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On Principle and Pragmatism Ia - U.S. Constitutional Convention [9]

Updated on August 16, 2016

Constitutional Convention

John Lansing Jr.
John Lansing Jr. | Source
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson | Source
George Washington
George Washington | Source
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton | Source
John Adams
John Adams | Source

Pragmatism v Principle

THE PRINCIPLES ON WHICH AMERICA IS FOUNDED, and the virtue for which America stands, are concepts that, to me, are reality. I have no doubt they are just as much a reality to Tom Delay, Barney Frank, Harry Reid, Sharron Angle, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. Likewise, this true for the likes of George Washington (VA), John Adams (MA), Thomas Jefferson (VA), James Madison (VA), Alexander Hamilton (NY), John Lansing Jr. (NY) and Robert Yates (NY) all delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

I drop these names because they represent a cross-section of highly intelligent, patriotic Americans with widely divergent beliefs, both political and religious, on how this country ought to move forward ... to progress. All were principled in the highest possible degree; but only some, the ones you've heard of, were pragmatic as well. You have probably never heard of John Lansing Jr. and Robert Yates. That is because they were State's Rightest to the extreme. These two patriots, and make no mistake, they were as patriotic as any other who attended the Convention, did support the Articles of Confederation but would not have anything to do with a document that would give the central government any further powers. When they understood that whatever form the new constitution was going to take was going to give the central government just that, John Lansing Jr. and Robert Yates stood on Principle and left the Convention. They chose not to compromise.

Of those remaining in my list, we have polar opposites, sometimes violently so. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson are one example while Alexander Hamilton and James Madison are another; George Washington was neutral. Adams and Jefferson's opposition is well known and subject of many books; Hamilton and Madison's ... maybe not so well known.

As everyone should hopefully know from high school, there were many plans for a replacement to the Articles of Confederation presented at the Constitutional Convention, ranging from an extremely weak central government to a very strong one; one that would have made our current form seem pathetic by comparison. Alexander Hamilton, however, wanted an entirely out-of-the-box form of centralized power and proposed that America submit, within certain limits, to a lifetime King who was vested with immense power! (He must of read Hobbes' Leviathon.) Now, he wasn't tarred and feathered on the spot because everybody thought he had a very well reasoned out plan and, more importantly, everyone knew the King would be George Washington. Nevertheless, Hamilton's plan was, how do they say it in Washington (wonder where they got that name from?) today, dead-on-arrival.

In the end, there were 100 days of secret partisan bickering, fighting, and other goings-on that the country has only seen a couple of times since, e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Health Care Reform, etc. In the end though, Pragmatism won. What finally did get through the Constitutional Convention was George Madison's formulation of the bicameral Congress and the Three branches of Government with many of John Adam's beloved checks and balances (Thomas Jefferson was opposed to this concept) in place.

What was this really? This was COMPROMISE! Major compromise. These brave men produced a Living (not dead as some would have you believe today) document which was purposefully vague where it needed to be in order get a consensus of the People and the States. Further, it was meant to grow with the times in order to allow those who follow an ability to adapted; this is why so much flexibility was designed in, but yet was still strong enough to accommodate the beliefs and temperaments of all of those who remained at the Constitutional Convention and saw the difficult process through.

This is Pragmatism combined with the proper amount of Principle. This is NOT "We are going to make sure President Obama is a one-term President and will hold up governing to make it so.". It is NOT, "We will repeal ObamaCare". It IS, on the other hand, "We will work as hard as we can to get our principles into the legislation." It IS "We will try to modify the portions of Health Care Reform we do not like". Pragmatism is the Art of Compromise.

The Constitution of the United States of American was not the Best Candidate for any particular delegate (voter) at the Convention but it was the Best Candidate for America.



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    • My Esoteric profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott Belford 

      10 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Finally, somebody that sees past the Federal-State divide. Now, of course I won't be agreeing with some of the detail you bring up, but you are the first person I have read that understands that it isn't JUST the federal government that needs work. I don't have nearly as pessimistic a view as you, OD, but I am highly critical, nevertheless.

      There is no doubt that the "rich are getting richer" syndrome is alive and well in America as it is in any third world country. But I do lay that at the feet of Conservative philosophy as opposed to Progressive philosophy ... those evil "distribute the wealth" fanatics the Conservatives are so afraid of ... because I see that as a defining difference between the two parties.

      I think that at this point in time, the middle class is absolutely under seige by the Conservatives while the Progressives fidget around ineffectively.

      Note that I am not using Democrats because until recently, there was a large core of Democrats that were of the Conservative bent, which blends in nicely with their Republican brethern. There was a period where the Progressives did have control which did bring about a major improvement in middle class rights and priveledges including the right to form unions, the right to sue your employer, the right not to treated like a slave, etc. It was also a period when tax rates went up significantly on the wealthy, but also came down.

    • OpinionDuck profile image


      10 years ago

      My Esoteric

      I just realized that I have been addressing you as Mr. instead of My. Sorry.

      Again I am disappointed in the lack of hubber response to some very important hubs.I think that it reflects the public at large. Such a sheep people society where for many reasons they just accept rather than analyze and make their own opinions.

      As for the Federalist versus Anti Federalist, I think we have to think beyond history and the Constitution to determine what the US should be based on.

      It seems to me that the more power that the Federal Government takes, the more it will be like the place that the founders of our Constitution came from.

      So I think that no matter what you call it, the Federal Government has to much power. In turn that put a huge tax burden on the people to support such a huge government. Again, this makes the US more like Royal Old England.

      At the same time the States are also taking whatever is left and now they are acting at the state level as the Federal Government is acting at the Country Level.

      The State and even local governments along with the Federal Government are no just huge tax burdens. The overhead of these tax burdens falls mainly on the middle class, a class which is shrinking into the lower class.

      So we have the main tax payer the middle class disappearing and that just leaves the poor and the rich. The poor suck up the tax money in the form of giveaways to them. The rich and corporations hide their money from the taxes using the thousands of tax avoidances and minimizations in the IRC.

      In my opinion it is clear that the country is heading in the wrong direction. There will be a point where the class paying taxes is so small and the government spending is so large that taxing them even at one hundred percent won't have any affect on the budget deficit.


    • My Esoteric profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott Belford 

      10 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Thank you Opinion Duck, I really do appreciate your comments whether I agree with them or not; on this hub or the others you most kindly read yesterday; I hoped you enjoyed them. I am glad you read this one as it gave me the idea for this series. I am currently working on P vs P III. They are turning into a series on the history of the fight between anti-federalist and federalists over the last 200 plus years in America. It is fascinating to me as I didn't understand this was happening until I did the research for this one.

      It also allowed my to fix some rather bad grammer and improve some points I made.

    • OpinionDuck profile image


      10 years ago

      Mr. Esoteric

      I am sorry that I missed this hub when it was created.

      It humbled me, I don't know how to react ot that.

      As for the vote for the best candidate, I agree with you.

      It is really voting for the lesser of two evils.

      It is in many cases a futile attempt to vote for choices presented by either party, but in rare cases a good candidate pops up.

      The main thing is to at least not give control of your vote to any party. You made that point pretty clear here.

      BTW I went through several of your hubs and made comments to them because they were good hubs and they were either not commented or not a lot of comments on them.



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