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US Constitution – Background and Constitutional Convention, 1783-87

4. The Constitutional Convention

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About this Lecture


In this module we explore the key event of the Constitutional Convention, focusing in particular on: (i) the fact that the proceedings were not strictly official; (ii) that they nevertheless enjoyed a certain degree of legitimacy, largely due to the presence of key well-regarded figures including George Washington; (iii) other important individuals, particularly James Madison; (iv) the key issues facing the Constitutional Convention, including questions of sovereignty, representation, and slavery; (v) the compromises made during the Convention concerning these issues.


This course offers an in-depth exploration of the historical background to the US Constitution, up to and including the Constitutional Convention of 1787. In the first lecture, we consider the US in 1783, at the end of the War of Independence, focusing on the internal and external problems facing the country as a post-colonial state. We look in-depth at the Declaration of Independence and consider its implications as the ‘mission statement’ of the new United States. In the second lecture, we explore the strengths and weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation in enabling a form of proto-federal government. Then, in the third lecture, we explore in-depth the problems facing the United States under the Articles of Confederation and the movement to replace the Articles of Confederation with a more robust constitution. In the fourth lecture, we explore the key problems and compromises reached during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787. This leads us to our fifth and final lecture, in which we consider the document of the Constitution itself.


Professor Frank Cogliano's research is mainly concerned with the political, cultural and diplomatic history of revolutionary and early national America. In 2008 he edited a collection on The Atlantic Enlightenment with Professor Susan Manning of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. His 2006 book, 'Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy', offered the first study of Jefferson’s reputation in fifty years. He also recently edited the Blackwell Companion to Thomas Jefferson. His latest book, 'Emperor of Liberty: Thomas Jefferson's Foreign Policy​' was published by Yale University Press in 2014. He runs a week-long seminar on the Age of Jefferson for schoolteachers from across the United States at Monticello sponsored by the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History and has been president of the Scottish Association for the Study of America. He is currently a member of the advisory board of the International Center for Jefferson Studies.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Cogliano, F. (2022, January 05). US Constitution – Background and Constitutional Convention, 1783-87 - The Constitutional Convention [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Cogliano, Frank. "US Constitution – Background and Constitutional Convention, 1783-87 – The Constitutional Convention." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 05 Jan 2022,

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