When the delegates to the Federal Convention assembled in Philadelphia in 1787, the success of the American experiment in self-government was in doubt. George Washington captured the prevailing sentiment in a letter to James Madison the previous November.
Of course, the Framers would end up laying our Republic's institutional foundation in Philadelphia that summer. At the time, the delegates could not know for sure if they had succeeded in creating a government powerful enough to preserve order, but not one so powerful that it would be able to threaten Americans' liberty. Yet they were cautiously optimistic that the product of their deliberations, the Constitution, at least had a chance to succeed where all other efforts before them had failed.
The Framers believed that the process by which the government made decisions was more important for sustaining the republic than the actual content of those decisions. The separation of powers, federalism, legislative checks and balances, an independent judiciary, indirect representation, and regular elections were the central components of the process they devised and enshrined in the Constitution.
The Republic's institutional foundation has proven remarkably resilient for much of its history. Yet cracks have gradually appeared over the last hundred years. During that time, various factors have undermined the institutions that are vital to the proper working of the Republic. Yet despite this fact, we tend to consider issues like executive overreach, the breakdown in the separation of powers, atrophy of congressional power, and a politicized judiciary in the narrow context of specific policy areas.
Acknowledging these cracks makes clear that preserving the Republic requires more than simply changing public policy. The institutions that make it possible in the first place must be restored and strengthened. But doing so is dependent on our ability to recognize their importance.
Through the work collected on this site, The Great Anchor hopes to make a small contribution to that effort. Its mission is to educate readers on the importance of our institutions to keeping the Republic and, by extension, to preserving our liberty. The writing featured here will focus on those institutions that the Framers believed central to the process of government they devised and enshrined in the Constitution.