was the notion that the vote was for either approval or disapproval of the Constitution. There simply was no basis for adding amendments or altering it in any way.

    A huge argument occurred over whether the right or guarantee of a jury trial had been jeopardized by the proposed Constitution. Other issues arose and this created great rancor among the delegates. Finally, after what seemed to be much argumentation, the approval was made. But so much time transpired that the Delaware delegation made its approval before the Philadelphians did so!

    This illuminating chapter ends with an account of Georgia's ready approval which was stimulated by local problems with Native Americans and the fear of jeopardy with them.

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  63. Consitutionalists and others vonsidered the various state consitutions the supreme law of their states and acknowledged the Arucle of Confederation a pact among the various states. While the States were subject to its provisions, there was little way to enforce the provisions--thus, when the Congress levied each state an assessment--an amount it was to remit to the national treasury--the states often did not forward their money, but ignored paying the bill. The Article had no provision to tax the general population directly. A unanimous vote of the states was required to do so, to so amend the document...then Rhode Island would object. States Rights paralized rhe national government on financial matters.
    So it was natural for the Constitutionalist to object to the Supremacy Clause and also to oppose the taxation authority, as both provisions would strip Pennslvania of very vital powers. States could (and did) taxtheir residents in order to pay state bills and the assessments which they ignored anyway.

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  64. Timothy Pickering lived on South Franklin Street, just down from the library, behind Barnes and Noble about two miles from my apartment.
    He's famous for opposing the 3/5 clause--see Gary Wills--THE NEGRO PRESIDENT--which does an excellent job covering the subject and Jefferson's election as president.

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  65. I once wrote to Wills and asked why the book wasn't entitled Timothy Pickering and the 3/5 clause? He replied: JEFFERSON SELLS< PICKERING DOESN'T


    say no more!!!!

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  66. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/pa08.asp

    PA State Constitution of 1776, enacted in September of 1776 2 months after the Declaration of Independence...Note all the rights granted..This was why the Constitutionalists wanted a similar bill in the federal document.

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  67. The Penn convention was pretty clear cut as far as numbers, thanks to a state legislature that was pro-Federalist. No matter what the objections, the Feds knew they had the numbers on their side, which led to a lot of acrimony in the end. Seems this carried over to the other conventions, as Massachusetts went out of its way not to have another "Pennsylvania," when its state legislature probably could have stacked the deck as well.

    Seems Pennsylvania wasn't fairly represented at the convention, but Maier didn't go into that too much. Instead, she focused on the arguments against the Constitution, which would come up again and again in subsequent elections.

    While I can appreciate Wilson's argument that the Constitution didn't need a Bill of Rights, I'm glad the fierce cry for a BoR eventually prevailed, as a government has to ensure a basic set of rights, and as the US found out the original Bill of Rights didn't go far enough.

    Seems most of these delegates thought slavery would eventually die out, even many Southern delegates saw slavery as eventually doomed, with Virginia delegates also wanting the Overseas Slave Trade abolished forthwit, although as I have read this was more about worries over devaluation of domestic slaves than it was the eventual emancipation of slaves. They saw the abolition of the overseas slave trade as protecting their investment.

    Interestingly enough, Maier doesn't go into how Northern delegates actually felt about slavery, except the basic Quaker objection to the 20-year provision and the 3/5 rule. No mention of giving Blacks equal rights, which I guess never came up?

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  68. ... nor any discussion on the provision to return fugitive slaves, which similarly was written to appease Southern states.

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  69. There had been a sdries of movements to abolish slavery which ended as the revolution began--and which never reasserted itself after the war ended.

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  70. OFF TOPIC: Three figures in the news have one thing in common...Debial. Charlie Sheen blames his bosses and is drinking himdelf to death, believing he self cured...Bernie Maddoff blames his investors and the banks in general and Gadaffie blames hallucingens and Nescafe. Meanwhile the guy on the Oscars last night was really detached, missing cue line meant top produce humorous responses... what a world--all three beloong in psychiatric care...Gadaffi and Sheen ned hospitaliztion, both are delusional and might resort to violence if pushed much further...Msdoff is just plain in simple denial and needs a kick in the ass . The media is feeding Sheen annd Madoff irresposibly...Don't even ask what Gadoffi needs. GOD, does any sane person really think sanctions mean anything to this man--he is irrational--probably psychotic. He will have be physically subdued and medicated before he gets really super violent. He is incapable of rationsl thought...

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  71. RW,

    I would have added just one more character to that rouges gallery: Bush.

    Bush had a history of drug use, had a delusion that the USA was about to be attacked, did not provide any actual evidence to support his claim, told lies such as those stated by Colin Powell before the UN, engaged in violence and killed others in a manner consistent with the actions of Hitler, never showed any regret for the deaths of innocents because of his actions, continually engaged in self justification, and remains in denial to this day. Those are the thoughts and actions of a mad man.

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  72. Maryland,Masachussetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, North CarolinaNew York, New Jersey and South Carolina (for a hort time) all abolished slavery by 1786, at which time the movement stopped. (See FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM 7TH edition pages 80,et. sec.

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  73. You can download a Kindle Reader for free and it will bring down all the books on your machine. It allows font and brightness adjustment--and just for me, a sepia backgroud which I can read (YEAH!!!!!)

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  74. Where are in RATIFICATION (what chapter, I think I'm all caught up)

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  75. Interesting that South Carolina temporarily abolished slavery. Weren't they one of the states pushing for the 3/5s rule?

