9.3: The Need for a Stronger Government- Creating the US Constitution- Annapolis and Philadelphia (2024)

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    By 1785 a conviction had developed among several influential leaders in the various states that greater inter-state cooperation was needed if the United States was to reach its true economic potential. In that year, leaders from Virginia and Maryland met at Mount Vernon at the invitation of George Washington to discuss, among other things, navigation of the Potomac River. As those assembled came to agreements, they increasingly acknowledged the efficacy of an expanded meeting, which would include at the least Pennsylvania and Delaware, states struggling over transportation between the Chesapeake Bay and the Ohio River. The result was a convention held at Annapolis in 1786 to which nine states named representatives, though representatives of only five attended (absent were the New England states, the Carolinas, and Georgia). Despite the disappointing showing at Annapolis, Alexander Hamilton was determined to follow up on the idea of a states-wide meeting and presented a resolution to the Confederation Congress for a convention “to render the constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union.” When the resolution calling for such a meeting passed through Congress, the wording was a bit different: those who met in Philadelphia would have as their “sole and express purpose…revising the Articles of Confederation.” Some states were slower than others to respond, but by May, 1787, eleven states had elected representatives. The meeting convened on May 14, though it was not until May 25 that a quorum was reached and George Washington elected president of the proceedings. The delegates worked through the summer, releasing the document on September 17, 1787.

    During the weeks before the meeting was to convene, it became apparent that there were two schools of thought as to the ultimate goals of those who would attend. One group, centered on Edmund Randolph of Virginia and including Thomas Jefferson, currently Ambassador to France, held onto the idea that the Articles need only to be revised, patched like a fabric, as Jefferson commented. On the other hand, leaders like George Washington, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison believed that the Articles should be thrown out and an entirely new outline of government drawn up. Madison had become convinced before his arrival in Philadelphia that there should be a bi-cameral legislature, a separate judicial branch, and an executive, separate from either of the other branches. The central government should have the right of taxation and the power of the veto over state laws “in all cases whatsoever.” In this phrase he echoed the wording of the Declaratory Act of 1766, passed upon the repeal of the Sugar Act by Parliament. In 1787, Madison prepared a tract entitled Vices of the Political System of the United States in which he made clear his leanings. Historian Joseph J. Ellis comments that the document “reads like an indictment of the Confederation Congress prepared by a relentless special prosecutor” as in the tract, Madison decries the encroachment of the states on the federal government and on the laws of each other, their failure to “comply with Constitutional requisitions,” and their unconcern for the “common interest” of the citizens of the United States.

    And so on May 25, a quorum of twenty-nine delegates from nine states empowered by their state governments to revise the Articles of Confederation met at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the site of the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Rhode Island was the only state that did not participate at all in the proceedings. The delegates met for four months, and when the convention ended, they emerged with a document that laid out a completely new plan of government. Those who gathered in Philadelphia were an impressive array of American leaders: Benjamin Franklin from Pennsylvania; James Madison, George Washington, George Mason, and Edmund Randolph from Virginia; William Paterson from New Jersey; James McHenry from Maryland; Charles Pinckney and John Rutledge from South Carolina; and Elbridge Gerry from Massachusetts. Several notable Americans were not present at the convention: Thomas Jefferson, who, along with Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and John Adams had drafted the Declaration of Independence, was in France, John Adams was in Europe trying to raise money to pay off war debts, and Patrick Henry, who distrusted all centralized governments, refused to participate, claiming he “smell[ed] a rat.” Both Jefferson and Adams, however, kept a close eye on developments in Philadelphia.

    Despite the fact that the states had empowered delegates to “revise” the Articles of Confederation, within days, those in attendance reached two important decisions: their deliberations must be held in secrecy, and the Articles should be scrapped in favor of a completely new document. Edmund Randolph, who later introduced the Virginia Plan, explained the reasoning behind the latter decision, pointing out that the Articles did not “protect the United States from attacks from foreign powers,” it did not “secure harmony and blessings to the states,” nor was it “superior to State constitutions.” Similarly, Alexander Hamilton wrote to George Washington in July: “the people begin to be convinced that their ‘excellent form of government’ [the Articles] as they have been used to call it, will not answer their purpose; and that they must substitute something not very remote from that which they have lately quitted.” The latter, an allusion to the British monarchy, probably overstated the leanings of the convention as a whole and may have been more the preference of Washington and Hamilton, both of whom were ardent proponents of a strong national government.

