Disagreement at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 Was Resolved by a Compromise That

December 7, 2020

The drafters of the Constitution had extensive political experience. In 1787, four-fifths of the delegates were present at the Continental Congress. Almost all of the fifty-five delegates had experience in colonial and state government. In addition, delegates worked in a wide range of high- and medium-status occupations. Many delegates have gone on to pursue more than one career at a time. They were not very different from the Loyalists, except that the delegates were generally younger in their profession. In 1786, Americans realized that the Articles of Confederation, the founding document of the new United States, adopted in 1777, needed to be fundamentally changed. The articles gave Congress virtually no power to regulate domestic affairs — no fiscal power, no power to regulate trade. Without coercive powers, Congress relied on government financial contributions and often rejected motions. Congress had neither the money to pay soldiers for their service during the Revolutionary War, nor to repay foreign loans to support the war effort.

By 1786, the United States was bankrupt. In addition, the young nation faced many other challenges and threats. States have waged an endless war of economic discrimination against trade in other countries. Southern states have fought for economic benefits. The country was ill-equipped to wage war – and other nations wondered if treaties with the United States were worth the paper they were written on. Moreover, Americans suffered from wounded pride while European nations regarded the United States as the “Republic of Third Countries.” The Statutes of the Confederation do not provide for a Chief Executive of the United States. Therefore, when delegates decided that a chair was needed, there were disagreements about how he or she should be elected. While some delegates believed that the president should be elected to the people, others feared that voters would not be sufficiently informed to make a broad decision.

They proposed other alternatives, such as going through the Senate of each state to elect the president. Three months after signing the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Madison that it had been a grave mistake to omit a Bill of Rights. “A bill of rights,” he said, “is what the people are entitled to against any government on earth.” And many others agreed. When the Constitution was ratified by the states, many people rejected it simply because it did not contain a Bill of Rights. In Massachusetts and six other states, ratification conventions recommended the addition of a Bill of Rights to the Constitution. And shortly after the convening of the first Congress in 1789, he responded to the request of the seven states and approved 10 constitutional amendments (drafted by James Madison) that became the Bill of Rights. The Constitution also created an executive and a judiciary that established a system of checks and balances. The three branches would have a distribution of power, so that no branch could become more powerful than another. Early on, Virginia Governor Edmund Randolph introduced the Virginia Plan, which called for a three-branch national government.

The legislature would make laws, the executive would take the initiative and enforce the laws, and the judiciary would explain and interpret the laws. Before the convention officially began, Madison and the other Virginia delegates had drafted a plan — the Virginia Plan — to correct the articles of the Confederacy. Their plan went far beyond changes and corrections and in fact established an entirely new instrument of government. The plan called for three distinct branches of government: legislative, executive and judicial. The legislature would have two chambers, with the first chamber being elected by the people of each state, and the second by the first chamber from a list drawn up by the state legislators. After the introduction of the Virginia plan, New Jersey Delegate William Paterson requested an adjournment to reflect on the plan. According to the articles of Confederation, each state was equally represented in Congress and exercised one vote at a time. Paterson`s Plan of New Jersey was ultimately a refutation of the Virginia Plan. As part of the New Jersey plan, the unicameral legislature was inherited from the Articles of Confederation with one vote per state.

That position reflected the belief that States were independent entities and that when they entered the United States of America freely and individually, they remained. In February 1787, Congress decided that a convention should be convened to revise the Articles of Confederation, the country`s first constitution. In May, 55 delegates came to Philadelphia and the Constitutional Convention began. Debates erupted over congressional representation, slavery and the new executive branch. The debates lasted four hot and humid months. But eventually, the delegates reached compromises, and on the 17th. In September, they produced the U.S. Constitution and replaced the articles with the government document, which has been operating effectively for more than 200 years.

The Detail Committee was a committee established by the United States Constitutional Convention on June 23, 1787, to present a draft text that reflected the agreements reached by the Convention so far, including the 15 resolutions of the Virginia Plan. It was chaired by John Rutledge and the other members were Edmund Randolph, Oliver Ellsworth, James Wilson and Nathaniel Gorham. The most difficult question, however, was how states should be represented in Congress. Should all states have the same number of votes (as they did under the Articles of Confederation, where each state had one vote)? Or should each state`s vote count depend on the size of its population (or wealth), as proposed in the Virginia plan? This problem blocked the procedure for many weeks. Representatives of small states believed that representation based on population would destroy the rights of their states. David Brearley of New Jersey said representation on the basis of population is unfair and unfair. “Large states,” he said, “will carry everything in front of them,” and small states, like Georgia, “will be forced to constantly throw themselves into the balance of a large state in order to have the slightest weight.” Other delegates, such as James Wilson of Pennsylvania (one of the three major states), argued that only population-based representation would be fair: for New Jersey, a state with about one-third of Pennsylvania`s population, to have the same number of votes as Pennsylvania, “I say no! It`s not fair. Many people, like Patrick Henry, George Mason and Richard Henry Lee, were anti-federalists.

The anti-federalists had several complaints about the constitution. One of its most important was that the Constitution did not provide for a bill of rights to protect people. They also felt that the constitution gave too much power to the federal government and individual states too little. A third complaint of the anti-federalists was that the senators and the president were not directly elected by the people, and the House of Representatives was elected every two years instead of once a year. On December 7, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution. The vote was unanimous with 30:0 votes. Pennsylvania followed on December 12, and New Jersey ratified on December 18, also unanimously. By the summer of 1788, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, and New York had ratified the Constitution, which was coming into effect. On August 2, 1788, North Carolina refused to ratify the Constitution without amendments, but it relented and ratified it a year later. During the break in the Convention`s session at the end of July, the Detail committee had inserted language that would prohibit the federal government from prohibiting the international slave trade and collecting taxes on the purchase or sale of slaves. This committee helped find a compromise: in exchange for this concession, the federal government`s power to regulate foreign trade would be strengthened by provisions that would allow the taxation of the slave trade on the international market and reduce the need to pass shipping laws by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress to a simple majority. One of the most controversial issues faced by delegates was slavery.

Slavery was widespread in states at the time of the Convention. Twenty-five of the convention`s 55 delegates owned slaves, including all delegates from Virginia and South Carolina. The question of whether slavery should be regulated by the new constitution was the subject of such intense conflict between the North and the South that several southern states refused to join the Union if slavery was not allowed. It is not clear why the application failed. Eight states already had constitutions that included a bill of rights, so one of them may have been drafted quickly. .

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