    At the moment we are on the Pennsylvania chapters, but Penn was kind of boring (sorry Robert). The Feds had the vote locked up from the get go and didn't budge an inch. They accepted the Constitution as is, despite the grumblings of the "anti-Federalists." The only thing really interesting is the backlash that was created as the "anti-Feds" refused to kiss and make up, but rather did what they could to incite other states to vote against the Constitution by firing off letters and pamphlets.

    This led to the attempt in the Massachusetts legislation to have more fair representation and present their convention as a "discussion" (I believe they called it) where all voices would be heard and considered, even Elbridge Gerry's voice, which was not voted to the delegation.

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  76. No surprise that folks in Connecticut & Massachusetts were divided over ratification. On the one hand both areas had many wealthy elites who stood to gain much by approval, and they also had many farmers and others who valued their independence so that disapproval was their likely choice. "Massachusetts townsmen had governed themselves through their town meetings for a century and a half''. Yet, this was a culture that had great faith in prominent men of leadership such as Governor John Hancock. It did not appear that Hancock said or did very much in the effort to promote approval of the Constitution. But his view was well known. Same for Rufus King and other men of prominence. And while they often felt compelled to resorted to what was called ''trickery'', their efforts at getting sufficient votes for ratification were successful.

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  77. Seems to me that the Articles of Confederation more favored the "elite" than did the newly proposed Constitution. Connecticut and Delaware ratified it largely because of the import duties New York was charging these states. The Articles of Confederation also condoned slavery and allowed states to essentially act as independent entities, requiring a unanimous vote for any treaties or interstate commerce regulations that would affect the states. All it took was "Rogue Island" to cancel any proposed measure.

    Either way, the "elite" still gained as voting rights were not universal and the states would still select Senators. But, I think the Constitution gave much more opportunities to the "common man" than ever before.

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  78. Wait ... wasn't Massachusetts the state where everyone was to be given a voice in the ratification? I was reading this on the road, so may not have all my facts straight, but I thought Massachusetts was the state that argued that "the people" (I'll put mine in quotes too!) should be involved in the process, since they had proven their ability to govern themselves from the beginning.

    At some point there was a comment, too, that to simply go to the convention and vote made no sense. It had to be argued and debated and actually evaluated based on the merits -- otherwise what was the point of having a convention? Massachusetts seemed to be much more inclusive than Pennsylvania, for example.

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  79. Sorry, Gintaras. I just saw your comment above. Yes, a discussion of the merits with all sides represented (at least in theory) as opposed to simply going to the convention and voting.

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  80. No problemo,av. Maybe it is time to move onto Massachusetts unless anyone has anything else to say about Pennsylvania.

    Massachusetts was the first state where ratification was really in doubt, sparking a more meaningful debate which ultimately led to recommended amendments to appease dissenters. As Maier points out, many so-called "anti-Federalists" weren't anti-Federalist at all but had legitimate questions concerns parts of the proposed Constitution. It helped that Hancock similarly felt there were shortcomings in the Constitution, helping to broker the compromise amendments. Maier also makes the interesting point that had it not been for his ill health, Hancock would have been a front runner for America's first President.

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  81. I got the impression in the beginning that Hancock wasn't sick, but that he didn't want to get drawn into the debate. But then she said something like he had to be carried in when he did show, so maybe he was.

    I thought these two chapters were interesting in that they gave voice to so many different factions and more clearly defined the concerns of the "common farmer" and their fears that they were having something forced on them.

    But I have to admit I'm not loving this book. I read so many this past year that I really miss having an author step in once in awhile and not just "show" but "tell" in the form of some objective analysis.

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  82. It is more a narrative than it is an analysis. I was surprised she didn't mention Bailyn in her intro, as he edited the two mammoth LOA books on the Constitution debates, so this ground had been covered before. Bailyn also delved much deeper into the ideological differences in his book The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Gordon Wood has also covered much of this ground, if not the Constitutional debates themselves. Nevertheless, as a narrative it is quite good, and she presents some interesting conflicting viewpoints that allow you to look at the debates more objectively.

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  83. It definitely lets you see how the debates unfolded and who said what -- in sort of a reporting fashion. But that doesn't mean you can't also provide some context as you go along.

    For someone who has no background in this process, it feels a little like reading the newspapers at the time. That's good primary background, but after awhile I'd like a bit more. Maybe I should try Bailyn or Wood.

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  84. Read Baylin first, then Wood--so you don't get cofysed as to accuracy or detail. Both areexcellent.

    I have no doubt there will be more than a few books written to analyze Meier's narrative. She opened the door to new views on original intent and what that term actually mean. The Ratification process is about to become a discipline. The master set--thye volumes she constsntly cites-- are about to be analyzed---it's going to be a new sub-field in history---(THE DOCUMENTARY HISTORY OF THE RATIFICATION)

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  85. That's a good point, Robert. At least we are seeing what the "real" original intent was intent on. For example, you can see all the different arguments about the militia and why people needed guns (to shoot game and fowl I think it's said at one point). Or what they meant when they talked about separation of church and state (keeping Catholics out). From this perspective there doesn't seem to be much consistency to the original intent.

    I may have the Baylin book. I'll have to look.

    Think I'll also try to catch this:

    C-SPAN
    LIVE In Depth: Pauline Maier
    Next air time: Sunday, March 6th, at 12pm (ET)
    Approx. 3 hr.

