Aware of its growing inability to deal with national issues, the Congress called on the states to send delegates to a national convention. The purpose of this meeting was to revise the Articles of Confederation in the hope of producing a more effective national government. Soon after arriving in Philadelphia, the delegates (some of the most remarkable and distinguished citizens of the day) decided to do away with the Articles entirely. They set out to draft a completely new constitution.
At first, many Americans doubted that the national government needed strengthening. But news of Shay’s Rebellion in early 1787 quickly changed many people’s minds. Fearing that rebellion might spread, 12 states sent delegates to the meeting in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. Only Rhode Island refused to participate.
The 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention were a very impressive group. About half were lawyers. Others were planters, merchants, and doctors. Three-fourths of them had been representatives in the Continental Congress. Along with other leaders of their time, these delegates are called the Founders, or Founding Fathers, of the United States.
George Washington – Although Washington had retired to his Mount Vernon estate at the end of the Revolutionary War, he was still one of the best known and most respected men in America. His decision to attend the convention helped to attract other important individuals to Philadelphia. Washington rarely participated in the debates, but as president of the convention he guided the proceedings with a firm hand.
James Madison – He became known as the “Father of the Constitution.” He quickly became the convention’s leader in debate and most of what we know come from his detailed notes.
Ben Franklin – Despite failing health, he played an important role as peacemaker during the often heated debates at the convention.
Gouverneur Morris – He participated in even more debates than Madison. Morris was a gifted writer and is given credit for most of the actual language in the Constitution.
Alexander Hamilton – Served as Washington’s secretary in the Revolution. He was probably the most passionate supporter of a strong national government.
What was the purpose of the Constitutional Convention?
The purpose of the Constitutional Convention was to get rid of the Articles of Confederation and create a new constitution.
Why did the government need to be stronger?
Government needed to be stronger because the Articles of Confederation kept the national government powerless. It needed the power to tax and enforce laws.
Who are the Founders?
The Founders are the delegates at the Constitutional Convention who took part in creating the constitution.
Who was the convention’s leader in most debates?
James Madison was the convention’s leader in most debates although Morris participated in more debates than Madison.
Who is responsible for most of the language in the Constitution?