The Constitutional Compromises


President George Washington

The Constitutional Compromises of 1787
The Constitutional Convention was held between May 25, 1787 - September 17, 1787 at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia was held to address the problems encountered in governing the country due to weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation. The focus of the convention turned to creating a new system of government. There were disputes between the large states and the small states. The convention reached deadlock. Compromises were needed to bring about agreement and to formulate the U.S. Constitution. This article provides information about the major Constitutional Comprises made by the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Constitutional Compromises: Definition of Compromise
Definition: What is a compromise? A Compromise is reached by finding a middle way between two extremes. A compromise enables a conclusion of an issue when both sides make concessions.

Constitutional Compromises: The Issues
The issues that emerged at the Constitutional Convention were between the large and small states and the differences between the North and the South. The three major controversial issues requiring compromises were:

  • A Compromise on Representation

    • Issues surrounding the system providing the right of being represented by delegates to a legislative body

  • A Compromise on Apportionment

    • The method of distributing and allotting the seats in the House of Representatives

  • A Compromise on Commerce relating to the Slave Trade

    • Issues relating to the powers of Congress

Constitutional Compromises: Deadlock at the Constitutional Convention
There were many debates resulting from the proposals made in the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan. The Constitutional Convention reached a complete deadlock over the issue of representation. Both sides needed to make concessions to enable a breakthrough to the deadlock over representation for the convention to continue.

Constitutional Compromises: The Great Compromise on Representation - The Connecticut Compromise
Oliver Ellsworth and Roger Sherman of Connecticut proposed a compromise on the issue of Representation in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The
Great Compromise on representation was that members of the House of Representatives should be allotted to the states according to their population and that the members of the House of Representatives should be elected directly by the people. The next part of the compromise related to the Senate. Sherman and Ellsworth proposed that each state, regardless of size, population, or wealth, should have two  Senators chosen by the state legislatures. The states should be equally represented in the Senate. Basically the Great compromise consisted of proportional representation in the lower house (House of Representatives) and equal representation of the states in the upper house (Senate).

Constitutional Compromises: The Compromise on Apportionment - 3/5 compromise
The issue was should the members of the House of Representatives be distributed among the states according to population? The real question was, should slaves, who had no vote, be counted as a part of the population? It was finally agreed that the slaves should be counted at three-fifths of their real number. This compromise was called the "federal ratio." The result of this rule was to give the Southern slave states representation in Congress that was out of proportion to their voting population. For additional facts refer to the
Three Fifths Compromise.

Constitutional Compromises: The Compromise on Commerce and the Slave Trade
The states in the North wanted Congress to have power to regulate commerce. But the states in the South opposed this because they feared Congress would use this power to end to the slave trade. A compromise was reached by stating that Congress could not prohibit the slave-trade until 1808. For additional facts refer to the
Commerce and Slave Trade Compromise.

Constitutional Compromises: The Constitution is Signed
There were Constitutional compromises on other, smaller points but these did not have the same levels of impact on the new government The  three major compromises made at the Constitutional Convention on Representation, Apportionment and Commerce were crucial to the success of the Constitutional Convention and were included in the new Constitution which was signed on September 17, 1787.


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The article on the Constitutional Compromises of the Constitution provides the text, definition and history of one of the major achievements of his presidential term in office. The following video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 1st American President whose presidency spanned from April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1797.




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