Video: 1787

The Constitutional Convention and Political Participation in the Early Republic

National Association of Scholars

In 1787, fifty-five delegates from the states met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to chart a new course for the nation. The Articles of Confederation were proving insufficient, and so the assembly debated a new structure of government, one that would divide federal authority between three branches of government and rely on checks and balances to ensure that no one branch of government became too powerful. This was not an easy task, nor one without controversy. Fierce debate raged over the “Virginia Plan” and how the states ought to be represented in this proposed new federal government. After months of debate, what would become the Constitution of the United States was adopted by the convention with 39 signatories and distributed to the states for ratification.

How did the Constitutional Convention’s product create an altered relationship between state governments and the new national government? What did the ratification of the Constitution mean for national unity?

This event featured Eric Nelson, Robert M. Beren Professor of Government at Harvard University; James Stoner, Hermann Moyse, Jr., Professor and Director of the Eric Voegelin Institute in the Department of Political Science at Louisiana State University; Jack Rakove, William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies and professor of political science at Stanford University. The discussion was moderated by Barry Shain, Associate Professor of Political Science at Colgate University.

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