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It's a Miracle

September 17, 1987

The Miracle of Philadelphia may not be so much that the Framers worked out a compromise U.S. Constitution, signed at Independence Hall 200 years ago today, but that it finally was accepted and ratified by the various states. The Constitution was not, in fact, put into force until the Constitution's sponsors agreed to tag on the first 10 amendments as a bill of rights.

There was considerable objection to the Constitution from respected patriots of the day, including several delegates to the Constitutional Convention and others like Patrick Henry. The opposition of delegate Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, conveyed in a report to the Massachusetts General Court, was particularly sweeping and blunt:

"My principal objections to the plan are that there is no adequate provision for a representation of the people, that they have no security for the right of election, that some of the powers of the legislature are ambiguous and others indefinite and dangerous, that the executive is blended with and will have an undue influence over the legislature, that the judicial department will be oppressive, that treaties of the highest importance may be formed by the President with the advice of two thirds of a quorum (his emphasis) of the Senate, and that the system is without the security of a bill of rights."

There could not have been much left that Gerry liked. Nonetheless, Massachusetts ratified, and later even recalcitrant Rhode Island went along. The Constitution became the supreme law of the land, and has been recognized as such--in varying degrees--ever since, surviving even the great crisis of 1861-65.

The Union of these states is perpetual, Lincoln said. The Union continues today, standing on a Constitution that has required amendment only 16 times in nearly two centuries. Pretty miraculous indeed.

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