Democratic and Undemocratic Aspects of the Constitutional Convention

Democratic and Undemocratic Aspects of the Constitutional Convention

Length: 1373 words (3.9 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Democratic and Undemocratic Aspects of the Constitutional Convention


The Articles of Confederation was the first government of the United States. The Articles had created a very weak national government. At the time the Articles were approved, they had served the will of the people. Americans had just fought a war to get freedom from a great national authority--King George III (Patterson 34). But after this government was put to use, it was evident that it was not going to keep peace between the states. The conflicts got so frequent and malicious that George Washington wondered if the “United” States should be called a Union (Patterson 35). Shays’ Rebellion finally made it evident to the public that the government needed a change.

A group of men with political power and status, an elite by definition, got together and decided the solution to the problem of government was to have a group of men evaluate the Articles and make the proper changes. At least, this was what Congress thought the purpose of the Constitutional Convention was when they approved it (Patterson 37).

The first step of the Constitution was undemocratic. No popular vote was taken either directly or indirectly on the proposition to approve a convention (Beard 14). The group of men who wanted the convention was skillful in getting it approved in that their proposal of it was a surprise. This gave the Federalists an upper hand. Their opponents, the Anti-Federalists, could not refuse to a discussion of possible, and perhaps necessary, reforms. By refusing, they could lose the support of the public very easily (Roche 18).

The next step of the convention was more democratic, in that there were delegates sent to Philadelphia by the state legislatures (Roche 18). Since the legislatures were chosen by elections in the states, the delegates to the convention were indirectly chosen by the people. Rhode Island did not send delegates, but there was an opportunity for them to do so. They decided against sending anyone since they knew they would not be welcomed by the convention.

James Madison, a delegate and one of the main supporters of a stronger national authority, had thought ahead and drew up the Virginia Plan before the convention in Philadelphia began. Thus, it became the first discussion of the committee (Roche 19).

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Democratic and Undemocratic Aspects of the Constitutional Convention." 123HelpMe.com. 31 Mar 2020
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=21504>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay The Constitutional Convention

- ... George Washington was a delegate for Virginia that was very important, famous, respected, and the richest man in the United States. He knew that his attendance would make the other delegates take the convention seriously. During the first day George was selected as the presiding officer in the Convention, then became presiding president from 1789-97. James Madison was a delegate for Massachusetts. During the first day of the Convention when no one knew what to do, James pulled out a plan of government he came up with days before the Convention, which became the basis of the new constitution....   [tags: articles of confederation, american history]

Research Papers
1187 words (3.4 pages)

Essay about The Constitutional Convention Of The Constitution

- On May 25, 1787 the constitutional convention began at the Independence Hall in Philadelphia in order to amend the Articles of Confederation. It was apparent to the framers of the Constitution that the Articles of Confederation lacked central authority over foreign and domestic commerce, threw many conflicts over time after the Revolutionary War. This wouldn’t be a harmonious amendment either. Between the Federalists and the Anti – Federalist they spent the entire summer creating a new government unlike any before....   [tags: United States Constitution]

Research Papers
1901 words (5.4 pages)

Essay about The Constitution And The Constitutional Convention

- One of the principal compromises in the constitution is on the topic of representation and its power. During the drafting of the constitution and the constitutional convention, the topic of representation as well as separation of power were soundly argued. To maintain a balance of powers, the drafters of the constitution agreed on a middle ground between the Connecticut and Virginal compromise. The separation of powers as entailed in the United States Constitution separates power of government into three branches hence guarantying that no single part of government is above another, this guarantee is entailed in a “checks and balances system”....   [tags: Separation of powers]

Research Papers
1219 words (3.5 pages)

