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UMSL professor’s book highlights what US Constitution framers were really thinking

Constitutional_Convention_1787_-_Junius_Brutus_Stearns_-_painter_1856_via_Wikimedia_Commons.jpg
Painter Junius Brutus Stearns, 1856 / via Wikimedia Commons
A painting of the George Washington leading the Constitutional Convention in 1787

Encore Presentation: This program's original broadcast was on March 19, 2013.

Having existed and endured for nearly 230 years, the U.S. Constitution and the intent of those who created it continues to be a hotly contested topic.

On Monday's St. Louis on the Air during President's Day, host Don Marsh revisited his 2013 discussion with David Robertson, author of the book "The Original Compromise: What the Constitution's Framers Were Really Thinking." Robertson is a Curators' Teaching Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

While the Constitution is often thought of the nation’s founding document, it did not go into effect until 1789, more than ten years after the Declaration of Independence of 1776.  The Articles of Confederation loosely governed the states prior to 1789, though it lacked several key provisions including distinct branches of government and the ability of the government to tax.

In his book, Robertson argues that the Federalist Papers, of which many people believe composes the lens through which we view the ideas behind the U.S. Constitution, represent only one side in a fierce argument that was settled by numerous compromises.

Intentional Ambiguity

Certain things about the U.S. Constitution were left intentionally vague (i.e. the Necessary and Proper Clause).  The framers also made room to revise the U.S. Constitution with the addition of amendment, of which there have been twenty-seven.

The Word ‘Slavery’ Never Appears in the U.S. Constitution

“They avoided that word scrupulously. (The Framers) didn’t want to put the word ‘slavery’ in the Constitution, it would be controversial. They didn’t like the idea that slavery existed. In the privacy of the convention hall, the discussion over slavery was frank and chilling at times.”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
Mary Edwards came to St. Louis Public Radio in 1974, just after finishing her Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has served the station in a number of capacities over the years. From 1988-2014 she also taught an undergraduate class in radio production at Webster University. Mary was inducted into the St. Louis Media History Foundation Media Hall of Fame in April, 2017 and received the Gateway Media Literacy Partners' Charles Klotzer Media Literacy Award in 2012. Mary retired from St. Louis Public Radio in 2018, but still serves the station as a St. Louis Symphony Producer.
Don Marsh served as host of St. Louis Public Radio’s “St. Louis on the Air" from 2005 to 2019, bringing discussions of significant topics to listeners' ears at noon Monday through Friday. Don has been an active journalist for 58 years in print, radio and television. He has won 12 Regional Emmy Awards for writing, reporting, and producing. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame in 2013, and named “Media Person of the Year” by the St. Louis Press Club in 2015. He has published three books: his most recent, “Coming of Age, Liver Spots and All: A Humorous Look at the Wonders of Getting Old,” “Flash Frames: Journey of a Journeyman Journalist” and “How to be Rude (Politely).” He holds an honorary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

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