Constitutional Convention

Engraving of Independence Hall, based on a drawing done by Charles Willson Peale in 1778
Courtesy of Library of Congress

Many felt that the Continental Congress was too weak to resolve problems such as the mounting national debt and conflicts between the states. The Congress reluctantly called for a convention to revise the Articles of Confederation.

The Constitutional Convention met at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pa. from May 25 to September 17, 1787. Every state except Rhode Island sent delegates--mostly well to do members of the states' political establishments. Fearing that the proceedings would spark public debate, the delegates stationed armed sentinels at the doors and held the sessions in secrecy. In the end, they created a new form of government, with three branches and checks and balances among them.

Only the vaguest notion of the American presidency emerged from these proceedings; those who followed would have to make this new institution work.