May 25, 1787
May 25 was a key day in the history of our constitutional republic.
When the War for Independence ended in 1783, America was operating its national government under the Articles of Confederation. But that government had many flaws that needed to be corrected, so efforts were begun to address these issues.
In March 1785, the Mount Vernon Conference, with delegates from Virginia and Maryland, met at George Washington’s home to address tense issues that existed between the two states. The positive outcome suggested that perhaps a meeting with additional states could be successful in addressing other issues. So in September 1786, twelve delegates from five states met in the Annapolis Convention to address revising the Articles of Confederation. After favorable discussions, the delegates passed a resolution calling for a meeting of all the states, which led to the Constitutional Convention, where the US Constitution was eventually written.
On May 25 of 1787, the Convention began. The first several weeks were frustrating, as the delegates deadlocked over issues such as representation. On June 28, at the height of the impasse, Benjamin Franklin made his famous appeal for prayer in the Convention, telling the other delegates:
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?….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. . . . 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.
The delegates took three days off, and George Washington (president of the Constitutional Convention) recorded that they attended church. They heard a sermon by Rev. William Rogers, who specifically prayed a lengthy prayer over the Convention, part of which included the request that:
[W]e fervently recommend to Thy fatherly notice . . . our federal Convention. . . . [F]avor them, 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.
Delegates reported that after this time of church attendance, sermon, and special prayer, the tone of debates in the Convention changed. Over succeeding weeks, many positive compromises were reached and the Constitution was finally approved on September 17 and sent to the states for ratification.
So what started on May 25 as a meeting to revise the existing national government instead resulted in a constitutional republic. 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,
“For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”