In , Alexander Hamilton , a lawyer and politician from New York , called for a constitutional convention to discuss the matter. The Confederation Congress, which in February endorsed the idea, invited all 13 states to send delegates to a meeting in Philadelphia. On May 25, , the Constitutional Convention opened in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence had been adopted 11 years earlier. There were 55 delegates in attendance, representing all 13 states except Rhode Island , which refused to send representatives because it did not want a powerful central government interfering in its economic business.
Many had served in the Continental Army, colonial legislatures or the Continental Congress known as the Congress of the Confederation as of In terms of religious affiliation, most were Protestants.
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Eight delegates were signers of the Declaration of Independence, while six had signed the Articles of Confederation. Political leaders not in attendance at the convention included Thomas Jefferson and John Adams , who were serving as U.
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John Jay , Samuel Adams and John Hancock were also absent from the convention. Reporters and other visitors were barred from the convention sessions, which were held in secret to avoid outside pressures. The delegates had been tasked by Congress with amending the Articles of Confederation; however, they soon began deliberating proposals for an entirely new form of government.
After intensive debate, which continued throughout the summer of and at times threatened to derail the proceedings, they developed a plan that established three branches of national government—executive, legislative and judicial. A system of checks and balances was put into place so that no single branch would have too much authority. The specific powers and responsibilities of each branch were also laid out.
Among the more contentious issues was the question of state representation in the national legislature. Delegates from larger states wanted population to determine how many representatives a state could send to Congress, while small states called for equal representation. The issue was resolved by the Connecticut Compromise, which proposed a bicameral legislature with proportional representation of the states in the lower house House of Representatives and equal representation in the upper house Senate. Another controversial topic was slavery. For the purposes of taxation and determining how many representatives a state could send to Congress, it was decided that slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person.
On September 17, George Washington was the first to sign the document. Of the 55 delegates, a total of 39 signed; some had already left Philadelphia, and three—George Mason and Edmund Randolph of Virginia , and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts—refused to approve the document. In order for the Constitution to become law, it then had to be ratified by nine of the 13 states. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, with assistance from John Jay, wrote a series of essays to persuade people to ratify the Constitution. People who supported the Constitution became known as Federalists, while those opposed it because they thought it gave too much power to the national government were called Anti-Federalists.
Beginning on December 7, , five states— Delaware , Pennsylvania, New Jersey , Georgia and Connecticut—ratified the Constitution in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion and the press.
In February , a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina.
On June 21, , New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U. Constitution would begin on March 4, On February 2, , the U. Supreme Court held its first session, marking the date when the government was fully operative.
Rhode Island, the last holdout of the original 13 states, finally ratified the Constitution on May 29, In , Madison, then a member of the newly established U. House of Representatives, introduced 19 amendments to the Constitution. On September 25, , Congress adopted 12 of the amendments and sent them to the states for ratification. Ten of these amendments, known collectively as the Bill of Rights , were ratified and became part of the Constitution on December 10, The Bill of Rights guarantees individuals certain basic protections as citizens, including freedom of speech, religion and the press; the right to bear and keep arms; the right to peaceably assemble; protection from unreasonable search and seizure; and the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury.
Episode I - Federalism. Episode II - Rights. Episode III - Equality. Episode IV - We the People. Education Credits. For Additional Reading. In the Tenth Amendment, the Constitution also recognizes the powers of the state governments. So many states feared the expanded powers of the new national government that they insisted on amendments during the Constitution's ratification. The most popular of these proposed amendments, which became the Bill of Rights in , was a protection of state power.
There were no implied powers. The true meaning of the Tenth Amendment, and the extent of state versus federal power, would ultimately be tested by the Civil War. Wyoming, which needed more women settlers, became the first state to grant women the right to vote in During the Progressive Era, states passed social welfare legislation that regulated working conditions and hours. But the Supreme Court struck down many of these state laws as violating personal liberty of the employees.
Nonetheless, many Americans believe that states should be free to experiment with their own standards for social problems.
For example, some states now allow legalization of marijuana, both for personal and medical purposes. But federal law bans marijuana as a controlled substance, and the Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the Constitution makes federal law superior to state law.
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Therefore, the Supreme Court upheld the power of the federal government to regulate even homegrown marijuana in Gonzales v. Reich Federalism content written by Linda R.