    She is taking questions c/o http://www.booktv.org/

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  86. Is that noon or midnight? (I can't remember) Also, can I get a paper transcript or a written transcript for my computer--Imy printer is broken and I'm yet to get another. Can you type me out an address?

    I'm going to get the John Smith novel if its available on kindle.

    (I don't have C Span II on my cable)

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  87. I just downloaded a sample of THE JAMESTOWN EXPERIMENT on my kindle and was going to start it tomorrow....so the novel is very timely...thanks.

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  88. Robert, this is a direct link to the page - on the right hand side you can email a question (see the link under her photo).

    http://www.booktv.org/Program/12261/In+Depth+Pauline+Maier.aspx

    Looks like the address is booktv@c-span.org

    I'm assuming the show will be at noon Sunday, ET. I don't see anything that suggests it will be on the computer live, but I've often watched them after the fact on the computer. I'll keep an eye out.

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  89. Looks like this is the place if you can watch video on your computer. Appears to take about a month or so to make it online.

    http://www.booktv.org/search.aspx?For=in%20depth

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  90. Seems Hancock was to Massachusetts residents what Washington was to Virginians. He carried a tremendous amount of pull, even if he could only preside over events in a figurehead role. To Massachusetts' credit they tried to keep the dialog civil, even if J.Q. Adams commented on the "trickery" Federalists used to get ratification through the delegation. Maier failed to explore what the young Adams' concerns were, treating his comment simply as a footnote.

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  91. Interesting how Hancock's reemergence at that meeting was described as his ''grand entrance''. He was so impressive that people refused to leave their seats during the recess so that they could be guaranteed a good view of him upon his return during the afternoon. Some even had lunch delivered to them! Hancock consulted with "Old Patriot" Samuel Adams and made his presentation. While his proposal 'left blanks to be filled in', the key was that ratification was necessary in order to insure that the Nation would be strengthened. While there were many great arguments both pro and con, the ratification vote won the day albeit by a small margin. With this Massachusetts vote, the tide appeared to be leaning in favor of ratification.

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  92. Once again in Massachusetts, there wasn't so much opposition to the Constitution as there were to many of its provisions. It is interesting to me that the Federalists were so adamant to have the Constitution ratified in full without any amendments, despite many having felt at the time it was written that it was far from perfect, including Alexander Hamilton who would become one of its most vociferous supporters.

    As Maier repeatedly noted both in the Pennsylvania ratifying convention then again in Massachusetts, many of the objections were legitimate. This time, however, the Federalists were willing to discuss amendments, and that this made all the difference in the world. Rather than have a convention steeped in acrimony, the Massachusetts convention was by and large friendly, with genuine respect for each other's opinions.

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  93. Keep in mind that, while very popular with is fellow delegates and the people in general, Hancock was no advocate of democracy and that he was a notorius smuggler of bot tea and mollasses. He constantly evaded the port masters in their efforts to certify the contents of his ships for the purposes of lvyind imposts. And he wasn't the only one...England was constantly cheated out of its due and the revenues received from the Colonies was minimal as a result of smuggling, which was rampant. The Tea Party deep sixed 45 tons of tea at an immmense cost to England. Hancock wasn't the the most moral man in the Ameica. On the other hand, he risked his life and fortune on the revolution and on the Constitution. He would be ruined if the Constitution failed and the stateseverted to the Articles. By the time of ratification he was a dying man.

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  94. He died 5 years or so later--1692 or 1793 if my memory serve me right--he was very sickly during the constitutional convention and the ratification process...

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  95. Thaks for the info, avrds. I'm in the market for a netbook. I might buy one early next month. I can use it to better exercise my eyes and down load using WIFI--my home computer is dial up, which is slow does get live streams--and I don't have C-Span II on my cable. R Whelan is about to enter the 21st century!!!

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  96. Today in history:

    1770 ~ the Boston Massacre!

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  97. Things do much faster with broadband, robert.

    Interesting comments on Hancock. I didn't know he was such a smuggler. I think one of the more interesting persons to emerge from Maier's narrative was Nathan Dane. He was the co-writer of the Northwest Ordinance and seems a man of much thought and understanding of the matters at hand.

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  98. Robert, you won't believe how fast the world will seem -- and accessible -- if you get one of the little laptops. Even if you don't get wireless at home, they have it free now at Barnes and Noble if you still like to hang out there.

    Here's the story of the week from Library of America:

    Last Night 3 Cargoes of Bohea Tea were emptied into the Sea. This Morning a Man of War sails.

    This is the most magnificent Movement of all. There is a Dignity, a Majesty, a Sublimity, in this last Effort of the Patriots, that I greatly admire. . . .

    [what a great opening for a diary entry]

    http://storyoftheweek.loa.org/

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  99. I,ll loook up Nathan Dane. Somewhere in my library is a history of the origins of the Old Northwest.

    Just to supplement the Hancock post, smuggling was an industry in the Colonie--the traders took every step they could to avoid import imposts,severely affecting England from collecting its taxes and imposts.
    It is interesting that when Hacock's sloop was seized by the Boston Port inspectors (I don't havethe date or name of the ship) and Hancock was arrested and charged with rather severe charges, it was John Adams who defended him and who secured an aquittal for him. I'll track down a source for you. It's an interesting and instructive tale.

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  100. The Hancock case was in 1768 and Adams fought it until the Admiralty dismissed the charges against him. (Page Smith, JOHN ADAMS, Volume I at page 102 through 104.

