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Lesson 2: The Question of Representation at the 1787 Convention

Signing of Constitution, by Howard C. Christy

Howard Chandler Christy's painting of the signing of the United States Constitution.

Architect of the Capitol

When the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention convened in May of 1787 to recommend amendments to the Articles of Confederation , one of the first issues they addressed was the plan for representation in Congress. This question was especially contentious, and kept the delegates embroiled in debate and disagreement for over six weeks. One group of delegates believed that they were not authorized to change the "federal" representational scheme under the Articles of Confederation, according to which the states were equally represented in a unicameral Congress by delegates appointed by the state legislatures. Another group of delegates believed that the current scheme of representation under the Articles of Confederation was flawed and had to be replaced with a better one—a "national" one. The question was finally resolved by the Connecticut Compromise , which resulted in a system of representation that would be "partly national, partly federal," involving a combination of the two kinds of representation.

This lesson will focus on the various plans for representation debated during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. By examining the views of delegates as recorded in James Madison's Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 , students will understand the arguments of those who supported either the Virginia Plan or New Jersey Plan. Students will also see why the Connecticut Compromise was crucial for the Convention to fulfill its task of remedying the political flaws of the Articles of Confederation.

Guiding Questions

Why was the question of representation such an important issue to the delegates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787?

In whose interest were the compromises made?

To what extent are the decisions made in 1787 still relevant today?

Learning Objectives

Identify key delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and analyze their views concerning representation.

Evaluate the schemes of representation in the Virginia Plan, the New Jersey Plan, and the Hamilton Plan.

Assess how the question of representation affected whether the changes proposed by the Convention would lead to a "national" or a "federal" system.

Evaluate the results of the Connecticut Compromise with regard to representation.

Examine contemporary issues regarding state and federal representation to determine the degree of change that has occurred over time. 

Lesson Plan Details

In May of 1787, delegates from the states began assembling in Philadelphia for a Convention to recommend amendments to the Articles of Confederation . From the beginning, however, the central point of contention among delegates was the extent to which the scheme of representation under the Articles should be changed. According to the Articles of Confederation, the states were united in a "firm league of friendship" under what was understood to be a federal government. Each state legislature selected delegates to a unicameral Congress (that is, there was only one legislative branch, unlike the bicameral Congress established later by the Constitution). The states were equally represented in Congress because each state delegation could cast only one vote. Some delegates, including James Madison, believed this arrangement led to many of the problems that the United States faced during the 1780s (See Lesson 1 of this unit, " The Road to the Constitutional Convention "). Madison, therefore, devised what came to be known as the Virginia Plan, which was introduced to the Convention by Edmund Randolph of Virginia on May 29. The Virginia Plan would establish two Houses of Congress: in the first or "lower" House, representatives would be elected directly by the people of each state; representatives in the second or "upper" House would be selected by members of the lower House out of a pool of candidates nominated by the state legislatures. In both Houses, the number of representatives from each state (referred to by the delegates as the "rule of suffrage") would be "proportioned," determined by either the population of each state, or by the amount of taxes each state contributed annually to national funds. The Virginia Plan would establish a national government that represented the people of the United States directly: the people themselves would elect their representatives, and the laws of Congress would apply to them directly rather than to the state governments.

On June 15, William Paterson of New Jersey introduced an alternative plan to revise and correct the Articles of Confederation. The New Jersey Plan would enlarge some of the powers of Congress—such as the power to raise money though import taxes—but would otherwise leave the scheme of representation unchanged. On June 16, Paterson argued that his more conservative plan—unlike the Virginia Plan—was within the scope of what the Convention was authorized to do.

A strange interlude occurred on June 18 when Alexander Hamilton of New York introduced his own plan. Hamilton proposed a bicameral Congress in which representatives in the Assembly (or lower House) would be elected directly by the people, and members of the Senate would be appointed by electors chosen by the people. The state governments would have no role in selecting representatives, and the national government would neither represent nor rely on the state governments in any way. Hamilton's plan was so radical that it spawned little debate, but it did set the tone for the heated discussions that would follow in the next few weeks.

Three issues dominated the debates over the Virginia and New Jersey Plans. First was the question of a unicameral versus a bicameral Congress. Delegates such as James Wilson of Pennsylvania argued that splitting the legislature into two Houses would allow each to act as a check on the other. Others, such as Paterson, countered that such a check was unnecessary. The question was finally settled in favor of a bicameral Congress on June 21.

The second issue surrounding the question of representation was the mode of election; that is, whether representatives should be elected by the people directly or by the members of the state legislatures. On one side, delegates such as Roger Sherman and Elbridge Gerry believed that the people were not fit to select their representatives. On the other side, delegates such as George Mason and James Madison argued that direct election to the lower House by the people was necessary to satisfy the "democratic principle." (June 6) This question was finally settled by a compromise on June 25: representatives in the lower House would be elected directly by the people; Senators would be appointed by each state legislature.

The third and most contentious element of the debate was the question of equal versus proportional representation in Congress, otherwise known as the "rule of suffrage" in the legislature. Some delegates feared that proportional representation would allow the larger states to dominate Congress and pass laws adverse to the interests of the smaller states. Other delegates, such as George Mason, feared that equal representation would allow the smaller states to form a majority in Congress that would tax and spend the wealth and resources of the larger states to the advantage of the smaller states.

The delegates reached an impasse over the rule of suffrage in Congress. On June 11, Roger Sherman of Connecticut had proposed a compromise measure: in the lower House, representation should be based on the population of each state; in the Senate, each state should have one vote. Two weeks later, on June 29, Oliver Ellsworth, also of Connecticut, revived Sherman's proposal and urged delegates to compromise. "We were partly national; partly federal," Ellsworth urged. Ellsworth's proposal was sent to a committee, which recommended proportional representation in the lower House based on population, and equal representation in the Senate. The committee also proposed that all bills to tax or spend money must originate in the lower House, and could not be altered or amended by the Senate. This provision won the approval of delegates such as George Mason, who was now satisfied that even with equal representation in the Senate, a coalition of smaller states would be unable to unjustly tax the larger states. Despite continued resistance by James Madison and James Wilson, the compromise finally passed on July 16.

For more background information, the EDSITEment reviewed resource Teaching American History offers an interactive website that includes a summary of the major themes of the Constitutional Convention , a day-by-day account of the debates, and useful biographies of the delegates.

  • Useful background information can also be accessed at the Digital History website . The Library of Congress' " American Memory " project includes a brief summary of the plans debated at the Convention.
  • America's Founding Documents at the National Archives also includes this historical summary  and  question-and-answer page about the Constitution and 1787 Convention.

NCSS.D1.1.9-12. Explain how a question reflects an enduring issue in the field.

NCSS. D2.Civ.3.9-12. Analyze the impact of constitutions, laws, treaties, and international agreements on the maintenance of national and international order.

NCSS. D2.Civ.4.9-12. Explain how the U.S. Constitution establishes a system of government that has powers, responsibilities, and limits that have changed over time and that are still contested.

NCSS. D2.Civ.5.9-12. Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.

NCSS.D2.His.3.3-5. Generate questions about individuals and groups who have shaped significant historical changes and continuities.

NCSS.D2.His.4.3-5. Explain why individuals and groups during the same historical period differed in their perspectives.

NCSS.D2. His.5.3-5. Explain connections among historical contexts and people’s perspectives at the time.

NCSS.D2.His.6.3-5. Describe how people’s perspectives shaped the historical sources they created.

NCSS. D3.1.9-12. Gather relevant information from multiple sources representing a wide range of views while using the origin, authority, structure, context, and corroborative value of the sources to guide the selection.

Note to teachers on prioritizing activities: This lesson, because of the importance and complexity of the subject matter, involves three activities that require five class periods if all activities are completed. If your available time is less than that suggested for completing the entire lesson, it is recommended that teachers focus their time on Activity 2, which incorporates the main issues regarding representation that kept the delegates engaged in the most serious debates during the Constitutional Convention . If time allows, Activity 3 will also be useful to show how delegates resolved their disagreements. Activity 1, which lays out the more theoretical groundwork for the debates over representation, might be considered as optional for those teachers who only have 2-3 days available for this lesson. Teachers also have the discretion of modifying the assignments and materials to be covered in class to fit their allotted schedules.

Review the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and links from EDSITEment-reviewed websites used in this lesson. Download and print out selected documents and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing. Alternatively, excerpted versions of these documents are available as part of the Text Document . This file contains excerpted versions of the documents used in the first and second activities, as well as questions for students to answer. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of the handouts you plan to use in class.

Analyzing primary sources:  If your students lack experience in dealing with primary sources, you might use one or more preliminary exercises to help them develop these skills. The Learning Page at the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress includes a set of such activities. Also useful is the Educator Resources section of the National Archives website, which features a set of Document Analysis Worksheets . Finally, History Matters offers pages on Making Sense of Maps and Making Sense of Oral History which give helpful advice to teachers in getting their students to use such sources effectively.

Activity 1. Plans for representation and the question of authorization

Time required for activity: Homework reading assignment with questions and two 45 minute class periods . The Alternate Version (found at the end of Activity 1) will require an additional 1-2 days.

Preparing for the activity:

Print copies (or provide links) for students of the documents and analysis questions assigned for in-class discussion and as homework (listed below, included on pages 1-11 in the Text Document for Activity 1).

The purpose of the activity is to provide students with an understanding of the various plans for representation debated during the first weeks of the Constitutional Convention. Students will also become familiar with the views of some of the more prominent delegates at the Convention. They will also understand why the question of "authorization" arose during the debates over these plans.

On the first day of the activity:

Divide your students into three groups. Assign Reading Set A to all of the groups, and allow them to read and discuss the assigned documents. Then each group should write one-paragraph answers to the assigned questions (listed on the Analysis Sheet found on page 3 in the Text Document for Activity 1). After approximately 20-25 minutes, the whole class should compare and discuss their answers to the analysis questions (for the remainder of the class period).

Reading Set A. Plans of Representation (to be assigned to all three groups for in-class discussion)

Have students read the following documents, available in their entirety at the EDSITEment-reviewed Avalon Project at Yale University , National Archives Experience and Teaching American History , and in excerpted form on pages 1-2 of the Text Document for Activity 1:

  • Articles of Confederation (ratified 1781)
  • The Virginia Plan (introduced by Edmund Randolph, May 29, 1787)
  • The New Jersey Plan (introduced by William Paterson, June 15, 1787)
  • The Hamilton Plan (introduced by Alexander Hamilton, June 18, 1787)
  • U.S. Constitution (as recommended by the Convention, September 17, 1787)

Analysis questions for Reading Set A (found on page 3 of the Text Document for Activity 1):

  • Explain how the states were represented under the Articles of Confederation.
  • How are the Articles of Confederation and the Virginia plan different?
  • How are the Virginia Plan and Hamilton Plan different?
  • How is the original U.S. Constitution (as recommended by the Convention) different from both the Articles of Confederation and the Virginia Plan?

For homework, assign one of the three additional sets of readings (Readings Sets B-D, listed below and included on pages 4-5, 7 and 9-10 in the Text Document for Activity 1) to each of the three groups, and have each group write a one-paragraph answer to their assigned questions (the questions are also listed in the Analysis Sheets found on pages 6, 8 and 11 in the Text Document for Activity 1). Assign each group of students only ONE of the following three Reading Sets:

Reading Set B. Debate over the Virginia Plan: Were the delegates authorized to establish proportional representation?

