State rivalries and jealousies, we have seen, were causing confusion. During the Revolution the people had been too busy fighting the common enemy and the home-town Tories to fight each other. The force of events had been building a single unwritten constitution and a spirit of unity.

But after the colonies had adopted the Articles of Confederation and had been recognized by England as the United States of America, the states became interested in their separate freedoms. The loose nature of the Articles reflected this tendency and unfortunately tended to increase it and to further interstate jealousies. Tom Paine's ideal of a single American Magna Carta was breaking down.

Concerning this situation, Senator Albert J. Beveridge, in his admirable Life of John Marshall, says:

It was the States which always were thwarting every plan for the general welfare; the States which were forever impairing the National obligations; the States which bound hand and foot the straw man of the central power, clothed it in rags and made it a mere scarecrow of government.

And it was State pride, prejudice, and ignorance which gave provincial demagogues their advantage and opportunity.

The State Governments were the "people's" Government; to yield State "sovereignty" was to yield the "people's" power over their own affairs, shouted the man who wished to win local prominence, power, and office.

The government was in many respects ineffective. It was without sufficient power to tax, spend, or provide for the common defense and the general welfare—powers essential to any government. Therefore, it was natural that agitation for a convention to adopt a new constitution providing for a powerful central government should arise.

It should constantly be emphasized that the agitators for a Constitution were conservative businessmen bent upon protecting their interests, or liberties. They were not in the least interested in writing a Constitution for the protection of the liberties of the people. The important thing, said George Washington afterward in presenting the Constitution, was "consolidation of our union. . . . Individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest." He specifically observed that the Constitution concerned war, money, commerce, and effective "general government of the Union."

The statement that the promoters of the new Constitution were not interested in liberty is not merely a personal opinion; it is a historical fact recognized by all the authorities. For example, "Commissioners" to the constitutional convention were appointed, not elected, by Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. They met at Annapolis, Maryland [Strangely enough, Maryland did not send any representative, and gave those assembled no information or reason. Neither did Connecticut, Georgia, and South Carolina. Appointments were made by the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and North Carolina, but nobody showed up.], with the intention of establishing voluntary trade pacts between states. The small attendance, the failure of previous state pacts made apparently the futility of trying to cook up voluntary agreements on trade and commerce. So they took up the idea of calling a constitutional convention for all the states. (One of the principal advocates was Alexander Hamilton.) The delegates very well knew that nothing of substantial value could be accomplished by a few wrangling states—that general unity of all the people was necessary.

The commissioners held that a "uniform system in their commercial intercourse" was necessary for the "common interest and permanent harmony." To achieve such, they realized that they would have to hold a general meeting of all the states. New Jersey wanted to extend the scope of the meeting to all necessities; the commissioners concurred and added that the situation "may require a correspondent adjustment of other parts of the Federal system."

They ended by an appeal for "united virtue and wisdom." A small, determined, shrewd group of business leaders and their representatives issued the call for the Constitutional Convention. The people in general knew practically nothing about it. It is also well to bear in mind that the call was not for a new constitution, but for a revision of the old.

The State of Virginia acted first (October 16, 1786). The Virginia resolution asserted that the commissioners had assembled at Annapolis for the "purpose of devising and reporting the means of enabling Congress to provide effectually for the Commercial Interests of the United States [and they] have represented the necessity of extending the revision of the foederal System to all its defects. . . ." [Italics mine, except for the United States.]

The resolution proceeds to set forth persuasively, and I think dramatically, the "actual situation,"—a crisis which had to be met by the "good People of America." The people were called upon not to renounce what they had gained through common blood—"the auspicious blessings prepared for them by the Revolution."

The resolution calls specifically for such "further concessions and Provisions as may be necessary to secure the great Objects for which that government was instituted and to render the United States as happy in peace as they have been in war." It concluded by calling for alterations in the existing "foederal constitution."

Virginia acted ahead of the Constitutional Congress, and without its authority. The Congress itself did not issue the call for a constitutional convention until February 21, 1787 when the Annapolis meeting was considered. The resolution of the Continental Congress stated that it entirely concurred with the views of the commissioners who met at Annapolis "as to the inefficiency of the Federal Government and the necessity of devising such farther provisions as shall render the same adequate to the exigencies of the Union."

The Congress followed up the resolution by adopting a detailed motion proposing:

1. To establish "in these states a firm national government."
2. To meet in Philadelphia "for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the states render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government & the preservation of the Union."

The Convention met in Philadelphia as had the first Continental Congress. But the temper of the delegates to these two historic assemblies was different. The gentlemen of the Convention were, on the whole, much more conservative, though some of the very same men had been delegates to the Congress. Their job was no longer revolution, but the business of establishing a well-organized government. Senator Beveridge, in his Life of John Marshall, says: "Finance, commerce and business assembled the historic Philadelphia Convention," but hurriedly adds, "although it must be said that statesmanship guided its turbulent councils."

The men who assembled were men of property. To express it quite ungallantly, their class (and some of them) "made money out of it." I am not accusing our very worthy Founding Fathers of being professional lobbyists, or of lacking a high order of patriotism. They were primarily businessmen with business interests uppermost in their thoughts. They took steps to improve business and their own fortunes as well.

Charles A. Beard, in his Economic Interpretation of the Constitution, has assembled abundant evidence from the backgrounds and general viewpoints of the delegates. All of the documents, the public and private correspondence, and the newspaper stories of the time, conclusively demonstrate that the delegates' primary purposes were to improve business and commerce and to set up a strong central government. They did not gather in Philadelphia to ensure civil liberties to the people.

Before we move on, we should remember that the delegates had no authority whatever to throw out the Articles of Confederation; they had merely the power of revision. As everyone knows, they threw the Articles out anyhow and did a clean new job, though in violation of the official call and the existing constitution—nothing more nor less than "an act of revolution," says one historian. [Edwin S. Corwin, The Constitution and What It Means Today.]