The Constitutional Convention Monday 11/9/09 History 111B THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION I. The Annapolis Commercial Convention (September 1786) A. The movement for a stronger national government -By the late 1780’s conservative nationalists called for a stronger national government. A stronger federal government that could control the money supply, suppress insurrections, protect the rights of creditors, and raise taxes. These men considered themselves a natural aristocracy (by virtue of their natural talents, these men felt they were meant to lead, while others should follow). This was similar to the European style of inherited aristocracy. The natural aristocracy felt that they were more inclined to rule over the general population than citizens from the general class. B. Delegates from 5 states meet in Annapolis, Maryland, and request that Congress call meeting to revise Articles of Confederation -In 1786, the Annapolis Convention took place, as a result of discussion over the Potomac and Chesapeake between MD and VA. Only five states sent delegates to the Convention. Nearly all delegates present were nationalists and were dissatisfied with the current Articles of Confederation. These delegates, lead by Alexander Hamilton, drafted a request to Congress for an assembly to meet to revise and edit the Articles of Confederation. Congress agreed and decided upon a group, “for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation.” C. Article 13 of Articles of Confederation says any alteration has to “be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.” -Stipulated that all states must agree upon any alteration, before the change can be made. II. The Constitutional Convention (May-September 1787) A. The 55 delegates 1. Group biography (every state, but RI) -Delegates were attorneys, merchants, slaveholding planters, and financiers. Robert Morris, was a reluctant revolutionary merchant, who was deeply concerned with commerce. 11 of the 55 delegates were business associates of Robert Morris. One of these business associates was Gouverneur Morris, another delegate from PA and reluctant revolutionist. Gouverneur was a fierce proponent of natural aristocracy. George Washington, James Madison, both were present. Washington presided over the entire preceding. His presence made the assembly more formal and legitimate. Madison was very well-read on governments and federations. Madison became good friends with Hamilton, while at the Annapolis Convention. Hamilton did not really feel associated with any particular state, despite being a representative from NY, but this led him to support a strong central government. Hamilton came from St. Croix in the Caribbean to King’s College (Columbia University) at the age of 16. At 19, he joined the army and within a year, he was Washington’s aide-de-camp. In 1780, Hamilton married a well-off wife, which helped him rise socially. Hamilton was often conspiring and many were suspicious of him. In 1779, rumors that Hamilton was planning to overthrow Congress and Washington arose. Benjamin Franklin and John Dickinson (wrote the original Articles of Confederation) both attended. Rhode Island didn’t send anyone, because they felt this meeting was a plan to overthrow the current government, which in truth, it really was. Patrick Henry didn’t attend because of his antinationalist beliefs. Henry felt that Madison would stop at nothing to obtain a strong central government. John Adams was also missing, because he was overseas in Britain. Thomas Jefferson was also overseas in France at the time of the Convention. 2. Political views (all support stronger national government) -Elite, wealthy, better educated Americans whose goal was to strengthen the national government. Their main purpose was to prevent a mob tyranny. Nearly all the men at the government supported a stronger central government, whether they were a Federalist or Anti-Federalist. Some merely supported a constitution while others opposed it. -The delegates met behind closed doors to prevent the outside world from pressuring the elite body. The reason we don’t know what went on behind the closed doors is because the delegates didn’t want the American people to know, until the Constitution was finished. B. The proceedings: an extra-legal gathering? 1. The Virginia Plan -Written by James Madison. The Anti Rats (those against ratification) did not have a physical plan to present, which is a main reason why the VA plan in the end won out. Called for three independent branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. Gave Congress the power to veto any state law, the power to use military force against the states, and to tax the states. Called for bicameral legislative, that was proportional to each state’s population. The lower house was to be directly elected by the people and the upper house was to be elected by members in the lower house. The executive branch were to be appointed by Congress. 2. The New Jersey Plan -The main problem with the VA plan was that many states disliked the representation based on population. NJ Plan by William Patterson. Single chamber Congress, each state would have one vote in this unicameral legislature, making all the states equal. NJ Plan presented on June 15, 1787. 3. Alexander Hamilton’s Plan -Gave a 6 hour speech, in which he outlined his own plan for government. Hamilton felt that all communities divided themselves into the wealthy born and the people. His plan would guarantee stability and permanence. A president would be elected and serve for life, the House would be elected every three years. The president would have absolute veto power over any law the House would make. The delegates loved Hamilton’s proposal, but they knew that it would never fully work for the United States. They knew that because every state would have to ratify the Constitution, the document could not be quite as innovative. Hamilton’s plan ever received serious consideration, despite its tremendous praise from the delegates. C. The compromises 1. The question of representation -Arguments arose between large states and small states and northern states and southern states. The VA Plan would make the four largest states the majority. The NJ Plan would not have been proportional to population at all. The Connecticut Compromise—equal representation in the upper house (the Senate), and representation based on population in the lower house (the House). 2. Large states versus small states 3. The 3/5 compromise -For the purpose of representation, who would count as a person? It was assumed that free white women would count. Would slaves count as persons even though they didn’t have any rights? Southern delegates wanted them to count, because it would give southern states more representatives. The Southern delegates said that whether or not a slave was a person, a slave represented wealth and this wealth had to be represented somewhere and southern states should have this “weight” in the government. Some argued if slaves were property, why should this kind of property count when other kinds don’t? They decided that only 3/5 of slaves should count for representation, which gave southern states unfair representation in the government. 4. The slave trade -Since Congress could now regulate trade and commerce, the debate over whether or not Congress should control the slave trade now arose. Another compromise was made, Congress would not be allowed to ban the international slave trade for another 25 years. The Fugitive Slave Law was also adopted, which meant that any runaway slave had to be returned to their owner, regardless of which state they were found in. D. Approval (September 17, 1787): document now goes to the states for ratification - An Electoral College was to select wiser men to make the choice for them. The Electoral College also made the judiciary less susceptible to general population demands. George Mason became nervous now that the national government had so many powers. Mason felt that a Bill of Rights needed to be passed to the Constitution. Mason wrote the original VA Bill of Rights in the VA Constitution. On September 17, 1787, nearly all the delegates signed the Constitution. Next, the states had to ratify the document before the real powers of the Constitution could start. The moment you secede, it becomes your interest to check popular unrest and avoid insurrection/revolution.