On 17 September 1787, members of the Constitutional Convention signed the final draft of the Constitution. The current Constitution replaced the Articles of Federation (1777-1783) that created a loose confederation of sovereign states and a weak central government. Over time, the Articles proved itself to be a failure.
James Madison (1751-1836), known as the “Father of our Constitution” kept notes from the Convention and form the single largest source of materials for Farrand’s Records (one of the several collections in A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: US Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875).
James Madison was an American political figure, diplomat, philosopher and one of the Founding Fathers. He also served as the fourth American President (1809-1817), particularly during the War of 1812. He contributed to the ratification of the Constitution as one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.
a. Congress was only “house” (no checks & balances) b. Congress lacking authority (can issue taxes but cannot collect taxes) c. It served as a court (conflict); each state had one vote d. 9 of 13 states needed to pass any laws (very difficult) e. Nearly impossible to amend (all 13 needed) f. States conducted own foreign policy (no federal gov’t to unite the nation) g. Could not settle Revolutionary War debts with Europe (lacking power to tax, no power to make trades between states and other countries led to economic issues in 1787) h. Inability to call up military (the Articles was tested by Shays’ Rebellion (1786-87), when Massachusetts’ farmers rebelled and the Congress could not generate a military)
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
SIGNING & PUBLIUS
State delegates signed the Constitution on 17 September 1787 in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA. Twelve states (Rhode Island declined to send delegates) endorsed the Constitution.
Bear in mind that rewriting the structure of the government was treasonous—they were instructed to fix the Articles of Confederation. Since they were unable to do so, the delegates secretly wrote a completely new document. The Federalist Papers, which were published in certain newspapers, was a way for Madison, Hamilton & Jay to test ideas with the public while writing anonymously as “Publius”. (Plubius was a general who helped found the Roman Republic, it was used to protect the Convention’s confidentiality.)
SIGNERS FROM NEW JERSEY
1. Jonathan Dayton (1760-1824), age 26, was the youngest to sign the Constitution (Benjamin Franklin was the oldest at 81). He also served in the Revolution, under his father, Gen. Elias Dayton and the Marquis de Lafayette. He was held prisoner by the British but was freed in time to participate in the Battle of Yorktown, VA. He was indicted for treason due to Aaron Burr’s conspiracy (1806—tried to expand into Spain’s territory in the southwest to invade and create an empire), but was not prosecuted (although his political career was ruined).
2. William Livingston (1723-1790), was a notable public official and left Congress in 1776 to command a NJ militia as brigadier general. He was related to the NY Livingstons (Dr. William Shippen, Jr.’s daughter, Anne Hume “Nancy” Shippen Livingston, married and separated from Henry Beekman Livingston, a cousin of William).
3. David Brearley (1745-1790), was from Maidenhead (Lawrence) and died in Trenton.
4. William Paterson (1745-1806), was a notable NJ public official and Paterson, NJ and William Paterson University are named in his honor.
5. William C. Houston (c. 1746-1788), was a Revolutionary War officer and public official. He became ill and did not sign the Constitution, but signed the report to the NJ legislature.
On 16 September 1782, the Great Seal of the United States was used for the first time to authenticate certain documents issued by the US Federal Government. The Continental Congress adopted it after numerous changes on 20 June 1782.
The Great Seal is the symbol of our sovereignty as a nation and “used on official documents to authenticate the signature of the President and appears on all proclamations, warrants, treaties, and commissions of high officials of government.” It is also “used as our national coat of arms… also used officially as decoration on military uniform buttons, on plaques above the entrances to U.S. embassies and consulates, and in other places.” It is found on the back of the one-dollar bill. (www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=5).
HISTORY OF THE GREAT SEAL
The Continental Congress appointed a committee responsible for designing the seal for the U.S. on 4 July 1776, a few hours after they adopted the Declaration of Independence. Members of the committee included Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. One prominent feature of their design is the motto, “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of Many, One”).
In a letter from John Adams to his wife Abigail (14 August 1776), he discussed the debate over the seal. He wrote that Benjamin Franklin suggested “Moses lifting up his wand, and dividing the Red Sea, and Pharaoh, in his chariot overwhelmed with the waters”. He suggested the following motto, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God”. Jefferson viewed the American people as “the children of Israel in the wilderness… led by a pillar of fire by night” and early Britons “whose political principles and form of government” was assumed by the U.S. Government. Adams’ focus was on Hercules, the Greek (and Roman) mythological figure that represented strength, “resting on his club” and looking towards an image of virtue, which was resistant to sloth (laziness) and vice (evil). (diplomacy.state.gov/exhibits/explore-online-exhibits/the-great-seal/)
A second committee was created in 1780 that included James Lovell of MA and John Morin Scott and William Churchill Houston of VA to develop a second design, which was rejected by the Congress. Much like the first design, the second had elements that later was incorporated into the present-seal—the olive branch, a constellation of 13 stars, and a shield with red and white stripes and a field of blue. (www.history.com/this-day-in-history/congress-adopts-the-great-seal-of-the-united-states)
In early 1782, the Congress had the Secretary of the Continental Congress, Charles Thompson, review the three designs. He made a fourth that was revised by William Barton (Philadelphia student of heraldry) who submitted a written description of the final version to the Congress and explained its symbolism. This design was approved on 20 June 1782. (www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=5)
It's been twenty years since terrorists hijacked airplanes that crashed into the Twin Towers (World Trade Center, NYC), the Pentagon (Washington, D.C.) and into a field in Shanksville (PA). As a result, 2996 lives were lost and 25,000 were injured.
