Inventing America: Making a Government
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Inventing America: Making a Government

October 9, 2019

(thoughtful music) – [Announcer] From Dewitt
Theater on the campus of Hope College in
Holland, Michigan we bring you Inventing America. Tonight we meet four delegates
to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, James Madison of Virginia, Alexander Hamilton of New York, Benjamin Franklin
of Pennsylvania, and Gouverneur Morris
of Pennsylvania. Now here is your
moderator, Fred Johnson. (applause) – Good evening and
welcome to our program. In episode one, Making a
Nation, we talked about how the 13 American
colonies declared their independence
from Great Britain. That historic event took place
at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia,
what we now call Independence Hall,
in July of 1776. The colonies did
indeed make good on their Declaration
of Independence. The Continental Army
under the command of General George Washington
drove out the British, then they established
a new nation under the Articles
of Confederation. But things did not work out
quite as they had hoped, why not? Well, tonight we’re
going to find out. We’ll also find out what the
founding father’s did about it and how they changed the world. Each of our guests took
part in a momentous debate between May and September, 1787, a mere four months that
determined the fate of the new United
States of America. Their mission was to create
a working government. One of our guests was
so anxious to get on with this business, he
arrived 11 days early. While he waited for the
others, he drew up a plan. But the question
was, would it work? Or would it be another failed
attempt at self-government? We begin our
discussion this evening with a great little
man from Virginia, we also know him as the
Father of the Constitution and the fourth President
of the United States. Please welcome to our
program Mr. James Madison. (applause) (speech drowned out by applause) Welcome Mr President,
please have a seat. – May I lie down? – Lie down? I’m afraid we don’t have a sofa. – Oh, well, I speak
better when I’m lying, (audience laughing) but since there’s no couch, I guess I shall
have to take a seat. – You speak better
when you’re lying? I thought you always
told the truth. – Well, I did, I do. General Washington
always told the truth. He never told a lie. Do you know the story about
his father’s cherry tree? – Of course, every
schoolchild does. – Well it didn’t happen. (audience laughing) It was a lie, but
the moral was true. You could not, would
not, God forbid, lie in 18th Century Virginia. – Why not? – Because English law, you would get your ears
nailed to a pillory and followed by 20
lashes on the back. – That sounds like cruel
and unusual punishment. – Well, look it up. Virginia Statutes,
1723, Volume 127. My mentor, Mr. Jefferson,
pointed it out to me. Have you seen his
library at Monticello? It’s really magnificent. – So your mentor is
Thomas Jefferson? – Ah yes, indeed. It was Mr. Jefferson
that got me interested in changing archaic
laws, like that one that emanated from
monarchial rule. We worked together for
some time on that project. I was 25 years old at the time when I came under his influence. I helped him prepare a
Virginia constitution after we declared our
independence in 1776. I guess I was quite
impressionable at that time. – At 25, shouldn’t
you have been fighting in Washington’s army? – I suppose it’s no
fluke that they call me Little Jemmy Madison. I was frail, slight of
build, nervous temperament, subject to panic attacks,
and allergic to dust. (laughing) – So, you were 4-F. – I beg your pardon? – 4-F, it’s a ranking
system for military fitness. – Well, in any way I was
unfit for military service, so I went into politics. (laughing) Now thanks to Mr. Jefferson, he got me elected to
the Federal Convention because he couldn’t come. – Why not? – Well, he was in Paris
serving as an envoy in France. But we agreed to keep
in correspondence. He wanted to keep his
hand in this business even from across the Atlantic. – You mentioned that this
pillorying and whipping were stemming from
monarchial rule. Can you explain that? – Well, those were mild
compared to other punishments. For example the
punishment for slander was to have a spike driven
through your tongue. The punishment for burglary was to have your back
broken on a wheel. Abolishing cruel and
unusual punishments were just one of the
accomplishments we had achieved with the Virginia
Declaration of Rights. It became part of the
state constitution. Others were assuring freedom
of religion, of the press, trial by jury. Just as I had helped Mr.
