231 years ago this week, work began on the most important document in American history

Too bad conservatives have failed to insure that more Americans knew about this document — here is Joseph Tartakovsky:

The Athens of Socrates, the Florence of da Vinci, the London of Shakespeare — these were impressive places, but none nearly as history-altering as the Philadelphia of the American rebels. On May 25, 1787 — 231 years ago Friday — the rebels began the convention that drafted the U.S. Constitution. It is the most readable, practical and liberating wonder of the world.

We see the Constitution as a beginning for our country, but for the Founding Fathers it seemed like a last chance. A total of 55 delegates gathered from across our young nation with the mission, said Virginia’s Edmund Randolph, of “preventing the fulfillment of the prophecies of the American downfall.”

The states were weak, trapped in hostile trade and border disputes with each other, encircled by European empires, and sunk in economic depression after eight years of the Revolutionary War.

Over 100 sweltering summer days, in a room in the Pennsylvania State House cozy enough for conversational voices and filled with flies, the delegates jousted over every aspect of a new governmental structure.

There was consensus on basics like the need for a limited government, divided into three branches. But what’s striking is how little the delegates agreed on.

Should the executive be a single person, or a committee? Were citizens an enlightened repository of wisdom to be frequently consulted, or an unthinking mob to be tactfully restrained? Should each state get two senators, no matter its size? In the debate over that last question, the convention nearly broke up in anger.

The framers of the Constitution were mostly eminent planters, merchants and lawyers. But in other respects they were a microcosm of our nation, then and now: they included alarmists, optimists, philosophers, bores, dealmakers, handwringers and comedians — like the 81-year-old Benjamin Franklin. Franklin won approval for the process of impeaching presidents by observing that without it, the sole method of premature removal was assassination.

Read more: Fox News

Image credit: Independence Hall/Wikipedia.