After declaring independence from Great Britain, America’s leaders initially created a document called Articles of Confederation which established a "firm league of friendship" between the thirteen states. Without a central government, however, the system did not work well. After the war was fought, and won, the country needed a new Constitution.
Drafting a Constitution was not as quick, or as easy, as one might think. A key issue involved how much power to give a central government.
Should important policies be decided locally or nationally? How could people running a central government, in a distant city, know what was best for people in other states? And ... who would say whether laws in the new republic were constitutional?
During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, held in Philadelphia at the State House (where an American flag was first raised and is known today as Independence Hall), delegates from each of the thirteen states, except Rhode Island, fiercely debated, in closed sessions, the powers a central government should have.
By the end of July, delegates were ready to have a "committee of detail," working in secret, put the various resolutions into a written constitution. Edmund Randolph (from Virginia) prepared a rough draft.
The working draft was finely tuned by the "committee of style," principally Gouverneur Morris (known today as the “penman of the Constitution”). After the committees finalized it, and the convention delegates (on September 17, 1787) approved the Constitution - then without a Bill of Rights - John Dunlap and his partner, David Claypoole, first printed the document so the public could assess it.
To become law, nine of the thirteen colonies (now called states) had to approve.
To persuade voters in New York to ratify the new constitution, which created a strong central government and federal courts, three of America’s founding fathers (Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay), writing under the pseudonym “Publius,” published essays (this first edition was once owned by Thomas Jefferson) collectively known as The Federalist Papers. In Federalist 78, Hamilton examines the issue of federal courts.
They would be, he assures his readers, the "least dangerous" branch of a new federal government.