Jefferson prepare these ideas for the Virginia
state constitution, I also helped George Mason write the Virginia
Declaration of Rights. These served as partly our model for our work in Philadelphia. – The so-called Virginia Plan? – Call it what you will. I got Governor Randolph,
the governor of Virginia, to introduce it, so I suppose you could call it
the Randolph Plan. Somebody even called it Little
Jemmy’s Big Bright Idea. (laughing) But it stirred up
objections from the first. – How come? – The making of a
federal constitution was not our mandate. Our mandate was to really revise the Articles of Confederation
that had been adopted by the Continental Congress
after declaring independence. – What was wrong with them? – Well, the Articles
served us well and served us well
enough in wartime when we were united
against a common enemy. But after the
cannon smoke cleared they proved woefully inadequate. They did little more than
unite the states in name. Each state coined its own money, levied its own taxes, it even conducted its
own foreign policy. Virginia even had a Treaty
of Amity with France. But that was not
our biggest problem. – It wasn’t? – No, The Virginia Plan
was considered radical because it was based on
republican principles. The term republican, with
a small R, is pejorative. The term was used to
attack the credibility of one’s political opponents. – That’s so hard to grasp because there are so
many republics today. – Ah, but in the 18th Century, monarchy was still the standard. It had been for centuries. Talk about cruel and
unusual punishments. Monarchies had ruled by
blood in more ways than one. That’s the way they
stayed in power. – I see. – Have you read the Bible? – Well, I flip through
it every now and– – Look, look even the
Bible endorses monarchy. Look at Samuel, first
Samuel chapter eight. The ancient Israelites
demanded a king like every other nation. Monarchy had
history on its side. Rome had a republic, but
it didn’t last very long. England tried it in the 17th
Century with a dictator, but that didn’t last. We knew when we were
going to Philadelphia we had the odds
stacked against us. We knew we were doing something
that would change the world. Mr. Hamilton, from New York, he was the one who tried
to get people together to figure out what to
do with these things. He couldn’t even get
enough people to show up. – Let’s ask him about that. Indeed, our next guest was
the one most responsible for organizing the
Constitutional Convention. Born in the West Indies,
he came to North America as a young man and
received his education at King’s College in New York, what is Columbia
University today. He later distinguished
himself as an aide-de-camp to General George Washington. He also established the
nation’s financial system as the first Secretary
of the Treasury. Please welcome to our program from the State of New York,
Mr. Alexander Hamilton. (applause) Sir, it is an honor,
if not a miracle to have you on the program. (laughing) – I’m not entirely sure
what you mean by that, but thank you. – If I’m not mistaken, you
weren’t the only delegate at the Convention who
wasn’t American-born. – That depends on how
you define American. Seven of the delegates
were British-born, the upper crust in the
old British tradition. I was not. Now was I American-born? You tell me. I was born on the island
of Nevis in the Caribbean, an island so tiny
and insignificant that Columbus didn’t even
bother to explore it. But it was not the
place of my birth but rather the circumstances for which I was
looked down upon. – Circumstances? – Indeed, my birth
was the subject of the most
humiliating criticism. I didn’t know who my father was, nor did I know the
year I was born. Do you know what
John Adams called me? – No, what did he call you? – The bastard brat of
a Scottish peddler. (laughing) That’s what he called me. – Well, people sometimes say
things they want to take back. – Well, he never did. It’s just as well
he went to England. – Why did he go there? – Congress appointed
him minister to the Court of Saint
James, God help us. At least he confined
his mischief to London. – Chances are that America
wouldn’t be independent without Mr. Adams. – They said the same
of Jefferson in my day. It’s just as well
he stayed in France. I never had much
use for him either. – Careful what you say
about Mr. Jefferson, sir. – I beg your pardon, sir. I forget that you were
one of his acolytes. – Now Mr. Hamilton,
you were describing the circumstances of your birth. – Yes, the man I
suspected was my father, the Scottish peddler as
Mr. Adams called him, deserted my mother
when I was a lad. They were never legally married. After that my mother moved
to the island of Saint Croix and supported my older brother
and me by keeping a shop. Then she contracted
a fever and died. – How old were you then? – 11, perhaps 12. I passed myself off as 13 so
that I could gain employment. My brother and I were adopted by a cousin who later
committed suicide. We never saw each other again. Next I was adopted by a merchant who I came to suspect
was my real father. His name was Thomas Stevens. – Now why did you think
