Debates at the Constitutional Congress and Constitutional Ratification Debates

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Assignment- Identify and describe the key debates at the Constitutional Convention. Also describe the debates over Constitutional ratification. Identify the key promises that were agreed to as a result of these debates.

Following the Revolutionary War, the new American government was functioning, however poorly, under the Articles of Confederation. Fearing another monarchy, the colonists created the Articles to weigh most of the country’s power upon the states in 1781. The Articles’ main motive (power to the states) remained unchanged for eight years until 1788 when, after numerous evident failures of the Articles that brought out the governments inability to tax, unify, and pass laws emerged, a Constitution was drafted by a multitude of individuals who were known as “The Framers”.

Under the Articles, the powers given to the central government were not at all enforceable. Since each state received one vote in congress, when a tariff or law was passed the states did not have to obey.

In fact if less than nine states voted for a potential law, the law was not passed. With the governments’ inability to enforce tariffs and laws, paying off the war debt, keeping a stable economy, and unifying the states all became seemingly impossible tasks.

The process of drafting a constitution was by far not an easy one. At the State house in Philadelphia, the same location where the Declaration of Independence had been signed 11 years earlier, the Framers hammered out many tedious debates. These debates centered around a set of issues – what powers should be given to the central government, how the states should be represented what was to be done with slavery, the role of the people – each of which was resolved with a specific compromise.

Moreover, the government was to be split into branches, each with its own specific powers. Where the Articles administered laws loosely by committees of Congress, the Constitution executed laws by a powerful president. Where the Articles had no power to control commerce, the Constitution called for regulation of both foreign and interstate trade as well as taxes. The Constitution also called for Federal Courts (Judicial System), a less difficult Amendment process, and an ability to coerce individuals and states to obey laws. As to representation, a compromise, known as the “Great Compromise” was reached. The larger states were promised representation by population in the House of Representatives, and the smaller states were promised equal representation in the Senate. On the question of slaves and whether or not should the southern states count them as people in apportioning direct taxes and in according representation in the House of Representatives, to which the southern states happily answered “yes” while the northern states answered “no”, a compromise, known as the “Three Fifths Compromise” was reached. It was decided that a slave might count as three-fifths of a person when deciding the state representation.

Not only was the drafting difficult, but also the ratification of the Constitution was difficult. Since at least nine out of the thirteen states, as said by the Articles, had to vote for the Constitution in order for it to be passed, it became evident that ratification would not be easy to obtain. The debates over ratification split into two majorities- the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. The Anti-Federalists resisted ratification because they believed that the Constitution was undemocratic. They pushed that the Constitution gave too much power to the national government at the expense of the states, did not provide a bill of rights, and wielded too much power to Congress. While the Anti-Federalists were resisting, the Federalists, in a much more organized effort, proposed solutions to the problems. They claimed that the separation of powers did in fact balance out the government and protected the rights of the people. Since each branch that represented the different powers of government was equal and no one branch could take dominance over another, the risk of an abusive head government was eliminated. The Federalists also agreed that upon the meeting of Congress, a Bill of Rights would be drafted in order to quell the fear of the Anti-Federalists. The hard work of the Federalists was proved to be worthy as the Constitution became a reality when New York and Virginia along with the initially-agreeing states finally accepted it as their blueprint of government.

Both the Constitutional Convention and the Constitutional Ratification Process were extremely significant events in US Government History. The shift from the Articles to the Constitution proved to be a strategic move since the Constitution has endured and, to this day, still endures the test of time. Under the Constriction, the government is an efficient and organized one. Unlike its ability under the Articles, the government is now able to enforce tariffs and laws, pay off debt, keep a stable economy and unify the states. Once may only speculate what could have occurred if the Constitutional Convention was unsuccessful and the Articles were to remain as the predominant guidelines of power.

Bibliography: Bibliography"Cracking the AP U.S. History Exam 2008 edition", 2008 Random House, Inc. New York, Meltzer Tom and Bennet Hofheimer Jean