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HISTORY OF THE CONSTITUTION

What was the pressing need for the Constitution?

The previous constitution in the United States was called the Articles of Confederation. This confederation system of government did not provide sufficient power to the central government and allowed state governments too much power. Many leaders in the country saw that there was a pressing need for a stronger central government to regulate interactions (such as matters of commerce) between the states. This led to a series of meetings culminating in a meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Representatives from every state except Rhode Island (a small, independently minded state) met in secret in Philadelphia to discuss how to improve and amend the Articles of Confederation. The Framers—as they came to be called—went far beyond their stated duty and formed an entirely new legal document called the U.S. Constitution.

What were the problems with the Articles of Confederation?

The primary problem with the Articles of Confederation was that the central government was too weak. It did not have the power to regulate different states' behavior. The commerce interests of the various states often were not aligned and the central government could not resolve these disputes. Under the Articles of Confederation, the Confederation Congress could not force state governments to raise monies for the federal government but had to depend on them to supply it voluntarily. The Confederation Congress could declare war but it could not raise an army. The states had to do that.

New York political leader Alexander Hamilton wrote to colleague James Duane in 1780 about the problem with the Confederation Congress, which he described: "The fundamental defect is a want of power in Congress." Former United States Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger wrote, nearly two hundred years later, that the Articles "were barely more than a multinational treaty between thirteen independent, sovereign states."

Who were some of the leaders of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787?

The Philadelphia Convention included future Presidents George Washington

George Washington, who would later become the first president of the United States, was also one of the framers of the Constitution and a leader of the Philadelphia Convention (iStock).

George Washington, who would later become the first president of the United States, was also one of the framers of the Constitution and a leader of the Philadelphia Convention (iStock).

and James Madison; future Supreme Court Justices Oliver Ellsworth, William Pater-son, John Rutledge, and James Wilson; the first U.S. Attorney General, Edmund Randolph; and Roger Sherman, a principal draftsman of the Declaration of Independence.

Who were the 55 Founding Framers of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787

The following table lists who the Framers were and the states from which they hailed. Founding Framers of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787

State

Framers

Connecticut

Oliver Ellsworth, William Samuel Johnson, Roger Sherman

Delaware

Richard Bassett, Gunning Bedford, Jacob Broom, John Dickinson,

George Read

Georgia

Abraham Baldwin, William Few, William Houstoun, William Pierce

Maryland

Daniel Carroll, Luther Martin, James McHenry, John F. Mercer,

Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer

Massachusetts

Elbridge Gerry, Nathan Gorham, Rufus King, Caleb Strong

New Hampshire

Michael Gillman, John Langdon

New Jersey

David Brearley, Jonathan Dayton, William Houston, William

Livingston, William Paterson

New York

Alexander Hamilton, Robert Lansing, Robert Yates

North Carolina

William Blount, William Richardson Davie, Alexander Martin,

Richard Dobbs Spaight, Hugh Williamson

Pennsylvania

George Clymer, Thomas Fitzsimons, Benjamin Franklin, Jared

Ingersoll, Thomas Mifflin, Gouverneur Morris, Robert Morris,

James Wilson

South Carolina

Pierce Butler, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, John Rutledge

Virginia

John Blair, James Madison, George Mason, James McClurg,

Edmund Randolph, George Washington, George Wythe

 
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