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[翻译字幕]THE MAKING OF A NATION - American History: Signing the Constitution in Philadelphia

来源:慢速英语   时间:2013-01-26 09:19:24

建国史话 (21):制定宪法之六

From VOA Learning English, welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in Special English. I’m Steve Ember. This week in our series, we continue the story of the United States Constitution.

In May of 1787, a group of America's early leaders met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to amend the Articles of Confederation. That document had established a loose union of the 13 states with a weak central government. But instead of amending the articles, the delegates at the convention wrote a completely new constitution.

As we heard last time, one of the issues they discussed was slavery. The existence of slavery affected decisions like how to count the national population. It also affected the powers proposed for Congress.

The delegates at the convention accepted several political compromises on the issue of slavery.

One compromise was the "three-fifths" rule. The population would be counted every ten years to decide how many members each state would have in the House of Representatives in Congress. With the three-fifths rule, the delegates agreed that every five slaves would be counted as three people.

Another compromise would allow states to import slaves until the year 1808. After that, no new slaves would be brought into the country.
 

Making of a Nation

Many of the delegates in Philadelphia did not like these compromises. But they knew the compromises would keep the southern states -- where slavery was most widespread -- from leaving the convention.

After all the debates, bitter arguments, and compromises, the delegates were nearing the end of their work. Four months had passed since the convention began. The weather had been hot. Emotions had been hot, too. But that was expected. After all, the men in Philadelphia -- and the delegates were all men -- were deciding the future of their country.

Early in September, the convention appointed five delegates to a Committee of Style. It was their job to write the document containing all the decisions made at the convention. The chairman of the committee was William Samuel Johnson of Connecticut. The other members were Alexander Hamilton of New York, Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania, Rufus King of Massachusetts and James Madison of Virginia.

Of these five men, Gouverneur Morris was known for the beauty of his language. So Johnson asked him to write the Constitution.

Here in Washington, visitors to the National Archives can read an original copy of the United States Constitution. Leeann Potter at the National Archives says visitors are often surprised that the document is only four pages long.

“The irony is that the pages are nearly three feet long and about two feet wide. They’re written on parchment. In other words, they’re written on animal skin using an iron gall ink. And this particular document was created in September of 1787.”

The convention approved 23 articles for the Constitution. Gouverneur Morris rewrote them in simpler form, so there were just seven.

“The document itself is divided by article, and each aspect focuses on a different aspect of the American government.”

Article One describes the powers of the Congress. It explains how to count the population for purposes of representation. And it states who can become senators or representatives, and how long they can serve.

Article Two describes the powers of the president. It explains the requirements for the office, and how the president is to be elected.

Article Three describes the powers of the federal judiciary, which includes the Supreme Court and all of the district and circuit courts.

Lee Ann Potter at the National Archives explains.

“That part of our government makes sure that the laws that the legislative branch creates and are being enforced by the executive branch are in fact constitutional. In other words, that the laws they create are legal themselves.”

The first three articles provide a system of checks and balances. The purpose is to prevent any of the three branches of government -- legislative, executive or judicial -- from becoming too powerful.

Article Four explains the rights and duties of the states under the new central government. Article Five provides a system for amending the Constitution. Article Six declares the Constitution to be the highest law of the land. And Article Seven simply says the Constitution will be established when nine states approve it.

The members of the convention wrote a preamble for the Constitution. It began, "We the undersigned delegates of the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts" and so on. It listed all 13 states by name.

The Committee of Style did not think it was a good idea to list each state. After all, Rhode Island never sent a delegate to Philadelphia. And no one knew for sure if every state would approve the Constitution.

So, Gouverneur Morris wrote instead, "We the People of the United States of America … "

Those simple words solved the problem. But they caused angry debate during the fight to approve the Constitution. They made clear that the power of the central government came not from the states, but directly from the citizens of the nation.

Modern-day Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas came from a family descended from slaves. He grew up in the southern state of Georgia. Justice Thomas recalled having to memorize the opening statement to the Constitution when he was a child.

