The Constitutional Period

Articles of Confederation

the Articles of Confederation were adopted by the Continental Congress on November 15, 1777. This document served as the United States' first constitution, and was in force from March 1, 1781, until 1789 when the present day Constitution went into effect.The formal ratification by all thirteen states was completed in early 1781. Government under the Articles was superseded by a new constitution and federal form of government in 1789.

Three Fifths Compromise

On this date in 1787, the Three-fifths Compromise was enacted. Delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia that year accepted a plan offered by James Madison determining a state's representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The issue of how to count slaves split the delegates into two groups.

3 Branches of Government

The President of the United States administers the Executive Branch of our government. He enforces the laws that the Legislative Branch makes. The President is elected by United States citizens, 18 years of age and older, who vote in the presidential elections in their states. The Legislative part of our government is called Congress. Congress makes our laws. Congress is divided into 2 parts. One part is called the Senate. There are 100 Senators, 2 from each of our states. Another part is called the House of Representatives. Representatives meet together to discuss ideas and decide if these ideas should become laws. There are 435 Representatives. The Judicial part of our federal government includes the Supreme Court and 9 Justices. They are special judges who interpret laws according to the Constitution.

Virginia Plan

The Virginia Plan was a proposal by Virginia delegates for a bicameral legislative branch. The plan was drafted by James Madison while he waited for a quorum to assemble at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The Virginia Plan was notable for its role in setting the overall agenda for debate in the convention and, in particular, for setting forth the idea of population in the proposed national legislature.

Bill of Rights

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution make up the Bill of Rights. Written by James Madison in response to calls from several states for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties, the Bill of Rights lists specific prohibitions on governmental power. The Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason, strongly influenced Madison.

One of the many points of contention between Federalists and Anti-Federalists was the Constitution’s lack of a bill of rights that would place specific limits on government power.

Virginia Declaration Of Rights

The Virginia Declaration of Rights is a document drafted in 1776 to proclaim the inherent rights of men, including the right to reform or abolish "inadequate" government. The Declaration was adopted unanimously by the fifth Virginia convention at Williamsburg, VA on June 12, 1776 as a separate document from the Constitution of Virginia which was later adopted on June 29, 1776. In 1830, the Declaration of Rights was incorporated within the Virginia State Constitution as Article I, but even before that Virginia's Declaration of Rights stated that it was '"the basis and foundation of government" in Virginia. A slightly updated version may still be seen in Virginia's Constitution, making it legally in effect to this day.

Editorials

George Washingtion

George Washington was commander in chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and served two terms as the first U.S. president, from 1789 to 1797. The son of a prosperous planter, Washington was raised in colonial Virginia. As a young man, he worked as a surveyor then fought in the French and Indian War. During the American Revolution, he led the colonial forces to victory over the British and became a national hero. In 1787, he was elected president of the convention that wrote the U.S. Constitution. Two years later, Washington became America’s first president. Realizing that the way he handled the job would impact how future presidents approached the position, he handed down a legacy of strength, integrity and national purpose. Less than three years after leaving office, he died at his Virginia plantation, Mount Vernon, at age 67.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, in Shadwell, Virginia. He was a draftsman of the U.S. Declaration of Independence; the nation's first secretary of state ; second vice president ; and, as the third president , the statesman responsible for the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson died in bed at Monticello (located near Charlottesville, Virginia) on July 4, 1826.