he was your father? – He had a son, Edward,
that many people said looked very much like me. Edward and I were the best of
friends, if not half brothers. My real name could’ve
been Alexander Stevens, not Alexander Hamilton. – So I take it that
he never let on. – No, he never did, but
through his influence I gained employment on
the island as a clerk at an import-export firm. When the owner went on
vacation he put me in charge. It was my introduction
to business and finance, it opened my eyes to the world. When I was 16, or
perhaps 17 or 18 as I was never completely
sure of my age, I sailed to Boston and
I never looked back. – [Fred] So you came to
North America by yourself, as a teenager– – And as an orphan. General Washington
was the closest thing I ever had to a father. There was no one to
whom I was more indebted for my good fortune. – So you were an orphan. How did you meet
General Washington? – After the first shot
was fired at Lexington I joined a volunteer
militia in New York. Most of us were King’s
College students. I raised an artillery company,
fought in several battles, and rose through the ranks to become General
Washington’s aide-de-camp. Before long he had me
drafting letters to Congress, to his generals, to the
governors of the states. He even had me issue
orders in his name. – Well, he must have placed
a great deal of trust in you. – Oh, he did, and I reciprocated
with diligence and loyalty. He was, as I said,
like a father to me. – How long were you
his aide-de-camp? – Four years, right up
to Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown. I knew how frustrated
the general was with the scant support he
received from Congress, yet we won the war. It wasn’t until after Yorktown
that I learned firsthand how powerless Congress was. – How did you find out? – When I sent a messenger
to tell them of our victory at Yorktown, the
messenger on his return told me that Congress
did not have enough money to pay his expenses. – That’s a pretty loose
way to do business. – Under the Articles
of Confederation, Congress had neither
purse nor sword to govern the 13 states. It had no taxing authority. It relied on voluntary
contributions. – Sir, may I interject
something here? – Of course. – It wasn’t just
Congress’s inability to tax that was the rub. It was that states acted
out of self-interest to the detriment
of their neighbors. New Jersey, situated between
Philadelphia and New York, was like a cask
tapped at both ends. North Carolina, between
Virginia and South Carolina, was like a, like a patient
bleeding at both arms. – So Madison, are you
saying that when your state, Virginia, seized vessels
for non-payment of duties that that action wasn’t
aimed at England or Spain but at New York? – Sir, what I am saying
is that political evils often stem from commercial ones. I understand and will
admit that my state was not less guilty than yours. But isn’t this why we
came to Philadelphia? – Well, gentlemen, it was
certainly one of the reasons. – We tried to correct the
situation at Annapolis the previous year, but
it didn’t work out. Do you know how many
delegates showed up? – No. – 12, 12 delegates
from five states. That includes present company. We couldn’t raise a quorum. The country was in a malaise. So we decided to call
another convention. I doubt we could
have pulled it off without Shays’ Rebellion. – Shays’ Rebellion? – Yes, it started
in Massachusetts about the same time
we met in Annapolis. It was a protest led by
a former army captain named Daniel Shays against
the seizure of farms seized from debts incurred
during the Revolutionary War. Shays and his men marched
with staves and pitchforks on county courthouses
and frightened people out of their wits. Congress asked the states
for troops and money to quell the rebellion, but
the request was ignored. – As you said, Congress had
neither purse nor sword. – Anarchy was in the air. I quote from a letter I received from General Washington
from Mount Vernon after he received the
news from Massachusetts. He writes, the United States
exhibits melancholy proof of what our transatlantic foe, he’s referring to England,
our mother country, what our transatlantic
foe predicted: that mankind is unfit
to govern itself. – That must have
been discouraging. – Shays’ Rebellion proved to
be a blessing in disguise. It spurred us to action. So we set another
date, May 14th, 1787, to meet in Philadelphia. – Did all 13 states
show up this time? – 12 did. Rhode Island, or Rogue Island or as I prefer to
call her, stayed home. – According to my journal, 12 states appointed
74 delegates. Of that number, 55 showed up. – Let’s see, that’s
means 19 did not show up. That’s more than a fourth. – And most of those
who did were late, including Dr. Franklin. We had arranged for him to
nominate General Washington to be president
of the convention. When he didn’t show up we
got Robert Morris to do it. – Seven states, just
enough for a quorum, were seated on May 25th, and that is when the
convention began. – Well I’m curious as
to why the religiously early-to-bed, early-to-rise
