Creating a New Government

Creating a New Government
William G. Burmer

Creating a new government was a daunting task. For months there were heated debates amongst the delegates about procedures and content. Arguments ensued and tempers flared. The Convention seemed to be getting nowhere. On June 28, Benjamin Franklin made his famous speech recommending that sessions be opened with prayer: “The small progress we have made after four or five weeks . . . is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own Want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it . . . In this situation . . . groping as it were in the dark to find political truth . . . how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understanding? . . . I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of the truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?” 3.

By mid-September the work of the Convention neared its end. The New York members, except Hamilton, had already withdrawn in disgust. Others, for various reasons, declared they could never sign. Governor Morris of New York cleverly devised a form to make it seem unanimous: “Done in Convention, by the unanimous consent of the States present the 17 September.” At 4:00 p.m., September 17, 1787. The members adjourned to the City tavern, dined together, and took cordial leave of each other. America now had its Republic, a government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’ “The Federal Constitution gave new meaning to the term “federal,” by setting up a sovereign union of sovereign states,” this federal government is supreme and sovereign within its sphere, but that sphere is defined and limited by the constitution. Explicit in the Constitution is the statement (Article VI, section 2) This Constitution,

and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made under the Authority of the United States, Shall be the supreme Law of the Land; Implicit is the principle that the Tenth amendment of 1791 which made clear that “Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the States are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.” The states are co-equally sovereign within the sphere of their reserved powers; in no sense are they subordinate corporations as the British insisted that the colonies must be. Both federal and state governments rest on the same broad bottom of the popular sovereignty.” 4.

“The first presidential and congressional elections were set for 4 March 1789. It however was the 6th when the electoral ballots were finally counted. Another week before Washington learned officially that he had been chosen. No one was sure the Constitution would work. As Ben Franklin stated at the conclusion: “Thus, I Consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best.” 5.

On the 30th day of April 1789, George Washington stepped onto the balcony of Federal Hall overlooking New York’s Wall Street and took the Oath of Office for President of the United States of America. Thus, he became our first President and the “Father of our Country.”

About one year later, sometime in 1790, our Capital was moved to Philadelphia. The new location was considered more befitting the status of a Capital city. Philadelphia in 1790 was popularly regarded as the jewel of the Union, quite modern and clean. To spite these amenities it was hot in the summer time and produced mosquitoes carrying yellow fever evidently brought in by ships from the West Indies. This intolerable situation plagued the city every year and in 1793 killed about 4,000 people in a two-month period. The yellow fever was not discriminatory and infected almost all who came in contact. Congress would leave town and government business ceased.

This consideration plus a practical need to locate the Capital closer to the southern boarders, where it could better serve the political interest of both the north and the south prompted a move of the Capital to the District of Columbia in 1800.


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