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Smaller states such as Rhode Island and New Jersey feared that their interests would be ignored. Madison proposed a three-tiered government with a legislative branch consisting of two houses Senate and House of Representatives that would make laws, an executive branch to carry out the laws, and a judicial branch to enforce the laws.

The Philadelphia Convention

This meant that states would be represented based on their populations or the amount of tax payments paid. Furthermore, the House of Representatives would be elected by the people, and the Senate would be elected by the representatives. To quell the rising tide of state sovereignty independence , The Virginia Plan would authorize the national government to have direct authority over American citizens, as well as to negate any state laws that were not deemed in the best interest of the United States.


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While the larger states seemed to support the Virginia Plan, the smaller states began to voice their opposition. William Paterson, from New Jersey, warned that his state would never go along with the plan, and Roger Sherman, from Connecticut opposed the popular election by the people of representatives. Others, such as Alexander Hamilton, claimed that the Virginia Plan was too democratic, and failed to protect the government against the passage of popular, but ultimately, harmful laws. Thus, the Articles of Confederation would be effectively replaced rather than amended.

The issue of equal versus proportional representation, however, was the most contentious issue and threatened to destroy the deliberations, and perhaps, the new nation. The smaller states would not agree to any plan in which the larger ones had more votes. On July 5, , a special committee was formed to try to come to a compromise regarding the issue of representation. Across the country, the cry "Liberty! Few people claim to be anti-liberty, but the word "liberty" has many meanings.

The Constitutional Convention

Should the delegates be most concerned with protected liberty of conscience, liberty of contract meaning, for many at the time, the right of creditors to collect debts owed under their contracts , or the liberty to hold property debtors complained that this liberty was being taken by banks and other creditors? On May 25, , a week later than scheduled, delegates from the various states met in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia.

Among the first orders of business was electing George Washington president of the Convention and establishing the rules--including complete secrecy concerning its deliberations--that would guide the proceedings. Several delegates, most notably James Madison, took extensive notes, but these were not published until decades later. The main business of the Convention began four days later when Governor Edmund Randolph of Virginia presented and defended a plan for new structure of government called the "Virginia Plan" that had been chiefly drafted by fellow Virginia delegate, James Madison.

The Virginia Plan called for a strong national government with both branches of the legislative branch apportioned by population. The plan gave the national government the power to legislate "in all cases in which the separate States are incompetent" and even gave a proposed national Council of Revision a veto power over state legislatures.

Delegates from smaller states, and states less sympathetic to broad federal powers, opposed many of the provisions in the Virginia Plan. Charles Pinckney of South Carolina asked whether proponents of the plan "meant to abolish the State Governments altogether. The New Jersey Plan kept federal powers rather limited and created no new Congress.

Instead, the plan enlarged some of the powers then held by the Continental Congress. Paterson made plain the adamant opposition of delegates from many of the smaller states to any new plan that would deprive them of equal voting power "equal suffrage" in the legislative branch. Over the course of the next three months, delegates worked out a series of compromises between the competing plans. Most importantly, perhaps, delegates compromised on the thorny issue of apportioning members of Congress, an issue that had bitterly divided the larger and smaller states.

Under a plan put forward by delegate Roger Sherman of Connecticut "the Connecticut Compromise" , representation in the House of Representatives would be based on population while each state would be guaranteed an equal two senators in the new Senate. By September, the final compromises were made, the final clauses polished, and it came time to vote.

In the Convention, each state--regardless of its number of delegates-- had one vote, so a state evenly split could not register a vote for adoption. In the end, thirty-nine of the fifty-five delegates supported adoption of the new Constitution, barely enough to win support from each of the twelve attending state delegations. Rhode Island, which had opposed the Convention, sent no delegation.

Following a signing ceremony on September 17, most of the delegates repaired to the City Tavern on Second Street near Walnut where, according to George Washington, they "dined together and took cordial leave of each other. I fimly believe this, and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. How does it banish that awkward stiffness, so common when strangers meet in company! How does it engage the most perfect strangers in all the freedom of an easy and pleasing sociability, common only to the most intimate friends!

