The Philadelphia Convention in 1787 - North American Colonies

Taken from The British Empire in the Nineteenth Century (1898) by Edgar Sanderson

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and thanks of the people whom he, beyond all others, had contributed to make an independent nation.

The first business to be undertaken was the formation of a system of rule, as to which men's minds were greatly divided. The separate States were jealous of each other, and many people were opposed to the formation of a national government, with large powers vested in a Congress. A convention was called to Philadelphia in 1787, with Washington as its president, and lengthy deliberations ended in the adoption of a new constitution, which came into operation two years later. The constitution of Great Britain was the model chosen by the organizers of a system of rule for the new power. The chief aim was to separate the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial functions. In the mother-country, the sovereign and the ministers were the executive department of administration. The legislative powers lay with Parliament. The judges, during good behaviour, were independent of both, and secure in their exalted and important positions. The needful express provision for the circumstances of the case in hand was that by which local powers were reserved for the several States, who agreed to resign to a central authority certain rights of action expressed in a strictly definite bond of federal union.

In accordance with their pattern, thus modified, the President became an elective sovereign, chosen for four years' tenure of office, by electors chosen from each state in numbers proportioned to population. These electoral delegates were supposed to represent the flower of the citizens in wisdom and fitness to choose a temporary ruler. In fact, they are themselves chosen as men who are pledged to the support of one of the particular candidates, Democratic or Republican, already nominated by opposite parties. A vice-president for four years is chosen in the same way. The President's executive powers are those of a constitutional sovereign in regard to peace and war, the issue of coinage and notes, but he possesses and uses a power long become obsolete in Great Britain, that of vetoing bills of Congress, unless they are passed by a two-thirds majority in both houses. The Secretaries of State and other ministers are selected by him; they do not, like our Cabinet and some other high officials, sit in the Parliament.

The House of Representatives, one branch of the legislature, is … continue reading »

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