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Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 2512

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: Difficult questions.]

These difficult points out of the way, the convention arranged the details of the new government. One of the principal minor questions was the method of presidential election. Many members inclined towards an executive council; instead, it was agreed that there should be a President elected by Congress; but almost at the last moment, on September 7, the better plan of indirect election by the people was adopted. At one time the convention had agreed that Congress should have the right of veto upon State laws; it was abandoned, and instead was introduced a clause that the Constitution should be the supreme law of the land, and powerful courts were created to construe the law.

[Sidenote: Simplicity of the Constitution.]

In making up the list of the powers of Congress, the convention used brief but comprehensive terms. Thus all the difficulties arising out of the unfriendly commercial legislation of States, and their institution, with foreign treaties, were removed by the simple clause: "The Congress shall have Power … to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." The great question of taxation was settled by fourteen words: "The Congress shal

l have Power … To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises."

[Sidenote: Omissions.]

In a few respects the Constitution was deficient. It did not profess to be all-comprehensive, for the details of the government were to be worked out in later statutes. There was, however, no provision for future annexations of territory. No safeguards were provided for the proper appointment and removal of public officers. The growth of corporations was not foreseen, and no distinct power was conferred upon Congress either to create or to regulate them. Above all, the convention was obliged to leave untouched the questions connected with slavery which later disrupted the Union.

[Sidenote: The work finished.]

On Sept. 17, 1787, the convention finished its work. To the eloquent and terse phraseology of Gouverneur Morris we owe the nervous English of the great instrument. As the members were affixing their signatures, Franklin remarked, pointing to the picture of a sun painted behind the President's chair: "I have often and often,… in the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears, looked … without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now, at length, I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun."

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