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Chapter Fifty-Eight. The Federal Convention and the Constitution

Mark D. Kaplanoff

Subject History, Law

Place Northern America » United States of America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics American War of Independence, federalism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405116749.2003.00061.x


The Federal Convention met at Philadelphia from May 25 to September 17, 1787; during that time 55 delegates from 12 states took part in drafting the Constitution, which remains (with amendments) the fundamental law of the United States. (Of the 13 original states Rhode Island did not participate.) The most basic question that historians have asked about the Constitution has been whether it should be seen as a counter-revolutionary effort to limit the internal effects of the American Revolution or a pragmatic attempt to secure its success after difficult times during the early and mid-1780s. In one particular version of this discussion scholars (drawing especially on the work of Charles A. Beard) have debated whether delegates sought to defend the interests of commercial and financial property-holders. Others, looking in detail at the dynamics of decision-making within the Convention, have emphasized the conflicts during the drafting process and the difficulties resolving them; writing in this vein, one early historian summed up the Constitution as “a bundle of compromises” ( Farrand, 1904 , p. 484). Three compromises in particular have been identified as the most important. In the Connecticut Compromise of early July small states secured equal representation for all states in the US Senate. The slave trade compromise of late August forbade federal interference with the foreign slave ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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