American history I: final exam review



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Terms of the Treaty of Paris

  • In the Treaty of Paris, the US had agreed to allow British lenders to collect the pre-war debts owed them by Americans and to return property which had been confiscated from Loyalists during the war

  • Congress, however, could not compel the individual states to honor the terms of the Treaty, so many states simply refused to comply

  • This angered the British, leading them to refuse to give up forts in US territory

  • Trouble With Spain

  • The young US also had conflicts with Spain over the boundary between Florida and Georgia and over access to the Mississippi River through the Spanish port of New Orleans

  • Congress had no leverage to use against Spain – they could not impose trade sanctions – and so, could not resolve the issues

  • War Debts Create Problems

  • Making matters worse, people began trying to cash in bonds (loans) that the states and Continental Congress had taken out during the War

  • With few options available for repaying the bonds, the states began issuing paper money that was not backed by gold or silver to insure its value

  • The result was inflation – a sudden rise in prices associated with a drop in the value of money

  • Debtors liked the inflation – it made it much easier for them to repay their debts; lenders hated it because they took huge losses on their loans

  • In some states, merchants began refusing to accept the paper money, forcing states to create laws requiring the acceptance of paper money as legal tender for all debts

  • The paper money issue fed the fears of the rich that “democracy” gave the poor too much say in public policy

  • These fears would be further heightened by reports of “rebellion” by former army officers and poor farmers

  • The Newburgh Conspiracy

  • March 1783: A Group of officers from the Continental Army began to complain against Congress for failing to provide their back pay and pensions

  • There was talk of marching against Congress with force, but the letter of complaint sent out made no specific threats

  • Fearing a rebellion by the military, Gen. Washington met with his officers and shamed them into standing down and respecting the civilian authority of Congress; Washington pointed out that he had given his life to the country’s service, yet had no regrets

  • Shays’ Rebellion

  • Massachusetts elected to raise taxes to generate the revenue to pay back their bonds, rather than issue paper money

  • Poor farmers in the western part of the state could not afford a tax increase and, since no inflation had occurred, also could not afford to pay back their own debts which put them in danger of foreclosure

  • August 1776: These farmers banded together, seizing control of several courthouses to stop foreclosure proceedings

  • They were led by a former army officer turned farmer, named Capt. Daniel Shays

  • In January 1787, Shays and 1200+ farmers moved to seize control of the state arsenal in order to secure weapons for marching on Boston

  • The rebels, however, were repelled by the state militia, with 4 farmers being killed in the brief gun battle, and the rebellion collapsed

  • A Call for Change

  • Events like Shay’s Rebellion, however, convinced the wealthier Americans that the republic was being endangered by too much power being placed in the hands of the poor

  • As a result, they began calling for a stronger federal government which could be empowered to protect property rights, control inflation, and act against rebellions

  • Nationalists were those Americans who supported the idea of strengthening the central government; they included George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, & Robert Morris

  • In 1786, James Madison convinced the Virginia legislature to organize a convention of the states to discuss economic issues such as trade, tariffs, & taxation

  • The Annapolis Convention

  • Only 5 states sent representatives to the meeting, held in Annapolis, Maryland, but those representatives agreed that the Articles of Confederation needed some serious revisions which would strengthen the central government

  • Alexander Hamilton, New York’s representative at the Annapolis meeting, called on Congress to hold a convention at which the proposed revisions to the Articles could be debated

  • Congress agreed to call a convention, primarily because of the threat posed by Shays’ Rebellion and other episodes of civil unrest

  • Every state except Rhode Island met in Philadelphia in May of 1787 “for the sole purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation”

  • The Constitutional Convention

  • The 55 delegates at the Convention included 7 former governors, 39 members of Congress, and 8 who had signed the Declaration of Independence

  • They chose George Washington to serve as presiding officer of the Convention

  • It was decided to keep the Convention closed to the public, to ensure no political factors could corrupt the debate

