A School History of the United States eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 417 pages of information about A School History of the United States.

[Footnote 2:  The report of this Annapolis convention is printed in Bulletin of Bureau of Rolls and Library of the Department of State, No. 1, Appendix, pp. 1-5.]

CHAPTER XIII

MAKING THE CONSTITUTION

%174.  Call for the Constitutional Convention.%—­Finding that it could do nothing, because so few states were represented, and because the powers of the delegates were so limited, the convention recommended that all the states in the Union be asked by Congress to send delegates to a new convention, to meet at Philadelphia in May, 1787, “to take into consideration the situation of the United States,” and “to devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the Constitution of the Federal government adequate to the exigencies of the Union.”

%175.  The Philadelphia Convention.%[1]—­Early in 1787 Congress approved this movement, and during the summer of 1787 (May to September) delegates from twelve states (Rhode Island sent none), sitting in secret session at Philadelphia, made the Constitution of the United States.

[Footnote 1:  All we know of the proceedings of this convention is derived from the journals of the convention, the notes taken down by James Madison, the notes of Yates of New York, and a speech by Luther Martin of Maryland.  They may be found in Elliot’s Debates, Vol.  IV.]

[Illustration:  Independence Chamber[2]]

[Footnote 2:  The room where the Constitution was framed.]

%176.  The Virginia and New Jersey Plans%.—­The story of that convention is too long and too complicated to be told in full.[1] But some of its proceedings must be noticed.  While the delegates were assembling, a few men, under the lead of Madison, met and drew up the outline of a constitution, which was presented by the chairman of the Virginia delegation, and was called the “Virginia plan.”  A little later, delegates from the small states met and drew up a second plan, which was the old Articles of Confederation with amendments.  As the chairman of the New Jersey delegation offered this, it was called the “New Jersey plan.”  Both were discussed; but the convention voted to accept the Virginia plan as the basis of the Constitution.

[Footnote 1:  For short accounts, read “The Framers and the Framing of the Constitution” in the Century Magazine, September, 1887, or “Framing the Constitution,” in McMaster’s With the Fathers, pp. 106-149, or Thorpe’s Story of the Constitution, Chautauqua Course, 1891-92, pp. 111-148.]

%177.  The Three Compromises.%—­This plan called, among other things, for a national legislature of two branches:  a Senate and a House of Representatives.  The populous states insisted that the number of representatives sent by each state to Congress should be in proportion to her population.  The small states insisted that each should send the same number of representatives.  For a time neither party would yield; but at length the Connecticut delegates suggested that the states be given an equal vote and an equal representation in the Senate, and an unequal representation, based on population, in the House.  The contending parties agreed, and so made the first compromise.

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