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

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI.
THE LAST DAYS OF THE CONTENTION.
SEPTEMBER 12 TO SEPTEMBER 17, 1787.

THE committee to whom the constitution was referred for the arrangement of its articles and the revision of its style were Johnson, Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, Madison, and King. The final draft of the instrument was written by GouTerneur Morris,* who knew how to reject redundant and equivocal expressions, and to use language with clearness and vigor; but the convention itself had given so minute, long-continued, and oft-renewed attention to every phrase in every section, that there scarcely remained room for improvement except in the distribution of its parts.

Its first words are : “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.” Here is no transient compact between parties : it is the institution of government by an act of the highest sovereignty; the decree of many who are yet one; their law of laws, inviolably supreme, and not to be changed except in the way which their forecast has provided.

The names of the thirteen states, so carefully enumerated in the declaration of independence and in the treaty of peace, were omitted, because the constitution was to go into effect on its acceptance by nine of them, and the states by which it would

* G. Morris to T. Pickering, 22 December 1814, in Life by Sparks, iii., 323.

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