Empire of Liberty: A Republic, If You Can Keep It

Previous Chapter: A Rocky Start

“We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

~ Preamble to the 1788 Constitution of the United States of America

Excerpt from Dr. Victoria Vermaak’s “The Founding Of An Empire”, University of Serrano Press, 2010. 

The 1786 Annapolis Convention set the stage for the Philadelphia Convention. This convention took place from December 10 to May 18, 1787-1788 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Convention has proven to be one of the seminal moments in world history. A confused start to the Convention in terms of its intentions quickly gave way to the production and ratification of a brand new governing constitution for the fledgling country. The resulting document went on to lay foundations and influence modern state and national constitutions around the world.

Prelude and Legality

There is considerable academic debate about the intentions and purpose of the Convention. Some believe that the orchestrators of the Annapolis Convention, notably James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, always planned to slowly begin the process of repealing the Articles of Confederation in favor of a new more centralized constitution which explains their push for the Philadelphia Convention. This is despite the fact that the only real achievement of the Annapolis Convention was to seek a new convention to discuss improvements to the Articles. It should be noted that Madison and Hamilton desired the Philadelphia Convention to occur during the summer of 1787 but were forced to push that time back to the winter months when the hurricane threat had subsided and the westerlies were strong for the sake of convincing Caribbean delegations to show up.

Some scholars believe the intent of the Convention was always to simply tweak the Articles of Confederation but the delegates ran amuck in Philadelphia leading to the creation and ratification of the 1788 Constitution. Some academics point out similarities with the Continental Congress where delegates likely overstepped their legal mandates to declare independence. The legal delegation of powers the state governments gave their delegates varied greatly but in many instances it is dubious that the delegates had to power to throw out the Articles and create an entirely new governing document.

Some states and founding fathers never trusted to proceedings in the first place. Two states: the Bahamas and Rhode Island boycotted the proceedings entirely and took a great deal of time to ratify the subsequent finalized document. Quebec boycotted the first month of the Convention before a delegation was appointed after considerable debate in the Assemblée de L’état du Québec so that their state would not be left out in the cold. Patrick Henry of Virginia famously stated that he “smelt a rat” during the closed door meetings in Philadelphia and decided not to attend.

The Convention

The Convention was slated to begin on December 10 but the difficulty of traveling to Philadelphia impeded a quorum until January 9. Many delegations, even from nearby states like New York and Connecticut purposely held themselves back until after the Christmas season. A number of state delegations would not arrive until well into the spring. The delegation from Quebec would not arrive until March 11, New Hampshire would not arrive until April 19 and the delegation from the Virgin Islands arrived on April 30.

James Madison, the orchestrator of the Annapolis Convention, arrived in Philadelphia first. He was quickly followed by the arrival of the Virginia delegation which began formulating their plans and tactics for the convention. During this time Madison finalized his designs for his “Virginia Plan” which would play an important role in the actual discussions once a quorum was met.

Despite the initial confusion about the scope of the Convention, the structure was fairly organized. Once a quorum was achieved, George Washington was quickly elected president of the convention. John Dalling was elected Vice President while William Jackson was elected secretary. Despite Jackson’s position, the best notes we have of the Convention come from Madison’s personal notes on the proceedings along with New York’s Robert Yates and the Virgin Island’s Jeremiah Newton. As discussion and debate proceeded, delegates structured their arguments on legalistic lines using the English tradition of precedent. Precedents in English history, classical history and even recent events in the Germanies and Holland all backed the various arguments of the delegates.

The Virginia Plan

As one of the chief architects of the Convention, James Madison played an important early role in setting the tone of the proceedings. Immediately upon arrival he began working with the Virginia and Pennsylvania delegations to craft a constitutional plan which is now known as the Virginia Plan. Madison’s plan borrowed heavily from English legal thought. It called for a bicameral congress while separating the executive and judiciary. These were not revolutionary ideas. Most of the states and the preceding colonial assemblies featured bicameral legislatures (save for some unicameral legislatures mostly located on small Caribbean islands and notably Pennsylvania) as did English Parliament with its House of Lords and House of Commons. In Madison’s plan both chambers would be apportioned based on some combination of population and/or taxes paid to the federal government. These provisions ensured large states would have far more say than small states. That point would be the center of continuous debate in the coming weeks.

This model, with an upper chamber and a lower chamber, was especially popular with the delegates who were often wealthy land owners, merchants and lawyers who wanted to ensure that the interests of the upper classes were balanced with the interests (and passions) of the lower classes that would dominate the lower chamber. This attempt to create some legal barrier between classes, while also ensuring the power of the various states, is likely what led to the concept of having the state legislatures vote for their senators while the lower chamber would be directly elected by the people.

