Articles of Confederation and the Constitution 1781

Chapter 9
 Greater equality among all social classes (rich/poor)
 Fought together during the war, bred a sense of equality
 Voting rights expanded—land qualifications for voting abandoned
in most states although money still required (had to pay taxes)
 Poor/lower class made up a large % of elected officials (In New
England less than 20% before the war to over 60% after)
 Greater freedoms for women
 Some debate over extending full rights to women, but never
 Legal restrictions on women relaxed somewhat in some states (right
to own property, etc.)
 Emancipation for (some) Slaves
 Gradual emancipation in the North
 Manumission (voluntary freeing of slaves) in a few places in the
South (DE, MD, VA)
 British freed many slaves during the war
 Most states outlawed the slave trade (if not slavery) after the war
 Articles of Confederation 1781 (took effect during the war)
 Each state was like an independent country loosely allied together
in the Confederation
 States had a lot of power over their own affairs
 King/Parliament replaced by Congress—Congress didn’t have very
many powers (couldn’t tax, regulate trade, etc.)
 Increase in “democracy” in the state constitutions
 Democracy vs republic
 State constitutions gave the people more power than they had
 Assemblies more powerful, governors weaker
 Governors and upper house elected by the people—not appointed like
 State Bills of Rights limited what the state governments could do
 Couldn’t limit freedom of speech, religion, etc
 Increase of religious freedom in the states
 Southern states ended official religions
 New England states didn’t abolish their official religions until the
early 1800’s, but had religious toleration
 Central government=Congress (no president, no courts)
 Congress replaced the role that King/Parliament had
played during colonial times
Each state had 1 vote: problems?
Most decisions required 9 out of 13 state approval:
Amending the Articles required unanimous approval:
Could not tax, could not regulate trade
 Why not? Who could do these things?
 Had control over foreign policy, the national military, post
office, western lands, Indian affairs (foreign policy)
 Technically the government that won the war vs. the
most powerful country in the world (Britain)
 Land Policy
 Got the states to cede most of their land claims to the
central government
 Northwest Ordinance of 1785 (new states, not new
 State governments held most of the power (almost
every law/tax of any importance was passed by the
state governments not the federal government) the
PEOPLE had a lot of control over the state
 Foreign Problems
 Indian attacks on the frontier (often supplied by
British/Spanish occupied large parts of US territory
(Northwest US, Southwest US)
Spanish refused to allow Americans access to Mississippi
US government couldn’t pay back Loyalists from
Revolutionary War—Treaty of Paris
North African Pirates (Barbary Pirates)
 Domestic Problems
 Debate about Vermont (claimed by both NY and NH)
 Couldn’t pay off debts from the war: why?
 Couldn’t regulate trade (different states had different
rules, states passing trade restrictions against each
 States passing paper money (had no value)
 Economy suffered—British imports killed US industry,
US lost access to British markets (Caribbean)
 Shays Rebellion—indebted Massachusetts farmers
closed down the state courts, stopped foreclosures—
 Domestic Problems
 US/State governments not paying off loans/debts
 What type of person did this hurt?
 Problems regulating trade
 Who did this hurt?
 Worthless paper money made it easy to pay off debts
 Who did this hurt?
 Bad economy, damaged industry
 Who did this hurt?
 Shays Rebellion
 Who did this concern?
 Nationalist School
John Fiske
The Critical Period of US History (1888)
Traditional view of the Articles of Confederation
Crisis Period in America
“Founding Fathers” saved America by replacing the Articles
with the Constitution
 Progressive School
Charles and Mary Beard (The Beards)
An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution (1913)
The Articles of Confederation weren’t that bad
Founders motivated by economic self interest
Constitution sacrificed state-level democracy for the
economic well being of the wealthy/powerful
 Articles of Confederation losing support (especially
among the upper class/business leaders)
 Shays Rebellion 1786-1787
 Annapolis Convention 1786
 fix problems related to interstate and international trade
 Didn’t do anything (problem too complicated) agreed to
meet again in Philadelphia to revise the entire Articles
 Philadelphia Convention 1787
 Revise the Articles of Confederation
 Make changes or completely replace???
 Basic Structure
 3 Branches: legislative (congress), executive (president),
judicial (supreme court)
 Federal System: power shared between state
governments and the national (federal) government
 Problems
 Congress:
 How many houses 1 (Virginia Plan) or 2 (New Jersey Plan)
(unicameral or bicameral)
 Representation based on population (VA) or equal (NJ)
 Slavery
 Allow slavery?
 Allow the slave trade???
 How do you count slaves for the purposes of voting?
 Connecticut Compromise
 2 house congress
 House of Representatives (lower house)
 Representation based on population
 Elected by the people every 2 years
 Senate (upper house)
 2 representatives per state regardless of size
 Elected by the state legislatures every 6 years*
 3/5ths Compromise
 For purposes of determining population for House of
Reps every 5 slaves would count as 3 people
 What type of precedent did this establish/what did this say
about the status of African Americans in the eyes of the US
 Constitution Much Less “democratic” than Articles
 States had less power—less easy for the people to
influence their government (Federalist #10)
 Senators elected by state legislatures NOT by popular
 President elected by Electoral College NOT by popular
 Supreme Court Justices appointed by the President and
confirmed by the Senate NOT elected by the people
 National (federal) government now had the power to:
Regulate interstate and international commerce
Borrow money
Coin money
Necessary and proper clause Art I, Sect 8, Clause 18
 State governments could no longer
 Make paper money
 Make their own trade regulations/ban trade from another
 Constitution was the supreme law of the land
 Constitutionfederal laws/treatiesstate laws
 Amendment Process
 Amendments needed to pass both houses of Congress
by a 2/3rds majority
 ¾ of the States needed to ratify them
 Presidency
 1 decisive leader
 Had the power to veto laws, congress could override the
veto with 2/3 majorities in both houses
 Supreme Court
 Justices served for life, appointed by President
 Problem:
 How do you keep the national government from gaining too
much power?
 Rely on people’s good nature not to abuse their power?
 Rely on people’s bad nature to seek as much power for
themselves as they can?
 Solution:
 People will seek as much power for themselves as they can so
construct the government so that in order for one branch to
gain power they must take it from another
 Greedy individuals in all 3 branches will constantly undercut
one another’s power (check) and this will result in no one
branch growing too powerful (balance)
 Constitution would take effect when 9 out of 13 states ratified it
 What would happen to the other 4 who didn’t?
 Federalists in favor, antifederalists opposed
 Federalists: by the coast, in the big cities, merchants, factory
workers, the wealthy, bankers, creditors
 Antifederalists: backcountry, rural, farmers, poorer, debtors
 September 1787 Constitution finished
 Dec 1787 first state ratified it (Delaware)
 1788 9 states had ratified—Constitution took effect
 VA, NY, NC, and RI hadn’t, US needed these states (especially NY
and VA)
 Promise to draft a national Bill of Rights won over most of the
holdouts (RI didn’t ratify until after the completion of the Bill of
Rights 1790)

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