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The Constitutional Convention

Significant people who shaped the Constitution

A committee wrote the U.S. Constitution in the Constitutional Convention over months. The Convention convened on May 14, 1787, without a quorum. The meetings reconvened on May 25 with a quorum present. Twelve states named 74 Delegates, though only 55 ever attended the Convention, and ultimately, only 39 signed the document. Virginia Governor Edmund Randolph presented the “Virginia Plan at the Convention.” Though there were several others, this plan eventually became the blueprint of the Constitution. The Virginia Plan is often credited to James Madison. Ideas were debated, resolutions presented and voted on, either approved or rejected, and compromises made. Copious minutes were kept. James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Rutledge, and Alexander Hamilton gave vital input. The First Draft was read on Monday, August 6, 1787. After another month of debate, the text of the Constitution was finalized on September 8, 1787 (Madison, n.p.).

The Framers seriously considered what worked and didn’t work under that Constitution, and they kept a substantial portion of that document. So the U.S. Constitution was influenced by a nexus of Enlightenment thought, recent experience, and the history of Great Britain.

Reading literature about the Constitutional Convention, it becomes clear that George Washington, the founding father of the Convention, would have taken place. On one occasion, Washington prevented the early termination of the Convention by intervening to prevent disagreements from ending negotiations (Stewart, 2). Washington’s credibility made the Convention possible, and his timely interventions prevented its failure. Moving from Washington, you have an inner core consisting of Madison–who did most of the writing, Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was in France during the Constitutional Convention. There is widespread agreement that he may not have supported the Constitution if he had been present, as his values were the opposite of Madison and Hamilton. This shortlist leaves several key figures off because the 1787 Constitution resulted from a small cadre of insiders led passively by Washington (Madison, n.p.).

Enter James Madison, who had a plan. He had worked out a framework that seemed to address the concerns of all of the parties before they even knew what their problems were. He was interested in getting something down on paper that everyone could at least live with, if not love. James Madison was born in 1751 in Port Conway, Virginia. Madison got the ball rolling to hold a national convention to draft the Constitution (Stewart, 8). Next, Madison’s “Virginia Plan” served as the model for the Constitution that was agreed upon. To make sure the Constitution was pushed through, Madison, with the help of others, published the ‘Federalist’ essays to help the Constitution get ratified. Madison also helped design the Bill of Rights and founded the Democratic-Republican Party (Madison, n.p.).

Our best understanding of the conversations is the “Federalist Papers” written as newspaper editorials by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay to convince the people to support the ratification of the Constitution in the several states. Almost equally important were the “Anti-federalist Papers,” also known as the “Farmer Papers,” a series of newspaper editorials written by John DeWitt, Patrick Henry, and probably George Mason, written in opposition to the ratification of the Constitution. All the Federalist and Anti-federalist papers were authored under pseudonyms. The Federalist papers gave the reasons for all the provisions of the Constitution. In contrast, the Anti-federalist reports argued there were not enough restrictions on the central government to prevent it from taking away the rights and powers of the several states and the people. George Mason convinced James Madison to author the “Bill of Rights” and submit it to be included as a part of the Constitution (Madison, n.p.).

Framers address grievances with Britain in the Constitution

The King taxed without any consultation with the colonial states regarding their grievances. As such, the founding fathers ensured the Constitution provided that taxes needed the approval of the House of Reps and the Senate. Another grievance was that, while the King made the military the superior arm of government, the U.S. Constitution created the president the Commander-in-Chief. The King also had armies in all colonies, waiting for any attack, but in the U.S. constitution, the congress had the power to raise an army and thus support it through control of funds (Stewart, 23). While the King situated his troops in colonies, the Constitution, through the Third Amendment, prohibited the quartering of soldiers during peacetime (Madison, n.p.).

In another grievance, the King did not listen to grievances or make any effort to address them. The U.S. Constitution guaranteed the petition of grievances to the government through the Bill of Rights. Also, the King appointed judges through his own will, and in contrast, the U.S. Constitution ensured that all federal judges were given a life term to serve after the appointment. Concerning trials, the King denied some colonists trials by jury. The Sixth Amendment guaranteed all persons to be accorded the right to be tried by a jury of their peers (Madison, n.p.).

Ideological differences between the different colonies

Other than a general agreement with the current form of government under the Articles of Confederation, the founding fathers couldn’t agree on something as simple as where to have lunch. Technically, they didn’t have the authority to tear up the Articles of Confederation and start over. At the core, the differences between conservatives and liberals (or progressives) start with originalism or textualism. Most true conservatives believe the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence provide the moral and legal framework for our society – much as in Euclid’s geometry, a small set of unwavering axioms form the basis from which all else is derived. If the core foundation is weak or toppled, the rest of society collapses just as indeed (Madison, n.p.). The conservative’s love of originalism stems from the belief that the principles outlined in our founding documents aren’t an isolated phenomenon developed by a roomful of people in Philadelphia. Instead, conservatives believe our system is the culmination of the best human thought by great men like Locke, Cicero, Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, and beyond (Amar, 1800-1810).

Amar notes that the Founders also distrusted the central government, and the Constitution they wrote is mainly about protecting the people from the government. The wording is precise: “Congress shall make no law…” is sprinkled through the Bill of Rights. Liberalism and progressivism are very different in that they seek to impose a particular ideology on “we the people.” Thus they find originalism acts like a straightjacket preventing them from implementing the programs they pursue. Liberals know that they cannot defend their viewpoints because they are not founded in reality, so they choose to attack and demean anyone they disagree with to invalidate their argument by pointing out things they consider character flaws. Liberals cannot argue with the success of the Founders’ ideology, for it is this ideology that created the Great Nation of the USA that they live in. So, they tried to find any character flaw about the Founders so they could use that to degrade their image instead of addressing their policies head-on (Amar, 1812-1820).

Conservatives, on the other hand, are much more logical and practical. Conservatives understand that there are no perfect people and that every great thing that has been accomplished in the history of the world has been achieved by imperfect people. Instead of focusing on a person’s imperfections, Conservatives focus on what a person stands for and what they are accomplished or were attempting to accomplish.


The Framers of the Constitution were a very diverse group of people who had varying views on the role of government. All of them had been appointed by the legislatures of several states, usually because of their ties to others in power. Some believed in a strong, central government, and others believed in a loose confederation of individual States. If this sounds familiar, that diversity of thought persists until today (Madison, n.p.).

Works Cited

Madison, James. Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787. Ohio University Press. 1987.

Amar, Akhil Reed. The Word’s That Made Us: America’s Constitutional Conversation, 1760-1840. Basic Books. 2021.

Stewart, David O. The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution. Recorded Books. 2008.


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