Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Constitution Battle for Ratification

Tredyffrin Township’s Constitutional Conversations: The Battle for Ratification

Segment 2, ‘The Battle for Ratification’ of the Constitutional Conversations cable series is now available for viewing. According to the description provided by co-hosts Rich Brake and Dennis Gallagher, this segment discusses “… the process and the political intrigue surrounding the ratification of America’s new Constitution. They also introduce how the two founding father groups, the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists, debated and resolved their philosophical differences to arrive at a compromise resulting in America’s new system of government.”

I watched Segment 2 of the series, and with no disrespect intended, it took me 3 failed attempts before I could get past the first 10 min. of the 29-min. show. Although both Brake and Gallagher are identified as ‘Constitution Scholars’, from my vantage point it seemed that Gallagher’s role was that of an interviewer asking questions, with responses left to Brake. Not that there is anything wrong with that approach, I just think it is a bit of a misnomer that they refer to themselves as co-hosts. In my opinion, this segment was a bit disjointed in the delivery of information with some technical, editing and sound issues, making it difficult to follow at times.

When discussing the ratification of the Constitution, many nuances exist between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalist point of views and they should be thoroughly considered — each group waged a verbal war in hopes of winning public support for their side. The supporters of the Constitution, the Federalists, argued that the nation needed a stronger national government to create order and stability whereas the anti-Federalists supported the states’ rights approach to government. Arguing that the Constitution gave too much power to the national government at the expense of the state governments, the Bill of Rights became a weapon of defense and the most effective tool for the anti-Federalists. They demanded a more balanced Constitution, one that would be careful to protect the rights of the people and to set limitations on the power of the government. The American people had just fought a war to defend their rights and they did not want an intimidating national government taking those rights away again. Although the anti-Federalists lost the ratification battle, the Bill of Rights stands as a lasting testament to the importance of individual rights.

I found Brake’s discussion of citizen representation interesting. He compares the increased size of voting districts today versus the size they were at the time of the ratification of the Constitution and ponders the question, “Can representation actually take place well, in a setting that is large and distant from the public?” Due to the size of voting districts, Brake talks about the increased resources and finances required by politicians seeking office today. Due to the financial demands of political campaigns, Brake laments that is likely that only the financially elite can afford to seek office. As a result, there is a risk that elected ‘elite’ may not necessarily represent those that they seek to serve. As a proponent of campaign finance reform, I agree with Brake on this point.

In the discussion of the original 10 amendments contained in the Bill of Rights, Brake identifies several, including freedom of speech, religion, petition, right to bear arms, freedom from search and seizure, right to counsel, etc. He points specifically to the importance of the 10th amendment — “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Based on Brake’s emphasis on the rights of the States under the Constitution, I was surprised that he did not use the opportunity to discuss the 10th amendment as related to the Supreme Court decision on the health care bill. There are some, including Mitt Romney who believe that the 10th Amendment places the responsibility and care of health care to the people with the individual states.

I lay no claim as a ‘Constitution Scholar’ and offer these remarks on Constitutional Conversations solely as my opinion. I suggest taking 29 minutes, watch Segment 2: Battle for Ratification, and offer your own thoughts. Click here to watch the second installment of Constitutional Conversations.

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