It was the business of delegates to create a Constitution for the country as it existed. Now, we should make that declaration with a very bad grace, when a large part of our property consisits in men who are actually born slaves. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun. There is a time to sow and a time to reap. We sowed our seed when we sent men to the Federal Convention.

Now is the harvest. Now is the time to reap the fruit of our labor. And if we don't do it now, I am afraid we shall never have another opportunity. From the Women's National Book Association's press release: One of the most popular books ever written about this foundational moment, Miracle at Philadelphia engages as well as educates readers about the hard task of forging consensus in a democracy. Jun 08, Ben rated it really liked it. Fantastic book on the Convention, it really brings it together for you. Aug 17, Don rated it really liked it.

Three hundred and ten pages about a four-month long meeting of dead, white men arguing with each other? How could this be interesting?! If you have any interest in the USA, its history, and the social and political issues resonating still today, grab a copy and get a-reading! Author Catherine Drinker Bowen says of her goal in its writing: Its aim throughout is evocation, suggestion.

I greatly desire that my readers may see Convention delegates as they rise and address the Chairman, Washington, or face each other in committee.

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Above all I want to call back the voices: Drawing from voluminous primary resources, Bowen has painted a very human and revealing picture of the politics and passions, hopes and fears, that were at work throughout the process of imagining, agreeing, drafting, and approving the U. She allows the participants to illuminate their motives and reasons, as they interacted on the floor and in reporting on their off-the-floor conversations to far off observers. She captures the tension building as the weeks and months passed by, significant disagreements still prevailing in the room, and no guarantee that the efforts would not fail.

Bowen shows us clearly, too, that once approved by the majority of delegates, these tensions and high chances for failure continued to prevail in several key state ratification convention discussions and votes, as the final 50 pages of the book detail so well. The process was disputatious from start to finish: Do we even have the right and authority to consider anything but amendment of the Articles of Confederation? Are we strengthening a partnership between States or creating a Nation of common citizens: How do we prevent the rise of an authoritarian, aristocracy or even the restoration of a monarchy while providing more adequately for the coordination of authority and activity across the entire US?

How can we trust or limit the control by those we might empower? Yet, fear of the consequences of failure — a possible break-up of the partnership; interfering relations between individual states and foreign nations; swallowing up of weaker, neighboring states by the larger, stronger states; even conquest by one or more foreign powers — kept the conversation alive through all of the confrontation and argument. Finally, after four months, the signing … and after seven more months, approval by the required ninth state — a new government was to be formed under the new document and joined by the others of the original 13 within the next two years!

Let George Washington, as cited by Bowen, provide two items of summary: Writing to Patrick Henry immediately after the Convention, Washington wrote: But I sincerely believe it is the best that could be obtained at this time … it appears to me that the political concerns of this country are in a manner suspended by a thread … and, if nothing had been agreed on by the Convention, anarchy would soon have ensued. It is well worth a read! Jan 30, Linda rated it it was amazing.


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  5. It was a very informative book for history buffs. Catherine Bowen is a very good author and has a way to just pull you into the situation. Her detail of the attire of the day, the heat in the meeting rooms, the smell of BO and the long speeches that last for hours and rarely accomplish concensus were intriguing. She writes in a storybook fashion to give you a sense of the time period and the participants expressions and some outbursts as tension rises.

    I could not wait til the next days meeting It was a very informative book for history buffs. I could not wait til the next days meeting and this went on for months. I really got a personal account of Washington, Franklin, Hamilton and other key players as well as the letters being exchanged with Thomas Jefferson who was in France most of the time, but very much involved. I think this may have been a text book used in classes from the notes and index, but I'm not sure.

    I love history and have never had a text book with this much detail. I will try to find her other books as well.

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    Hope someone else has read her books and comments. Jan 06, Bruce Fogerty rated it it was amazing. Good narrative history of the Constitutional Convention in It paints a good picture of the personalities and the competing political and economic interests of the states. Also provides a smattering of political theory to anchor the story. Upon reading this I learned a few things. First, I was made aware of how the unorganized territories in the Ohio valley and the areas west of the Appalachians were are huge motivator for the delegates to come to an accord.

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    Until I read this book, I always considered the political battles leading up to the Great Compromise to be the major bone of contention. This book shows how the west, and all the sectional and international considerations incumbent with it, were every bit as important as the bicameral legislative branch that was born out of The Compromise.


