American Political Science Review


Madison's Opponents and Constitutional Design

a1 University of Missouri—St. Louis


Understanding what James Madison's opponents sought and won at the U.S. Constitutional Convention revises our understanding of the founders' original intentions for the durable framework that has structured American political development. The Constitution is the by-product of expedient accommodations forced on Madison. Madison sought broad national authority independent of state governments and a swift victory for population-based congressional representation. Delegates from economically disadvantaged states opposed these plans, seeking instead to nationalize only selective public goods, to maintain most state policy autonomy, and to minimize contingencies imposed by other governments. Connecticut's delegates, particularly Roger Sherman, played a pivotal role in spoiling Madison's agenda and altering his substantive plans for Constitutional design. Madison's Convention opponents are responsible for a Constitution that nationalized only enumerated public goods and imposed potentially high transaction costs on any further nationalization of policy authority. They helped make federalism a lasting political weapon used to win substantive policy outcomes.

c1 David Brian Robertson is Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Missouri—St. Louis, One University Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63121-4499 (