Without compromise, American states would never have ratified the U.S. Constitution

Editor's note: This is a regular feature on issues related to the Constitution and civics education written by Paul G. Summers, retired judge and state attorney general.

We finished our study of Article VI of the Constitution, which dealt with the Supremacy Clause.  The United States Constitution is the supreme and highest law in the land.

A federal statute or state constitution, law or order is inferior to the U. S. Constitution. Our United States Supreme Court, in a majority opinion, decides on what law or conduct, federal or state, is constitutional.

Article VII, the final article before the amendments, deals with ratification, or approval, of the Constitution by the states.

The language of Article VII is clear: “The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.”

The draft document was signed on September 17, 1787. It was submitted to the 13 states shortly thereafter for ratification. Debates ensued quickly. Individual protection of liberties and rights were paramount.

Delegation and allocation of federal power were vigorously debated as well as powers reserved to the states.  Powers prohibited to the states were forcefully debated. All these and more issues were potently argued. Consequently, supporters of the draft document promised a Bill of Rights once that the Constitution was ratified. This was a compromise.

Leaders of our nation in the 18th Century could agree on a compromise for the formation of our nation. It was through a written document called a Constitution.

Column: Why all federal and state officials must swear an oath to defend the Constitution

Anti-Federalist and Federalists were able to find common ground

New Hampshire became the requisite ninth state to ratify the Constitution. The date was June 21, 1788.

Under the new United States Constitution, the new federal government began, by agreement, on March 4, 1789. That is when we officially had a constitutional republic called the United States of America.

We have now completed our study of the original Constitution of the United States. Twelve amendments were approved by Congress in 1789. The first 10 amendments, called the Bill of Rights, were ratified as part of the Constitution on December 15, 1791.

These amendments were a compromise between the anti-Federalists and the Federalists to approve and ratify the original body of the Constitution.

This is a prime example of how our leaders can compromise if in the best interest of our nation.  Little reason exists for them not to compromise today. This is especially true when they could agree over two centuries ago about something so important as the formation of our constitutional republic.

Upcoming column will focus on Bill of Rights

Our study of the Constitution, our “supreme law of the land,” shall continue in future articles in this publication.

Our next article will delve into the Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. There are a total of 27 Amendments.

We plan to discuss each one in our upcoming columns.

Learning, reading and studying the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are time well spent. We applaud the hard work and diligent attitude of our dedicated readers.

Both this publication and the author strive to be nonpartisan and objective. Please understand that the interpretations involving both documents are that of the author.

Others may have different interpretations of the same words. We always welcome comments from others.

Paul G. Summers, a lawyer, is a former appellate and senior judge, district attorney general, and the attorney general of Tennessee.  Raised in Fayette County, Judge Summers resides in Nashville and Holladay. 

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Civics lessons: Compromise was key to getting Constitution ratified