A look at some of the history, holidays & observances on November 15
Feast of Albert the Great, a 13th century polymath who was a “scientist, philosopher, astrologer, theologian, spiritual writer, ecumenist, and diplomat,” all whilst being a prolific author who rose to the position of bishop in the Dominican Order. One of the greatest scholars of the Middle Ages, he is today remembered as one of the thirty-six “doctors of the Church,” an honor given to those Saints whose philosophical compositions have significantly advanced theological understanding and Church doctrine.
1777 – American Revolutionary War: The Articles of Confederation
When the colonies first called a Congress in 1775, they were thirteen disparate groups with no history of cooperation between them. Indeed, often it was the opposite. They faced unimaginable problems as they tried to join together. They had to build the bureaucracy of government, create a government framework from scratch, and create and supply a national military force, all while facing the world’s only superpower in war. On June 12, 1776, the colonial representatives gave the task of drafting a constitutional document to a committee chaired by John Dickinson. One month later, Dickinson provided the Congress the Articles of Confederation. Debate immediately began on the provisions and it was so contentious that, inclusive of interruptions caused by advancing British troops, it took another 18 months to finally agree on a final draft. That draft was released on this date in 1777 for consideration and ratification by the states. It would be another four years before the last of the thirteen states, Maryland, ratified the Articles.
The terms of the Articles of Confederation reflected the fact that the colonists in 1776 were not united as “Americans,” but rather saw themselves still as citizens of their respective colonies, forced by extreme necessity into a union “for their common defense,” but that notwithstanding, they wanted to retain as much of their respective state’s autonomy as possible. Thus, the Articles created a weak central government of limited powers. The central government had no authority to tax, there was no independent executive with the “police power” to enforce the laws, and voting was by state with each state having a single vote.
The Articles of Confederation served their purpose of getting the colonists through the Revolution’s end in 1783, but it was also apparent by the then that the Articles were inadequate. In 1786, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison called for a convention of the States “to render the constitution of government adequate to the exigencies of the Union.” In 1787, a Constitutional Convention met ostensibly to revise the Articles of Confederation, though it soon became apparent that the end result would be to replace the Articles in toto. Still, the Articles of Confederation had been a fruitful experiment that provided invaluable real world experience. And many of the provisions of the Articles, such as those dealing with “full faith and credit,” “emoluments” and several of the enumerated powers of Congress found in the Constitution were drawn near verbatim from the Articles of Confederation.
On a final note, it is ironic indeed that the man most responsible for drafting the Articles of Confederation, John Dickinson, an ardent Patriot, had no desire to fully break away from Britain. Even as he chaired the Committee in Congress drafting the Articles, Dickinson envisioned that, after the War, America would return to the British fold, with the clock turned back to circa 1760, the period of Britain’s “salutary neglect” of its American colonies. He was hardly unique in that sentiment — one that was not overcome in the Continental Congress until July 2, 1776. A man of principal, he refused to sign the Declaration of Independence that marked a complete break with Britain. Instead, he resigned from Congress and took a commission in the Pennsylvania Militia to fight in the war. He returned to Congress in 1787 to take part in the Constitutional Convention.