Federal Convention and the Constitution
Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “So how did they arrive in Philadelphia on the 14th of May 1787? They were supposed to have this convention. And why would we care about that today? Well, the reason we ought to care about it is because of the pretenses under which they were meeting. What Madison and Hamilton had told the public and what they had told the legislators and the legislatures of the thirteen states was: Look, we got this guy Articles of Confederation. They don’t work so well. So, you know, we need to have a little meeting. We all need to get together and agree that we should amend these things. After we amend them, then we’ll all live happily ever after.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: So how did they arrive in Philadelphia on the 14th of May 1787? They were supposed to have this convention. And why would we care about that today? Well, the reason we ought to care about it is because of the pretenses under which they were meeting. What Madison and Hamilton had told the public and what they had told the legislators and the legislatures of the thirteen states was: Look, we got this guy Articles of Confederation. They don’t work so well. So, you know, we need to have a little meeting. We all need to get together and agree that we should amend these things. After we amend them, then we’ll all live happily ever after. We’re just going to have a little meeting, not going to propose a new government or anything silly like that. We’re just going to have a little meeting here and propose some amendments. Then we’ll send them to the Confederation Congress. They’ll either ratify them or they won’t. That’s what the notes that were sent from Congress to all the legislatures, that’s basically what they said. I paraphrased it but that’s what was said, we need amendments to the Articles of Confederation.
What Madison and what Hamilton and what other conspirators were saying privately was nothing of the sort. One of the things you’ll learn in Fame of Our Fathers — for those of you that have it, you already know this — is that George Washington did not want to go to this convention. As a matter of fact, George Washington, for almost a year, refused. He kept saying: No. Why do you keep bugging me, Madison? Leave me alone, dude. I’m happy here in Mount Vernon. I just want to hang out on the banks of the Potomac River here before Mordor is built down the way there. I want to do my farming. I want to harvest some tobacco. I want to smoke. I make wine and whiskey here. The misses and I are pretty happy. We really don’t need your grand schemes of new confederations and governments and what have you. Leave me alone.
At about the same time, the Society of the Cincinnati, which was comprised of officers of the Continental Army, and was to become hereditary — in other words, if you were in the Society of the Cincinnati, the only way you could, when it was formed in 1786 or so, the only way you could get into it afterwards is if you were a descendent. I think you had to be the first born. I think AG could have been in the Society of the Cincinnati but his cousin beat him to it. You’d have to be one of the male descendants of someone from the Society of the Cincinnati. While the Society of the Cincinnati was putting their game plan together, they were trying to recruit Washington as the first president. Obviously he, the most famous military commander in North America, was a natural choice for the gig. Washington was also telling the Society of the Cincinnati: Leave me alone. I don’t want the job. I don’t want to go. I’m not leaving Mount Vernon, so stop bugging me. He wasn’t actually that forceful. He was very polite in his protestations, but still, for almost the same amount of time, he was telling them no.
So what happened? What changed Washington’s mind? That’s one of the most fascinating parts of the story and something that I’ve never seen an historian — other than yours truly — try to answer the query. Why did Washington change his mind? He changes his mind in late February / early March of 1787 and decides: All right, I’ll go, dude. Just shut up. If you’ll stop writing me, I’ll go. Just leave me alone until I actually have to shut up. So what happened?
What happened is that many of Washington’s former officers who had never received the pay that they were promised for their service in the Continental Army, fighting for the glorious cause of liberty, were writing Washington privately and saying: Look, not only did they not pay me, not only did they not honor the notes that they gave me, and with the notes that they did give me, they’re worthless. The only way I can get anything from them is to sell them to these speculator guys. None of the other promises materialized and we’re out here and we’re hurting. Some of us have lost arms. Some of us lost legs. Many of us are maimed from other injuries suffered during the war for the years we were gone and couldn’t manage our farms and crops. They were decimated and it’s nearly impossible to get some of them back to where they were before the war. It was the pleas of Washington’s officers: Man, you gotta do something about this! Washington thought: Well, I’ll go to this convention here and maybe we can agree that one of the things that we need to amend is we’re going to have to have some kind of veteran support help bill or something to that effect. That’s the reason why, I think, Washington decided to go.
If you read the letters that were written to Washington to try to get him to go — I have one of the last ones that was written before he embarked for Philadelphia, which would have been a four- or five-day ride, depending on how fast you ride — was little Jimmy Madison wrote to Washington. Remember, today, May 14, 2014, 237 years ago today in the city of brotherly love, and in the state assembly room in Independence Hall, it is the one that is to the north side of the building, the Federal Convention of 1787 was supposed to meet and were going to draft amendments to the Articles of Confederation. Only three states showed up, so they didn’t have a quorum, so they couldn’t meet. Virginia was one of the states. Washington was one of the delegates with Virginia, Washington, Madison and a few others. The Pennsylvanians were there, too. It would be two weeks before they could actually meet. They were meeting there for what was publicly advertised as an amendment convention.
By the bye, this is one of the reasons why the John Birch Society says you can’t have an Article V Amendment Convention, because the same shenanigans are going to happen again. Congress is going to authorize an Article V Amendment Convention and what happened in Philadelphia in 1787 behind closed doors, under secrecy, is going to happen again. That’s why the Birch Society believes what they believe, or it’s the principal reason, and it’s because of what I’m about to share with you. What was really going on?
I have this letter here. I posted this in today’s Pile of Prep. This is James Madison writing to George Washington on 16 April 1787. Remember, there’s been no talk of new national governments. There’s been no talk of new congresses. There’s been no talk of a constitution at all, none, zero, zippo, zilch, nada, nothing. No one has even flirted with the idea of having a president, a central executive. As a matter of fact, if you would have said that, that would have been considered some kind of colonial or confederation heresy. None of this has been talked about publicly. Then we read Madison’s letter and you find out that the fix was in before the convention ever began.
By the way, I played for you at the top of the hour the epilogue to my three-CD set, the audio series Fame of Our Fathers, how a federal convention came together. We pick up on this in The Spirit of ’76. In scene one is little Jimmy Madison — and I have to paraphrase this — writing the following letter, or parts of the letter that I’m about to share with you.
Remember, no president, no treasury department, no three branches, none of that stuff has been discussed. The only thing that’s been talked about is amending the Articles of Confederation. That’s the only thing, yet you see that the plans of designing men were already in effect.
I have been honoured with your letter of the 31 of March, and find with much pleasure that your views of the reform which ought to be pursued by the Convention, give a sanction to those which I have entertained.
Mike: That’s as far as it goes. Now Madison says: Okay, your ideas are cool, Georgie, buddy, but let me share with you what’s really going on here.
Conceiving that an individual independence of the States …
Mike: Remember, you’ve got 13 states under a confederation. The Articles of Confederation are pretty clear. All states retain their sovereignty, independence, and right in every authority that they brought into the Articles of Confederation when they ratified.
End Mike Church Show Transcript