How did we get here from there?


Philadelphia, 1787 -- THE SUMMER-long Constitutional Convention ended Sept. 15, and now it's up to the states to decide whether to ratify the document that sets up the government. However, this momentous event is being upstaged an unprecedented probing by the media into the personal lives, finances and other matters related to many of the key players of the fledgling government. Following are just some of the stories reported during and after the convention:

* Evangelist Pat Robertson's Christian television news service reported that 81-year-old Benjamin Franklin had intimate relationships with French and English ladies -- both inside and outside the nobility -- during the inventor's stint as an envoy for the young revolutionary government.

With Franklin's trysts in mind, the news service has demanded that New Jersey revoke any honors given Franklin's illegitimate son while he served as governor.

* Producers for the television program "20/20" recently confirmed that Barbara Walters is on her way to Paris in an attempt to interview the American ambassador there, Thomas Jefferson. The name of the author of the Declaration of Independence was invoked by many of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention to buttress their arguments.

A spokesman for "20/20" said that Ms. Walters hopes to be able to ask the Virginia statesman how many of his female slaves have provided him with sexual favors.

* The Rev. Jerry Falwell's television ministry has been distributing a video tape which alleges that conservative economist Alexander Hamilton was born out of wedlock. The tape says Hamilton was fathered by a West Indian colonial planter who was not married to Hamilton's mother.

* USA Today has formed an investigative team to look into the social schedule of James Madison's wife Dolley. Rumors about the young, vivacious Dolley have been rampant in Philadelphia for some time. Dolley Madison said through her public relations office that she plans to appear on David Brinkley's television program this Sunday to refute the allegations.

* New York Times columnist William Safire continues to demand that a special prosecutor look into George Washington's speculative dealings in Western lands. He's particularly interested in Washington's alleged participation in something called "the Dismal Swamp Project."

* CNN announced that Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison have been signed to debate the issues raised in the Federalist Papers, during a special hour-long edition of the "Capital Gang" scheduled for Saturday evening.

* TV talkmeister Larry King has an exclusive interview tonight with moviemaker Oliver Stone, who has been in Philadelphia for several weeks scouting locations for his new film. The film will attempt to unravel the real story behind the death of Nathan Hale, an American soldier who was hanged by the British as a spy. He was actually a double agent who was mistakenly executed by an overzealous redcoat officer, according to Mr. Stone's spokesman.

* The Wall Street Journal, in its editorial pages yesterday called for the states to reject the proposed Constitution on the grounds that it is yet another attempt to extend national governmental authority over American citizens.

Whether this flurry of media stories will affect the outcome of the constitutional ratification effort is uncertain. However, Gallup Poll results released yesterday show that while the majority of the people recognize the names of most of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, 63 percent were opposed to the proposed Constitution. An informal survey of media columnists and commentators indicates that adoption of the Constitution by the states is doubtful.

Richard W. Smith writes from Timonium.

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