Convention and Compromise. By: Ms. Astle. The Constitutional Convention.
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The Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia beginning in May 1787 and consisted of 55 delegates, none of whom were Native American, African American, or women. None of these groups were included in the political process.
The meetings were held in Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Delegates were planters, merchants, lawyers, physicians, generals, governors, and a college president.
Three men were under 30 years old and Benjamin Franklin was over 80 years old.
Several leaders stood out—George Washington, Ben Franklin, James Wilson, Gouverneur Morris, who wrote the final draft of the Constitution, Edmund Randolph, and James Madison, who became known as the “Father of the Constitution” because he authored the basic plan of government that was adopted.
George Washington was elected to preside over the convention.
The first thing the delegates did were to establish rules:
Each state only had one vote on all issues, no matter how large the state.
A majority vote was needed to finalize decisions.
Delegates from 7 of the 13 states were required for meetings to be held.
Delegates met behind closed doors and kept the meeting a secret so they could talk freely.
Two plans of government were proposed—the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan.
The Virginia Plan proposed by Edmund Randolph from Virginia, called for a two-house legislature, a chief executive chosen by the legislature, and a court system.
The people would elect members of the lower house.
The lower house would choose members of the upper house.
In both houses, the number of representatives would be proportional to the population of each state. A state with a smaller population would have fewer representatives than a state with a larger population
The delegates decided that simply revising the Articles of Confederation would not solve the problems. They voted to plan a national government based on the Virginia Plan, but they had to work out several issues.
How the members of Congress were to be elected.
How state representation would be determined in both houses.
Whether or not enslaved people were to be counted as part of the population, which would affect the number of representatives for some states.
The Great Compromise was the agreement used to resolve the representation issues. Ben Franklin led the committee. Roger Sherman of Connecticut proposed the plan.
There would be a two-house legislature. In the lower house, the House of Representatives, the number of seats would vary according to the state’s population. In the upper house, or Senate, each states would have two members.
The way to count enslaved people would be determined by the Three-Fifths Compromise.
The Northern states wanted slaves to count for taxation, but not representation.
Southern states wanted slaves to count for representation, but not for taxation.
The Great Compromise decided each enslaved person was to count as three-fifths of a free person for taxation and representation. So every five enslaved people would equal three free people. This broke the debate that divided the large and small states.
Another compromise plan to resolve the issue of slavery said that Congress would not interfere with the slave trade until 1808. Beginning that year, Congress would limit the slave trade if it chose to. The Northerners, who wanted to abolish slavery throughout the nation and had already, banned the slave trade in their states, compromised with the Southern states that considered slavery and the slave trade essential to their economies.
The Bill of Rights was proposed to protect the new government from abusing its power, George Mason of Virginia proposed the bill of rights, but it was defeated. Most of the delegates felt that the Constitution already provided adequate protection of the people's rights.
The state governments had the power to pass and enforce laws and regulate trade within their borders. They could also establish local governments, schools, and other institutions affecting the welfare of its citizens.
Shared powers by the federal and states included the power to tax and to build roads.
The Constitution became the supreme law of the land, the final authority. Not state could make laws or take actions that went against the Constitution. Federal courts based on the Constitution would settle disputes between the federal government and states.
Before the Constitution could go into effect, 9 of the 13 states had to ratify it. A great debate took place, with Americans discussing arguments for and against the Constitution. State legislatures set up special ratifying conventions. Rhode Island was the only state that did not call a convention because its leaders opposed the Constitution from the beginning.
Federalists supported the Constitution. George Washington, Ben Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay supported the Constitution. Madison, Hamilton, and Jay wrote the Federalist Papers, a collection of essays explaining and defending the Constitution.
The Anti-federalists opposed ratification. They wrote a series of essays known as the Anti-federalist Papers. They believed that he new Constitution would take away the liberties Americans had fought to win, create a strong central government, and ignore the will of the states and the people. They wanted a bill or rights.
The debate exposed each group’s fears. The Federalists feared disorder without a strong federal government and looked to the court to created a national government capable of maintaining order. The Anti-federalists feared oppression more than disorder. They worried that the government would be run by a small educated group of people that would hold the power.
The Constitution was ratified by all states, despite opposition. Delaware was the first to ratify on December 7, 1787. New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify on June 21, 1788. New York and Virginia, the two largest states, had not yet ratified. Both states had strong Anti-federalist groups, and their support was necessary to promote the future of the new government.
Virginia ratified at the end of June 1788 after being told the Constitution would have a bill of rights added to it.
New York narrowly ratified in July 1788, North Carolina in November 1789, and Rhode Island in May 1790.
Celebrations took place in hundreds of American towns and cities. The Constitution was finally ratified, and the new nation had a new government. A bill of rights was added in 1791.
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