In the period between the drafting of the Constitution and the start of the Civil War, compromise was a main part in the governing of the United States. The Constitution itself is often referred to as a “bundle of compromises” and because of the effectiveness of these compromises it has been able to withstand time and continue to be the main source of our government. Conflict arose even after the Constitution and compromises were made to try to keep the Union together and decrease tensions between the North and South. In this paper, I will discuss the compromises that made up the Constitution as well as the compromises that were implemented leading up until the Civil War.
The drafting of the Constitution is compiled of great compromises that are the reason why our great government is still working today. James Madison created one of these compromises called the Virginia Plan. His plan called for a strong central government, one that had control to legislate, levy taxes, veto state laws, and authorize military force against states. His plan also called for a bicameral legislature and fixed representation in both houses of Congress proportionally to each state’s population. The people would select the lower house and those in that house would elect the delegates in the upper house who in turn would select the president and judges. This plan didn’t work because those smaller states felt they wouldn’t have equal representation in this house due to their population being smaller than the larger states. They feared that the large states would control the legislatures and the small states wouldn’t be able to get what they wanted done. After the Virginia Plan didn’t work, William Paterson of New Jersey offered another proposal called the New Jersey Plan. This plan stated that there should be a single chamber congress in which each state had an equal vote, just like the Articles. This plan also did not work because it gave too much power to the smaller states who only compiled about 25% of the Americans. And so, the Great Compromise was proposed. This compromise was passed on July 17, 1787 and stated that the upper house would have equal representation, satisfying the small states, and the lower house would be based on population, satisfying the large states.
The fear of the people was that the central government would become too powerful and that the states wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. Through debate and in attempt to solve this from happening, the framers of the Constitution came up with two things: separation of powers and the system of checks and balances. These two systems have kept our central government from getting too powerful as well as keeping our states from getting too powerful. Separation of powers meant that the three distinct branches in the national government all had different powers and one branch couldn’t try to do the job of the others. These three branches are the executive, judicial, and legislative branch. The executive branch is composed of the President of the United States and his cabinet, the legislative branch is composed of the Senate and House of Representatives, and the judicial branch is the Supreme Court. The system of checks and balances was meant to prevent any one branch from dominating the other two. Examples of the checks and balances include the power of the President to veto acts of Congress, but to insure that the president doesn’t overuse this power Congress can override a president’s veto with a two-thirds majority in each house. The framers also made it so the Constitution could be amended if needed by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress and then the amendment has to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. This amendment process is the reason why the Constitution has lasted as long as it has and why all the compromises the make of the Constitution still hold true today. The framers made it so the Constitution can be changed if and when our country changed...
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