The Constitutional Convention
What is the Constitutional Convention?
In September 1786, at the Annapolis Convention, delegates from five states called for a Constitutional Convention in order to discuss possible improvements to the Articles of Confederation. On May 25, 1787 the convention gets underway with representatives of 12 of the 13 states. Rhode Island, fearing weaker states powers, sent no delegation. The delegates worked to draft a framework for a new government. The meeting was held in strict secrecy without press or public. The framers of the Constitution consisted of 55 delegates.
The Virginia Plan
The Virginia Plan was one of two rival plans for creating a new form of government which emerged at the Constitutional Convention. It was based on the ideas of James Madison, and called for a central government divided into three branches; legislative, executive, and judicial. Each branch with power to check others. It also called for a strong national government with power to make laws, levy taxes, control interstate commerce, override state laws. It called for bicameral legislature with membership based on state’s population; lower house members elected directly by the people; upper house members selected by state legislatures
The New Jersey Plan
Delegates from smaller states were concerned that the Virginia plan gave to much power to larger states. Those delegates came up with a different plan, the New Jersey plan. It proposed a strong central government that had 3 branches, but was designed to stick closer to the Articles of Confederation that the Virginia plan. It had a unicameral legislature (one chamber or house). It calls for one vote per state, with equal representation; regardless of population. The plan was ultimately rejected at the Convention.
Conflict at the Convention
During the Convention there were many problems to address and many disagreements. Different states came with different plans, Virginia and New Jersey plans (description above). Trying to find a balance between the big states and the little states was a conflict. Trying to decide if African Americans should get a vote since they were still considered slaves in some states was a conflict. Finding a government system with branches that had power to check each other was a conflict. There were many other conflicts that had to be discusses at the Constitutional Convention. The delegates had so many problems that they thought the Convention was going to fall apart; but it didn't. They worked out a compromise and created the new foundation for the United States.