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In 1786, , a lawyer and politician from , called for a constitutional convention to discuss the matter. The Confederation Congress, which in February 1787 endorsed the idea, invited all 13 states to send delegates to a meeting in Philadelphia.
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On May 25, 1787, the Constitutional Convention opened in Philadelphia at the State House, now known as Independence Hall, where the had been adopted 11 years earlier. There were 55 delegates in attendance, representing all 13 states except , which refused to send representatives because it did not want a powerful central government interfering in its economic business. , who’d become a national hero after leading the Continental Army to victory during the American Revolution, was selected as president of the convention by unanimous vote.
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At age 81, Pennsylvania’s (1706-90) was the oldest delegate, while the majority of the delegates were in their 30s and 40s. Political leaders not in attendance at the convention included (1743-1826) and (1735-1826), who were serving as U.S. ambassadors in Europe. (1745-1829), (1722-1803) and (1737-93) were also absent from the convention. Virginia’s (1736-99) was chosen to be a delegate but refused to attend the convention because he didn’t want to give the central government more power, fearing it would endanger the rights of states and individuals.
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Reporters and other visitors were barred from the convention sessions, which were held in secret to avoid outside pressures. However, Virginia’s (1751-1836) kept a detailed account of what transpired behind closed doors. (In 1837, Madison’s widow Dolley sold some of his papers, including his notes from the convention debates, to the federal government for $30,000.)