Constitutional Convention

How did compromise help create a more unified nation at the second Constitutional Convention?

As it became increasingly clear that the government created under
the articles of confederation was too weak to govern effectively
delegates met at the Second Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia
to discuss the creation of a new form of government. While almost all
agreed that a new form of government was needed that was about all
they could agree on. Some, like Jefferson, still clung to the fear of
a strong central government that might eventually abuse its power.
Others like Alexander Hamilton favored a democratic but strong
central government that would be able to solidify the nation and
govern more effectively. There were other issues at stake as well,
for example:

  • Representation: How would representatives be chosen, by
    population or an equla number per state and how would slaves be
    counted for the purposes of representation?
  • Slavery: Would slavery be allowed to contiue?
  • The Presidency: How would he be elected, how long a term would
    he have to serve?
  • States Rights: How much pwer would the states have and how
    much power would the central government have?

In the end these issues were worked out using the process of
compromise. The chart below illustrates the different compromises
reached in 1787.

The Constitutional Convention
Below is a chart detailing various issues that faced the framers
of the constitution. The solutions that they created became the
Constitution of the United States of America.


1. How would the legislature be chosen? The large states
wanted representation based upon population; the smaller
states wanted all states represented equally.

2. How would slaves be counted? The North wanted slaves
counted for tax purposes, the south wanted slaves counted
for the purposes of representation in Congress.

1. The Great
: A bicameral legislature
consisting of two houses was set up:

a) The Senate: Upper House, all states
represented equally, 2 per state.

b) The House of Representatives: Representation by
population. 435 members subject to change as per US census.

2. The 3/5 Compromise: Slaves were to be
counted in the following manner; 5 slaves equaled three


1. Would slavery continue?

1. Yes, but the Constitutional convention banned importation
of slaves after 1808.

The Presidency:

1. How would the President be elected?

2. How long would the Presidents term of office be?

1. The Electoral College was created to
vote for the President. Each state was given the same number
of electors as they had representatives. In later years the
Electoral college promised to vote based upon the what the
majority of each state wanted. This became known as the
electoral college promise.

2. 4 Years.

Power of the Federal Government

1. How would the powers of the states (something very
important to the colonists who at that time felt more like
“Virginians or Pennsylvanians” then Americans) be protected?

2. How would the central government’s power be limited do
that it could not take away peoples rights?

1. Federalism
– The Federal system (also known as Division of Powers) was
created. The federal government was given certain powers,
the states were given certain powers and there were certain
powers that they shared.

2. Checks and Balances: The government was
divided into three branches. Each branch (Executive,
Legislative and Judicial) was given certain powers that
limited the powers of the other branches. In this way no one
branch can gain too much power. This is also known as
separation of powers.

The founding fathers also wrote the Bill of

These solutions and compromises formed the basis of the new
American government written in a document called the Constitution of
the United States.