Have students read the following document, available at the EDSITEment-reviewed Avalon Project at Yale University , and in excerpted form on pages 4-5 of the Text Document for Activity 1:

  • Constitutional Convention, May 30, 1787

Based on what they have read students should then answer each of the following questions, found on page 6 of the Text Document for Activity 1:

  • In this debate, which of the delegates are skeptical of the Virginia Plan, and which seem to support it? After you have made your list of those for or against, identify the state they are from by visiting the " Individual Biographies of the Delegates at the Constitutional Convention " website.
  • Why do some delegates believe that the Virginia Plan would establish a "national" government, and do away with the "federal" government under the Articles of Confederation?
  • Why do George Mason and James Madison believe that a national rather than federal government is necessary?
  • Why are General Pinckney, Roger Sherman and George Read (Reed) inclined to oppose the scheme of representation in the Virginia Plan?

Reading Set C. Debate over the Virginia Plan: Paterson's critique of proportional representation

Have students read the following document, available at the EDSITEment-reviewed Avalon Project at Yale University , and in excerpted form on page 7 of the Text Document for Activity 1:

  • Constitutional Convention, June 9, 1787

Based on what they have read they should then write a one-sentence answer to each of the following questions, available on page 8 of the Text Document for Activity 1:

  • In this passage, William Paterson (Patterson) of New Jersey argues against the Virginia Plan. What is it that he particularly does not like about the Virginia Plan?
  • Why does Paterson believe that the Convention should not adopt proportional representation?
  • Why do you think Paterson said the following? "We must follow the people; the people will not follow us."
  • What does Paterson say will happen if the Virginia Plan is approved?

Reading Set D. Debate over the New Jersey Plan: Will it be enough to fix the Articles of Confederation?

Have students read the following document, available at the EDSITEment-reviewed Avalon Project at Yale University , and in excerpted form on pages 9-10 of the Text Document for Activity 1:

  • Constitutional Convention, June 16, 1787

Based on what they have read they should then write a one-paragraph answer to each of the following questions, available on page 11 of the Text Document for Activity 1:

  • In this debate, which of the delegates are opposed to the New Jersey Plan, and which support it? After you have made your list of those for or against, identify the state they are from by visiting the " Individual Biographies of the Delegates at the Constitutional Convention " website.
  • Why do John Lansing and William Paterson (Patterson) prefer the New Jersey Plan over the Virginia Plan?
  • How does James Wilson respond to Paterson's claim that the people will never approve the Virginia Plan?
  • Why does Edmund Randolph argue that the New Jersey plan will not remedy the problems under the Articles of Confederation?

On the second day of the activity:

Each group should meet briefly (5-10 minutes) and compare their answers. Then the teacher should reassign or reshuffle the groups, so that there is at least one student in each new group who has answered the analysis questions for Reading Sets B, C and D. Then the new groups should compare and discuss their documents and answers (approximately 15 minutes total). For the remainder of the class period, each group should select a member to summarize and present their answers with the rest of the class (approximately 5 minutes for each presentation).

Teachers have the option of extending the activity by assigning the following for homework on the second day of the activity: Write a one to two page essay on how the delegates were divided over the Virginia and New Jersey Plans (Teachers: if you are going to move on to Activity 2 on the following day, be aware that you will need to assign the readings for the next exercise as well).

Alternate Instructions for Mixed Ability Classrooms:

Assign Reading Set A excerpts (found on pages 1-2 of the Text Document for Activity 1) and the accompanying questions to all students to be completed for homework. Students should also write a brief summary of the main points in each document. Begin class the following day with a discussion of the readings (students are instructed that no writing is allowed during this discussion). Select students to present their written summaries of the assigned documents, and allow for appropriate discussion time after each summary is presented. When all readings have been discussed, allow students to change or make additions to their homework answers.

Next, hand out copies of Reading Sets B, C and D to every student (available on pages 4-5, 7 and 9-10 in the Text Document for Activity 1). Divide the class into three groups—intentionally including some high, middle, and lower ability students in each one—and assign each group the worksheet questions for Reading B, C, or D (found on pages 6, 8, or 11 of the Text Document for Activity 1). Assign only one set of worksheet questions to each group. Groups should discuss possible answers to each question in their assigned set, and each student would individually complete his/her worksheet. Then each group should give a short presentation to the entire class on their document and answers. The teacher should summarize the following on the board/or overhead: the different plans, view on authorization, and the difference between national and federal. These changes would add an extra day or two to the lesson, but even lower ability students should grasp an understanding of the major differences of opinion.

Activity 2. Bicameralism, modes of election, and the "rule of suffrage" in Congress

Time required for activity: In class reading assignment with questions and two 45 minute class periods . The Alternate Version (found at the end of Activity 2) will require an additional 1-2 days.

Print copies of the assigned documents (or provide links) and analysis questions for students (listed below, included on pages 1-10 in the Text Document for Activity 2).

Print the Biography Sheets included on pages 11-15 of the Text Document for Activity 2 (longer versions of these biographies are available at Teaching American History ). You might need to make multiple copies of some Biography Sheets.

The purpose of the activity is to provide students with an understanding of the three main aspects of representation that divided the delegates to the Convention: unicameralism versus bicameralism, mode of election, and the "rule of suffrage" in Congress. Students will also become familiar with the views of some of the more prominent delegates at the Convention. They will also understand why the question of proportional versus equal representation led to a disagreement between delegates from larger and smaller states.

Distribute to all students the Analysis Questions for Reading sets A, B and C (available on pages 3, 6-7, and 10 of the Text Document for Activity 2).

Divide your students into three groups, and assign one of the three Readings Sets (available on pages 1-2, 4-5, and 8-9 of the Text Document for Activity 2) to each group. Have each group answer the questions that follow their assigned Reading Set (the questions are also listed on the Analysis Sheets available on pages 3, 6-7, and 10 in the Text Document for Activity 2).

Reading Set A. One House or two?

Have students read the following documents, available at the EDSITEment-reviewed Teaching American History , and in excerpted form on pages 1-2 of the Text Document for Activity 2:

  • Constitutional Convention, June 20, 1787

Using the worksheet on page 3 of the Text Document for Activity 2, students should then write a summary of the reasons each of the following delegates was either for or against a bicameral Congress:

  • William Paterson (Patterson)
  • James Wilson
  • George Mason

Reading Set B. Election by the people or state legislatures?

Have students read the following documents, available at the EDSITEment-reviewed Avalon Project at Yale University , or in excerpted form on pages 4-5 of the Text Document for Activity 2:

  • Constitutional Convention, May 31, 1787
  • Constitutional Convention, June 6, 1787
  • Constitutional Convention, June 21, 1787
  • Constitutional Convention, June 25, 1787

Using the worksheet on pages 6-7 of the Text Document for Activity 2, students should then write a summary of the reasons each of the following delegates supported or opposed either election by the people or election by state legislatures:

  • Roger Sherman
  • Elbridge Gerry
  • James Madison
  • Charles Pinckney
  • Oliver Ellsworth

Reading Set C. Proportional or equal representation?

Have students read the following documents, available at the EDSITEment-reviewed Avalon Project at Yale University , or in excerpted form on pages 8-9 of the Text Document for Activity 2:

  • Constitutional Convention, July 14, 1787

Using the worksheet on page 10 of the Text Document for Activity 2, students should then write a summary of the reasons each of the following delegates supported or opposed either proportional or equal representation in Congress:

  • David Brearly

Allow each group to work together for approximately 20 minutes. Teachers then have the option of (1) having each group make a brief presentation to the class summarizing their answers (2-3 minutes each), or (2) reshuffle students into new groups—so that at least one student in each new group has answered the questions for all three Reading Sets—and allow each student to complete the answers for the remaining sets of Analysis Questions (approximately 10-15 minutes).

Teachers should distribute to each student a Biography Card (found on pages 11-15 of the Text Document for Activity 2) for a delegate that was included in the questions for their reading assignment (For example, distribute the Biography Cards for David Brearly, William Paterson, James Wilson and James Madison to those students who had Reading Set C for their homework). Some students within a group will share a Biography Card, or teacher can print multiple copies of a Biography Card if so desired.

Explain the role playing activity that will take place on the following day, as well as the rules for debate that will be applied (such as how much time will be spent on each issue, how many times a delegate is allowed to address the Convention, etc., to be determined at the teacher's discretion). For homework, students should familiarize themselves with the information on their Biography Card. Teacher should also inform the students of the questions that will be debated on the following day (listed below). This will allow groups of students to meet after class to discuss and prepare for how they will defend or critique certain issues on the following day.

Have all of the students who represent a delegate meet in a group (for example, all students with a George Mason card should meet in a group, all those with a Roger Sherman card in another group, and so on). Allow students approximately 5-10 minutes to discuss the views they will either defend or critique during the debate.

During the remainder of the class period, students should engage in debate, moderated by the teacher, over the three main questions concerning representation: 1. Should there be one House of Congress or two? 2. Should representatives be elected by the people, or by state legislatures? For one or both Houses of Congress? 3. Should there be proportional or equal representation? In one or both Houses of Congress? Students should debate according to the views of their particular delegate, and should see the difficulty of getting delegates to agree on the question of representation. To further emphasize this difficulty, the teacher may choose to select a number of students (on the day of the debate) who will observe but not participate in the debates. This “panel” of delegates will either be persuaded or not by the arguments of the other students. After approximately 20 minutes of open debate, the “panel” of students will discuss and evaluate their views on the open debates, and declare how they would decide on each question. Then the teacher should point out how difficult it is for even the panel to agree on all of the questions.

Students should debate according to the views of their particular delegate, and should see the difficulty of getting delegates to agree on the question of representation. To further emphasize this difficulty, the teacher may choose to select a number of students (on the day of the debate) who will observe but not participate in the debates. This "panel" of delegates will either be persuaded or not by the arguments of the other students. After approximately 20 minutes of open debate, the "panel" of students will discuss and evaluate their views on the open debates, and declare how they would decide on each question. Then the teacher should point out how difficult it is for even the panel to agree on all of the questions.

Teachers may also extend the activity by assigning the following for homework on the day of the activity: Construct a response using multimodal technology to evaluate the division between delegates over the questions of bicameralism, mode of election, and the rule of suffrage in Congress (Teachers: if you are going to move on to Activity 3 on the following day, be aware that you will need to assign the readings for the next exercise as well).

Group Activity Approach:

Make copies for each student of the worksheets found on pages 3, 6-7, and 10 of the Text Document for Activity 2 (Teachers may opt to use an overhead or data projector for reading and discussion of the excerpts and only make copies of the analysis worksheets for students). Aloud in class, read and discuss each excerpt in Reading Sets A, B, and C (available on pages 1-2, 4-5, and 8-9 in the Text Document for Activity 2). After each excerpt, instruct students to summarize the opinions given by each delegate. When completed, divide the class into 9 groups. Each group would receive one of the biography cards (found on pages 11-15 of the Text Document for Activity 2) and collectively represent that individual. Each group would have time to prepare an answer/presentation that addresses each of the questions as described in the above debate. A culminating activity could be to answer each of the questions individually—as themselves—and give a reason why they believe the way they do.

Activity 3. The Connecticut Compromise: "partly national, partly federal"

Time required for activity: Homework reading and writing assignment and one 45 minute class period.

Print copies (or provide links) for students of the documents and Graphic Organizer assigned as homework (listed below, included on pages 1-7 in the Text Document for Activity 3).

Create a basic timeline to hang on a classroom wall, at least 70" x 12". Cut out eleven 5" x 7" pieces of blank cardstock (teachers may also use 5" x 8" index cards if available).

The purpose of the activity is to provide students with a broader understanding of key events during the Constitutional Convention that led to the Connecticut Compromise. Students will comprehend why the compromise became the only alternative to failure at the Convention, but also how difficult it was for delegates from large and small states to reach the compromise. They should also see that the proposal to prohibit the Senate from introducing or altering money bills persuaded some key delegates, including George Mason, to accept the compromise proposal. Because of this concession, Mason no longer feared that equal representation in the Senate would allow the small states to disproportionately tax the large states.

