America's Salvation 214 Years Ago: The Constitution of the United States
Most Americans have forgotten the literal miracle that happened between 1787-1792 as the Constitution was signed, ratified, and implemented. September 17 represents the 214th anniversary of its signing. Congress has declared that the president should proclaim the 17-23 of September as Constitution Week. Perhaps this is a good time to remind ourselves of the miracle that happened so long ago. When understood, it really gives us something to celebrate.
The United States was on the Verge of Collapse
For the Founding Fathers assembling in Philadelphia May 25, 1787, it was a frightening experience. The entire American experiment was falling to pieces!
- The unity that existed during the Revolutionary War had disappeared.
- There was a deep depression with runaway inflation and rioting in some places.
- The states were quarreling over boundaries in the west and fishing rights in the east.
- The states actually treated one another as foreign countries, charging customs on imports and exports.
- Spain was threatening to seize territory along the Mississippi River.
- England would not remove her troops from the northern border of the United States.
- Such hostility had developed between the states that New England was threatening to secede from the Union!
- It was obvious the Articles of Confederation were a failure and the central government was completely incapable of dealing with all these crises.
The whole civilized world was watching to see if the men assembled in Philadelphia could save the dis-United States. To build organization, peace, and unity from such chaos by sitting down and reasoning out a plan of government - such a thing had never occurred in the history of the world. Order had always been restored through military takeover and a dictator would then be in control.
Washington Resigns Rather Than Be Thrust Into Kingship
Only four years earlier, the military wanted to solve economic problems by making Washington King George I of America! Dr. Skousen explains Washington's dilemma:
"Some of Washington's own military leaders had urged him to accept the title of king and restore some semblance of order among the people and the states. They received a tongue lashing for their suggestion.
"Washington saw what was coming. He was being caught in the same vice that trapped Oliver Cromwell. He must resign before they tried to make him a king or military dictator. He must take formal action so the people would be willing to turn their political and economic problems over to their elected representatives.
"Through bitter experience Washington knew the Articles of Confederation was an extremely weak instrument of government, and for many months he had been urging the Congress to call a convention to consider a new and stronger form of government. But they were delaying, postponing, deferring and neglecting their sworn course of duty. Whether consciously or unconsciously they were still leaning on Washington as they had done throughout the course of this terrible war.
"He knew it was time to resign. He bade his men farewell and journeyed to Philadelphia where he addressed Congress. He completely broke down at one point in his prepared statement. Choked with emotion he said:
'I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interest of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who had the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.'"
He knew the people of the United States must turn to God and work a government themselves rather than always rely on one man.
The Constitutional Convention Nearly Ends in Ruin
After several frustrating attempts to get the states to send delegates, twelve states did send their delegates to Philadelphia in May of 1787. However, the convention quickly deteriorated into near chaos. Everyone seemed to have a plan and no one was willing to listen to others in a rational way. The bickering and arguing continued until July 16th when some finally went home. It looked like another lost effort. It was during this dark period that Washington wrote: "I almost despair of seeing a favorable issue to the proceedings of the Convention, and do therefore repent having had any agency in the business." Even the great General was discouraged. Observers said he looked as grim as when he was at Valley Forge.
Benjamin Franklin had tried to get the delegates to have prayer every day in the convention, but there were just not enough spiritual giants to take his suggestion seriously enough and make it work.
Something Miraculous Happened at the End of the Convention
As the new system began to take form, many of the Founders realized they had performed this labor beyond their own natural strength. Something had happened near the end of the convention which turned chaos into unity. They saw elements of divine inspiration which led them to call it a "miracle".
Madison wrote to Jefferson that it was "impossible to consider the degree of concord which ultimately prevailed as less than a miracle."
Charles Pinckney declared: "When the great work was done and published, I was. struck with amazement. Nothing less than that superintending hand of Providence, that so miraculously carried us through the war.could have brought it about so complete, upon the whole."
Alexander Hamilton said: "For my part, I sincerely esteem it a system which, without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests."
George Washington, the man who more than once despaired whether the convention would survive, finally saw the delegates close ranks and reach an intelligent consensus. He wrote later: "I can never trace the .causes which led to these events without.admiring the goodness of Providence. To the superintending Power alone is our retraction from the brink of ruin to be attributed. A spirit of accommodation was happily infused into the leading characters of the continent, and the minds of men were gradually prepared.for the reception of a good government."
Benjamin Franklin said of the Constitution: "I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing, and to exist in the posterity of a great nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in whom all inferior spirits live and move and have their being."
Divine Inspiration led to Rejection of Historical Indoctrination
Dr. Skousen helps us understand just what some of those "inspired" provisions are in the Constitution that flew in the face of historical experience of loyal Englishmen.
- In spite of Hamilton's eloquent plea they wanted nothing to do with a monarchy, not even a limited monarchy. They saw what happened to the Israelites when they demanded a king so they could be "like all the other nations." The Israelites never recovered from that fatal political blunder.
- They rejected the idea of a prime minister selected from the members of Parliament.
- They rejected the idea of the cabinet being selected from among the members of Parliament.
- They rejected the idea of having the members of Parliament serve as the executive administrators in charge of various departments of government.
- They rejected the British idea of an "unwritten constitution."
- They rejected the idea that the acts of Parliament would automatically become the supreme law of the land even though they may violate some of the most fundamental provisions of their unwritten Constitution.
- They rejected the idea of the upper chamber of the legislature being a House of Lords occupied by a body of lifetime aristocrats.
- They rejected the British idea of a "unitary" republic where all power was concentrated in the central government.
- They rejected the idea of the national government being allowed to nullify the laws of the local governments even when there was no constitutional issue involved.
- They rejected the idea of the national executive being allowed to dissolve the legislature before it had finished its session.
- They rejected the British coinage system and chose a system based on the dollar instead of the pound.
- They rejected the doctrine of primogeniture -- an old feudal law -- which required a parent to bestow his entire estate on the eldest son whether he was competent or not.
- They rejected the doctrine of entail estates -- another old feudal law -- which required large tracts of land (sometimes millions of acres) to be maintained intact by the same family because of important feudal obligations to the king or some high ranking lord or baron. This was designed to preserve the English feudal society and prevent a father from dividing his estate among his children and grandchildren.
- They eventually got around to rejecting the authority of the legislature to select a certain religious denomination as the official church of the state or the realm, and then tax the people to support that church whether they were members or not.
- The Founders also tried to get rid of serfs and slaves, but the circumstances in two states (Georgia and South Carolina) forced them to postpone this decision. As everyone knows, that was the biggest mistake the Founders ever made. The inspiration was right but they allowed themselves to be talked out of it.
The Constitution Miraculously Saves the Nation
After only two years with the constitution in operation, Washington was able to write:
"The United States enjoy a scene of prosperity and tranquility under the new government that could hardly have been hoped for."
"Tranquility reigns among the people with that disposition towards the general government which is likely to preserve it.... Our public credit stands on that [high] ground which three years ago it would have been considered as a species of madness to have foretold."
The dramatic and miraculous success of our Constitution in solving problems and restoring order and peace should be an example of what could happen today in a very short time if we were to restore the Constitution to its original brilliance and purity. This is the goal of NCCS.
Happy Constitution Week!
W. Cleon Skousen