Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Debt, Supremacy, Oaths and Ratification

Article VI of the Constitution, called "Debt, Supremacy and Oaths", is mostly an administrative, rather than structural, section.  Put simply, the first paragraph declares that all debts and contracts entered into by the Confederation shall also be valid with the newly-formed United States, ensuring those countries and other entities to which the former Confederation owed money and other obligations would have their conditions met.

The second paragraph declares that the Constitution, along with any amendments or treaties made under its auspices, shall be the supreme law of the land, not to be overruled by any state or local law, and that all judges and justices must defer to the Constitution at all times.

Finally, the third paragraph obliges all elected officials "...shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution..." and that no religious test of  any sort shall be administered or required for anyone to hold elected office or position of public trust.

Article VII sets forth the conditions for ratification - nine of the states must ratify it in order for the Constitution to take effect, and essentially, for the United States to in fact exist as a new nation.  On September 17, 1787, the Constitutional Convention concluded with the signing of the document by the delegates, and the ratification process was set in motion.  Almost immediately, The Federalist Papers began to appear, authored by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and this blog's namesake, James Madison.  By December of 1787, three states had ratified the Constitution already (DE, PA, NJ) and by early February, 1788, three more (GA, CT, MA - and Massachusetts by an extremely narrow margin! ).  In April and May, MD and SC added their approval and NH's vote in June made the required nine states to ratify.  VA and NY, both in excruciatingly tight votes, came on board in June and July.  NC voted to ratify over a year later, in November of 1789 and RI, by a margin of two votes, weighed in the next year, in May of 1790.  Finally, in January, 1781, VT made it unanimous.

We had a nation, all the states were on board (to one degree of enthusiasm or another), and George Washington had been installed as the first president.  So, the job was now finished and everyone was happy, right?  Not so fast - the Bill of Rights was far from a done deal.

Up next - the Amendments to the Constitution...

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