The Constitution of the United States was established in 1787. Delegates from northern and southern states worked on this document, taking into consideration the interests of all the involved. The Articles of Confederation preceded the Constitution. However, they could not be used effectively to govern the country. The delegates suggested creating three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. They also included the Bill of Rights in the document. However, the ratification of the Constitution caused various disagreements and arguments. The main goal of this paper is to discuss the most important aspects of the establishment of the Constitution of the United States.
Articles of Confederation and Constitution
At the end of the eighteenth century, the government of the United States abided by two different constitutions, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of 1787. The former was established in 1781 (“The Articles of Confederation,” n.d). The later was ratified in 1788. These documents might seem to bear a striking similarity as they were designed by the same politicians. However, close consideration reveals that there are many differences.
The first significant difference is the formal name of the country. The Articles present the name the United States of America (“The Articles of Confederation,” n.d). Meanwhile, the Constitution does not specify it at all. However, the document refers to it in the Preamble (“The United States Constitution,” n.d.). The second change relates to the legislature. The Articles state that Congress should be unicameral (“The Articles of Confederation,” n.d). On the other hand, the legislative body established by the Constitution was comprised of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The third important aspect is the members of Congress. The Articles require that each state should be represented by two to seven members. However, the Constitution specifies that representatives have to be chosen, depending on the state population (“The United States Constitution,” n.d.). Also, it requires only two Senators from each state.
One of the main strengths of the Articles is that Congress could not influence interstate or foreign commerce. Also, only a state government could intervene in economic and social processes according to the Articles. However, the Constitution allows both the federal government and state governments to act directly on people. Therefore, states were more independent until the establishment of the Constitution. However, there were some shortcomings of the Articles. For example, it did not empower Congress to collect taxes. The government had to ask each state to send taxes, but this system was ineffective. It resulted in a lack of funds to promote the development of the nation. Another disadvantage of the Articles was that they did not support an adequate military program. As a result, the army was weak and needed reformation.
The Constitution was based on several significant compromises that different states had to reach. However, some of them deserve to be considered more closely. When a new form of a legislature that was based on the states’ population was suggested, northern and southern delegates had to decide whether they should take into consideration slaves. The economy of the northern states did not depend on slavery (Carroll, 2017). Therefore, northern delegates thought that they should not count slaves as southern states would have more representatives. On the other hand, the South had the opposite opinion. Eventually, both sides decided to count every five slaves as three persons.
Another compromise related to commerce. By the end of the eighteenth century, northern states had become highly developed and produced various products. On the contrary, the South was an agricultural region. Also, they bought many goods from Great Britain. Northern delegates demanded to establish import tariffs to make southern states buy their products (Carroll, 2017). In addition, they wanted to impose export tariffs to increase the total income of the country. However, southern delegates were against such reforms as they could negatively affect their trading relationships. Finally, politicians decided to impose tariffs only on imports. This settlement also allowed the federal government to regulate interstate trade.
However, one of the most important decisions resolved the problem that might have been fatal to the Constitution. There were heated arguments regarding the representation of each state in Congress. Two different plans were promoted by Virginia and New Jersey. The former suggested that each state should be represented accordingly to its population. On the other hand, New Jersey wanted states to be represented equally. However, Roger Sherman, a Superior Court Judge in Connecticut, united these plans and designed the Great Compromise (Carroll, 2017). He suggested creating two chambers in Congress: the House of Representatives and Senate. The House had to be based on population and the Senate on equal representation from each state. For this reason, there are always two senators and different numbers of representatives.
Federalists and Anti-Federalists
When the Constitution was written, it was necessary to ratify it. Nine out of thirteen states had to sign the document to validate it. However, politicians divided into two groups. The Federalists agreed to ratify the Constitution, though the Anti-Federalists did not support it.
The Anti-Federalists insisted that the Constitution made the federal government too powerful and the states less independent. They were afraid that it would not be able to address the needs of regular people. Anti-Federalists thought that the country’s size was too great to be controlled by the federal government. Another concern was that the document did not include a Bill of Rights. They demanded to protect people’s basic liberties, for example, freedom of speech and trial by jury. Some of the main figures that supported such ideas were Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, and George Mason.
However, those who were in favor of the Constitution believed that the document was essential for the existence of the nation. They called for the powerful federal government. The Federalists argued that the Constitution contained points that limited the government’s influence (Rose, 2015). First, its functions were clearly described. Moreover, certain actions were prohibited. Second, the Federalists believed that the separation of powers guaranteed the balance among three branches (Rose, 2015). Therefore, the Constitution prevented from a totalitarian regime. Third, the document ensured that each branch could check and limit others.
However, the main arguments were related to the Bill of Rights. The Federalists insisted that the Constitution should not include the Bill because the federal government could not violate people’s and state’s rights. On the other hand, the Anti-Federalists were sure that the Bill is important to guard individual liberties. Therefore, the Federalists underestimated the importance of basic human rights, though their opponents emphasized it, trying to find additional ways to protect them. The Bill of Rights is still in effect. It ensures that the federal government cannot interfere with people’s freedom. Also, it helps to find a compromise that addresses the needs of people and states.
In conclusion, the Constitution is a result of long negotiations between the leading political figures. This document was designed to resolve the problems that the Articles of Confederation could not overcome. The Constitution gives significant power to the federal government but limits it to protect basic human rights. That is why this document has stood the test of time and is the main component of the foundation of the American nation.
The Articles of Confederation. (n.d.). Web.
Carroll, N. (2017). A New Look at the Constitutional Convention and State Ratifying Conventions: How Reason and Interest Played a Role. Web.
Rose, L. A. (2015). Prologue to democracy: The Federalists in the South 1789–1800. Frankfort, KY: University Press of Kentucky.
The United States Constitution. (n.d.). Web.