A March of Liberty: A Constitutional History of the United States - Vol. 1

By Melvin I. Urofsky; Paul Finkelman | Go to book overview
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6

A More Perfect Union

The Philadelphia Convention Representation and the
Structure of Government Slavery and Representation
The Executive Branch The Judicial Branch The Powers
of the New Government Regulating Commerce Concluding
the Convention The Constitution and Federalism Checks
and Balances The Debate over Ratification Federalists and
Antifederalists Ratification Conclusion: The Constitution
and Democracy For Further Reading

AFTER THE FAILED Annapolis Convention, James Madison returned to Virginia and immediately drafted a resolution by which the state appointed representatives to a federal convention. As the biggest state, Virginia had to take the lead. The Virginia act authorizing the appointment of delegates reflected the sense of urgency felt by many Americans. The General Assembly declared it could

no longer doubt that the crisis is arrived at which the good people of America are to
decide the solemn question, whether they will be wise and magnanimous [in their] ef-
forts to reap the just fruits of that independence, which they have so gloriously ac-
quired, and of that union which they have cemented with so much of their common
blood; or whether by giving way to unmanly jealousies and prejudices, or to partial
and transitory interests, they will renounce the auspicious blessings prepared for them
by the revolution, and furnish its enemies an eventual triumph over those by whose
virtue and valor it has been accomplished.

As the Virginia legislature saw it, to work for a stronger union was an act of the highest patriotism; opposition reflected selfish prejudices or worse.

By early February 1787, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Georgia had joined in the call. Although Congress initially stalled on the issue, once seven states had indicated their willingness to participate, Congress agreed, and on February 21, 1787, declared it “expedient” to convene a convention “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation.” With the

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