Madison’s plans for an independent executive branch and judicial branch were also accepted with little opposition. In the wake of the revolution, state executive power had been significantly reduced as a natural by-product of anti-monarchial sentiments. This led to a number of paralyzed legislatures and the idea of some strength in an executive, so long as it was checked, was seen a necessity. An independent judiciary, answerable only to a degree to a combination of the executive and the legislature, was seen as necessary from a functionality and accountability standpoint. Madison saw judges as necessary but wanted to reduce their agency status to the executive. In England, judges acted largely agents of the crown and in the states the close ties between state executives and state judges often led to patronage and corruption. By creating a complex system of checks and independence, the hope was that the judiciary would be seen as co-equal to the other branches and less as agents of the executive.

This is not to say that the other delegates saw the Virginia Plan as perfect. Madison’s ideas that the federal government could invalidate state laws never gained traction. Most delegates disagreed with Madison’s proposal that the upper chamber’s membership be voted on by the representatives of the lower chamber upon nominations from the state legislatures. They also did not like the legislature electing the executive. Many delegates believed these provisions placed too many barriers between the average voter and the national government. A number of delegates from smaller states, especially the influential voting bloc in the slave-holding Caribbean, were adamant that population alone could not dictate apportionment of representation. These concerns dominated the early conversations of the convention.

Apportionment and Slavery

Debate about the apportionment of the lower chamber was split into three factions. The first faction, comprised largely of Caribbean islanders desired the lower chamber to be apportioned equally among the states with the only difference being the upper chamber would be elected by the state legislatures while the lower chamber would be directly elected by the citizens. The second faction, comprised of southern states, Jamaica, and New England, desired apportionment in accordance with a mix of property and population. A few other states, notably Quebec, wanted apportionment in accordance with the population of active citizens in the state. The introduction of the very French notion of passive citizens versus active citizens was one of the principal debates of the convention. Québécoise delegate Jean Pierre Rochambeau introduced the concept and proposed that apportionment be based on the populations of active citizens, those citizens being propertied males over 25 years of age. The logic behind this was that only those citizens with an active stake in the country would have the information and the personal interest to make informed good political decisions. Conversely, passive citizens were those people who certainly had a stake in the country but not the property and monetary investments that lifted them to that active citizenry level. This included women, slaves, children, and foreigners.

A protest plan known as the Grenada Plan called for a unicameral legislature with each state having an equal number of votes. [1]. This plan was never taken very seriously but the concept of striking a balance between population and statehood was. These debates quickly eliminated the idea of equal representation amongst the states in the lower chamber and determined that property calculations were too complex to be viable. The Connecticut Compromise took the Virginia Plan’s bicameral legislature and split the apportionment issue down the middle. The upper chamber would be equal amongst the states while the lower chamber would be apportioned based on population only.

With apportionment by population now on the table, this, naturally, brought up the issue of active and passive citizenry.

Having been forced to concede on equal representation across the board, the Caribbean states realized the critical importance of having every person on their small islands counted towards their population if they wanted to have any power in the lower chamber. Already at the convention the islands were beginning to vote as a formidable bloc, a tactic that would define American history for the next 70 years. Nighttime negotiations at Philadelphia taverns and inns led to the combination of the island bloc with the southern slave states to demand that passive citizens be counted towards apportionment totals. With New Hampshire still absent from the convention, and a lack of a quorum by the delegation from Newfoundland, the northern states did not have the votes to oppose the bloc. On April 18, the slave-holding bloc won the vote and passive citizens would be counted for apportionment purposes despite their being unable to vote. [2]

Election and term lengths of the upper chamber were also hotly debated. Contrary to popular belief, the delegates to the convention were not overly concerned with the average voter being uninformed but rather the speed of information and current events in the massive new country. They also concerned themselves with protecting the balance of commercial and property interests against the perceived “mob” of average voters. Most newspapers were hardly covering the convention itself, including the local papers in Philadelphia. Proposals circulated for senators to serve terms of four, seven and ten years. Alexander Hamilton even proposed that senators serve for life upon an election among electors chosen by the people of a given state. Eventually a six-year term was agreed upon and direct election of senators was scrapped in its entirety to preserve the confederational method whereby the state legislatures would elect the representatives to the upper chamber.

Executive Power

The question of executive power was a touchy one for the convention. Less than a decade before, the states had united to throw off the perceived excesses of monarchial rule. Several short years of disorganized chaos under the flimsy Articles of Confederation were proof that a loose system with no executive power was ineffective. Clearly a balance had to be struck and while some delegates did not like the idea, for many it was a bitter pill they were ready to swallow.

