Philadelphia Convention

The constitution was brought about from the ideals of the aftermath of the American War of Independence. However evidence suggests and argues that other more practical reasons affected the final document and it was not as straight forward a process as it may seem. By evaluating the motives of the articles of confederation and the ideological thinking of the day and age, I can compare these findings with the United States ability to operate under their own rule of power and the changing situation of the time,(which resulted in the Philadelphia Convention).

It could be argued that the rise of more extremist views, contributed to the situation. Evidence presented later, will conclude the realisation in both the anti federalist and federalist camp that central government with the power to legislate was needed and became a much more important factor than the civil discord. Once the final constitution was certified, the original views, when it came to the rights of the person over the power of the state and sovereignty were strongly weakened.

Liberty for the individual, was more important than the state and government.. However with the opinion of abolishing central government, if corrupt or poor, proved to be ineffective. Instead Congress gave each state the individual ability to raise taxes, but this only lead to further flaws throughout the United States. Few states applied duties on exported or imported trade whilst other states did not. This led to massive price differences, throughout the various states and caused much tension between them all.

Other contributing factors were that laws and penalties also changed from state to state.. Other international influences was when the British introduced the navigation act. This expressed how only British ships could transport the goods of the states to the West Indies. The West Indies were America’s best trade partner which meant they would loose out, although individually states tried to oppose but could not effectively as they stood as independent states and not together. It soon became clear that a centrally controlled government was needed.

In 1782 the states experienced a devestatingly bad harvest and there were enormous problems between debtors and their creditors. By 1783 debt had risen to over $8 million and the problem was getting increasingly harder to sort out. Rhode Island invented paper money to subsitute gold and silver but this only led to inflation. Massachusetts tried to apply tarriffs, but this distanced the farming community who were already, under pressure. Americans started to voice their own views that life and trade was better under the British than it was now after living with the ideas of the revolutionaries.

Harvests did start to improve, but the owing debt caused repercussions, resulting in goods being left to rot, or if the goods were sold, there return was extremely low. At this time Congress had no power to try and help the situation. However there was movement towards some form of central government but many revolutionists feared this would add to the economic problem and lead to civil war. Many realised that some form of rebellion was needed to oppose the hostile trading laws that was the main cause for their debt problems.

In 1786 in Massachusetts, a former revolutionist led 2000 people in a protest against the county courts. The Shay as they were known were angry with the courts for jailing debtors who clearly could not afford to repay their debt under the current conditions. The shay then threatened to march onto the federal arsenal at Springfield if debtors were not realeased. The local military defended the situation successfully but the new revolutionarys were treated with importance as a reminder to what a central government might have to face once they were duly elected.

By 1786 it was clearly recognised congress had no real power. An overhaul in national government was needed, as congress was used by each states individually for their problems, instead of coming together and trying to help the country as a whole. Republicans strongly disagreed with a central government and they believed power should stay with the individual states as anything less would be non-republican. A compromise was reached however at Philadelphia. As a result, the practicalities of government, was to encorurage and premote economic growth.

This compromise was originally formed and then rewritten many times to account for every interested assembly. This particular process is now known as a series of checks and balances. One of the biggest concerns was how to keep the ambition of men in check. How this was accomplised was by the formation of two houses of government. This first was the House of Representatives. TheHouse of Representatives had as many representatives per state depending on state size and population. The senate on the other hand held two seats regardless of size and poulation of state.

This was designed so the small states and larger states made up of many counties could all be represented. A president was then to be elected. The President would be elected from the Electoral College. This process again was to stop any one individual attaining absolute power. This system of government clashes with the original views of the revolutionaries and their thoughts on how the county should be run. Their beliefe was to have small centrally run governments that could be replaced if corrupt or useless.

A millitary force was created and this too opposed others views but because all went ahead as planned the restriction of powers of government and the individual was and evolution of the original Articles of Confederation. The above account of history is evidence when illustrating how the problems with government and the economy provided the view to restructure the original Article of Confederation as opposed to a counter revolution. Evidence suggests that after the Shay uprising there was a significant drop in civil unrest and the following year brought a much better harvest of crops.

Madison and Jefferson were convinced a change was needed when Congress basically had no power. Congress could not oppose outside trading laws and had no concieveable way of repaying the national debt. Eventually by setteling for the sytem of a centrally run government with one elected president and by incorporating the series of checks and balances, powers were not limited to any one individual. Liberty had been given to all. This statement is a contradiction in terms as although this system allowed no one individual, power over another, this did not apply to slavery. Slavery was not abolished.

In fact the northern states had to forget the liberty for all as the southern states would not agree unless this clause was dropped. In conclusion evidence illustrates, that the consitution was an evolution as opposed to a counter revolution, of the original articles of confederation. It supports the original ideologies if they were workable and that civil unrest would be related to economic well being at the time. The consitution was definately an evolution of the original Articles of Confederation but without the input from the counter-revolution the constitution would not be how it is today.