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Was the Constitutional Convention legal? Previous Next
Digital History ID 3232


Benjamin Rush declared that the Revolution was not complete until America's institutions were transformed in accordance with the premises of liberty. The Revolution was not completed until the framers had drafted the Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation required that Congress propose any amendments and that these changes be adopted unanimously.

In September 1786, 12 delegates from five states met in Annapolis, Md., and issued a call for a second convention to be held in Philadelphia in May 1787, to consider changes that "may be necessary to their common interest and their permanent harmony."

Madison and his allies persuaded Congress, after months of inaction, to endorse the Constitutional Convention, though the members imposed severe restrictions on the convention's mandate. On February 21, 1787, the Confederation Congress passed a resolution calling for a convention to discuss "revisions" and "alterations" of the Union.

Madison also convinced Edmund Randolph, the governor of Virginia, to correspond with other governors and legislatures to persuade them to attend the convention. At the head of the list of delegates from Virginia, Madison and Randolph placed the name of George Washington, without consulting the general.

On the question of the legality of the Convention, Washington would say this: "The legality of this Convention I do not mean to discuss.... That powers are wanting, none can deny.... That which takes the shortest course to obtain them, will, in my opinion, under present circumstances, be found best. Otherwise, like a house on fire, whilst the most regular mode of extinguishing it is contended for, the building is reduced to ashes."

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