Initially, delegates were torn between investing executive authority in a single person or a triumvirate (the “Board of Three”) of three selected individuals that could balance each other out; an idea clearly borrowed from Roman antiquity. Worries about the triumvirate splitting the country probably led to the decision to scrap that plan in favor of a single executive. As James Madison wrote in his notes:

“If the proposal to accept the Board of Three is accepted then a likely outcome is almost certainly ensured. There can be no doubt that General Washington would be amongst the three. The Caribbean states would surely throw their weight behind Commodore Briggs making him the second on the Board. This leaves the question of who would take the third position. It would likely be either General Carleton of Quebec or John Adams of Massachusetts. If this happens and the policies of state are not executed to perfection then the country itself is vulnerable to being torn into three regions. If we are not cautious in the creation of this new government then by the new century, the United States could prove to be a limited experiment with a United States of the Caribbean existing under the leadership of the Commodore, an independent Quebec under General Carleton, possibly an independent New England under Adams and an independent collection of coastal states under General Washington. I cannot help but think that this fragmentation would be a likely scenario and preventing it would require the upmost perseverance and political diligence.”

Madison was not alone in his thinking. The Convention decided to pursue a single executive office. Where the Convention did part with Madison’s thinking was in regards to the president’s election. Madison desired that the legislature would elect the executive. Methods for election greatly varied. A minority of delegates sought an election of the executive from the governors of the states. Some desired that the president would be directly elected by a national vote but this was met with considerable opposition by smaller states, especially the Caribbean islands. Eventually a compromise was reached establishing an electoral college. The voters of a state would select electors who would then cast their votes for the president and the apportionment of the electors would correlate with a state’s seats in the legislature. This allowed small states to have influence in the process while also placating the larger states. In the event an electoral majority could not be secured then the vote would go to the lower chamber but even then, in an attempt to strike a balance between large and small states, the state delegations would vote in blocs.

The last tweaks to the apportionment debates came from a special committee that was created in the early days of March. They shored up some of the balances and compromises that allowed these measures to pass. The final compromise between the upper chamber and lower chamber and the large states and the small states was that all revenue bills would originate in the lower chamber and not be subject to modification by the upper chamber. On March 20, the Convention narrowly approved the compromise. It took another week of compromises to unite the nationalist delegates and the federalist delegates. Opposition to apportionment based on a passive citizen population was finally dropped by the large states in exchange for individual senators to be able to vote instead of bloc voting. This gave the small states the influence they desired on federal politics while also allowing for more flexible federal government in the upper chamber. Without that compromise, the federalists and the small states desired the upper chamber delegations to vote in blocs which would mean, due to the appointment power of the state legislatures, the state governments could directly influence federal law.

The Committee of Detail

With the compromises and most initial deliberations complete by late March, the Convention recessed for a week to allow the Committee of Detail to produce a first draft of the new constitution. The Committee of Detail was chaired by Thomas Adams (Nova Scotia) along with John Rutledge (South Carolina), Edmund Randolph (Virginia), Oliver Ellsworth (Connecticut), James Wilson (Pennsylvania), Nathaniel Gorham (Massachusetts), Eli Jordan (Barbados), and Augustus Goodwin (Jamaica).

The activities of the committee are subject to considerable academic debate. Many constitutional scholars believe that the committee did their best to take the discussions from the preceding months and turn them into a workable document that threaded the needle of nationalism and federalism. Other scholars believe that the committee went beyond their mandate in some places. Notes, outlines and drafts show that the committee utilized the Virginia Plan, convention debates and decisions, sources such as the Articles and state constitutions, and delegate notes and plans to prepare a first draft.

Much of the committee’s report consisted of details that the Convention had never discussed but which were viewed as uncontroversial such as the Speech and Debate Clause, which grants members of Congress immunity for comments made in their jobs, as well as the rules for organizing the two chambers.

It should be noted that the Committee itself tended to lean more federalist than nationalist. Adams, Rutledge and Jordan all believed that the new government must be stronger than the Articles of Confederation but the sovereignty of the states must be guaranteed as well. Adams would go on to write an influential treatise later in life about the intentions of the Convention. In it he defended the decision to lean federalist in the constitution while striking a balance between the federalists and the nationalists:

“Of all the great questions during the Convention including debates regarding apportionment, citizenship, structure and procedure, all debates stemmed from one larger question. Would this new government be a centralized state similar to the powers of Europe or would it maintain its confederational roots? It was abundantly clear by the time of the convention that the Articles of Confederation had past their usefulness and a new, more centralized, system was necessary. However it was also clear that the United States could not be a centralized national power with the states forced into servitude and all power resting in Philadelphia or New York. Such a system would betray the spirit of the revolution while also being unworkable. If the United States is to survive we must remember that we are not an empire but a vast nation stretching from the tropical reaches of the Caribbean to the tundras of the Arctic. To make such a vast new country work, and maintain the spirit of the declaration, it is necessary that the decisions coming from assemblies from Kingston and Quebec be respected and have a similar force of law as those decisions to be made by the new Congress.”

