a stronger national government was necessary to preserve order and property to

A stronger national government was necessary to

This preview shows page 15 - 17 out of 41 pages.

a stronger national government was necessary to preserve order and property— to protect the states from internal as well as external dangers. “While the Dec- laration was directed against an excess of authority,” observed Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson some one hundred fifty years later, “the Constitution [that followed the Articles of Confederation] was directed against anarchy.” 23 Twelve of the thirteen states named seventy-four delegates to convene in Philadelphia, the most important city in America, in May 1787. (Rhode Island, derisively renamed “Rogue Island” by a Boston newspaper, was the one excep- tion. The state legislature sulkily rejected participating because it feared a strong national government.) Fifty-five delegates eventually showed up at the statehouse in Philadelphia, but no more than thirty were present at any one time during that sweltering spring and summer. The framers were not demi- gods, but many historians believe that such an assembly will not be seen again. Highly educated, they typically were fluent in Latin and Greek. Products of the Enlightenment, they relied on classical liberalism for the Constitution’s philo- sophical underpinnings.
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They were also veterans of the political intrigues of their states, and so were highly practical politicians who knew how to maneuver. Although well versed in ideas, they subscribed to the view expressed by one delegate that “ex- perience must be our only guide, reason may mislead us.” 24 Fearing for their fragile union, the delegates resolved to keep their proceedings secret. The Constitutional Convention, at the time called the Federal Convention, officially opened on May 25. Within the first week, Edmund Randolph of Vir- ginia had presented a long list of changes, suggested by fellow Virginian James Madison, that would replace the weak confederation of states with a powerful national government rather than revise it within its original framework. The dele- gates unanimously agreed to debate Randolph’s proposal, called the Virginia Plan. Almost immediately, then, they rejected the idea of amending the Articles of Confederation, working instead to create an entirely new constitution. The Virginia Plan The Virginia Plan dominated the convention’s deliberations for the rest of the summer, making several important proposals for a strong central government: That the powers of the government be divided among three separate branches: a legislative branch, for making laws; an executive branch, for en- forcing laws; and a judicial branch, for interpreting laws. That the legislature consist of two houses. The first would be chosen by the people, the second by the members of the first house from among candidates nominated by the state legislatures. That each state’s representation in the legislature be in proportion to the taxes it paid to the national government or in proportion to its free population.
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