AP US History Document Based Question
Directions: The following question requires you to construct an essay that integrates your interpretation of Documents A-R and your knowledge of the period referred to in the question. In the essay you should strive to support your assertions both by citing key pieces of evidence from the documents and by drawing on your knowledge of the period.
“The Constitution, as ratified, represented a major defeat for those who wished for greater democracy in the young American nation .” Assess the validity of this statement.
"Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States of Newhampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, South-Carolina and Georgia."
ARTICLE I. The stile of this confederacy shall be "The United States of America."
ARTICLE II. Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.
ARTICLE III. The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretence whatever.
No State shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor by more than seven members; and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years; nor shall any person, being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the United States, for which he, or another for his benefit receives any salary, fees or emolument of any kind.
Each State shall maintain its own delegates in a meeting of the States, and while they act as members of the committee of the States.
In determining questions in the United States, in Congress assembled, each State shall have one vote.” Articles Of Confederation, Harvard Classics (1910), Vol.43, Pg.169.
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
The Constitution, Article I, Section 2
“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse 3, Massachusetts 8, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations 1, Connecticut 5, New-York 6, New Jersey 4, Pennsylvania 8, Delaware 1, Maryland 6, Virginia 10, North Carolina 5, South Carolina 5, and Georgia 3.”
“We contended with Great Britain--some said for a three-penny duty on tea; but it was not that. It was because they claimed a right to tax us and bind us in all cases whatever. And does not this Constitution do the same? Does it not take away all we have--all our property? Does it not lay all taxes, duties, imposts, and excises? And what more have we to give? They tell us Congress won't lay dry [direct] taxes upon us, but collect all the money they want by impost [import duties]. I say, there has always been a difficulty about impost. . . . They won't be able to raise money enough by impost, and then they will lay it on the land and take all we have got. These lawyers, and men of learning, and moneyed men, that talk so finely and gloss over matters so smoothly, to make us poor illiterate people swallow down the pill, expect to get into Congress themselves. They expect to be the managers of this Constitution, and get all the power and all the money into their own hands. And then they will swallow up all of us little folks, like the great Leviathan, Mr. President; yes, just as the whale swallowed up Jonah. This is what I am afraid of. . . . Jonathan Elliot, The Debates on the Federal Constitution (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1836), vol. 2, pp. 101-102.
Document F The Constitution, Article I
Section 7. All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.
“I have the highest veneration for those gentlemen [who attended the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention]; but, sir, give me leave to demand, What right they had to say, We, the people ?..Who authorized them to speak the language of, We the people, instead of We, the States?... The people gave them no power to use their name.... I wish to hear the real, actual, existing danger, which should lead us to take those steps, so dangerous in my conception... The federal Convention ought to have amended the old system; for this purpose they were solely delegated....
The principles of this system [the Constitution) are extremely pernicious. impolitic, and dangerous.... It is not a democracy, wherein the people retain all their rights securely.... The rights of conscience, trial by jury, liberty of the press, all your immunities and franchises, all pretensions to human rights and privileges, are rendered insecure, if not lost, by the change [of government].... Is this tame relinquishment of rights worthy of freemen? Is it worthy of that manly fortitude that ought to characterize republicans?” Patrick Henry, 16 June 1788. Saul K Padover and Jacob W. Landynski. The Living U.S. Constitution. Meridian, 1995.
“I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve of them. For, having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions... which I once thought right..
“I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general government necessary for us.... I doubt, too, whether any other convention we can obtain may be able to make a better constitution. For when you assemble a number of men... you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It astonishes me, sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does... Thus I consent, sir, to this Constitution, because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best....” Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, September 17, 1787.
“The necessity of a Bill of Rights appear to me to be greater in this Government, than ever it was in any Government before.... How were the Congressional rights defined when the people of America united by a confederacy to defend their liberties and rights against the tyrannical attempts of Great-Britain? The States were not then contented with implied reservation. No, Mr. Chairman. It was expressly declared in our Confederation that every right was not given up to the Government of the United States. But there is no such thing here. You therefore by a natural and unavoidable implication, give up your rights to the General Government.... The powers of direct taxation, the sword, and the purse. You have disposed of them to Congress, without a Bill of Rights.... You have a Bill of Rights to defend you against the State Government, which is bereaved of all power; and yet you have none against Congress, though in full and exclusive possession of all power! You arm yourselves against the weak and defenseless, and expose yourselves naked to the armed and powerful. Is not this a conduct of unexampled absurdity?” Patrick Henry, 1788. David L. Bender (ed.). Opposing Viewpoints in American History (Vol. I). Greenhaven Press, 1996.
“You say that I have been dished up to you as an anti-federalist, and ask me if it be just. . . . I am not a Federalist, because I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in any thing else where I was capable of thinking for myself. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all. Therefore I protest to you I am not of the party of federalists. But I am much farther from that of the Anti-federalists. I approved from the first moment, of the great mass of what is in the new constitution, the consolidation of government, the organization into Executive, legislative and judiciary, the subdivision of the legislative, the happy compromise of interests between the great and little states by the different manner of voting in the different house, the voting by persons instead of states, the qualified negative on laws given to the Executive which however I should have liked better if associated with the judiciary also as in New York. and the power of taxation. I thought at first that the latter might have been limited. A little reflection soon convinced me it ought not to be. What I disapproved of from the first moment also was the want of a bill of rights to guard liberty against the legislative as well as the executive branches of government, that is to say to secure freedom in religion, freedom in press, freedom from monopolies, freedom from unlawful imprisonment, freedom from a permanent military, and a trial by jury in all cases determinable by the laws of the land.
