less than 1 minute read

Federal Powers and Separation of Powers

Constitution Of The United States

The Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia on 25 May 1787 with the intention to revise the Articles of Confederation. After much debate and compromise, the framers decided to create a stronger central government with three branches--legislative, executive, and judicial. The framers based this structure on the separation of powers, a concept developed by the eighteenth century philosopher Montesquieu. Montesquieu's theory was that tyranny usually results when power is concentrated in a single government body. After their experience with Great Britain, the framers intended to balance power among various bodies, resulting in a fairer government.

The details led to conflict over the power to be divided. Virginia submitted a plan for a bicameral (two-house) legislature whose representatives would be elected by the states based on their population. This proposal favored heavily populated states. New Jersey countered with a plan for a unicameral (one-house) legislature based on equal representation for all states. The New Jersey plan gave less populated states an equal voice in federal government. The resolution of this conflict became known as the Connecticut Compromise. The framers agreed to a bicameral legislature with a Senate based on equal representation for the states and a House of Representatives based on the population of each state.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationGreat American Court CasesFederal Powers and Separation of Powers - Preamble, The Tyranny Of The Monarchy, The Articles Of Confederation, Constitution Of The United States