Major Themes at the Constitutional Convention
The Constitutional Convention, 1787. Allyn Cox (1973-1974) US Capitol, The Great Experiment Hall, Cox Corridors,

Major Themes at the Constitutional Convention

Prioritizing Secrecy

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.

Improving Continental Governance

On May 29, Edmund Randolph introduced the Virginia Plan containing 15 Resolutions. All were designed to radically alter the Articles of Confederation.

Preserving the Power of the Smaller States 

The New Jersey Plan supporters had to contend with this question. Why are states qua states entitled to equal representation?

Attaining “Stability and Permanency”

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. 

Crafting a “Partly National, Partly Federal” Government

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. 

Defining Congress’ Powers: The Necessary and Proper Clause

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.

Compromising on the Slave Trade

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.”

Establishing the Electoral College and the Presidency

Like Congressional representation,  the process of electing the president would reflect the idea that the union was partly federal and partly national.

Debating the Limits of the Judiciary: Prior and Constitutional Review

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.

Reinventing the Traditional Principles of Republicanism

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.

George Washington and the Virginia Delegation

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.

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