The Constitution I. The United States Under the Articles, 1781-1787



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The Constitution
I. The United States Under the Articles, 1781–1787

    1. Major problems the United States faced immediately after winning its independence

      1. Relations between the U.S. and the major powers of Europe were troubled from the start

        1. The U.S. failed to restore Loyalists’ property and pay debts to foreigners

        2. A weak U.S. government could do nothing to stop Britain from placing restrictions on trade or maintaining military outposts on the western frontier

        3. Reduced foreign trade and limited credit due to nonpayment of war debts contributed to widespread economic depression

      1. Inability to levy national taxes and the printing of worthless paper money by many states added to the problems

      2. The 13 states treated one another with suspicion and competed for economic advantage

        1. Placed tariffs and other restrictions on the movement of goods across state lines

      3. A number of states also entered into boundary disputes that increased interstate rivalry

    1. The Annapolis Convention

      1. 1785 - George Washington hosted a conference to review what could be done about the country’s inability to overcome critical problems

        1. Representatives from VA, MD, DE, and PA agreed that the problems were serious enough to hold further discussions at a later meeting at Annapolis, Maryland

      2. 1786 - Only five states sent delegates to the Annapolis Convention

        1. Discussed ways to improve commercial relations among the states

        2. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton persuaded others that a convention should be held in Philadelphia for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation

II. Drafting the Constitution



    1. Twelve states sent delegates to Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation

      1. Rhode Island, not trusting the other states, refused to send delegates

    1. Major leaders of the American Revolution were not represented at the convention

      1. John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Thomas Paine were on diplomatic business

      2. Samuel Adams and John Hancock were not chosen as delegates

      3. Patrick Henry opposed any growth in federal power and refused to take part in the convention

    2. Convention leaders shared the common goal of wanting to strengthen the young nation

      1. George Washington was unanimously elected chairperson

      2. James Madison became known as the father of the Constitution for writing specific articles

    3. Delegates disagreed on whether they should make changes in the Articles or draft a new document

      1. Taking control were nationalists like Madison and Hamilton committed to a new document

    4. Americans in the 1780s generally distrusted government and feared that officials would seize every opportunity to abuse their powers

      1. Therefore, James Madison and other delegates wanted to make sure that the new constitution would be based on a system of checks and balances

    5. Especially divisive was the issue of whether the larger states such as VA and PA should have proportionally more representatives in Congress than the smaller states such as NJ and DE

      1. Virginia Plan (Madison’s proposal) - Favored the large states

      2. New Jersey Plan favored the small states

      3. Resolved by the Connecticut Plan, or Great Compromise

        1. Provided for a two-house bicameral Congress

          1. Each state would be given equal representation in the Senate

          2. Each state would be represented according to the size of its population in the House of Representatives

    1. Northern and southern states disagreement on how slaves were to be counted

      1. The Three-fifths Compromise counted each slave as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of determining a state’s level of taxation and representation

      2. A guarantee that slaves could be imported for at least 20 years longer was included

    2. Northern states wanted the central government to regulate interstate commerce and foreign trade

      1. The South was afraid that export taxes would be placed on its agricultural products

      2. The Commercial Compromise allowed Congress to regulate interstate and foreign commerce

        1. Placed tariffs on foreign imports

        2. Prohibited placing taxes on any exports

    3. Delegates disagreed over the president’s term of office

      1. Some argued that the chief executive should hold office for life

      2. The delegates limited the president’s term of office to four years

        1. Set no limit to the number of terms to which a president could be reelected

      3. Delegates decided to assign to each state a number of electors equal to the total of that state’s representatives and senators

        1. This electoral college system was instituted because the delegates at Philadelphia feared that too much democracy might lead to mob rule

      4. It was also decided to grant the president the power to veto acts of Congress

    4. Anticipating opposition to the document, the Framers (delegates) specified that a favorable vote of only nine states out of 13 would be required for ratification

      1. Each state would hold conventions to debate and vote on the proposed Constitution

    5. Ratification was fiercely debated between Federalists and Anti-Federalists

    6. Federalists supported the Constitution

      1. Tended to be most numerous along the Atlantic Coast and in the large cities

      2. Stronger central government was needed to maintain order and preserve the Union

      3. Emphasized the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation

      4. Showed their opponents as merely negative opponents with no solutions

      5. Strong leaders; well organized

        1. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin

    7. Anti-Federalists opposed the Constitution

      1. Tended to be small farmers and settlers on the western frontier

      2. Stronger central government would destroy the work of the Revolution, limit democracy, and restrict states’ rights

      3. Argued that the proposed Constitution contained no protection of individual rights

        1. It gave the central government more power than the British ever had

      4. Appealed to popular distrust of government based on colonial experience

      5. Poorly organized; slow to respond to Federalist challenge

        1. George Mason, Patrick Henry, James Winthrop, John Hancock, George Clinton

        2. Later, Thomas Jefferson

    8. The Federalist Papers were written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay

      1. Presented reasons for believing in the practicality of each major provision of the Constitution

    1. By promising to add a bill of rights to the Constitution, Federalists successfully addressed the Anti- Federalists’ most telling objection and the Constitution was ratified

III. Adding the Bill of Rights

    1. Anti-Federalist arguments for a Bill of Rights

      1. Americans had fought the Revolution to escape the tyranny of a central government in Britain

      2. Only by adding a bill of rights could Americans be protected against such a possibility

    1. Federalist arguments against a Bill of Rights

      1. Since members of Congress would be elected by the people, they did not need to be protected against themselves

      2. It was better to assume that all rights were protected than to create a limited list of rights

        1. Unscrupulous officials could then assert that unlisted rights could be violated at will

    1. The First Ten Amendments

      1. 1789 - The first Congress elected under the Constitution acted quickly to adopt a number of amendments listing people’s rights

        1. Drafted largely by James Madison

        2. Together, the Bill of Rights provides guarantees that Anti-Federalists wanted against possible abuses of power by the central (or federal) government



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