I disapproved also the perpetual re-eligibility of the President. To these points of disapprobation I adhere.... With respect to the declaration of rights I suppose the majority of the United states are of my opinion; for I apprehend all the anti-federalists, and a very respectable proportion of the federalists think that such a declaration should not be annexed.... With respect to the re-eligibility of the president, I find myself differing from the majority of my countrymen, for I think there are but three states of the 11 which have desired an alteration of this. And indeed, since the thing is established, I would wish it not to be altered during the life of our great leader, whose executive talents are superior to those I believe of any man in the world, and who alone by the authority of his name and the confidence reposed in his perfect integrity, is fully qualified to put the new government so under way as to secure it against the efforts of opposition. But having derived from our error all the good there was in it I hope we shall correct it the moment we can no longer have the same person at the helm. These, my dear friend, are my sentiments, by which you will see I was right in saying I am neither federalist or anti-federalist; that I am of neither party, not yet a trimmer between parties.... You did not think, by so short a phrase in your letter, to have drawn on yourself such an egotistical dissertation. I beg your pardon for it, and will endeavor to merit that pardon by constant sentiments of esteem & attachment with which I am Dear Sir, Your sincere friend & servant.” Thomas Jefferson, Paris March 13, 1789.Merrill D. Person (ed.). The Portable Thomas Jefferson. Penguin Books, 1977.
“I have read with a degree of attention several publications which have lately appeared in favor of the new Constitution; and as far as I am able to discern, the arguments (if they can be so termed) of most weight which are urged in its favor may be reduced to the two following:
1st. That the men who formed it were wise and experienced; that they were an illustrious band of patriots and had the happiness of their country at heart; that they were four months deliberating on the subject; and therefore it must be a perfect system.
2nd. That if the system be not received, this country will be without any government, and, of consequence, will be reduced to a state of anarchy and confusion, and involved in bloodshed and carnage; and in the end a government will be imposed upon us, not the result of reason and reflection, but of force and usurpation. . . .
The country is in profound peace, and we are not threatened by invasion from any quarter. The governments of the respective states are in the full exercise of their powers; and the lives, the liberty, and property of individuals are protected. All present exigencies are answered by them.
It is true, the regulation of trade and a competent provision for the payment of the interest of the public debt is wanting; but no immediate commotion will rise from these. Time may be taken for calm discussion and deliberate conclusions. . . .
There is no reason, therefore, why we should precipitately and rashly adopt a system which is imperfect or insecure. We may securely deliberate and propose amendments and alterations. I know it is said we cannot change for the worse; but if we act the part of wise men, we shall take care that we change for the better. It will be labor lost if, after all our pains, we are in no better circumstances than we were before.
If any tumults arise, they will be justly chargeable on those artful and ambitious men who are determined to cram this government down the throats of the people before they have time deliberately to examine it.” New York Journal and Weekly Register, November 8, 1787.
“Mr. Gerry [of Massachusetts]. The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots. In Massachusetts, it has been fully confirmed by experience that they are daily misled into the most baneful measures and opinions by the false reports circulated by designing men, and which no one on the spot can refute. . . . He had, he said, been too republican heretofore: he was still, however, republican, but had been taught by experience the danger of the leveling spirit.Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (1911), vol. 1, pp. 48-50 (May 31, 1787).
To the People of the State of New York, March 14, 1788
“IThe first thing which strikes our attention is that the executive authority, with few exceptions, is to be vested in a single magistrate. This will scarcely however be considered as a point upon which any comparison can be grounded; for if in this particular there be a resemblance to the King of Great-Britain, there is not less a resemblance to the Grand Signior, to the Khan of Tartary, to the man of the seven mountains, or to the Governor of New-York....
The President is to be the Commander in Chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States. He is to have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment; to recommend to the consideration of Congress such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; to convene on extraordinary occasions both houses of the Legislature, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them with respect to the time of adjournment, to adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; to take care that the laws be faithfully executed; and to commission all officers of the United States. In most of these particulars the power of the President will resemble equally that of the King of Great-Britain and of the Governor of New-York.”. . ..” Publius. Source: CD-ROM. Paul S. Boyer. The Enduring Vision. D.C. Heath and Company, 1993.
“Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of [Shays's Rebellion in] Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of rebellion so honorably conducted? I say nothing of its motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness.
God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.
We have had thirteen states independent for eleven years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon, and pacify them.
What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. Our convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusetts; and on the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite [hawk] to keep the henyard in order.
I hope in God this article [perpetual re-eligibility of the President] will be rectified before the Constitution is accepted.” P. L. Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1894), vol. 4, pp. 466-467 (November 13, 1787).