Academic journal article Education

The Great Masonic Odyssey: Birth of a Democracy

Academic journal article Education

The Great Masonic Odyssey: Birth of a Democracy

Article excerpt

Second Phase of Masonic Odyssey

The second phase of the Masonic Odyssey was played largely by the same persons involved in the military action (the first phase), and who rocked the cradle of democracy at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78. About 500,000 Americans remained loyal to Britain between 1775 and 1783 when peace was signed. About 80,000 of them left their homes to take refuge in England, Canada, and Nova Scotia. Their properties, of course, were confiscated largely by the Colonies.

The U.S. Constitution did not simply happen, rather it resulted because there was an immediate and urgent need for central authority to wed the 13 colonies. In October 1786 Washington wrote:

"The unity of war had collapsed; troops had mutinied; the currency had lost its value; the states feuded bitterly; the national treasury was empty; Barbary pirates were preying on American shipping; and a violent insurrection had broken out and was threatening to spread."

America was in a crisis state. There was, indeed, an immediate and urgent need for a strong central government. Four separate incidents or occasions are considered to have relevance which have resulted in the U.S. Constitution.

Declaration of Independence

On 7 June 1776 Richard Henry Lee of Virginia moved on behalf of the largest of the 13 colonies, Virginia, "....that these colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states." Then on 4 July 1776 the Second Continental Congress declared the 13 Colonies free and independent nations creating an immediate and urgent need for effective government.

Articles of Confederation

After the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776 the thirteen colonies were organized as a firm league of independent states under the Articles of Confederation. Each state had one vote, the agreement of nine of the states was necessary to make decisions, and it was necessary to have agreement of all thirteen of the colonies to amend the articles. There was no central power to levy taxes, or to regulate commerce, and there was not enough money to even pay the interest on the debt. There were rebellions in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts where individuals refused to pay taxes levied by the separate colonies. Three of the large states (Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York) guarded their autonomy jealously, and they fought every effort to deny central control.

Mount Vernon Convention

The third major effort to establish central control was more precisely focused on developing rules and laws to serve as a basis for the colonies. Jefferson and Madison arranged for a committee of six persons, three from Maryland and three from Virginia, to settle disputes about trade on the Potomac River. Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia, sought to prevent the convention from happening, but finally Washington invited the group to meet at his home in Mount Vernon. The preoccupation of the Mount Vernon conference had largely to do with problems about navigation and commerce including customs and duties. Edmund Randolph of Virginia was an important member of the Virginia delegation. George Mason was a member and did not attend, but actually wrote up the agreements.

Annapolis Convention

Five of the 13 states sought to deal with the problems of the Potomac River traffic, and the rights of states immediately adjacent to the river. They met at Annapolis as planned on 11 September 1786. Madison and Hamilton decided that too few states were involved to really solve the problems of central government for all 13 colonies. They aborted the meeting under the pretext that some of the representatives had reported late and agreed to plan for another convention where all of the Colonies would be invited to attend. It was Governor Randolph of Virginia who asked the Virginia assembly to recommend to Congress the convening of such a conference, and which promptly occurred.

The Constitution Convention in Philadelphia

Based on Edmund Randolph's recommendation to the Virginia Assembly the Confederation Congress provided for a convention of delegates from the 13 Colonies to amend the Articles of Confederation. …

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