On the day before the activity:

For homework on the night before the activity, assign the following readings to students. They are available in their entirety at Teaching American History, but excerpts may be found on pages 1-4 of the Text Document for Activity 3):

  • Sherman proposes Connecticut Compromise (June 11, 1787)
  • Madison opposes equal representation in the Senate (June 19, 1787)
  • The Convention compromises on election by state legislatures in the Senate (June 25, 1787)
  • Franklin calls for a prayer (June 28, 1787)
  • Ellsworth revives the Connecticut Compromise proposal (June 29, 1787)
  • Franklin sums up the dilemma (June 30, 1787)
  • A compromise committee is formed (July 2, 1787)
  • Committee's compromise report (July 5, 1787)
  • Mason accepts the Compromise proposal (July 6, 1787)
  • Debate over the Compromise proposal (July 14, 1787)
  • Connecticut Compromise approved (July 16, 1787)

Students should also write short summaries of the significant event that took place during each of the readings, utilizing the Graphic Organizer (available on pages 5-7 in the Text Document for Activity 3). An example for teachers on how students should complete the Graphic Organizer:

On the day of the activity:

Students will create a timeline that includes the key dates and events that led to the Connecticut Compromise. Divide the students into 11 groups and assign each group one of the dates/events addressed in the homework readings. Each group should list the significance of the date they have been given on a 5" x 7" piece of blank cardstock (approximately 10 minutes). Then, as each group places its card on the timeline, they should make a short presentation (2-4 minutes each) on the main points of their assigned date. As students complete the classroom presentation, one member places his or her card on the timeline at the appropriate place.

Teachers may also extend the activity by expanding the scope of the timeline to include key events and dates discussed in the other activities for this lesson.

Differentiated Instruction:

Make copies (or use notecards to include the same information) of the Graphic Organizer found on pages 5-7 of the Text Document for Activity 3 to aid students in their analysis. The teacher will decide whether to assign the excerpts and analysis to be completed individually or as a whole class. Students will then complete the Timeline Activity as described above, using their analysis notes to aid in the construction of their cards and presentations. Teachers also have the option of having students write an essay, using their analysis notes, answering the following questions: What led the Convention to eventually accept the Connecticut Compromise, and why did some of the delegates continue to oppose it?

After completing this lesson, students should be able to write brief (1-2 paragraph) responses to the following questions:

  • How did the scheme of representation differ between the Articles of Confederation, the Virginia Plan, the New Jersey Plan, the Hamilton Plan, and the U.S. Constitution (as proposed by the Convention)?
  • Why did some delegates raise the question of "authorization" when discussing the Virginia Plan?
  • How did the schemes of representation in the Virginia and New Jersey Plans affect whether we would have a "national" or "federal" form of government?
  • What were the arguments of key delegates regarding bicameralism?
  • Why did some delegates support election by the people? Why did others support election by state legislatures?
  • What were the arguments of key delegates in support of or opposed to proportional representation? Of equal representation?
  • Why was it so difficult for delegates to finally compromise on the question of equal representation in the Senate?
  • What led the Convention to finally accept the Connecticut Compromise?

Students should also be able to articulate the themes addressed in this lesson, and write a longer (1-2 pages) essay answering the following question: Was it necessary to fundamentally change the scheme of representation as it existed under the Articles of Confederation? Students should use specific examples from the arguments of at least two of the following delegates: James Madison, George Mason, Elbridge Gerry, and James Wilson.

An alternative method of assessment might be to divide the class into small groups, and have each one develop a thesis statement that encompasses all the various elements of this lesson. They should be given roughly 15 minutes to do this. Once they have done so, each group should write its thesis statement on the board, and as a class discuss which is the best, and why. The entire class could then be given a homework assignment to write an essay that defends the statement.

Students should be able to identify and summarize the views of the following delegates:

  • William Paterson
  • Edmund Randolph
  • Alexander Hamilton

Students should also be able to identify and explain the significance of the following concepts:

  • Bicameralism
  • "Rule of suffrage" in Congress (equal vs. proportional representation)
  • Modes of election (representatives elected by the people vs. state legislatures)
  • "National" vs. "Federal" plan of government
  • Virginia Plan
  • New Jersey Plan
  • Hamilton Plan
  • Connecticut Compromise

Teachers can extend this lesson by viewing this video as a recap of what has been studied and engaging in the following activity:

  • Meeting of the Minds seminar : Students assume the role of a state representative they have researched and participate in a seminar as if they are that person. Students utilize research collected using primary sources, interpret those sources from the perspective of the person they are portraying, and participate in a discussion to persuade others and defend their positions. At the conclusion of the "Meeting of the Minds" discussion, students reflect on the research process, the discussion, and what they learned by arguing from someone else's perspective. This can be modified to small group discussions that each include the same competing perspectives/representatives rather than a whole group seminar. 

Materials & Media

Question of representation: worksheet 1, question of representation: worksheet 2, question of representation: worksheet 3, related on edsitement, lesson 1: the road to the constitutional convention, lesson 3: creating the office of the presidency, the constitutional convention of 1787, lesson 2: the first american party system: a documentary timeline of important events (1787–1800).

Article I, Section 1:

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Although the states generally favored a bicameral legislature, 1 Footnote 1 The Records of The Federal Convention of 1787 , at 54–55 (Max Farrand ed., 1911) . the states were heavily divided over the representation in each branch of Congress. 2 Footnote Id. at 509 ; Max Farrand , The Framing of the Constitution of the United States 92 (1913) . To resolve these concerns, the Convention delegates approved forming a “compromise committee” to devise a compromise among the proposed plans for Congress. 3 Footnote Farrand , Framing of the Constitution , supra note 2, at 97–98 . The committee proposed a plan that became known as the Great Compromise. 4 Footnote See generally id. at 91–112 (discussing the process that led to the Great Compromise). Roger Sherman and other delegates from Connecticut repeatedly advanced a legislative structure early in the Convention debates that eventually was proposed as the Great Compromise. See 1 The Records of The Federal Convention of 1787 , supra note 2, at 196 . Historians often credit Sherman and the Connecticut delegates as the architects of the Great Compromise. Mark David Hall , Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic 96–98 (2013) (discussing Sherman’s proposal during the Convention debates that led to the “Connecticut Compromise” ); Farrand , Framing of the Constitution , supra note 2, at 106 . See also Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 12–13 (1964) (discussing Sherman’s role in the Great Compromise). The plan provided for a bicameral legislature with proportional representation based on a state’s population for one chamber and equal state representation in the other. 5 Footnote 1 The Records of The Federal Convention of 1787 , supra note 1, at 524 . See Farrand , Framing of the Constitution , supra note 2, at 104–07 . For the House of Representatives, the plan proposed that each state would have “one representative for every 40,000 inhabitants,” elected by the people. 6 Footnote 1 The Records of The Federal Convention of 1787 , supra note 1, at 526 . The compromise was amended to allow that state inhabitants would also include “three-fifths of the slaves” in the state. Id. at 603–06 ; Farrand , Framing of the Constitution , supra note 2, at 99 . For discussion of the “three-fifths” clause, see Intro.6.1 Continental Congress and Adoption of the Articles of Confederation. For the Senate, the committee proposed that each state would have an equal vote with members elected by the individual state legislatures. 7 Footnote 1 The Records of The Federal Convention of 1787 , supra note 1, at 160 . In 1913, the states ratified the Seventeenth amendment that requires members of the Senate to be elected by the people. After significant debate, the Convention adopted the Great Compromise on July 16, 1787. 8 Footnote Farrand , Framing of the Constitution , supra note 2, at 104–07 ; 1 Congressional Quarterly, Inc. , Guide to Congress 358, 367–68 (5th ed. 2000) (discussing of the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment ).

During the state ratification debates that followed the Convention, one of the central objections from the Anti-Federalists was that the consolidation of government power in a national Congress could “destroy” state legislative power. 9 Footnote Gordon S. Wood , Creation of the American Republic 1776–1787 , at 526–530 (1969) (discussing state ratifications concerning the jurisdiction of federal and state legislatures under the Constitution). The Federalists attempted to curb these fears by noting that the sovereign power of the Nation resides in the people, and the Constitution merely “distribute[s] one portion of power” to the state and “another proportion to the government of the United States.” 10 Footnote Id. at 530 (quoting James Wilson from the Pennsylvania ratifying convention from Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution 1787–1788 , at 302 (John Bach McMaster & Frederick D. Stone, eds. 2011) ). To further allay Anti-Federalist concerns regarding concentrated federal power in Congress, the Federalists emphasized that bicameralism, which lodged legislative power directly in the state governments through equal representation in the Senate, would serve to restrain, separate, and check federal power. 11 Footnote See id. at 559 (analyzing the Federalists’ views of bicameralism).

In vesting the legislative power in a bicameral Congress, the Framers of the Constitution purposefully divided and dispersed that power between two chambers—the House of Representatives with representation based on a state’s population and the Senate with equal state representation. 12 Footnote U.S. Const. art. I, § 7. cl. 2 . See The Federalist No. 39 (James Madison) ( “The house of representatives will derive its powers from the people of America, and the people will be represented in the same proportion, and on the same principle, as they are in the Legislature of a particular State. So far the Government is national not federal. The Senate on the other hand will derive its powers from the States, as political and co-equal societies; and these will be represented on the principle of equality in the Senate, as they now are in the existing Congress. So far the government is federal, not national.” ). The Framers recognized that the division of legislative power between two distinct chambers of elected members was needed “to protect liberty” and address the states’ fear of an imbalance of power in Congress. 13 Footnote See Immigration & Naturalization Serv. v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 950 (1983) ( “[T]he Framers were . . . concerned, although not of one mind, over the apprehensions of the smaller states. Those states feared a commonality of interest among the larger states would work to their disadvantage; representatives of the larger states, on the other hand, were skeptical of a legislature that could pass laws favoring a minority of the people.” See also The Federalist No. 51 (James Madison) ( “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit.” ); Farrand , Framing of the Constitution , supra note 2, at 99–112 (describing the debate among the states regarding the structure of Congress). As later explained by Chief Justice Warren Burger, “the Great Compromise, under which one House was viewed as representing the people and the other the states, allayed the fears of both the large and small states.” 14 Footnote Chadha , 462 U.S. at 950 . See also Farrand , Framing of the Constitution , supra note 2, at 105–06 (explaining the structure of Congress as achieved under the “Great Compromise” ).

By diffusing legislative power between two chambers of Congress in the legislative Vesting Clause, the Framers of the Constitution sought to promote the separation of powers, federalism, and individual rights. 15 Footnote See The Federalist No. 62 (James Madison) ( “[A] senate, as a second branch of the legislative assembly, distinct from, and dividing the power with, a first, must be in all cases a salutary check on the government. It doubles the security to the people, by requiring the concurrence of two distinct bodies in schemes of usurpation or perfidy, where the ambition or corruption of one would otherwise be sufficient.” ). See also John F. Manning , Textualism as a Nondelegation Doctrine , 97 Colum. L. Rev. 673 , 708–09 (1997) (describing how the legislative procedures “promote caution and deliberation; by mandating that each piece of legislation clear an intricate process involving distinct constitutional actors, bicameralism and presentment reduce the incidence of hasty and ill-considered legislation” ). They designed the bicameral Congress so that “legislative power would be exercised only after opportunity for full study and debate in separate settings.” 16 Footnote Chadha , 462 U.S. at 951 . While acknowledging that the bicameral legislative process often produces conflict, inefficiency, and “in some instances [can] be injurious as well as beneficial,” the Framers believed that the intricate law-making process promotes open discussion and safeguards against “against improper acts of legislation.” 17 Footnote The Federalist No. 62 (James Madison) . John F. Manning , Textualism as a Nondelegation Doctrine , 97 Colum. L. Rev. 673 , 709–10 (1997) (discussing the legislative process as protection against “hasty and ill-considered legislation” ). Some scholars have argued that the Framers deliberately designed the lawmaking process to be slow and inefficient so that the laws that passed were sufficiently deliberative, representative, and accountable. See, e.g. , Cynthia R. Farina , Statutory Interpretation and the Balance of Power in the Administrative State , 89 Colum. L. Rev. 452 , 524 (1989) ( “The Confederation period led [the Framers] to conclude that government which moved too quickly in establishing and altering policy was, over time, less likely to make wise choices and more likely to threaten individual liberty. Therefore, they deliberately created a lawmaking process that was slow, even cumbersome.” ). As the Supreme Court later explained, the “legislative steps outlined in Art. I are not empty formalities” but serve to “make certain that there is an opportunity for deliberation and debate.” 18 Footnote Chadha , 462 U.S. at 958 n.23 .

