Philadelphia and the Articles of Confederation

PHILADELPHIA - Having signed the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia, James Madison and the other founding fathers debated the Constitution and its amendments. In Philadelphia, delegates from New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland could hear and debate the proposals. Some delegates could not attend because they were in London or France or because they were too busy pursuing local affairs. Regardless of their reasons, it is obvious that they had serious disagreements over the U.S. Constitution.

After a series of debates, most delegates agreed on a new form of government. However, some were divided and passed a veto-proof gag rule, leading to a tense and secret deliberation. In Philadelphia, however, the Constitution was drafted secretly, and the Articles of Confederation were changed. The Articles of Confederation changed the ratification system from 100 percent to two-thirds, and the supermajority threshold was raised from two-thirds to three-fourths.

The Constitutional Convention was an unprecedented event in American history, and its members acted on it in a moment of crisis. A series of events, including John Lansing's departure from the meeting, led to the adoption of a new Constitution. The convention's delegates had no legitimate authority and assumed powers for which they had no legal title. They also set aside laws under which they had been appointed and exercised all powers that seemed convenient to their object. In effect, the convention overthrew the government they had been commissioned to amend.


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