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  101. I suppose the "trickery" that J.Q. Adams was the consideration of amendments after ratification, assuming the Federalists had no intention of every petitioning for these amendments once the Constitution was ratified.

    It is interesting how the Federalists essentially forced the Constitution down everyone's throat. All or nothing, which I think made ratification all the more difficult. Eventually, the Feds were able to get the "Antis" to accept post amendments, but by a very narrow margin.

    I suppose the Feds knew the score better than we do looking upon this in retrospect. Too many separate interests that would have kept a Constitution from ever getting written, as states rights was obviously a key issue.

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  102. I wrapped up the book last night. All in all I liked it very much, but agree with av that Maier could have explored some of the separate issues better. Interesting to me how little time she spent on slavery for instance, especially in a state like Massachusetts, where I'm sure the issue came up in the debates.

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  103. I'm only up to p 339 ~ in addition to having trouble with the small print, my objection to the book is the fact that Maier was perhaps too wordy. Perhaps she should have isolated each issue and then summarized how each set of state conventioneers approached or tabled the issues. The book's subtitle is 'the People Debate the Constitution' [indeed, the book cover's illustration shows commoners discussing it] but instead it is about how the conventioneers debated the subject. Very little is discussed about how day to day people debated it. Perhaps she should have included correspondence from some folks of that era, minutes from Sunday or church meetings, pictures of placards from that era which invited commoners to hold discussions on ratification or rejection.

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  104. America is an indirect democracy and the people speak through their elected representative..we are a representative democracy. There is no way todecipher what the general public thought except in the case where the voters or their assembymen directed their votes. Today you would run a poll...there were no polls in 1788 other than elections. Newspapers and magazines were very opinionated and not expected to be objective. That scene emerged only in the twentieth century. Politicians financed and ran newspapers to hawk their viewpoint--not to present objective truth.

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  105. Jams McCawley (sic-spelling) one wrote in an introduction to one of his history's that he took no effort, nor had any predeliction to present an objective history--this was HIS history and HIS version--not anyone elses. S0 much for that---now thats refreshing to read--one can only hope to find such honesty today.

    Does anyone remember which history has this statement?

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  106. THOMAS BABBINGTON MacCaulay History of Englsnd from the accession of James II in Volume I of 2 (I think) God, my memory still survives. I read those volmes at leas 20 years ago...

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  107. A lot of the delegates at these conventions came from very modest means, and you saw a great deal of representation at conventions like Massachusetts, North Carolina (both with over 300 delegates) and even Virginia. It seemed to me that the people were well spoken for. Also, a great number of copies of the Constitutions, pamphlets and debates themselves were disseminated to the public. But, the subtitle is a bit misleading, as the narrative focuses almost exclusively on the debates themselves.

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  108. I agree--the representation at the various conventions was fairly representative of a cross-section of the public, especially in states like Mass. where town meeting prevailed. Given the belief system at the time, when slates were approved for the public to choose from, they always included the elite and educated as it was felt these were the people who owed a duty to lead and could afford to take time to lead and who had more brains than most--and they were trusted. The lists also always included locals who weren't elite, but who were respected for their field of employment or their jobs in general and who were looked up to in their community--the average joe six pack of sorts- who drank grog or smuggled rum at the local taverns. All in all, a fair cross-section of the districts involved'
    Thanks for pointing things out. (Literacy rates were growing in this period. I don't know the rates, but apprentices were expected to learn basics during their terms with their masters---so they could obtain good employment at the end of their term. I have a book on the indentured system somehere in my library. It explains thing like this...I'll get you the title...
    Now, its 2 AM on Tuesday--time for bed...have a good night

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  109. I think it was Bailyn who said that literacy rates were pretty high then, and there were often public readings to accommodate those who couldn't read.

    I think a very broad section of America was aware of what was going on. Many of the delegates were elected and took with them explicit instructions to the ratifying conventions.

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  110. It appeared that there had been a secessionist movement in New York. Governor George Clinton was not at all enthused about ratification and undertook a strenuous effort against it. I know from our past readings that NYC was a Tory town during the war. And while there did not appear to be any loyalty to England or any attempt to reunite with it after the Revolution was concluded, there wasn't much enthusiasm for a United States. Both sides in the ratification struggle worked long and hard. It makes me wonder, how many work days were missed on the farm, the factories, the docks, and elsewhere.

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  111. "It makes me wonder, how many work days were missed on the farm, the factories, the docks, and elsewhere."

    Quite a few it seems, as Maier notes that the summer conventions tested the patience of the delegates who wanted to return to their farms. NYC was very federalist, according to Maier, and threatened to secede if the Constitution was not ratified. There was a later a similar secession movement in tiny RI when they had a second chance to vote on ratification with amendments.

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  112. did the secessionist move come from the Clintons or from the Schuylers?

    Is the new Lincoln book out?

    Which Baylin book: Mymemory is in a shables.

    I'lllook in my history of NY political organization and see what I can find...

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  113. The secessionist movement Maier mentioned came from within the city, which supported the Constitution. She also mentioned that the city celebrated the ratification of the Constitution once 10 states had signed, hoping to put the pressure on the folks in Poughkeepsie.


    Hardly a new book, more like a pamphlet weighing in at less than 200 pages. Here is the post,

    http://am-perspectives.blogspot.com/2011/03/colonization-after-emancipation.html#comments

    Bailyn talks a lot about literacy and group readings in Ideological Origins of the American Revolution.

