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The Constitution and Federalism. The Philadelphia (Constitutional) Convention of 1787. May 25, 1787: 55 delegates from 12 of the 13 States (Rhode Island did not send a representative) met in Philadelphia Purpose: To revise (edit/change) the Articles of Confederation

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the philadelphia constitutional convention of 1787
The Philadelphia (Constitutional) Convention of 1787
  • May 25, 1787: 55 delegates from 12 of the 13 States (Rhode Island did not send a representative) met in Philadelphia
  • Purpose: To revise (edit/change) the Articles of Confederation
  • 5 days into the convention, they decided to throw out the Articles of Confederation and start all over with a new government
  • For 89 of the 116 days from May 25-September 17, they met in secret and eventually wrote what we know as our Constitution.
the constitution a bundle of compromises
The Constitution: “A Bundle of Compromises”
  • Compromise: settling a conflict by each side giving up part of their demands in order to meet in the middle (come to an agreement).
  • The Constitution has been described as a “bundle of compromises” because lots of people had different opinions on how the government should run, and everyone had to give in a little bit along the way.
  • The biggest compromises had to do with representation in Congress and with slavery
1 the connecticut compromise
1. The Connecticut Compromise
  • Established that our legislature (Congress) would be bicameral
  • Also called “The Great Compromise”
  • The conflict: Big States vs. Small States
    • Virginia Plan (favored big States): Congress should be bicameral (2 houses). Representation is based on wealth and population of each State
    • New Jersey Plan (favored small States): Congress should be unicameral (1 house). Every State sends the same number of representatives, no matter how big the State is.

The compromise: Congress is bicameral (2 houses):

    • Senate: Every State send 2 representatives, no matter how big the State
    • House of Representatives: The number of reps. each State sends depends on how many people are in the State (the population)
      • 1 representative for every 650,000 people who live in the State
      • Georgia currently sends 14 reps. to the House. Montana only sends 1.
2 the 3 5 compromise
2. The 3/5 Compromise
  • The conflict: Southern States vs. Northern States
    • Southern States:
      • Wanted to count slaves as part of their population so they would be able to send more representatives to the House of Representatives
      • Otherwise, the Southern States would always be outvoted on things in Congress
    • Northern States:
      • Thought that slaves shouldn’t count toward Southern representation in Congress, because they weren’t counted as citizens
  • The compromise: 3 out of every 5 slaves would be counted toward the population of each State.
3 slave trade compromise
3. Slave Trade Compromise
  • The conflict: Northern States vs. Southern States (round 2!)
    • Northern States:
      • Wanted to end the slave trade (the actual shipping of slaves from Africa to the US)
      • Worried that southern States would just ship in more slaves so they could increase their populations and control Congress
    • Southern States:
      • Their economy was based on farming/agriculture – large plantations where slaves did the work for free
      • Wanted to continue to have access to slaves
  • The compromise:
    • Slaves could continue to be imported (brought in to the country from Africa) until 1808 – about 20 more years
    • Congress would not have the power to tax exports (goods shipped out of the country to other countries)
obj 2 ratifying the constitution
Obj. 2: Ratifying the Constitution
  • Sept 17, 1787 – The Constitutional Convention approves the Constitution and 39 members sign
  • Needed 9 states to approve for new govt to go into effect
  • Sept 28, 1787: copies of the Constitution were sent out to the states for approval
two sides emerge
Two sides emerge:



Opposed ratification

Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, John Hancock

Supported states having most of the power (weak national govt)

Feared a single executive would turn into a king/tyrant

Strict interpretation of Constitution – If it doesn’t say it, the national govt can’t do it!