The Constitutional Convention Of The United States Essay

- Constitutional Convention The Constitutional Convention was established in Philadelphia on May 24, 1787 (A New Nation Notes). The purpose of the Constitutional Convention was for the colonies to revise the Articles of Confederation (A New Nation Notes). The Convention was also used to establish unity within the colonies and to establish a new central government between the colonies (Teaching American History). Seventy four delegates were invited to attend, but only fifty five delegates were at the Convention, with only Rhode Island refusing to attend....   [tags: United States Constitution]

Research Papers
1781 words (5.1 pages)

Essay on The Constitutional Convention Of Philadelphia.the Delegates

- Fifty five delegates were at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.The delegates did not accurately reflect America considering most of them were apart of the upperclass.The delegates were made up of lawyers,physicians,college graduates,large plantation owners,important businesses people,and former chief executives of states under the Articles of Confederation.At the constitutional conventions factions emerged due to the different delegaetes having a the variety of opinions.As a result within the large group of delegates, smaller groups formed and began pushing political agendas....   [tags: United States Constitution, United States]

Research Papers
855 words (2.4 pages)

Essay about The Constitutional Convention Of Philadelphia

- The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia met between May and September of 1787 to address the problems of the weak central government that existed under the Articles of Confederation. The Antifederalists were extremely concerned that the national government would trample their rights. Rhode Island and North Carolina refused to ratify until the framers added the Bill of Rights. These first ten amendments outlined things that the government could not do to its people. They are as such: o First Amendment: Freedom of Religion, of Speech, of the Press, of Peaceful Assembly, and the Right to Petition o Second Amendment: Right to Keep and Bear Arms o Third Amendment: Quartering of Soldiers...   [tags: United States Constitution]

Research Papers
715 words (2 pages)

The Constitutional Convention Simulation : New Jersey Essay examples

- In our constitutional convention simulation, I played the role of a representative from New Jersey. New Jersey had a wide range of goals, but by far the most important was equal representation for the states in the federal government. New Jersey, at the time, had a population of only about 175,000 people, which, while not the smallest state, meant that they would have minimal representation in a population based legislature. In order to keep states like Virginia from completely taking over, New Jersey wanted each state to have an equal number of representatives in congress....   [tags: United States, United States Constitution]

Research Papers
746 words (2.1 pages)

Franklin D Roosevelt: The Constitutional Convention Essay

- ... The Constitution is the framework of the nation; that's why its creation is the most important event. It still stands today, after over 200 years of existence, which is a huge number compared to the global average of only 17 years for country constitutions. (Part of the credit for this goes to the inclusion of the elastic clause, which gives Congress a blank check of sorts in regards to the laws they are allowed to pass, giving room for adjustment as circumstances in the country change over time....   [tags: articles of confederation, philadelphia]

Research Papers
1071 words (3.1 pages)

Essay on The 1787 Constitutional Convention

- The 1787 Constitutional Convention was paramount in unifying the states after the Revolutionary War. However, in order to do so, the convention had to compromise on many issues instead of addressing them with all due haste. This caused the convention to leave many issues unresolved. Most notably were the issues of slavery, race, secession, and states’ rights. Through the Civil War and the Reconstruction, these issues were resolved, and in the process the powers of the federal government were greatly expanded....   [tags: American History]

Research Papers
1940 words (5.5 pages)

Constitutional Convention Essay

- During the Constitutional Convention, and the years to follow, the Anit-federalists heavily disputed with Federalist Party. One of the longest and most important arguments throughout this time period were the debates between Alexander Hamilton of the Federalists and Thomas Jefferson of the Anti-Federalists. The controversial issue discussed was over the establishment of a national bank. Alexander Hamilton, at the time George Washington’s Secretary of Treasury, explained before the Congress that the U.S....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
397 words (1.1 pages)

Related Searches

Drafting a brand new constitution was the premise of this plan. Since this idea was the exact opposite of what Congress had planned for them to do, the Framers had to keep the proceedings a secret. This could be seen as undemocratic in a way, since the people had not approved this plan of action in any form, but as the Framers were acting in what they thought was the public’s best interest, it was as democratic as they could allow it to be.