Dr. Franklin was late. – Well, you’d have to ask him. – I will. Ladies and gentlemen, it is an
honor to have on our program one of the world’s preeminent
philosopher-statesmen, scientists, and inventors. After serving as our
country’s Minister to France, he returned home to his old seat at the Pennsylvania State House. But this time it wasn’t
to birth a nation, but to help figure
out how to run it. Please welcome the first
citizen of Philadelphia, Dr. Benjamin Franklin. (applause) – Hello. Oh, oh my, aren’t you lovely? (laughing) Oh, to be 70 again. (laughing) Oh, mm. – Welcome, sir. I was afraid you
might not make it. – It seems I’m late for
everything as I get older. Just call me the
late Dr. Franklin. – Better late than
never, Dr. Franklin. – (laughs) My dear
Madison, I shan’t be late as long as I can sit. Besides, it’s
better to die lying. (laughing) – Well, I’m just
glad you’re here. – Yes, oh! I want to show you something. Here, here, there it is. That’s a sedan chair, a gift
to me by Marie Antoinette. It helped me maneuver the
cobbled streets of Versailles. It’s easier on my gout
than riding in a carriage. – [Fred] I am impressed. – (laughing) Yes. Oh, uh, you mentioned Annapolis where 12 delegates showed up. That wasn’t the first
time that we attempted to establish a federal union. We tried it at Albany
at the beginning of the French and
Indian War, in 1754. Our purpose was to
establish a combined defense against the French. Well, that was before Her
Majesty took a shine to me. – Long before, Dr. Franklin. In 1754, she was an infant. (laughing) – Yes, I stand corrected. Just the same, I
proposed an Albany plan, a Plan of Union with a president
appointed by the Crown. – [Fred] What happened? – Ah, the plan, the
plan was rejected. The colonies were not ready
to give up their sovereignty, but that wasn’t the worst of it. No, no, the trip home
almost killed me. The boat I was riding in
coming down the Hudson, it sprang a leak and sank. Luckily I made it to the shore. – So the Albany Plan
went down with your boat. – Yeah, (laughs) yes. Well as I say, travel
was difficult for me. You would think I’d
have learned my lesson. – But at the
Constitutional Convention you were only three blocks
from home, Dr. Franklin. – Yes, that’s true. I had seen more of
the world than most, but at my age it was a burden
just to cross the street. – So why were you late? – Ah, the gout, my
friend, and the rain. Like mercury and
water, they do not mix. So, I stayed in bed. I had a similar affliction at the Second
Continental Congress. Otherwise, it might
have been yours truly instead of Mr. Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration
of Independence. – Speaking of Mr. Jefferson, didn’t he replace you
as Minister to France? – Succeeded was the word
he used when he wrote to me on the subject. He said Dr. Franklin
could not be replaced. – Oh, oh. (laughing) Well, that was generous
of him. (chuckles) Speaking of generosity,
I must say Mr. Jefferson was as generous with the
French ladies as I. (laughs) – Mr. Jefferson, sir, was
much younger than you. (laughing) – Touche. Nonetheless, before I
departed from France I noticed a young lady to whom he was paying
particular attention. Yes, oh, she wasn’t a
Frenchwoman, no, no, she was a mulatto who appeared had recently come of age, a maid servant to his
daughter, no less. Oh, what was her name? Ah, he called her Sally. – Yes, we know
about Sally Hemings. – Is that so? Well, it is difficult to keep
these things quiet, you know. The whole world knew
about my illegitimate son, William, who become
the royal governor of the colony of New Jersey and then left for
England as a loyalist. His deserting me in my old age
grieved me to my dying day. Oh, and then there
was Gouverneur Morris, my fellow member
from Pennsylvania, yeah, the one with
the wooden leg. – [Fred] He happens
to be our next guest. – [Benjamin] Oh, well then, let him tell you
about his wooden leg. – I think I will. Our next guest is one of our
lesser known founding fathers but he deserves a
place in our history because of the
crucial role he played at the Constitutional
Convention. Not only did he give more
speeches than anyone else– – 173. – Thank you, 173 speeches, but he proved
himself quite skilled with the written word as well. He is the unsung hero
of the U.S. Constitution as well as one of the more
colorful characters behind it. Please welcome, from the
State of Pennsylvania, Mr. Gouverneur Morris. (applause) Thank you for joining us. – It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s nice to be
recognized, finally. – Dr. Franklin mentioned
your wooden leg. If you’ll pardon my
impertinence, sir, may I ask you how you
came to acquire it? – Oh tell him, Gouv. It could have
happened to any of us. Well, except Madison, perhaps. (laughing) He’s much too straight-laced to get into any
such fix as you did. – Well, I was run
over by a carriage. – Go on, tell him the
rest of the story. – I was jumping out of a window. (laughing) – And why, pray tell,
were you doing that? – Are you trying to make
me testify against myself? – This is not a
court of law, Gouv, nor am I an attorney. Perhaps we should have Mr.
