The delegates came from vastly different states, each with its own special interests. There were big and small states, states in the South that relied heavily on slavery, and states in the North that were less dependent on slavery (see No. 3). How were they ever going to agree on anything?
It didn’t take long for the convention to turn tense. Five days into the deliberations, a delegate from Delaware was threatening to bolt. And two of New York’s three delegates did end up walking out, leaving Alexander Hamilton as the state’s lone representative.
One of the big issues that almost destroyed the convention was how to apportion members of Congress. Delegates from the larger states, led by Virginia, wanted members of Congress apportioned based on state populations. But the smaller states, led by New Jersey, favored having an equal number of representatives from each state.
After weeks of fierce debates ending in stalemates, many in the room began to doubt whether a new government would ever be formed. Then, on
July 5, Roger Sherman, a delegate from Connecticut, presented a solution, known forevermore as the Great Compromise. Each state, regardless of size, would elect two senators, while the House of Representatives would be apportioned based on state populations.
There are still debates today about whether this solution put too much power in the hands of small, less-populous states. But at the time, says Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, “it was a compromise that saved the Constitution.”