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  114. A brief intro (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/10/the-rebel-constitution) and an interesting annotation of the confederate constitution:

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/11/opinion/20110311_Disunion_Confederate_Contitution.html

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  115. tsunami and tremenous earthquake in Japan about 2 hours ago (betweeen 1 and 2AM EASTERN TIME.... I just got up, its about 4 AM EST

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  116. I'll be back after I watch the news for about an hour

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  117. New Zealand recently took a very hard hit as well.

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  118. There has been much talk that the Civil War was not about slavery. That instead, it was about states rights and Federal overreaching. Well, this document clearly dispels that myth. Obviously, with the emphasis on slavery, it proves the southern rebellion was about slavery after all.

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  119. Thought you would enjoy that -- I found it fascinating how they wanted to organize themselves as a nation. Yet one more inconvenient fact that the South doesn't want to acknowledge about itself, preferring to present itself as the victim of Northern aggression.

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  120. The events surrounding NYS's convention were very interesting to say the least. While the Antis (good term in my view) outnumbered the Feds 2-1, the latter won and a majority of the delegates approved of the ratification. Evidently, there was a good deal of compromise along the way as a long preamble or advisory was agreed to which demanded (and expected) amendments and specific language which insured certain civil rights. Indeed, a second convention was called for. A ''circular letter'' was issued which made their ideas clear to the public [I thought the writer should have included a transcript of that writing in order to fully reveal the conventioneer's ideas].

    Shortly after the ratification was done, there were many attacks upon media and politicians who opposed it. Evidently much property damage was done but the author did not specify who actually committed this. Why these attacks took place is not clear, especially since it appeared that the majority of New Yorkers were seemingly Antis. Some politicians lost their jobs because they did not ratify. NYS was, I believe the 10th state to ratify with only 9 needed for the Constitution's adoption. Therefore, the actions of a few Antis posed no threat to those who favored ratification.

    Interesting events, indeed.

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  121. New York city was the hot bed of Federalists, and it seemed it was only those "anti" delegates who represented the city that found themselves in political hot water. Melancton Smith ultimately sued for compromise, knowing the wrath he would face upon return to the city. Smith eventually voted for ratification.

    It seems that a lot of the "antis" weren't against the Constitution in principle, they felt it needed to be revised, and were adamant about amendments being considered, which is why the "recommended amendments" proved to be so effective.

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  122. It appears as if the rest of the states fell in line much more readily and gave their approval without the usual recriminations. Once approved, just about all parties agreed that supporting the Constitution was vital. Even Elbridge Gerry who had voiced his initial opposition so forcefully conceded it would be ''highly criminal'' to dissent any further.

    With the elections Federalists had a clear majority. All that was needed now was a leader. And that was Washington.

    I liked the toast they used to salute GW ~ ''Farmer Washington - may he like a second Cincinnatus, be called from the plow to rule a great people''. While re was highly reluctant to accept his new role, all agreed that without his support, ratification was not as likely to occur. But with the Federalist majority ('True Federalists' they were called) he was more willing to accept the presidency.

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  123. So now we have a Constitution, we have a Congress, and we have a President. But clearly not all is entirely well as discontent still exists. Chief among the complaints was the very evident lack of a Bill of Rights. The task of creating one fell to Madison.

    Initially, Madison felt that a BOR was not essential and even suggested that it could be 'dangerous'. But he came under the influence of Jefferson who saw weaknesses in the new Constitution and wished to avoid further recriminations because of them. The chief menace was the fear of a tyrannical majority:

    'Danger therefore lay not in government's acting against the people ''but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of its constituents''.

    The BOR was the essential check against any possible tyranny.

    Interestingly, Jefferson foresaw a time when there would be greater Executive initiative and judiciary checks against government. Still others needed to be convinced that change was good. Thus, the battle for change was an 'uphill' one.

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  124. It wasn't that smooth a ratification trippler. Both the Virginia and New York delegations were hotly contested and many of the same concerns resurfaced. Why speed to the end?

    What is interesting are the divisions in the delegations. New York was clearly the City vs. the State. Seemed the overwhelming opinion within the city was in favor of the Constitution but the rest of the state was mostly opposed to the Constitution. Was this a lack of understanding or as Max Edling notes in his book, Revolution in Favor of Government, a perceived battle between the aristocracy vs. the common man.

    The "Antis" all seemed to view themselves as closer to the people and pushed heavily for a Bill of Rights that would protect the people, but as Edling also notes it was a more a battle over the extent of Statism. The Federalists by and large wanted a stronger Federal State, the Anti-Federalists wanted a weaker Federal State, thereby retaining much of the power in the state legislatures where the Antis felt the "people" were better represented.

    Unlike Great Britain, where only about 15% of the male population was able to vote. In America, as much as 50% of the white male population was able to vote so the state legislatures were more representative of the public at large. This, many antis felt, would not be the case in a Federal government, and so they pushed for greater representation in the House.

    Despite 11 states now having ratified the Constitution, North Carolina voted against ratification, knowing full well it would keep them out of the Union. Like many of the "Anti" delegates in New York and Virgina, North Carolinians didn't sense the urgency in the Constitution and wanted a second national convention to amend the Constitution before ratification.

