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Toward a Constitution


Toward a Constitution Chapter 2 Introduction The American Revolution led not to general chaos but to a remarkably orderly process of constitution-making. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Toward a Constitution

Toward a Constitution
  • Chapter 2

  • The American Revolution led not to general chaos
    but to a remarkably orderly process of
  • From the 1760s through the 1780s, there occurred
    a prolonged debate over the fundamental issues of

The Critical Period (1781-1787)
  • The years the U.S. operated under the Articles of
  • A fear of centralized power dominated the period
  • Characteristics of state governments
  • weak governors
  • weak judiciary
  • strong legislature
  • written constitutions and guaranteed rights

The Articles of Confederation
  • A highly decentralized governmental system in
    which the national government derives limited
    authority from the states rather than directly
    from citizens.
  • No executive
  • No judiciary
  • Congress had a multitude of responsibilities but
    little authority to carry them out
  • 13 independent state republics under a nearly
    powerless national government.

Successes of the Confederation
  • The Temptations of the West
  • Congress could have an independent income with
    the sale of land.
  • Western land cessions, 1781-1802
  • Congress had decided to treat as equal states
    rather than colonies.

The Northwest Territory
  • Land Ordinance of 1785
  • A plan of surveys and sales.
  • Rectangular pattern on much of the nation.
  • Northwest Ordinance of 1787
  • Provided a guideline to achieve statehood.
  • Excluded slavery from the Northwest.

Problems for the Confederation
  • Wartime economic disruption
  • Public and private debt
  • Postwar inflation (currency shortage)
  • Trade barriers at home and abroad
  • U.S. had not gained their economic independence
  • Popular Uprisings
  • Shays Rebellion (1,200 disgruntled farmers who
    attacked the federal arsenal in Mass. seeking
    debt and tax relief and a flexible monetary
  • Major laws required unanimous agreement

From Confederation to a New Constitution
  • Many began demanding revisions to the Articles of
  • On February 21, 1787, the Continental Congress
    resolved that
  • is expedient that on the second Monday in
    May next a Convention of delegates who shall have
    been appointed by the several States be held at
    Philadelphia for the sole and express purpose of
    revising the Articles of Confederation...

The Constitutional Convention
  • The original states, except Rhode Island,
    collectively appointed 70 individuals to the
    Constitutional Convention, but a number did not
    accept or could not attend.
  • Those who did not attend included Richard Henry
    Lee, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams,
    Samuel Adams and, John Hancock.
  • In all, 55 delegates attended the Constitutional
    Convention sessions, but only 39 actually signed
    the Constitution.
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Drafting a New Constitution
  • Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in
    May of 1787
  • The delegates were able to draw from their
    Revolutionary War experience.
  • George Washington was elected to preside over the
  • James Madison took a seat up front and began
    recording the debates that would occur.

Assembly Room in Independence Hall, Philadelphia,
site of the signing of the Constitution in 1787.
Getting Down to Business
  • Most of the delegates at Philadelphia thought
    that they would resolve commercial conflicts
    among themselves or amend the Articles of
  • A few, however, were planning (and devising a
    strategy) to scrap the Articles and start over.
  • On the first day of substantive business James
    Madison and his nationalist colleagues sprang
    their surprise their blueprint for a new

The Virginia Plan
  • Shifted focus of deliberation from patching up
    the confederation to considering what was
    required to create a national union.
  • Its centerpiece was a bicameral legislature.
  • Members of the lower chamber apportioned among
    the states by population and directly elected.
  • Lower chamber would elect members of the upper
    chamber from lists generated by the state

The Virginia Plan
  • Also stipulated that the national government
    could make whatever laws it deemed appropriate
    and veto any state laws it regarded as unfit.
  • If a state failed to fulfill its legal
    obligation, the national government could use
    military force against it.

The Virginia Plan
  • Many saw this proposed legislature as too
  • Opposition grew toward the Virginia plan from two
  • Less populous state. Why?
  • States rights delegates. Why?

The New Jersey Plan
  • The groups that disagreed with Madisons proposal
    coalesced around an alternative proposed by New
    Jersey delegate William Paterson in response to
    the Virginia Plan.
  • It kept the national legislature as it existed
    under the Articles each state had equal status
    regardless of population.

