How to Build a Nation in 15 Weeks
Summary: Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Sandick along with Jon Hatch and colleagues at Patterson Belknap revisit the hottest topics from each week in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, tracking their current place in our legal and political landscape.
Delegates start to flee the Convention. Hamilton and Washington get pessimistic. The delegates deadlock over proportional versus equal state representation. Connecticut renews its proposal. The Gerry Committee tackles question of legislative representation after being stacked with small-state friendly delegates. The Patterson team discusses the shifting tide in favor of the smaller states and the eccentricities of Pennsylvania delegate Gouverneur Morris.
On this special bonus episode, we had the pleasure of interviewing Joshua Matz, author with Professor Laurence Tribe of the excellent new book To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment. Joshua discussed what we can learn from the Constitutional Convention about the meaning of the Impeachment Clause and the purpose of impeachment, as well as what we can learn from the so-called “common law” of impeachment—examples of impeachments, near impeachments, and impeachment discussions in our country’s hi
The delegates debate whether Senators should be paid. South Carolina argues for rule by the wealthy. The delegates agree on six-year Senate terms. Ben Franklin suggests the convention seek divine inspiration. The Patterson team considers how much democracy is too much democracy.
Luther Martin delivers a two-day speech with much diffuseness. Madison argues the small states have nothing to fear. Connecticut proposes a compromise. The mood amongst the delegates continues to deteriorate. Madison accuses Connecticut of failing to support to war effort. Delaware threatens to ally with foreign nations. Ben Franklin tries to bring the sides together. The Patterson team weighs the merits of proportional representation.
The convention falls into chaos. Madison’s judgment slips, and he makes not-so-veiled threats against small states. Additional delegates try to push their own extreme visions. Connecticut tries to restore peace.
Hamilton finally speaks up, keeps speaking straight through lunch, damages his reputation, and is otherwise ignored. The benefits and perils of an elective monarchy and legislature. The Patterson team revisits the utility of the electoral college, muses about Old Bacon Face, and wonders whether people “begin to be tired of an excess of democracy.”
The Large States and Deep South support one another. Gerry takes on the three-fifths compromise. New Jersey stalls for time and introduces an alternative plan for a federal government. The Patterson team takes the New Jersey plan seriously.
Delegates debate whether lower federal courts are worth the money and how to select judges. Franklin makes an unorthodox proposal. The council of revision resurfaces and the judicial veto is rejected. The delegates debate the method of electing Senators. Wilson makes another stand for popular election. The convention stalls on a proposal to allow Congress to veto State laws. The Patterson team discusses lifetime appointments, the Supreme Court and the perceived importance of State involvement in the Senate.
Virginia presses its plan with broad outlines for the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Fear and loathing of a return to a monarchy. The delegates nonetheless opt for a single executive, with a veto, but defer how they will be elected. Wilson makes a stand for popular election, and is entirely ignored. The Patterson team discusses the impact of the electoral college in recent elections, the powers of the modern presidency, and the declining use of the presidential veto.
The convention opens. The Virginia delegation introduces its plan for Government including a national executive, national judiciary, and, crucially, proportional representation in the national legislature. The small states are not pleased. Pinckney’s plan is ignored. The Patterson team takes an historical detour to discuss Dorr’s rebellion and the justiciability of constitutional provisions.
The constant presence of the Constitution in our daily civic life, & the benefits of discussing & learning from it. The limitations of the Articles of Confederation, Shay’s rebellion, & the fear of anarchy among the political elite. The Annapolis Convention, & the Confederation Congress’s blessing of the Constitutional Convention (within limits). The selection of delegates for the Convention, & who was (& wasn't) represented. Washington meets with Franklin, & the large states plot their first move.