THOMAS: “I always think it’s so fascinating to think of these black kids in a segregated school in Savannah reciting the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States. What did we believe? I mean, everything so obviously in front of you is wrong. You can’t go to the public library. You can’t live in certain neighborhoods. You can’t go to certain schools. But despite of all that, you lived in an environment of people who said it was still our birthright to be included.”

The rest of the preamble says why the Constitution was written.

" … in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The next step was to sign the document.

On September 17, the delegates gathered for the last time. One might think all of their business finally was done. But Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts rose to speak.

If it was not too late, he said, he would like to make a change. Instead of electing one representative for every 40,000 people, as agreed, he suggested changing the number to 30,000.

Gorham's proposal could have caused a bitter argument. Then, suddenly, George Washington, the president of the convention, stood up. The delegates were surprised. He had said little all summer.

Now, George Washington rose to express his support for the proposed change. He said it would guarantee a greater voice in the government for the people of the nation.

Every delegate agreed to the change, which would mean a larger number of representatives in Congress.

Finally, it was time to sign the Constitution. It was also the last chance to speak against it. Many delegates stated their objections to different parts of the document. In the end, most of the delegates declared that for the good of the nation they would sign it.

Several, however, refused to put their name on the Constitution.

Edmund Randolph of Virginia and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts said they could not sign the document. They believed it would not beapproved by the states. And that, Gerry said, would lead to civil war.

George Mason of Virginia also refused to sign. He had several reasons, but his first objection was that the document did not guarantee enough liberties. "There is no declaration of any kind, for preserving the liberty of the press, or the trial by jury in civil causes; nor against the danger of standing armies in time of peace." Mason wanted to add a “Declaration of Rights.”

Randolph, Gerry and Mason were the only delegates present in Philadelphia who did not sign the Constitution.

Four other delegates who opposed it went home before the signing. So did nine delegates who supported the Constitution but went home early.

Few of the delegates in Philadelphia could feel sure that enough states would approve the Constitution to make it the law of the land. As several of them said later, they wrote it the best they could.

Without it, the young nation would break apart before it even had a chance to succeed.
If future generations did not like the Constitution, it offered ways for them to change it. Here is George Washington played by an actor.

“I’m a practical man. I hope for the best, but I plan for the worst. And that’s what this document does.”

A record of the convention said that as the last delegates were signing the Constitution, Benjamin Franklin looked toward the president's chair. There was a sun painted on the back on the chair, at the top. Franklin observed to a few members near him that painters had found it difficult to make a rising sun look different from a setting sun. Franklin said he had looked often at the sun on the chair during the convention "without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now at length,” he said, “I have the happiness to know, that it is a rising, and not a setting sun."

Yet the struggle to create the Constitution had just begun. Writing it took four months. Ratifying it took more than twice as long. The process of getting the new Constitution approved will be our story next week.

上次我们谈到了费城制宪大会在司法体制的问题上达成了共识。代表们同意建立一个联邦最高法院,并由国会负责设立联邦下级法院系统。法官由总统任命。这些法院负责受理涉及联邦法律、公民权利和外国人在美国境内犯罪的案件。现存的州级法院则继续受理涉及州一级法律的案子。

制宪大会还就联邦政府的机制听取了不同的建议。主要建议有三个,分别由维吉尼亚、新泽西州的代表,以及纽约州的亚历山大·汉密尔顿提出。汉密尔顿主张,联 邦政府应该享有无限的权力。这种主张在大会代表里没有任何市场。他长达五个小时的讲话结束后,一名代表说,“每个人都赞扬汉密尔顿,但是没有一个人支持 他。”与会代表投票否决了新泽西州的提案,对汉密尔顿的提议索性连票都没有投,剩下的时间完全用来讨论维吉尼亚州代表们提出的计划。

与会代表们接下来讨论建立国会的问题,这可是最棘手的,涉及到每个州的人口多少与其在国会里的发言权之间的关系。有一个代表说,“说白了,这是争夺权力, 而不是争取自由。人口少的州在国会里的权利可能会输给人口多的州,但是各州居民享受的自由都是一样的。”