Hamilton ask these questions. – All right, I jumped
out of a window when the husband of
the lady I was visiting came into the room. (laughing) I landed in the street. – Well, obviously Madison
doesn’t see the humor in this. – I don’t. – My dear bachelor
friend, as I told you back in 1787, I
suspected there would be a dolly in your future one day, and I expressed the
hope that she would be as worthy of you as
you would be of her. – I do remember,
Doctor, thank you. – Gentlemen, you just
proved something important. Too often we think of
our founding fathers as marbled saints, when in fact
you were normal human beings with normal human frailties. Somehow I find that comforting. – Ah, but when I
wrote Mr. Jefferson and informed him of our
assembly when he was in Paris, he called us an
assembly of demigods. (laughing) – Well, well, I don’t
know whether the gentleman spoke in reverence or in jest, but human nature is what it is. – Which brings us back
to the constitution. People are always
complaining about government, how it controls their lives. Why do we need it? – Well, if men were angels, no government
would be necessary. – Can you elaborate? – Well, the reason
for government is that we are men, not angels. The chief difficulty
in framing a government that is to be administered
by men is this: first you must
enable the government to control the
governed, and then, you must oblige it
to control itself. – How did you accomplish that? – Well, we didn’t. The constitution is
and always will be a work in progress. – So tell me how
you began, then. – Well, as I said, we began
with the Virginia Plan. It called for two chambers, an upper house
and a lower house, similar to the British system. – I guess old
traditions die hard. – Independence from
England did not rule out our adopting
worthy elements of her government for our own. This included a
bicameral legislature, the lower house
elected by the people, and an upper house elected
by the lower house. The Virginia Plan also called for a separate
executive and judiciary. Mr. Jefferson and I
introduced these ideas when we were helping to write the Virginia State Constitution. And I thought to myself, might not these same
ideas be proposed with a few modifications for a
federal constitution as well? – Was the Virginia
Constitution your only model for the federal government? – No, no. I wrote Mr. Jefferson in France and asked him to send me books on ancient and
modern confederacies that might throw
light on the subject. Well, after a while
the books came in by the box load, books on
history and philosophy, books on political theory
and laws of nations. Some of the books he sent to me were by Montesquieu
and d’Albon, Rousseau. Some were remarkably
out of print. Here’s one I’ve not read yet, Voltaire’s Treatise
on Tolerance, 1763. – May I see it? I had the pleasure of making
Voltaire’s acquaintance when I was Minister to France. Oh my. (blowing) – Oh, ah! (coughing)
(laughing) – I forgot you’re
allergic to dust. – Would you like
a glass of water? – Here, try this. It helped me when I lost my leg. – What is it?
(sniffing) Oh, ugh. – West Indian rum. What island it comes
from I don’t recall, but I do know that it works. (coughing) Ask Hamilton, he might
know where it comes from. – Saint Croix, Cruzan. I used to export this stuff. [Gouverneur Morris] Let
Franklin have a try of it. – Oh, you take it. – No, sorry, not to my taste. Would you like some? – No, thank you, I’m working. – Oh.
(laughing) You don’t drink
when you’re working? Ah, I wish I could say the same for my colleagues
at the state house, but, why, of course
we weren’t paid. – So nobody could fire us. (laughing) – Gentlemen, if we could
return to the subject at hand. – Oh, yes, yes, of course. Well, as we lacked a quorum, I invited these gentlemen
and General Washington and a few others to my
home on Market Street. There under the mulberry
tree in my courtyard we discussed Mr. Madison’s plan over a cask of fine French wine. (laughing) We assented to Mr.
Madison’s plan in principle and discussed how we might
present it at the Convention. – That assumed we wouldn’t
be left high and dry again. – Finally, on May 25th,
we had enough delegates for a quorum. The first order of
business was to choose General Washington, the election of Washington
president to preside. The second was to vote on
a motion by Mr. Hamilton of New York on conducting
our business in secret. I did not agree with it,
nor did Mr. Jefferson when I informed
him of the outcome. – Sir, had the
deliberations been open, the clamors of faction
would have prevented any satisfactory result. Had they been
disclosed afterwards, much fuel would have been fed
to inflammatory declamation. Even the General insisted
that nothing be printed or reported to the outside. Otherwise, how could
we have debated freely? – So the deliberations all
took place behind closed doors. Mr. Madison, When did you
present the Virginia Plan? – That came next. We had broken the plan
down into 15 Resolves. I got Edmund Randolph to
introduce it as suggestions from the Virginia delegation. – That sounds like a good start. – Not a voice rose in protest. For a moment I thought
all 15 Resolves would pass without debate
and we could go home with a new government. Not so. When the weight of what had
been presented had settled in, all hell broke loose. – What happened? – Charles Pinckney
of South Carolina accused us of violating
our mandate from Congress, which was merely to revise
the Articles of Confederation, not to create a
new constitution. – You alluded to that earlier. – Well then others
joined the attack. Did we intend to abolish
the state governments in favor of a
national government? – That’s where my friend Mr.
