Getting to Union

Navigating Differences in the Constitutional Convention

Part I. Citizens of Our Fragile New Country were Deeply Divided by Their Differences.

Part I. Step 4. Fears Among the States Coming to the Constitutional Convention

What fears did delegates and ordinary citizens have about the outcome of the Constitutional Convention?

Being Out-Voted

All states feared putting systems in place that would place them at a disadvantage in the new union. The longest and most bitter debates were about the basis of representation in the national legislature. Would it be based on population? If so, the large states would have the advantage.

While James Madison’s Virginia Plan proposed laying aside the Articles of Confederation and creating a national government, some states had expressly forbade their state delegates from discussing the creation of a national government. These states feared losing equal voting rights in any national assembly. The small states especially feared losing power to the large states.

Implications of a National Union for Slavery and Freedom

The Convention at no point debated the morality of slavery.

However, it became clear that regulating trade would impact states that heavily relied on slave labor, so Southern States feared giving trade regulation power to a national government.

On the other hand, states with fewer or no slaves did not want to be forced to spend their tax-payers’ money to support the institution of slavery.

On your own paper, respond to this question:

In your opinion, which of these fears would fuel the most division?  Explain your answer.


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