While fighting their war for independence, Americans quickly realized the importance of framing new state governments. Leaders of the revolution thought that creating state governments would help underscore the fight for independence by implementing structures based on the consent of the governed. However, they seemed a little more reluctant to form a national government. They worried that forming a national government might undermine the very rights for which the people fought. Therefore, in the late 1770s and 1780s, the American people debated the framework of their new governments because no one was quite sure how much power to place in the hands of either the people or the national government.
In the end, most states adopted constitutions modeled on the British system. At the same time, they expanded the electorate to give the people a greater say in their government. At the national level, leaders initially created a weak central government in the Articles of Confederation so as to preserve the rights of the state. However, the ineffectiveness of the Confederation Congress pushed nationally-minded leaders to propose revisions to the overarching political framework. In 1787, delegates met in Philadelphia. Rather than revise the Articles, as the state legislatures instructed them, they devised an entirely new system that gave the central government greater authority but also tried to balance that power with the rights of the states. In 1788, although the people greatly debated the proposed framework, enough states ratified the document for the United States Constitution to take effect the following year. At that time, Americans looked to create the “more perfect union” the framers outlined in the preamble.