与会代表们围绕这个问题展开唇枪舌战。来自德拉瓦州的冈宁·贝德福德在一次辩论中瞪着那些人口多的州的代表,大吼道,“先生们!我不信任你们。如果你们要 压制我们这些小州,你们就会毁掉整个邦联。如果是这样的话,我们就要去找那些更有信誉和诚意的外国盟友,从他们那里得到公正。”

制宪大会的代表们整个夏天都在没完没了地围绕国会代表权的问题进行辩论、表决、再辩论、再表决。从五月到七月,没有任何进展。一名代表说,“看起来我们现 在是寸步难行。”因此,代表们决定建立一个委员会,就国会代表权问题提出一份大家都能接受的意见。在接下来的几天里,这个委员会的成员埋头苦干,而其他人 则放假,庆祝七月四号的独立日。

七月四号是美国的法定假日。1787年七月四号是美国宣布脱离英国独立建国十一周年。独立日这天,美国到处都有游行、烟火表演和爱国演说。费城是独立宣言 签署的地方,又是新国家的诞生地,因此庆祝活动尤其热烈。制宪大会主席乔治·华盛顿带着一些代表到费城一家教堂参加活动,听取了一篇专门写给他们的演讲。

演讲者说,“你们的国家怀着忧虑和希望的心情关注着你们,你们的国家要靠你们做出的决定。你们的国家相信,你们这些独立战争中的领袖,知道如果规划一个对 所有美国人都有利的政府。”他接着又说,“我们中间肯定有了解政府体制的人才,有解决困境的人才,我们肯定能够规划出一个政府,保护我们来之不易的自由。 ”

费城大会代表们需要这些鼓励之词。就在几天前,本杰明·富兰克林曾表达了对制宪大会前景的悲观。他说,“我们感觉自己缺乏政治智慧,我们上溯远古,研究早 已不复存在的政治体制,也放眼今天,参考欧洲各地的现行制度,最后发现,没有任何一种宪法适合我们的需要。”富兰克林要求制宪大会寻求上帝的帮助,每次开 会前先要祈祷。北卡罗来纳州的休·威廉森立即对富兰克林的建议提出了反驳。他的理由很简单,制宪大会没钱请牧师带领大家进行祷告。

独立日过后,制宪大会的代表们7月5号复会,听取了国会代表权委员会的报告。报告包括两项提案。委员会成员说,要么两项议案全都接受,要么全都拒绝。报告 说,美国国会应该包括两院,其中一院的代表人数根据各州人口决定,每四万人出一名代表;另外一院里各州的代表人数相同。

其实,制宪大会早就投票同意建立国会参众两院,只是在各州议员人数和议员的产生方式上存在分歧。国会代表权委员会7月5号提出的议案完全是照搬了康涅迪克 州代表罗杰·谢尔曼一个月前提出的方案,这一方案后来被成为“大妥协”。与会代表就此进行了很多天的辩论。他们明白,如果不能达成协议,就是宣告制宪大会 的失败。这是费城制宪大会最黑暗的一段日子。

马里兰州的代表路德·马丁后来曾谈起,当时的报道都说大会代表在多少问题上达成了一致,但这并非事实。他说,“当时的情况千钧一发,大会险些陷入破裂。” 纽约州的代表罗伯特·耶茨和约翰·兰辛退出大会,以示抗议。但是维吉尼亚州的代表乔治·梅森则宣布,达不成协议,他誓死也不离开费城。

当时,就连乔治·华盛顿也感到十分沮丧。他在写给临时回纽约的亚历山大·汉密尔顿的信中说,“眼下的辩论比以往任何时候都要糟糕,在组建一个有效政府的问题上,大家的看法南辕北辙。我几乎丧失了对大会成功的所有希望,真后悔当初同意来参加。”

1787年夏天,费城制宪大会的代表们就联邦政府的权限展开了持久和激烈的辩论。然而,这个问题并不是代表们面临的最严重的问题。很多年后,詹姆斯·麦迪 逊解释说,当时最棘手的问题是各州在国会里的代表权问题,这才是对美国宪法的产生构成了最大威胁的问题。