History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 4

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII.
THE CONSTITUTION IN DETAIL. THE POWERS OF CONGRESS.
6 AUGUST TO 10 SEPTEMBER 1787.

THE twenty-three resolutions of the convention were distributed by the committee of detail into as many articles, which included new subjects of the gravest moment. On the sixth of August 1787 every member of the convention received a copy of this draft of a constitution, printed on broadsides in large type, with wide spaces and margin for minutes of amendments.* The experience of more than two months had inspired its members with the courage and the disposition to make still bolder grants of power to the union.

The instrument † opens with the sublime words : “We, the people of the states,” enumerating New Hampshire and every other of the thirteen, “do ordain, declare, and establish the following constitution for the government of ourselves and our posterity.”‡

“When in 1776 “the good people” of thirteen colonies, each having an organized separate home government, and each hitherto forming an integral part of one common empire, jointly prepared to declare themselves free and independent states, it was their first care to ascertain of whom they were composed. The question they agreed to investigate and decide

* Of these copies six have been examined, including that of the president of the convention, and, as is believed, that of its secretary.

† Gilpin, 1226; Elliot, 376.

‡ “We the people of Massachusetts—do—ordain and establish the following —constitution of civil government for ourselves and posterity.” Preamble to the first constitution of Massachusetts.

-292-

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