|CREATING THE CONSTITUTION
Ø The capital of the United States was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The people of all of the thirteen states agreed that the Articles of Confederation were not working.
In early 1787, the Continental Congress voted unanimously for the first time in 11 years. They voted to call for a
UNANIMOUSLY – Everyone agrees
CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION – A group of elected representatives meet to create, and vote on, a list of rules for
FRAMERS / FOUNDING FATHERS – The 55 creators of the U.S. Constitution.
May, 1787 – 55 Delegates, from all thirteen states, met in Philadelphia to create a Constitution for the United States of
America. These men would be forever referred to as the “FRAMERS” (NOT FARMERS!) of the Constitution. They
have also been referred to as the “FOUNDING FATHERS”.
DELEGATE – An elected representative.
CONSTITUTION – A written set of rules.
Keep in mind that the Framers wanted to create a document that would protect the rights of the people:
¨ Living at the time.
¨ Living many generations in the future.
They knew that times would change, goals of the people would change, and there would be new problems that they
couldn’t even think of back in 1787.
Therefore, the Framers deliberately made the Constitution flexible, so it could be adjusted, or “amended” without
having to complete re-write it.
The PREAMBLE (introduction of the Constitution) explains two things:
1. Why The Constitution was written. It outlines the six goals
A. “To form a more perfect union” (to improve the United States from what it was under the Articles of
B. “To establish justice” (the government must provide laws and a judicial system that is fair to all citizens).
C. “To insure domestic tranquility” (the government must keep the peace within the nation).
D. “To provide for the common defense” (the government must protect it’s citizens from foreign enemies).
E. “To promote the general welfare” (the government must make ensure the well-being of all of it’s citizens).
F. “To secure the blessings of liberty” (the government must make sure that the people are free).
2. The idea of POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY, the people have the right to choose their leaders, and replace them
when the people are unhappy.
Remember, there are two kinds of democracy:
DIRECT DEMOCRACY – where citizens meet to vote on laws and rule themselves.
REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY – where citizens elect representatives to make and enforce laws, and run the
government for them.
The Framers of the Constitution wanted to set up a government that is a Representative Democracy, also known as a
In this system, there would be MAJORITY RULE.
MAJORITY – More than half of the people.
MAJORITY RULE – In a disagreement, the decision of the majority of the people will be final.
Despite the bad feelings for Britain left over from the war, the delegates agreed that the principles of the new
government should be like those found in Britain.
Ø THE MAGNA CARTA, which was created in 1215, gave British citizens certain rights:
· People can not be jailed without a trial.
· Citizens shall serve on a jury to decide guilt or innocence of the accused.
· Accused people can only be charged with crimes under British law.
Ø THE ENGLISH BILL OF RIGHTS, which allows people:
· The right to petition the government to change a law.
· A fair and just punishment if convicted of a crime.
Ø A BICAMERAL CONGRESS, with 2 houses in the legislature.
Other sources of inspiration included:
¨ The Ancient Greek and Roman democratic traditions.
¨ The MAYFLOWER COMPACT
¨ The DECLARATION of INDEPENDENCE
PETITION – a written request to change a law.
LEGISLATURE – a group of elected representatives who make laws.
BICAMERAL – a two house legislature.
The meetings were held in secret, so that the members could speak freely, and make compromises without their
constituents getting angry. James Madison kept notes of what went on.
COMPROMISE – each side gives in a little to make an agreement work.
CONSTITUENTS – the people that a delegate represents.
The framers, still haunted by the thirteen states acting like thirteen colonies, set up a system called FEDERALISM.
FEDERALISM – A system of government where the power is divided up and shared between the federal government
and state governments.
The powers are divided three ways:
1. DELEGATED POWERS – powers reserved for the federal government.
2. RESERVED POWERS – powers reserved for the states.
3. CONCURRENT POWERS – powers shared between the federal governments and state governments.
The framers also believed in LIMITED GOVERNMENT, which prevents the federal government from becoming too
WHO WAS THERE?
The leading people of the Revolution were all invited, plus several new political leaders. Many had signed the
Declaration of independence, and helped create the Articles of Confederation.
· George Washington presided over the convention
· Alexander Hamilton of New York
· Roger Sherman of Connecticut
· Edmund Randolph of Virginia
· William Paterson of New Jersey
· James Madison of Virginia
· Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania
· James Wilson of Pennsylvania
· John Adams of Massachusetts
The delegates tried to balance STATES RIGHTS with the need for a stronger FEDERAL GOVERNMENT than what
they had with the Articles of Confederation. The result is a system of government called FEDERALISM.
FEDERALISM – A system of government where the powers are divided between the Federal Government, and the
Disagreements were common, and many compromises had to be made. Remember, the thirteen states did not have a
whole lot in common.
· Large states vs. small states.
· Slave states vs. non-slave states.
· Farming states vs. manufacturing & shipping states.
· Non-religious states vs. very religious states.
· Small Federal government vs. big Federal government.
The delegates were not in agreement about what kind of government to make, plus the CONTEXT!
CONTEXT – Everything that is happening at a particular time, which helps to explain why some things happen (what
ELSE is going on?)
· It was Summer in Philadelphia.
· It was HOT! There was no air-conditioning in 1787.
· The men were all dressed in those heavy clothes.
· Bathing was no easy task: no plumbing in 1787.
· The men missed their wives and families.
· The men really did not trust each other.
The biggest argument was over the legislature, and how to set it up in a way that was fair to big and small states.
Ø Big states wanted the representatives chosen by population (the more people you have, the more
representatives you get).
Ø Small states wanted the representatives chosen by membership (one state-one representative).
The result was the GREAT COMPROMISE, which said that there would be TWO houses in Congress,
§ One house based on population (HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES).
§ The other based on membership (SENATE).
Many other compromises would follow, and in September of 1787, the Constitution was finished, and ready to be
ratified by the State Governments.
RATIFIED - Approved and accepted.
However, there were still many people who were not happy with the Constitution.
THE ANTI-FEDERALISTS felt that the Federal government created by the Constitution was way too powerful, and
would crush the independent state governments (it reminded them too much of Britain). Thomas Jefferson was the
leader of the Anti-Federalists.
The FEDERALISTS, those who liked the new Constitution, did not get everything that they wanted either. They were
lead by Alexander Hamilton, the main author of the FEDERALIST PAPERS, a series of pamphlets outlining the goals of
a powerful federal government, and urging the passage of the Constitution.
To ratify the Constitution, 9/13 states had to vote “YES”. In March of 1789, The Constitution became the law of the
United States. George Washington was sworn in as President the next month.
COMPROMISE made it all possible.