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7.4: The Constitutional Convention and Federal Constitution

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The economic problems that plagued the thirteen states of the Confederation set the stage for the creation of a strong central government under a federal constitution. Although the original purpose of the convention was to amend the Articles of Confederation, some—though not all—delegates moved quickly to create a new framework for a more powerful national government. This proved extremely controversial. Those who attended the convention split over the issue of robust, centralized government and questions of how Americans would be represented in the federal government. Those who opposed the proposal for a stronger federal government argued that such a plan betrayed the Revolution by limiting the voice of the American people.

THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION

There had been earlier efforts to address the Confederation’s perilous state. In early 1786, Virginia’s James Madison advocated a meeting of states to address the widespread economic problems that plagued the new nation. Heeding Madison’s call, the legislature in Virginia invited all thirteen states to meet in Annapolis, Maryland, to work on solutions to the issue of commerce between the states. Eight states responded to the invitation. But the resulting 1786 Annapolis Convention failed to provide any solutions because only five states sent delegates. These delegates did, however, agree to a plan put forward by Alexander Hamilton for a second convention to meet in May 1787 in Philadelphia. Shays’ Rebellion gave greater urgency to the planned convention. In February 1787, in the wake of the uprising in western Massachusetts, the Confederation Congress authorized the Philadelphia convention. This time, all the states except Rhode Island sent delegates to Philadelphia to confront the problems of the day.

The stated purpose of the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 was to amend the Articles of Confederation. Very quickly, however, the attendees decided to create a new framework for a national government. That framework became the United States Constitution, and the Philadelphia convention became known as the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Fifty-five men met in Philadelphia in secret; historians know of the proceedings only because James Madison kept careful notes of what transpired. The delegates knew that what they were doing would be controversial; Rhode Island refused to send delegates, and New Hampshire’s delegates arrived late. Two delegates from New York, Robert Yates and John Lansing, left the convention when it became clear that the Articles were being put aside and a new plan of national government was being drafted. They did not believe the delegates had the authority to create a strong national government.

Click and Explore:

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Read “Reasons for Dissent from the Proposed Constitution” in order to understand why Robert Yates and John Lansing, New York’s delegates to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, didn’t believe the convention should draft a new plan of national government.

THE QUESTION OF REPRESENTATION

One issue that the delegates in Philadelphia addressed was the way in which representatives to the new national government would be chosen. Would individual citizens be able to elect representatives? Would representatives be chosen by state legislatures? How much representation was appropriate for each state?

James Madison put forward a proposition known as the Virginia Plan, which called for a strong national government that could overturn state laws (Figure 7.4.1). The plan featured a bicameral or two-house legislature, with an upper and a lower house. The people of the states would elect the members of the lower house, whose numbers would be determined by the population of the state. State legislatures would send delegates to the upper house. The number of representatives in the upper chamber would also be based on the state’s population. This proportional representation gave the more populous states, like Virginia, more political power. The Virginia Plan also called for an executive branch and a judicial branch, both of which were absent under the Articles of Confederation. The lower and upper house together were to appoint members to the executive and judicial branches. Under this plan, Virginia, the most populous state, would dominate national political power and ensure its interests, including slavery, would be safe.

James Madison’s Virginia Plan is shown.

The Virginia Plan’s call for proportional representation alarmed the representatives of the smaller states. William Paterson introduced a New Jersey Plan to counter Madison’s scheme, proposing that all states have equal votes in a unicameral national legislature. He also addressed the economic problems of the day by calling for the Congress to have the power to regulate commerce, to raise revenue though taxes on imports and through postage, and to enforce Congressional requisitions from the states.

Roger Sherman from Connecticut offered a compromise to break the deadlock over the thorny question of representation. His Connecticut Compromise, also known as the Great Compromise, outlined a different bicameral legislature in which the upper house, the Senate, would have equal representation for all states; each state would be represented by two senators chosen by the state legislatures. Only the lower house, the House of Representatives, would have proportional representation.

THE QUESTION OF SLAVERY

The question of slavery stood as a major issue at the Constitutional Convention because slaveholders wanted slaves to be counted along with whites, termed “free inhabitants,” when determining a state’s total population. This, in turn, would augment the number of representatives accorded to those states in the lower house. Some northerners, however, such as New York’s Gouverneur Morris, hated slavery and did not even want the term included in the new national plan of government. Slaveholders argued that slavery imposed great burdens upon them and that, because they carried this liability, they deserved special consideration; slaves needed to be counted for purposes of representation.

The issue of counting or not counting slaves for purposes of representation connected directly to the question of taxation. Beginning in 1775, the Second Continental Congress asked states to pay for war by collecting taxes and sending the tax money to the Congress. The amount each state had to deliver in tax revenue was determined by a state’s total population, including both free and enslaved individuals. States routinely fell far short of delivering the money requested by Congress under the plan. In April 1783, the Confederation Congress amended the earlier system of requisition by having slaves count as three-fifths of the white population. In this way, slaveholders gained a significant tax break. The delegates in Philadelphia adopted this same three-fifths formula in the summer of 1787.

Under the three-fifths compromise in the 1787 Constitution, each slave would be counted as three-fifths of a white person. Article 1, Section 2 stipulated that “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several states . . . according to their respective Number, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free Persons, including those bound for service for a Term of Years [white servants], and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.” Since representation in the House of Representatives was based on the population of a state, the three-fifths compromise gave extra political power to slave states, although not as much as if the total population, both free and slave, had been used. Significantly, no direct federal income tax was immediately imposed. (The Sixteenth Amendment, ratified in 1913, put in place a federal income tax.) Northerners agreed to the three-fifths compromise because the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, passed by the Confederation Congress, banned slavery in the future states of the northwest. Northern delegates felt this ban balanced political power between states with slaves and those without. The three-fifths compromise gave an advantage to slaveholders; they added three-fifths of their human property to their state’s population, allowing them to send representatives based in part on the number of slaves they held.

THE QUESTION OF DEMOCRACY

Many of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had serious reservations about democracy, which they believed promoted anarchy. To allay these fears, the Constitution blunted democratic tendencies that appeared to undermine the republic. Thus, to avoid giving the people too much direct power, the delegates made certain that senators were chosen by the state legislatures, not elected directly by the people (direct elections of senators came with the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1913). As an additional safeguard, the delegates created theElectoral College, the mechanism for choosing the president. Under this plan, each state has a certain number of electors, which is its number of senators (two) plus its number of representatives in the House of Representatives. Critics, then as now, argue that this process prevents the direct election of the president.

THE FIGHT OVER RATIFICATION

The draft constitution was finished in September 1787. The delegates decided that in order for the new national government to be implemented, each state must first hold a special ratifying convention. When nine of the thirteen had approved the plan, the constitution would go into effect.

When the American public learned of the new constitution, opinions were deeply divided, but most people were opposed. To salvage their work in Philadelphia, the architects of the new national government began a campaign to sway public opinion in favor of their blueprint for a strong central government. In the fierce debate that erupted, the two sides articulated contrasting visions of the American republic and of democracy. Supporters of the 1787 Constitution, known as Federalists, made the case that a centralized republic provided the best solution for the future. Those who opposed it, known as Anti-Federalists, argued that the Constitution would consolidate all power in a national government, robbing the states of the power to make their own decisions. To them, the Constitution appeared to mimic the old corrupt and centralized British regime, under which a far-off government made the laws. Anti-Federalists argued that wealthy aristocrats would run the new national government, and that the elite would not represent ordinary citizens; the rich would monopolize power and use the new government to formulate policies that benefited their class—a development that would also undermine local state elites. They also argued that the Constitution did not contain a bill of rights.

New York’s ratifying convention illustrates the divide between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. When one Anti-Federalist delegate named Melancton Smith took issue with the scheme of representation as being too limited and not reflective of the people, Alexander Hamilton responded:

It has been observed by an honorable gentleman [Smith], that a pure democracy, if it were practicable, would be the most perfect government. Experience has proven, that no position in politics is more false than this. The ancient democracies, in which the people themselves deliberated, never possessed one feature of good government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity: When they assembled, the field of debate presented an ungovernable mob, not only incapable of deliberation, but prepared for every enormity. In these assemblies, the enemies of the people brought forward their plans of ambition systematically. They were opposed by their enemies of another party; and it became a matter of contingency, whether the people subjected themselves to be led blindly by one tyrant or by another.

The Federalists, particularly John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, put their case to the public in a famous series of essays known as The Federalist Papers . These were first published in New York and subsequently republished elsewhere in the United States.

DEFINING AMERICAN: JAMES MADISON ON THE BENEFITS OF REPUBLICANISM

The tenth essay in The Federalist Papers , often called Federalist No. 10, is one of the most famous. Written by James Madison (Figure 7.4.2), it addresses the problems of political parties (“factions”). Madison argued that there were two approaches to solving the problem of political parties: a republican government and a democracy. He argued that a large republic provided the best defense against what he viewed as the tumult of direct democracy. Compromises would be reached in a large republic and citizens would be represented by representatives of their own choosing.

A portrait of James Madison is shown.

From this view of the subject, it may be concluded, that a pure Democracy, by which I mean a Society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the Government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of Government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party, or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is, that such Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of Government, have erroneously supposed, that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.
A Republic, by which I mean a Government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from pure Democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure, and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union.
The two great points of difference, between a Democracy and a Republic, are, first, the delegation of the Government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest: Secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.

Does Madison recommend republicanism or democracy as the best form of government? What arguments does he use to prove his point?

Read the full text of Federalist No. 10 on Wikisource. What do you think are Madison’s most and least compelling arguments? How would different members of the new United States view his arguments?

Including all the state ratifying conventions around the country, a total of fewer than two thousand men voted on whether to adopt the new plan of government. In the end, the Constitution only narrowly won approval (Figure 7.4.3). In New York, the vote was thirty in favor to twenty-seven opposed. In Massachusetts, the vote to approve was 187 to 168, and some claim supporters of the Constitution resorted to bribes in order to ensure approval. Virginia ratified by a vote of eighty-nine to seventy-nine, and Rhode Island by thirty-four to thirty-two. The opposition to the Constitution reflected the fears that a new national government, much like the British monarchy, created too much centralized power and, as a result, deprived citizens in the various states of the ability to make their own decisions.

The first page of the U.S. Constitution is shown.

Section Summary

The economic crisis of the 1780s, shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation, and outbreak of Shays’ Rebellion spurred delegates from twelve of the thirteen states to gather for the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Although the stated purpose of the convention was to modify the Articles of Confederation, their mission shifted to the building of a new, strong federal government. Federalists like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton led the charge for a new United States Constitution, the document that endures as the oldest written constitution in the world, a testament to the work done in 1787 by the delegates in Philadelphia.