**Demanded a Bill of Rights to protect civil liberties**

  • Favored ratification
  • Alexander Hamilton, James Madison
  • Supported a stronger national government, with states giving up some powers
  • Supported having a single head executive (president)
  • Loose interpretation of Constitution
  • Votes on ratification were close in many states
  • 1st state to ratify - Delaware (Dec 7, 1787)
  • June 21, 1788 – New Hampshire is the 9th state to ratify
  • BUT, Virginia and New York, the two largest, wealthiest states, had not ratified.
  • Washington and Madison were able to convince Thomas Jefferson to ratify
  • Virginia ratifies June 25, 1788
  • NY went through heated debates
  • The Federalist Papers – a collection of 85 essays supporting the Constitution
    • Authors: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay
    • Considered first campaign document in the US – it greatly influenced NY’s decision to ratify
  • NY finally ratifies July 26, 1788
a new government
A New Government
  • Sept 13, 1788 – Constitution officially goes into effect
  • New York chosen as the temporary capital
  • March 4, 1789 – First Congress meets in NY
    • Did not have a quorum (majority), so electoral votes for Pres/VP could not be counted until…
  • April 6:
    • President = George Washington
    • John Adams = Vice President
  • April 30, 1789 – GW sworn in as 1st Pres of US
obj 3 fundamental principles of the us constitution
Obj. 3: Fundamental principles of the US Constitution
  • Functions of the Constitution (What does it do?)
    • It is the highest form of law in the US
    • Lays out the framework and procedures of our govt
    • Sets limits on govt power
6 basic principles of the constitution
6 Basic Principles of the Constitution
  • Limited Government
  • Popular Sovereignty
  • Separation of Powers
  • Checks and Balances
  • Judicial Review
  • Federalism
6 basic principles of the constitution1
6 Basic Principles of the Constitution
  • Limited Government
    • NO government is all powerful
    • Government can only do the things that people have given it the power to do
    • Aka constitutionalism – the government MUST be conducted according to constitutional principles
    • Includes the Rule of Law:
      • NO person is above the law
      • Everyone, even government officials, MUST follow the laws of the land

2. Popular Sovereignty

  • All political power is with the people
  • Government can only rule with the consent of the people
  • Expressed in 1st words of Constitution: “We the people…”

Separation of Powers

    • All of the basic powers of the American government are distributed among 3 branches of government
      • The executive, legislative, and judicial branches are completely separate bodies/groups of people
      • Each branch has its own set of responsibilities:
        • Legislative Branch: makes/passes the laws
        • Executive Branch: executes, enforces, administers the law
        • Judicial Branch: interprets and applies the laws
    • Why?
      • The framers wanted a stronger central government, but…
      • didn’t want too much power in the hands of any one person or group

Checks and Balances

    • Even though the 3 branches have separate powers, they still have to work together to get things done
    • Each branch is subject to limits by the other branches
    • And each branch also has powers that limit other branches
    • Facts of Congress: Checks/Balances
checks and balances examples
Checks and Balances: Examples
  • Executive Branch
    • The President is the Commander-in-Chief (head) of the military…
    • ….but only Congress can declare war and vote on funds/troops (legislative limits the executive)
  • Legislative Branch
    • Congress has the power to make (write, discuss, and vote on) laws…
    • the President can veto those laws (executive limits the legislative)
    • …but Congress can override the Presidential veto with a 2/3 majority vote (legislative limits the executive)

Judicial Branch

    • Is limited by the Executive and Legislative Branches…
      • The President chooses (appoints) all Supreme Court judges….
      • but the Senate must vote to approve the President’s choices.
      • Congress can also vote to impeach and remove Federal judges
    • But the Judicial Branch also limits the Executive and Legislative Branches…
      • With the power of judicial review

Judicial Review

    • Courts have the power to determine constitutionality of all laws and government actions
    • In other words, courts can declare illegal, null and voidany government action that violates any part of the Constitution
    • Extends to all governments in US – national, state, and local

Judicial review was established in 1803 with the Marbury vs. Madison court case.



    • The national government is not all-powerful. Government powers/duties are divided between:
      • The National/Federal government (based in Washington, D.C.)
      • The States’ governments (like GA)
    • The framers chose this system as a compromise between those who wanted sovereign (independent) states and those who wanted a stronger national government
    • Facts of Congress: Federalism