Cato and the Fugitive Slave Clause

Even before the Constitution was ratified, the fugitive slave clause caused runaway slaves to fear capture and return. To avoid permanent enslavement, some runaways voluntarily returned to their masters and slavery for a year in exchange for the promise of manumission and permanent freedom.

The Obscurity of Language

Language is the vehicle used by human beings to communicate with each other. Unfortunately no language can guarantee successful communications. In his “The Federalist” #37, James Madison examined the problem of using language to accurately explain (perspicuity) the meaning of various parts of the newly proposed Constitution.

“New Arrangements” at the Post Office

Rarely involved in partisan politics, the U.S. Post Office has become controversial in the 2020 elections. In 1788, “new arrangements,” said by some to introduce “new & scandalous Regulations,” also involved the post office in a national controversy over the dissemination of mail and newspapers in the public debate over the ratification of the Constitution.

Covering the Constitution

In concluding its business on 17 September 1787, the Constitutional Convention approved a cover letter to the Constitution that explained the challenges the Convention faced. Signed by George Washington and addressed to the president of the Confederation Congress, the letter acknowledged that the Constitution would not satisfy every state completely, but would “promote the lasting welfare of that country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness.” With Washington’s signature, the letter became an invaluable political asset in ratifying the Constitution.