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Today In History: The Constitutional Convention Begins

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Published on: May 25, 2021

Before the Constitution, America’s national government operated under the Articles of Confederation, which was a flawed document that went through numerous attempted fixes. In September 1786, delegates from five states met in the Annapolis Convention as part of these efforts. At the end of that convention, they called for a meeting of all the states.

This meeting — which would become known as the Constitutional Convention — officially began on May 25, 1787. The first several weeks of the Convention were frustrating as the delegates deadlocked over many issues. At the height of this impasse, Benjamin Franklin made his famous appeal for prayer:

In this situation of this Assembly, groping, as it were, in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understanding?….

I have lived, sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men! And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? —We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings that, ‘except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe, that without his concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests, our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a by-word down to future ages…

I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers, imploring the assistance of heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business; and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.”

The delegates took three days off and George Washington (president of the Constitutional Convention) noted that he attended church. During this time, Rev. William Rogers gave a lengthy prayer for the Convention, requesting God: “Favor them [the Convention delegates], from day to day, with Thy immediate presence; be Thou their wisdom and their strength! Enable them to devise such measures as may prove happily instrumental for healing all divisions and promoting the good of the great whole.”

After this recess, many positive compromises were reached and the Constitution was approved on September 17 and sent to the states for ratification.

The American government established under the Constitution has been the most successful in the world, having seen America safely through both turmoil and prosperity. Today, let’s thank God that He blessed the efforts that began on this day, 234 years ago.

James Madison commented, “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it [the Convention] the finger of the Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution.”

[This summer marks the anniversary of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and ends with the signing of the Constitution on September 17th. Pray that God will raise up new leaders who would look to Him for guidance as they did 234 years ago at the founding of the United States.]

Historian David Barton, founder of Wallbuilders, is the author of numerous best-selling books, addresses well over 400 groups each year, serves as a consultant to state and federal legislators, and has participated as an expert in several cases at the Supreme Court.

The Language of Liberty series is an outreach project of the Center for Self Governance, a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization, dedicated to training citizens in principles of liberty. The views expressed by the authors are their own and may not reflect the views of CSG.

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