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were rich and others were poor. Some were property owners with slaves as a part of their property. This led them into differences of opinion with the representatives of States which did not approve of slavery. There were sharp differences, too, between the representatives of the farming States and of the States with large cities and many merchants. At times it seemed hopeless to try to get any general agreement.


Every delegate had to think of many people beside himself. Each had to remember the main interests of the people of his own State—the business interests, the ways of living, the customs of government-as well as many smaller group interests within his State. No delegate could feel comfortable about going back to his people at home unless he had gotten for them as many good things as anybody got out of the new plan of government. Of course, that meant that every State group of delegates had to be ready to give up some of the things which their State wanted in order to get other things which it needed as much. The thing which all of the States really needed most was a smoothly working system of national government, and it was because some of the delegates were wise enough to see this and were persuasive enough to make the rest of the members see it too, that the convention finally succeeded in planning and adopting a Constitution which all the world has admired and which has been a model followed in various ways by other governments ever since. The leaders of the convention were wise enough to compromise.

THE COMPROMISE Some of the smaller States had at first wanted to be completely independent; that is why little Rhode Island had not sent any delegates. But as the members of the Convention talked matters over for 4 months, they all began to see certain things more clearly. Some of these 1. That no single State could be sure that it was safe from foreign invasion.


2. That no single State was strong enough to protect its foreign trade.

3. That no single State could successfully handle the Indian problem.

4. That no single State could deepen and improve, for shipping and water control, rivers which ran through several States.

5. That they all needed good connecting roads for travel, trade, and postal service.

6. That they all had much the same needs and the same ideas about laws, freedom, religion, and self-government.

7. That they all had suffered needlessly from the weakness of the Articles of Confederation.

The small States were still worried for fear that other States, especially the large States, would get the better of them; and some delegates were so distrustful that they walked out of the Convention rather than agree to give up any part of their State's independence.

Instead of breaking up in a fight, as some expected, the Convention finally agreed that each small State should have the same number of Senators in the United States Senate as the big States did—two apiece—and that representation in the House of Representatives should be divided among the States according to the number of their inhabitants; but as the big States might be expected to pay more tax money to the central government than the small States, all laws about raising money would have to be agreed upon by the House of Representatives, where the large States would have more votes, before the Senate could vote on them.

There were also several other compromises by which different groups of States were given certain special rights in exchange for giving up other rights. But in the end they all agreed to a plan for a central government which would be strong enough to make them act together and form a single nation.



If you were asked to write out a constitution for a club or other group organization in which you were interested, how would you begin? Would you look about you for some model or example from the past to guide you? That is just what the Fathers of our National Constitution did at Philadelphia. They looked about for something good from the past to copy. But they did not copy any single model. They borrowed certain ideas from a number of different sources with which they were or had been in contact.

1. They borrowed from their experiences with the British government. You may remember that the English colonists brought to America many ideas of self-government in use in their home country. The British had a constitution (although not a written one) which was supposed to protect their right of self-government. There was a great deal more personal liberty in Great Britain than in most European countries, and the people there had the right to elect certain members of the Parliament. They could rely on the British law courts for fairer trials than in other countries. Some of these ideas became standards and principles which guided the writers of our Constitution.

2. The Colonial Charters helped to guide the Convention work. The citizens of the 13 Colonies had lived for many years under written colonial charters. Some of these charters contained many ideas for government organization. The colonists who lived under these charters usually liked the ideas set forth in them, and it is natural that they used them as models from which to work out a National Constitution,

3. The Declaration of Independence helped the makers of our Constitution. The delegates at Philadelphia found great help in the Declaration of Independence, which had been adopted 11 years before. It had stated some of the objectives of a democratic government. It had declared that such a government must get its power from the people. It had protested against many bad things which the British Government had done. Many of the principles and standards of our Government which are as true today as they ever were can be found in the Declaration of Independence. For example, it declares that all men are created equal and have a right to live, to be free, and to work for happiness; it proclaims the duty of the Government to preserve these rights of the people.

4. There were 13 State constitutions in 1789. When the Colonies renounced their allegiance to Great Britain they also declared themselves to be independent States. Each of the colonial groups then wrote its own State constitution. In doing so it borrowed ideas from the colonial charters. At Philadelphia the Fathers of our National Constitution studied the plans of government which had been set up by these State constitutions and found some of them very helpful in guiding their work.

5. The Articles of Confederation helped the Convention. The Articles of Confederation under which the 13 States had lived during the Critical Period were of some use. The government organization under these Articles had been very unsatisfactory, but it gave the delegates at Philadelphia many suggestions, which kept them from repeating the mistakes of the past in establishing the new plan of government.

6. The political ideas of leaders were of help to the delegates at Philadelphia. Not everything which guided the Fathers of the Constitution could be found in written form. The great thinkers among the delegates themselves had many ideas about government. They, after all, were the ones who had fought the mother country in order that they might establish their own form of government. The ideas of great thinkers of other nations helped also. For example, it was a French writer, Montesquieu, whose writings suggested to Gouverneur Morris and others the idea of dividing the government's power among three branches : the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judiciary.

Examples Which Guided The Fathers"

Of Our Constitution


ideas from



1-State Constitutions. 4-Articles of
2-Colonial Charters. Confederation.
3-British System 5-Declaration of
of Government Independence.

6- Ideas of leaders.

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Examples Which Guided The "Fathers" of Our Constitution

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