Constitutional Period

By Jack Chen

Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation was the first governing document, or constitution of the United States of America. The final draft was written in the summer of 1777 and adopted by the second continental congress on November 15, 1777 in York, Pennsylvania after a year of debate. The Articles of Confederation gave the national or federal government very limited powers; almost all of the power was given to the individual states. The Articles lacked the necessary provisions for a sufficiently effective government. Their weakness was later exposed when Shay's Rebellion was unable to be stopped by the states, there was almost no support from the federal government.
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Virginia Plan

The Virginia Plan was created by James Madison but presented to the Constitutional Convention by Edmund Randolph, the governor of Virginia, in 1787. It called for the number of votes each state received in Congress to be determined by the population rather than each state receiving one vote. The purpose was to protect larger states from being overwhelmed by the smaller state's votes. The Virginia Plan had 15 resolutions and was based on ideas from Montesquieu, who proposed a separation of powers. This was adopted by the Virginia Plan, there were three branches: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. The plan also included provisions for allowing new states to enter the United States of America.
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Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is a list of fundamental rights for the citizens of the United States of America and serves to protect those rights from infringement by the government. It lists many amendments which are important to the rights of citizens. The first amendment is the Freedom of Speech, Religion, Assembly, Petition, and Press to all citizens, regardless of their race, creed, or sex. The second amendment gives citizens the right to keep and bear arms. The Bill of Rights have since become essential in American law and Government. It is considered an immortal monumental text from American history.
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Federalists

During the ratification process, the proponents of the Constitution became the Federalists. The federalists were politicians that supported increasing the power of the federal government; they were opposed to the system of limited government and more freedom that was the basis for the founding of the country. They also wrote the Federalist papers, which were a collection of 85 letters written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay between 1787 and 1788. Their goal was to promote the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. They believed that a stronger central government was better for the country to defend ensuing threats.
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Three Branches of Government

Three branches of government allow for separation of powers and also checks and balances. This would allow each branch to have an equal amount of power and also the ability to check and balance the decisions of the other branches. The concept was founded by John Locke who was a philosopher during the Enlightenment era. It was later adopted for the Constitution by Thomas Jefferson. The concept is still in use today, the executive branch being the President, the judicial branch being the Supreme Court, and the legislative branch being the Senate and House of Representatives.
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Virginia Declaration of Rights.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights was a document drafted in 1776 and based on Alexander Hamilton’s “Farmer Refuted” and John Adams’ “Thoughts on Government.” George Mason was the primary author. It begins by stating that men are by nature equally free and independent; government by consent arises through a contract that protects the enjoyment of those rights and subsequent happiness and safety of civil society. The Virginia Declaration of Rights also acted as a foundation for the Bill of Rights, which was later adopted into the Constitution. The final version of the Virginia Declaration of Rights consisted of sixteen sections.
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James Madison

James Madison was one of the 56 delegates during the Constitutional Convention that took place on May 1787 in Philadelphia. Madison acted as the chief recorder of information where he took many notes. He had helped develop Virginia’s Constitution 11 years earlier; he named it the Virginia Plan. The Virginia Plan had called for a new form of government and for the number of votes each state received in congress rather than it being based on each state receiving a fixed number of votes. The purpose of the plan was to protect the interests of larger states ie (Virginia). James Madison is also known as the father of the Constitution because he helped frame the Bill of Rights and much of the Constitution. He was also a Federalist; he assisted in writing the Federalist papers, which were persuasive towards a strong federal government.

George Mason

George Mason was born on December 11, 1725. He worked as a planter and slave holder; he is also the author of the Virginia Bill of Rights. Initially, Mason did not sign the Constitution because he advocated a stronger central government. He was an anti-federalist, which meant that he wanted a weak central government so that they couldn't have control over the citizens. He was also in objection to the Constitution because of the absence of a bill of rights. After the Constitution was ratified, he retired from politics.