Critics of the Committee have described Adams and the rest of the members as “runaway” or have accused them of “hijacking the constitution.” Dr. Praheet Singh, a former dean of the University of Bombay’s School of Law, summarized the criticisms of the Committee of Detail in his 1988 work “The Philadelphia Convention: A 200 Year Late Review”:

“Despite three months of debate, decisions and compromise to strike a balance between federalism and nationalism the Committee, which happened to be dominated by federalists, opted to pursue a rogue path. They shucked many of the decisions of the Convention and inserted federalist language throughout the constitutional draft. From that point on, any hope of a true balance between the two views was lost and a federalist constitution would go on to be adopted. It would take decades and countless lost lives to fix the shortcomings in these decisions.”

The Committee did make several large scale structural decisions for the future constitution. They removed a broad provision of powers to legislate “in all cases for the general interests of the Union” that the Convention had come to a tenuous agreement on several weeks before the recess. In Randolph’s outline the committee replaced that broad provision with a list of 19 “enumerated” powers, many adopted from the Articles of Confederation, that would strictly limit the Congress’ authority to measures such as imposing taxes, making treaties, going to war, and establishing post offices. Pushback by the nationalists on the committee did limit the federalist changes leading to the creation of the “necessary and proper” clause which provided “to make all Laws that shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.” This was a much narrower provision that the previous “General Interest” clause would have been as it limited the constitution’s reach from practically anything so long as it was in the interest of the union to doing what was necessary to execute the provisions laid out for the federal government in the constitution.

A final note on the influence of the Committee was its influence in the protection of southern slave interests. There is a reason the constitution does not mention much specific policy but rather sets up a governmental framework while at the same time the handful of specific policy provisions that do exist pertain to slavery. This can be traced back to the plethora of southern slave states and the vast commercial influence of slavery, especially the sugar interests in the Caribbean. The Committee included several provisions restricting the new government’s influence on slave policy. Congress would be forever barred from interfering with the slave trade (a necessity for the viability of sugar planting). Congress would be prohibited from taxation of exports. Lastly, the constitution would require that any legislation concerning regulation of foreign commerce through tariffs or quotas pass only with two-thirds majorities of both houses of Congress. It goes without saying that these blatant policy decisions by the Committee outraged the northern states.

Concluding Debate

April saw the end of the convention recess and the continuation of deliberations, this time over the Committee’s draft constitution. Most attempts to change the draft were unsuccessful . Madison made several fruitless attempts to push the constitution back towards his Virginia Plan. One delegate tried four separate times to introduce language that would bar the federal government from printing paper money.

The major changes regarded the issue of slavery and the Committee’s policy decisions. The final compromise between northern and southern delegates was that the southern states could keep the slave trade (without this provision the Caribbean states were prepared to abandon the convention altogether) and the Fugitive Slave Clause would be strengthened but Congress could tax exports with a two-thirds vote and a simple majority would be needed for legislation concerning regulation of foreign commerce through tariffs or quotas (down from the previous two-thirds provision).

A number of special committees were created to hammer out remaining issues. The Committee of Detail reconvened to discuss matters pertaining to habeas corpus, freedom of the press and an advisory council to the president. A committee deliberated about the slave trade (this is where many of the compromises came from reducing vote thresholds on commercial legislation in exchange for keeping the slave trade alive) while another committee discussed the issue of debts. The Committee on Postponed Parts dealt with issues related to taxes, war making, patents and copyrights, tribal relations, and Franklin’s compromise to require revenue bills to originate in the House. This committee also finalized the question of how the executive would be elected, their term length (four years with indefinite reelections versus a proposed single seven year term), and the procedure for impeachment. This committee also created the Office of the Vice President when they determined that having the Speaker of the House as the President’s immediate successor could lend to political intrigue if the President and the Speaker were of differing parties. Even then the Committee on Postponed Parts was a single vote from making the Speaker of the House the second in line and modeling that office on the English Prime Minister’s office. Final bickering among the tired delegates led to such provisions as the “high crimes and misdemeanors” section of the Impeachment Clause and the ability for Congress to propose amendments that the states then ratify (the other way around had already been included by the Committee of Detail).

