Explain what inspired the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The expressed purpose of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was to revise the Articles of Confederation. Several realities emerged from life under the Articles of Confederation which indicated to the framers that the government was not working.  The idea of the Articles being "a loose confederation of states" as opposed to a national union was proving to be a challenge.  Different states had different laws, making it so that moving from one state to another was akin to going to a different nation.  Rules in one state were not being upheld in another.  States operated outside of one another, something that proved to be difficult to navigate in the new nation.  Such a condition of being horrified George Washington as he articulated the need to do something else:

I am mortified beyond expression when I view the clouds that have spread over the brightest morn that ever dawned upon any country. You talk of employing influence to appease the present tumults in Massachusetts. Influence is no government. Let us have a government by which our lives, liberties and properties will be secured; or let us know the worst at once.

Along these lines, the inability to collect federal taxes proved to be another reason why the Articles needed to be revised.  Under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government needed consent from the states in order to collect taxes and generate federal revenue.  The states would naturally feel disinclined to given their consent.  As a result, the federal debt was staggering for the new nation.  Fighting the American Revolution endured significant financial cost, expenditures that could only be paid.  The need to revamp the relationship between state and federal governments demonstrated another source from where the Constitutional Convention was inspired.  Finally, the bloodshed caused by Shays' Rebellion was a convincing factor that something needed to be done to make government more responsive.  When Daniel Shays and a group of farmers attempted to take over government through a violent uprising that was motivated by economic hardship and marginalization, the framers became concerned that the Articles of Confederation were simply not working.  In both the causation and response to the rebellion, the framers concluded that something more in terms of government was needed. These factors helped to inspire the Constitutional Convention of 1787.