On September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia, members of the Constitutional Convention signed a draft of the Constitution. Subject to ratification by nine or more states, America would become a representative republic. Unalienable rights (man as sovereign under God over government) are to be guarded by separations of power among three branches of the central and state governments. Constitutional separations of power also help to protect against infringement by hierarchical authoritarians or a misled citizen majority (such as occurs in a pure democracy).
Washington, as president of the convention, transmitted the proposed Constitution to the people’s representatives, who were then still operating under the Articles of Confederation. Referring to man’s sinful nature and the dangers of collusion by government officials for personal power, Washington wrote: “The great powers to be vested in General Government of the Union and the impropriety of delegating such extensive trust to one body of men is evident: hence results the necessity of a different organization.”*
The ninth state, New Hampshire, ratified the Constitution at its state convention on July 21, 1788. When Congress was informed, it set March 4, 1789, to be the start for the new government. On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the oath of office and became the first president of the United States. Another anxious year passed before that government became fully operational. Fourteen years after the God-honoring Declaration of Independence was ratified, the benefits of separation from authoritarian elites became a reality.
Charles Pinckney, who at the outset of the convention doubted the success of the undertaking, was amazed at the final result: “Nothing less than that superintending hand of Providence, that so miraculously carried us through the war, could have brought it [the Constitution] about so complete, upon the whole.”**
In 1791, on July 19, George Washington wrote in a letter to Catherine Macaulay Graham: “The United States enjoys a scene of prosperity and tranquility under the new government, that could hardly have been hoped for.”*** In 1792, on March 11, Washington explained: “I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that Agency which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them.”****
The Constitution of the United States has survived many times longer than any other constitution. For example, in the last two hundred years, France has gone through seven different government charters, and Italy forty. “In God Is Our Trust,” emblazoned in “The Star-Spangled Banner” (official national anthem of the United States), takes elitists of every stripe out of the authority equation.
A century later, William Gladstone, one of Britain’s greatest prime ministers, proclaimed the American Constitution to be “the most wonderful work ever struck off by the brain and purpose of man.”*****
1789, Inauguration of George Washington. The Bible is open to Deuteronomy 28 at his request. Washington added his own “So help me God” to seal his oath.
*William L. Hickey, The Constitution of the United States of America (Philadelphia: Nabu Press, 1851), 188.
**Hamilton Albert Long, The American Ideal of 1776, (Philadelphia: Heritage Books, Inc., 1963), 205-206.
***Harry Atwood, The Constitution Explained, 4th ed. (Merrimac, MA: Destiny Publishers, 1992) 5.
****David Barton, Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, and Religion (Aledo, TX: WallBuilder Press), 116. (Citing Washington, Writings 1838, Vol. X 222-223, to John Armstrong on March 11, 1792).
*****Gladstone speech, The North American Review, (September, 1878).
~ David Norris