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March 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-5


A Commentary on the American Constitution


Part 23



Article VII consists of one short paragraph and is immediately followed by the listing of the names of the judicious and brave men who signed it.  The Article reads in full:


The Ratification of the Conventions of nine states, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.  Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth.  In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names.  (Emphasis added).


It would seem this Article has no present-day application, as it is confined to that period of time between the passage of the instrument in the Continental Congress and the ratification of the instrument by nine of the then-existing states.  But it did set precedent.  It instituted three-quarters as the minimum percentage required to ratify its acceptance, the same as would be required to amend the instrument as per Article V.  Although I was not taught this in school, or else it was made little mention of, it appears the new Constitution was to be established, and therefore binding, only “between the States so ratifying the Same.”  The precedent that was set at this early time was that of respect for the several sovereign states.  The instrument was not designed to ride roughshod over the rights and objections of the states.  That is, the sovereign states voluntarily acceded to the Constitution as individual entities.  The vote of the majority was to have no effect on the minority in this matter.  In other words, our Founders honored the principle of federalism even before the signing of the Constitution.  It is apparent that our Founders would not, indeed could not, ordain a Constitution that did not honor the sovereignty of the several states and the people thereof.  The attitude of our Founders was a far cry from that presently found in Washington.


Earlier, I emphatically stated that it WAS NOT the instrument of the Constitution that established this nation.  It was, instead, the Declaration of Independence that laid the bedrock that did establish it.  For those who may still doubt this assertion, the words straight from Article VII should leave no doubt in the propriety of my position.  Article VII states that this instrument was “Done in Convention” on September 17, 1787.  And it further states that it was done in the twelfth year “of the Independence of the United States of America.”  If you subtract 11 years (because it was only “in” the twelfth year, you can’t subtract a full 12) from 1787, you will return to the year 1776.  The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 2 and published July 4 of the year 1776.  The Declaration of Independence is indeed the founding document of this nation, and it does indeed inform us of the principles upon which this country was to be constructed.


We will properly close this commentary on the Constitution with a reiteration of the admonition of Thomas Jefferson in a letter written to William Johnson in 1823:


On every question of construction [of the Constitution] let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.




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