Constitution Daily

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On this day, the Constitutional Convention began

May 25, 2019 by NCC Staff


It was 232 years ago when the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia started in earnest and the first votes were taken at what is now called Independence Hall.

The delegates who gathered in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787 knew they were there for an important reason – the system of federal and state government under the Articles of Confederation was simply not working.

It was a financial disaster and barred the United States of America from having a global presence as a nation or trade partner.

But it’s doubtful that even the most farsighted of delegates, including James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, could have predicted how long the Constitution would last and how far-reaching it would become as a global blueprint for representative democratic government.

The first day began when a quorum of seven state delegations was reached. (The original start date for the convention was May 14, but travel and other problems delayed the Convention’s start.)

There were actually delegates from nine states in the room, but Massachusetts and Georgia only had one delegate each and couldn’t form official delegations.

In addition to establishing a quorum, three other measures were taken. First, George Washington was picked to preside over the Convention.

Then, William Jackson defeated William Temple Franklin, the grandson of Ben Franklin, in the first contested vote of the Convention, to be named as its secretary. (Ben Franklin was ill and not at the session on May 25.)

And finally, a three-man group was picked to draw up the rules for the Convention: Charles Pinckney, Alexander Hamilton and George Wythe.

According to James Madison’s notes, among the other delegates in the room were James Wilson, Rufus King, Robert Morris, Gouverneur Morris, George Read, George Mason, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. The debate over the rules would start on May 28, the first day that Ben Franklin arrived at the Convention.


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