By: Mevlana Hursid (editor), Kelly Reid, Theresa Cashore
The Constitutional Convention
In the days and weeks leading up to the Constitutional Convention, the “Founding Fathers” recognized the necessity to either alter or completely replace the existing government. On May 15th, 1776, 55 delegates from all 13 states met in Independence Hall to try to form a new government that could efficiently divide the power between national and state governments. The Articles of Confederation, which is referred to a "compact among the thirteen original colonies that created a loose league of friendship, with the national government drawing its powers from the states," had been the “loose agreement” between the current states (O'Connor 38). Under the Articles, the states had far more power than the national government, and chaos ensued. For this reason, each state submitted delegates to help form a new and structured form of government.
What is this painting depict? This painting is showing all of the delegates signing the Constitution in the Independence Hall, in Pennsylvania, during the year of 1787.
What is this painting depict? This painting is showing all of the delegates signing the Constitution in the Independence Hall, in Pennsylvania, during the year of 1787.

The "Plans"
The Convention of 1776 was top secret and was referred to as a complete private event. The “framers” did not want outside influence upon their decision, and would not announce the new system until it had been completed and every issue had been resolved. George Washington was named the president of the Convention, and James Madison kept a journal of all the events that happened during the event, along with the help of Robert Yates. In the first few days of the Convention, before all the states had arrived, James Madison had a “plan” for the new government. Madison, a strong nationalist, formed his Virginia Plan, which the idea of "a bicameral legislature, and an executive and a judiciary chosen by the national legislature" (O'Connor 41). The Virginia Plan reflected Madison's views of desiring a strong nationalist government and presenting the idea of representation based on state population. Conversely, the New Jersey Plan, created by William Patterson was the idea of "a one-house legislature with one vote for each state, a Congress with the ability to raise revenue, and a Supreme Court with members appointed for life" (O'Connor 42). This plan called for a unicameral legislative branch, but with both houses’ representations based on population. This was widely considered the “large state plan.”

What is the difference between the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan? The Virginia Plan is bicameral, while the New Jersey Plan is unicameral.
What is the difference between the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan? The Virginia Plan is bicameral, while the New Jersey Plan is unicameral.


The "Compromises"
All the delegates that came to the Convention came representing their states and often inputting the opinions of what the majority of their state wanted. A major debate while making the constitution therefore lay in the difference between small and large states, in population verse size. The delegates had the important decisions of deciding how these states would be represented in government, and had to make important compromises on representation. The debate over slavery was also a focus and an important compromise to figure out, due to the vast differences on opinion between North and South states. Throughout these decisions, the delegates worked to make the union more effective than with the articles of confederation, in a federal system that worked effectively.

THE GREAT COMPROMISE
Due to the fact that the Virginia Plan and New Jersey Plan had many different views on the House of Representative, Connecticut was one state that came up with a separate plan. The plan consisted of a "representation in the lower house that would be determined by population, and each state would have an equal vote in the upper house" (O'Connor 42). After each delegate heard the plan, yet again there was an argument. However, once the group conversed about it and the delegates approved it, they arrived to the agreement that this plan would be called The Great Compromise. This compromise was "the final decision of the Constitutional Convention to create a two-house legislature with the lower house elected by the people and with powers divided between the two houses"(O'Connor 42). This compromise satisfied both the small and large states because, the small states "got equal representation in the Senate and the larger states were pleased with the proportional representation in the House of Representatives" (O'Connor 42-43).

THE PROBLEM WITH SLAVERY
The idea of slavery was a major problem during the Convention because states had different views and interests on whether it should be banned or continued. "To reach an agreement on the Constitution, the Framers had to craft a compromise that balanced southern commercial interests with comparable northern concerns" (O'Connor 43). Finally, the Northern states agreed to continue slavery because they wanted to have no taxes on items that would be sent overseas. While the Southern states agreed to the idea of "majority rule on navigation laws" in order to control their foreign trade routes.

Another issue over slavery was the major dispute the states had as to whether or not to count slaves as population, or for taxation. Southern states had many slaves due to the industries and the high demand for cheap labor. Ergo, they wanted the plentiful number of slaves to count as population in central government, but did not want to be taxed for them. Smaller states in the North did not feel slavery should count for representation. During the convention a compromise was proposed called the 3/5 compromise. This meant that slaves would count as 3/5 of a person (fun fact: in the Constitution they never say the word slavery, but mention it in different ways). Overall, the 3/5 compromise was a compromise was an important compromise that the delegates came up with to satisfy all the states.


What was the issue with slavery? The Southerns wanted to continue the slave trade, while the Northerners believed that the Constitution should ban it.
What was the issue with slavery? The Southerns wanted to continue the slave trade, while the Northerners believed that the Constitution should ban it.



Vocabulary Terms:
  1. Articles of Confederation-"compact among the thirteen original colonies that created a loose league of friendship, with the national government drawing its powers from the states"
  2. Virginia Plan- "a bicameral legislature, and an executive and a judiciary chosen by the national legislature"
  3. New Jersey Plan- "a one-house legislature with one vote for each state, a Congress with the ability to raise revenue, and a Supreme Court with members appointed for life"
  4. The Great Compromise- "the final decision of the Constitutional Convention to create a two-house legislature with the lower house elected by the people and with powers divided between the two houses"

Section Review Questions:
  1. When, where and why did the Constitutional Convention take place?
  2. Describe and explain both the Virginia and New Jersey Plans.
  3. Explain The Great Compromise.
  4. How or why did The Great Compromise satisfy both the small and large state?
  5. What was the compromise with Slavery?




Works Consulted
http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/convention1787.html
http://teachingamericanhistory.org/convention/


Works Cited"The Constitution December." Fc.lovett.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2012. <http://fc.lovett.org/~lpowell/Social%20Studies>."The Constitutional Convention." The Constitutional Convention. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2012. <http://teachingamericanhistory.org/convention/>.O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus. American Government: Roots and Reform. New York: Pearson Longman, 2011. Print."Topics- United States History - Mr. Mosall." Topics- United States History - Mr. Mosall. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2012. <http://admin.bhbl.neric.org/~mmosall/ushistory/topics/compromise.html>.