How the USA Constitution Began
If you read this story you'll be able to find a common language with any American. All of them are very proud of their Constitution.
The USA Constitution was written by fifty-five men who met at Philadelphia Convention in 1787. In four months they wrote the Constitution which has lasted over 200 years!
All were white men. The average age was forty-two. Many of these men had been leaders during the American Revolution. About three-fourths of them had served in Congress. Most were leaders in their states. Some were rich, but most were not. None were poor.
There were no native Americans among the delegates. There were no women. There were no black men or slaves. Poor farmers were not present either.
George Washington, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin were the three important delegates to the Convention.
George Washington came from Virginia. He was probably the most respected man in the country. As the commander-in-chief of the American army during the Revolution, he was a great hero to most people.
Then he had retired to his plantation and would have liked to remain there. However, his friends told him he should attend the convention. They said his support was necessary to get a new constitution accepted by the people. Since Washington thought a stronger national government was necessary, he came to Philadelphia.
James Madison is often called the "Father of the Constitution". His ideas about government greatly influenced the other delegates. He had already developed a written plan for the new government which he brought to Philadelphia. It was known as the Virginia plan and it called for a strong national government. Madison took notes during the meetings. Much of what we know about the Philadelphia Convention is based on his notes.
Benjamin Franklin attended the convention as a delegate from Pennsylvania. He was 81 years old and in poor health. Like Washington, he was highly respected by the Americans. He had been a printer, inventor and writer. He had also helped the country develop good relations with other nations. At the convention, he encouraged the delegates to cooperate with each other and work hard to settle their differences. His support of the Constitution was important to the other delegates.
Once the Framers reached these agreements, it was time to get down to work and create a constitution.
Delegates from states with large populations believed that a state with more people should have more votes in Congress.
During the long debates, the Framers could not reach a decision on this issue. Neither side was willing to give in. The delegates were almost ready to quit and go home. A special committee of one delegate from each state was formed to try and find a solution. The members of the committee worked hard to find a compromise a majority of the delegates would accept.
The result of the committee's work is known as the Great Compromise. The main parts of this compromise were:
* Congress would have two parts, or houses. These houses would be the Senate and the House of Representatives.
* Each state, large or small, would have 2 representatives in the Senate.
* In the House, the number of representatives of each state would be based on the number of people living in that state. By May 25, 1787, the delegates from over half of the states had arrived in Philadelphia. From the start, the Framers agreed on 4 things:
1. George Washington would serve as president of the convention.
2. Each state, large or small, would have one vote at the convention.
3. They would not follow the instructions Congress had given them. They would not even try to improve the Articles of confederation. They thought the Articles had too many weaknesses. Instead, they decided to write an entirely new constitution.
4. They wo.uld keep their discussions private. They also decided that what they said at the convention would remain a secret for 30 years. There were 2 reasons for this:
* They believed they needed to speak freely to create the best possible constitution. If people could listen to them and tell others what they said, they would not feel as free to discuss their ideas.
* They wanted the new constitution to be accepted by the people. They were afraid that the people might not accept it if they knew all the disagreements the Framers had. The agreement meant that each state would have equal power in the Senate. The states with more people would have more power in the House of Representatives. However, no law could be passed unless a majority of both the Senate and the House of Representatives voted for it. Because of this compromise large and small states could check each other's power and protect their own interests.