Morris came to the rescue. – I argued what
was being proposed was a federal government,
not a national one, that a federal government
was nothing more than a compact that
rested on the good faith of the consenting parties. A national government,
on the other hand, would be a complete and
compulsive operation. – Ah, you always had a
way with words, Gouv. – I argued that when the powers
of the national government clashed with the states, only
then should the states yield. Better to have a
supreme government now than a despot 20 years hence. – National, federal, supreme. You throw around all these terms to describe a
central government, but they all sound
the same to me. I’m confused. (laughing) – Well don’t think we weren’t. When we finally settled
on a distinction, we found ourselves
split into two groups: the Nationalists
and the Federalists. Now, the small states,
Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, and New Jersey, they
favored a continuation of the loose federation of
states with only minor changes. The larger states,
Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North
Carolina, they wanted a strong national government. The others, well,
they stood in between. – The delegates
agreed in concept to the idea of two
houses of Congress. But the agreement broke
down when we began to debate how they should be represented. The smaller states wanted
equal representation from all the states,
one state, one vote. The larger states wanted
proportional representation by population. They both insisted on this rule for the upper house as well,
which we call the Senate. – Not the House of Lords? – No, we stopped emulating
British governance by inheritance long ago. – So how did you come
up with the term senate? – We borrowed it
from the Romans. – You know what it
means, don’t you? It comes from the Latin
word, senex, old man. The same as senile. (laughing) – Well it wasn’t our intention to stack the senate
with senile old men. (laughing) Rather, it was to create a forum in which wise and
sober consideration may be given to the
legislation of the lower house, like a council of elders. This was not just
from the Romans times. This went back to
earliest civilization. – You said that the upper
house will be chosen by the lower house,
not the people. You’re not talking
about a pure democracy. – Mr. Morris makes
the distinction between a national governments
and federal governments. We must also make a distinction between democracy
and the republic. – You mean they’re not
the same thing either? – Not exactly. A democracy gives power
to the people directly. A republic gives power to
those chosen by the people. This is where the element
of age and wisdom come in. – A democracy does not
permit vigorous execution. It is therefore bad. – But, is there any better form? – So gentlemen,
how did you solve the issue of representation? – Well, we didn’t. William Patterson of New Jersey submitted an alternative
to Mr. Madison’s plan. It called for one house
with one vote per state, which I favored, and an
executive without veto power, which I opposed. – The debate on Mr.
Patterson’s plan only impeded our progress. After three days
it was voted down, and we were back to square one. We then took up
the Virginia Plan that talked of two houses. Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut moved once more to drop
the notion of a Senate based on popular representation. He insisted that every
state in the upper house be represented by
one state, one vote. On this he insisted, and
on this he would not yield, thus we were at an impasse. – Alas, the fate of America
suspended by a hair. – But then Dr.
Franklin did something that confounded all of us. He implored us to seek
divine intervention. – Gentlemen, if I may. Whenever you assemble
a number of men to gain the advantage
of their joint wisdom, you inevitably gather with them all of their prejudices,
their passions, their errors in judgment,
and their selfish views. Moreover, the longer I live
the more convinced I am that God governs in
the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to
the ground without his notice, is it probable that a nation
can rise without his aid? And so yes, gentlemen, I
did implore the Convention to look to heaven
for assistance. – Sir, the last thing we
needed was foreign aid. – Oh. (laughing) – I thought it madness to
trust the future to miracles. – Dr. Franklin, amidst
all this rancor, how did you hold the
Convention together? – (laughs) General Washington. His silence spoke louder
than most men’s words. I never knew a
crowned head in Europe whose bearing and
demeanor equaled his. Did you ever notice,
gentlemen, how, with the slightest gesture
or gaze of the eye, he could signal those
people in his presence to keep a respectful distance? – Nonsense! His demeanor never
intimidated me at all. – Well, then, my friend,
I propose a wager: dinner for our
respective delegates. Should you greet the general,
the next time you see him, with a slap on the back, I pay. Should you not, you pay. Agreed?
– Agreed. I shall greet the general
next time I see him so. – Dr. Franklin, you are a
witness to our wager, correct? – Well, do I have a choice? (laughing) – Mr. Madison, what
happened after Dr. Franklin requested divine intervention? – The general, the
president, then tabled Oliver Ellsworth’s motion on
behalf of the smaller states. This gave us a few
days to cool off. Then we turned our attention
to the executive branch, how many should be chosen,
how they should be chosen, how long they should serve, and how much should
they be paid. Some wanted a three-man
executive council, and some wanted a
single executive
chosen by the Congress. – I argued that the executive as well as the
members of Congress should serve without pay. – What was your
rationale for that? – Well, I believe
that the public good would be better served
by men of public virtue than by swine feeding
at the public trough. I had seen enough
of that in London. (laughing) – Didn’t you say something once about the twelve apostles
serving without pay? – I did, and indeed they did. But I later observed how
ecclesiastical benefices from that humble beginning had grown to the whole
elaborate structure of the papal system. And so in the end, I agreed to the payment of
a modest stipend. – Sir, in my opinion
the crucial question before the Convention
was not how much the executive should be paid, but how he should be chosen, and what should be the
limits of his power? I then asked to take the
floor to make a proposal. – Take us back to
that moment in time. What date are you talking about? – Oh, I’m sure Mr.
