Well, eleven days I wrote about the Constitutional Convention. Specifically, we were introduced to the Committee of Detail. Their job was to take all the proceeding of the previous sixty days of work and, over eleven days, condense it into some semblance of order. As I mentioned before, this wasn’t in any way a finished product. It was what we call at our office a “strawman” document…a starting point from which to refine issues.
The Convention delegates took a much-needed eleven-day vacation. They wrote letters home, caught up on the latest news in Philadelphia, took in a play, did some reading, or just relaxed. All the delegates, that is, except the five members of the Committee, who worked really hard to put things together.
Edmund Randolph desired “a fundamental constitution.” He wanted it kept simple and free from the kinds of language and provisions that simply bogged down the document with inflexibility with which the future couldn’t deal. The Constitution should contain general principles and propositions, believing “the construction of a constitution of necessity differs from that of law.”
The Committee of Detail did not, as far as I can tell, come up with the famous Preamble. That would fall to the Committee of Style down the road. But they offer up some general guidelines. We again turn to Virginia’s Randolph, who believed such text should state “that the present foederal government is insufficient to the general happiness, that the conviction of this fact gave birth to this convention, and that the only effectual means which they can devise for curing this insufficiency is the establishment of a supreme legislative, executive and judiciary…“.
The document was divided into articles and sections and printed. On August 6, 1787, the delegates returned and received their “strawman” copy. Some were surprised and even shocked at what the document contained, though not because (like our recent healthcare legislation) no one knew what it contained. Quite the contrary, there were no unknowns here. It’s just that, after months of debate, it was still a little bit unnerving to see all laid out in plain text. After receiving the draft, the session for the day ended, but the convention was far from over.
Each article, section, and clause was still open for debate and, if necessary, a vote. And for the next five weeks, that debate would continue. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention knew that much had been accomplished. And each one knew there was a long way to go.