  • James Madison tasked himself with keeping a record of the debates between the delegates

  • The Virginia Plan

  • The Virginia delegates proposed a complete overhaul of the national government

  • Their plan, designed by James Madison, called for scrapping the Articles of Confederation and starting over completely with a new guiding document which would grant the central government much greater powers

  • The Virginia Plan would give the new federal government the power to raise money through levying taxes and the power to create laws which all states would be legally bound to follow

  • The Virginia Plan also called for dividing the government across three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial

  • The legislative branch would then be divided into two houses, an “upper” and “lower”

  • The number of representatives in each house would be determined by each state’s population, thereby giving the more populous states more influence in the making of laws and levying of taxes

  • The “Small” States Object

  • While most delegates accepted the structure of the Virginia Plan, the smaller states objected to a legislature in which they would get less representation

  • As a result, they refused to support the Virginia Plan

  • The New Jersey Plan

  • New Jersey’s William Paterson responded with a plan which kept the Articles of Confederation in place, but with modifications which would give the central government more powers, such as taxation and the ability to regulate trade

  • The New Jersey Plan accepted the idea of a three-branch government, however, it kept Congress as a single house where each state had equal representation

  • The executive branch would be elected by Congress and the judiciary would be appointed by the executive

  • Virginia Plan Wins

  • After much debate, the Convention voted to pursue the Virginia Plan, abandoning the Articles of Confederation

  • This vote meant that they would have to write an entirely new constitution for the United States

  • After the vote, small states continued to push for equal representation in Congress, prompting the larger states to threaten a walk out.

  • Eventually, it was decided to create a special committee of moderates, led by Benjamin Franklin, to work out some sort of compromise

  • The Great Compromise

  • The resulting recommendation by Franklin’s committee became known as the “Great Compromise” or the Connecticut Compromise (since it was based on an idea by Roger Sherman of Connecticut)

  • The Compromise proposed basing representation in one house of Congress (the House of Representatives) on population, and allowing the voters in each state to elect their representatives

  • The other house (the Senate) would have equal representation for all states, and senators would be appointed by the state legislatures

  • In the House of Representatives, each state would get 1 representative for every 40,000 people in the state

  • This caused another argument to erupt – should slaves count towards population?

  • Slaves & Representation

  • Southern states wanted slaves counted because slaves accounted for a sizeable percentage of their population

  • Northern states did not believe slaves should be counted because they were not citizens and could not vote

  • Northern states also argued that if slaves were going to be counted for purposes of representation, then they should also be counted for purposes of taxation

  • The 3/5ths Compromise

  • In the end, an agreement was reached to count 3/5ths of slaves for purposes of both representation and taxation

  • Once this issue was resolved, northern and southern states were able to settle several other disagreements as well

  • Final Compromises

  • It was agreed that the new national government would not be empowered to tax exports (southerners worried about exported farm goods such as tobacco and cotton being taxed) or be allowed to ban the slave trade prior to 1808

  • By mid-September, all of the compromises had been completed and the Constitution of the United States had been completed

  • It was signed by 39 delegates and sent to the Confederation Congress for approval

    • So What Does the Constitution Say?

    • Three main parts:

      • Preamble

      • 7 Articles

      • Amendments

    • PREAMBLE

    • States goals and purposes of government

    • Makes it clear that the government gets its power from the people and exists to serve them

    • SIX PURPOSES - PREAMBLE

    1. To form a more perfect union

    2. To establish justice

    3. To ensure domestic tranquility

    4. To provide for the common defense

    5. To promote the general welfare

    6. To secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity

    • ARTICLE I

      • Describes Legislative (law making) Branch

      • Describes the two houses (bicameral)

