Policy in a Page: September marks many landmarks in U.S. policy history: First Continental Congress convenes, the Constitutional Convention completes its work, and Congress disbands ACIR, an intergovernmental agency that facilitated better relations between Washington and the states.


ImageSeptember 5, 1774

First Continental Congress Convenes

The rumblings of revolution grew louder in early September 1774 when 56 delegates from 12 colonies convened at Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia for the first session of the Continental Congress. Outraged by the passage of the "Coercive Acts," delegates George Washington, John Adams, Patrick Henry and others came together to consider unification against increasingly belligerent British policy. The first shots of the revolution would ring out less than eight months later.

September 30, 1996

ImageAnother Blow to Federalism - ACIR Disbanded

When the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) turned out the lights on this day 11 years ago, few people across the country took notice. After advocating for federalism and efficient intergovernmental relations for 37 years, a Congress eager to consolidate federal power and cut extraneous costs had decided to shut the program down.

The ACIR was established in 1959 to review federal aid to state and local governments and to determine if aid or involvement were appropriate in specific areas. Comprised of representatives from federal, state and local governments, the commission represented a "cooperative partnership" that the federal system itself could aspire to. When the commission died, however, few mourned its passing.

"The Clinton administration, although supportive until near the end, withdrew its support out of displeasure with the commission's handling of the unfunded federal mandates issue," wrote Bruce D. McDowell in his 1997 Publius journal article, Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations in 1996: The End of an Era. "The national associations representing state and local governments were ambivalent. ACIR was no longer looked to for solutions to the nation's intergovernmental relations problems. With the exit of ACIR, the federal government's last resource for addressing broad intergovernmental issues--beyond the confines of individual programs--is gone."

ImageSeptember 17, 1787

Constitution Day

Responding to a postwar recession that bottomed in 1786, Virginia, at the urging of James Madison, called for a conference to discuss trade and commerce among the newly independent colonies.  Only delegates from five states showed up at Annapolis MD in September 1786.

Unable to accomplish much, they recommended a second try.  This time, delegates from all states except Rhode Island arrived in Philadelphia in late May 1787 to begin their deliberations.  With its participants sworn to secrecy, windows nailed shut, and guards posted to keep intruders away, participants decided to discard the existing Articles of Confederation and frame an entirely new government.  Through a sweltering summer, they debated the provisions that would become the United States Constitution.  Of the 55 delegates present, 39 signed the original document on September 17, 1787.  The hard work of ratification and implementation lay ahead of them.