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  125. ''It wasn't that smooth a ratification''

    The sense I got from the reading was that after that period I mentioned above, a consensus was reached and the back biting largely stopped. With Gerry and others on the Feds side, I thought, the tide had turned. True, there would still be a lot of edges to be smoothed out and the battle remained 'uphill' but with much of the acrimony settled.

    Say, I must have missed something in the reading and perhaps you can settle in my mind why this happened: why exactly was there so much violence against the press in NY upon ratification? Is there something in the historical record as to who committed this and, more importantly, why?

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  126. Well, the debate didn't really end with ratification, trip. The election of 1800 made it loud and clear that many persons felt the Federalists had overextended the role of national government, leading to the backlash by voters who elected Jefferson and Burr.

    But, getting back to the ratification debates, what makes them so interesting is that many of the criticisms voiced by Patrick Henry, Elbridge Gerry and others held true. It has taken 26 amendments to date to try to patch up all the holes in the Constitution, which Maier notes in her epilogue.

    The New York ratification debates were probably the most interesting, as the anti-Federalists had the upper hand at the convention. Hamilton estimated that fully two-thirds of the delegation, when it first assembled, was against ratification. In both the Massachusetts and Virginia conventions, the delegations were relatively evenly split. It was truly an uphill battle for Hamilton and Jay to convince New Yorker to ratify the constitution, and it seems Jay was the one who best mended the differences in opinion.

    The violence against the press, as I recall, was one printer who continued to publish anti-Federalist broadsides which apparently incensed pro-Federalist New Yorkers. One
    "Anti" delegate upon his return boarded up his house and sat with his family on the second floor landing with a gun in his hands. New York has long been prone to such violence.

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  127. The document was amended only 16 times--the first exercise at amendind was the entire bill of rights. Thereafter the process was used about once every 15 years on the average--mostly to expand citizens rights or to expand democracy. Negative amendments were minimal--the abolition of slavery, the banning of the poll tax,prohibition, the two term amenment--I think thats all. Plugging holes, such as the electoral system for the presidency and the income tax amendment come to mind...as well as changing the date of presidential terms...but none other.

    All in all the 56 guys did a pretty good job -- and an enduring oe at that.

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  128. Now that we are in NY and going onto Virginia and the rest of the states, it seems to me that the debates in general were about the strength of the central government, the existence of the ststes, the right to amend the document and taxation---very little else...Now, after all these years, the national debate is still centered on the the power of the central government, taxation and the bill of rights---

    We still debate the necessity and extent of debt---the Jeffersonian vs the Hamiltonian argument continues....The existence of that argument gives strength and vitality to the system--I pray it never ends, its the political tension Madison sought to create with the institution of the separation of powers and the three branches of government.

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  129. Madisonian thought created conditions which insured tensions and which would require accomodation and compromise in order for the system to work.
    Neither side in a compromise should like the resultant compromise as each side, in a true compromise, has to give something it cherishes in order to get soomething it wants--theres always dissatification in the end---which usuallly leads to another issue requiring compromise.Politics is the art of compromise----some of our present leaders seem to have forgotten its necessity, even its existence...

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  130. Robert, have you read Max Edling's book, A Revolution in Favor of Government. The first part is about the ratification debates and provides some interesting insights over and above Maier. Will make a post on the book soon.

    Edling provides a historiography of sorts, noting the different opinions held by historians, notably Bailyn and Wood. Edling argues that the debate was principally about the size of the federal government and the extent of its power. He brings up then discounts the aristocracy vs. common man debate, saying that the "anti-Federalists" essentially used the "common man" for rhetorical effect, but were for the most part just as aristocratic as their Federalist counterparts, but weren't ready to relinquish state powers, where their interests were primarily vested, especially when it came to taxation.

    He talks more about the split among Federalists than does Maier. He notes that Madison never intended a large overarching government. That it was Hamilton who imagined a powerful federal state, and essentially played the New York delegation to gain ratification. He never had any intention of actually entertaining the opposition's recommended amendments. This eventually led to the fall out between Madison and Hamilton.

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  131. I watched the opening hour or so of the C-Span interview with Maier last night. One thing she said that I didn't notice in the book was that most of the presses were located in port towns and so were pro-Constitution because they saw it as a way of bringing more business and stability to the cities. And that's one reason why the "antis" had a difficult time getting their ideas out.

    The interview started with some of her earlier books, like the one on the declaration. I have it recorded and will try to watch more of it as I have time. She's much more insightful in person than in the book itself.

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  132. I think the book is meant more for the general public, which I assume is why she chose to lay out events chronologically and make the effort to create suspense. But, yes, one would have liked to have read more insights into the speeches and leading figures, both pro and anti. I think she gave North Carolina short shrift, especially given it was the fourth most populous state at the time. It's decision to vote against ratification warrants a book in itself. The Edling book I posted offers more in this regard.

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  133. Sorry to say that I had to return the book to the library and missed the final 40 to 50 pages including the closing notes.

    Still, I liked the book very much and believe that it serves a good purpose in this day and age of right wing lunacy. A couple of weeks ago I was in an online chat room which presented a video of extremist Alex Jones. Jones kept harping about how the government can or cannot do this or that and some folks readily accepted his warped views. For example, when he said the Federal government has no authority under the 10th Amendment I replied with a note re Supremacy Clause or Necessary & Proper Clause. Upon doing that the pundits who loved Jones so much suddenly went silent. It's just too bad that liberals and Democrats today are so passive and timid by refusing to answer to the right wing lunacies. If they did were not so timid and armed themselves with books of this kind, a lot of arguments and divisiveness could be ended in our society. Maier's book is a good means towards achieving that very desirable end.

