Convention Snapshot

Dakota Crookston

Constitutional Convention

The year is 1787. The day is May 14th. The hour is tense. The minute is overwhelming. What time is it? Time for the the revolutionaries to get their head in the game. Because the Articles of Confederation was not an effective, sustainable governing document, American leaders convened to determine a more practical system. None would deny that breaking free from Britain was a good idea, but the initial start of something new was not as fabulous as one would hope.

To work this out, the leaders elected George Washington to preside over the convention. 70 delegates were invited to attend, although only 55 came. No one from Rhode Island was present. The first two months of the one hundred day debate were spent disputing whether or not the nation should stick to the status quo or adopt the 15 point Virginia plan. because the Committee of the Whole could not come to a conclusion, a Committee of Detail was assigned to bet on it for the last month. On September 17th, 1787, the convention ended with 39 signatures on the new document. The Constitution was then adopted for the American people to ratify. At this point, we are all in this together.

The Virginia Plan

  • Proposed by Virginia delegates
  • Advocated for a bicameral legislative branch
  • The first document to have a legislative, executive, and judicial branch
  • Introduced a two house legislative system (lower delegates elected by people, upper house elecated by state legislatures)
  • Congressional representation was dependent on size of states' population
  • Pushed for strong central government that can levy taxes, control trade, make laws, and override state laws

Edmund Randolph

  • Lived August 10th, 1753-August 20, 1795.
  • Elected as Virginia Governor 1786
  • Argued against importing slaves and for a strong central government
  • Advocated for a National Judiciary system
  • Part of the Committee of Detail that helped incorporate the Virginia Plan into the new US Constitution
  • Did not sign the final document because he felt the the checks and balances were not strong enough

James Madison

  • Lived March 16, 1751- June 28, 1836
  • Kept very detailed notes of the 100 days
  • Protege of Thomas Jefferson, self studied knowledge of government
  • Recognized as well-spoken and insightful by other members of the convention
  • Spoke of over 200 times
  • Believed the solution to the Articles of the Confederation was to restrain some of the freedoms of the states and allow a national government to take them on

New Jersey

  • Unlike the Virginia plan, did not favor larger states
  • Every state recieved one vote despite population differences
  • Stuck closer to the articles of confederation
  • Unicameral legislature
  • The plan was ultimately rejected

William Paterson

  • From modern day Northern Island
  • Enrolled in Princeton University at age 14
  • Nationalist who supported the federalist party
  • United States Senator, New Jersey Governor, United State Supreme Court Associate Justice

Luther Matin

  • Refused to sign constitution, feeling that it violated states's rights.
  • Leading anti-federalist who helped pass the Bill of Rights.
  • Assigned to a committee to help seek compromise between the two plans
  • Supported equal representation on one level of the house in compromise
  • Helped draft the New Jersey plan
  • Spoke for more than three hours opposing the Virginia Plan and bicameral legislature at the convention
  • Walked out of convention after not being able to rally support for a bill of rights

Convention Problems

  • NJ vs Virginia plans: the convention was deadlocked for a while, on one was happy. There was not a perfect solution to fulfilling the desires of large and small states.
  • Slaves: there was lots of discussion and disagreement on how (if) to count slaves towards population.
  • The idea of an executive branch was controversial. People were afraid of having a branch that was perceived as "more in power"