A More Perfect Union

A More Perfect Union Viewing Notes

Prompt: Write a 500 word historical narrative that uses, underlines, and superscripts1 all posted terms to 1) explain reasons Madison and other delegates wanted to replace the Articles of Confederation with a new type of government, 2) describe the people present and absent at the Philadelphia Convention, and 3) provide details about the philosophical arguments and plans presented by the delegates that led to the creation of the Constitution of the United States of America. Narratives must use proper grammar and spelling, be legible or typed, underline and superscript1 ALL terms, and include a complete heading with a total word count on the first page.

  1. James Madison: He was very studious and Jefferson loaned him books. He thought America would dissolve if matters such as commerce, trade, and unity were not addressed soon. He repeatedly asked the Virginia House of Delegates to unify the states by creating better trade regulations. He tried to get George Washington to attend a convention to revise the Articles because most Americans respected the General. Madison is often called the "Father of the Constitution" because he created the Virginia Plan.
  2. tariffs: A tariff is either a tax on imports or exports and once was the major revenue for the federal government. Madison was concerned about infighting among the States, including the northern threat of Great Britain and the southern threat of Spain within North America. All States had to collect their own tariffs prior to the ratification of the Constitution.
  3. Virginia: This was a very influential state. Madison, Washington, and Jefferson were all from this state. Madison tried to get the Virginia House of Delegates to pass a law regulating trade, but many Virginians refused to give more power to a national government.
  4. George Mason: He was a Virginian who supported some of Madison's ideas in the Virginia House of Delegates. He drafted Virginia's Declaration of Rights and Constitution of Virginia. Mason advised Madison that Washington needed to attend the federal convention. Mason did not sign the Constitution because it lacked a Bill of Rights.
  5. Articles of Confederation: Madison organized delegates from many states to attend a federal convention to revise this document. The Articles governed America from 1781 until 1789.
  6. John Adams: He was the United States Ambassador to Great Britain from 1785 to 1788. He tried to negotiate fair trade with Britain, but the Minister had little concern about fairness. He became the first Vice-President after the Constitution was ratified.
  7. British Minister: Lord Carmarthen stated to Ambassador Adams, “Cui bono,” to mean “who benefits” for the terms of trade between the British and Americans. He was happy with the trade conditions because the British paid little tariffs on imported goods to America, but forced Americans to pay high tariffs on goods imported to Britain.
  8. Shays' Rebellion: This armed uprising started in western Massachusetts on August 29, 1786 and was led by Daniel Shay, a farmer and veteran of the American War for Independence. Shay and other Americans did not receive pay for their military service and wanted debt relief. Four Shaysites were killed in the action and urged many Founders to revise the Articles.
  9. Thomas Jefferson: He was the American Ambassador to France and had confidence that James Madison would get George Washington to come to a convention. He felt Madison was one of the greatest men in America and loaned him books.
  10. George Washington: General Washington wrote a letter to Madison informing him that while he thought a convention was a sound idea, he would not attend it because of retirement. Many delegates only agreed to attend a convention if Washington would attend it (18 minutes). He was chosen as the president of the Constitutional Convention.
  11. Independence Hall: This was the location chosen to revise the Articles of Confederation. The building is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was also the location where the Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation were ratified. James Madison hoped General Washington would attend the Philadelphia Convention and was happy when he arrived (22 minutes).
  12. Benjamin Franklin: Washington called him the sage of Philadelphia because of his wisdom. He lived in Philadelphia and was 81 years old when he became a delegate to the convention. Franklin suffered from gout, which is a medical condition that causes swollen joints and a lots of pain. He was in such poor health that he stated, "People must now come to see me instead of me seeing them." He staked his life and reputation on the belief that men and Americans could govern themselves. Washington stated that he considered Franklin the greatest American alive.
  13. Virginians: Madison met with his fellow delegates in a tavern before the convention. He believed that the Articles were too weak and proposed to abolish them. He pointed out that the population of Virginia was 800,000, while Delaware did not even have 100,000 people, yet both states only had one vote in the Congress. Madison hoped to base representation in Congress on population.