    The Founding Fathers held many principles in common. They believed in John Locke’s natural rights theory that all people were entitled to life, liberty, and property—what Jefferson called “the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence—and were proponents of the idea of the Baron Montesquieu, an Enlightenment writer of France, that the best political system was one in which power was shared by more than one branch of a national government. Most of the delegates did not want a monarchy, and they wanted the states to be recognized as separate entities, holding some independent power of their own. Many of the delegates distrusted true democracy, in which all men over a certain age would have the right to vote, holding firm to the belief that freeholders, those owning land, were the best guarantors of liberty; in other words, many delegates thought landholders were the only ones who should be allowed to vote. With rare exception, American historians have seen the creation of the Constitution as the triumph of an effort to create a government of ordered liberty, an achievement seldom duplicated elsewhere. Because this effort represented a reversal of the American Revolution’s trend toward greater democratization and decentralization of power, historians have usually taken pains to describe the Confederation era (1781-1787) as a time of dangerous economic and political instability requiring the strongest counter-measures to overcome it.

    However, divisive issues became apparent almost from the first week of deliberations. One had to do with the relative power of the national and state governments and the manner in which representatives to the central government should be apportioned. Those who were proponents of the rights of the states were predominantly from the smaller states of Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maryland, and were satisfied with the traditional structure, true of every congress since independence, of equal representation for all states, regardless of population. They were also convinced that the states should exercise some power independently of the national government. Nationalists like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, on the other hand, who favored a strong central government with legislative representation based on population, tended to be from the larger states. Their verbiage pointed to the powerlessness of the Confederation government, which was clearly too weak to enjoy diplomatic or domestic success, and touted the need for representation to be based on population. Those states with the greater population should be granted the largest number of seats in the national legislature, for after all, why should the residents in large states receive less representation than those living in small states? A stronger central government, with representation based on population, was called for. Of course, there were also reasons why the small states might want a stronger central government, as they, like the large states, wanted a government that could regulate commerce, maintain order against disturbances like Shays’s revolt, create and maintain a healthy economy, and protect the republic against the diplomatic encroachments. As Oliver Ellsworth commented, “We were partly national; partly federal. I trusted that on this middle ground a compromise would take place.” Benjamin Rush of Pennsylvania echoed this sentiment when he wrote to John Adams that “with such excellent principles among us…there is little doubt of our adopting a vigorous and compound federal structure,” in other words, a system of government in which power is divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units, like states.

    Similarly, sectional divisions became apparent as the delegates debated the institution of slavery. Should slavery be recognized at all in the document being framed? How were slaves to be counted for purposes of representation and taxation, or should they be counted at all? Should the document provide for the abolition of slavery altogether, and, if it were not abolished, should its existence be limited in some way?

    Debating the Plans for Government

    On May 29, a plan for a central government was introduced by Edmund Randolph of Virginia. Called the “large state” or “Virginia” Plan, it called for a two house “National Legislature,” an independent executive, and a national judiciary. In terms of Congressional delegates, voters would elect the lower house, the lower house would select the upper house from a list of nominees from the state legislatures, and both houses would choose the President and the judiciary. Although the Plan was praised by the larger states, representatives of the small states were quick to point out that under this plan the less populous states might very likely have no representatives in the upper house and very little input into who was elected president. Consequently, in mid-June, William Paterson presented a “small state” or “New Jersey” Plan. This plan envisioned a national government consisting of a one house legislature with equal representatives from all states, a plural executive, and an independent judiciary.

    As the Convention debated the features of each plan, a committee, headed by Roger Sherman of Connecticut, drafted what has been called the Great Compromise (also called the Connecticut Compromise in honor of its architects) which dealt with representation in the House and Senate and became a prominent feature of the U.S. Constitution. Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth, both of Connecticut, suggested a two house national legislature, with the lower house elected by the freeholders, the upper house by the state legislatures, and the President by electors, to be chosen by the state legislatures. In the lower house, the House of Representatives, representation was apportioned according to the population of the individual states; each state would have two representatives in the upper house or Senate.

