The Founding Fathers of the USA

Introduction

After the United States of America liberated itself from the British, there was need for establishment of new government. A group of men who are currently referred to as the nation’s Founders are the ones came up with the government.

The government was established based on the experience the founders had, what they had learnt as well as what they believed in. This group of men had a lot in common[1]. They had great political experience, were learned and had interest in safeguarding their property. As a result, the group came up with a strong agreement on what to incorporate in the government.

Immediately after United States of America was established, numerous conflicts surfaced which included economic hardships, power devolution and conflict of interests. To contain the situation, there was need for establishment of a government which was to be mandated with ensuring there were not conflicts.

This led to the Founders assembling in Philadelphia so as to put down laws that would be implemented by the new government. Despite the Founders managing to come up with the constitution, there were numerous conflicts that emerged during the process[2]. The constitution making process called for inclusion of diverse ideas. Moreover, the Founders had to compromise on some of their beliefs for the constitution to be completed.

Conflicts encountered

Despite the Founders agreeing on the need for establishment of new government, numerous conflicts arose. One of the conflicts that were experienced was the structure of the government. Edmund Randolph; the then governor of Virginia proposed a two-house legislature. The legislature was to have upper house which was to be given the mandate of electing the lower house. The Congress was to be given the powers of invalidating laws that it found to be contradicting the constitution.

This structure comprised of a parliamentary form of government where the Congress was to be responsible of choosing the judiciary and the cabinet. On the other hand, William Paterson; a New Jersey delegate came up with a structure that gave each state equal vote to the Congress regardless of the size of the state[3]. The structure also called for the establishment of distinct branches of the executive and the judiciary.

On top of the powers accorded to the Congress in the first proposal, this structure added the powers of the Congress to comprise taxing and commerce. In his plan, Paterson also included a clause that would have seen establishment of national government law that would have been superior to the states’ law.

It was hard to immediately decide on the structure to adopt and debate between the two structures went on until July. To ensure that a constitution that catered for the views of each party was achieved, Roger Sherman came up with a structure that compromised the two plans[4]. In this structure, it was decided that two houses would be established with the upper house having two representatives from each states in spite of the size of the state. Legislation was to be made to pass the two houses.

Another conflict that had to be solved during constitution making was the right to vote. Initially, it was required that for any person to be eligible to vote, he had to own property in the country. This locked a great number of people out of the exercise since very few whites owned property. James Madison was for the view that property ownership did not imply that a person was rich.

There was also a conflict on whether women were to be allowed to participate in voting exercise. Benjamin Franklin called for universal male suffrage. Failure by the Founders to reach to a consensus led to them giving the individual states the responsibility of coming up with voter qualifications. Eventually, the states decided that property ownership had to remain as the qualification[5]. All the states adopted male suffrage locking women out of the voting exercise.

There was a conflict over constitution ratification. For amendments to be mad in the constitution, the Founders passed that nine of the thirteen states had to agree. Those opposed to the constitution were anti-federalists. They claimed that the national government would have taken advantage of having superior powers to oppress the states.

They called for establishment of a Bill of Rights which would protect personal freedom. Anti-federalists demanded that people were to be allowed to vote on matters affecting the nation. Proponents of the constitution had the view that the government could not exercise powers other that the ones provided for in the constitution. Hence, they did not see the essence of a Bill of Rights[6]. They urged that the constitution did not touch on individual liberties and hence it was hard for it to deny people the freedom.

Despite the constitution not accounting for individual liberties, the anti-federalists wanted a Bill of Rights to be introduced since it would be hard to change the constitution in its absence. Eventually, Madison drafted a Bill of Rights that had twelve amendments and was sent to all states for endorsement. Ten of the amendments were approved, one rejected while the other one remained pending until after the ten became effective in 1791.

Constitution as the fulfillment of the goals of the American Revolution

For decades, there has been a perception that there was only one American Revolution. This is the fight to liberate themselves from the British colonialists. However, there were two revolutions.

Apart from the desire to liberate themselves from the colonialists, Americans also wanted to liberate themselves from American merchants and financiers. The merchants and financiers had the say in the country and after independence they are the ones who dictated on how the country was to be run. Those who did not own property in the country were locked out of the voting exercise.

Consequently, they did not take part in determining how the country was to be run. It is these hardships that led to the working class calling for establishment of a constitution which stipulated the voting qualifications[7]. Despite the first constitution embracing male suffrage and also property ownership in voting, amendments have been made with time allowing all the Americans to participate in voting exercise. This liberated the Americans from the merchants and the financiers.

Another revolutionary goal that the constitution helped in fulfilling was establishment of a stable government. It was not only the desire by the Founders to come up with a government but they wished to have a devolved government.

They feared that concentrating all powers to a central government would compromise democracy. The constitution offered a platform for establishment of a government with different branches and checks and balances to ensure that no branch had exclusive powers.

It was the American’s desire to liberate themselves from economic hardships that were being experienced at the time. To achieve this, they needed to have a sound economic plan which ensured that that country’s resources were equitable and efficiently managed. This could only be achieved by coming up with lows that governed how tax was to be levied and managed. The Philadelphia Convention came up with a law that gave the Congress powers to collect and levy taxes.

