American History
What Happened at the Constitutional Convention

What happened at the Constitutional Convention?

The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution.

The Constitutional Convention, also known as the Philadelphia Convention, took place from May 25 to September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The primary purpose of the convention was to address the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation and create a new framework for the government of the United States. Here are some key events and outcomes of the Constitutional Convention:

  • Delegates and Representation: Delegates from 12 of the 13 states (Rhode Island did not attend) gathered to participate in the convention. They included prominent figures such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton.
  • Drafting the Constitution: The delegates drafted a new constitution, which established the framework and principles for the federal government. The discussions and debates focused on issues such as the structure of the government, the balance of power between the states and the federal government, and the rights of individuals.
  • Virginia Plan and New Jersey Plan: Two competing plans were presented during the convention. The Virginia Plan, proposed by James Madison, favored a strong central government with a bicameral legislature based on proportional representation. The New Jersey Plan, presented by William Paterson, advocated for a unicameral legislature with equal representation for all states.
  • The Great Compromise: To resolve the dispute between the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan, the convention reached a compromise known as the Great Compromise or the Connecticut Compromise. It established a bicameral legislature with the House of Representatives based on proportional representation and the Senate with equal representation for each state.
  • Three-Fifths Compromise: Another significant compromise was the Three-Fifths Compromise, which determined how enslaved individuals would be counted for representation and taxation purposes. It stated that each enslaved person would be counted as three-fifths of a person for those purposes.
  • Separation of Powers: The convention established a system of separation of powers, with three distinct branches of government: the legislative branch (Congress), the executive branch (the President), and the judicial branch (the courts). This system aimed to prevent the concentration of power and provide checks and balances.
  • Ratification and Amendments: The Constitution was completed and signed by the delegates on September 17, 1787. However, it still required ratification by at least nine of the 13 states to become effective. The process of ratification involved debates and discussions, which led to the addition of the Bill of Rights—ten amendments to the Constitution that protected individual rights.

The Constitutional Convention played a pivotal role in shaping the structure and principles of the United States government. The Constitution, born out of the convention, remains the supreme law of the land and has provided the foundation for the nation's governance for over two centuries.