A Brilliant Solution: The Making of the Legislative and Executive Branches in America

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Elizabeth Wade
Period 2
When the 13 colonies along the Atlantic seaboard of North America declared independence, they had to create a new government. Because the colonies thought of themselves as separate, semi-sovereign entities – and because their experiences under British rule made them suspicious of centralized power – the government they created was a loose confederation of individual states. The national government under the Articles of Confederation had very little power; most power was retained by the individual states. Eventually, the weakness of the national government under the Articles led to their replacement with the current US Constitution. The delegates of the Constitutional Convention did not intend to make “great roads on the existing system” (70), but a constitutional revolution began when Edmund Randolph presented James Madison’s Virginia Plan. The talk of a brand new legislative branch and executive branch were in the making, and as John Adams would have said, “the delegates had ‘crossed the Rubicon’.” (70)

Madison, and his fellow republican delegates, arrived at a quick consensus “that the greatest powers must reside in the representative legislature” (72). However, the delegates were aware that the excessive power in the hands of any government body was an inducement to tyranny. But the diffusion of power among three branches, Madison suggested, legislative, executive, and judicial, would halt any attempts of tyranny. None of this created conflict among the delegates, the debate began when the matters of form, representation, manner of choosing members, and power in relationship to the states. Form and representation were debated as a unit. In James Madison’s plan, there would be an upper and lower house, both of proportional representation. His plan immediately endorsed by most of the delegates of large states, but the small states would rise in opposition to proportional representation time and again. This one matter, the...
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