A Quick Note
Here, we begin a series of articles about the United States Constitution. In this series, we discuss why the U.S. Constitution was developed, what the U.S. Constitution is, how it is interpreted, and more. This article begins by focusing on the Constitutional Convention.
The Constitutional Convention Introduced
Understanding the laws, rulings, and interpretations of the U.S. Constitution is useless if we do not understand why the Constitution was developed. Because of this, it is necessary to begin our discussions about the Constitution, at the beginning.
However, the issue with the beginning is knowing where to start because there is so much information. Doing our best to narrow down all of the main parts, we believe the proper place to start is by discussing the Constitutional Convention. We will discuss the Constitutional Convention, why there was a convention in the first place, and how it was successful.
Understanding this piece of history will help you know why people reflect on the founders when interpreting the constitution.
What was the Constitutional Convention?
Following the American Revolution and the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, the Constitutional Convention consisted of a group of individuals, called delegates, which met to discuss a new form of government. The convention was first gathered in 1787 and frequently met until ratification in 1789.
The delegates are more commonly known as the “founding fathers”. The collective 13 colonies determined to send 70 individuals as delegates to the convention. However, many were either unable or chose not to attend the deliberations. 55 delegates participated in the debates and only 39 signed the final draft of the Constitution at Independence Hall in Philidelphia.
Immediately upon meeting, the delegates elected George Washington to be the president of the proceedings. Although the purpose of the convention was initially to revise the Articles of Confederation, the founders instead determined to begin developing a completely new form of government that contained a legislative, judicial, and executive branch.
As discussions continued, the constitution began to take shape as founders determined which branch of government was to be provided certain powers.
With more than 2/3rds of the delegates signing the Constitution, the founders provided their approval of the document. Then the constitution was sent to the states for ratification (to make it official). 9 States were required for the ratification of the document. Delaware was the first to ratify in December of 1787 and New Hampshire was the 9th to ratify in June of 1788. Further states ratified the document after the incorporation of the Bill of Rights, and Rhode Island was the last to ratify in may of 1790.
Why was there a Constitutional Convention?
After the American Revolutionary War for independence, a document was adopted called the Articles of Confederation. This document made the federal government weak and submissive to the decisions of the individual states. Often the federal government was unable to pass laws if a state found it contrary to its interest.
For instance, the 1783 Treaty of Paris said that the newly formed United States was still responsible for paying back debts to the British. Failure to do so could result in court battles inside the U.S. Because these provisions were unpopular, many states blocked their enforcement. Consequently, British troops refused to leave military forts in U.S. territory.
Other issues with the Articles of Federation included a lack of federal government ability to control trade. More problems threatened to divide the north and south states apart.
Because of these challenges, the Confederation Congress determined to ask the states to send delegates to revise the Articles of Confederation. The purpose of this delegation was to give the federal government more power so they would not be easily blocked by paperwork or the states.
How was it successful?
First and foremost, the Constitutional Convention was successful because the founders produced a document that has lasted over two centuries.
The founders also achieved their goal of creating a stronger federal government that could handle foreign affairs, trade, taxes, and more. The federal government was no longer reliant on state approval to pass a law within Constitutional bounds.
Finally, the convention made many concessions to ensure the Constitution was approved and ratified. Although many of these concessions are currently contested, the promise to incorporate a Bill of Rights was a large part of why the Constitution was approved. The Bill of Rights protects individuals from federal government invasion. The judiciary has also ruled that many of these protections also protect individuals from state government invasion.
There are many other reasons why people may find the constitution convention successful. We have listed only a few we find essential for continued constitutional discussions.
There are several lessons we can learn from the founders.
First, there is a need for open debate. Individuals must listen to each side of the argument before making up their minds. Because the founders were open-minded, they were able to make decisions that supported a majority of opinions.
Second, sometimes we need to make sacrifices to have progress. The founders strongly debated about having a Bill of Rights. Some founders thought they were vital and others found them unnecessary. Some sacrificed by making the promise of a Bill of Rights so the Constitution would be approved.
Finally, the Constitution is a document vital for the continued success of the country. The founders were scared that if the ratification process failed, the country would fall into anarchy. The Constitution is as precious today as it was then. Without it, our country would lose several freedoms so many people have fought to preserve.
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