Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Wikinfo - United States Constitution

Wikinfo - United States Constitution. This is an article on the American Constitution with a lot of emphasis on history from the online encyclopedia Wikinfo.

From the site:

The path to the Constitution was neither straight nor easy. A draft document emerged in 1787, but only after intense debate and six years of experience with an earlier federal union. The 13 British colonies in America declared their independence from their motherland in 1776. A year before, war had broken out between the colonies and Britain, a war for independence that lasted for six bitter years. While still at war, the colonies now calling themselves the United States of America drafted a compact that bound them together as a nation. The compact, designated the "Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union," was adopted by a congress of the states in 1777 and formally signed in July 1778. The Articles became binding when they were ratified by the 13th state, Maryland, in March 1781.

The Articles of Confederation devised a loose association among the states and set up a federal government with very limited powers. In such critical matters as defense, public finance, and trade, the federal government was at the mercy of the state legislatures. It was not an arrangement conducive to stability or strength. Within a short time the weakness of the confederation was apparent to all. Politically and economically, the new nation was close to chaos. In the words of George Washington, who would become the first president of the United States in 1789, the 13 states were united only "by a rope of sand."

It was under these inauspicious circumstances that the Constitution of the United States was drawn up. In February 1787 the Continental Congress, the legislative body of the republic, issued a call for the states to send delegates to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to revise the Articles. Delegates began to arrive starting on May 14 and the Constitutional Convention first convened on May 25, 1787, in Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence had been adopted eleven years earlier, on July 4, 1776. Although the delegates had been authorized only to amend the Articles of Confederation, they pushed aside the Articles and proceeded to construct a charter for a wholly new, more centralized form of government. The new document, the Constitution, was completed September 17, 1787, and was officially adopted March 4, 1789.

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