There it was parked right across the street from my favorite local watering hole, the big bus that delivered the cadre of Tea Party types to my hometown. A small group of men, women and children had gathered to hear the lady, with the hairdo and affectation of one former Alaskan governor, spread the message and principles of Liberty in America.org. Being overcome by my own political curiosity, I was forced to put down my pint and venture out to find a place on the periphery of meeting.
The event was conducted as if it were something between a 5th grade civic’s lesson and a Bible study group. The speaker extolled the virtues of the Founding Fathers while damning to hell the 535 current voting members of Congress for their egregious assault on the United States Constitution.
It has been my experience that political fundamentalism is very much like religious fundamentalism. Both share a common belief that a bunch of guys a long time ago, who supposedly stood in better favor with God than the current crop of humanity, were able to divine sacred texts that if properly adhered to would provide a simple black and white solution for all of society’s ills. This kind of thinking has led many Americans to view the resulting document of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as something akin to Moses coming down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments.
While I cannot speculate as to the actual influence of the Divine on what occurred atop Mount Sinai, I can tell you that God just barely got his foot in the door of the Pennsylvania State House. A motion by the good Doctor Franklin to begin each day’s work with a clergyman leading a prayer was vigorously debated and ultimately defeated.
I’ve heard it said as of late that our political class has done a less than admirable job of honoring the intent of “The Founding Fathers.” I would tend to disagree with this school of thought, since we know that the framers of the Constitution did not share one common vision as to how to govern the somewhat unruly states of America. Their views on the proper role of government were as conflicted and divergent as those being currently expressed in the national discourse.
In reality, our beloved Constitution was the direct consequence of the discord, dissention and divisiveness amongst the states brought about by the more libertarian leaning Articles of Confederation, that were drafted by the Second Continental Congress in 1777. One might conclude that the Declaration of Independence was the result of the tyranny of one, while the Constitution was the result of the tyranny of thirteen.
In May of 1787, many of the same men that had crafted the Articles of Confederation converged in Philadelphia to reconsider their earlier attempt at promoting unity, harmony and governance. For 100 days “an assemblage of demigods,” as Thomas Jefferson had characterized the convention, were shuttered behind closed doors in the longest backroom political deal in the history of the Republic. When the delegates finally emerged from the state house in mid-september, they presented their fellow countrymen not with a perfect piece of consensus–but instead with a pretty damn good piece of compromise!
But that compromise would not be enough to ensure a more perfect union. The strength and validity of the compact would be contested in the courtroom, the convention hall and ultimately on killing fields from Manassas to Appomatox.
On the 17th day of September of 1787, the final draft of the Constitution was signed. With the toil and turmoil of that brutal summer now behind them, the delegates could now attend to their own personal constitutions–certainly a bit of leisure and libations were in order. Many would seek those pleasures at the nearby stately City Tavern. While those of lesser means might have adjourned to the Man Full of Trouble Tavern. As I am one who fully supports the constitution of the Founding Fathers, I ended my meeting with the local libertarians by returning to an awaiting pint of Harpoon IPA at the National Hotel in Frenchtown, New Jersey.
Posted by: Chris Poh