Fridays around our office tend to be relaxed affairs. We wear jeans and tennis shoes and white socks. Well, those of us that don’t take the day off, which is sometimes about 50% of staff. We take it easy…maybe a slightly longer lunch period, an extra 15 minutes of Angry Birds, some extra snacks, that second soda we normally deny ourselves. Believe me, we still work, but it’s definitely a wee bit lighter duty than the other four days of the week.
For the delegates at the Constitutional Convention, the final Friday of their gathering was anything but relaxed. Of course, I’m referring to September 14, 1787, which was a Friday. The Committee of Style and Arrangement, tasked with taking the various agreed-upon articles and molding them into a cohesive document, had taken the better part of five days to do its work. But they got through it and presented their final draft of the Constitution to the delegate body…that was the 12th, a Wednesday.
And then the debate over language and syntax began. There was word-smithing and a general tightening up of the Constitution’s language. But there were also some bigger ideas that received some “last-minute” consideration. This Friday saw some of those.
Benjamin Franklin offered up that Congress should be given the power to build canals. It seems a bit strange to us that Franklin would ask for something so specific to be added, but if we think ahead to all of the canals that were created in the 1800s, we realize that the old doctor had a bit of foresight. But concerns over monopolies and a fear that some states would use the canal system as an excuse to establish a bank – and we know that Aaron Burr used a similar tactic to do just that a few years later – killed the idea pretty quickly.
There was a debate over Section 8 of Article 1, which dealt with piracy, but that, too, remained unchanged.
And Section 9, Article 1 also got floor time. This piece of the Constitution addressed the regularity with which Congress should publish a record of its public expenditures. As written, it was to be done annually. But some wondered if that a little too specific. Maybe more than one report a year would be necessary, while in other years, none would be required. As we know, in today’s world of trillion-dollar debts and exorbitant waste, once a year isn’t nearly enough. At end of the discussion, the delegates settled on the phrase, “shall be published from time to time.”
And that was that. As we know, Saturday would also be a day of work, as the final changes and discussions were ironed out and the Convention came to an end. Monday, September 17th, would see the Constitution ratified.
Recommended Reading: Miracle at Philadelphia