Review Questions

Which plan resolved the issue of representation for the U.S. Constitution?

the Rhode Island Agreement

the New Jersey Plan

the Connecticut Compromise

the Virginia Plan

How was the U.S. Constitution ratified?

by each state at special ratifying conventions

at the Constitutional Convention of 1787

at the Confederation Convention

by popular referendum in each state

Explain the argument that led to the three-fifths rule and the consequences of that rule.

Southern slaveholders wanted slaves to count for the purposes of representation, while people from northern states feared that counting slaves would give the southern states too much power. Their fears were valid; the three-fifths rule, which stated that each slave counted as three-fifths of a white person for purposes of representation, gave the southern states the balance of political power.

Critical Thinking Questions

Describe the state constitutions that were more democratic and those that were less so. What effect would these different constitutions have upon those states? Who could participate in government, whether by voting or by holding public office? Whose interests were represented, and whose were compromised?

In what ways does the United States Constitution manifest the principles of both republican and democratic forms of government? In what ways does it deviate from those principles?

In this chapter’s discussion of New York’s ratifying convention, Alexander Hamilton takes issue with Anti-Federalist delegate Melancton Smith’s assertion that (as Hamilton says) “a pure democracy, if it were practicable, would be the most perfect government.” What did Smith—and Hamilton—mean by “a pure democracy”? How does this compare to the type of democracy that represents the modern United States?

Describe popular attitudes toward African Americans, women, and Indians in the wake of the Revolution. In what ways did the established social and political order depend upon keeping members of these groups in their circumscribed roles? If those roles were to change, how would American society and politics have had to adjust?

How did the process of creating and ratifying the Constitution, and the language of the Constitution itself, confirm the positions of African Americans, women, and Indians in the new republic? How did these roles compare to the stated goals of the republic?

What were the circumstances that led to Shays’ Rebellion? What was the government’s response? Would this response have confirmed or negated the grievances of the participants in the uprising? Why?

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5 Issues at the Constitutional Convention

When the 55 delegates gathered in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation, there were several major issues on the agenda to discuss including representation, state versus federal powers, executive power, slavery, and commerce.

Representation

(Wikimedia)

(Wikimedia)

Large and small states fought over representation in Congress. Large states favored representation by population, while small states argued for equal representation by State.

The "Great Compromise" allowed for both by establishing the House of Representatives, which was apportioned by populations, and the Senate which represented the states equally.

State vs. Federal Powers

(Wikimedia)

A central issue at the Convention was whether the federal government or the states would have more power. Many delegates believed that the federal government should be able to overrule state laws, but others feared that a strong federal government would oppress their citizens.

The delegates compromised by allotting specific responsibilities to the federal government while delegating all other functions to the states.

Executive Power

General George Washington (MVLA)

General George Washington (MVLA)

Having fought a war against tyranny, Americans were suspicious of executive power. The Convention held no fewer than 60 votes before the delegates agreed upon the Electoral College as the method of selecting the president.

However, unspoken among the delegates was the knowledge that George Washington would become the first president , and they trusted him to define the office.

the issue of representation was resolved by

Though the word "slavery" does not appear in the Constitution , the issue was central to the debates over commerce and representation. The "Three-Fifths Compromise" provided that three-fifths (60%) of enslaved people in each state would count toward congressional representation, which greatly increased the number of congressional seats in several states, particularly in the South.

The Convention also debated whether to allow the new federal government to ban the importation of enslaved people from outside of the United States, including directly from Africa. They ultimately agreed to allow Congress to ban it, should it choose, but not before twenty years had passed. Remarkably, it was one of the only clauses of the Constitution that could not be amended. Only in 1808 did the United States formally prohibit the international slave trade.

Portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull (Wikimedia)

Portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull (Wikimedia)

Under the Articles of Confederation, the individual states competed against each other economically. They issued their own currencies and even levied taxes on each other's goods when they passed over state lines.

Delegates like Washington, Madison , and Hamilton believed that promoting the free flow of commerce across state lines and nationalizing the economy would lead to America's becoming an economic powerhouse.

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The Economy After the Revolutionary War

Washington Library Founder Dr. Douglas Bradburn discusses the state of the American economy after the…

How was the Constitution created?

Bibliography.

Richard M. Ketchum.  The World of George Washington.  (New York, American Heritage Publishing Company, Inc.)

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How the Great Compromise and the Electoral College Affect Politics

By: Amanda Onion

Updated: August 9, 2023 | Original: April 17, 2018

the issue of representation was resolved by

The Great Compromise was forged in a heated dispute during the 1787 Constitutional Convention: States with larger populations wanted congressional representation based on population, while smaller states demanded equal representation. To keep the convention from dissolving into chaos, the founding fathers came up with the Great Compromise. The agreement, which created today’s system of congressional representation, now influences everything from “pork barrel” legislation to the way votes are counted in the electoral college during presidential elections.

The debate almost destroyed the U.S. Constitution.

At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, delegates from larger states believed each state’s representation in the newly proposed Senate should be proportionate to population.

Smaller states with lower populations argued that such an arrangement would lead to an unfair dominance of larger states in the new nation’s government, and each state should have equal representation, regardless of population.

The disagreement over representation threatened to derail the ratification of the U.S. Constitution since delegates from both sides of the dispute vowed to reject the document if they didn’t get their way. The solution came in the form of a compromise proposed by statesmen Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut.

The Great Compromise created two legislative bodies in Congress.

Also known as the Sherman Compromise or the Connecticut Compromise, the deal combined proposals from the Virginia (large state) plan and the New Jersey (small state) plan.

According to the Great Compromise, there would be two national legislatures in a bicameral Congress. Members of the House of Representatives would be allocated according to each state’s population and elected by the people.

In the second body—the Senate —each state would have two representatives regardless of the state’s size, and state legislatures would choose Senators. (In 1913, the 17th Amendment was passed, tweaking the Senate system so that Senators would be elected directly by the people.)

The plan was at first rejected, but then approved by a slim margin on July 23, 1787.

Smaller states have disproportionately more power in the Senate.

At the time of the convention, states’ populations varied, but not by nearly as much as they do today. As a result, one of the main lingering political effects of the Great Compromise is that states with smaller populations have a disproportionately bigger voice in the nation’s Congress.

As political scientist George Edwards III of Texas A&M University points out, California hosts about 68 times more people than Wyoming, yet they have the same number of votes in the Senate.

“The founders never imagined … the great differences in the population of states that exist today,” says Edwards. “If you happen to live in a low-population state you get a disproportionately bigger say in American government.”

The imbalance of proportionate power favoring smaller states in the Senate means that interests in those states, such as mining in West Virginia or hog farming in Iowa, are more likely to get attention—and money—from federal coffers.

“In the Senate when they’re trying to get to 51 votes to pass a bill, every vote counts,” says Todd Estes, a historian at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. “That’s when the smaller states can demand amendments and additions to bills to look out for their own state’s interest.”

The Great Compromise also skewed the electoral college.

The principle of protecting small states through equal representation in the Senate carries over into the electoral college, which elects the president since the number of electoral votes designated to each state is based on a state’s combined number of representatives in the House and Senate.

That means, for example, even though Wyoming only has three votes in the electoral college, with the smallest population of all the states, each elector represents a far smaller group of people than each of the 55 electoral votes in the most populous state of California.

The system ensures power is distributed geographically.

Some scholars see the small-state bias in the Senate as critical. The arrangement means that power in the Senate is distributed geographically, if not by population, ensuring that interests across the entire country are represented.

Gary L. Gregg II, a political scientist at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, argues in a 2012 article in Politico that major metropolitan areas already hold power by hosting major media, donor, academic and government centers. The structure of the Senate and the corresponding representation in the electoral college, he says, ensures that the interests of rural and small-town America are preserved.

Was that the intention of the Founding Fathers? Edwards is doubtful since, as he points out, the majority of Americans at the time of Constitutional Congress came from rural areas—not urban. “No one was thinking about protecting rural interests,” Edwards says. “Rural interests were dominant at the time.”

Whatever the viewpoint on the fairness of the Great Compromise’s distribution of delegates to the Senate, it is unlikely to ever change. This is because equal-state representation in the Senate is specifically protected in the Constitution.

According to Article V of the Constitution, no state can lose its equal representation in the Senate without the state’s permission. And no state is likely to willingly give up their say in the Senate.

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What was the great compromise, the great compromise and the constitution, complications of the us constitution, constitution compromises of 1787.

  • The Great Compromise, which is also known as Connecticut Compromise
  • The  Three Fifths Compromise
  • The establishment of the  Electoral College

The Great Compromise Definition and Explanation

Who proposed the great compromise.

  • The lower chamber is called the House of Representatives.
  • The upper chamber is called the Senate.

The Great Compromise and the Representative Republic

What is the great compromise, what did the proposal entail, how does the great compromise work today, how is the number of members in the house of representatives determined, problems with the great compromise in modern times, the great compromise and the electoral college, presidential campaigns, effects of the great compromise, the great compromise quiz.

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United States Government/The Constitutional Convention

  • 1 Philadelphia
  • 2 The Legislature
  • 3 The Executive
  • 5 Conclusion

Philadelphia [ edit | edit source ]

The legislature [ edit | edit source ].

The United States were basically divided into two classes- the large (more populous) states and the small (less populous) states. The large states included Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Massachusetts. The small states included Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and even Maryland. Also, one may consider Georgia and the two Carolinas as small states, but these states hoped to increase their population and become large by importing slaves and attracting "immigrants" from other states. These were called “in-between states”

The large states wanted to have proportional representation in Congress. They wished that the more populous states have more representatives than the less populous states. However, fearing that they would be overwhelmed by large numbers of representatives from other states, the small state delegates suggested that all states receive equal representation like under the Articles.

James Madison of Virginia proposed a plan, which was presented by Edmund Randolph, supported by the large states, the Virginia Plan. It entailed:

  • A very powerful Congress of two houses based on proportional representation
  • One house elected by the people, and the second house elected by the first one
  • An executive chosen by Congress
  • Congressional power to cancel any state law
  • Based on population

Meanwhile, New Jersey politician William Paterson proposed a plan on behalf of the small states. It involved:

  • A Congress equivalent in structure to the Articles Congress
  • A Congress more powerful than the Articles Congress, but not as powerful as the Virginia Plan Congress
  • Congressional law being supreme over state law

Thirdly, Alexander Hamilton of New York proposed a plan extremely similar to the British government. The British plan included:

  • A legislature of two houses
  • One house chosen by the people for limited terms
  • Another house chosen by a special body for life terms
  • An executive chosen by a special body for a life term
  • Congressional power to cancel any state law.

Hamilton's plan was rejected very quickly- it reminded the delegates too much of the tyranny and unhappiness under the King of the State of Great Britain.

Connecticut Delegate Roger Sherman suggested that the small and large states compromise. He felt that the large states would never accept equal representation, while the small ones would never accept just proportional representation. His compromise, known as the Great Compromise, suggested the following:

  • A Congress with two houses
  • One house based on proportional representation
  • Another house based on equal representation

Though Sherman's compromise was initially rejected, the delegates were forced to accept it eventually. Otherwise, the Convention would have clearly broken down on the issue of representation.

The Executive [ edit | edit source ]

Once the issue of representation was resolved, other issues seemed relatively easy to negotiate. The delegates continued to compromise on several issues, including the executive.

Firstly, the delegates were concerned about a single individual as executive. The King, they said, was an individual with too much power. However, the argument failed when some pointed out that every single state in the union had one Chief Executive called a President or a Governor, rather than a Council of Presidents or Governors, and none of the states suffered from that Governor's tyranny. Similarly, the executive was granted substantial but not absolute power, after the example of the individual states.