      • Describes how members will be chosen

      • Explains the powers of Congress

      • Explains the powers denied to Congress

    • ARTICLE II

      • Describes the Executive (law enforcing) Branch

      • Headed by President and Vice President

      • Explains how leaders will be elected and how they can be removed from office

      • Describes their duties and powers

    • ARTICLE III

      • Describes the Judicial (law interpreting) Branch

      • Calls for a Supreme Court and lower courts

      • Describes the power of federal courts

    • ARTICLE IV

      • All states respect each other’s laws

      • Explains the process of creating a new state

    • ARTICLE V

      • Tells how the Constitution can be amended (changed)

    • ARTICLE VI

      • Declares that the Constitution is the “supreme law of the land”

      • Claims federal law prevails over state law

    • ARTICLE VII

      • Declares Constitution would take effect once 9 states ratified it

    • Ratification of the Constitution

    • Once Congress signed off, it was then submitted to the states for ratification – and a whole new round of debate began in the sphere of public opinion

    • Article VII required that 9 of the 13 states must ratify (approve) it before it could become binding

    • This led to much argument in the state legislatures between those who supported adoption of the new Constitution and those who thought it gave the new federal government too much authority

    • The Federalists

    • Supporters of ratification called themselves “Federalists”

    • They wanted to remind the people that what the Constitution created was a system of “federalism,” or a system where powers were clearly defined and divided between the central government and the individual states

    • Who Were Federalists?

    • Federalists included large landholders who wanted a strong central government which could protect their property rights

    • They included merchants and artisans who wanted a central government empowered to regulate foreign trade

    • They included many small farmers who wanted internal trade barriers removed

    • The Antifederalists

    • Those who opposed the Constitution came to be called Antifederalists

    • They primarily opposed Article VI, which made the federal government superior to the individual states and bound the states to follow federal law

    • Who Were the Antifederalists?

    • There many strong voices amongst the Antifederalists, including John Hancock, Sam Adams, Richard Henry Lee, and Patrick Henry

    • Some, like George Mason and Edmund Randolph, opposed the Constitution because they demanded the Bill of Rights be attached before ratification be considered

    • Many Antifederalists were western farmers who were self-reliant and feared a powerful government; they also were afraid that the new federal government would be dominated by wealthy creditors who would try to exploit the system to make it harder for debtors (which these farmers were) to escape their debts

    • Federalists’ Advantages

    • Federalists were offering a definitive plan to fix the problems of the Articles of Confederation, while Antifederalists had no cohesive plan

    • The Federalists also tended to be excellent writers and public speakers, with good access to newspaper editors and pamphleteers

    • The Federalist Papers

    • A collection of 85 essays in favor of ratifying the Constitution

    • Written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay under the pen name “Publius” (Latin for “the people”)

    • First published individually in newspapers during late 1787 and early 1788

    • The Federalist Papers explained the details of the Constitution, the intent behind each Article, and offered arguments for why each detail of the Constitution was needed

    • The Federalist Papers are still used today as a resource by Congress and the Federal Courts to determine the intent of the framers of the Constitution

    • The First States Ratify

    • The Federalists had an advantage in several states, but the vote was going to be tight in the major states of Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts

    • By early 1788, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia and Connecticut had all approved the Constitution, but 4 more states were needed for ratification

    • To win over voters in Massachusetts, the Federalists promised to pass a Bill of Rights (including an amendment that would reserve powers for the states that were not already given to the federal government) once the Constitution was ratified

    • The compromises offered to Massachusetts also brought Maryland, New Hampshire, and South Carolina on board, bringing the number of states which approved the Constitution to the nine needed to fully ratify

    • What About VA & NY?

