Framers gather to draft U.S. Constitution

On this day (May 14) in 1787, delegates gathered in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention, which drafted the now universally revered United States Constitution.

The 55 men who attended the “Federal Convention” met in Independence Hall in response to the Confederation Congress’ resolution of Feb. 21, 1787, which “Resolved that in the opinion of Congress it is expedient that on the second Monday in May next” (i.e., May 14, 1787) “a Convention of delegates who shall have been appointed by the several states be held at Philadelphia for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation …”

During the 16-week convention, the delegates (“Framers”) drafted a Constitution that established a strong national government that it was hoped would be capable of solving, with a good chance of success, the many problems facing the 11-year-old American republic.

In drafting the country’s second basic charter, the Framers deliberated at some length on the nature and structure of government. They debated such issues as how much power should be given to government and how this power should be allocated.

The delegates elected or appointed to attend the “Grand Convention” were well-regarded political and/or military leaders in their states. Thomas Jefferson characterized the gathering as “an assembly of demi-gods.”

Divine they certainly were not. Rather, they were an exceedingly talented, well-educated, politically and/or militarily experienced group of adult, white, overwhelmingly Protestant, wealthy men, a majority of whom were dedicated nationalists who saw the need to either amend drastically the Articles of Confederation or draft an entirely new constitution.

Altogether, 74 delegates were elected or appointed from the 12 states that sent delegations. Only Rhode Island refused to send a delegation because it was convinced that any amendment to the Articles of Confederation would result in a drastic diminution of the equal power each state enjoyed under the country’s first constitution.

It is of interest to note the names of prominent Revolutionary-era men who were chosen to represent their states, but did not accept their appointments or did not attend the four-month conclave. Thus the Federal Convention was denied the participation of such notables as Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Md., and Richard Henry Lee and Patrick Henry of Virginia. MORE HERE