Category Archives: Ratification
As James Madison leaves New York City to stand for election to the Virginia Ratification Convention, he is troubled. Overall, the nation is moving towards Ratification, but major hurdles remain, including New York, Maryland and of course, his home State of Virginia. If Virginia and New York reject ratification, the entire enterprise could be placed in doubt.
In Virginia, he finds the distasteful process of just getting elected to the Convention an annoyance. And if he gets elected, he will face off against the man who many believe is the greatest orator of all time, Patrick Henry.
Henry has made it clear that he will not support ratification. Or maybe he will? This is the real issue in Virginia, the three positions taken by the various partisan sides.
First are the Federalists, led by Madison. They support ratification as is. Next come the slightly-anti-Federalists, led by such men as Randolph and Mason, who will support ratification IF, and that is a big IF, they can get amendments included which they believe will safeguard individual rights.
Thirdly, there is Kentucky. Currently it is part of Virginia. Madison has been fighting a loosing battle in Congress for the last two years to make her a State in her own right, but the inertial resistance has led many in Kentucky and around the South in general to believe that the proposed Constitution is little more than a Northern power grab.
And overarching it all is Patrick Henry. There are rumors that he has his own ideas about what Virginia should do. Nobody is certain, but the evidence seems to lead to the conclusion that he would not be displeased if Virginia fails to ratify. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and Madison has to find a way to extinguish Henry’s opposition…
As the debates rolled on, the nation considered many elements of the proposed Constitution. In Rhode Island there was grave concern over the idea that the State would not be able to print its own paper currency. In Virginia the Kentucky Counties worried about the navigational rights on the Mississippi River. But nearly everyone agreed on one issue – the idea that if the nation went to war, it would be stronger united than not.
On April 6, 1917, Congress gathered to vote on whether or not the United States should declare war on Imperial Germany. Four days earlier President Woodrow Wilson had made it clear that the United States was needed and ready for the fight against an evil and depraved monarchy that chose war over peace and threatened the entire world. But, he made he clear, that it would not be, it could not be, his decision alone to send the US into World War I.
Despite the changes in the world since 1787, one thing remained the same. It was that one thing that the Framers had in their prescience foreseen: that no one person should ever be allowed to take the US to war.
When we hear the term “muck raking,” we almost automatically go in our heads to politicos and specifically those who “report” on politicians and their antics. There’s a good reason why we associate the phrase that way. And much of it goes back to the 1st decade of the 20th Century, when calls in earnest were coming from the media to chance how Senators would be elected.
In the early 1900’s, President Theodore Roosevelt began to label those in the press who attacked him or the government as “muck rakers,” a term he has borrowed from a book written in 1678 and well known to Christians even today, Pilgrim’s Progress.
But it was over the US Senate that the muck-rakers, as they even began to call themselves, really began to strike a blow against what they perceived as government corruption and the failure of the US Senate. When William Randolph Hearst began to promote the attacks against the Senators such as Nelson Aldrich of Rhode Island, it became increasingly clear that facts were no longer relevant to the discussion. Whether there was or was not any truth in the accusations or the stories of gridlock and failure by the States no longer matters. When one Senator was exposed as a corrupt and evil man, it reflected upon the entire body.
When what would become the 17th Amendment was first introduced, it faced an uphill battle. As time went by, and as more and more of the muck-rakers “uncovered” scandals and perceived injustices, it gained traction. In 1912 it would be adopted by Congress and in 1913 it would be ratified by the requisite number of States.
And in that lies the story of how the press can change the vision of the Framers and the US Constitution…