Chapter 9: The Confederation and the Constitution 1776-1790

  • American Revolution was more an accelerated evolution than full-out revolution
  • With the exodus of aristocratic Loyalists, Patriot elites emerge, and egalitarian ideas

The Pursuit of Equality:

  • Most states reduced property-holding reqs for voting
  • Ordinary people - Mr. and Mrs.
  • No more primogeniture (property to oldest son)
  • Separation of church and state - "Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom"
  • Anglican church severed, changes into Episcopal Church
  • Quakers - first anti-slavery movement
  • Continental Congress in 1774 called for complete abolition of the slave trade.
  • Slavery abolished in many northern states.
  • Freed blacks heavily discriminated, interracial marriage banned
  • Women still unequal - temporary women's right to vote in NJ
  • "Republican Motherhood" - mothers had the responsibility to raise kids morally upright - civic virtue - republicanism.

Constitution Making in the States:

  • Continental Congress of 1776 called for colonies to draft new constitutions
  • MA constitution set precedent for US constitution
  • Capitals of New Hampshire, NY, VA, NC, SC all shifted west

Economic Crosscurrents:

  • Large Loyalists' holdings confiscated and divided into small farms - boosted economy.
  • Water wheels and soil tilling
  • No more trade w/ Britain :(
  • Most people were more economically worse off after the revolution
  • China trade

A Shaky Start Toward Union:

  • Colonies not united
  • Britain's industries trampling them
  • All colonies led by fundamental "democracy" principles

Creating a Confederation:

  • Articles of Confederation adopted by Congress in 1777
  • 6 states (PA, MD) jealous that other states (NY, VA) would gain new land.
  • Congress agreed to use land for common good, and make "republican" states admitted to the Union - Northwest Ordinance of 1787

The Articles of Confederation:

  • Provided for a loose confederation or "firm league of friendship"
  • No executive branch, judicial left to the states, just 1 national Congress
  • Each state had one vote in Congress - bills needed 9/13 votes, amendments of Articles needed 13/13 votes => amending process unworkable.
  • Handicaps of Congress: no power to regulate commerce, no power to enforce tax-collection program. Just asked for taxes on voluntary basis.
  • National government (Philadelphia) could not command any individual under a sovereign state
  • They needed a tight FEDERATION: all states submit to federal government, but states could control local affairs.
  • Articles of Confederation were a necessary stepping stone from boycott agreement of The Association (1774) to the Constitution of the United States.

Landmarks in Land Laws:

  • "Old Northwest" - NW of Ohio River, East of Mississippi River, South of Great Lakes
  • Land Ordinance of 1785 - Old NW should be sold and money used to pay off national debt.
  • Northwest Ordinance of 1787: area would be subordinate to federal government until they had 60,000 inhabitants and could be called a state. Forbade Old NW from slavery.
  • Good solution, positive.

The World's Ugly Duckling:

  • Britain refused to trade with US - Lord Sheffield pamphlet "Britain would win back America's trade anyhow - commerce would naturally follow old channels"
  • British remained on the Canada border to continue fur trade and keep Indians/Canadians on their side.
  • Spain closed Mississippi to trade and claimed Flo-rida. Spain + Britain + Indians prevented America from controlling half of its territory.
  • France demanded war loans be repayed
  • John Jay hoped for strong government to give America respect in the world.

The Horrid Specter of Anarchy:

  • States in anarchy, protest against "King Congress," dispute land borders, making depreciated paper money
  • Shays' Rebellion 1786: MA, backcountry farmers (many war veterans) were losing their farms. Led by Captain Daniel Shays, these debtors demanded cheap paper money, lighter taxes, suspension of property takeovers.
  • => MA raised army, killed 3 and wounded 1 rebel(s). Daniel Shays condemned to death, but later pardoned.
  • NEEDED stronger central government to control stuff like this.

A Convention of "Demigods":

  • 1786 Convention in Annapolis, MD. Only 5 states showed up. Alexander Hamilton (WOOOOO!) said they needed to have another convention in Philadelphia where they talked more than just commerce - they bolstered the Articles of Confederation.
  • Philadelphia 1787: 55 emissaries from 12 states (not Rhode Island). "Demigods" - lawyers, made constitutions for their own states.
  • George Washington "the Sword of the Revolution" unanimously elected chairman.
  • Old Ben Franklin was there
  • James Madison "Father of the Constitution"
  • ALEXANDER HAMILTON (in case you don't know, I LOVE HIM!)- wanted central government.
  • Most 1776 Revolutionary leaders were absent: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Thomas Paine, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Patrick Henry.

Patriots in Philadelphia:

  • All 55 wealthy. 19/55 were slave owners. Young, experienced, and NATIONALISTS.
  • Piratical Dey of Algiers and Lord Sheffield and Daniel Shays were kind of like "founding fathers" too.
  • Fear filled the 56th chair (oooh, philosophical)

Hammering Out a Bundle of Compromises:

  • Virginia - "the large-state plan": representation i Congress based on population. Bicameral.
  • New Jersey - "the small-state plan": equal representation of each state in Congress. Unicameral (just like Articles of Confed.)
  • The "Great Compromise": House of Representatives based on population, Senate: 2 delegates from each state. Every tax bill/revenue measure must originate in the House.
  • New Constitution provided for a president (military commander in chief, power to appoint domestic officers - including judge ships, and power to veto legislation)
  • Electoral college vote for president. First voting would be based on population (the House AND Senate). If no candidate had the majority, thennn it would go to the House.
  • "Three-Fifths Compromise" - a slave would count as 3/5's of a person population-wise.
  • Agreed that slave trade would continue until the end of 1807.

Safeguards for Conservatism:

  • Federal judges appointed for life
  • President elected indirectly by electoral college
  • Senators chosen indirectly by state legislatures
  • Only the House was chosen by direct vote.
  • Only 39 delegates signed Constitution in Sept 1787.

The Clash of Federalists and Antifederalists:

  • Decided they only needed 9/13 of votes to put Constitution into effect
  • Federalists vs. Antifederalists
  • Antifederalists: Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, states' rights devotees, poorest classes, debtors
  • Federalists: George Washington, Ben Franklin, ALEXANDER HAMILTON, wealthier, more educated, better organized, controlled press
  • Antifederalists object Constitution, feared loss of state power, wanted Bill of Rights. The denounced federal stronghold ten miles square (that would later be DC), creation army, omission of any reference of God, and procedure of 2/3 of states making decisions.

The Great Debate in the States:

  • 4 small states quickly accepted Constitution
  • The Pennsylvania
  • Then Massachusetts
  • 3 more states
  • Now all except VA, NY, NC, and RI had taken shelter under the federal roof

The Four Laggard States:

  • Virginia - Patrick Henry - eventually ratified though
  • Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison wrote "The Federalist Papers"
  • Madison's Federalist No. 10 - "it was possible to extend a republican form of government over a large territory"
  • New York finally yielded, knowing they could not prosper apart from the union. Proposed 32 amendments - called for convention to modify Constitution
  • North Carolina and Rhode Island still held out.
  • Riots broke out and underground pressure to ratify - so NC and RI were forced to finally ratify.

A Conservative Triumph:

  • Minority triumph twice: radicals in the American Revolution and conservatives that overthrew the Articles of Confederation
  • Not majority - only 1/4 of adult, white males had voted for delegates - if every man had voted, Constitution would have probably been defeated.
  • Architects of Constitution conserved Republicanism through a redefinition of popular sovereignty.

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