  14. Gouverneur Morris: He was a delegate from Pennsylvania and sided with George Washington. He saw an inconsistency in the very first clause of the plan to revise the Articles and did desire to create a stronger national government. Morris served on the committee of five to pen the final draft of the constitution. Many historians think he was the main author of the Preamble. He also had a wooden peg-leg because of an accident that shattered his left leg.
  15. Virginia Plan: Madison proposed this plan to abolish the Articles and create a national government divided into three branches to check and balance government power. Congress or the legislative branch would have an upper and lower house to truly represent the people and all States would gain representatives based solely on proportionate population. The new congress would make nationally binding laws. The executive branch would enforce the laws and the judicial branch would make up the courts. (34 minutes)
  16. Mary House: Mrs. House ran a boarding house across the street from Independence Hall where Edmund Randolph, James Madison, James McClurg, George Read, and John Dickinson all lodged during the Convention.
  17. Philadelphia Convention: George Washington was elected as the president of the convention located inside Independence Hall. Madison wanted to take notes on the creation of the "new government." The Committee on Rules proposed to record all votes in general assembly, but form a separate Committee on the Whole House to maintain secrecy. The Committee on the Whole House did not take minutes or records in order to keep open discussion among the delegates. Binding votes only take place in general assembly. Washington and all of the delegates endorsed a rule of absolute secrecy.
  18. Nathaniel Gorham: He was a delegate from Massachusetts and served as the Chairman of the Committee on the Whole at the convention. He had served under the Articles as the President of the United States in Congress assembled in 1786.
  19. Edmund Randolph: He was the seventh governor of Virginia and believed all States looked to Virginia for plans on government. He was concerned that the United States was not united and proposed to correct this problem by abolishing the Articles at the convention. He did not sign the Constitution, but later voted to ratify it.
  20. delegates: These men are called Framers by historians and all agreed to maintain secrecy at the convention. All of these men argued about whether to revise the Articles or abolish them. Madison tried to explain the Virginia Plan to these representatives of states. His plan proposed to amend the Articles out of existence. He also felt that a larger national government was necessary to crush the factions that form in small republics.
  21. factions: Madison felt that only in a large republic would the liberty of all people be protected. Smaller republics consisted of groups who fought against one another and this destroyed union and good government. (46 minutes)
  22. Roger Sherman: He was a delegate from Connecticut who believed that although the Articles didn't give enough power to the Congress, they only needed revision-not abolishment. He wanted to keep the States strong because he thought smaller republics worked best.
  23. John Dickinson: He did not sign the Declaration of Independence and was a delegate from Delaware. Dickinson believed that the proportional representation proposed by the Virginia Plan was an act of tyranny against the smaller states because it removed state equality.
  24. representation: Madison wanted a bicameral legislative body that was based solely on the population of each state. Smaller States opposed this concept because it would have weakened their sovereignty and equality with the larger States.
  25. debate: Delegates debated issues dealing with the courts, judicial branch, powers of the executive branch, the power of making war, appointments, and numerous other issues while attending the convention.
  26. slavery: Southern States such as both Carolinas and Georgia demanded that the importation of slaves continue in America and must be included in the Constitution. Some delegates felt slavery was a moral issue. George Mason, although he did own slaves, felt slavery would bring the judgment of Heaven upon America. The South might never have joined the Union if slavery was abolished by the Constitution. Delegates passed a compromise to end the importation of slaves cease by 1808.
  27. compromise: The business of government is full of compromise and numerous compromises were made throughout the convention. Delegates that began forming into factions at the convention and were later called Federalists and Anti-Federalists.
  28. James Wilson: He was a judge and delegate of the state of Pennsylvania. He believed that rulers are servants of the people and only a complete democracy would leave the power in the hands of the people. While many Framers thought representatives should be appointed, he believed the people should directly elect the president and senators. Wilson also proposed the Three-Fifths Compromise in the hopes that making slaves count as three-fifths of a person for representation in the House and Electoral College would make the South support the Constitution.
  29. Great Compromise: Roger Sherman presented the Connecticut Compromise at the convention to maintain equality and fairness among the states. In his plan, the lower house was based on proportional representation or the population of each state, while the upper house provided each state with one and only one vote. Sherman urged smaller and larger states to support his plan. Benjamin Franklin and George Washington realized that compromise was necessary to keep the delegates from leaving Philadelphia Hall. The compromise took eleven days of heavy debate before it finally passed by only one vote.
