Saturday, August 2, 2008

Of Founders, Congresses, Conventions, and Delegates

This country is literally founded on political conventions - not party conventions, but political meetings where representatives of the American colonies met in Congresses and ultimately at the Constitutional Convention of 1887 held in Philadelphia which laid the foundation for a lasting United States of America. The entire Revolutionary War was fought under the supervisions of Continental Congresses, which had a particularly convention-like atmosphere because these Congresses did not yet represent a fully formed federation. At the Continental Congresses and the Constitutional Convention, there was much debate, contentious disagreement, any number of compromises. As with most matters political none of the participants were ever entirely happy with the outcomes. For example, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison both disliked and doubted the viability of the Constitution that emerged from the Constitutional Convention. Yet both collaborated on the Federalist Papers (John Jay contributed a few entries) a series of newspaper essays that defended a serious Federal union against anti-Federalists, essays that played a pivotal role in the ratification of the Constitution and therefore the achievement of national unity, at least of a fledgling variety. (Despite this historic collaboration Hamilton and Madison eventually became real enemies, parting ways over some bitter post-Constiutional clashes about the objectives of a national government.)

This history is relevant now as ever it could be. The Congresses and Conventions of the Revolutionary Era were conducted according prescribed procedures meant to make all involved feel fully represented and to make it clear that outcomes were not predetermined. This emphasis on due process enabled strong willed individuals with constituencies of their own to please to come to agreements that enabled this country to win its independence and then create the institutions that ensured its survival. The delegates to those Congresses and Conventions had to be brave, independent-minded, and flexible: a rare combination of virtues.

Today delegates will attend a modern political party convention, the 2008 Democratic National Convention at the end of August in Denver. The superdelegates and pledged delegates to this Convention face competing pressures and feel compelled to answer to specific interest groups. Those superdelegates and pledged delegates who work in the spirit of the Founders will put the common good ahead of all else, will demand due process, and will not tolerate a predetermined outcome rather than one generated by prescribed processes already in place.

For details on the evolution of the Continental Congresses, the relationships between the colonies/states, the states and the emerging national government, and the trials and tribulations faced by delegates and delegations see the following.
First Continental Congress-1774
Second Continental Congress-1775-1776
More on Second Continental Congress.
The Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the roles played by the Continental Congresses with regard to each
The Constitutional Convention of 1887. Look here.
A fine synthesis of relationships between all of the above.


Anonymous kavala007 said...

The delegates to the Democratic National Convention should uphold democratic principles and honor the Founders of our great county. They also should keep in mind at least the following two sayings of Benjamin Franklin:

1. “Make yourselves sheep and the wolves will eat you.”

2. "Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech."

It is always such a pleasure to visit your site. Thank you for all you do. Also, thank you for the link to Marc's Musings. I left a comment concerning the fundraiser where the video of Hillary was taken. The video clearly states her position on placing her name in nomination. The delegates need to understand her position and understand that her support is widespread.

August 2, 2008 at 2:26 PM  

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