Meet The Framers of the Constitution
Who were the men who attended the Constitutional Convention during the steaming summer of 1787? They were some of the most famous and important men in America. According to one historian, the delegates were the “well-bred, well-fed, well-wed, and well-read.”
In all, there were 55 who attended these secret proceedings, though they were never there all at once. The four illustrated here were among the most influential.
Hamilton was born on an island in the British West Indies. His thirst for education brought him to New York for schooling three years before the American Revolution. Not long after arriving in the United States, he picked up the Patriots’ cause and served as a colonel during the Revolution on George Washington’s staff.
He and Washington developed a lifelong alliance. Hamilton was confident and was considered more ambitious than all the other delegates at the convention. He argued strongly for a powerful central government.
There was not much that Franklin had not crossed off his list by the time he arrived at the convention.
He had started a newspaper, published a colonial bestseller, started a volunteer fire department, and was also a philosopher, scientist, inventor, and diplomat.
Eighty-one years old at the time of the
convention, Franklin was in poor health but nonetheless contributed his prestige, common sense, and wit to the proceedings. When the convention ended after four months of secrecy, a woman asked him what the delegates had produced. His reply? “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Madison was 36 years old when he arrived at the convention. Shy
and scholarly, he chose a seat up front and did not miss a single day. Despite the fact that Madison stood to speak over 100 times at the convention, his voice was so feeble that oftentimes, many could not hear him. Of all the delegates, Madison was the most prepared,
arriving with an idea for a plan of government that he had previously outlined in letters to Thomas
Jefferson and George Washington.
The leader of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, Washington was truly a national hero. When he arrived in Philadelphia May 13 for the convention, the city suddenly came to life. Although heat, humidity, black flies, and rain had kept most
residents locked inside for several weeks, a crowd of people formed outside to cheer Washington’s arrival.
Chosen as the presiding officer at the convention, Washington never missed a session or arrived late.
How do you think the experiences and backgrounds of the Framers influenced the way the Constitution was shaped? Do you think a more diverse group would have written a different document altogether? Explain.
pose as delegates and stage a mock Constitutional Convention at which you debate the Virginia and New Jersey plans and reach a compromise about a new plan for government. You should choose a delegate from a list that includes major figures such as Hamilton, Franklin, Madison, and Washington and others who represent a balance of viewpoints on the issues. you should then research your delegates’ views, actions, and allies at the convention, and use their research to write brief position statements on issues that arose in the discussion of proposals for a national government.
To make the convention seem authentic, I suggest that you dress as their delegates or use props appropriate to the people chosen. Open the convention to the rest of the class so that they can observe the speeches, debate, and other interactions among delegates. Everyone else will write articles describing the debate and delegates’ participation in it.