Benjamin Franklin

.       Inventor, scientist, printer, politician, and diplomat,

.       Helped draft both Declaration of Independence and Constitution

.       Presided over Pennsylvania delegation to Constitutional Convention


Alexander Hamilton

.       First Secretary of the Treasury

.       Leading Federalist, believed in strong central government and wrote many of the Federalist Papers

.       Wanted proportional representation in both houses of Congress

.       Considered founder of American financial system

.       Killed in duel with Aaron Burr, 1804


James Madison

.       Virginian most responsible for designing the Constitution

.       Nationalist, helped write Federalist Papers

.       Despite initial misgivings, helped pass Bill of Rights

.       Later became president


George Mason

.       Virginia planter, major Anti-Federalist

.       Despised slave trade but held hundreds of slaves

.       Fought against ratification of the Constitution


Edmond Randolph

.       Virginia lawyer who fought in Revolutionary War

.       Author of the Virginia Plan of proportional representation in both houses

.       Ensured Virginia's ratification of Constitution, 1788


Roger Sherman

.       Connecticut delegate to the Constitutional Convention

.       Author of the Great Compromise (or Connecticut Compromise) regarding composition of Senate and House

George Washington

.       Virginia planter and first President of the United States

.       Led American army during Revolutionary War

.       Established two-term precedent for American presidency

.       More important as stabilizing force than as a creative thinker





1787 Philadelphia Convention

.       Debate over structure of Constitution raged through hot summer

.       Relative merits of Virginia, New Jersey Plans debated by framers

.       Convention adopted Constitution and Congress submitted it for ratification to states in same year


1787 Northwest Ordinance

.       Organized settlement of Ohio and Midwest

.       Divided each area into townships of equal size

.       Guaranteed self-government and religious toleration for settlers

.       Allowed for new states to enter US as equals of original 13 states


1787 First Federalist Papers Published

.       Built public support for Constitution

.       Published anonymously

.       Authored by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay

.       Still intellectually significant


1788 Constitution Ratified

.       New York was last state to ratify before Constitution took force

.       George Washington elected first president in same year

.       Rhode Island last of original 13 states to ratify in 1790


1792 Bill of Rights Added

.       First debate over amendments began in 1789

.       Only ten of twelve proposed amendments actually accepted





.       Believed in small, local government

.       Feared centralized power and tyranny from afar

.       Mostly based in the South (Virginia especially)

.       Included Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, Patrick Henry





Checks and Balances

.       Branches of government have powers that counter each other

.       Ensure no branch will become disproportionately powerful, even within its own jurisdiction

.       Fundamental concept underlying the separation of powers in U.S. government


Electoral College

.       System by which president is elected

.       Each state gets votes equal to number of representatives plus senators in Congress

.       In original system, state legislatures selected electors, who then cast votes for president

.       Now, almost all states assign their electoral votes to the winner of the state popular vote

.       Indirect form of election; candidate can lose popular vote but win electoral college as in the 2000 election


Great Compromise

.       a.k.a. Connecticut Compromise

.       Allocated representation in House proportional to population, but representation in Senate equal for all states

.       Saved convention from dissolution; resolved dispute between small and large states


New Jersey Plan

.       Proposed that each state would receive the same number of votes in Congress

.       Endorsed by small states only



Original Intent

.       Judicial doctrine that insists that Constitution should be interpreted the way that framers intended

.       Recently embraced by conservative (or strict constructionist) courts and jurists

.       Liberal courts, however, feel government should be more responsive to changing attitudes and needs of the people



.       Ideology of government in which authority derives from consent of the people

.       Success of system depended on virtue of its citizens

.       Republican citizens were property-owners willing to subordinate their own interests to that of the community as a whole


Separation of Powers

.       Federal authority is split among three branches of government

.       Prevents tyranny by not vesting all power in a single governmental body (such as a king)

.       Central component of American system of government


Three-Fifths Compromise

.       Each slave counted as three-fifths of a person for purposes of calculating representation in Congress

.       Boosted southern power in Congress significantly


Virginia Plan

.       Proposal to base representation in both houses of Congress on population of states

.       Endorsed by big states like New York, Virginia




Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

.       Site of Constitutional Convention, 1787