representatives from five states met in Annapolis, Maryland, and proposed that the states appoint
commissioners to meet in Philadelphia and
consider revising the Articles of Confederation. The Continental Congress agreed to the
proposal and suggested that each state select
delegates to a constitutional convention.
The convention was supposed to open on May 14,
1787, but few of the 55 delegates had arrived in
Philadelphia by that date and it did not formally
open until May 25. Twelve states had responded to
the call for the convention. Rhode
Island refused to send delegates because it
did not want the national government to interfere
with its affairs. George
Washington was elected president of the
convention on the first day, and the Constitution
of the United States was signed by 39 of the 55
delegates on September 17.
Disputes and Compromises
Disputes among the delegates almost ended the
convention on several occasions. For example,
delegates from the large states disagreed with
those from the small states about representation
in the national legislature. The larger states
favored the Virginia Plan, under which
population would determine the number of
representatives each state could send to the
legislature. The small states, however, supported
the New Jersey Plan, which proposed that
all states would have an equal number of
representatives, regardless of population. This
dispute was settled by the delegates from
Connecticut, whose plan called for equal
representation in the Senate and proportional
representation in the House of Representatives.
The Connecticut Plan was ultimately
Slavery was another major issue at the
convention, with Northern delegates wanting
Congress to have the authority to ban the foreign
slave trade and Southern delegates not wanting
Congress to have any authority over slavery. The
delegates finally compromised by deciding that
Congress would not be allowed to regulate the
foreign slave trade until 1808. Another
compromise involved the question of how to count
slaves in determining the number of congressmen a
state could have. Since slaves were not
considered citizens, the Convention agreed that
only three-fifths could be counted.
An "*" means the delegate
did not sign the final document.
William Samuel Johnson
Gunning Bedford, Jr.
John Dickinson (left the convention before the
signing, but had George Read sign in his place)
William L. Pierce*
Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer
John F. Mercer*
William C. Houston*
John Lansing, Jr.*
Richard Dobbs Spaight
William R. Davie*
Other Interesting Facts
The Constitutional Convention met in
Philadelphia's Independence Hall.
The average age of the delgates was 42.
Over half of the delgates graduated from
college, including 9 from Princeton and 6 from
Of the 55 delegates, 25 had served in the
Continental Congress, and 40 had served in the
Six men who signed the Declaration of
Independence also signed the Constitution --
George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris,
George Read, Roger Sherman, and James Wilson.
Of the 39 men who signed the Constitution, two
went on to become President of the United States
-- George Washington and James Madison.
The Constitution was signed in geographical
order, with the delegates from the northernmost
state, New Hampshire, signing first and those
from the southernmost state, Georgia,
World Book Encyclopedia.
Chicago: WorldBook-Childcraft International,
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