What Was the Original Purpose of the 1787 Philadelphia Convention?

The purpose of the 1787 Philadelphia Convention was to the replace the Articles of Confederation. Although the Articles of Confederation had provided a temporary government that enabled the colonists to organize and enter into war with Britain, the government they created was weak. The colonists found it necessary to better define the powers of government for the newly formed United States.

Over the course of nearly two months, members of the convention reviewed three plans before the final model government was conceived. The first plan to be reviewed was that of James Madison. Madison's plan, now known as the Virginia plan, imagined a government in which government representation was based upon population. Less-populated states disapproved of this plan, because it gave more power to those states with larger populations. The next plan reviewed was William Patterson's "New Jersey" plan. Unlike Madison's plan, all states, regardless of population, got one vote in Congress. There was some concern, however, about other powers Congress gained in the adoption of the plan. Alexander Hamilton then presented a plan that included two houses in Congress. After much debate, the convention forged a compromise that integrated elements of all three plans. The final result was a Congress devised of two houses, one in which all states had an equal amount of representation and one in which representation was based upon population.