(Pennsylvania at one time in its history had a council of three Presidents.)

The manner of choosing the executive was the only one of concern. The following were proposed as electors for the President:

  • The state Legislatures
  • The state Governors
  • The Congress

The Framers rejected the idea of election by the People because they felt that, it would be impractical in the days of difficult communication, and inappropriate because the people would "naturally" vote for local candidates without any regard for those from other states. Also, they rejected the state or Congressional choice because they assumed that the President would feel indebted to and controlled by the states or the Congress. Such a problem would be present with any permanent body. Thus, they established a temporary body whose sole purpose was to elect the President- the Electoral College. (See Part III, Chapter 2.)

Slavery [ edit | edit source ]

The problem of slavery, after the issue of representation, was probably the most dangerous one for the Convention to tackle. If the Convention adopted a plan that upset one region, then the states of that region might have withdrawn from the Convention, breaking up the meeting.

Related to the issue of representation was the counting of slaves to decide the population of a state for the purpose of proportional representation in Congress. The South wanted slaves to count, but the North feared that the South could increase its power in Congress by importing more slaves. The Three-Fifths Compromise suggested the same standard as the Article of Confederation-"other persons," or slaves would be counted as three-fifths of persons. The three-fifths rule would be applied for deciding proportions in Congress and amounts of direct tax due from each state.

Another compromise relating to slavery involved the importation of slaves. The Constitutional Convention compromised by allowing the slave trade to continue until 1808, when the Congress could lawfully ban it.

Conclusion [ edit | edit source ]

The tired delegates were faced with a problem - that of a Bill of Rights. The delegates, however, refused to take the risk of breaking up the Convention and wasting hard work by debating specific rights. Thus, they assumed that a newly assembled Congress would add these Amendments, or they felt that the present Constitutional protections were sufficient.

In order for the Constitution to gain effect, the Convention required that nine states approve it. In addition, the states not ratifying, or approving, the Constitution would not be subject to it.

the issue of representation was resolved by

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The Great Compromise of 1787

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The Great Compromise of 1787, also known as the Sherman Compromise, was an agreement reached during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 between delegates of the states with large and small populations that defined the structure of Congress and the number of representatives each state would have in Congress according to the United States Constitution. Under the agreement proposed by Connecticut delegate Roger Sherman, Congress would be a “bicameral” or two-chambered body, with each state getting a number of representatives in the lower chamber (the House) proportional to its population and two representatives in the upper chamber (the Senate).

Key Takeaways: Great Compromise

  • The Great Compromise of 1787 defined the structure of the U.S. Congress and the number of representatives each state would have in Congress under the U.S. Constitution.
  • The Great Compromise was brokered as an agreement between the large and small states during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 by Connecticut delegate Roger Sherman.
  • Under the Great Compromise, each state would get two representatives in the Senate and a variable number of representatives in the House in proportion to its population according to the decennial U.S. census.

Perhaps the greatest debate undertaken by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 centered on how many representatives each state should have in the new government's lawmaking branch, the U.S. Congress. As is often the case in government and politics, resolving a great debate required a great compromise—in this case, the Great Compromise of 1787. Early in the Constitutional Convention, delegates envisioned a Congress consisting of only a single chamber with a certain number of representatives from each state.

Weeks before the Constitutional Convention convened on July 16, 1787, the framers had already made several important decisions about how the Senate should be structured. They rejected a proposal to have the House of Representatives elect senators from lists submitted by the individual state legislatures and agreed that those legislatures should elect their senators. In fact, until the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913, all U.S. Senators were appointed by the state legislatures rather than elected by the people. 

By the end of its first day in session, the convention had already set the minimum age for senators at 30 and the term length at six years, as opposed to 25 for House members, with two-year terms. James Madison explained that these distinctions, based on “the nature of the senatorial trust, which requires greater extent of information and stability of character,” would allow the Senate “to proceed with more coolness, with more system, and with more wisdom than the popular[ly elected] branch.”

However, the issue of equal representation threatened to destroy the seven-week-old convention. Delegates from the large states believed that because their states contributed proportionally more in taxes and military resources, they should enjoy proportionally greater representation in the Senate as well as in the House. Delegates from small states argued—with similar intensity—that all states should be equally represented in both houses.

When Roger Sherman proposed the Great Compromise, Benjamin Franklin agreed that each state should have an equal vote in the Senate in all matters—except those involving revenue and spending. 

Over the Fourth of July holiday, delegates worked out a compromise plan that sidetracked Franklin’s proposal. On July 16, the convention adopted the Great Compromise by a suspenseful margin of one vote. Many historians have noted that without that vote, there would likely have been no U.S. Constitution today.

Representation

The burning question was, how many representatives from each state? Delegates from the larger, more populous states favored the Virginia Plan , which called for each state to have a different number of representatives based on the state’s population. Delegates from smaller states supported the New Jersey Plan , under which each state would send the same number of representatives to Congress.

Delegates from the smaller states argued that, despite their lower populations, their states held equal legal status to that of the larger states, and that proportional representation would be unfair to them. Delegate Gunning Bedford, Jr. of Delaware notoriously threatened that the small states could be forced to “find some foreign ally of more honor and good faith, who will take them by the hand and do them justice.”

However, Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts objected to the small states’ claim of legal sovereignty, stating that

“we never were independent States, were not such now, and never could be even on the principles of the Confederation. The States and the advocates for them were intoxicated with the idea of their sovereignty.”

Sherman's Plan

Connecticut delegate Roger Sherman is credited with proposing the alternative of a "bicameral," or two-chambered Congress made up of a Senate and a House of Representatives. Each state, suggested Sherman, would send an equal number of representatives to the Senate, and one representative to the House for every 30,000 residents of the state.

At the time, all the states except Pennsylvania had bicameral legislatures, so the delegates were familiar with the structure of Congress proposed by Sherman.

Sherman’s plan pleased delegates from both the large and small states and became known as the Connecticut Compromise of 1787, or the Great Compromise.

The structure and powers of the new U.S. Congress, as proposed by the delegates of the Constitutional Convention, were explained to the people by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison in the Federalist Papers.

Apportionment and Redistricting

Today, each state is represented in Congress by two Senators and a variable number of members of the House of Representatives based on the state’s population as reported in the most recent decennial census. The process of fairly determining the number of members of the House from each state is called " apportionment ."

The first census in 1790 counted 4 million Americans. Based on that count, the total number of members elected to the House of Representatives grew from the original 65 to 106. The current House membership of 435 was set by Congress in 1911.

Redistricting to Ensure Equal Representation 

To ensure fair and equal representation in the House, the process of “ redistricting ” is used to establish or change the geographic boundaries within the states from which representatives are elected.

In the 1964 case of Reynolds v. Sims , the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all of the congressional districts in each state must all have roughly the same population.

Through apportionment and redistricting, high population urban areas are prevented from gaining an inequitable political advantage over less populated rural areas.

For example, if New York City were not split into several congressional districts, the vote of a single New York City resident would carry more influence on the House than all of the residents in the rest of the State of New York combined.

How the 1787 Compromise Impacts Modern Politics

While the populations of the states varied in 1787, the differences were far less pronounced than they are today. For example, the 2020 population of Wyoming at 549,914 pales in comparison to California’s 39.78 million. As a result, one then-unforeseen political impact of the Great Compromise is that states with smaller populations have disproportionately more power in the modern Senate. While California is home to almost 70% more people than Wyoming, both states have two votes in the Senate.

“The founders never imagined … the great differences in the population of states that exist today,” said political scientist George Edwards III of Texas A&M University. “If you happen to live in a low-population state you get a disproportionately bigger say in American government.”

Due to this proportionate imbalance of voting power, interests in smaller states, such as coal mining in West Virginia or corn farming in Iowa, are more likely to benefit from federal funding through tax breaks and crop subsidies .

The Framer’s intent to “protect” the smaller states through equal representation in the Senate also manifests itself in the Electoral College, as each state’s number of electoral votes is based on its combined number of representatives in the House and Senate. For example, in Wyoming, the state with the smallest population, each of its three electors represents a far smaller group of people than each of the 55 electoral votes cast by California, the most populous state. 

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Connecticut (or Great) Compromise

Disputes between small states and large states spurred intense debates over how the states were to be represented in the new government.

Two key delegates—James Madison and James Wilson—were central to these debates, although they lost on many key issues. Even so, they were among the intellectual heavyweights at the Convention and helped drive the debate—even when they were outvoted.

Madison had experience in both the Virginia state government and the national government under the Articles of Confederation. His experience in Virginia convinced him that the 1776 Virginia state constitution had given too much power to the lower house of the state legislature—the elected body closest to the people. Madison remained committed to popular self-government, but came to believe that a constitution must set up ways of slowing politics down, allowing time for debate, and refining public opinion. For Madison, this deliberative process would lead to better policies—policies that promoted the public good, not factional interests.

At the same time, Madison’s experience in the national government as a member of Congress convinced him that America needed a stronger national government, one with the power to regulate commerce, raise funds, and protect the interests of political minorities.

Turning to the debates over Congress at the Convention, Madison and Wilson supported a national legislature based on proportional representation. In other words, states with more people would receive more seats in the national legislature than those with fewer people. This differed from the Articles of Confederation, which was organized under the principle of state equality. Each state—regardless of its population—received one vote.

These ideas culminated in the “Virginia Plan”—which framed the Convention’s debates over Congress. The Virginia Plan was presented by Edmund Randolph in the early days of the Convention, but it was the brainchild of Madison.

Virginia Plan

  • A legislative branch consisting of two chambers. (This differed from the Confederation Congress, which included only one House.)
  • Each of the states would be represented in proportion to their size. (So, in both houses of the national legislature, populous states, like Virginia—the most populous state at the time—would have more representatives than smaller states.)
  • The national legislature would have the power to address issues that were beyond the ability of any single state government to handle.
  • And the legislature could also have the power to veto state laws that it found to be against the national interest.

William Paterson and his allies countered with the New Jersey Plan, which grew out of small-state fears that the Virginia Plan would lead to domination by the large states.

New Jersey Plan:

  • A one-house legislature with each state—regardless of its population—receiving one vote. (So, just like the Articles of Confederation.) 
  • At the same time, the New Jersey Plan would expand the powers of the national government to address the needs of a growing nation in certain ways.

The delegates spent a great deal of time in the early part of the Convention debating how to structure Congress. These competing proposals led to intense debates—pitting small states against large ones and raising questions about how much power the national government should hold.

Eventually, Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth—both from Connecticut—proposed the Connecticut (or Great) Compromise.

Connecticut Plan:

  • Congress would consist of two houses—a House of Representatives and a Senate.
  • The House would be elected on the basis of proportional representation—giving more populous states more seats than smaller states.
  • At the same time, the Senate would be elected on the basis of equal representation, with each state—regardless of its population—receiving two senators.

The Great Compromise eventually passed by a single vote. In the end, Madison and Wilson won the fight over representation in the House, but they suffered a major defeat over representation in the Senate.  They were devastated.

But they would, of course, live to fight another day, and Madison himself would even defend the Senate—equal state representation and all—in the Federalist Papers , written during the battle over the ratification of the Constitution.

The Electoral College

Let’s turn from Congress to the presidency—focusing on the compromises that led to our method for selecting a president, the Electoral College. So, what’s the Electoral College?

Today, many democratic nations elect their executives by direct popular vote. We don’t. Instead, we use a system known as the “Electoral College.” How does it work?

Today, the Electoral College is made up of 538 electors drawn from the states and the District of Columbia.

Under Article II of the Constitution, the states are given a number of electors equal to their congressional delegation, and the 23rd Amendment granted Washington, D.C., three electoral votes.

