The Constitutional Convention

Ally Harper

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

James Madison

James Madison, Jr. was a political theorist, American statesman, and the fourth President of the United States. He was a major author of the Virginia Plan and supported a strong government.

Edmund Randolph

Edmund Jennings Randolph was an American attorney, the seventh Governor of Virginia, the second Secretary of State, and the first United States Attorney General. Randolph was the proposer of the Virginia Plan.

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.

William Paterson

William Paterson was a New Jersey statesman, a signer of the U.S. Constitution and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, who served as the 2nd governor of New Jersey. Paterson proposed the New Jersey plan.

Luther Martin

Luther Martin was a politician and one of the United States' Founding Fathers, who refused to sign the Constitution because he felt it violated states' rights. Martin was a supporter of the New Jersey Plan.

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.