Political compromise is an essential part of a democratic system of government. In the early years of the United States, political leaders struggled with many profound issues. The compromises they arrived at, for better or worse, shaped the young nation. The Grand and Connecticut Compromises After the Revolutionary War was over, the American leaders were faced with the daunting challenge of forming a new government. The city of Philadelphia hosted a convention for the purpose of creating a new constitution.
A primary concern of the delegates was the issue of representation. How would the rights of individual states be balanced against federal power? Federalists believed that a dominant central government was necessary for the survival of the nation. Anti-federalists, fearing tyranny, wanted power reserved to the states. The states often had disparate interests. Each state demanded equal representation in the new government. A compromise proposal was put forward by the delegates from Connecticut, and it was narrowly approved.
This compromise helped form the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House delegates would be elected by popular vote. Senators would, at first, be appointed by state legislatures. This extremely important compromise preserved the power of the states within the larger government. The compromise was brilliant, but not comprehensive. Initially, voting for the House was limited only to white men who paid taxes. Still, this was an improvement on the restrictive voting policies the some states had prior to the compromise.
The “Grand Compromise,” also reached at the Philadelphia convention included the three-fifths provision. This meant that for the purposes of the census each slave would count as three-fifths of a person. Slave states had argued that a slave should count the same as any other person when determining how many congressional representatives a state would have. Non-slave states argued that people who were not granted the rights and freedoms of citizenship should not be counted in the census.
The result of doing this would be that slave states would have more power in the government merely because of the fact that they kept slaves. The resulting compromise was odious, but necessary, for a young nation not yet willing or able to deal with the injustice of slavery. The Connecticut and Grand compromises paved the way to several other compromises at the convention. The Electoral College was created, and the federal census was instituted. This series of compromises created the institutions that were strong enough to hold the nation together, yet flexible enough to change over time.
This has allowed, over the centuries since, for greater inclusion and the maintenance of individual rights. The First Presidency George Washington played a central role in the early years of the new nation. His contribution can not be overstated. The wildly popular general was elected the first president of the United States. He attended the Constitutional Convention, and presided over the compromises made there. It was not long before the new president was embroiled in political disputes. Members of Washington’s own cabinet argued over financial issues.
Alexander Hamilton, the Treasury secretary, wanted to form a national bank. This bank would fund corporate growth and move the country away from its’ agricultural roots. Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State, disagreed. He felt that the Constitution did not give the authority to create a national bank. Washington negotiated a compromise bill that would create the bank, but not go as far as Hamilton had wanted to promote growth. It was one of many compromises Washington would be involved in as the new country grew its roots.