    • Many feared that without Virginia and New York’s support, however, the new government was doomed to fail

    • James Madison and George Washington targeted winning over Virginians, while Alexander Hamilton and John Jay targeted New Yorkers

    • Washington and Madison finally won the approval of the Virginia legislature by promising a Bill of Rights

    • Hamilton and Jay sold the Constitution to New York by pointing out that if they did not ratify, they would be in a position of weakness, surrounded by states which had

    • Planning a New Government

    • By late summer of 1788, all states but Rhode Island and North Carolina had ratified the Constitution and plans were put in place for the elections to be held and the new government to be seated in March of 1789

    • North Carolina did not ratify until after the Bill of Rights was actually proposed in the new Congress (Nov. 1789)

    • Rhode Island became the last state to ratify, waiting until May 1790




    • The Bill of Rights (1791)

    • Introduced to the First Congress in 1789 by James Madison

    • Madison and his supporters believed that certain rights needed to be better spelled out in order to prevent any chance of abuses

    • Amendment I

    • “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    • Amendment II

    • “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    • Amendment III

    • “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

    • Amendment IV

    • “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

    • Amendment V

    • No person shall be tried for a major crime without first being indicted by a Grand Jury (except in the military)

    • No person shall be tried for the same offense twice (Double Jeopardy clause)

    • No person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself (no self-incrimination)

    • No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

    • Government may not take private property without fair compensation (eminent domain)

    • Amendment VI

    • Right to a speedy and public trial

    • Right to trial by an impartial jury

    • Right to be tried locally

    • Right to know what crimes you are being charged with

    • Right to be confronted with the witnesses against you and to call your own witnesses

    • Right to an attorney

    • Amendment VII

    • “In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”

    • Amendment VIII

    • “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted”

    • Amendment IX

    • “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

    • In other words, just because a “right” does not appear in the Constitution, does not mean that “the people” do not have that right (such as the right to privacy, for example)

    • Amendment X

    • “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”

    • In other words, powers not expressly given to the federal government belong to the states

    • A New President

    • When the first elections were held in the fall of 1788, George Washington was nominated unopposed for the newly created office of Chief Executive or President of the United States of America

    • He won with 100% of the electoral vote, the only President to ever do so

    • George Washington (1789 - 1797)

    • No political party affiliation

    • Established precedent of only serving 2 terms as president

    • Alexander Hamilton: Washington’s Treasury Secretary

    • Wanted to build a financially strong and independent US, especially for American industry and businesses

    • Thomas Jefferson: Washington’s Secretary of State

    • Wanted to protect states’ rights, US-French relations

    • Resigned from the cabinet in 1793 due to his disagreements with Hamilton

    • Hamilton’s Economic Plan

    • Most states had many debts left over from the Revolution

    • Hamilton wanted the US to assume the states’ individual debts

    • US would pay these debts by taxing whiskey and imported goods

    • Hamilton also wanted to establish a national bank

    • Opposition to Hamilton’s Plan

    • Thomas Jefferson argued government did not have the constitutional power to create a bank (a strict interpretation of the Constitution)

    • Hamilton argued that the “necessary and proper” clause allowed the government to do what was necessary to perform its functions (loose interpretation)

    • Taxes on imported goods would hurt southern farmers

    • Many southern states had already paid their war debts

    • South agreed to support Hamilton’s plan only after North agreed to move the capital from New York City to a site on the Potomac River (Washington DC)

    • Didn’t like tax on whiskey because that was how many frontiersmen made their living

    • This opposition led to the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794

    • Whiskey Rebellion

    • Pennsylvania farmers refused to pay whiskey tax and took up arms

    • Pres. Washington responded by leading the US Army in putting down the rebellion

    • Federal government demonstrated it could enforce its laws

    • Federalists vs. Democratic-Republicans

    • Federalists

      • Led by Alexander Hamilton

      • Favored strong national government

      • Favored large landowners and merchants

      • Favored tariffs and government regulations that supported business

      • Loose interpretationists

      • More popular in the North

      • Pro-business

      • Favored neutrality in the war between Britain and France

    • Democratic-Republicans

      • Led by Thomas Jefferson

      • Favored strong state governments

      • Favored small farmers

      • Favored a “laissez-faire” approach where government did not regulate the economy

      • Strict interpretationists

      • More popular in the South

      • Pro-farmers

      • Favored France in their war against Britain
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