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A Bundle of Compromises

The convention spent much of its time, said Franklin, “sawing boards to make them fit.” The Constitution drafted at Philadelphia has often been called a “bundle of compromises.”  These descriptions are apt, if they are properly understood.

There were differences of opinion among the delegates, certainly.  After all, the delegates from 12 different States were widely separated in geographic and economic terms.  The delegates often reflected the interests of their States.  Bringing these interests together did require compromise.  Indeed, final decisions on the issues such as selection of the President, the treaty-making process, the structure of the national court system, and the amendment process were reached as a result of compromise.

But by no means did all, or even most, of what shaped the document come from compromises.  The Framers agreed on many of the basic issues they faced.  Thus, nearly all the delegates were convinced that a new national government, a federal government, had to be created, and had to have the powers necessary to deal with the nation’s grave social and economic problems. The Framers were also dedicated to the concepts of popular sovereignty and of limited government.  None questioned for a moment the wisdom of representative government.  The principles of separation of powers and of checks and balances were accepted almost as a matter of course.

Many disputes did occur, and the compromises by which they were resolved came only after hours and even days and even weeks of heated debate.  The point here, however, is that the differences were not over the most fundamental questions.  They involved, instead, such vital but lesser points as these:  the details of the structure of Congress, the method by which the President was to be chosen, and the practical limits that should be put on the several powers to be given to the new central government.

The Constitution has been called a “bundle of compromises”.  Is this an accurate description of the document?  Explain your answer giving examples.