Unit 4 The American Revolution

Chapter 9 Creating a Nation

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Chapter 9 Creating a Nation

Vocabulary Preview


During the Revolutionary War, each state government had its own constitution. Many of these written plans of government became models for the U.S. Constitution. page 296


Alexander Hamilton wrote many articles to encourage the states to ratify the Constitution. Nine states had to accept it officially. page 306

Chapter Timeline



An amendment is a change to the Constitution. The first ten amendments, called the Bill of Rights, protect the rights of the people of the United States. page 316


The ceremony making George Washington President was held in April 1789. This first inauguration was in New York City, the capital at the time. page 321


Core Lesson 1 A New Nation






Vocabulary Strategy


Territory comes from a word that means earth. A territory is a section of land.


Main Idea and Details As you read, list details that support the second main idea in the lesson.

Build on What You Know Have you ever been part of a group whose members worked well together? After the War for Independence, the 13 states did not always work well together. Congress could not make them cooperate.

The Articles of Confederation

Main Idea The Articles of Confederation gave Congress very little power.

During the Revolutionary War, each American colony became a separate state. Each state had its own laws and constitution. A written plan for government is a constitution.

Americans did not want to give up power to a strong central government. They had fought the war for the right to self-government. State constitutions gave their citizens the right to make all the laws that would govern them. A citizen is an official member of a city, a state, or a nation.

Although the states did not want a strong central government, they needed to work together as one country. The Continental Congress created a plan for a national government. The plan was called the Articles of Confederation. The Articles created a weak national government that left most power with the states. The states accepted the Articles in 1781.

The Articles gave Congress the power to declare war, make peace treaties, and make treaties with other nations, including American Indian nations. It could print and borrow money. There were many powers, however, that Congress did not have. It could not set up an army, control trade, or create taxes.


The Northwest Territory

Townships Land in the Northwest Territory was measured and sold in square plots, as the grid on the map shows. These plots, which formed townships, created fields that looked like a patchwork quilt (right).

Congress had to decide what to do with the land won in the Revolution. This western land was known as the Northwest Territory. A territory is land ruled by a national government but which has no representatives in the government.

As settlers moved to the Northwest Territory, Congress made treaties with American Indians to gain control of more land. Then Congress passed two ordinances to organize the Northwest Territory. An ordinance is a law.

The first law, the Land Ordinance of 1785, explained how the new land would be measured, divided, and sold.

The second law, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, explained the government of the Northwest Territory. This law described how a territory could become a state. It also made slavery against the law in the Northwest Territory.

REVIEW What did Congress do to organize the Northwest Territory?


Problems for the New Nation

Main Idea The Articles of Confederation created a government that could not solve the problems facing the new nation.

By 1786, it was clear that the Articles of Confederation could not make the states work together. States printed their own money, and people disagreed about what each state's money was worth. In the free market economy of today, people agree on the value of money, and use it to easily buy and sell goods.

Congress was having trouble paying its debts from the War for Independence. The government owed millions of dollars to banks and other countries. Congress could not raise this money because it was not allowed to tax. It had to ask the states for money, but could not make them pay.

Shays's Rebellion

Angry Farmers Standing on the courthouse steps, farmers keep the court from holding trials. One of their leaders, Daniel Shays, is shown below.

While Congress struggled, people grew frustrated. In western Massachusetts, farmers had to pay high state taxes. They also owed money to merchants for the supplies they bought. Many did not have money to pay their taxes or debts. Farmers who did not pay could lose their farms and go to jail.

In 1786, a farmer named Daniel Shays led a group of about 1,100 farmers in a protest. Shays had been a soldier during the War for Independence.

Shays and the other farmers wanted the state government to stop taking their farms and give them time to pay their debts. They tried to capture weapons belonging to the national government. Congress could not stop the farmers because it did not have an army. State militia defeated the farmers.


Today, their protest is known as Shays's Rebellion. Shays's Rebellion showed that a weak national government could not keep order. George Washington worried that the government was not strong enough to protect people's rights. He asked,

“… what security has a man for life, liberty, or property???

Many people agreed with Washington. In February 1787, Congress invited the states to send delegates to a meeting in Philadelphia to discuss how to change the Articles of Confederation.

REVIEW Why did farmers in western Massachusetts protest?

George Mason He went to Philadelphia as a delegate from Virginia. Mason wanted a “wise and just government.??
Lesson Summary

Articles of Confederation

Congress could

Congress could not

• declare war and peace

• regulate trade

deal with other nations

• set up army

• print and borrow money

• raise money with taxes

• organize new territories

• force states to obey its laws

Why It Matters …

The failure of the Articles of Confederation caused many people to believe that they needed a stronger national government to solve the new nation's problems.

Lesson Review

  1. VOCABULARY Use territory and ordinance in a paragraph that shows what you know about the Northwest Ordinance.

  2. READING SKILL Which details support the idea that Congress was too weak to stop Shays's Rebellion?

  3. MAIN IDEA: Government Government Why did the states want a weak central government at first?

  4. MAIN IDEA: Economics Why did Congress have trouble paying its debts?

  5. FACTS TO KNOW What are the Articles of Confederation, and why are they important?

  6. TIMELINE SKILL When was the Land Ordinance passed?

  7. CRITICAL THINKING: Analyze Do you think the Articles of Confederation needed to be changed? Explain your answer.

WRITING ACTIVITY Write an invitation to the convention to change the Articles of Confederation. Be sure to explain what the Articles achieved, and why the Articles have to be changed.


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