    A second compromise, known as the Three-Fifths Compromise, addressed the issue of slavery. Some of the delegates wanted the institution abolished completely, though these were in the minority. Most Southern representatives wanted slaves counted by head for purposes of determining numbers of legislators, but did not want them counted when determining the imposition of national taxes on the states. The Northern states wanted just the opposite. The Three-Fifths Compromise settled this controversy: a slave would be counted as three-fifths of a person for the purpose both of determining representation and taxation. Another issue dealt with the slave trade. Many wanted the slave trade with Africa stopped completely, as had already occurred in some Northern states, while Southern slave holders strongly objected to its cessation. The compromise reached was that the slave trade would not be stopped before 1808. A last agreement was reached over the use of the word “slave” in the Constitution; the term was not used. Instead, the document refers to “free persons” and “all other persons,” in other words, the enslaved.

    Nature of the Government

    In the end, what was created was a government that was neither strictly national nor strictly federal, but rather contained elements of each. On the one hand, there was a separate executive branch, consisting of a president and connected executive departments. The president would be elected by electors, who themselves were elected by the state legislatures. Thus the executive would be indirectly elected, as would be the Senate, which was the upper house of the two-house Congress. The Senate, like the electors, was to be elected by the state legislatures. Only the House of Representatives was popularly elected. There was a national judiciary consisting of a Supreme Court, whose justices would be appointed by the president and would serve life terms. The number of justices that would sit on the high court was not established, nor was a lower court system created. The power to create “Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court” was given to Congress in Article I, section 8.

    The final draft of the Constitution obviously adheres to the Baron Montesquieu’s idea of checks and balances, as the president would appoint judges, who in turn had to be approved by the Senate. All bills would have to pass both the House and Senate to become laws, and, while the president could make treaties, these also had to be approved by the Senate. The president could veto Congressional laws, but vetoes could be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress. A provision for the removal of a sitting president placed a further check on the executive. The House of Representatives could impeach, or indict, the president. Once indicted, the president would be tried by the Senate, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding. Nor was the Supreme Court exempt from checks, as Congress could impeach judges, and the approval of the Senate was required to confirm presidential appointments to the judiciary. The un-amended Constitution had no provision for judicial review, the right of the Supreme Court to review Congressional laws to determine their constitutionality.

    In the two centuries since the adoption of the Constitution, power has been classified according to type: those powers that are enumerated, or actually listed in the Constitution as belonging to one of the branches of the national government; those that are implied, using such devices as the “necessary and proper clause” of Article I, section 8 (see Annotated Constitution below); those that are shared between the states and the national government; and those which are reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment.

    The 1787 Constitution also had both national and federal features. In terms of nationalism, Congress was given broad powers that could be expanded by Article I, section 8, known as the “necessary and proper” clause; by the Supremacy Article, which proclaimed that the Constitution and all laws made under it were the “supreme law of the land;” and by the fact that the un-amended Constitution had no Bill of Rights. On the other hand, the states were recognized as individual entities in Article IV and were given jurisdiction over their own internal affairs through the reserved powers of the Tenth Amendment.

    James Madison proclaimed in Number 39 of the Federalist Papers, which were written mainly by Madison and Alexander Hamilton, that: “The constitutional reallocation of powers created a new form of government, unprecedented under the sun. Every previous national authority either had been centralized or else had been a confederation of sovereign states. The new American system was neither one nor the other; it was a mixture of both. ”

    U.S. Constitution Explained: An Annotation of Key Clauses


    Annotation of the Clauses

    Article I, Section 2

    Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

    This is known as the three-fifths clause, precipitated by the debate over how to count slaves in determining the number of representatives a state would be entitled to in the House of Representatives. It was one of three clauses in the original Constitution that provided legal protection for slavery. Note that the authors of the Constitution consciously avoided the term “slave,” while the clause is clearly referring to the slave population. This reflects the ambiguity felt by the Founding Fathers over the “peculiar institution,” particularly in the wake of the Revolution, with its cries of liberty and equality.

    Article I, Section 3

    The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.

    This clause is reflective of the “Great Compromise” which provided equal representation for smaller states in the federal government. It also reflects the Founding Fathers’ fear of “democracy out of control,” by placing the election of Senators beyond the direct influence of the general electorate.

