Major Themes at the Constitutional Convention
On May 25, the Constitutional Convention began its work by creating a Committee to propose “rules for conducting business.” One of the rules proposed was that of secrecy.
On May 29, Edmund Randolph introduced the Virginia Plan containing 15 Resolutions. All were designed to radically alter the Articles of Confederation.
The New Jersey Plan supporters had to contend with this question. Why are states qua states entitled to equal representation?
The importance of Hamilton’s speech is that it eventually pushed the delegates to distinguish the true from the false definition of monarchy and aristocracy.
On July 16, the delegates agreed (5-4-1) to the Gerry Committee Report. The Gerry Committee Report is also known as the Connecticut Compromise.
The necessary and proper clause is a constitutional compromise. It creates a balances between the Federalist disposition not to enumerate any Congressional powers at all and the Antifederalist concern to limit the reach of Congress to those items expressly itemized.
Slavery was repeatedly discussed during the Convention. It was first raised in the convention by Madison on June 6. Itemizing the causes of faction, or the unjust use of power, he said, “that we have seen the mere distinction of colour made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.”
Like Congressional representation, the process of electing the president would reflect the idea that the union was partly federal and partly national.
The founders were convinced that the Executive should have the power to review legislation before it became law. But the Framers simultaneously bestowed on the judiciary the power of subsequent review. It could exercise a judicial review after policy had been jointly made by the Legislature and the Executive.
Mason, Gerry, and Randolph did not sign the Constitution. Their objections were more grounded in their mutual concern that the Constitution departed from the traditional principles of republicanism rather than a belief that the Constitution departed too far from the traditional principles of federalism.
Washington worked to keep the Virginia delegation unified. Late in the Convention, when the delegation split over whether to endorse certain key compromises, Washington attempted to personally persuade the dissenting delegates. When that failed, Washington cast deciding votes in favor of compromise.