Constitutional Period

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson

Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, were an agreement among all thirteen original states in the United States of America that served as its first constitution. Its drafting by a committee appointed by the Second Continental Congress began on July 12, 1776, and an approved version was sent to the states for ratification in late 1777. 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 Government under the Articles was superseded by a new constitution and Federal form of government in 1789.

Separation of Powers

The framers of the Constitution feared too much centralized power, adopting the philosophy of divide and conquer. At the national level, they created three different branches of government to administer three different types of power. The legislative branch made the laws through a Congress of two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The executive branch enforced the laws through a president, vice president, and numerous executive departments such as Treasury and State. And the judicial branch interpreted the laws through a Supreme Court and other lower courts

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. Also Limited the powers of government. Avoided a too powerful government to take over.

3 Branches of Government

Delegates at the Constitutional Convention also wanted to divide power within the federal government. They did not want these powers to be controlled by just one man or one group. The delegates were afraid that if a small group received too much power, the United States would wind up under the rule of another dictator or tyrant.To avoid the risk of dictatorship or tyranny, the group divided the new government into three parts, or branches: the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch.

Virginia Plan

The Virginia Plan (also known as the Randolph Plan, after its sponsor, or the Large-State 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. A national government consisting of three branches with checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power. In its amended form, this page of Madison's plan shows his ideas for a 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.