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How did compromise help create a more unified nation at the second Constitutional Convention?

As it became increasingly clear that the government created under the articles of confederation was too weak to govern effectively delegates met at the Second Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia to discuss the creation of a new form of government. While almost all agreed that a new form of government was needed that was about all they could agree on. Some, like Jefferson, still clung to the fear of a strong central government that might eventually abuse its power. Others like Alexander Hamilton favored a democratic but strong central government that would be able to solidify the nation and govern more effectively. There were other issues at stake as well, for example:

  • Representation: How would representatives be chosen, by population or an equla number per state and how would slaves be counted for the purposes of representation?
  • Slavery: Would slavery be allowed to contiue?
  • The Presidency: How would he be elected, how long a term would he have to serve?
  • States Rights: How much pwer would the states have and how much power would the central government have?

In the end these issues were worked out using the process of compromise. The chart below illustrates the different compromises reached in 1787.

The Constitutional Convention (1787)

Below is a chart detailing various issues that faced the framers of the constitution. The solutions that they created became the Constitution of the United States of America.




1. How would the legislature be chosen? The large states wanted representation based upon population; the smaller states wanted all states represented equally.




2. How would slaves be counted? The North wanted slaves counted for tax purposes, the south wanted slaves counted for the purposes of representation in Congress.

1. The Great Compromise: A bicameral legislature consisting of two houses was set up:

a) The Senate: Upper House, all states represented equally, 2 per state.

b) The House of Representatives: Representation by population. 435 members subject to change as per US census.

2. The 3/5 Compromise: Slaves were to be counted in the following manner; 5 slaves equaled three persons.


1. Would slavery continue?

1. Yes, but the Constitutional convention banned importation of slaves after 1808.

The Presidency:

1. How would the President be elected?

2. How long would the Presidents term of office be?

1. The Electoral College was created to vote for the President. Each state was given the same number of electors as they had representatives. In later years the Electoral college promised to vote based upon the what the majority of each state wanted. This became known as the electoral college promise.

2. 4 Years.

Power of the Federal Government

1. How would the powers of the states (something very important to the colonists who at that time felt more like "Virginians or Pennsylvanians" then Americans) be protected?

2. How would the central government's power be limited do that it could not take away peoples rights?

1. Federalism - The Federal system (also known as Division of Powers) was created. The federal government was given certain powers, the states were given certain powers and there were certain powers that they shared.

2. Checks and Balances: The government was divided into three branches. Each branch (Executive, Legislative and Judicial) was given certain powers that limited the powers of the other branches. In this way no one branch can gain too much power. This is also known as separation of powers.

The founding fathers also wrote the Bill of Rights.

These solutions and compromises formed the basis of the new American government written in a document called the Constitution of the United States.

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