Mr. Speaker, the year was 1787. The American experiment was in trouble. After the Revolution, the colonies came together to draft the Articles of Confederation, which enumerated the powers of the new government.
This document, however, left the government unable to regulate interstate commerce, raise revenue through taxes, or support a national defense. Many of the colonists had become restless, and some like Daniel Shays even began openly revolting against the newly founded government.
It was time to act. Fifty-five men from around the colonies made the arduous trek to Philadelphia, where they crammed inside Independence Hall, the same venue where, just eleven years before, many of the individuals present hammered out and ratified the Declaration of Independence.
Under the leadership of the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. George Washington, the delegates debated a new direction for the fledgling government. The document that was finally agreed upon by the delegates was what we know today as the United States Constitution.
The document outlined a federal government made up of three branches that could each check and balance the powers of the others. After much debate, it was up to the delegates to gain the ratification of their respective states.
They returned home and attempted to whip up support for the Constitution, needing nine states out of thirteen to successfully bring the Constitution into law. Some went to great lengths to promote the Constitution. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay published the Federalist Papers under pseudonyms, a series of essays that highlighted the advantages of the document.
Slowly but surely, the ratifications trickled in. Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut were the first to support the document. Massachusetts, Maryland, and South Carolina followed suit, and finally on June 21, 1788, New Hampshire provided the ninth and decisive ratification.
The Constitution was adopted by the U.S. government on March 4, 1789, and the other colonies soon ratified the document, successfully uniting the nation. More than any individual or group, the documents drafted and adopted by our Founding Fathers shaped who we are as a nation.
The Constitution provides us the structure to defend, govern, and implement the beliefs and freedoms enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. It establishes that we the people, not a king or tyrant, would govern our nation.
Mr. Speaker, George Washington hailed the Constitution as ‘‘the guide in which I will never abandon.’’ Today, on the occasion of the 230th anniversary of the ratification of this document, let us remember the oath that we took before taking office to support and defend this guide, the very essence of our democracy.