In the past twenty years since the attacks, over 1400 first responded have died from illnesses as a result of being at Ground Zero.
This catastrophic event has forever changed us as a nation and should never be forgotten.
On this date in 1783, eight years after the start of the Revolutionary War, the United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Paris, thereby ending the American Revolution. TREATY OF PARIS: 2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ho/time/ar/14313.htm
In September 1782, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and John Jay began official peace negotiations with Britain. The Continental Congress originally consisted of five men who handled the talks—Franklin, Adams, Jay, Thomas Jefferson and Henry Laurens. Two were unable to meet-- Jefferson had travel delays and Laurens was captured by the British and held in the Tower of London. The U.S. delegation was distrustful of the French and opted to negotiate with the British separately.
• The British acknowledged American independence
• US granted western territory (to the Mississippi River)
• Both nations were guaranteed access to the Mississippi River (an issue leading to the War of 1812)
• British to surrender all posts within US Territory (but did not stop them from building forts along the border)
Franklin demanded Canada, but it did not occur. Instead, the Americans gained new territory west of the Appalachian Mountains.
This treaty was signed by the US, Great Britain, Spain and France. It was ratified by the Continental Congress on 14 January 1784.
On this date in 1939, 1.5 million German troops invaded Poland while the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) bombed Polish airfields. The attack came without a declaration of war from Germany. Britain and France sent Hitler an ultimatum to either withdraw German forces from Poland or face the two nations in war. Two days later, Britain and France declared war on Nazi-controlled Germany.
Poland mobilized late and its army lacked modern arms and equipment, few armored and motorized units and could deploy just over 300 planes (most of with the Luftwaffe destroyed during the first days of the invasion). Despite the Polish army’s tenacity, it inflicted serious casualties on the Germans and was still defeated within weeks. The new German tactic (“Blitzkrieg” or “lightning war”) consisted of surprise attacks with large concentrated forces of fast-moving armored units supported by air power. This assault demonstrated Germany’s ability to combine air power and armor in a new type of mobile warfare.
One of Hitler’s first major foreign policy initiatives occurred after he came to power in 1933. He signed a non-aggression pact with Poland in January 1934, which was unpopular with many Germans who supported Hitler. His supporters felt resentful that Poland received the former German provinces of West Prussia, Poznan, and Upper Silesia under the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I. It was Hitler’s intent to neutralize the possibility of a Franco-Polish military alliance against Germany before it had a chance to rearm following World War I (the Treaty of Versailles demilitarized Germany as a part of the conditions of peace).
In the mid to late 1930s, France and Britain enacted a policy of “appeasement”. The objective was to maintain peace in Europe by making limited concessions to Germany. The British popular opinion favored modifying the restrictive provisions of the Treaty of Versailles (they felt it was too harsh) that favored territorial and military concessions. Neither Britain nor France were willing to enter another war and felt unprepared to fight against Nazi Germany. The outcome of World War I and the Great Depression stressed many countries financially.
In their appeasement of Nazi-Germany, Britain and France revoked the Treaty of Versailles’ limitations on the Germans, in turn Germany rebuilt its military (1935), remilitarized the Rhineland (1936), and annexed Austria (March 1938).
*the Rhineland is an area in Western Germany along the Rhine River, particularly the middle section. It lays along the border of Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands (areas that saw serious fighting during World War I).
As a response, Hitler threatened war against Czechoslovakia, which led British and French leaders to sign the Munich Agreement in September 1938. This ceded the Czech border (Sudetenland) to Germany in return for Hitler’s promise to resolve all future conflicts peacefully.
By March 1939, Hitler, ignoring his promises at Munich, the Germans dismantled Czechoslovakia. Britain and France responded by drawing a line in the sand—if Hitler invades Poland, war would be inevitable.
On 28 April 1939, Hitler announced Germany’s withdrawal from the non-aggression pact he signed with Poland five years earlier and went on to negotiate a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union in August 1939. This German-Soviet Pact secretly provided for Poland to be partitioned between the two powers, which enabled Germany to attack it without the fear of Soviet reprisal.
THE DECLARATION OF WAR
The British and French stood by their guarantee of Poland’s border and declared war against Nazi Germany on 3 September 1939. Poland was fighting a two-pronged war against Germany and the Soviet Union (who invaded from the east on 17 September 1939), which caused the Polish government to flee the country the same day.
Warsaw (Poland) surrendered after heavy shelling and bombing on 27 September 1939. In accordance to its German-Soviet Pact, the two nations partitioned Poland on 29 September 1939, with the demarcation line located along the Bug River. The last resistance of the Polish military ended on October 6.
Immediately after, Germany directly annexed former Polish territories along Germany’s eastern border—West Prussia, Poznan, Upper Silesia and the former free city of Danzig. The rest of German-occupied Poland (including the cities of Warsaw, Krakow, Radom and Lublin) were organized into the “Generalgouvernement” (General Government) under Hans Frank, the civilian governor general and Nazi Party lawyer.
The Nazis occupied their part of Poland when the Soviets invaded in June 1941. Poland remained under German occupation until the end of January 1945.