Constitutional Convention (United States)
The Constitutional Convention took place from May 25 to September 17, 1787, in the old Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall) in Philadelphia. Although the convention was intended to revise the league of states and first system of government under the Articles of Confederation, the intention from the outset of many of its proponents, chief among them James Madison of Virginia and Alexander Hamilton of New York, was to create a new government rather than fix the existing one. The delegates elected George Washington of Virginia, former commanding general of the Continental Army in the late American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and proponent of a stronger national government, to become President of the convention. The result of the convention was the creation of the Constitution of the United States, placing the Convention among the most significant events in American history. The proceedings of the Convention were written by James Madison and later published as Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787
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- Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence on the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power, and the love of money. Separately each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects. Place before the eyes of such men, a post of honour that shall be at the same time a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it. The vast number of such places it is that renders the British Government so tempestuous. The struggles for them are the true sources of all those factions which are perpetually dividing the Nation, distracting its Councils, hurrying sometimes into fruitless & mischievous wars, and often compelling a submission to dishonorable terms of peace. And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable pre-eminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters? It will not be the wise and moderate; the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits. These will thrust themselves into your Government and be your rulers.
- Benjamin Franklin, June 2, 1787
- On May 14, 1787, the Constitutional Convention with George Washington presiding officer, the work of framing the new nation's constitution proceeded with fifty-five persons and only two were not employers!
- George L. Jackson, Blood in My Eye (1971)
- The preponderant weight of economic power in the Constitutional Convention, while conceding the outward forms of political democracy, went on at once to curb the exercise of the very power it had just granted; it crippled the force of democratic power at the source by parceling up this power by a marvelously dexterous system of barriers to its expression. Thus political equality under the ballot was granted on the unstated but factually double-locked assumption that the people must refrain from seeking the extension of that equality to the economic sphere. In short, the attempted harmonious marriage of democracy to capitalism doomed genuinely popular control from the start.
- Robert Staughton Lynd, Foreword to Business as a System of Power (1943), p. vii