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The 1787 Constitutional Convention was convened in Philadelphia to address severe problems and weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation.
Evaluate some of the philosophical and political factors that shaped the United States Constitution
The delegates elected to the Convention were well-to-do men of property that were committed to reforms that would divide and balance sovereignty between separate branches of government that could both mediate the interests and wants of society while providing order and stability.
The provisions of the new Constitution were largely agreed upon by compromise.
A voting principle aimed at securing a close match between the percentage of votes that groups of candidates (usually political parties) obtain in elections, and the percentage of seats they receive in the elected body.
The Constitutional Convention (May 14 to September 17, 1787) was convened in Philadelphia to address severe problems and weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation. although many of the delegates that attended went with the purpose of drafting a document outlining a new federal structure, rather than fix the existing one. Although various disputes arose between delegates with contrasting perspectives of a successful political structure, the result was the United States Constitution.
The delegates elected to the Convention were well-to-do men of property that had experience in drafting their own state constitutions, had extensively studied law, and were committed to reforms that would divide and balance sovereignty between separate branches of government in order to create a successful republican structure that could both mediate the interests and wants of society while providing order and stability.
Of first importance in the convention was to adopt an efficient system of federal representation of the enfranchised populace: although delegates disagreed with each other about how to best achieve this. Several proposals were presented by delegates to the Convention, outlining various political structures. Drawing on English common law and the writings of Enlightenment political philosophers, most of these plans provided for some form of separation between a legislative, executive, and judicial power.
The delegates agreed that the executive office should be comprised of a single individual elected for a fixed term, in which foreign affairs, control over the armed forces, and the appointment of federal officers (including supreme court judges) would be consigned. Delegates also accepted the need for a bicameral (two-house) legislature, similar to the British Parliament. However, how many legislators were to be voted into office, and what qualifications they needed to sit in a particular house, were problems that were hotly debated.
Larger state delegates favored a system whereby representation in both houses would be proportional: meaning that the greater the population of voters in a given state, the more federal representatives would be allotted to that state in Congress. Delegates from these states supported the VIrginia Plan, crafted by James Madison, which included a system of proportional representation in Congress as well as an extension of congressional powers. On the other hand, delegates from small states demanded a system of equal representation, whereby the amount of representatives from each state, regardless of population size, would be numerically fixed. This system of equal representation was detailed in William Patterson's New Jersey Plan.
Debate over the Virginia v. New Jersey Plans was contentious and almost threatened to shut the Convention down. However, the "Connecticut Compromise" proposed by Roger Sherman outlined a system of bicameral legislation that included both proportional and equal representation. In Sherman's plan, a House of Representatives would be based on proportional representation and a Senate, where representation would be fixed to two delegates per state. The "Great Compromise" was adopted by the Convention and became the foundation for the structure of the legislative branch of federal government that exists today.
THE CONNECTICUT COMPROMISE
The Connecticut Compromise set the tone of the rest of the Convention's activity: bargaining among various delegates to balance disparate interests and ideologies to form what would become the Constitution of 1788. However, unlike the Virginia or New Jersey Plans, most other divisions in the Convention were sectional. For example, the Three-Fifths Compromise was an agreement reached by northern and southern states whereby slaves would be counted as 3/5 a person in the population (boosting the amount of seats that southern states could hold in the House of Representatives). Southern delegates originally demanded that slaves be counted as a whole person while Northern delegates argued that only free people could be counted. Thus, while the Constitution represents a diverse array of interests and ideologies that converged in a national system of government founded on the separation of powers, it also indicates a strong pro-slave and anti-slave, sectional divide among northern and southern states that would persist until the Civil War in the 1860s.
Another issue that faced the Convention was creating a balance between state and federal veto power. Although the delegates agreed that the states wielded too much veto power under the Articles of Confederation, most resisted the idea that the federal government could directly circumscribe state legislative powers. The Constitution, as written, remained ambiguous on the issue: Article VI declared that national laws and treaties would constitute "the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound therefby," but there was no concrete provision declaring how states and the federal government could negotiate disagreements over "the supreme law of the land. "
THE BILL OF RIGHTS
The original Constitution lacked a Bill of Rights, which would safeguard the liberties and freedoms of individual citizens from tyrannical action by the federal government: and its absence was attacked by critics of the Constitution. Indeed, many state conventions ratified the Constitution with the understanding that a bill of rights would soon follow. The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, drafted by James Madison. These limitations serve to protect the natural rights of liberty and property of individual citizens from any tyrannical measures imposed by the federal government. They guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and reserve some powers to the states and the public.
One of the earliest documents used as a model for drafting the American Bill of Rights was the English Bill of Rights of 1689, one of the fundamental documents of English constitutional law. In addition to the English Bill of Rights and writings of John Locke, which proclaimed that all men free and equal in a "state of nature" and entitled to certain basic liberties. Finally, another source of inspiration for the Bill of Rights was the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which included provisions that restricted the reach of the government.