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  134. Gintaras, I have book, but never read it, so I downloaded it on my kindle and will read the sample tomorrow after I finish a sample of another book I'm reading now. I'm between books now, so I've developed a habit of reading kindle sample until I decide which one I should download in full. This one costs $10--too cheap to resist. I'll let you know how the sample goes.

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  135. About the madison/Hamilton rift and its cause, is there a specific page I can go to--I thought the rift was precipitated over Hamilton's economic or bank proposals...

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  136. People who have no regard for truth do not rely on rationality, but are governed by ideology. To correct them each time they err is a futile exwrcise, but necessary. I see by polls and by recent conservative opposition, that the right wing ideologues are beginning to be disbelieved and distrusted by agrowing number of people and that their standing in several polls is declining. I follow Eisenhower's rule of never getting in the gutter withthem--i.e., thats why he never attacked McCarthy, but waited until he self-destructed. Be patient, the trend is about to shift and they'll self destruct soon enough. Palin's numbers are down and Beck has lost 30% of his viewing audience and numerous advertisers...

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  137. ''Palin's numbers are down and Beck has lost 30% of his viewing audience and numerous advertisers... ''

    That's good to know. And, no doubt, revelations of historical truths from the likes of Professor Maier (strangely enough, from St Paul, MN where I live) are contributing to this good news.

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  138. Edling doesn't say a rift occurred during the ratification process, although Maier notes that Madison was miffed with Hamilton and Jay giving away too much in recommended amendments. But, Edling noted that Hamilton didn't see this as a concession, simply a means of getting the Constitution ratified. He had no intention of honoring those recommended amendments. Oddly enough it was Madison who pressed for the amendments, seemingly at Jefferson's suggestion.

    The rift between Hamilton and Madison developed later, but Edling points out that Hamilton's views regarding a strong federal government were already evident, pointing to the Federalist articles he wrote. I suppose, Madison took allies wherever he got them and New York was vital toward ratification.

    I can't remember the page numbers, but it is all in the first part of the book on ratification.

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  139. I don't think there is any point answering some of the contentious remarks these right wing pundits make, particularly Beck. Any acknowledgement of his views is seen as validation by him and his supporters. It was bad enough that Obama chose to let himself be interviewed by O'Reilly after the Super Bowl. Best to let Stewart, Maher, Colbert, Maddow and others deal with these yahoos. They've been doing a great job.

    As for the House Republicans, what can you do? They refuse to listen to any reason. Best to give them some rope and let them hang themselves.

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  140. maybe we all better read som Eric Hoffer on how these people emerge and why they think the way they do---Eric Fromm also warned of them----old things from the 50's and 60's remain relevant. I haven't read this stuff since then-- these were Eisenhower's heros

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  141. U.S. is ordering evacuation of Americans who want to leave Japann!!

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  142. What if you don't want to leave Japan?

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  143. ''I don't think there is any point answering some of the contentious remarks these right wing pundits make''

    Remember our reading of the book on McCarthy ~ many also did not believe in confronting that turncoat and he was allowed to profit from his lies and hate campaign. It's a good thing Boston lawyer Welch did not feel that way. Recall how he smashed McCarthy just by telling the truth. That's what I do to other delusional right wingers in web forums and they clam up as a consequence. Yes, the truth does hurt as McCarthy and so many like him eventually learn.

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  144. From the Harper's article I mentioned earlier, on a sign at a tea party:

    "Can anyone on Capital [sic] Hill read?
    If so read the
    Constitution
    As Americans we do not have the right:
    To a house
    To a car
    To an education
    Americans have a right to per sue [sic] happiness
    not to have it given to
    them!"

    And here's a popular tea party quote allegedly from Ben Franklin:

    "The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself."

    And this one allegedly from Jefferson:

    "The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite."

    As the author notes, it seems fundamental that if you are going to wave around the Constitution that you know what is (and is not) in it, as opposed to the Declaration of Independence.

    He also has a little fun with the Jefferson quote: "After all, the 'small elite' that rules us was installed in its privilege by none other than conservatives themselves, who have done so much to make America a land where the voice of money outshouts everyone else."

    But apparently the tea partiers think the elites are public servants and the bureaucrats who "interfere with the natural, democratic, free-market [and maybe dog-eat-dog] order of things..." not for a moment thinking that their dog might be eaten next.

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  145. I just remember my battles at NYTimes and Melba. The Right Wingers never shut up. They just pump up the volume. Became so damn irritating. The same with Republican leaders. They refuse to admit any wrongdoing which led to the crisis. Here we are 2+ years and they are still spouting the exact same nonsense that led to the crisis. There seems no way to shut them up.

    I imagine that was what Madison felt about all the criticisms being leveled against the Constitution. Everyone knew the Articles of Confederation were deeply flawed, yet there were those who would rather hold onto them than to accept a new more binding Constitution. The same debate lingers on to this day.

