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Constitution A Bundle of Political Compromises
Late in May 1787, George Washington welcomed delegates from twelve of the thirteen states to the Constitutional Convention. The fifty-five men in attendance expected to consider significant changes in their national government. In turn the Constitution as ratified was a bundle of political compromises that solved the differences among those delegates.
The first and foremost the issue at hand was what kind of government was best for a republic? A plan was submitted by the Virginia delegation that had a guiding spirit belonging to James Madsion. The Virginia Plan called for a government with three distinct branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. By dividing this power, it was intended to ensure that no group or individual could have too much authority. Also by allowing each branch of government some means to check the other branches, it was intended to protect the interests of citizens.
Although the delegates supported the principles of the Virginia Plan, they were in disagreement over many other issues. The greatest controversy centered on representation in the legislative branch. The Virginia Plan proposed that membership representation in each house would be based on population. Small states objected saying that it would leave them helpless in a government dominated by large states. In turn they supported the New Jersey Plan, which gave all states an equal representation regardless of the population.
Roger Sermen of Connecticut, with the help of Ben Franklin introduced the Great Compromise. It set up a bicameral legislature, where representation in the House of Representatives was based on population and in the Senate each state was guaranteed a fixed two representatives.
The issue of representation continued into the issue of who would be counted as a state’s population. Southern delegates argued that slaves should be counted for the purposes of representation but
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