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    The second thing I learned is that political behavior for individual citizens and political leaders has changed not at all in the last years. We are the same today as they were in Jun 25, Gena rated it really liked it. It is hard for me to rate this book fairly because I was not really ready for it. It is a book of serious history. No fictional reparte thrown in to lighten it up. Bowen is a superb writer, which is the only way I was able to get through the book. Her style is natural and she does make the wrangling over the Constitution interesting. However, this is a book that requires a certain amount of concentration to get through; sadly, I haven't the ability to give it the concentration it deserves.

    My It is hard for me to rate this book fairly because I was not really ready for it. My main takeaway from the book is that our Constitution really was a miracle and that the signers but a tremendous amount of thought and debate into each clause. Highly recommended for students of history who are serious readers. Not recommended for before-bed reading. Jan 09, Giovani Facchini rated it liked it. It was a good book focusing on showing the discussions at the federal convention which would draw the constitution. It seems to be a little biased toward the federalist side the current outcome in which regards arguments or author excitement about it.

    I felt the end was a little rushed since ratification and its discussions were too short. The anti-federalist arguments were not explored properly, although author express it in the end of the book saying it would require another book just for the It was a good book focusing on showing the discussions at the federal convention which would draw the constitution. The anti-federalist arguments were not explored properly, although author express it in the end of the book saying it would require another book just for the anti-federalists.

    It is a good book to get a better understanding of USA formation and how the constitution was created and under which circumstances it developed. May 28, Jessica rated it really liked it. This should be required reading for everyone. This country wasn't founded on every one agreeing or one idea winning every time. It took people that came together to hash the hard stuff. There was no better time: The federalists ultimately prevailed for it to pass because they had a concrete idea and the anti-federalists had only fear This should be required reading for everyone.

    The federalists ultimately prevailed for it to pass because they had a concrete idea and the anti-federalists had only fear, sound familiar? May 03, Cliff rated it really liked it. The "Tour of the Americas" part dragged a bit, but the whole of the book was outstanding. Bowen does a fabulous job conveying the complexities of the Constitutional Convention and the ratification process in a summary fashion that still provides enough depth for the reader to feel a certain grasp of the depth of the process.

    One of the few books that will find a permanent place on our family bookshelf. Another "must read" for anyone interested in understanding how unique and great is America. The challenges to the brave and talented men who met in Philadelphia were extreme. There were many disagreements, most are still being argued. It is difficult to understand how these men overcame the physical limitations of the times and the personal tragedies and illnesses they had to overcome.

    Feb 25, Manda rated it it was amazing Shelves: I enjoyed this book so much! It really brings the Constitutional Convention to life, with numerous quotes from the participants. A must-read for anyone who wants to know more about this pivotal time in our nation's history. Mar 08, Reid rated it it was amazing Shelves: A great read which should be required reading for every American citizen. In fact we should probably re-read it every few years.

    Sep 05, Brooke Narring rated it did not like it. History is not my favorite subject and I had to read it for a class. It wasn't my favorite but it is full of information! If you're into the subject it would be a great book for you. Aug 28, Mrlatsch rated it liked it. Miracle at Philadelphia chronicles the late spring to early fall of It describes a day to day account of the discussions, debates, and sometimes even heated arguments that the founding fathers of our nation went through in Philadelphia during the early years of our nation.

    Through the scolding heat of the summer of they discussed issues that surrounded our nation. The topics ranged from foreign affairs to executives and their responsibilities to the sectionalism of our country. These Miracle at Philadelphia chronicles the late spring to early fall of These issues were very controversial and led to arguments between the strong opinions and hot heads of the representatives. Despite much disagreement and tension throughout the convention, the final result was one of incredible significance.

    The Constitution of the United States of America was signed on September 17, by fifty-five delegates from 11 of the original 13 colonies. Not to be a spoiler of the book and the story beyond the book but the Constitution has lasted for plus years without destroying and or jeopardizing our nations freedoms, independence, and liberties.

    Overall the book was very well written and very descriptive of nearly everything that was discussed at the Constitutional Convention. It discussed almost all of the topics while providing and explaining both sides of each issue to the furthest extent.