Section Two
The Need for a new Constitution becomes
Shays’ Rebellion and the Constitutional
Author: Michelle Williams
Section Two Summary
• By the end of this section, you will…
– Understand why there was a need for
Constitutional reform
– Know what important historical events
contributed to the need for a new Constitution
– Learn about the Constitutional Convention and
the process of drafting a new constitution
Why was there a need for
Constitutional Reform?
• Recap: What Problems did the Articles
of Confederation fail to address???
Recap: Why the Articles
were no longer working
Little more than a “League of Friendship”
Most power held by individual states
Weak Central Government
No way to tax
No Judicial System
States had trouble agreeing on just about
Shays’ Rebellion: The Need
for Reform becomes Clear
Shays’ Rebellion
Shays’ Rebellion
• Farmers rebel against the current
Administration over their rights
• Daniel Shays, former Revolutionary War
hero, leads the revolt against the
Massachusetts state government
• Neither the national government or MA
state government could gather enough
troops to suppress the revolt
The Effects of Shays’ Rebellion:
the problems with the Articles
could no longer be ignored
• States feared revolts from their own
• The need for a stronger government
clearer than ever before
– National troops needed to be established
– Tax reform critical
– Central government must have more power!
The Articles were clearly
not working… What next???
• Founders could no longer
ignore the failures of the
Articles (Shays’
• Founders hold the
Constitutional Convention
in Philadelphia in May 1787
• Initially intended to
reform the Articles
• Instead, a whole new
document was written
Delegates struggle to agree
on a plan of government
• The Challenge faced by delegates: Creating
a government strong enough to preserve
order without threatening personal liberty
• Multiple Plans Proposed
– The New Jersey Plan
– The Virginia Plan
– The “Great Compromise” aka the Connecticut Plan
The New Jersey Plan
• Proposed to just
amend, not replace
• Benefited small states
like Vermont, New
Jersey, and
• One House Legislature
• Congress chose house
The Virginia Plan
• Used as the basic framework
for the new constitution
• Tried to appease both small
and large states
• National legislature would
have supremacy over states
• Small states still felt left out
The Solution?
The “Great Compromise” helps
form the new constitution
• The Great Compromise proposed a bicameral
legislature to appease both small and large states
• Senate: has equal representation – 2
senators per state (favors small states)
• House of Representatives: based on state
population (favors large states)
Framework of the New
• National government would have
power to raise taxes, manage
national armed forces, make court
decisions, impose decisions and
rules upon the states
• Divided into three branches of
government: Executive, Judicial,
and Legislative
• System of “Checks and Balances”
instated to prevent any one branch
from having too much power
• States still have some power –
political authority is divided
between national government and
state governments (known as
Summary of key concepts
• Articles were failing miserably
• Shays’ Rebellion pushed the need for reform
• Founders struggled with how to appease both
large and small states
• The “Great Compromise” was their solution
• The new government would have three branches
with a system of checks and balances
• States still had some power – (Federalism)
Think Ahead…
• What do you think is the most
important problem addressed by
the new Constitution?
• Getting the states to approve the
new constitution was not easy –
what sort of problems do you
envision the framers had in
getting states to adopt their new
form of government?
Interactive notebook activity:
Task: In your interactive notebooks, pretend that you are one of the
delegates attending the Constitutional Convention. While at the
convention, you are asked to give a speech about what you think
are the most important issues that need to be addressed in the
new Constitution. Write your speech in your notebooks. When
finished, volunteers will present their speeches to the class.
Scenario One: You are asked to be a delegate at the Constitutional
Convention for the state of Vermont (a very small state.) When given your
turn to speak, what sorts of problems and concerns do you want the new
constitution to address? How can the new constitution ensure that small
states will have a say?
Scenario two: You are asked to be a delegate at the Constitutional
Convention for the state of Virginia (a large state.) When given your turn
to speak, what sorts of problems and concerns do you want the new
constitution to address? How can the new constitution ensure that large
states will be given enough representation to reflect their large population
Wilson, James Q. and DiIuLio, John J. American
Government: The Essentials. Copyright 2001, Houghton
Mifflin Company, Boston and New York, pps 22-36.

Day Two PowerPoint: Constitutional Convention, Shays