The constitution is one of the symbols of national unity. However, the development process was not that peaceful. It involved a lot of bargaining and compromise. First, the Articles of Confederation became the source of the American law. It resulted in the development of the new constitution. The paper will discuss these steps, challenges, and the great compromise.
The Articles of Confederation vis-à-vis the New Constitution
The common thing about the articles of confederation and the new constitution is that it was the same people who established them. The development of both laws was for the use by the United States government. Both of them recognized the nation as being the United States of America. They were both the official government documents of the United States of America.
But the Articles recognized only a Unicameral House as the legislative arm to make laws. The new constitution recognized a bicameral house which had the Senate and the House of Representatives under the Congress. The Articles required the representation to consist of two to seven members per state. And they had only one vote per state. The constitution needed two Senators per state and the apportionment of representatives according to the population of each state. When it came to voting, each one’s vote counted individually.
The term of office for the legislature in the articles was one year. But the constitution gave the representatives two years while the senators got six years. It would be costly to hold an election every year according to the articles. It would also make the planning and accomplishment of projects difficult. The Articles also did not provide for the office of one responsible leader as president or prime minister. The committee of states could not hold any individual responsible for anything. But the Democratic president was in charge of administering the nation’s economy, political and social wellbeing.
Changing national laws under the Articles required all states to agree. The constitution gave room for dissenting views where the majorities have their way, and the minorities have their say. It allowed three-fourths of all states to agree to change the law. The Congress also could not solve the interstates disputes because they all had a stake in the problem.
A constitutional requirement could correct that provision by the articles. It was only the Supreme Court that could solve the disputes. The Articles required all the nine states to agree. It was biased towards new states. The Articles did not give the Congress enough power to impose harsh tariffs on imports. It could not protect the manufacturers from foreign goods. The merchants wanted a government that would negotiate favorable international trade agreements. The settlers also wanted laws that could protect them from the harsh land policy or absence of it. The problems the nation had with Spain and the Mississippi river navigation also required a stronger government.
The Drafting of the Constitution
After careful consideration of the challenges in the articles of the confederation, there was a need to draft a new constitution. In May 1787, delegates from twelve states assembled to revise the Articles of the Confederation. But instead of reviewing the articles, they decided to reorganize the entire system of governance. James Madison’s Virginia Plan proposal called for a bicameral legislature. It could make laws and charge taxes. The legislature would also choose a president and appoint judges to the Supreme Court.
William Paterson from New Jersey thought differently. Instead of giving more representation to bigger states, he proposed a unicameral legislature. The arm would have more powers which included the management of taxes (Maier, 2010). The members would come from the state legislature, and each state would have one vote. The legislature would also choose an executive with more than one person. The majority of the governors could also remove the executive. It could appoint judges to the Supreme Court. The legislature’s laws were binding on all states. The multi-person executive was supposed to execute the law and force everyone to abide by it.
The Great Compromise
The New Jersey Plan failed. Members could not agree on the kind of representation to use. The small states wanted one vote one state, but the large state favored the plan to use population size for choosing representation. There was needed a plan to bring both sides of the divide to one conclusion. Thus, the Great Compromise or the Connecticut Compromise became the best way to solve the dispute.
The plan made the number of seats in the House of Representatives proportional to each state’s population. The representatives came into office as a result of a direct election by the people. Each state would also have two senators in the Senate. The whole number of free persons determined the purposes of representation in the House and direct taxes to the state (Carrier, 2010). In addition to this, three-fifths of the slaves also decided the two matters (Finkelman, 2009).
It became a one-person executive. The Electoral College comprised of the same number of legislatures from the Congress to vote for the president (Schulhofer, 2012). They would vote for two people. The person with the most votes would become the leader and the person who came second would become the vice president. But in the case of a tie, each state would have one vote from the House of Representatives in the election of a president.
The Federalists vis-à-vis the Anti-Federalists
After the American Revolution, many states fell into the economic depression. The Anti-Federalists were looking forward to a more unified resolution to make standardized fiscal and monetary policy. They also needed a consistent way of managing conflicts (Maier, 2010). The majority of these were conservative farmers in the rural settings. They opposed the position on the constitution so that the bill of rights could be part of it.
The Federalists, however, thought that this concentration was the colonial representation that they had defeated. It would breed unfair taxation mechanisms. They supported the constitution with or without the bill of rights. The charter of rights was supposed to protect the citizens from state’s interference.
The Federalists thought that it was not necessary since the constitution also limited the power of the state. They believed that listing few rights and leaving some would leave people still unprotected and hence no need of it. The Anti-Federalists insisted that certain fundamental freedoms should be in the constitution (Maier, 2010). The Massachusetts Compromise helped to find a common ground and other states supported the inclusion of the bill of rights. A majority of the states soon allowed the changes to the constitution to allow the charter of rights. James Madison had to agree with them. The states rejected two of the proposed amendments from the twelve amendments presented to the Congress.
The process of making a new constitution required a supportive and democratic US government. The founding fathers had to find an agreeable law with the bill of rights that made the majority of the citizens happy. Despite the challenges, the American citizens soon got a government and laws that led to the progress of the nation.
Carrier, J. (2010). The making of the slave class. New York, NY: Algora Pub.
Finkelman, P. (2009). Encyclopedia of African American history, 1896 to the present. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Maier, P. (2010). Ratification. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Schulhofer, S. (2012). More essential than ever. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.