The Constitution is the most important piece of legislation in the United States, as it affects the country’s laws, policies, and the justice system in general. However, the drafting of the Constitution was a challenging process, as the government had to ensure an agreement between all the parties. The present paper will analyze the drafting of the constitution and the debate over ratification while also explaining the strengths and weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation compared to the Constitution of 1787.
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The Articles of Confederation and the New Constitution of 1787
The Articles of Confederation were the primary legislative document in America prior to the Constitution of 1787. Compared to the Constitution, the Articles of Confederation had several important weaknesses. First of all, the most important limitation was that the Articles did not allow Congress to enforce taxes or execute its governing power over the states (Keene, Cornell, & O’Donnell, 2016).
This resulted in the central government lacking the legislative power or funds to fulfill its functions. For instance, during the Western Problem, Congress had no power to resolve the conflict between the states laying claims to certain Western lands. Secondly, the Articles only allowed one vote per state in Congress, which affected the development of democracy in the country (Keene et al., 2016). The new Constitution allowed each Representative or Senator to vote, thus encouraging plurality.
Nevertheless, the Articles also had some strengths over the new Constitution. For example, the Articles established a term limit and shorter terms for legislative officials (Keene et al., 2016). Moreover, some believe that the decentralization of power by the Articles was beneficial, as it allowed states to act independently of one another. For instance, Anti-Federalists were largely supportive of the Articles, as they believed that a powerful centralized government could lead to the oppression of people.
The Drafting of the Constitution
The Constitution of 1787 is often seen as a series of compromises made by the states. To illustrate, free states and slave trade states would often conflict about human rights issues, whereas Eastern and Western had opposing views on the nature and role of the central government (Keene et al., 2016).
One particular example of this challenge was called the Great Compromise. It occurred as a result of the opposition between those who believed that representation in Congress should be based on the state’s population and those who thought that all states should have the same number of seats in Congress (Kelly, 2018). The Great Compromise was the decision to set different representation plans for the two chambers in Congress. As a result of the Great Compromise, the Senate had an equal number of representatives from each state, and the House had population-based representation (Kelly, 2018). This plan was proposed by Roger Sherman, who later served both in the House and in the Senate.
The Debate over Ratification
The debate over ratification was caused primarily by the colliding views and interests of Federalists and Anti-Federalists. The former believed that a centralized government would be more effective. For instance, Hamilton (1787) wrote that, without a centralized government, states would have more violent conflicts with one another over territories and laws. Anti-Federalists, such as Mason and Randolph, were against increasing the power of a centralized government, as they feared that it would ultimately result in tyranny: “Was he to promote the establishment of a plan which he verily believed would end in Tyranny?” (“Opposition to the Constitution,” 1787, para. 2). Therefore, the constitutional convention debates highlighted the key difference between the two parties, which was their beliefs regarding the role of the central government.
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Another instance that illustrated the opposing views of the two parties was the debate over a bill of rights. Federalists believed that, since the Constitution only regulated the role and power of the government, it did not affect the country’s citizens and their rights (Keene et al., 2016). However, Anti-Federalists feared that the increased power of the centralized government could lead to the oppression of people, and thus argued for a bill of rights to be introduced (Keene et al., 2016).
The Bill of Rights served to secure the power of people and protect them from injustice. For example, it stipulated the religious freedom of all people in order to prevent religious oppression in the country. Thus, the Bill of Rights helped Federalists and Anti-Federalists achieve an agreement, successfully balancing the interests of the states with those of the nation.
Overall, the development of the new Constitution of 1787 was a complex process that required cooperation between the proponents and the opposers of the centralized government. Although the Articles of Confederation have some essential strengths, the Constitution succeeded in resolving most of their weaknesses, thus creating an effective governmental system. The processes of drafting and ratifying the Constitution consisted of a series of debates, which allowed both Federalists and Anti-Federalists to voice their views and concerns and reach an agreement. For example, the debate over the Bill of Rights can be used to illustrate the fundamental differences between the two parties and their perceptions of an ideal administrative and legislative system.
Hamilton, A. (1787). Concerning dangers from dissensions between the States. Web.
Keene, J. D., Cornell, S. T., & O’Donnell, E. T. (2016). Visions of America: A history of the United States (3rd ed., vol. 1). London, UK: Pearson Education.
Kelly, M. (2018). 5 key compromises of the Constitutional Convention. Web.
Opposition to the Constitution (Sept. 7, 10, 15). (1787). Web.