    Article I, Section 8: The “Necessary and Proper Clause”

    To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

    This phrase comes at the end of Section 8, which enumerates the various duties and powers of Congress. It also represented one of the first great Constitutional controversies after its ratification, when Alexander Hamilton referred to it in his defense of the creation of the Bank of the United States. This clause became the basis for the doctrine of “implied powers,” which allowed Congress to act in a manner not explicitly stated in the Constitution, as long as it acted in a manner “necessary and proper” to execute the powers delegated to it.

    Article I, Section 9: The Slave Importation Clause

    The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.

    Here is another clause relating to slavery while avoiding the use of the term. Only two states chose to continue importing slaves during this period: South Carolina and Georgia. While the clause did not exactly mandate the end of the slave trade, Congress dutifully drafted and passed a law in 1807 that made the importation of slaves into the United States illegal. This law went into effect on January 1, 1808. It highlights an interesting paradox about slavery that existed until the Civil War, where individuals in the South could speak of the “evils” of the slave trade, and yet somehow separate that from the institution of slavery, which they held to be a positive good.

    Article II, Section 1

    Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector. The electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate.

    The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each state having one vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them by ballot the Vice President.

    Here, again, is a clause that limits the influence of the general electorate on the federal government, by placing the buffer of “electors” between the electorate and the candidate. The original wording of this clause also caused problems in the election of 1800, when Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr received the same number of votes, although it was clearly intended for Burr to be the Vice President. The existence of the Electoral College has created two other incidents where the president ultimately was chosen by the House of Representatives, in the elections of 1824 and 1876.

    Article III

    The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

    The Articles of Confederation did not make provision for a national court system and consequently the enforcement of the laws of the Confederation Congress was left up to state courts, which might, or might not, enforce them. Most delegates to the Constitutional convention believed that an independent judiciary was necessary to the well-being of a national government. Notice that only the Supreme Court was established; the lower courts, if there were to be some, would be created by Congress, and the judges appointed by the president with the approval of the Senate. The first lower courts were created in the Judiciary Act of 1789.

    Article IV, Section 1

    Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved and the Effect the effect thereof.

    The “full faith and credit” clause specifies that every state will recognize and respect the laws and judicial decisions of every other state. This is one statement that confirmed the future existence of independent state governments.

    Article IV, Section 2

    No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.

    This is the last of the three clauses in the Constitution that deal with slavery. Again, the word slave is avoided in the writing of the clause. This is perhaps the most powerful of the clauses in terms of providing a Constitutional protection for slavery, because it mandates federal support for the return of runaway slaves.

    Article VI

    The Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.

    Article VI is called the “Supremacy Article” and is an example of the nationalist sentiments of the Constitutional Convention. The intention of this Article is to make clear that in a conflict between the laws of the state and the laws of the nation, in other words laws passed the U.S. Congress, Congressional law would be supreme. The first Supreme Court case in which the Supremacy Article was cited was that of McCulloch v. Maryland in 1819, in which the high Court used both the necessary and proper clause to affirm the right of Congress to establish a bank and the Supremacy Article to maintain that state law could not tax a national institution. The majority opinion of the Supreme Court stated clearly “that we are unanimously of opinion that the law passed by the Legislature of Maryland, imposing a tax on the Bank of the United States is unconstitutional and void.” Moreover, “the people have, in express terms, decided it by saying, ‘this Constitution, and the laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof,’ ‘shall be the supreme law of the land.’

    Article VII

    The ratification of the conventions of nine states, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the states so ratifying the same.

    Here one can see how the Founding Fathers attempted to separate the process of adopting the new Constitution from the influence of the general electorate. The rarely-used conventional method required each state to choose delegates who would debate its merits and then vote for or against the Constitution. Interesting also was the choice of nine as the number of states necessary to ratify the Constitution. What if four states had rejected it? Fortunately, that was never an issue.

