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Coalition OR Contention
“Rivalships were much more frequent than coalitions,” James Madison told the delegates at the Philadelphia Convention on June 25, 1787. His historical discourse ...

Coalition or Contention

“Rivalships were much more frequent than coalitions,” James Madison told the delegates at the Philadelphia Convention on June 25, 1787. His historical discourse was in response to Luther Martin’s seemingly endless monologue. Unlike Martin, Madison believed smaller states gained strength by uniting with the larger ones.

“Among independent nations … Carthage and Rome tore one another to pieces instead of uniting their forces to devour the weaker nations of the earth,” Madison said. He noted that neighbors England and France had chosen enmity, not cooperation, over the years. He continued to show that it was contention, not coalition, that killed nations.

“In a word, the two extremes before us are a perfect separation and a perfect incorporation of the thirteen States. In the first case, they would be independent nations, subject to no law but the law of nations. In the last, they would be mere counties of one entire republic, subject to one common law,” Madison said.

One delegate realized the convention had deteriorated faster than a sandcastle in a storm. “The small progress we have made after four or five weeks’ close attendance and continual reasonings with each other,” Benjamin Franklin began, “our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ayes, is me thinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding.”

With rancor filling the room like a skunk’s perfume, Franklin knew the time had come to call for the motion most on his mind. “We, indeed, seem to feel our own want of political wisdom since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government,” Franklin said.

If history had a place in the debate, how much more should faith play a role?

“In this situation of this assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights, to illuminate our understandings?” implored Franklin.

The acrimony in the room was so sharp at that point, no one but Franklin could have stated the naked truth with such authority. The delegates watched in awe at his dedication as aides carried the ailing Benjamin Franklin into the room on a sedan chair each day. Not only was the eighty-one-year-old the oldest delegate, but his commitment to finding a coalition was also indisputable.

They knew his discernment about quarrels was as real as the peace treaty he had forged for his country. They knew his American pride was as genuine as his plain wardrobe and blue velvet suit.


May I flee unnecessary conflicts in life and embrace the moments that matter most.

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels”

(2 Timothy 2:23).

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