The delegate paced the floor almost violently, his shoes scuffing being the only sound heard in the stifling, unbearably hot Philadelphia. As he whirled about with such vigor, several other delegates wondered if he would fall over from his own force. All eyes gazed on this living giant of politics, a veritable Founding Father of America, as he wrung his hands together in an almost pleading fashion. Many held their breath, waiting for his promised speech.
“Gentlemen!” the South Carolinian suddenly boomed, his voice filling the air. “Gentlemen! Our nation is in crisis!” Several delegates murmured in approval.
“We, as mere mortals, cannot comprehend the very crisis our country faces! Yes, gentlemen, all we have worked for will come to naught, our victory snatched away by the very maw of defeat, plunging our country into the Dark Ages! The Dark Ages, mind you!”
The delegate stopped his nervous pacing and slammed both of his hands emphatically onto his oaken desk, causing the ink wells and pens to rattle, sending parchment to the floor. Several delegates jumped, others gasped. James Madison gave out a tiny squeak of displeasure and surprise.
“I am talking, of course, of the damnable concept of socialized medicine!”
The entire room of delegates exploded. North Carolina roared with displeasure, while Pennsylvania’s delegates dissolved into a raucous chanting of “Don’t tread on me!” Both Alexander Hamilton, the delegate of New York, and James Madison, considered the man who orchestrated the Constitutional Convention, stood up immediately, unbuttoning and pulling back their sleeves. But when General Washington regally, slowly stood up, the entire room grew silent. Hamilton and Madison withered under Washington’s stare, and even the South Carolinian delegate stood quietly, though arms crossed, his jaw jutting out challengingly in the air.
“Gentlemen, I fail to see why this matter is so, as our illustrious friend calls it, ‘damnable.’ But, for sake of debate, let us debate this civilly, shall we?” Washington slowly lowered himself into his chair, and the delegates stayed uncomfortably quiet.
George Mason of Virginia finally broke the reverie. “It is damnable, my dear General, for it flies against the very concept that we are trying to establish here in this very Constitution! Socialized. Medicine. Is. Monarchy!” With the final word, he jabbed the air with his finger, and the entire room degraded into yelling and shouting once more. Washington rapped his cane sharply twice on his desk, silencing the room.
“My good gentleman, you are mistaken!” Madison quickly stood up, his thin reedy voice barely audible to some sitting at the edges of the room. “Please explain – rationally, prudently – how socialized medicine is akin to monarchy!”
“Isn’t it obvious? Did not King George try to control every aspect of our lives through a centralized economy, stifling progress and advancements in all sectors of industry? Any government which runs anything from its seat of power is monarchist!”
“Like the post office?” Ben Franklin quipped. Several delegates chuckled softly, for Franklin himself served as postmaster once.
“Or like your provision that we ban the slave trade in twenty years? Or would you rather the ‘slow poison’ of slavery, as you called it yourself, Mr. Mason, continue to run its course through this country?” Hamilton shrilled, his face contorted with passion.
“This is a completely different matter!” Mason sputtered, his face turning slightly pink.
“I fail to see how this socialized medicine even has anything to do with our Constitution,” Governor Randolf said. “We’ve already enumerated that Congress will have the power ‘To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states,’ which gives it provisions to alter the affairs of any industry according to the desires of the people, so I fail to see how regulated health care is either monarchist or unconstitutional, unless you wish to call the Constitution unconstitutional? Which would simply be -”
“Absurd! Yes, I know! But! Once any government begins to regulate economic affairs, it becomes a fascist regime!” cried out the delegate from South Carolina.
“Yes! Gaze upon these signs we made ourselves, physical manifestations of the fact that the American people do not desire socialized medicine!” another delegate cried out. Immediately, North Carolina, South Carolina and New Hampshire pulled out signs wherein James Madison’s profile had been defaced, King George’s wig drawn crudely upon it.
“Come now, is this necessary?” Madison cried out, irritated. “I must say, the idea that a government regulating a highly degenerated, corrupt, bloated, unscrupulous sector of industry becomes fascist is ridiculous!”
“Yes, what’s this got to do with the Constitution anyway?” Franklin added, also irritated. “Your misguided, unfocused anger is causing my gout to inflame!” Several other delegates snickered at this comment.
“Everything!” the South Carolinian delegate screamed out. “Can we trust a government that successfully fought off an imperialist monarch with woefully unequipped and untrained soldiers bred from our own backwoods farmers and blacksmiths to successfully run the medical welfare of our people?”
“Yes, we can!” Hamilton roared back. “This entire Convention is because our Articles of Confederacy are not simply not strong enough! A strong, federal government is required to run this country, lest it run itself upon the rocky shoals of progress!” Several groups now cried out in desperate protest. “Yes,” Hamilton continued, shouting down his opposition, “Strong enough even to regulate the vast industry known as health care!”
“Come now,” Washington intoned, “We cannot let future generations become derailed by this. We look forward to the future, gentlemen, not the past. We look forward to progress and unity, not backward to slavery and monarchy. Remember, gentlemen, our ideas were once considered strange, dangerous, and subversive; impractical and catastrophical if implemented. But look at us now! Throwing off the shackles of England, we stand together, shoulder to shoulder, as brethren for the cause of freedom! Even our brothers in France now follow our example! Truly, we stand at a unique time in history to create any government possible, even another monarchy! But we dissolve not into fascism, as the world said we inevitably would, but we look towards republicanism, of representation and liberty!
“Surely, we can look past our petty squabbles. Our Constitution has said enough already of this matter. It is up for the people to decide whether a government run health care system is both necessary and profitable, but let it be decided by the people. And let us not bring misleading accusations to this debate. Universal health care is neither unconstitutional, nor shying away form what we as the Founding Fathers of America desired. Health care means nothing to us – what we wish is a nation wherein our people can decide for themselves their own destiny, whether it be to the enlightened future, or the the darkened past. But of all this, the people alone must decide. Even we, gentlemen, cannot decide for them.”
The room fell reverently quiet, cowed by the gentle rebuking of the lion of America. But such silence could not last for long, as all the delegations broke once more into angry yelling and even a fist fight or two.
“Monarchist!” “Unruly hypocrite!” “Deist!” “Unconstitutional!” “Fascist!” “Imperialist!” “Money grubbing merchant!”
Some of the delegates pulled out their Madison signs, chanting for his removal, while others pushed back, furiously shouting at the protesters to quiet down and let the General speak once more. David Brearley of New Jersey roared, “And how will the Americans pay for this health care? By taxing them to death like King George did?” before being pulled down roughly by Georgian delegates Baldwin and Few.
Washington sighed, his eyes closing. Madison, dodging a thrown shoe, settled down next to the aging politician and whispered, “There’s no talking to these people. Hot headed and opinionated are the people of America. It is our greatest strength, and yet also our greatest downfall.”
“I fear that generations of Americans will look back at our contentiousness and disunity and wonder how the fate of their nation once lay in the hands of such hooligans,” Washington said softly.
“If I know anything about human nature,” Madison said with a smile, “Should this great American experiment work, I daresay we will be deified, canonized! Our words will become as political ammunition, never mind that our words will contradict each other constantly. Virtual popes and patron saints of all of America!”
“Patron saints, indeed!” Washington laughed, watching with guilty earnest as Hamilton hurled harsh epithets at an almost screaming delegate who had nearly broken down to tears. “I do not wish to be deified, only understood.”