Jackie Gingrich Cushman

"The national government established during the war under the Articles of Confederation accurately embodies the cardinal conviction of revolutionary-era republicanism. Namely, that no central authority empowered to coerce or discipline the citizenry was permissible," Joseph Ellis wrote in "Founding Brothers," "since it merely duplicated the monarchial and aristocratic principles that the American Revolution had been fought to escape."

The Treaty of Paris, signed in September of 1783, marked the official end of the Revolutionary War. With our focus changing from external struggles to internal operations (how the country would operate), it became evident that a new structure was needed for our country. In February 1787, the Continental Congress called for a convention of state delegates to change the Articles of Confederation.

The delegates met in Philadelphia, where George Washington was elected to preside over the convention. Before the convention, James Madison and Washington met with other Virginia delegates. They came up with a structure for government, the Virginia Plan, which would divide the federal government into three branches -- legislative, executive and judicial. The populations of the states would determine the number of legislators. Great for big states (i.e., Virginia) concerning for small states.

William Patterson from New Jersey also submitted a plan, the New Jersey Plan. It included the same three branches of government, but with the single legislative body where each state would have the same number of votes. Good for small states, concerning for big states.

A compromise led to our current structure, bicameralism. Two legislative bodies: one determined by population, the other with each state equally represented.

Soon after ratification of the Constitution, the first 10 amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were added. Since then, 17 additional amendments have been passed.

As the 2012 presidential elections begin to heat up, it's important for all citizens to reflect and remember our heritage, and determine how it should be reflected in today's political arena.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.