Events: Creation of the Constitution


In 1786, about 700 debt-ridden farmers led by Daniel Shays took part in a violent uprising in western Massachusetts. They attacked courthouses to stop officials from foreclosing on farms. The farmers rebelled against state taxes that were difficult to pay due to the economic depression. The Massachusetts militia was called to end the mob violence. Many Americans saw Shays’ Rebellion as a sign that the Articles of Confederation was not working. Fearing a future crisis, leaders called for a convention to discuss how to solve the problems with the Articles. This led to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia and the creation of a stronger national government.
In May 1787, fifty-five delegates from every state except Rhode Island met at the Philadelphia State House to revise the Articles of Confederation. They kept their proceedings secret so that they could freely discuss their ideas. Well-known faces, such as Benjamin Franklin and George Washington (elected president of the Convention), were present as well as young delegates such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. Thomas Jefferson was not present because he was serving as U.S. diplomat in France. John Adams was not present because he was serving as U.S. diplomat in England. By September, the delegates had scrapped the Articles of Confederation and created a strong federal union instead of a loose confederation of states. They signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787, and called on the states to hold special ratifying conventions to approve or reject this new government. In 1789, the new U.S. Constitution was ratified and became law.