Category Archives: Ratification
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…
After “impartial discussion & full consideration,” the Massachusetts delegates to their State ratifying Convention agreed to what became known as the “Massachusetts Compromise.” This allowed a number of anti-Federalists, including Samuel Adams, to vote in favor of ratifying the Constitution. But it wasn’t a cut and dried, full-throated endorsement of the document. As the compromise agreed, many of the Anti-Federalist ideas worked their way into the ratification document as proposed amendments to the Constitution.
Many of their recommended amendments are easily recognized by us today, and some made their way into the proposed Bill of Rights when the 1st Congress finally convened. Some of the ideas were ultimately rejected, but there is one overriding idea that we must keep in mind when considering these ideas: all of them came from people who did not like the Constitution as proposed.
As intriguing as what the Massachusetts Convention recommended is what the did not include in their list of proposed amendments. Did they leave out some of the most treasured Rights because they assumed the States would and could protect them or did they presume that the proposed Federal Government would never try to stifle free speech or religion?