It was given the responsibility of allocating funds thus ensuring that collected taxes were used in funding projects that aimed at improving national economy. The constitution directed that everybody was subject to taxation[8]. Consequently, the wealthy were compelled to pay tax adding to the nation’s basket. Apart from collecting and levying tax the congress regulated the value of the nation’s currency.

This contributed to the economic growth as the Congress ensured stability of the currency. Prior to establishment of the constitution, the different states competed in foreign tariffs. To revive the national economy, it required the states to cease from imposing tariffs on goods coming from other states. All these problems were solved by the constitution which led to establishment of a unified country where all the states worked together in improving the national economy.

Compromise led to the successful completion of the Constitution

With every member of the Founders wishing his interests to be catered for in the constitution, it was hard to complete the constitution. It called for the different factions to compromise on some of their interest so as to come up with a comprehensive constitution that catered for all. One of the greatest compromises that were made is in coming up with the structure of the government.

The federalists and the anti-federalists had to soften their stands so as to come up with a government structure that favored both to some extent[9]. By adapting the structure developed by Roger Sherman the group was relieved from the tug of war that was there between the two factions. They could now comfortably proceed to other issues knowing that they had agreed on the form of government to follow.

In coming up with a single nation, the different states had to come up with a consensus. Some states were bigger than others while some had more resources. Getting equal representation in the national government gave the smaller states an upper hand. AS a result, the bigger states complained that the smaller states benefited at their expense[10].

Another constitutional issue that was solved through compromise was the slavery issue. While the Northern states delegates wanted slaves to be considered for taxation reasons they did not want them to be represented in parliament. On the other hand, the South wanted the slaves to be considered only in determining the population of individual state.

There was a belief that a slave was not as productive as the white man and only worked three-fifths of what the white man did[11]. To end this conflict, a compromise was reached where a three-fifth principle was to be used in counting slaves for both population and taxation purposes. This helped in bringing the two parties together thus helping in completing the constitution.

Apart from the aforementioned conflicts, other problems concerning slavery were brought to an end. The southern delegates feared that the northern states would one day ban slavery. To avoid this, they agreed that the government could not bring to end slavery for the next twenty years.

Correspondingly, the new slaves were not to be taxed over ten dollars per head. It was agreed that all slaves escaping from their masters from northern states would be returned to their owners. Despite the northern states not being satisfied with the compromise, they knew that it was the only channel that would help then get a constitution. There was no way that all the states would have seen all their interests addressed without compromising on some of their demands.

Conclusion

It would have not been possible for the United States of America to get a new constitution had it not for the compromises that were made by the Founders.

The delegates had many issues in common but also differed in some. Consequently, no one can claim the constitution was not achieved through compromise. Issues such as the government structure and slavery would have made the two factions shoot down the constitution. Had the delegates refused to compromise on some of their demands, it would have been hard for them to reach into a consensus.

Generally, the fate of the United States of America depended on the compromises that were made by the Founders as well as the states. It is a result of these compromises that America is proud to be a great nation. Some of the great politicians that helped in attaining the constitution include Edmund Randolph, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton among others. It is their brainstorming that helped in drafting the constitution.

Bibliography

Adams, Willi Paul, The First American Constitutions. North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

Bernstein, Richard B and Rice, Kym S. Are We to Be a Nation? The Making of the Constitution. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1987.

Christopher, Collier. All Politics Is Local: Family, Friends, and Provincial Interests in the Creation of the Constitution. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Currie, David P, The Constitution in Congress: Democrats and Whigs, 1829-1861. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Ketcham, Ralph, The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates. New York: New American Library, 1986.

McIlwain, Charles Howard, The American Revolution: A constitutional Interpretation. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Mckinnon, Ava, “The Making of the United States Constitution: A Compromise Document” last modified Sep. 28, 2007, accessed November 26, 2011, http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/395338/the_making_of_the_united_states_constitution_pg6.html?cat=37.

Raphael, Ray A, People’s History of the American Revolution. London: New Press, 2001.

Wood, Gordon S, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787. North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press 1969.

Christopher Collier, All Politics Is Local: Family, Friends, and Provincial Interests in the Creation of the Constitution (New York: Routledge, 2003), 88-93.
David Currie P, The Constitution in Congress: Democrats and Whigs, 1829-1861 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 234-242.
Paul Adams Willi, The First American Constitutions (North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 387-413.
Richard Bernstein B and Kym Rice S, Are We to Be a Nation? The Making of the Constitution (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1987), 310-321.
Gordon Wood S, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 (North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1969), 38-61.
Charles Howard McIlwain, The American Revolution: A constitutional Interpretation (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2003), 156-184.
Ray Raphael A, People’s History of the American Revolution (London: New Press, 2001), 126-153.
Ralph Ketcham, The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates (New York: New American Library, 1986), 87-104.
Ava, Mckinnon, “The Making of the United States Constitution: A Compromise Document” last modified Sep. 28, 2007, accessed November 26, 2011, http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/395338/the_making_of_the_united_states_constitution_pg6.html?cat=37
Mckinnon, “Making of the United States Constitution”
Collier, Politics Is Local, 219.