Method of Electing the First U.S. Senators

  In Article I, section 3, the Constitution provides that U.S. Senators were to be chosen by their state legislature. The legislatures had to decide exactly how they would elect their Senators. Under the Articles …

Speeches, Motions, and Committee Assignments in the Constitutional Convention

Fifty-five of the most prominent men in America met in Philadelphia in the spring and summer of 1787 to correct the problems with the Articles of Confederation. Instead of amending the Articles, as they were instructed to do by the Confederation Congress and by their state legislatures, the delegates drafted a completely new form of government that they submitted to the American people to ratify. For a variety of reasons, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention chose to meet in secret. Consequently, as a self-contained body receiving no assistance from outside, the Convention served as a classroom in the science of government with some of the most learned instructors in the country. Much of this instruction was utilized by delegates during the year-long debate over the ratification of the Constitution.

Anticipated Opposition to the Constitution

As the Constitutional Convention neared the end of its proceedings, most Americans were encouraged to accept whatever might be proposed. Pennsylvania delegate Gouverneur Morris, however, warned his fellow delegates that the process of ratification should be hurried because opposition to the Constitution would steadily increase. Two other delegates—George Washington and Alexander Hamilton— took a more positive approach and encouraged states and private individuals not to oppose the Constitution merely because some of its provisions did not favor them.

A Titled President?

One of the most difficult tasks facing the Constitutional Convention was the creation of a strong national executive. Recent experience under the Articles of Confederation without a separate federal executive and the expectation that George Washington would be the first President encouraged the formation of a strong executive. In fact, during the ratification debate, Thomas Jefferson in France, and Antifederalists “Federal Farmer” and Hugh Ledlie of Connecticut suggested that Washington was the most dangerous man in America because the Constitutional Convention had given too much power to the President expecting that Washington would fill that office. Although everyone felt confident that Washington would not abuse those powers, Jefferson, Ledlie, and “Federal Farmer” worried about subsequent administrations under a President Slushington.

Better Late Than Never: Connecticut Ratifies the U.S. Bill of Rights, 12–13 April 1939

Eighty-two years ago in 1939, three states belatedly ratified the U.S. Bill of Rights in a symbolic action commemorating Congress’ proposal of the amendments 150 years earlier in September 1789. In December 1789, Georgia was the only state that rejected all twelve of the amendments proposed by Congress, stating that the amendments were premature. Connecticut and Massachusetts also failed to ratify in 1789–1791 because their bicameral legislatures disagreed on how many of the twelve amendments should be ratified and neither state submitted an exemplification of what they had adopted.

The Goals of the Constitutional Convention

Americans looked upon the Constitutional Convention with great anticipation. They hoped for much; but, with such high expectations, they feared the consequences of a lost opportunity. In two excerpts, written before and after the Convention sat, James Madison and James Wilson, two of the most important delegates, described what the Convention saw as its goal. According to Wilson: “The magnitude of the object before us filled our minds with awe and apprehension.”

Ratification of the U.S. Constitution: An Overview of the Process

The procedure established in ratifying the proposed new Constitution of 1787 was critical. Previous attempts to amend the Articles of Confederation had failed because of the requirement in the Articles for the unanimous approval of the state legislatures. Without an alternative method of ratification, it was unlikely the Convention’s proposal would be adopted. Consequently, politically astute alternatives were proposed and utilized in ratifying the new Constitution.