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  146. Fundamentalist Christian thought is that they are in a life and death struggle with Satan and in such a war, the truth is on their side and that it is Ok to lie and bedeceitful in pursuit of victory, as the contnued existence of mankind is at stake...thus, it serves little purpose to confront them with the truth.
    When McCarthy was riding high, Fundamentalism wasn't a political force and McCarthy wasn't affected by it. Thus, when Joe Welch confronted him, he attacked his integrity, his honor. his good word. He had betrayed Welch znd the youbg attorney inv0lved. McCarthy offered no defence--he stood naked before his own people--he destroyed an innocent who could not defend himself.."Have you no honor, no sense of decency..." It wasn't a lie which destroyed McCarthy. It was his singular lack of decency. Heis lack of integrity.

    Today it involve people who just have no regard for objective truth. They have intrity and decency--they are captives of their ideology and their religios beliefs--reminding them of the objective truth results in a sigh and a "so what" "I'm fighting Satan with every available weapon...I'm doing the work of the Lord--and you don't get the point."

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  147. I'm reading A REVOLUTION IN FAVOR OF GOVERNMENT on my Kindle It's a sample, so should finish it tomorrow.

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  148. We seem to be going through another religious "awakening." It was interesting in reading Breen's Marketplace of Revolution that he felt was still experiencing the after effects of the First Religious Awakening, as so much of the rhetoric calling for consumer boycotts and eventually revolution had a strong religious zeal to it. Here we are again, 200+ years later and you see a renewed religious zeal in the Republican sloganeering, and the straw men they choose to go after like "gay marriage."

    Maier brings up religion in her book, noting the protests to the exclusion of religious requirements for office, which some states had at the time. But, for the most part it seems delegates were content that the Constitution would protect "freedom of religion."

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  149. I watched more of the in depth program with Maier last night. She said the basic reason for the Constitution was financial -- the union had no way to raise money or pay its debts. Again, another one of those great ironies when the tea partiers wave the Constitution around complaining about taxation.

    The 3-hour interview is online now:

    http://www.booktv.org/Program/12261/In+Depth+Pauline+Maier.aspx

    Started reading Edling's introduction last night -- I think this may be more my style of writing (although I'm really enjoying listening to Maier).

    That said, I found her examples of arguments about religion in the book enlightening. Some didn't want to offend by offering a prayer -- others wanted to protect from Catholics. In the interview she sort of blows the idea of original intent on a lot of issues (and Scalia) out of the water -- saying that's why there was an amendment process.

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  150. Thanks for the link, will listen to it in bits and pieces. Edling approaches it more as historiography, which I imagine you will enjoy. A little too pedantic but many fine points.

    This whole "original intent" thing is a joke. Funny how it is only the Conservatives you hear promote this idea, viewing the Constitution as static and complete in its meaning, despite 26 amendments and numerous Supreme Court interpretations.

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  151. I am enjoying the interview -- I'm watching it in bits and pieces, too. I think I've watched about half of it now.

    For example, I liked her comment about the Declaration being more like a press release. And in the book about the Declaration she apparently takes on Jefferson as the "author" -- thinks of him more like the draftsman of the document. She's very engaging in person.

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  152. The other day I was having a debate with a right winger on another forum. The pundit said foreigners such as those in Gitmo have no Constitutional rights and that liberals are screwing up society by saying that these prisoners do have such rights. All I did was to quote the 14th Amendment which shows that due process rights are guaranteed to all ''persons'', not just to citizens. Needless to say the pundit was at a loss for words and had to fess up that I was correct.

    This is what happens when you read books like Maier ~ the truth shall set you free.

    ;)

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  153. Did you remind him that GITMO is considered U.S. territory and that, therefore, regardless of citizenship, Constitutional rights adhere---but check the PATRIOT ACT and USSCt decisions first.

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  154. Check for a decision in June 2008 asserting they have the right to habeas Corpus. It was a 5-4 decision, but I can't spell the guy's name. Also check Hamdi v Rumsfeld, a 2004 USSct decision regarding a detainees right to an attorney....there's a book on it somewhere in my library. I read it a long time ago

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  155. Gintaras. I'm still reading the sample of A RREVOLUTION IN FAVOR OF GOVERNMENT. I may read the whole book somewhere down the line...have you read it. It really should be read in conjunction with RATIFICATION to get another view of the process. Thanks for the recmendation, I'm really enjoying it.

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  156. ''Check for a decision in June 2008 asserting they have the right to habeas Corpus.''

    Yes, that was:

    Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008) which ruled that the constitutionally guaranteed right of habeas corpus review applies to persons held in Guantanamo & designated as ''enemy combatants''.

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  157. I read the first part, Robert. Edling does cover the same territory from a different angle, giving North Carolina more attention than Maier gave the tarheel state. I can only hope that more historians will cover this territory, as it is the basis for our ongoing battle over states rights.

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  158. i THINK THE BOOK SHOULD BE READ AS A COMPLIMENT OR SUPPLEMENT TO RATIFICATION. I liked what I read so far and will ptobably read it all in due time. Any suggestions for our next book?

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  159. How about MAKING HASTE FROM BABYLON or THE WORLD THAT NEVER WAS or a decent history of religios fundamentalism in America or a history of Conservatism in America from the America First Movement to present (if there are any such books covering the period)? From Bob Taft to Ronald Reagan ?

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  160. Both books look very interesting, robert. I will provide posts. It would be interesting to look at the concept of "religious freedom" in America, although I'm a sucker for any book about anarchism ; )

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  161. are we done?
    We had a whopping 164 comments. Reminds me of the old New York Times Fotum...

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  162. It was a nice run, Robert. Feel free tp comment on the post A Revolution in Favor of Government. I plan to finish the book while I wait on The Triangle Fire.

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