Today, the American people vote for president and vice president on Election Day. But these votes don’t directly determine the outcome of the election. Technically, these popular votes determine which electors will be appointed to the Electoral College from each state. The electors eventually meet in December to cast their votes for president and vice president. If a candidate receives a majority of these votes in the Electoral College, she wins—even if she lost the popular vote.

So, how did we end up with this system? It’s a very interesting story. To understand the debate over the Electoral College, it’s important first to understand a bit about the framers’ debates over the presidency itself.

It’s fair to say that the framers struggled with how to structure the presidency. This was driven, in part, by the lack of historical examples to follow.

  • When the framers looked to Europe, they saw powerful kings.
  • When they looked to their own state constitutions, they saw executives too weak to govern effectively.
  • When they looked to their own Congress under the existing Article of Confederation, they saw a body inadequate to the executive tasks necessary to shepherd a young (but growing) nation down its path toward greatness.

At the same time, the framers feared executive power. They remembered the abuses of King George III and his officials in colonial America—abuses that helped lead to the American Revolution.

Turning to the Convention itself, the framers as a whole had a range of opinions when it came to the new executive.

  • On one end of the spectrum, Alexander Hamilton and John Dickinson voiced admiration for the limited monarchy of Great Britain—and a single, strong national executive.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Roger Sherman viewed the executive as “nothing more than an institution for carrying the will of the Legislature into effect.”

In the end, the debate over the Electoral College was closely connected to these broader debates over the presidency itself. (And James Wilson played a key role throughout these debates.) Over time, the delegates wrestled with four big issues:

  • How to elect the president
  • How long the president’s term should be
  • Whether the president should be allowed to run for reelection
  • And the question of impeachment and removal

And the framers repeatedly learned that a decision taken on one of these issues would affect what they thought about all of the others.

So, how did we get the Electoral College?

The Electoral College was a compromise—between those like James Wilson who wanted the direct popular election of the president and those who supported other presidential selection systems.

Over time, the framers debated a range of ways to select the president, including direct election by popular vote (Wilson’s preference), by members of Congress (the preference of many framers), by electors selected by lottery (Wilson’s radical suggestion), by state governors (Elbridge Gerry’s idea), or by an electoral college (a compromise).  

For much of the Convention, the election of the president seemed like an unsolvable problem. Each idea had its own problems.

  • Election by Congress had the advantage of placing the decision in the hands of some of the nation’s most knowledgeable leaders. However, the concern was, as Gouverneur Morris warned, that the result would eventually be the “work of intrigue, of cabal, and of faction,” producing a president who would become a mere tool of his supporters in Congress.
  • Some framers opposed this idea based on sheer elitism.
  • However, others (like George Mason) didn’t so much fear that the American people would be easily duped by demagogues, but instead were concerned that the size of the country would make it difficult to carry out a national election—and for the average voter to know anything about an out-of-state candidate’s record. In other words, everyone would know (and love) Washington. But in the future, there probably wouldn’t be many—or any—other Washingtons. For delegates like Mason, it wasn’t a question of competence, but one of information. (The United States was a larger republic than any ever built. Many citizens were on the frontier, spread out in the country. Information at the time spread slowly and usually to cities first. Many rural areas didn’t have newspapers. Therefore, the concern would be that these voters would rely on bad information, and this might lead them susceptible to manipulation—especially by demagogues.)
  • The key advantage of this proposal was that it would keep the president independent of the legislature.  
  • He would have his own independent base of support that would dissolve after the election.  
  • Key disadvantages were the logistics of how to get the electors to meet and the related expenses.  
  • Some framers also feared whether they’d be able to attract electors “of the 1st or even the 2nd grade in the States.”
  • The framers settled on the Electoral College in the closing weeks of the Convention, and they supported it for a range of reasons.
  • For James Wilson—who supported the popular election of the president—the Electoral College was a second (or third) best option.
  • For those who shared some of Wilson’s support for popular democracy, but also shared some of the concerns of the other framers about its dangers (and limits), the Electoral College offered a balance between popular input, congressional (and elite) input, and federalism.
  • For those who supported congressional election, the Electoral College would still have the U.S. House—voting by state, not by individual members—decide the president among the top vote-getters if no candidate received a majority in the Electoral College. And many framers assumed that—after Washington—many elections would go to the House. (In other words, that no candidate would have a big enough national reputation to secure a majority of the electoral vote.) As Mason put it, the electors would fail to generate a winner “nineteen times in twenty.”
  • For some slaveholding delegates, the Electoral College represented a way of boosting their power over presidential selection—with the Constitution counting enslaved persons as three-fifths of a person for purposes of congressional representation and, in turn, for determining the voting power in the Electoral College.
  • This theory had its roots, in part, in experiences like Shay’s Rebellion.
  • Hamilton in The Federalist Papers , No. 68 (1788): “Men chosen by the people for the special purpose” of selecting the president “will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.”

The Debates Over Slavery

Let’s end with one of the most controversial (and troubling) aspects of the Convention—the delegates’ compromises over slavery.

Slavery is obviously older than the U.S. Constitution. Slavery itself was written into colonial law as early as the 1660s in places like Virginia and the Carolinas. The British Empire secured a monopoly over the slave trade in 1713, and in the 1700s, American slavery expanded.

To give just the example of Virginia—enslaved people grew from just 7% of the population in 1680 to 28% in 1700 and, finally, to a whopping 46% (nearly half of the Virginia population) in 1750. So, well before the Constitutional Convention, slavery became a massive part of the Southern population—and white Southern wealth.

Let’s fast forward to 1787 and return to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. What role did slavery play there?

All told, 25 of the Convention delegates held enslaved people, and slavery was critical to many of these delegates’ wealth—and to the economies of their home states.

At the Constitutional Convention, the framers refused to recognize the right to property in men.  However, they did compromise over the issue of slavery, enshrining protections for slaveholders in the Constitution.  

Three-Fifths Clause 

Text of the Constitution:

  • “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” 

As discussed earlier, the U.S. House of Representatives draws up districts based on a state’s population—the larger the state, the greater the number of districts it gets. And the greater the number of districts for each state—and for each region of the country (North versus South)—the greater the political power.

The key question in the debate over the Three-Fifths Clause was how to count enslaved people as part of this process.

The delegates borrowed language from a proposed 1784 amendment to the Articles of Confederation.  It counted enslaved people as three-fifths of a person. But this clause was debated multiple times during the Convention—as the delegates struggled over how best to structure Congress.

At the Convention, pro-slavery Southerners argued that enslaved people should count as a full person—five-fifths, but anti-slavery Northerners shouted hypocrisy. How could the Southern delegates treat enslaved people as full persons for purposes of representation in the national government but at the same time deny their humanity by treating them as property?

New York delegate Gouverneur Morris called slavery a “nefarious institution— . . .  the curse of heaven on the states where it prevailed.” Morris then attacked the Three-Fifths Clause for giving “the inhabitant of Georgia and South Carolina who goes to the Coast of Africa, and in defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity tears away his fellow creatures from their dearest connections and damns them to the most cruel bondages, . . . more votes in a government instituted for the protection of the rights of mankind, than the citizen of Pennsylvania or New Jersey who views with a laudable horror so nefarious a practice.” 

The Convention rejected Southern attempts to count enslaved people as a full person, and Northern attempts to exclude them from the count altogether.

Ultimately, Roger Sherman of Connecticut secured support for the Three-Fifth Clause. (The Southern delegates were unhappy that Northern reps would have a 36–29 advantage in the House, but they accepted the compromise as a key protection against future Northern attempts to limit slavery.)

Of course, the framers avoided using the word “slave” in the clause.

This clause had a huge impact over time.

The Three-Fifths Clause increased pro-slavery strength in Congress (by counting enslaved people as three-fifths of a person), in the presidency (through the Electoral College), and at the Supreme Court (through electing pro-slavery presidents, who appoint those justices).

Slave Trade Clause 

  • “The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.”

By the founding, even many slaveholders opposed the inhumane Atlantic slave trade. Only delegates from South Carolina and Georgia were determined to continue this brutal practice.

George Mason, John Dickinson, and Rufus King proposed an outright ban on the Atlantic slave trade, but the delegates rejected it. Instead, the Convention reached a compromise over the slave trade. Congress could ban the international slave trade, but only 20 years after the ratification of the Constitution—January 1, 1808. 

In other words, this clause protected the brutal slave trade until 1808.

And between 1788 and 1808, the number of enslaved people imported into the United States exceeded 200,000—only roughly 50,000 fewer than the total number of enslaved people imported into America in the previous 170 years. In 1808, Congress had the power to abolish it, and so it did.

In the end, the anti-slavery Northern delegates wanted to block the expansion of slavery and did not want to write explicit protection for slavery—recognition of the right to property in man—into the Constitution.  

Many framers hoped that enough states in the North would move toward emancipation that slavery might die out in a generation or two.

Connecticut’s Oliver Ellsworth said, “Slavery, in time, will not be a speck in our country.”

However, the delegates were also open to protecting the existing property rights of the slaveholders and were willing to compromise with Southern slaveholders in order to form a new Union, ratify the Constitution, and create a new national government stronger than the government under the Articles of Confederation.

At the same time, Southern slaveholders fought to build in protections against future anti-slavery Northerners’ attempts to restrict (and even abolish) slavery. 

In the end, the legality of slavery—whether to permit it or to abolish it—was left to the states, where it stayed until the ratification of the 13thAmendment after the Civil War.

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Review Questions

To what form of government did the American revolutionaries turn after the war for independence?

  • republicanism

Which of the following was not one of Franklin’s thirteen virtues?

  • tranquility

What defined republicanism as a social philosophy?

Which of the following figures did not actively challenge the status of women in the early American republic?

  • Abigail Adams
  • Phillis Wheatley
  • Mercy Otis Warren
  • Judith Sargent Murray

Which state had the clearest separation of church and state?

  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania

How would you characterize Thomas Jefferson’s ideas on race and slavery?

Which of the following states had the most democratic constitution in the 1780s?

  • Massachusetts
  • South Carolina

Under the Articles of Confederation, what power did the national Confederation Congress have?

  • the power to tax
  • the power to enforce foreign treaties
  • the power to enforce commercial trade agreements
  • the power to create land ordinances

What were the primary causes of Shays’ Rebellion?

Which plan resolved the issue of representation for the U.S. Constitution?

  • the Rhode Island Agreement
  • the New Jersey Plan
  • the Connecticut Compromise
  • the Virginia Plan

How was the U.S. Constitution ratified?

  • by each state at special ratifying conventions
  • at the Constitutional Convention of 1787
  • at the Confederation Convention
  • by popular referendum in each state

Explain the argument that led to the three-fifths rule and the consequences of that rule.

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Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/us-history/pages/1-introduction
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  • Book title: U.S. History
  • Publication date: Dec 30, 2014
  • Location: Houston, Texas
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the issue of representation was resolved by

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For information about Windows update terminology, see the article about the  types of Windows updates  and the  monthly quality update types . For an overview of Windows Server 2022, see its  update history page .     

Note  Follow  @WindowsUpdate  to find out when new content is published to the Windows release health dashboard.     

Improvements

This non-security update includes quality improvements. When you install this KB:

This update addresses a known issue that affects the Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS). It might leak memory on domain controllers (DCs). This issue occurs after you install KB5035857 (March 12, 2024). The leak occurs when on-premises and cloud-based Active Directory DCs process Kerberos authentication requests. This substantial leak might cause excessive memory usage. Because of this, LSASS might stop responding, and the DCs will restart when you do not expect it.

If you installed earlier updates, only the new updates contained in this package will be downloaded and installed on your device.

Windows Server 2022 servicing stack update - 20348.2334

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Microsoft is not currently aware of any issues with this update.

