How Did the Framers Create the Constitution?
After declaring their independence from Great Britain, Americans had to
decide how they would govern themselves. The Articles of Confederation,
which were the first attempt to establish a national government, proved
inadequate in the eyes of many leading citizens. Fifty-five men met in
Philadelphia in 1787 and drafted the U.S. Constitution. These men became
known as the Framers. The Constitution was not universally acclaimed,
and its adoption and ratification provoked discussions of the most basic
questions about political life and government institutions.
In this unit you will learn why the Articles of Confederation were replaced by the Constitution. You will learn why the Framers created the United States government as they did. And you will learn how the debates over the adoption of the Constitution raised issues that are debated to this day.
What Were the Articles of Confederation, and Why Did Some Founders Want to Change Them?This lesson examines the government formed by the Articles of Confederation. It was the first of two blueprints for a United States government written between 1776 and 1787. The Articles of Confederation provided the framework of an alliance of states to fight the Revolutionary War. The provisions in this document reflected political realities and divisions among the states as well as the need for unity. Many Founders soon came to believe that this first government of the United States lacked sufficient authority to meet the nation's needs both during and after the war.
How Was the Philadelphia Convention Organized?The Constitution of the United States of America was written at a convention held in Philadelphia in 1787. This lesson describes some of the important people who attended and the first steps they took in Philadelphia. The structure and rules they gave to their deliberations played a major role in the outcome by providing a framework for civil discourse, that is, the reasoned discussion of issues. The Virginia Plan, the first blueprint that the delegates considered, created the agenda for subsequent discussions.
Why Was Representation a Major Issue at the Philadelphia Convention?What or whom should the national government represent—the states, the people, or both? This lesson examines that debate at the Philadelphia Convention. It also examines the so-called Great Compromise, which dealt with the makeup of the House of Representatives and the Senate. In addition, it examines two issues that the Great Compromise did not resolve: how population would be counted for representation in the House and how new states might receive representation in Congress.
What Questions Did the Framers Consider in Designing the Three Branches of the National Government?Political philosophers since ancient times have written that governments must do three things: make, execute, and judge laws. Unlike the British system, which concentrates power in Parliament, the U.S. Constitution assigns these competing and complementary functions to three separate branches of the national government. This lesson explains how the Framers envisioned the role of each branch.
How Did the Delegates Distribute Powers between National and State Governments?The relationship between national and state powers, more than any other issue, explains the need for the Constitutional Convention. This relationship was at the core of the first major debate, the one between supporters and opponents of the Virginia Plan. After forging the Great Compromise, the delegates worked out a series of other regulations and compromises that defined what the national and state governments could and could not do. Several of those compromises involved the question of slavery, the most potentially divisive issue among the states.
What Was the Anti-Federalist Position in the Debate about Ratification?Most of the delegates at the Philadelphia Convention signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787. Their product would become the law of the land only if ratified by at least nine of the thirteen states. This lesson explains the process of ratification and the opposition that erupted immediately after the draft Constitution became public. Supporters of the proposed Constitution called themselves Federalists and labeled their opponents Anti-Federalists. The names stuck, even though the opponents argued that they—not the Constitution?s supporters—were the real believers in a truly "federal" system, a confederation of equal states.
What Was the Federalist Position in the Debate about Ratification?The people who supported ratification of the Constitution, which created a stronger national government, called themselves Federalists. This lesson describes the arguments and the strategies that the Federalists used to win support for the Constitution.