Friday, August 26, 2005

Constitution writing, 1787

PHILADELPHIA -- Once again, delegates from 13 former British colonies failed to reach agreement on a constitution for the proposed new United States of America.
"They'll never get it settled," said Benedict Arnold, a former New York military official who now lives in England. "They're trying to do something that hasn't been done anywhere in the civilised world since Athens."
There are a number of unsettled issues, according to sources close to the delegates. They have divided into two camps. One, which calls itself the Federalists, is led by Alexander Hamilton of New York. The other, known as the Democratic Republicans, is led by Virginian Thomas Jefferson, who is best known as the primary author of the colonies' declaration of independence in 1776.
"They've got to do a lot of deals to get every colony on board," said Lord Snooty of Evilhampton, a colonial historian at Oxford University. "Some of them have slavery, some don't; some have emerging industries, others don't; some have a wealth of resources, others not as much."
"There's also the religious factor to consider," said Sir Wolfen von Blitzer, an expert on religious matters at the University of Koln in Germany. "Some colonies have limits on Catholics, for example. Some colonies require membership in a particular church for selection to local offices. And there are many faiths represented in the delegates. Every nation has a state church, yet it appears the Americans cannot do this without alienating large segments of the public."
Those inside the constitutional convention, however, say they're still optimistic despite all the dire predictions.
"We're making progress every day," said Jedediah J. Helms, an observer representing North Carolina. "I don't think anyone expected us to get anywhere nearly as far as we have. We believe in what we're doing. We believe doing it right is worth taking the time."
Still, others expressed concerns about possible military invasion by rival powers, including Spain and France, both of which have territory adjacent to the colonies.
"If they're not settled, it might be easy to invade and claim some of the prime territory," said Juan Morfordarode, a military historian at the University of Barcelona in Germany. "The longer matters remain unsettled, the more likely an invasion becomes."
The delegates will continue meeting, even though they have already missed five deadlines for having a draft ready for the 13 former colonies represented at the convention.