Lessons from the Beginning


by Michael Gaddy, ©2016, blogging at The Rebel Madman

John Dickinson was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 from Delaware

(May 18, 2016) — Author’s note: This will be a multi-part presentation in response to several requests for more information on the founding era of our country, which in many cases is contrary to what we were all taught in history and government/civics classes. It is also beneficial to understand the motives of many at the very beginning of our country. Such motives will provide insight into what our government has morphed into during its existence.

Among us in our country today are those who are strong advocates of an omnipotent, centralized government whose every law must be obeyed and every wish granted without question or discussion, much less dissent. What are the origins of those beliefs? Could it be a desire for a king as one sees in the Scriptures (I Samuel Chapter 8) when the Israelites asked Samuel to “make us a king to judge us like all the nations?” (v 5 SKJV) Was this the first recorded act of people rejecting Natural Law in favor of the laws of man (a king)?

Of particular interest is the use of the word “nations” in the above passage. The definition of a nation is an “aggregate” of people united in one form or another. Today, this is most often interpreted as an aggregate of people united under one leader or form of government that cannot be divided. “I pledge allegiance to the flag…one nation…indivisible.” Was a nation the end results of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 or did the majority of our founders choose to implement a different form of government? To best understand this, one must comprehend what brought those delegates to Philadelphia in the summer of 1787.

To better comprehend the events of the convention of 1787 we must be aware of the motives of those who pushed politically for that convention and the type of government they would present to the other delegates. A great place for examining these motives can be found in what was called the “Proceedings of Commissioners to Remedy Defects of the Federal Government” held on the 11th of September in 1786 in Annapolis, Maryland.


Several among those known as our “founders” were troubled early on about the limitations that had been placed on the powers of government by the Articles of Confederation which were ratified in 1781. Troubling to anyone whose goal was a nationalist form of government as opposed to a federal one was Article 2 of these Articles.

“Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.” (Emphasis added. This is a critical phrase of understanding concerning forms of government)

Even more troubling to those desiring a more centralized powerful government was the following phrase of Article XIII.

“…nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.” (This is exactly what the proponents of a national form of government sought to avoid.)

Those who sought to use the government to exercise power and dominion over the people realized the citizens of the 13 colonies held wide and varying beliefs on the role of government in their lives and obtaining the affirmation of all 13 in the pursuit of a national government would be impossible. The first to strike upon a scheme for alteration of the Articles and the very limited government they formed was Alexander Hamilton. In 1782, the New York Assembly, at the urging of Hamilton, asked the Congress to call for a convention of the states to revise the Articles. In 1785, the Massachusetts Legislature seconded the request to Congress. Congress considered the request but could not find a consensus for such an assembly in the other states.

James Madison then moved through the Virginia Assembly in January of 1786 for a meeting in Annapolis, Maryland in September to discuss “commercial problems” alleged to be in the Articles.

Only 12 delegates from 5 states met in Annapolis to discuss these commercial issues. Obviously, the assemblies of the other 8 states saw no compelling reason to attend this convention nor were they overly concerned about “defects of the Federal Government.” Illustrative was the fact that even though the convention was held in Annapolis, Maryland, no delegates from Maryland were in attendance.

I believe to understand the importance of who these delegates were and what their individual motives were is critical to understanding this important but overlooked part of our country’s history.

What should be most revealing is the fact John Dickinson of Delaware was unanimously elected Chairman of the proceedings. Why is this important you ask? Well, Dickinson steadfastly opposed American Independence from the beginning and refused to vote on or sign the Declaration of Independence. This alone should cause one to question his motives concerning alteration of the Articles of Confederation.

Interesting also is the fact the other 11 delegates to the Annapolis Convention were politicians and/or lawyers. Possibly, the only attendee who believed in a limited form of government was St. George Tucker from Virginia. It should be noted that Alexander Hamilton, one of the delegates from New York, had founded the Bank of New York in 1784 which was referred to as a “global financial services” company.

Ironically, Hamilton in September of 1789, acting as our first Secretary of the Treasury, would initiate a loan from the bank he helped found to the new United States Government. Surely we can all agree on how helpful and supportive global financial interests have been toward limited republican government over the course of our country’s history.

But, James Madison, who is called the Father of our Constitution, was instrumental in promoting the Annapolis Convention and was, in fact, a delegate, you exclaim! True, but, I do believe Madison was a nationalist and fostered an agenda contrary to a federal/republican form of government. This became most apparent with his authoring of the Virginia Plan in April of 1787, at least a month before the convention. A plan in which Madison believed the “states should be reduced to corporations.” An idea later supported by both Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler.

The background and agendas of some of the other delegates to the Annapolis Convention deserve some investigation. One such delegate was Tench Coxe from Pennsylvania. After the British Army occupied Philadelphia during the Revolution, Coxe continued to carry on a thriving business with both Loyalists and the British Army. When the Patriots took over Philadelphia, Coxe left, only to return when the British Army retook Philadelphia under British General Howe in 1777. Several Patriots accused Coxe of having “British sympathies” and he was also accused of briefly serving in the British Army.

Important was the fact delegates from only 5 states, certainly not a majority, fully admitted in their report to exceeding the “strict bounds of their appointment(s)” as delegates to the Annapolis Convention. It is important to note this fact, for it will continue.

“If in expressing this wish, or in intimating any other sentiment, your Commissioners should seem to exceed the strict bounds of their appointment, they entertain a full confidence, that a conduct, dictated by an anxiety for the welfare, of the United States, will not fail to receive an indulgent construction.”

Again, it is important to note that “the anxiety for the welfare of the United States” was never shown to be present in a majority of the states, indicated by the lack of attendance at this convention, but was present only in these select few whose motives would, because of their past actions, be at best, suspect.

At the convention in Annapolis, which led directly to the call for delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 we have the following:

  1. A chairman (Dickinson) elected unanimously who had refused to sign the Declaration of Independence and had opposed American independence and separation from the Crown.
  2. An influential member of the delegation (Hamilton) who had been the first to call for this convention and had recently formed a bank with at the time professed global financial interests. Were those interests connected to the Bank of England perchance, and is it simply coincidence Hamilton would become our first Secretary of the Treasury and would then call for a United States Bank which Thomas Jefferson called “unconstitutional?”
  3. Another member of this delegation (Coxe) was known to give aid and comfort to the British during the revolution while profiting from the act and is alleged to have possibly served briefly in the military of the British.
  4. Then, of course, there was James Madison who, months before the Convention of 1787 wrote a new plan for government that was nationalist and not federal and who throughout his political career would change his political views to comport with the exigencies of the moment. Ample evidence of this fact can be found in his vacillations concerning States Rights.

Conspicuously absent from this convention was any support or mention of the motives and principles of the Articles of Confederation which led to our country’s independence or the values of Liberty expressed by patriots such as Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams. Would it be of interest to know why these two patriots were not selected as delegates?

There can be little doubt that the Annapolis Convention led to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and a departure from several key principles of the Articles of Confederation; arguably, some good—some bad.

Should we the people be alarmed that the proponents and leaders of the Annapolis Convention were perhaps still loyal to England and perhaps even the Bank of England and desirous of either a return to a monarchy in which they would be the leaders, or at the very least a government of a national character not at all unlike the despotic government we have today?

There are no doubt those delegates from the Annapolis Convention sought to bring about change outside of the dictates of the Articles of Confederation and the Congress of the United States. Why? I believe the answer to that question will be revealed as we continue with our study of the founding era of America.

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