A Legacy of Leadership: Abraham Baldwin and the Constitutional Convention

Charles Frederick Naegele, Abraham Baldwin, Oil on canvas, 55 5/8 x 4 1/2 inches (sight), Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia: gift of F. Phinizy Calhoun, GMOA 1949.214

In classrooms across Georgia, students learn about Abraham Baldwin, one of two Georgians who signed the United States Constitution. Baldwin represented Georgians at the Constitutional Convention (May-September 1787), and contributed to one of the foundational documents of the United States of America. His leadership during the early years of our state and nation takes center stage in this Profiles in Leadership installment.

Founded as a colony in 1733, Georgia was still very young at the end of the American Revolution and a land of opportunity for newcomers. Abraham Baldwin, a Yale graduate, moved to Georgia in the early 1780s, eventually settling in Augusta where he began a career in law and politics. His advocacy for education as a means of advancing Georgia’s future included the development of a comprehensive educational plan that eventually resulted in a charter for the state’s first public college, the University of Georgia.

Trade was solidifying as the colony transitioned into a state. Georgia also lay at the edge of unclaimed territories, vulnerable to attacks along its frontier. The Articles of Confederation, adopted in 1781, held little power to strengthen or protect it. Because of his work with the University, Baldwin was elected to represent Georgia during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Page 1 of US Constitutional Draft, Annotated by Abraham Baldwin, Georgia Historical Society, MS 1703-01-02-01 

Baldwin arrived in Philadelphia in early June. Later, he would consider his work on what became known as the Great Compromise, the creation of a bicameral legislature, to be his greatest Constitutional legacy. Today, we might add to that legacy the priceless contribution of his original draft copy of the U.S. Constitution. A treasured part of the GHS collection, Baldwin’s copy contains his hand-written margin notes, giving unique insight into the fascinating process of developing our American governmental systems.

The Georgia Historical Society invites you to learn more about Abraham Baldwin through our online resources. Watch our popular video series on Abraham Baldwin and the Constitutional Convention on our education blog Sophia’s Schoolhouse.  Read more about Abraham Baldwin’s life and legacy with our featured historical figure resources and view Abraham Baldwin’s Draft Copy of the U.S. Constitution through our digital image catalog.

Other Sources

New Georgia Encyclopedia: Abraham Baldwin

Today in Georgia History: November 22, 1754