Constitution Essay, Research Paper
The United States Constitution was discussed and established from the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The Convention was held in the Pennsylvania State House. It lasted from May 25, 1787 to September 17, 1787. The thirteen stated that existed at the time were invited to attend. Fifty-five delegates represented the twelve states that attended (Rhode Island declined to send delegates). The convention was held all summer long, and all the delegates were never present all at the same time. Among those who attended were the president of the convention, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Dickinson, Roger Sherman, and James Madison called the Father of the Constitution.
The convention was held in an attempt to rescue the government from the claws of powerlessness over the states. Some states wanted to abandon the Articles of Confederation all together, claiming that a stronger national government was needed. Others wanted to merely amend the Articles seeing no need to destroy and start from scratch. All the delegates, however, did realize that significant changes needed to be done for an effective government. And so the delegates began to work.
As mentioned earlier, James Madison was called the father of the Constitution because of his contribution to the debate, his Virginia Plan which became the first issue of the Convention and the focus of discussion against which all other ideas were weighed. The Virginia Plan called for the creation of a bicameral, or two-house, national legislature (the House and the Senate) creating the legislative branch of their proposed government. Each state would send representatives on proportion to the number of its citizens. That meant that a state with a large population would have more representatives in both chambers that a state with a small population, giving the larger state (in terms of population) more voting power in the legislature. Along with the legislative branch, the government would also have an executive branch and a judicial branch. It would also have the right to tax its citizens (right that wasn’t included in the Articles of Confederation making it inefficient) and the power to veto, or overturn any act of a state legislature. This power made many oppose the Virginia plan because it would give the national government greater power than the states. Therefor, an opponent arose making the Convention more of a dispute than a peaceful meeting, which was its initial intent.
The Virginia plan was an idea that made larger states more powerful than the smaller ones. So the smaller states took a stand and introduced their own idea: The New Jersey Plan. This plan was very much like previous one. It called for three branched of government and also gave Congress the power to tax. It did however keep one feature of the Articles of Confederation that the larger states did not like which was that every state would continue to have an equal vote in a unicameral Congress (not divided into the House and Senate like the Virginia Plan called for) no matter how large the population. The New Jersey was created not exactly to make a stronger government but to let the makers of the Virginia plan know that the states should remain the most powerful governments in America.
The Convention was deadlocked. Half supported one plan and half supported the other. Soon the environment at the Convention became hostile, aggressive, and competitive. Finally, a solution emerged with the name of the Great Compromise. The Compromise combined the major points of the New Jersey and Virginia Plans. It established the present day arrangement in which the legislative branch would be made up of two houses (called for in the Virginia Plan): the House of Representatives and the Senate. But in one chamber, the House of Representatives, each state would have a number of representatives that corresponded to the size of its population. In the other, the Senate, every state would have an equal number of representatives (called for in the New Jersey Plan).
The Compromise was approved on July 16, settling the arguments and disputes among the delegates, but arising a question among the states. How should the slaves who were so numerous in the southern states be counted? If they were all counted and included in the general population, the southern states would have greater power in the House of Representatives even though their voting population was small. If they were to be not counted at all, the southern states would be weak. With that, the second conflict arose out of what was supposed to be a solution. But the delegates once again came to the rescue with a formula known as the Three-fifths Compromise. Under this plan, the slaves would be counted, but then the total would be multiplied by three-fifths. With that problem resolved, the delegates moved on.
Among other issues that the convention touched was the agreement that Congress had the power to regulate interstate and foreign trade. The southern states, which were not as densely populated as the northern states, feared that giving Congress the power to regulate trade might adversely affect their economy. They demanded the legislation affecting commerce be determined only by two-thirds majority votes, but also consented to eliminate this requirement when the northern states agreed to constitutional clauses prohibiting the federal government from buying export taxes and from interfering with slave trade before 1808. The southern states were further satisfied by the condition of a census (which was to be held every ten years) as the basis for distribution of representatives. The southern states looked at this as a way to increase the representation in the House as their population increased.
As you can see, the constitution wasn’t made in a very peaceful way. It wasn’t made in a very peaceful way. It wasn’t a group of people sitting around a table writing down a bunch of laws. The Constitution came about from many different points of view. After all, the delegates came from twelve different states where there were twelve different ways of life. Diversity shaped the Constitution. It isn’t the documentation of the ideas that form the government but the compromise of ideas that form the government. While this is true that much of the Constitution was reached under compromise, some of it is written as the exact issues proposed by the delegates that were never opposed and immediately agreed upon. One such issue was the agreement that there should be a central form of government, Along with that, no one disputed the idea of the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances which the Constitution lists. These basic ideas (the central form of government, the separation of powers, and the system of checks and balances) weren’t opposed at all. They were agreed upon immediately after their proposal and now form a major part of the Constitution.
Now, with the debates over and the basic issues agreed upon, the convention turned the document over to a Committee on Style on September 9 to further refine it. Then on September 17, 1787, the convention approved the draft and thirty-nine names were placed on the finished document. Only thirty- nine delegates signed the document because the others either left the convention disappointed or were absent from that meeting. But the document was now signed. The United States had a brand new “set of rules” which made the powers of the legislative, executive, and judicial more than there were before, and the Constitution was declared to be the “supreme law of the land.”
The Convention finally adjourned on September 28, 1787 and the Constitution was sent to all the states for ratification. Eventually all the states did approve of the Constitution and the United States had a new way of life. As a matter of fact, only the consent of two-thirds of the states was needed to ratify the Constitution (Article VII) in order for it to become effective. The Constitution wasn’t perfect in all its features. There were those who opposed it. Rhode Island was so against it that it didn’t even show up at the Convention. But it eventually accepted it becoming the last state to put its laws into order even though it only ratified it because Congress threatened to regard Rhode Island as a foreign nation imposing duties on its exports to all of the other states.
There is much more to the Constitution of the United States than what I have discussed so far. It not only outlines the frame of our federal government but it also gives importance to the people and their individual rights as citizens. This found in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, also regarded to as the Bill of Rights. The bill sets out the Constitutional guarantees of freedom expression and belief, of security of each person, of fair and equal treatment under the law, of freedom of religion and assembly, and so on. The Constitution, with the Bill of Rights as one of its most important features, has been proven to be very effective in providing for the rights of the people. But we have to keep in mind that the Constitution is over 200 years old and has needed to be changed to fit the times of the people. Along with the Bill of Rights, the Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times. Such amendments include the dispute over hoe the president and vice-president should be elected (Amendment XII- the Electoral College), the abolishment of slavery (Amendment XIII), and the right to vote for all (Amendments XV and XIX).
Sure the Constitution is not the original Articles that we once knew but its main purpose remains the same. The Constitution is always interpreted with its original intent in mind. The Constitution was written in an effort to have a more efficient government. Because of its existence, it is said that the government of the United States is like no other on the world, helping us become a world power. But apart form the greatness that the Constitution brings us as a country, it also outlines the basic needs of the American people making the Constitution of the United States the guidelines to our way of living.
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