In the spring of 1787, a group of men gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and did something that had never been done before and has not been done since - bring about the intentional overthrow of the very government of which they, themselves, were in charge. That gathering in Philadelphia was intended to be a meeting at which the acknowledged inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation, the first organizing document of the United States, would be properly addressed. What happened instead was the creation of a government in a form never before seen.
The men who served as delegates to what came to be called the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were like men of every generation. Which is to say they were simultaneously possessed of good and bad, virtue and vice, wisdom and folly, strength and weakness. Over a sweltering summer they at times came to agreement quickly and at other times argued bitterly.
In the end, it would be the arguments that proved of greater value. For from the crucible of those heated debates, a republic would emerge that would go on to lift more of humankind from the depths of poverty and free more individuals from the chains of bondage than any society in all of history.
These segments are intended not as an exhaustive academic investigation of the U.S. Constitution. Instead, think of them as intellectual “appetizers” that whet the appetite to learn more about the most significant societal foundation document in all of history.
Written and produced by Paul L. Gleiser - All episodes originally broadcast on KTBB 97.5 FM - Tyler-Longview, Texas
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SECTION I: The Constitutional Convention
The Articles of Confederation under which the United States was originally organized were inadequate to the needs of raising revenue and maintaining the civil order. At the insistent urging of James Madison, a convention of states was called in Philadelphia in the sweltering summer of 1787 for the stated purpose of addressing those inadequacies. Click here to go to Section 1: Constitutional Convention
SECTION II: Ratification
By September 1787, delegates to the convention in Philadelphia had agreed on a proposed new constitution. But for it to take effect, a minimum of nine of the original 13 states had to buy into it. The “selling” of the new constitution to the states was no easy task. Click here to go to Section 2: Ratification
SECTION III: Creating The Bill of Rights
To gain ratification of the Constitution, there emerged a gentlemen's agreement among state delegations that one of the first orders of business of the 1st Congress of the United States would be to address what many believed to be the lack of specific protections against a too-powerful federal government. From that agreement came ten amendments to the Constitution, which we now call the Bill of Rights. Click here to go to Section 3:Creating the Bill of Rights
SECTION IV: The Amendments
In the nearly two and a half centuries of its existence, the Constitution has been amended only 27 times - and ten of those amendments happened so quickly that they are, for all intents, part of the original document. This section addresses why and how the Constitution has been amended since its late 18th century ratification. Click here to go to Section 4: The Amendments
SECTION V: The Courts and the Landmark Decisions
Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution establishes the Judicial Branch and the federal court system of the United States. But the Constitution provides little specificity as to the makeup, duties and powers of the courts. Those powers would come to be defined by one major piece of legislation, together with decisions taken by the courts as the nation's history began to unfold. Click here to go to SECTION V: The Courts and the Landmark Decisions
SECTION VI: The Present Day
Though the document itself is nearly two and a half centuries old, the words of the Constitution have a daily impact on modern day business and commerce, law enforcement, the settling of legal disputes and the election of government officials at every level of American society. Click here to go to SECTION VI: The Present Day
SECTION VII: The Founding Fathers
Though the Constitution possesses an almost lifelike presence in our modern society, it was in fact conceived and crafted by mortal men. It was the education, the life experiences and the passion for the job by those men in Philadelphia - many of whom are barely mentioned today in school textbooks - that resulted in our Constitution. Click here to go to SECTION VII: The Founding Fathers