    Ratification: The Constitution Debated in the States

    Article VII of the Constitution states that the document would go into effect when “the Conventions of nine states,” not quite three-quarters, had approved it. The document was released to the states in September 1787, and soon debates began over its merits, the structure of the government it created, and the powers given to the central government and the states (a few state powers were listed). The debates intensified in the fall of 1787. Those who spoke in favor of the Constitution had several advantages. Calling themselves Federalists, they were well-organized, literate, and provided a positive message. The irony was that, in terms of political orientation, they were in fact nationalists, favoring a strong central government. They deliberately chose the name “Federalist” in order to stress the federal nature of the government defined by the Constitution and direct the attention of those they were trying to persuade away from the fact that the central government was imbued with remarkable powers. It was, in fact, more national than federal. Their opponents made the mistake of calling themselves “Antifederalists,” thus giving two impressions: their message was basically negative, and they were opposed to federalism. In terms of political theory, many of these men, like Patrick Henry, George Mason, and Richard Henry Lee, felt that the Constitution created a central government at the expense of the states, were in fact federalists.

    Federalists and Antifederalists

    Antifederalists, like perhaps a majority of Americans in 1787, opposed the founders’ decision to replace rather than revise the Articles of Confederation. Patrick Henry, in newspapers, the Antifederalist Papers, and debates in the Virginia state legislature, pointed out that the drastic changes to the Articles of Confederation had been unwarranted and unnecessary. “Unless there be great and awful dangers,” he warned in Antifederalist Paper No. 4, “[this] change is dangerous, and the experiment ought not to be made.” Richard Henry Lee agreed that “important changes in the forms of government [should]…be carefully attended to in all their consequences.” And George Mason, also from Virginia, warned that a single executive was a lightning rod for disaster: “If strong and extensive Powers are vested in the Executive, and that Executive consists only of one Person, the Government will of course degenerate.”

    In addition, Antifederalists disliked the fact that the Constitutional Convention was held in secrecy during the drafting itself and that the ratification process was replete with extra-legal irregularities. Requiring not unanimity as the Articles of Confederation had done, but only nine states for ratification, the Founding Fathers changed the rules to guarantee success, but they did so at some cost to traditional parliamentary procedure. Equally worrisome was the fact that the founders wisely refused to submit the document to the state legislatures, reasoning that the states would not voluntarily agree to surrender their existing powers. So, they required that special conventions elected for the purpose of considering ratification be given the task of considering the issue. When many Antifederalists, objecting to this change in rules, refused to vote for delegates to the ratification conventions, those elected turned out to be overwhelmingly, and not surprisingly, Federalist in opinion.

    Another point of contention was that the document did not contain a bill of rights, adding to a general feeling that the document was hostile to popular participation in government. Antifederalists took this position, but so did many who would otherwise be in favor of approving the document. Historian Robert Middlekauff comments that the Constitution faced an uphill battle, and “the absence of a bill of rights was the reason.” A last point made by many Antifederalists was that representation as defined by the Constitution, that is, two Senators from each state and a maximum of 435 members of the House of Representatives, would be inadequate to appropriately represent the population of a large nation, which the United States would invariably become.

    The Federalists, on the other hand, were primarily well-to-do bankers and wealthy planters like Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin. In addition to being well-organized and literate, they published an impressive tome of well-constructed arguments, the Federalist Papers. The Papers, written largely by Madison, Hamilton, and John Jay, explained the advantages of a strong national government, though at the same time emphasizing in the minds of their readers that the government’s structure was also federal. In Federalist No. 2, Jay defined the issue at hand: “whether it would conduce more to the interest of the people of American that they should…be one nation, under one federal government, or that they should divide themselves into separate confederacies.” Alexander Hamilton warned his readers of an “alarming danger---those which will in all probability flow from dissensions between the States themselves.” Weak nations allowed themselves to be forced into a confederation while a “FIRM Union” provided a barrier against domestic faction and insurrection.” Now regarded as a classic collection of rigorous thinking on matters of political science, these documents did sway opinion that was wavering or in doubt. The authors explained the diplomatic and domestic advantages that would come from a strong central government. Not only would “the dangers to which we should be exposed, in a state of disunion, from the arms and arts of foreign nations” be avoided by a strong central authority, but also would be “those which will in all probability flow from dissensions between the States themselves, and from domestic factions and convulsions.”

