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Date of Award

Fall 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Department of History

Advisor(s)

Dr. Kevin Hardwick

Abstract

It had been a long summer, filled with hot and muggy forecasts with temperatures ranging from the low 60s to the high 90s. One can imagine what it must have felt like, anywhere between forty and fifty men crowded into the small chamber at Independence Hall in Philadelphia over the course of the summer which was described by many to be “hot and oppressive.” For the past four months and change, delegates to the Federal Convention had come together to accomplish what, at the beginning of the summer, seemed to be an impossible task: to form a new government. Perhaps it was fitting that on this day, September 17, 1787, the remarks in the records of the Federal Convention, list the weather as being “clear” and “quite cool.”[1] It was on this day, that General George Washington, President of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, sat down and wrote a letter to Congress explaining the actions of “the friends of our country,” and the reasons why the Constitution drafted that day was considered by them to be “the most advisable.” The power to make war, peace and treaties, levying money and regulating commerce, and the executive and judicial authorities “should be fully and effectually vested in the general government of the Union: but the impropriety of delegating such extensive trust to one body of men is evident. Hence results the necessity of a different organization.” Washington continued, criticizing the current system of government in America, saying that it was “impracticable” for the federal government of the states “to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all.” And it was for these reasons, Washington insisted, for the new system of government to work that “individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest.” Washington assured the Congress that during all the deliberations at the convention, “the greatest interest of every true American” was always considered.[2]

[1] Weather Recordings, in Supplement to Max Farrand’s The Records of the Federal Convention, ed. by James H. Huston (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), 325-337.

[2] George Washington Letter to Congress, September 17, 1787, in To Secure the Blessings of Liberty: Selected Writings of Gouverneur Morris, ed. by J. Jackson Barlow (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2012), 221-222.

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