The Confederation and the Constitution
The Pursuit of Equality
The Continental Army officers formed an exclusive hereditary order called the Society of the Cincinnati.
Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom- created in 1786 by Thomas Jefferson and his co-reformers; stated that religion should not be imposed on anybody and that each person decided his/her own faith.
The Philadelphia Quakers in 1775 founded the first anti-slavery society.
The 1st Continental Congress called for the complete abolition of the slave trade in 1774. Several northern states went further and either abolished slavery altogether or provided the gradual emancipation of slaves. No states south of Pennsylvania abolished slavery.
Constitution Making in the States
The 2nd Continental Congress called upon the colonies in 1776 to draft new constitutions. Massachusetts called a special convention to draft its constitution and then submitted the final draft to the people.
As written documents, the state constitutions were intended to represent a fundamental law, superior to the short-lived impulses of ordinary legislation.
In the Revolutionary era, the capitals of New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia were all moved westward.
Economic democracy preceded political democracy.
Due to the independence from Britain, the United States had to make everything on its own which it no longer imported from Britain.
Many Americans were poor because the economy was so bad.
Creating a Confederation
Shortly before declaring independence in 1776, the 2nd Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft a written constitution for the new nation. The finished product was the Articles of Confederation. It was adopted by Congress in 1777 and it convinced France that America had a genuine government in the making. The Articles of Confederation wasn't ratified by all 13 colonies until 1781.
The Articles of Confederation: America's First Constitution
The 13 colonies were joined together for joint action in dealing with common problems such as foreign affairs.
Congress had 2 major handicaps: It had no power to regulate commerce, and this loophole left the states free to establish conflictingly laws regarding tariffs and navigation. Congress couldn't enforce its tax collection program. The states were NOT required to pay the government taxes, they were merely asked.
Landmarks in Land Laws
Land Ordinance of 1785- stated that the acreage of the Old Northwest should be sold and the proceeds should be used to help pay off the national debt.
Northwest Ordinance of 1787- a uniform national land policy; created the Northwest Territories and gave the land to the government, the land could then be purchased by individuals; when a territory had 60,000 people, it might be admitted by Congress as a state, with all the privileges of the 13 other states.
The World's Ugly Duckling
Britain declined to make any commercial treaty with the colonies or to repeal its Navigation Laws. Lord Sheffield argued in his pamphlet that Britain could win back America's trade.
The British remained in the Americas where they maintained their fur trade with the Indians. The American states did not honor the treaty of peace in regard to debts and Loyalists. The British stayed primarily to keep the Indians on the side of the British so to defend against future attacks on Canada by the Americans.
Spain was openly unfriendly to the Americans. It closed off the Mississippi river to commerce in 1784.
The Horrid Specter of Anarchy
Shay's Rebellion- in western Massachusetts in 1786; when impoverished back-country farmers, who were losing their farms through mortgage foreclosures and tax delinquencies, attempted to enforce their demands of cheap paper money, lighter taxes, and a suspension of property takeovers; led by Captain Daniel Shays. The uprising was crushed but it left fear in the propertied class of mobs.
A Convention of "Demigods"
In 1786, Virginia called for a convention at
Annapolis, Maryland. There, Alexander Hamilton saved the convention from collapsing - delegates from only 5 states showed up. He called upon Congress to
summon a convention to meet in Philadelphia the next year, not to deal with just
commerce, but to fix then entire fabric of the Articles of Confederation.
On May 25, 1787, 55 representatives from all of the states except for Rhode Island were sent to Philadelphia to talk of the government in the future of the country. (Constitutional Convention) George Washington was elected as the leader.
Patriots in Philadelphia
The delegates hoped to save the revolutionary idealism and make it into a strong political structure.
Hammering Out a Bundle of Compromises
Some of the delegates decided they would scrap the old Articles of Confederation, contradicting instructions from Congress to revise it.
The "large-state plan" was proposed by Virginia and was first pushed forward as the framework of the Constitution. It said that the arrangement in Congress should be based upon a state's population.
New Jersey presented the "small-state plan." It centered on equal representation in Congress without regards to a state's size or population.
The "Great Compromise" of the convention was hammered out and finally agreed upon. It called for representation by population in the House of Representatives, and equal representation in the Senate. Each state would have 2 senators. The new Constitution also called for a President. Because of arguments over if the slaves would count towards the general population of the state, the "three-fifths compromise" was created. The new Constitution also called for the end of the slave trade by the end of 1807. All new state constitutions except Georgia's forbade overseas slave trade.
Rhode Island was not present at the Constitutional Convention.
Safeguards for Conservatism
The members of the Constitutional Convention agreed economically-demanded sound money and the protection of private property; and politically-favored a stronger government with 3 branches and with checks and balances among them.
The Clash of Federalists and Anti-federalists
The Anti-federalists were led by Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and Richard Henry Lee. The followers consisted of states' rights devotees, back country dwellers, and one-horse farmers - in general, the poorest class.
Federalists were led by George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Most of the Federalists lived in the settled areas along the seaboard. Overall, they were wealthier than the Anti-federalists, more educated, and better organized. They also controlled the press.
The Great Debate in the States
Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, and New Hampshire were the first 9 states to sign the Constitution. Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island were the only states to not sign it. (4 Laggard States)
The Four Laggard States
Virginia, New York, and North Carolina all ratified the Constitution before it was put into effect. Rhode Island was the last state to ratify it and it did so only after the new government had been in operation for a few months.
These 4 states did not ratify the Constitution because they wanted to but because they had to. They could not safely exist outside the fold.
A Conservative Triumph
The architects of the Constitution contented that every branch-executive, judiciary, and legislative-effectively represented the people.
By imbedding the principle of self-rule in a self-limiting system of checks and balances among these 3 branches, the Constitution settled the conflicting doctrines of liberty and order.