Supreme Law

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William Paterson

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Supreme Law

What are the Convention about? When will they rise? Will they agree upon a system energetic and effectual, or will they break up without doing anything to the Purpose? Full of Disputation and noisy as the wind, it is said, that you are afraid of the very windows, and have a man planted under them to prevent the Secrets and doings from flying out…. I hope you will not have as much Altercation upon the detail, as there was in settling the Principles of the systems…

-William Paterson to Oliver Ellsworth

The Convention considered giving Congress the power; to make laws for organizing, arming & disciplining the Militia, and for governing such parts of them as may be employed in that service of the U.S. reserving to the States respectively, the appointment of the officers, and authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed.

Gerry (MA) was almost hysterical in his opposition. To give Congress such power reduced the states to drill sergeants. He'd rather see the citizens of Massachusetts disarmed than subjected to the central Government. After much more debate, the proposal was accepted.

At Charles Pinckney's urging, a prohibition on government officers accepting foreign titles and gifts was passedArticle VIII, which contained a very important provision (that the acts of Congress made in pursuance of the Constitution and all treaties made under the authority of the United States shall be to supreme law of the several states) was passed without debate.

Article IX, Section 1 giving the Senate power to make treaties and appoint Ambassadors and Judges, was taken up. Morris (PA) opposed having the Senate appoint officers; it was too numerous, subject to cabal and devoid of responsibility. Besides, if the Senate were to try judges on impeachment, it certainly shouldn't be able to fill the very vacancies created by impeachment. Wilson agreed. The article was postponed.

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Last updated: February 26, 2015

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