    Historian Charles Beard argued in 1913 that conflict over the Constitution could be seen in economic class terms with wealthy property holders in favor of the Constitution and poorer elements of the community opposed. While economic concerns were important in determining an American’s opinion on the Constitution, it nevertheless appears not to have been a struggle between haves and have-nots. Rather, it appears that urban Americans, rich and poor alike, were in favor of ratification, believing that the Constitution would encourage commerce and business activity. Both rich and poor rural Americans, however, opposed it. Their opposition was not good news for the Federalists because the vast majority of Americans were the people whom Jefferson called “the chosen people of God,” in other words, the farmers.

    The final decision that led to the ratification of the Constitution was the promise that a bill of rights would be included in any Constitution ratified by the states. The necessary nine states were obtained when New Hampshire ratified the document in 1788. New York and Virginia only narrowly approved the document, New York by three votes and Virginia by five. Without the approval of these large states, the Constitution and perhaps the American national experiment would have been doomed. The victory of the Federalists became complete when Rhode Island ratified the document in 1790. The prospects for its success were unclear, but one factor helped. Most of the Antifederalists, including Patrick Henry, who were bitter in their defeat, retired from national politics. Consequently, nearly all those elected to the first Congress under the Constitution were Federalists, that is, friends of the government created by of the Constitution. For all practical purposes, the Antifederalists disappeared, but, in the future, other American groups would revive their cautionary warnings about the dangers of concentrated American power.


    By 1785, it had become obvious that a stronger central government was needed, one that would be able to speak for the new American states as a whole. In 1787, delegates therefore met in Philadelphia; these delegates were elected and empowered by the state legislatures to revise the Articles of Confederation. The document that emerged from what came to be called the Constitutional Convention was very different from the Articles of Confederation, which had been scrapped shortly after the convention reached a quorum. The U.S. Constitution created a government that was both national and federal. As national, it gave expanded powers to the central government; as federal, it recognized the individual states as enduring entities. The lack of a bill of rights created a problem during ratification, as the Federalists and Antifederalists took their messages to the states. By 1789, however, despite the objections raised by those who opposed adoption, nine states had approved the document, and it was put into effect.

    The Constitutional Convention

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    The Constitutional Convention met in 1787 for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation.

    1. True
    2. False


    Exercise \(\PageIndex{2}\)

    The Virginia Plan is also known as

    1. the “small state plan.”
    2. the “large state plan.”
    3. the New Jersey Plan.
    4. the Connecticut Compromise.


    Exercise \(\PageIndex{3}\)

    During ratification debates, the Antifederalists were really Federalists.

    1. True
    2. False


    Exercise \(\PageIndex{4}\)

    Who among the following was NOT a Federalist?

    1. George Washington
    2. Patrick Henry
    3. James Madison
    4. Alexander Hamilton


    Exercise \(\PageIndex{5}\)

    The Three-Fifths Compromise dealt with the issue of representation and taxation.

    1. True
    2. False


    The Constitution

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    The necessary and proper clause has had the effect of limiting the power of the national government.

    1. True
    2. False


    Exercise \(\PageIndex{2}\)

    The source of powers “reserved” to the states is the

    1. Supremacy Article.
    2. full faith and credit clause.
    3. Tenth Amendment.
    4. necessary and proper clause.


    Exercise \(\PageIndex{3}\)

    The “full faith and credit” clause applies to

    1. the national judiciary.
    2. interstate relations.
    3. Congressional power.
    4. the Supremacy Article.


    Exercise \(\PageIndex{4}\)

    Which of the following is NOT a Congressional power enumerated in the U.S. Constitution?

    1. The right to create a lower national court system
    2. The right to enforce its laws
    3. The right to declare war
    4. The right to negotiate treaties
    5. Neither b or d were Congressional power


    Exercise \(\PageIndex{5}\)

    According to the Constitution, _______________ appoints judges; these appointments must be approved by __________.

    1. The Senate; the Presidency
    2. The President; the Supreme Court
    3. The President; the House of Representatives
    4. The President; the Senate


    9.3: The Need for a Stronger Government- Creating the US Constitution- Annapolis and Philadelphia (2024)


    What were some reasons the US needed a stronger government? ›

    Of course, there were also reasons why the small states might want a stronger central government, as they, like the large states, wanted a government that could regulate commerce, maintain order against disturbances like Shays's revolt, create and maintain a healthy economy, and protect the republic against the ...