Madison wrote it down. – Mr. Hamilton made his
proposal on June 18th, 1787. – My situation is
disagreeable, gentlemen, but it would be criminal
not to come forward on a question of such magnitude. Can any government that
admits vigorous execution be established on
republican principles? No, gentlemen. The English model is the only
good one on this subject. Let one branch of
the legislature hold their positions for life, or at least during
good behavior. Let the executive
also be for life. Let him be given such power that it is not in his
interest to acquire more. (banging) – Hold there, sir. What you are proposing
is a monarch. – What our country needs, sir, is a principle capable of
resisting the popular current. What it needs is an
impartial arbiter able to transcend differences
of class and region. What it needs is a check,
and that check is a monarch. – No sir, I’m sorry,
that will not do. That is precisely what we fought
against in the Revolution. – Even for me, my friend,
your proposal goes too far. – Well, as I wish
to suffer through no further discussion
of Mr. Madison’s plan, I shall take my leave. Good day, gentlemen. – Well, that was interesting. – Mr. Hamilton can often be
completely out of his wits. (laughing) – Weren’t you upset that
he rejected your plan? – Not at all. I was confident the
Convention would find mine in a more benign light. – You do know about Mr.
Hamilton’s childhood, don’t you? – He told us about it. – Yes, well I have a theory
about why he wanted a monarch. – What was it? – Well as a boy, Mr.
Hamilton never had a father, an authority figure
to look up to. It was a void throughout
his childhood. As an adult, he was
always searching for someone to fill that void, someone like General Washington. Don’t you see, gentlemen,
how he transferred his need for authority
from his private life to his public life? – Dr. Franklin, you sound
like a psychologist. – I beg your pardon,
I sound like a what? – A psychologist, someone
who studies the mind. – Oh. Oh, well I don’t believe
I’m familiar with that term. (upbeat drumming) Oh. – General Washington, good day. – Welcome, sir. – My dear general, what
a surprise to see you. How happy I am seeing
you look so well. (laughing) – Gentlemen, I am sorry to
find that a member of this body has been so neglectful of
the secrecy of the convention as to drop a copy of our
proceedings on the floor. This was picked up and
delivered to me this morning. I must entreat you,
gentlemen, to be more careful lest our transactions
get into the newspapers and disturb the public repose. I don’t know whose paper
this is, but here it is. Let he who owns it take it. Where is Colonel Hamilton? – He took his leave early, sir. He grew impatient with
our deliberations. – I’m sorry he left. I despair myself of
seeing a favorable issue to the convention,
and therefore repent of having anything to
do with this business. Whatever the result, I doubt
the new federal government will survive 20 years. But carry on, gentlemen,
and do the best you can. The fate of America
is in your hands. – Aye, sir. – Sir. (upbeat drumming) – Well, Gouv, you
won your wager. – May I die a thousand deaths. – Gentlemen, we still have
the representation issue to settle. Now, our differences
on that matter are the chief obstacle to
us reaching an agreement. With proportional
representation, the smallest states fear
that their liberties will be in danger. With equality of votes,
the larger states fear that their money
will be in danger. We must find a
compromise, gentlemen, else we will fail
in our mission. – How do you propose we do that? – Sometimes we must
abandon a bit of our ideas so that we may unite the whole. Here, when a cabinet maker
makes a table out of two planks and they don’t exactly fit, well he takes a
small bit from each to join them together. In like manner,
both sides must part with some of their
demands in order to join in some accommodating
proposition. Therefore, gentlemen, I propose that a committee be appointed
to break the impasse. – With all due respect, sir, I think we should
proceed with debate. – Oh gentlemen,
gentlemen, hear me out. We were sent hither to consult, not to contend with each other. Now I sense the
intransigence on both sides beginning to ease. Let it ease further with
thoughtful reflection, not declamations
and denouncements. And let it be done by
honorable men from both sides, men who declare to have in
common, the common good. Furthermore, gentlemen,
tomorrow is the Fourth of July. It was on that
date, 11 years ago, that I gave my assent to the
Declaration of Independence. The time is nigh,
gentlemen, when we must establish a government that
will prove to the world that we can indeed
make it on our own. And that is what I
told the delegates on the eve of the
Fourth of July, 1787, the 11th year of
our independence. – What happened after that? – Ah, he president
appointed a committee of 11. For the next two days,
while the rest of us were out celebrating the
anniversary of Independence, they worked on a
compromise proposed by Roger Sherman of Connecticut. His plan called for a
House of Representatives to be elected on the
basis of population and a Senate with an
equal vote for each state. After several more
weeks of back and forth, the Convention voted to
adopt Mr. Sherman’s plan. – Today we call that
the Great Compromise. – Oh, is that so? Yes, well, it was
indeed a compromise, but it was only
through compromise that we were able to
break the impasse. Here, by taking a small
bit from each plank, we were able to keep the
table from collapsing. – It’s a lesson for our time. (applause) – Well, Mr. Hamilton is back. – I changed my mind, gentlemen. When I learned of Mr.