There were two major last minute changes to the constitution. One was the inclusion of the Language Clause which established English as the language of the new federal government but ensured that Congress would make no law inhibiting the rights of the states to establish their own working languages. This was a provision to protect Francophone states but it would have far reaching consequences. The second was the decision to allow the Senate to modify spending bills proposed by the House.

Just as the delegates prepared to refer the constitution to a Committee on Style, which would prepare a final draft, several delegates raised the issue of adding a Bill of Rights section. Tired delegates, exhausted with incessant delays and ready to go home, ignored these motions and sent the final changes to the Committee for drafting. Most delegates believed that states already protected individual rights and that the new Constitution did not authorize the new federal government to take away rights, so there was little reason to worry. Inadvertently they had set up an entirely different debate that would occur during the ratification process and set in motion one of the great American debates, arguably a debate that is still ongoing: federalism versus anti-federalism.

Final Drafting and Signing

The Committee on Style worked through early May to prepare the finalized constitution which was then printed and read by the convention on May 12. The Constitution was ordered engrossed on May 15 and submitted for signing on May 17. The only major last minute change was the contracts clause preventing states from inferring with contracts. Gouveneur Morris of Pennsylvania is credited as the chief draftsman of the Constitution and is likely responsible for its preamble. A few delegates left before signing in protest, believing that the Constitution did not do enough to protect the rights of the states. George Mason of Virginia refused to sign until a Bill of Rights was included. While such a Bill was not included in the final version of the Constitution that May, an understanding was quickly reached that the first business of the first Congress would be to ratify a number of amendments that would become the Bill of Rights. Surely no delegate was completely satisfied with the final work but Benjamin Franklin can sum up the feelings that day on May 17:

“I confess that There are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them. … I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. … It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies …”

Having been signed and approved by the Philadelphia Convention the Constitution was submitted to the states for ratification pursuant to its own Article VII.


The 1788 Constitution of the United States of America (Original)

We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Article I

Section 1.

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section 2.

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several states, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of all Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of Newfoundland shall be entitled to chuse one, Quebec six, the Island of St. John one, Nova Scotia three, New Hampshire three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, Georgia three, the Bahamas one, Jamaica three, the Virgin Islands one, the Leeward Islands one, Dominica one, Grenada one, St. Vincent one, and Barbados two.

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Section 3.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.

No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Section 4.

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in January, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.

Section 5.

Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

Section 6.

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

Section 7.

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

Section 8.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To tax articles exported from the states with the consent of two-thirds of both houses of Congress so long as the tax is uniform amongst the states.;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;—And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Section 9.

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress; but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid.

No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another: nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

The business of the of the Government of the United States shall be conducted in English; but no prohibition or regulation shall be made as to the languages that may be selected for the conducting of official business of any State.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Section 10.

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

Article II

Section 1.

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President. [

The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Section 2.

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Section 3.

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

Section 4.

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Article III

Section 1.

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

Section 2.

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;–to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;–to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;–to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;–to Controversies between two or more States;– between a State and Citizens of another State;–between Citizens of different States;–between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

Section 3.

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Article IV

Section 1.

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Section 2.

The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.

A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

Section 3.

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.

Section 4.

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.

Article V

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Article VI

All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Article VII

The Ratification of the Conventions of seventeen States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.

The Word, “the,” being interlined between the seventh and eighth Lines of the first Page, The Word “Thirty” being partly written on an Erazure in the fifteenth Line of the first Page, The Words “is tried” being interlined between the thirty second and thirty third Lines of the first Page and the Word “the” being interlined between the forty third and forty fourth Lines of the second Page.

Attest William Jackson Secretary

done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of May in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty eight and of the Independance of the United States of America the Thirteenth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,


G. Washington

President and deputy from Virginia

———-Author’s Notes———–

[0] Obviously, the constitution in this universe closely resembles that of our own. Much of the text is taken clause-to-clause but you’ll notice that I have altered those sections pertaining to in-universe specific compromises written extensively above so that they match the spirit and debate of this timeline. A number of deleted clauses have been restored as this is an original version of the constitution for this timeline. Any subsequent amendments and changes will be mentioned with the language alterations going forward.

[1] This is essentially what we know as the New Jersey plan in our timeline. In this timeline it makes more sense that a tiny Caribbean state would create it.

[2] This means no 3/5 compromise.

Next Chapter: State Secrets

One thought on “Empire of Liberty: A Republic, If You Can Keep It

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