Essay on the constitutional convention of 1787

Christopher and James Collier begin with historical events that led up to Constitutional creation and a brief summation of the events that were taking place in the country during that time frame. The background that they give provides a good base. It was critical to the government back then and now because it would determine how each state would be represented in Congress. The cause of the Great Compromise was because the small populated states wanted to have the same amount of representatives as the states with large populations and the larger populated states wanted to have more representatives than the smaller states.

In , the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between. The constitutional convention and ratification debate was pivotal in the making of the US Constitution. The dynamics, antagonism, considerations, process and the eventual consensus regarding the Constitution can be explained by discrete theories in political discourses. However, there are theories that fit best within this historical context and help better explain the process of constitutional convention and ratification.

This paper will talk about pluralist.

Philadelphia Convention Essay | Essay

Drafted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pa. The document presents a set of general principles out of which implementing statutes and codes have emerged. As such, it embodies the essence of constitutionality--that government must be. Fifty-five delegates from the states attended the convention to address these issues.

The delegates consisted of federalists who wanted a strong central government to maintain order and were mainly wealthier merchants and plantation owners and anti-federalists who were farmers, tradesmen and local politicians who feared losing their power and believed more power should be given to the states. The Constitutional Convention dealt with the issue of the debate between federalists and anti-federalists. The debates, arguments and compromises …show more content…. While the Federalists were successful in establishing a National Bank, they were forced to compromise on other issues including the Virginia Plan.

Eventually this deadlock was broken by the Connecticut Compromise, which based the House of Representatives on proportional representation, favoring the large states, and organized the Senate on state equality, favoring the small states — A fair conclusion from this version of history is that the Framers cared a great deal about state sovereignty and thus wove that into the Constitution's basic structure.

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The initial draft of Madison's Notes , however, indicates that what really kept the small state delegations up at night was the thought that one large state—Virginia—would control the others Bilder , 50— This was not a groundless fear, as Virginia did wield the most influence initially, producing four of the first five presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe , and the first powerful Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall along with many other leading figures in Congress and in the executive branch Smith One convincing element of Bilder's interpretation is that the view that the large states had many powerful common interests of which the small states should have been wary was probably too abstract to generate a debate that threatened the dissolution of the Convention.

There were some divisions between large states and small states leading up to the Convention, most notably over the disposition of the lands that various states claimed on the western frontier Klarman , —91 , but on many issues such as slavery large and small states were internally divided.

The idea that many states might have worried about a particular state running roughshod over them was more tangible. If Madison's Hand is correct in this surmise, then two interesting implications follow. One is that state sovereignty as such was not as important in the Convention as the traditional narrative says 5.

What was really at issue was the principle that one state should not have a stranglehold on the national government.


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State sovereignty was instead an argument crafted during the ratification debate to sell some of the reluctant states on the Constitution and explain the Senate in a more acceptable fashion. One obvious point along these lines was that Virginia could not be persuaded to ratify the proposal with the argument that the plan was meant to restrict Virginia.

U.S. Senate: The Idea of the Senate

Given the subsequent importance of states' rights in constitutional law, the thought that this proposition was not what the Framers had in mind at the beginning is provocative. Bilder devotes significant attention to Madison's disdain for the state governments in , noting that he actually toned down the strongest comments on this issue that he made in Philadelphia during his subsequent revisions of the Notes.

For instance, at the Convention he went so far as to suggest that no line could be drawn between federal and state authority and according to another delegate said that the states were not sovereign Bilder , 98— Indeed, Madison's pet idea at the Convention, which was never adopted, was that Congress should have the power to veto state legislation How did this nationalist turn into a leading champion of states' rights during the First Congress?

There are many plausible explanations. One hypothesis is that Jefferson's return from France in exerted a powerful intellectual pull on Madison and drove him away from his earlier nationalism. Another is that Madison's decision to run for Congress from Virginia forced him to adopt a more parochial posture in response to his constituents. A third option is that Madison either did not foresee or did not approve of how his theories on national power would be applied by Hamilton and was driven by his financial schemes to reconsider his ideas. Bilder's emphasis on Virginia's outsized role in opens up another possibility: Madison's nationalism and belief in states' rights were in harmony only when he thought his state would be running the ship of state.

At first this was what happened, as Washington became president with Madison serving as his chief advisor Stewart , When Hamilton a New Yorker became the first among equals in the Cabinet, though, the danger of federal power intruding on Virginia's interests became a problem. Once his state was completely back in charge with Jefferson as president, a broad construction of federal authority became acceptable again for Secretary of State Madison so long as it did not hurt Virginia on matters such as the Louisiana Purchase.

I. Introduction

President Madison himself ran a vigorous federal government and signed the Second Bank of the United States into law in after arguing against the constitutionality of the First Bank that Hamilton proposed in Magliocca , 8. Today, we are familiar with the idea that politicians flip their positions depending on whether their party is in power or not, but during the early Republic, state loyalties may have played a similar role. Finally, those more familiar with the history of the Founding will find many gems in Madison's Hand about the controversies from that era.

