Liberty's Kids

Season 1 Episode 40

We the People

Aired Unknown Apr 04, 2003 on PBS
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Episode Summary

Unable to pay their debts, farmers who fought in the war find their land being taken by the government. Violence ensues and an "excess of democracy" threatens to destroy the newly formed nation. Fearing that things can deteriorate further, delegates from each state meet once again in Philadelphia to draft a new Constitution.moreless

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  • Even though there's a new nation - what that nation is remains to be seen. It's time for the Constitutional Convention to tell us what the United States is.

    This was a *terrific* way to wrap up the series. It starts out with a farmer being carried off to debtors' prison for debts to the government. As if that isn't bad enough, he had gone bankrupt defending the new nation.

    Government was taxing the new United Statsians into oblivion. They had supposedly broken with England over high and unfair taxes, but were still suffering the same under the new government.

    The challenge for Congress and the President was to draft a new Constitution that addressed these concerns. It would codify into law that for which they had sacraficed their fortunes, their lives and their sacred honor.

    Each state was concerned that a *fair* Constitution might give others an unfair advantage. For example, the Slave States were concerned that they would lose slavery - the foundation of their economy and their faith.

    The Northern states, on the other hand, were concerned that simply because they had very few citizens, or very little land, they would be proportionally represented in Congress - and thus rendered impotent.

    The so-called solution was to create two houses of Congress - the Senate and the House of Representatives. The senate would represent each state equally - ensuring no one state was more or less represented. But in the House, they would be represented based on their population - ensuring that no minority of powerful small state landowners could overwhelm the wishes of the population at large.

    The convention nearly fell apart when Ben gave the low-down to our intrepid reporters. In an outburst he explains how the US has no way to fund its expensive ambitions.

    In spite of painfull Gall Stones which puts him in bed, Walter Cronkite = I mean Ben Franklin - stays in touch with the constitutional convention. He also takes some time to talk about Sarah's future with her.

    As the bad news keeps coming in, Ben finally gets out of bed, takes a ride in his little carry-me invention and delivers his idea of the Senate/House structure. Everybody at the convention praises him and he leaves in his carriage - jostled and jumbled all the way out.

    At dinner, Ben and Saran and Moses talk about the next step - what kind of Chief Exectuive there should be. Everybody agrees it will be George Washington - the only question is what his role will be in government.

    Disgustingly - the Slave States insist that they be given credit of 3/5 of a person for each one of the persons they hold as slaves. The filthy open discussion of slavery brings the convention to a boil, with delegates shouting and shaking their fists.

    Finally, one night, Ben is forced to admit to Moses that slavery will remain legal in the new country. Moses has a bit of an outburst, and Ben ominously fortells of how even though "we fought one war for liberty, we will have to fight another".


Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

  • QUOTES (1)

    • Preamble of the Constitution:
      We the people of the United States, 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.

  • NOTES (2)


    • Episode Title: We the People

      This is an allusion to the first three words of the U.S. Constitution.


      The Constitutional Convention (May 25-September 17, 1787), originally convened to revise the Articles of Confederation, instead decided to replace the Articles themselves with a new Constitution. The Articles have failed to solve old problems and created new ones for the fledgling republic. The new Constitution established a Federal Government headed by a president, a bicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary. It is one of the oldest written constitutions still in use.