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Microsoft now combines the latest servicing stack update (SSU) for your operating system with the latest cumulative update (LCU). For general information about SSUs, see Servicing stack updates  and  Servicing Stack Updates (SSU): Frequently Asked Questions .

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US Department of Labor issues final rule to clarify rights to employee representation during OSHA inspections

Osha national news release.

March 29, 2024

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today published a final rule clarifying the rights of employees to authorize a representative to accompany an Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance officer during an inspection of their workplace.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act gives the employer and employees the right to authorize a representative to accompany OSHA officials during a workplace inspection. The final rule clarifies that, consistent with the law, workers may authorize another employee to serve as their representative or select a non-employee . For a non-employee representative to accompany the compliance officer in a workplace, they must be reasonably necessary to conduct an effective and thorough inspection.

Consistent with OSHA's historic practice, the rule clarifies that a non-employee representative may be reasonably necessary based upon skills, knowledge or experience. This experience may include knowledge or experience with hazards or conditions in the workplace or similar workplaces, or language or communication skills to ensure an effective and thorough inspection. These revisions better align OSHA's regulation with the OSH Act and enable the agency to conduct more effective inspections. OSHA regulations require no specific qualifications for employer representatives or for employee representatives who are employed by the employer.

The rule is in part a response to a 2017 court decision ruling that the agency's existing regulation, 29 CFR 1903.8(c), only permitted employees of the employer to be authorized as representatives. However, the court acknowledged that the OSH Act does not limit who can serve as an employee representative and that OSHA's historic practice was a "persuasive and valid construction" of the OSH Act. Today's final rule is the culmination of notice and comment rulemaking that clarifies OSHA's inspection regulation and aligns with OSHA's longstanding construction of the act.

"Worker involvement in the inspection process is essential for thorough and effective inspections and making workplaces safer," said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. "The Occupational Safety and Health Act gives employers and employees equal opportunity for choosing representation during the OSHA inspection process, and this rule returns us to the fair, balanced approach Congress intended."

The rule is effective on May 31, 2024.

Learn more about OSHA .

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CDS Update | 4.0.0 Issues Workarounds

Hmrc has advised traders that they are continuing to experience some difficulties with the customs declaration service (cds) following a technical release on 24th march..

In response to these issues, HMRC has shared a number of workarounds to assist traders with correcting the identified issues.

Please find below the workaround documents and the message received from HMRC for more information.

Workaround Documents:

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Customers have been experiencing a range of issues and the vast majority of these can be corrected quickly and easily by following already published guidance. We have pulled together existing guidance that can be used. There is one issue in particular that is affecting some Valuation Adjustment Addition and Deduction Codes. In the first instance, traders should attempt to resubmit the declaration to resolve the issue. Where the declaration is still receiving a rejection for this reason, we are exceptionally introducing a time-limited workaround that will enable declarants to proceed with their declaration. This workaround allows traders to include consignment level costs related to the movement under a single declaration field, rather than using the impacted ‘additions and deductions’ field to separate out associated costs. If done correctly, this will result in the same customs duty requirement as if the declaration had been completed normally.

We will write out to you to confirm when you should stop using this workaround and revert to the usual process.

Guidance for current known issues that traders are experiencing is set out below/attached.

This guidance must be used in the first instance to resolve the rejected CDS declaration. If the goods are being moved via a port using GVMS a GMR must also be created containing the MRN(s) from the CDS declaration(s).

We apologise for any inconvenience this is causing you and appreciate your patience while we address the problem.

Additional Articles

This article also links to two previous articles posted today:

CDS Update | Duty Deferment Account Issue: Declaration Completion Guidance
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COMMENTS

  1. Lesson 2: The Question of Representation at the 1787 Convention

    The question was finally resolved by the Connecticut Compromise, which resulted in a system of representation that would be "partly national, partly federal," involving a combination of the two kinds of representation. This lesson will focus on the various plans for representation debated during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

  2. Connecticut Compromise

    Connecticut Compromise, also known as the Great Compromise, the compromise offered by Connecticut delegates during the drafting of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 that was accepted in order to solve the dispute between small and large states over the apportionment of representation in the new federal government.

  3. Three-fifths compromise

    Three-fifths compromise, compromise agreement between delegates from the Northern and the Southern states at the United States Constitutional Convention (1787) that three-fifths of the slave population would be counted for determining direct taxation and representation in the House of Representatives. How the Whitney Plantation teaches the ...

  4. The Great Compromise of the Constitutional Convention

    The plan provided for a bicameral legislature with proportional representation based on a state's population for one chamber and equal state representation in the other.5 Footnote 1 The Records of The Federal Convention of 1787, supra note 1, at 524. See Farrand, Framing of the Constitution, supra note 2, at 104-07.

  5. The Constitutional Convention (article)

    The convention was the site of spirited debate over the size, scope, and structure of the federal government, and its result was the United States Constitution. The notorious Three-Fifths Compromise apportioned representation to the southern slaveholding states in a scheme that counted five enslaved men and women as three.

  6. 7.4: The Constitutional Convention and Federal Constitution

    Which plan resolved the issue of representation for the U.S. Constitution? the Rhode Island Agreement. the New Jersey Plan. the Connecticut Compromise. the Virginia Plan. C. How was the U.S. Constitution ratified? by each state at special ratifying conventions. at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. at the Confederation Convention

  7. Issues of the Constitutional Convention

    Though the word "slavery" does not appear in the Constitution, the issue was central to the debates over commerce and representation.The "Three-Fifths Compromise" provided that three-fifths (60%) of enslaved people in each state would count toward congressional representation, which greatly increased the number of congressional seats in several states, particularly in the South.

  8. How the Great Compromise and the Electoral College Affect ...

    The Great Compromise was forged in a heated dispute during the 1787 Constitutional Convention: States with larger populations wanted congressional representation based on population, while smaller ...

  9. Ratification of the US Constitution (article)

    One issue that the compromises solved was how states would be represented in Congress. Under the Articles, every state had one vote, regardless of the size of its population. The Great Compromise gave larger states more say in the House of Representatives by tying representation there to state population, while keeping state representation ...

  10. The Three-Fifths Compromise: History and Significance

    The three-fifths compromise was an agreement, made at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, that allowed Southern states to count a portion of its enslaved population for purposes of taxation and representation. The agreement allowed the enslavement of Black people to spread and played a role in the forced removal of Indigenous peoples from their ...

  11. 7.4 The Constitutional Convention and Federal Constitution

    The Virginia Plan's call for proportional representation alarmed the representatives of the smaller states. William Paterson introduced a New Jersey Plan to counter Madison's scheme, proposing that all states have equal votes in a unicameral national legislature. He also addressed the economic problems of the day by calling for the Congress to have the power to regulate commerce, to raise ...

  12. What Was the Great Compromise?

    However, smaller states felt it was unfair and wanted just as much representation as the larger states would have. The Constitutional Convention was on the verge of collapse as this representation issue was not resolved. What Is the Great Compromise? The Great Compromise solved the issue of the representation of states by creating two houses.

  13. What was the solution of the Great Compromise?

    The Great Compromise resolved the issue of how representation would be based for the legislative branch of government. See eNotes Ad-Free.

  14. United States Government/The Constitutional Convention

    Once the issue of representation was resolved, other issues seemed relatively easy to negotiate. The delegates continued to compromise on several issues, including the executive. Firstly, the delegates were concerned about a single individual as executive. The King, they said, was an individual with too much power.

  15. The Great Compromise of the Constitutional Convention

    The plan provided f or a bicameral legislature with prop or tional representation based on a state's population f or one chamber and equal state representation in the other. 5 Footnote 1 The Rec or ds of The Federal Convention of 1787, supra note 1, at 524. See Farrand, Framing of the Constitution, supra note 2, at 104-07.

  16. The Great Compromise of 1787

    The Great Compromise of 1787 defined the structure of the U.S. Congress and the number of representatives each state would have in Congress under the U.S. Constitution. The Great Compromise was brokered as an agreement between the large and small states during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 by Connecticut delegate Roger Sherman.

  17. 4.4 Info Brief: Compromises of the Convention

    Connecticut (or Great) Compromise. Disputes between small states and large states spurred intense debates over how the states were to be represented in the new government. Two key delegates—James Madison and James Wilson—were central to these debates, although they lost on many key issues. Even so, they were among the intellectual ...

  18. US Constitution Flashcards

    The Constitution and all laws made under it are superior to any state laws. Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like The issue of representation, which threatened to cause the Philadelphia Convention to fail, was resolved by the, Under the Articles of Confederation, Shays's Rebellion was an attempt to and more.

  19. What issue divided the large and small states at the Constitutional

    The issue that divided the large and the small states at the Constitutional Convention was the issue of representation in the Congress. One thing that the Constitutional Convention had to decide ...

  20. Ch. 7 Review Questions

    Which plan resolved the issue of representation for the U.S. Constitution? the Rhode Island Agreement; the New Jersey Plan; the Connecticut Compromise; the Virginia Plan; 11. How was the U.S. Constitution ratified? by each state at special ratifying conventions;

  21. Chapter 7 Notes for APUSH + Timeline Flashcards

    Which plan resolved the issue of representation for the U.S. Constitution? A. the Rhode Island Agreement B. the New Jersey Plan C. the Connecticut Compromise D. the ... Southern slaveholders wanted slaves to count for the purposes of representation, while people from northern states feared that counting slaves would give the southern states too ...

  22. How does the final version of the Constitution address the issue of

    Since an agreement was eventually reached to have two houses of Congress, with representation in one of those houses determined by the population of a state, the counting of slaves became an issue.

  23. March 22, 2024—KB5037422 (OS Build 20348.2342) Out-of-band

    It might leak memory on domain controllers (DCs). This issue occurs after you install KB5035857 (March 12, 2024). The leak occurs when on-premises and cloud-based Active Directory DCs process Kerberos authentication requests. This substantial leak might cause excessive memory usage. Because of this, LSASS might stop responding, and the DCs will ...

  24. Real-Time Calculation Service Issue Resolved

    Real-time Calculation Service Issue Resolved. Effective Date: 03/27/24. View All Announcements.

  25. The Constitutional Convention and Federal Constitution

    The issue of counting or not counting slaves for purposes of representation connected directly to the question of taxation. Beginning in 1775, the Second Continental Congress asked states to pay for war by collecting taxes and sending the tax money to the Congress.

  26. US Department of Labor issues final rule to clarify rights to employee

    March 29, 2024 . US Department of Labor issues final rule to clarify rights to employee representation during OSHA inspections. WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Labor today published a final rule clarifying the rights of employees to authorize a representative to accompany an Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance officer during an inspection of their workplace.

  27. Labor Relations

    The Labor Relations unit provides representation, leadership, and guidance to supervisors and managers, HR practitioners, and campus leadership on the University's rights and responsibilities regarding employees whom an exclusive bargaining representative represents.The Labor Relations unit also collaborates with exclusive bargaining representatives or unions to resolve and address issues at ...

  28. CDS Update

    Guidance for current known issues that traders are experiencing is set out below/attached. This guidance must be used in the first instance to resolve the rejected CDS declaration. If the goods are being moved via a port using GVMS a GMR must also be created containing the MRN (s) from the CDS declaration (s). We apologise for any inconvenience ...

  29. Poland, Ukraine hail progress in food import talks, but deal remains

    Poland and Ukraine are close to an agreement on agricultural imports, the Polish prime minister said on Thursday, after intergovernmental talks in Warsaw failed to resolve an issue that has ...

  30. Israeli cabinet members say they oppose Ultra-Orthodox ...

    Israel's defense minister says he will not support an "emerging proposal" on the recruitment of ultra-Orthodox men into the military, threatening the government coalition.