The Virginia Plan had to be modified before it was presented to the people since it gave more representation and power to the larger states (Roche 19). The smaller states would not be willing to ratify a constitution that gave them little representation. This was an underlying, and sometimes obvious, theme of the convention. The delegates wanted to make a constitution to fit their ideas of a stronger, more effective national government, but they also had to compromise and make it seem appealing and necessary to the people. The mere fact that they were constrained by the support of the public makes the actions and decisions that the delegates agreed upon more democratic.

As the framers were realizing that the Virginia Plan was not going to be acceptable, the New Jersey plan was proposed. This plan would give the large and small states equal representation in the legislature (Patterson 37). Roche says this plan was not to endorse states’ rights, but to appease the people of those states and make them more willing to ratify (Roche 21). The constitution decided this matter in a democratic way--they voted, and a majority voted for the Virginia Plan to be the basis for their document (Roche 23).

The next big issue of the convention was concerning representation of the states in Congress. Madison and Virginia were strong proponents of there being no equal representation of the large and smaller states in the second chamber. Finally, the voting of the delegates resulted in a tie. The members decided to vote on a delegate from each state to make up a committee to make the final decision. The voting procedure was democratic (Roche 24).

After this hurdle, there were still debates and conflicts over what would go into the new constitution, but the Framers not only getting tired of being there, but they also had pressure on them to get the new product out to the public for review. Some issues in it were left flexible to interpretation and some matters were just completely overlooked. This could be an indication that they cared more about their own interests than the good of the people, which was undemocratic.

Charles Beard wrote that the first object of government was to protect the men’s right of property (Beard 11). These men did have higher economic and political status so they looked after their own interests, but they were also the ones who exerted a sort of power over the middle and lower class individuals who never would have gotten the opportunity to be on the committee. These men wanted the constitution to be ratified because it would directly benefit them and their wealth (some of these Framers were to be the men who filled the positions of the new government), but these motives were not as selfish as some would think. In Federalist No. 10, Madison states that controlling factions is necessary for the survival of the national government (Patterson A-18). By protecting property rights of themselves and the other citizens of the United States--a group with diverse economic status--the Framers were not just thinking of themselves. The control of factions was to benefit everyone.

The delegates made their plan more likely to be ratified by agreeing to a second convention to make a bill of rights (Roche 26), which was not part of their original plan. The states were given a sort of ultimatum though, by saying that the constitution had to be ratified or none of it would be used at all. In the end, the ratification process was democratic since the states had the opportunity to do as their population wanted and ratify it or not.

As can be seen in the articles written by such people as Charles Beard and John Roche, there is still debate over how democratic the proceedings of the Framers’ in Philadelphia were. There were instances were undemocratic actions were taken, but since the fate of the constitution was ultimately in the hands of the states that were influenced by public opinion, the constitution was beneficial to public interest as well as their own. The best evidence that what the Framers did in Philadelphia was more democratic than undemocratic was that the men deemed ‘delegates’ acted more as ‘trustees’ in the making of the constitution. They were certainly the ones who had the power to decide what would be written in the constitution, and they used their discretion to decide what would be best for the public. Since the Framers’ concept of a proper system of representation was based on the theory of Edmund Burke, and Burke defined trustees as “elected representatives whose obligation is to act in accordance with their own consciences as to what policies are in the best interests of the public” (Patterson 50), most of their processes and actions were democratic. They worked within the realm to which they were confined and gave the public what they believed was a constitution for the people.


Works Cited

Beard, Charles A. “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States.” American Politics. Alan J. Cigler and Burdett A. Loomis. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.

Madison, James. “Federalist No. 10.” The American Democracy. Thomas E. Patterson. New w York: McGraw Hill Company, 2001.

New York: McGraw Hill Company, 2001.

Roche, John P. “The Founding Fathers: A Reform Caucus in Action.” American Politics. Alan J. Cigler and Burdett A. Loomis. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.
Return to 123HelpMe.com