A convention of delegates from all the states (except Rhode Island) met in Philadelphia, PA, in May of 1787. Known as the Constitutional Convention, during this meeting it was decided that the best solution to the young country's problems was to set aside the Articles of Confederation and create a new system. George Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention.
The delegates, or representatives for the states, debated for months over what would be included in the Constitution. Some states were in favor of a strong central government, while other states were opposed. Large states felt that they should have more representation in Congress, while small states wanted equal representation with larger ones.
Roger Sherman, a delegate from Connecticut, proposed a legislature with two parts. This created a bicameral legislative branch, which gave equal representation to each state in the Senate, and representation based on population in the House of Representatives. Small states feared they would be ignored if representation was based on population, while large states believed that their larger populations deserved more of a voice. Under the bicameral system, each party would be represented in a balance of power. Each state would be equally represented in the Senate, with two Senators, while representation in the House of Representatives would be based upon population. The delegates finally agreed to this "Great Compromise," which is also called the Connecticut Compromise.
The Constitution also created an executive branch and a judicial branch, which set up a system of checks and balances. All three branches would have a distribution of power so that no one branch could become more powerful than another. Early on, Governor Edmund Randolph of Virginia presented the Virginia Plan, which provided for a National Government with three branches. The legislative branch would make laws, the executive branch would provide leadership and enforce laws, and the judicial branch would explain and interpret laws.
Like the issue of political representation, commerce and slavery were also issues that divided the Northern and Southern states. Southern states exported goods and raw materials and feared that the Northern states would take unfair advantage. The South finally agreed not to require two-thirds passage in both houses to regulate commerce. The North agreed that the slave trade could continue until 1808, but slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person for representation in the House of Representatives; this was known as the “Three-Fifths Compromise.”
Nationality requirements and ways to amend and ratify the Constitution were also addressed. To be eligible to hold office, Senators would have to be citizens for nine years and Representatives for seven years, and the President must be native-born. In order to make changes or amendments to the Constitution, nine of the 13 states would have to vote to ratify before an amendment could become law.