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Digital History ID 3238

 

The Constitution represented compromises, some of which succeeded brilliantly and others that left an enormous burden to the generations that followed.

Over the course of the debates, the delegates reached agreement on certain fundamental principles. They achieved a consensus that in a republican government, power should be divided among three separate branches--legislative, executive, and judicial, a principle enshrined in most state constitutions. They also agreed that:

  • the central government should have direct power to tax;
  • the new House of Representatives should be elected directly by the people;
  • there should be periodic elections;
  • the national government should have the sole power to regulate interstate and foreign trade.

They rejected Benjamin Franklin's suggestion that public servants should receive no salary. They also rejected a proposal for an executive branch composed of three persons. One year terms for members of the House were voted down out of concern that members would spend all their time traveling. Three year terms were rejected for fear members would lose touch with their constituencies. The discussion on the length of term for the present proved difficult to resolve. Proposals ranged from three years to twenty years. To insure that the poorer states could not tax the richer states, the Constitution provided that the House of Representatives had exclusive authority to originate bills raising revenue.

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