March 5, 2013 by Lorene
Support for a strong national government was obvious when the delegates decided to establish federal and circuit courts. But who should choose the judges? The Executive? The Senate?
The state equality issue was bigger than just the rights of smaller states. The smaller states were worried that the larger states would control the “riches of the West.” The convention was not debating land claims, but future land rights or “exercise of power” were a major concern of the smaller, northeastern states. So, how the legislatures were comprised was huge. Should states vote as a delegation? Or, one vote per state with each Senator getting a vote? This would “diminish the position of the states as the foundation of the new Constitution,” which is what Madison wanted.
The delegates discussed whether the states should ratify the Constitution or if it should only be ratified by convention. Madison pointed out that if the states ratified the Constitution, it would be more like a treaty, which judges would have to respect and could not change. Plus, “a breach of one article in a treaty freed the parties from obligation to the other articles. If the Constitution were to be the supreme law of the land, states could not nullify a law or secede from the union.” However, under a Constitution ratified by a convention, the laws would be subject to interpretation by the courts and the courts would determine if statutes were conforming to the Constitution.
The convention spent six days deciding the tenure and qualifications of Congress and how they are elected. Madison was in favor of long terms and “re-eligibility.” Madison and Franklin “favored rapid, easy naturalization of immigrants to full citizenship privileges. ‘When foreigners after looking about for some other Country in which they can obtain more happiness, give a preference to ours it is proof of attachment which ought to excite our confidence and affection.’ ” They “held up a vision of growth in freedom in an open society offering asylum to all who shared its principles.”
Madison and another delegate changed the wording from Congress has the power to “make” war to “declare” war so the Executive could have authority to handle any emergencies.
The delegates decided that the President would serve for four years with re-eligibility so he would be more responsive to his constituents. President was given power to appoint judges and other officials with the consent of the Senate. It was decided that an Electoral College elect the President with the Senate deciding in the case of a tie.
In early September, the delegates decided they had a solid working document and a small committee convened to put it all together. Madison was very involved in deciding the structure of this document and how to put it all together, plus, it was his original document, he earned the nickname, “Father of the Constitution.”
Madison felt that all delegates worked in the best interests of the new country, mostly leaving their own agendas outside Independence Hall.