Wise men from the past.

George Washington: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master”. In 1787, Washington was again called to the duty of his country. Since independence, the young republic had been struggling under the Articles of Confederation, a structure of government that centered power with the states. But the states were not unified. They fought among themselves over boundaries and navigation rights and refused to contribute to paying off the nation’s war debt. In some instances, state legislatures imposed tyrannical tax policies on their own citizens. Washington was intensely dismayed at the state of affairs, but only slowly came to the realization that something should be done about it. Perhaps he wasn’t sure the time was right so soon after the Revolution to be making major adjustments to the democratic experiment. Or perhaps because he hoped he would not be called upon to serve, he remained noncommittal. But when Shays’s rebellion erupted in Massachusetts, Washington knew something needed to be done to improve the nation’s government. In 1786, Congress approved a convention to be held in Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation. At the Constitution Convention, Washington was unanimously chosen as president. Among others, such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, Washington had come to the conclusion that it wasn’t amendments that were needed, but a new constitution that would give the national government more authority. He spoke but once during the proceedings, but he lobbied hard with his fellow delegates in the afterhours for major changes in the structure of government. In the end, the Convention produced a plan for government that not only would address the country’s current problems, but would endure through time. After the convention adjourned, Washington’s reputation and support for the new government were indispensable to the Constitution’s ratification. Opposition was strident, if not organized, with many of America‘s leading political figures such as Patrick Henry and Sam Adams condemning the proposed government as a grab for power. Even in Washington’s native Virginia, the Constitution was ratified by only one vote.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s