U.S. Senate: Formative Years of the Senate:
Representatives from Virginia and Maryland meet at George Washington's estate to During the winter of , inflation of paper money gets out of hand. The convention, scheduled to open on May 14, did not achieve a quorum until After agreeing to meet from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. six days a week and settling on. America's Story from America's Library Meet Amazing Americans Jump Back in delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in May
It also became immediately clear that, however bold and innovative the plan may have been, there were many delegates in the room who had grave misgivings about some aspects of it. For nearly four months, the delegates attempted to work through, and resolve, their disagreements. The Founding Fathers and Federalism The delegates haggled over how to apportion representation in the legislature off and on for more than six weeks between May 30 and July Those from large, populous states such as Virginia and Pennsylvania—supporters of the Virginia Plan—argued that representation in both houses of the proposed new congress should be based on population, while those from smaller states such as New Jersey and Delaware—supporters of the New Jersey Plan—argued for equal representation for each state.
The compromise that eventually emerged, one championed most energetically by the delegates from Connecticut, was obvious: In the final vote on the so-called Connecticut Compromise on July 16, five states supported the proposal; four opposed, including Virginia and Pennsylvania; and one state—Massachusetts—was divided.
James Madison and many of his nationalist colleagues were disconsolate, convinced that the compromise would destroy the very character of the national government they hoped to create. In The Federalist No. In this, as in so many areas, the so-called original meaning of the Constitution was not at all self-evident— even to the Framers of the Constitution themselves.
Creating an American President The debate among the delegates over the nature of the American presidency was more high- toned and more protracted than that over representation in the Congress.
They urged their fellow delegates to give the president an absolute veto over congressional legislation. In the end, it was compromise that once again won the day—the delegates agreed to give the President a limited veto power, but one which could be over-ridden by a vote of two-thirds of both houses of Congress. Most of the delegates initially thought that the executive should be elected by the national legislature; still others thought the executive should be elected by the state legislatures or even by the governors of the states.
James Wilson was virtually the only delegate who proposed direct election of the president by the people. He believed that it was only through some form of popular election that the executive branch could be given both energy and independence. They voted against some version of the proposal on numerous occasions between early June and early September ofonly agreeing to the version contained in our modern Constitution modified slightly by the Twelfth Amendment grudgingly and out of a sense of desperation, as the least problematic of the alternatives before them.
The other obvious solution—election by members of a national Congress whose perspective was likely to be continental rather than provincial—was ultimately rejected because of the problems it created with respect to the doctrine of separation of powers: The creation of an electoral college was a middle ground, and while many delegates feared that locally-selected presidential electors would be subject to the same sort of provincial thinking as ordinary citizens, they reluctantly came to the conclusion that it was the best they could do while still preserving an adequate separation of power between the executive and legislative branches.
It was a highly imperfect solution to a real problem, but, in the context of the times—perhaps until today—there may well have been no better alternative. For example, most of the delegates supported the imposition of property qualifications for voters in their individual states. But nowhere are those limitations more obvious than during the debates relating to the subject of slavery. Inslavery in America was in a state of decline, but it remained a significant part of the social and economic fabric in five of the states represented in the Convention.
Indeed, they enshrined the institution of slavery within their new Constitution. It was impossible to discuss questions relating to the apportionment of representation without confronting the fact that the slave population of the South—whether conceived of as residents or property—would affect the calculations for representation.
Constitutional Convention | History & Compromises | dayline.info
The final resolution of that issue—the Three-Fifths Compromise, a formula by which slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person in apportioning both representation and taxation—was a purely mechanical and amoral calculation designed to produce harmony among conflicting interests within the Convention. As many disgruntled delegates pointed out, it had little basis either in logic or morality, but in the end, the need for a consensus on the issue, however fragile that compromise might be, outweighed all other considerations.
The debate over the future of the international slave trade was in many respects even more depressing than that which culminated in the Three-Fifths Compromise. Only the delegates from South Carolina and Georgia were determined to continue what most other delegates believed to be an iniquitous trade, yet their insistence that the trade continue for at least another twenty years carried the day.
However troubled delegates from the other states may have been, their concern for harmony within the Convention was much stronger than their concern for the fate of those Africans whose lives and labor would be sacrificed by the continuation of the slave trade. Between and the number of African slaves imported into the United States exceeded , only about 50, fewer than the total number of slaves imported to America in the preceding years!
That decision would prove to be one of the most serious mistakes made by the men who drafted the Constitution. When Thomas Jefferson—then serving as ambassador to France—received a copy of the completed Constitution from James Madison, he was unable to contain his unhappiness at the absence of a bill of rights. When the final draft of the Constitution was submitted to the people of the states for their approval, the absence of a bill of rights quickly emerged as one of the most serious objections to the proposed plan of union.
If many of the supporters of the Constitution subsequently had not promised that they would quickly work to add a bill of rights to the Constitution once the new government commenced operation, it is likely that the document would have failed to gain the approval of the nine states necessary for its ratification.
Ironically, the person who took the lead in drafting a bill of rights in the first Congress was James Madison, who had opposed adding a bill of rights not only during the Convention, but also during the debate over ratification in his state of Virginia.
Inthe United States was bankrupt. Moreover, the young nation faced many other challenges and threats. States engaged in an endless war of economic discrimination against commerce from other states. Southern states battled northern states for economic advantage. The country was ill-equipped to fight a war--and other nations wondered whether treaties with the United States were worth the paper they were written on.
On top of all else, Americans suffered from injured pride, as European nations dismissed the United States as "a third-rate republic. In Rhode Island called by elites "Rogue Island"a state legislature dominated by the debtor class passed legislation essentially forgiving all debts as it considered a measure that would redistribute property every thirteen years. The final straw for many came in western Massachusetts where angry farmers, led by Daniel Shays, took up arms and engaged in active rebellion in an effort to gain debt relief.
Troubles with the existing Confederation of States finally convinced the Continental Congress, in Februaryto call for a convention of delegates to meet in May in Philadelphia "to devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union.
Few people claim to be anti-liberty, but the word "liberty" has many meanings. Should the delegates be most concerned with protected liberty of conscience, liberty of contract meaning, for many at the time, the right of creditors to collect debts owed under their contractsor the liberty to hold property debtors complained that this liberty was being taken by banks and other creditors? Convention in Philadelphia The room in Independence Hall formerly the State House in Philadelphia where debates over the proposed Constitution took place photo by Doug Linder On May 25,a week later than scheduled, delegates from the various states met in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia.
Among the first orders of business was electing George Washington president of the Convention and establishing the rules--including complete secrecy concerning its deliberations--that would guide the proceedings.
Formative Years of the Senate: 1787-1800
Several delegates, most notably James Madison, took extensive notes, but these were not published until decades later. The main business of the Convention began four days later when Governor Edmund Randolph of Virginia presented and defended a plan for new structure of government called the "Virginia Plan" that had been chiefly drafted by fellow Virginia delegate, James Madison.
The Virginia Plan called for a strong national government with both branches of the legislative branch apportioned by population.
The plan gave the national government the power to legislate "in all cases in which the separate States are incompetent" and even gave a proposed national Council of Revision a veto power over state legislatures."Omelette of Asparagus" - A Recipe from 1787
Delegates from smaller states, and states less sympathetic to broad federal powers, opposed many of the provisions in the Virginia Plan. Charles Pinckney of South Carolina asked whether proponents of the plan "meant to abolish the State Governments altogether.