Sherman’s compromise it restored my faith that we
might succeed in this endeavor. – Gentlemen, I don’t wish
to dim your enthusiasm, but there is one more
obstacle to overcome, and that is putting an end to this insidious
institution of slavery. Now, the southern states say that if we continue to debate
the issue, they’ll walk out. What then? – Well, we must
do the best we can as General Washington said. What has been proposed is
that the importation of slaves be prohibited, but not
until the year 1808. – No, no, no, no, that is
not what I would choose, gentlemen, not at all. Nor would I choose as the
basis of apportionment in the lower house the
whole number of free persons and 3/5 of those persons
bound to service. Does that mean that a
slave is to be considered 3/5 of a person? No, no, gentlemen,
this goes against every fiber of my being. But, one must take
what is in one’s hands, and bless it. – What happened to my proposal regarding the chief executive? – Oh, that. Well, we appointed a
committee to look into it. They decided that a
president should be chosen every four years by
electors from each state and that the number of
electors from each state would be equal to the
number of representatives they had in Congress. Call it a, an electoral college. – An electoral what? – An electoral college. – That’s the dumbest
thing I’ve ever heard. (laughing) – But once again, gentlemen, we must take what we can
get through compromise. And that, my friend,
is how it happened. – That was it? – Oh, no, no, no, no, no. Another committee was appointed. (laughing) – Another committee? – Yes, another
committee. (laughing) Oh, Mr. Madison, why don’t
you explain to the gentleman. – Oh, well, it was called the Committee of
Style and Arrangement. I was appointed to it
along with Mr. Morris and Mr. Hamilton. Our task was to prepare the
final draft of the Constitution. After consulting
amongst ourselves, we picked Mr.
Morris to write it. He alone in our
opinion had the ability to clothe the skeleton
in muscles, as he put it, and grace the document
with the dignity that such a document required Mr. Morris? Mr. Morris? – Yes. – Please read for us what
you wrote for the preamble. – The preamble? – Just the preamble. – We the People of
the United States, in Order to form a
more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure
domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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. – Sometimes you do
amaze me, my friend. – I wish I had
written it myself. – Then you won’t mind
singing right there. – Ah. I must confess, gentlemen,
I do not approve of several parts of
this constitution, but I’m not sure that I
shall never approve them. For having lived long,
I have often found instances of being obliged
by better information. The older I get, the more I am
apt to doubt my own judgment and pay respect to the
judgment of others. Therefore, gentlemen, I
agree to this constitution with all its faults,
because I expect no better, and because I am not
sure it is not the best. – (sighing) No man’s
ideas are more remote from this document than mine. Nevertheless, it is
better than nothing. – Better than nothing? Better than nothing? This document will do no less than decide forever the fate
of republican governments. (laughing) – For four months, gentlemen, I have looked up at
the president’s chair and observed the carving of
a sun with outstretched rays. I couldn’t tell if it was a
rising sun or a setting sun. But now, now I
have the happiness to know it is a rising sun. – If I may say so, gentlemen,
the union of so many states is, in the eyes of
the world, a wonder. – The wonder, gentlemen,
is that our union is not a monarchy, but a
republic, if we can keep it. – And so, on
September 17th, 1787, the delegates
finished their work. Today we call it, the
Miracle at Philadelphia. Nobody thought that this
new American republic, this bold experiment in
self-government would last. It has, longer than any
other republic in the world. Still, we might ask
ourselves once in a while as old, wise Ben Franklin
did when it all started, can we keep it? Now, on behalf of
President James Madison, Mr. Alexander Hamilton,
Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Mr. Gouverneur Morris, and
the father of our country, General George Washington, thank you and God bless. (applause) (“America the Beautiful”) – [Voiceover] To order a
copy of Inventing America, Making a Government,
call 1-800-442-2771 or order online at

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