    How did the US government become stronger under the Constitution? ›

    The United States that emerged from the Constitutional Convention in September was not a confederation, but it was a republic whose national government had been strengthened greatly. Congress had been transformed into a bicameral legislature with additional powers, and a national judicial system had been created.

    What was held in Philadelphia to create a stronger national government and write a new Constitution? ›

    The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia met between May and September of 1787 to address the problems of the weak central government that existed under the Articles of Confederation.

    How a growing need for a stronger national government led to plans for a Constitutional Convention? ›

    How did a growing need for a stronger national government lead to plans for a Constitutional Convention? Meetings to resolve trade disputes between states led to an assembly to revise the articles which then evolved into the Constitutional Convention to create a new government that derive its power from a constitution.

    Why did we need a stronger central government? ›

    Despite the Congress's continued efforts to improve its effectiveness, many Americans saw the need for a more powerful central authority; the Congress as defined by the Articles of Confederation was too weak to make the states obey congressional mandates.

    How did the US create a strong but not too powerful government? ›

    They also did not want one branch of government to be stronger than the others, so they decided to build a system of checks and balances. By separating the powers among the three branches of government, they made sure that one branch could not control the government.

    What government did the Constitution strengthen? ›

    The Constitution, written in 1787, is the "supreme law of the land" because no law may be passed that contradicts its principles. No person or government is exempt from following it. The Constitution establishes a federal democratic republic form of government.

    How did the Constitution make America's government strong but not tyrannical? ›

    The James Madison quote shows the Constitution protects against tyranny because separate and distinct powers of government/department. The three main ways that the Constitution did protect against tyranny are Checks and Balances, Federalism, and Separation of Powers.

    Did the Constitution make a stronger federal government? ›

    They wrote a new document called the Constitution, to replace the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution made a stronger Federal Government. It gave power to both the Federal Government and the state governments. This system is called federalism.

    What was so unique about this new government that was created in Philadelphia in 1787? ›

    As the details of the Virginia Plan came under discussion, it became clear that it was not a mere revision of the Articles of Confederation, but rather a bold plan for an entirely new kind of government—a government with a vastly more powerful “national” legislature and, unlike the Articles of Confederation, with a ...

    What made Pennsylvania's Constitution so radical for its day? ›

    It contained several innovations that were quite radical for that era, including: Voting franchise for all men who had paid taxes, an innovation because it was somewhat less restrictive than a requirement that voters own property. A unicameral legislature, with members elected for one term.

    What was the main goal of the Constitution? ›

    A chief aim of the Constitution as drafted by the Convention was to create a government with enough power to act on a national level, but without so much power that fundamental rights would be at risk.

    Why did the United States need a stronger national government in the 1780's? ›

    Shays' Rebellion strengthened the determination of nationalists and their allies to create a stronger central government. They wanted a government that could raise a powerful army both to put down domestic insurrections and to confront foreign threats.

    Who led the cause for a new Constitution believing the country needed a stronger government in order to deal with its problems? ›

    Nationalists, led by James Madison, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Wilson, almost immediately began working toward strengthening the federal government. They turned a series of regional commercial conferences into a national constitutional convention at Philadelphia in 1787.

    Who is the father of the constitution? ›

    James Madison, America's fourth President (1809-1817), made a major contribution to the ratification of the Constitution by writing The Federalist Papers, along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. In later years, he was referred to as the “Father of the Constitution.”

    What are two reasons why we need a government? ›

    Governments provide the parameters for everyday behavior for citizens, protect them from outside interference, and often provide for their well-being and happiness.

    Why do we need government in the United States? ›

    A government is responsible for creating and enforcing the rules of a society, defense, foreign affairs, the economy, and public services. While the responsibilities of all governments are similar, those duties are executed in different ways depending on the form of government.

    Who wanted a strong government for the United States? ›

    The Federalists, led by Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton, wanted a strong central government, while the Anti-Federalists, led by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, advocated states' rights instead of centralized power.

    Why did Jefferson want a strong government? ›

    Jefferson recognized that a stronger federal government would make the country more secure economically and militarily, but he feared that a strong central government might become too powerful, restricting citizens' rights.

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