The New Jersey Plan
  • However it did attempt to fix the worst problems
    of the Articles by giving Congress the authority
    to levy taxes and to enforce compliance by the
    state with their obligations
  • Given its quick creation, it had its own faults
    it failed to propose the organization of the
    executive and judiciary.
  • Debate continued, however, as neither side was
    happy with the options given by their opponents
    for the composition of Congress.

The Great CompromiseFashioning the National
  • A committee was appointed to come up with a
    solution to the stalemate.
  • Each side got one of the two legislative chambers
    fashioned to its liking.
  • The upper chamber (Senate) would be composed of
    two delegates sent from each state legislature
    who would serve a 6 year term.
  • Madisons population-based, elective legislature
    became the House of Representatives.
  • The unanimous agreement rule was replaced by a
    rule allowing a majority of the membership to
    pass legislation.

The Great CompromiseThe Necessary and Proper
  • In addition to specifying a broad list of
    enumerated or expressed powers, the committee
    proposed a clause that authorized Congress to
    make all Laws which shall be necessary and
    proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing
    Powers, and all other Powers vested by the
    Constitution in the Government of the United

The Great CompromiseMadison and Checks and
  • Given the compromise, Madison became interested
    in a genuine separation of powers between the
    branches with each side exercising checks and
    balances over the others.
  • Played a significant role in Madisons
    formulation of the executive and judiciary as
    independent institutions.

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Designing the Executive
  • Preferences ranged from Hamiltons executive
    elected for life at one end and the existing
    model of state governors who had been given very
    limited powers.
  • At the same time, most agreed that the nations
    first executive would be George Washington.
  • There was much that had to be debated- in
    particular, how would the executive be selected.
  • A compromise led to the convoluted concept of the
    electoral college.

The Electoral College
  • The electoral college mixes state, congressional,
    and popular participation in the election
  • Each state is awarded as many electors as it has
    members of the House and Senate.
  • The Constitution left it to the states to decide
    how electors are selected, but the Framers
    generally expected that the states would rely on
    statewide elections.
  • If any candidate fails to receive an absolute
    majority in the electoral college, the election
    is thrown into the House of Representatives. Vote
    by state delegations.

An Independent Executive
  • Madison and Hamilton largely succeeded in
    fashioning an independent executive by
  • Giving the president the ability to veto
  • By requiring a supermajority of each house to
    override a presidential veto.
  • But the Framers also checked the executives
    power in numerous ways.
  • See previous chart.

Designing the Judiciary
  • The convention spent comparatively little time
    designing the new federal judiciary.
  • They did debate over two questions
  • Who would appoint Supreme Court justices?
  • And should a network of lower federal courts be
    created or should state courts handle all cases
    until they reach the federal court?
  • The extent of the Courts authority to overturn
    federal laws and executive actions as
    unconstitutional the concept of judicial review
    was not resolved at this point.

The Issue of Slavery
  • Slavery was not absent from the debates. It was
    present at several important junctures.
  • One critical point was during the creation of the
    national legislature.
  • Southern states wanted to count slaves as part of
    the population thus giving them more
    representatives in the House. Yet these
    citizens had no rights in that state.
  • After much debate, the southern states were
    allowed to count a slave as three-fifths of a
  • A ban on regulation of slavery until 1808.

Amending the Constitution
  • An amendment can be proposed either by
  • A two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress.
  • Or by an application from two-thirds of the
  • And an amendment can be enacted when
  • Three-fourths of the states (through their
    legislatures or special conventions) accepts the

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The Fight for Ratification
  • The Ratification of the Conventions of nine
    States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment
    of the Constitution between the States so
    ratifying the Same.
  • This statement did two important things
  • It removed the unanimous assent rule of the
    Articles of Confederation.
  • It withdrew authority from the state
    legislatures, which might have misgivings about
    surrendering autonomy.

The Federalist and Antifederalist Debate
  • Antifederalists argued against this new form of
    government. (states rights)
  • Argued that only local democracy could approach
    true democracy.
  • Stronger national government must come with
    safeguards against tyranny.
  • For this reason, the Bill of Rights was included
    almost immediately after ratification.

The Federalist Argument (the rhetoric of
  • The Federalist Papers
  • 85 essays (written by Hamilton, Madison, and
    Jay), which were directed primarily at New York,
    which had not yet voted in 1788 although by this
    point the Constitution was technically ratified.
  • Provided insight into the meaning of the

  • New Hampshire was the ninth to ratify
  • June 21, 1788
  • Rhode Island held out until 1790