Friday, September 5, 2008

Opinion: The U.S. Constitution and Georgia Men

"Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world."
- Daniel Webster

As the United States of America gets ready to honor the 221st anniversary of the framing of the US Constitution, we, as Americans, should make it our goal to learn more about this legendary document. As children, our teachers taught us the basics of where the Constitution was written and who signed it from each state. We also learned about the Bill of Rights and the amendments.

Now, as adults, we start to realize the importance of this document in our lives. It provides the basis of the freedoms we enjoy. The freedom of speech, the freedom to worship, the right to bear arms, the right to vote are just a few of the many privileges we enjoy in America.

Who were the men who framed the Constitution? Who were the men who represented Georgia? How many men were elected to represent Georgia?

William Few (1748-1828) and Abraham Baldwin (1754-1807) are the two men of the state of Georgia who signed the Constitution in 1787. Did you know that a total of six Georgia men were appointed to attend the convention? Two of men did not attend and two others, William Leigh Pierce and William Houston, were not there for the majority of the debates.

Both Pierce and Houston were Georgia natives. Pierce made his home in Savannah and was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. Pierce did participate in several debates on key points. He favored strengthening of the federal government as long as the states still retained some power. Pierce left the convention early as his business in Savannah suffered, and eventually went bankrupt. He died shortly after in 1789.

Born in Savannah, Houston enjoyed a childhood of privilege. His father was highly involved in the royal government of Georgia. He returned home to Georgia from his schooling in England when the Revolutionary War began. He is known for his belief in colonists' rights, and is one of the original trustees of the University of Georgia. Houston died in 1813.

The 55 men who attended the convention had much to say. These delegates, or deputies, were appointed by the legislatures of the 13 states. Some of the deputies left early as Pierce and Houston did. Others who were appointed to attend did not. Why? Was it not convenient? Was it a sense of not comprehending the importance of revising the Articles of Confederation? Was it a shirk of their duty? We don't know the answers. What we do know is the masterpiece document that these men framed.

The words of Benjamin Franklin, in a speech delivered to the convention in late June 1787, provide a glimpse for us: "....In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, — if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other."

Could the framers have imagined the longevity of our Constitution?

Celebrate, American citizens. Read the Constitution. Honor the Constitution. Protect the Constitution.

Ann Eldredge

Editor's Note: National Constitution Week is rapidly approaching. Kudos to the organizations who strive to increase our awareness of the Constitution, and a special kudos to the James Waldrop Chapter DAR of Fayetteville and Fayette County, whose endeavors with regards to educating the school children and adults has become well known and honored beyond our area. Take a few moments and view the videos released last year.

Part 1 Constitution Week Video
Part 2 Constitution Week Video
Fayette Front Page
Georgia Front Page

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