After the Articles of Confederation weren’t working out for the new nation of the United States of America, they decided to come up with something different.
Delegates from 12 of the 13 states of America met from May 25th to September 17th 1787, at what became known as the Constitutional Convention.
The next lesson: Bill of Rights
The following transcript is provided for your convenience.
The only state that did not send a delegate was Rhode Island, and that’s because they didn’t want to give up any of their state power, and they were worried that a new constitution would give more power to a central government, and they didn’t want to lose their individual state power.
They also had a lot of their own paper money printed, and part of the goal of the Constitutional Convention was to produce a national currency that all of the states would use, and Rhode Island didn’t want to give up their currency. So, they didn’t attend the Constitutional Convention. In the end, they did sign the Constitution to become a state in the United States of America, under the current Constitution. They realized they were surrounded by so many other states, and it wasn’t really going to work out for them to remain their own nation separate from the United States of America. But at the convention, they did not have a delegate present.
The delegates’ original purpose was to revise the Articles of Confederation. They realized it wasn’t working, and they said, “Okay, we need to revise this.” However, it was quickly realized that a revision would not be enough to provide a workable government structure. The Articles of Confederation made central government too weak, and gave the states too much power. So, instead of being able to simply revise the Articles of Confederation, something new was going to have to be written. After vowing to keep all proceedings secret, delegates set out to draft a new document that eventually became the Constitution of the United States of America.
By keeping it secret until completed, the delegates were able to present a full, completed draft to the country, to their home states for ratification, instead of haggling over details. So, they could bring home this completed document and say, “Okay, it’s time to approve this home state.” And each state could ratify it, instead of having to haggle over every detail. The members of the Constitutional Convention – those delegates – worked out all the details, and even with them, there were a lot of people there, so it took a lot of haggling to get it worked out, but instead of going to bringing everything back to your home state for a vote, they all decided right there in the convention on all the details, and then brought this completed document home and said, “Okay, now it’s time for our state to ratify this.” So, each state had its own convention, and eventually, all of them ratified the Constitution.
The first part of the Constitution focused on separation of powers, and this was important to the Americans because they did not want the central government to have too much power since they had just gotten out from underneath the British Empire’s rule, where it was very harsh. They had received a lot of unfair taxation and a lot of unfair laws that they thought took away their natural rights. And so, they wanted to be sure that wasn’t going to happen again their new government by giving too much power to a central government. So, they included three branches of the central government, which include the legislative, which consisted of a bicameral congress, which today we know as the House of Representatives and the Senate. There are two different houses for congress. The executive, which is the President, and the judiciary branch, which is the Supreme Court and other federal courts. So, you’ve got your legislative, your executive, and your judiciary branches.
And the delegates included checks and balances to keep any one branch of the central government from gaining too much power. So, in that way, they were able to appease all the delegates and make sure that they weren’t going to give too much power to one branch of the central government, and would not, in effect, give too much power to the central government as a whole. And the states could still retain some of their individual rights. And that is how our Constitution was drafted.
The next lesson: Bill of Rights