Disagreements in the Constitutional Convention

April 9, 2021

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. In the summer of 1787, delegates from all states except Rhode Island met in Philadelphia with the express purpose of amending the articles of confederation. They quickly agreed to write a new governmental framework, forming the Constitutional Convention that drafted a new U.S. Constitution. However, before they could agree on the final provisions of this document, delegates had to compromise to resolve disagreements on several issues. When the Convention received the draft containing these proposals, another heated debate broke out. Opponents of the export ban have raised objections on economic grounds. One delegate said denying the power to tax exports would take “half of the trade regulation” away from the government. Another pointed out that taxing exports could become important “if America becomes a producing country.” The outline of Virginia`s plan was well received. But the question arose as to how members of both houses of Congress should be elected.

For half of the summer, the Convention discussed this issue. Some delegates strongly opposed the election of the House of Commons. Roger Sherman of Connecticut was suspicious of the concept of democracy. People, he said, “should have as little to do about the government as possible” because they are “constantly in danger of being misled.” Others strongly supported the referendum, including George Mason of Virginia. Mason trusted the common man and believed that members of the House of Commons should “know and sympathize with every part of the community.” In the fall of 1786, the combination of a financial crisis of the newly created Confederate government and disorder threatened by disgruntled farmers in western Massachusetts led a group of “nationalist” politicians gathered in Annapolis on September 22, 1786 to propose that the Continental Congress in New York convene a “general assembly” in Philadelphia. The Congress has been postponed to 21 September. In February 1787, and reluctantly accepting this convention, it limited itself to the simple “revision” of the existing articles of confederation. The fifty-five delegates who met in Philadelphia between May 25 and September 17, 1787, not only rejected the Articles of Confederation, but also produced the first constitution written for each nation in the history of the world. When the details of Virginia`s plan were discussed, it became clear that it was not a simple revision of the articles of Confederation, but a bold plan for an entirely new type of government – a government with a much more powerful “national” legislature and, unlike the articles of confederation, with a powerful chief executive. It also became immediately clear that, as bold and innovative as the plan may have been, many delegates in the room had serious concerns about certain aspects.

For nearly four months, the delegates tried to deal with and settle their differences. The most controversial issues of these issues – those concerning the distribution of representation in the national legislature, the powers and modalities of election of the chief executive, and the place of the institution of slavery in the new continental political system – would fundamentally change the form of the document, which would finally emerge on September 17. 1787th Constitutional Convention, (1787), in the history of the United States, convention that drafted the Constitution of the United States. Spurred on by severe economic hardship caused by radical political movements such as the Shays Rebellion and the demand for a stronger central government, the convention met at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia (May 25– September 17, 1787), ostensibly to change the articles of Confederation. All states except Rhode Island accepted an invitation from the Annapolis Convention of 1786 to send delegates. Of the 74 deputies elected by state legislators, only 55 participated in the process; of these, 39 have signed the Constitution. Among the delegates were many prominent figures of the time. Among them were George Washington, who was elected president, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson, John Rutledge, Charles Pinckney, Oliver Ellsworth and Governor Morris. Problems with the existing confederacy finally convinced the Continental Congress in February 1787 to convene a convention of delegates to meet in Philadelphia in May “to elaborate such other provisions as they deem necessary to make the constitution of the federal government appropriate to the requirements of the Union.” Two other questions about the president also sparked intense debate: how long should the president`s term last? And should the number of terms the president could serve be limited? This debate was based on the fear of a monarchy or the takeover of the country by a despot. The Convention finally decided on a four-year term, with no limit on how often the President could be re-elected. After reaching a compromise on the choice of legislature, the Convention dealt with the other parts of the Virginia Plan. The plan called for the creation of a national executive, but did not specify how long the executive would serve.

The executive would have “general power to implement national laws.” The plan also decided that the executive branch, in cooperation with a judicial committee, should have the power to review and veto laws passed by Congress “unless the law of the national legislature is re-enacted.” A gathering of delegates from all states except Rhode Island met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in May 1787. At this meeting, known as the Constitutional Convention, it was decided that the best solution to the problems of the young country is to set aside the articles of Confederation and write a new constitution. George Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention. The issue of counting slaves in the population for the calculation of representation was settled by a compromise agreement according to which three-fifths of slaves should be counted as population in the division of representation and should also be counted as property in the collection of taxes. The controversy over the abolition of slave imports ended with the agreement that imports should not be banned until 1808. The powers of the federal executive and the judiciary were enumerated, and the constitution itself was declared the “supreme law of the land.” The work of the Convention was approved by a majority of States the following year. 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 September 17, they produced the U.S.

Constitution and replaced the articles with the government document that worked effectively for more than 200 years. By 1787, the debts of the War of Independence had accumulated and many states had defaulted on paying their debts. States imposed tariffs on each other and competed for borders. Britain was furious because pre-war debts were not being paid, and it refused to comply with the treaty that had ended the war (the Treaty of Paris of 1783). Recognizing that things were not going well, Congress declared on September 21. February 1787, “that there are gaps in the present Confederation” and decided that a convention should be held in Philadelphia “to revise the articles of confederation . . . and to make the Federal Constitution suitable for the requirements of the Government and the preservation of the Union. 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. Shortly after its convening, the Constitutional Convention agreed on a single executive as opposed to a plural executive, which was favored by some delegates who feared the reintroduction of a monarchy. Major disagreements persisted over how to elect the executive. Some wanted the president to be elected by Congress on a long-term basis, but not eligible for re-election. Others advocated direct popular election for a shorter term without term limits. A compromise ultimately provided for the president to be elected for a four-year term by electors elected in a manner prescribed by state legislatures. .

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