Thus, on September 17, the Convention concluded its work. George Washington, as president of the Convention, transmitted the document to the Congress. A prophetic sentence appeared in his letter, as he mentioned the compromises necessary for the surrender of sovereign powers: "It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved." The States had done the best they could through their delegates. Eager to consolidate their Union, each State had been disposed "to be less rigid on points of inferior magnitude than might have been otherwise expected." They launched the ship.
"Well, Doctor," said the lady to Mr. Franklin, "what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?"
"A republic," replied the doctor, "if you can keep it."
The Prophetic Mr. Henry
FOR THE States' understanding of what the Constitution was to mean to them, as States, we can look not only to the internal evidence of the Constitution itself, but to the debates in the ratifying conventions and to some of the contemporary criticism, notably in the Federalist papers. We can look, also, to some of the pronouncements of the Supreme Court from time to time, and to the writings of scholars of our own day.
The evidence is overwhelming. By written compact, solemnly ratified, the States agreed mutually to delegate certain of their sovereign powers to a federal government. They enumerated these powers. All other powers they reserved to themselves, and these reserved powers did not need to be enumerated: The reserved powers constituted all inherent powers of sovereign States, not specifically abridged.