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How to Build a Country: The Constitutional Convention of 1787


Teddy takes on the founding fathers
How do you make a country? Who decides who will have the power? How equal are two people at birth if one has lighter skin?

The makers of the Constitution had a lot on their minds as they entered Independence Hall one sunny May morning in 1787. They did not know how long it would take, or what it would look like; they only knew that once they were done they would have laid the foundation for the world's first democracy.

Independence Hall, like a sauna in the summer
The fifty-five men were sent from twelve of the thirteen states (Rhode Island did not send a anyone to Philadelphia). They were for the most part wealthy, well educated, and of course all were white. They owned thousands of slaves. In fact, the three largest slaveholders in the United States were there (George Washington, George Mason, and John Rutledage).

Kids reach out and touch democracy
After some talking, our forefathers decided that black slaves counted as 3/5 of a person in the US. These numbers were used to decide how many people would represent each state in Congress. Black slaves, women, Indians, and poor whites without property were not allowed to vote.

What good is a democracy if all the people cannot take part? Fortunately for us, the forefathers could tell that the Constitution was far from finished. They made it possible to change the laws in the Constitution through amendments.

Oops! What did Teddy do to that bell?
The two largest states, New York and Virginia, were hotspots over the approval of the constitution. Without voting "yes," those two states would have prevented our constitution from ever being supported.

If you only want to remember ONE THING about the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the writing of the Constitution, remember this: In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote that all men have certain rights, and that among them was "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." In 1787, the framers of the constitution changed that line to read that those rights were "life, liberty, and property."

 What happened to his pursuit of happiness?
The more we learn and grow as a people, the more we need to re-look at our laws and what they do so they are still okay and fair for our times.


Please email me at: teddy@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Daphne - Who were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson really?
Rebecca - A duel over pride ends in disaster