Aim: Is compromise necessary? Topic: The Constitutional Convention Document #1 – The Articles of Confederation

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Aim: Is compromise necessary?

Topic: The Constitutional Convention
Document #1 – The Articles of Confederation (American Government from 1781-1787)

In 1783, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the American Revolution, giving the 13 American Colonies their independence from Great Britain. The first government the new independent states set up was known as The Articles of Confederation (which means rules of forming a political union – confederation). However this government was very weak. Under the Articles of Confederation, the states had most of the power and the national government had little (it was a very weak central government – where power is located in one place). There was no president, no national courts, no ability for Congress to tax, each state coined its own money and no ability to create a national army (local militias had to be used to put down a farmer’s rebellion known as Shay’s Rebellion). All of these problems (highlighted by Shay’s Rebellion) led for the states to call for a new Constitution...This led to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.

  1. What were the articles of Confederation?

  1. What was the main problem with the Articles of Confederation? Provide two examples of this.

3) What should the representatives at the Constitutional Convention do to fix these problems?

The Constitutional Convention (1787)

At the Constitutional Convention, all of the 13 states except Rhode Island sent delegates to write a new document that would have all of the laws, rules and regulations of our new government. However, not everyone agreed, and there were several controversial issues that there was great disagreement about...

Task: Your task, in pairs, read the four main controversial issues, the opposing sides, what they want, their concern and come up with a COMPROMISE for each issue…
How would you compromise over this issue?


Opposing Sides

What they want:


How would you compromise between the two?

Represen-tation (how many elected officials will represent the states in the govern-ment)

Small States

Large States

Representation to be based on equal number of representatives per state

Representation to based in proportion to their population

Small States: If representation is based on population, the small states will have little say in the government and they’re needs might not be addressed.

Large States:

If representation is based an equal number of people and not population, that is unfair, because larger states have more people and might have bigger needs

Should slaves count as part of the population?

Northern States

Southern States

Northern States want slaves to be counted toward the amount of taxes the southern states have to pay, but not toward the Southern States representation in Congress

Southern States wanted to have the slaves count as people toward their representation so they can have more power in Congress, but did not want to have to pay extra taxes because of them.

The Northern States (who already don’t like or need slavery) don’t want the Southern States to become too powerful in Congress and control law making.
The Southern States do not want to have to pay extra for slaves because they do not view them as people, but at the same time, want to have extra representatives.

Taxes (excise taxes) on trade and the slave trade

Northern States

Southern States

The Northern States want to end the slave trade and want to tax Southern cotton going overseas.

The South wants to continue the Slave trade and does not want their products to be taxed.

The North does not like or need slavery and they do not want to lose business by competing against other countries.

The South needs slaves for its plantations and does not want its products to be taxed.

Strong or weak national govern-ment?



The Federalists want a strong national/central government

The Anti-Federalists want a weak national/central government

The Federalists want a government that can protect itself, enforce laws and is not weak
The Anti-Federalists are afraid that a strong government will be like England and take away rights from the people

The compromises of the Constitutional Convention:


 Opposing Sides



 Small States V. Large States

* Small states wanted all states to have the same number of representatives to Congress (this is known as the New Jersey Plan)

* Large states wanted representation to be determined by the population of the state.

(This is known as the Virginia Plan)

 The Great (Connecticut) Compromise:

The Constitution creates a bicameral (two house) legislature. In the House of Representatives, representation is determined by population. A census is taken every ten years to determine the population of each state. In the Senate, all states have the same number of representatives: two.

 Should slaves count as part of the population?

 Southern States V. Northern States

* Southern States wanted slaves to count as part of the population for determining representation but not to count when taxing the state.

* Northern states wanted slaves to count for the purpose of taxation but not for representation

 The 3/5ths Compromise:

Delegates agreed to count slaves as 3/5ths of a person when apportioning representation and taxation


 Southern Plantation Owners V.
Northern Businessmen

* Southerners opposed tariffs fearing they would damage the Southern economy which was heavily dependent upon trade.

* Northerners wanted tariffs to protect their industries from foreign competition.

 The Commerce Compromise:

The Constitution allows the federal government to tax imports but not exports.

 Slave Trade

 Northern Abolitionists
Southern Slave Owners

* Northern abolitionists wanted the Constitution to ban the (external) slave trade. They believed that slavery would eventually prove unprofitable and die out.

*Southern Slave owners argued that slavery was vital to the economic survival of the South and its large cash crop industry from its plantations.

 Slave Trade Compromise:

Congress was given the power to ban the slave trade after 1808.

 Executive Elections

Some delegates believed the president should be elected directly by the people. Others believed that the people could not be trusted with such a decision. Opponents of direct election offered a number of alternatives including election by state legislatures.

 Compromise on Executive Elections:

The president is elected indirectly by the electoral college (a group of men based on the population of the state) to a four year term of office.

Federalists vs. Anti Federalists

Federalists wanted a strong national government to provide order and protect the rights of people.
Anti-Federalists wanted a weak national government so that it would not threaten the rights of the people and states.

The Bill of Rights Compromise:

There would be a strong national government but the Constitution would contain a list of specific unalienable rights of the people.

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