  30. Alexander Hamilton: He was a delegate from New York and a strong supporter of the federal Constitution. Although the delegates of New York left the convention, Hamilton still signed the Constitution.
  31. William Paterson: He was a delegate from New Jersey and upset that Randolph proposed to abolish the Articles. Paterson wrote the New Jersey Plan to ensure equality among the states by maintaining a unicameral Congress that was granted new powers concerning taxation. Although the plan failed, smaller states were able to insist on equal suffrage in a bicameral legislature.
  32. nationalist: Some delegates such as Gouverneur Morris wanted both a strong national government and a strong executive officer such as a president. Nationalists at the convention felt proportional representation should have applied to both houses of Congress.
  33. faith: Benjamin Franklin said at the convention, "I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?" to implore the delegates to seek guidance from their Creator. Many of the Framers had Christian beliefs or felt morality and religion were pillars to the strength of a republic.
  34. proportional: Madison proposed that the upper and lower houses of the legislature consist have representation based solely on the population of each State. Large States favored this type of representation, but smaller ones demanded equal suffrage.
  35. equal: Smaller States demanded equal suffrage in the legislature and threatened to leave the convention if this issue was not resolved by providing equality in the upper house. Delegates of larger States argued that proportional representation in both houses was the fairest plan.
  36. education: Americans read and comprehended many political issues prior to the ratification of the Constitution.
  37. Grand Committee: This committee was formed to come up with a solution over representation in both houses. Roger Sherman's Connecticut Compromise was presented and barely passed. Madison eventually came to the conclusion that the new national government would be strong and the separate States would still retain a lot of power because of the many compromises made.
  38. Senate: The Constitution based representation in the upper house on equal representation by giving each state two Senators or one vote. The create of the upper house appealed to smaller States because it prevented larger ones from total domination in the legislature. Equal suffrage and full equality were established in this house of Congress.
  39. House of Representatives: The Constitution based representation in the lower house on proportional representation by giving each state representatives based on population or proportion. This house appealed to the larger states because it gave more representation to them in Congress.
  40. Committee of Detail: This group was formed to draft a document reflecting the agreements that were made up to that point of the Convention.
  41. Committee of Style: This committee was formed to revise the text of the Constitution into a final edition. The Preamble states, "We the People" instead of "We the States," which satisfied the nationalists at the convention.
  42. timeframe: The Constitutional Convention opened on May 25, 1787 and the final draft was signed on September 17, 1787. The Framers met at Independence Hall in Philadelphia and conditions for much of the Convention were very hot and humid.
  43. Articles: The Constitution is divided into seven articles. The first three articles created the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. (98 minutes)
  44. Bill of Rights: Colonel George Mason said, "I would sooner chop off my left hand than put it to the Constitution as it now stands" because the document lacked a declaration of rights. He felt that generations of Americans not yet born would look back to the Framers for protection of individual rights. Some delegates believed each State already had their own bills of rights and therefore it was not necessary to add one to the Constitution.
  45. Constitution: Delegates from eleven States signed and approved the document on September 17, 1787. Alexander Hamilton signed the Constitution, but the other delegates from New York had already left the convention.
  46. signers: The Constitution was signed by 39 of the 55 delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention. Benjamin Franklin commented that the presidential chair in Independence Hall had a rising sun symbol before signing the Constitution. Colonel Mason and some other delegates could not sign the document in good conscience because the Constitution enlarged the central government too much and it also lacked a listing of the rights of man.
  47. United States of America: John Adams told the Minister of England that the Constitution would end England's domination of the North American hemisphere. He felt that the world would consider America an equal among the family of nations after the Constitution was ratified.
  48. President of the United States: George Washington became the first president under the Constitution. A president must state an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution before taking office. Washington was the first executive officer of the United States and president of the Constitutional Convention.
  49. Federal Hall: This was the first capitol of the United States of America and was the location where Washington was inaugurated and the Bill of Rights was ratified. (109 minutes)