Constitutional Convention 1787

The Philadelphia Convention was conducted to address problems in governance brought about by the Articles of Confederation. The Convention intended to revise the Articles but James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and others set out to create a new government rather than fix the existing one. George Washington was elected as president of the convention and the result of the convention was the constitution.

Many disputes during the Constitutional Convention revolved around:

  • The apportionment of the senate (by state or population)
  • Method of election for senators
  • How “proportional representation” was to be defined (whether to include slaves or other property)
  • Whether to divide the executive power between three persons or divest the power into a single president
  • How to elect the president
  • How long his term was to be
  • Whether he could stand for re-election
  • What offenses should be impeachable
  • The nature of a fugitive slave clause
  • Whether to allow the abolition of the slave trade
  • Whether judges should be chosen by the legislature or executive.

At Convention a variety of plans were proposed:

  • Virginian (written by Madison for large states)
  • Charles Pinckney (plan was not debated)
  • New Jersey Plan (written by William Patterson for small states, much closer to Articles, rejected but served as rebuttal/counter point to Virginian plan)
  • Hamilton (written by Alexander Hamilton, aka British Plan, resembled British system of strong central government, not considered as resembled British and took away all state authority)
  • Connecticut Compromise (written by Roger Sherman, combined Virginia and New Jersey, innovation was in having House of Representatives represent population and the Senate represent the states, Benjamin Franklin modified this plan so that it was accepted by the larger states)

The Convention agreed on Madison’s Virginia plan and began to modify it. This included notions such as separation of power, popular sovereignty, social contract and natural rights.