One of these subplots concerns Hamilton's speech in the Convention stating that the president should serve for life unless removed by an impeachment conviction Chernow , Hamilton later claimed that this did not reflect his views and was instead a political tactic designed to make the plan that Madison favored look more acceptable by comparison; an interpretation that the Notes can support Bilder , 92—94, , Just as Madison edited the Notes to make himself look better, the facts suggest that he made revisions or failed to make clarifying revisions in order to make Hamilton look worse, which reflected the souring of their political relationship rather than an accurate picture of what occurred in Philadelphia.


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Madison's decision in this respect carried special weight because Hamilton's Convention speech as recorded by Madison may have helped convince Jefferson that the Treasury Secretary was a closet monarchist who threatened the Republic and may have exacerbated their conflict in Washington's Cabinet — Madison certainly did not go out of his way to correct this impression, and that could be because by that point his political interests as Jefferson's lieutenant were not served by doing so.

In sum, Madison's Hand sheds new light on one of the leading Founding Fathers and on the secret conversations that produced the Constitution.

To what extent will these discoveries change the way the Supreme Court and legal scholars interpret the Constitution? Bilder contends that a prior edition issued in is a more accurate reproduction of the Notes than Farrand's version Bilder , — For the most part, citing the Notes is just a way for judges and lawyers to enhance their rhetoric surrounding a position rather than a way of arriving at that point of view.

Madison’s Role in the Constitutional Convention in 1787

As a result, Bilder's expose will probably have no noticeable effect on constitutional law, but is also unlikely to make references to the Notes any less useful as a symbol to confer legitimacy on a legal argument. In , Louis J. Sirico, Jr. The first appearance of Madison's Notes there came in Carpenter v. Pennsylvania , an insignificant tax case, but three years later they featured more prominently in the notorious case of Dred Scott v. Sandford Sirico , 69— Three of the concurring and dissenting opinions in Dred Scott cited Madison Notes , with one of them supporting the majority's decision that Congress could not prohibit slavery in the federal territories and two of them emphatically rejecting that view.

Sandford , 60 U. Justice McLean's dissent quoted Madison's criticism of slavery that Bilder suggests was not something that he actually said during the Convention Bilder , — The fact that justices on both sides of the constitutional debate on slavery believed that the Notes could support their position is an indication that they bear an important hallmark of a canonical legal text, which is that they are so capacious that they can be read to stand for almost any plausible proposition Greene , — Blaisdell upholding broad state authority to provide debt relief in spite of the Constitution's Contracts Clause , Buckley v.

Valeo creating the basic constitutional framework for campaign finance regulation , Morrison v. Olson rejecting a challenge to the Independent Counsel Act , and U. Term Limits, Inc. Thornton holding that states may not impose term limits on their members of Congress Sirico , 88—96, — United States United States , U. That conclusion is consistent with the one reached decades ago by Jacobus tenBroek, a noted Fourteenth Amendment scholar who published a review of the Court's discussion of the Constitutional Convention tenBroek My own review of the cases that Sirico and tenBroek gathered confirms their results.

One caveat to these assessments is that the Notes may exclude some false readings of the Constitution from consideration. For example, there were proposals made in the Convention that were rejected—sometimes more than once according to Madison's account Bilder , 71— In that instance, maintaining that the defeated idea represents the correct interpretation of the text is difficult. Put another way, the legal profession internalizes part of what the Notes recount and treats them as final judgments on constitutional meaning.

Serious cases are not brought to the Supreme Court challenging these understandings. Accordingly, this aspect of the Notes ' influence would not show up in a review of the Court's opinions, but that influence also evaporates when the justices tackle the vast majority of questions where the Notes do not provide a clear answer. Since the Notes are not determinative in Supreme Court cases, a book casting doubt on Madison's handiwork will not change anything there, but why are the Notes not determinative if they are so important in understanding the Constitution?


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The best answer is that most justices and attorneys in constitutional cases focus on Supreme Court precedent rather than on the text or on the commentary about the text in the Convention or during the ratification debate. Part of the reason that the justices behave in this way is that they have an institutional incentive to promote the authority of their own cases, and the lawyers who argue before them must take that into account in writing their briefs.

A deeper explanation for the hollow influence of the Notes rests with the way that lawyers are trained and the nature of their typical work. Students learn constitutional law almost exclusively by reading Supreme Court cases and in many—maybe most—other courses where the emphasis is on case law. Even advanced constitutional law classes tend to focus on cases, though there is the occasional exception.

I mention this because a disproportionate percentage of law professors, elite lawyers, and judges, including all the current Supreme Court Justices, graduated from one of these two schools.

The Constitution And The Constitutional Convention Essay

When attorneys are confronted with constitutional questions, they almost always do so in the context of applying judicial precedent before lower court judges who must apply that precedent. The high demand for the essays led to their publication in a more permanent form. On January 1, , the New York publishing firm J. McLean announced that they would publish the first thirty-six essays as a bound volume; that volume was released on March 22, , and was titled The Federalist Volume 1. A second bound volume was released on May 28, containing Federalist Nos. A French edition ended the collective anonymity of Publius, announcing that the work had been written by "Mm.

Hopkins wished as well that "the name of the writer should be prefixed to each number," but at this point Hamilton insisted that this was not to be, and the division of the essays among the three authors remained a secret. The first publication to divide the papers in such a way was an edition that used a list left by Hamilton to associate the authors with their numbers; this edition appeared as two volumes of the compiled "Works of Hamilton".