Why Was the Constitution a Controversial Document Even as It Was Being Written

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The Constitution of the United States, drafted in 1787, is widely regarded as one of the most important documents in American history. However, during its creation, it faced significant controversy and debate. This essay will argue that the Constitution was a controversial document even as it was being written due to disagreements over issues such as representation, the balance of power, and the protection of individual rights.


One of the major points of contention during the drafting of the Constitution was the issue of representation. Smaller states were concerned about being overshadowed by larger states in the legislative branch. This led to the creation of the Great Compromise, which established a bicameral legislature with equal representation in the Senate and proportional representation in the House of Representatives. The compromise was necessary to gain the support of smaller states, but it sparked debates over the fair distribution of power between states.

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Balance of Power

Another area of contention was the balance of power between the federal government and the states. Some delegates favored a strong central government, believing it was necessary to maintain order and prevent the fragmentation of the country. However, others, particularly Anti-Federalists, feared that a strong central government would infringe upon individual liberties and erode state sovereignty. These concerns led to the inclusion of the Tenth Amendment in the Bill of Rights, explicitly reserving powers not delegated to the federal government to the states.

Protection of Individual Rights

The absence of a clear statement protecting individual rights within the original Constitution was met with opposition. Many argued that the document lacked sufficient safeguards for personal freedoms and liberties. This criticism prompted the demand for a Bill of Rights to be added to the Constitution. It was through this process that the first ten amendments were eventually incorporated, ensuring protections such as freedom of speech, religion, and the right to a fair trial.

Slavery and Compromises

Perhaps the most significant and contentious issue during the drafting of the Constitution was the institution of slavery. Southern states, reliant on slave labor, sought to protect their economic interests and preserve the legality of slavery. Northern states, on the other hand, expressed growing concerns about the morality and ethics of slavery. The compromise reached was the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted enslaved individuals as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of determining representation in Congress. This compromise exemplified the deep divisions over the issue of slavery and highlighted the moral conflict present within the document itself.


The Constitution of the United States was a controversial document even as it was being written due to disagreements over representation, the balance of power, the protection of individual rights, and the institution of slavery. The compromise and negotiations that took place during its drafting demonstrate the complex nature of the challenges faced by the framers. While the Constitution was ultimately ratified and has served as the foundation of American democracy, it is essential to recognize the controversies and compromises that shaped its creation. The ongoing debates and interpretations of the Constitution throughout history reinforce the importance of critical analysis and the need to continually address and reconcile the issues that arose during its formation.

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Why Was the Constitution a Controversial Document Even as It Was Being Written. (2024, February 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/why-was-the-constitution-a-controversial-document-even-as-it-was-being-written/
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