The New Government — New Nation
And The New Republic (1783-1815)
After the revolutionary war, Americans set up a government that reflected their political ideology. The purpose of a government, they felt, was to protect the rights of individuals. Since a government with unlimited power could threaten a man’s life, liberty or property, its powers had to be carefully established by a constitution.
The Americans also drew upon their experiences in the colonial government. Individual colonies treasured their charters, by which king and Parliament had granted them important powers. In all the colonies, executive, legislative and judicial departments had been established. Those qualifying as voters chose the members of the lower house of the legislature; the king usually appointed the governor, and either the king or the governor appointed the members of the upper house and the principal judges.
The events of the years following 1763 made a profound impressiòn on Americans. They acquired a deep suspicion of a remote, central government that passed laws and issued decrees that seemed to violate natural rights and to disturb customary ways of doing things. Since most colonies had been tied more closely to England than to each other they were unaccustomed to working together, but the clashes with Britain began to forge the bonds of inter-colonial cooperation. The Stamp Act Congress, the non-importation agreements and the Committees of Correspondence, which arose in response to the imperial crisis, prepared the way for the Continental Congress and the Articles of confederation, · which set up a national government.
1. Impact of the American Revolution
The American Revolution was not an isolated event. Just as the fighting of the Revolutionary War involved the major European powers the consequences of the war were felt on both sides of the Atlantic. Between 1783 and 1815, the most important European developments began in France. There during the 1780s, people became more and more dissatisfied with the government and society both of which were controlled by the Bourbon royal family and wealthy landlords: This discontent led to the French Revolution. It began in 1789 when a representative assembly, the Estates-General, put limitations on the king’s power and set up a constitutional monarchy. After this relatively mild beginning, the revolution became radical. In 1792 its leaders deposed the king and proclaimed France a republic. In the reign of terror that followed, the king, the queen and hundreds of other men and women were put to death. Finally, in 1799, the revolutionary experiment ended, a young soldier Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of French affairs. He made himself dictator and later in 1804 emperor of France. Then he tried to make himself master of all Europe. From 1791 on, France was continually involved in wars. It’s chief enemy was Britain. At first, Britain fought to prevent the spread of French revolutionary ideas. Later it tried to stop Napoleon’s drive to dominate the European continent and the British Isles. At last, in 1815, Britain and its allies ended Napoleon’s threat by defeating the French in the Battle of Waterloo. The American Revolution had had a great impact on France. In helping American revolutionaries, the French government had spent so much money that it found itself practically bankrupt. It was this financial crisis that led the government to call the Estates-General, the first step in the French Revolution. Important leaders of the revolution were inspired by the principles of the American Declaration of Independence. The French i8 1789, adopted their own Declaration of the Rights of Man, which included similar ideas. “Men are born and remain equal in rights,” the French Declaration’ said “The aim of every political association is the protection of the natural and imprescriptible rights of men.
2. A Good Way of Looking
American and French revolutions would be as parts of a broad movement that affected people in many countries. In the 1780s, for instance, encouraged by the example of Britain’s North American colonies, colonists rebelled, unsuccessfully, in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. One reason for their failure was that — unlike the North Americans, who received help from France – – the isolated Latin Americans, fought without aid. But the democratic ideals of the time continued to spark colonial revolts. These ideals were summed up in the slogan of the French Revolution — liberty, equality and brotherhood.
3. Philosophy of Revolution
Not all the supporters of democracy proposed, as yet, that the right to vote be given to every person. Women, for example, were not usually thought to have the same rights as men. But democrats all felt that no group of people, simply because they were born into the ruling class, should be allowed to govern the rest of the human race. The democrats. believed that the people should form a real community, a society in which all had an interest in the welfare of and an opportunity for their own advancement. Originally, the word” fraternity” implied the idea of community, but soon it came to mean something else. During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, the French government emphasized the need for all the people to be loyal to the nation. “Fraternite” began to signify this kind of loyalty, that is nationalism.
4. Rise of Nationalism
Of course, nations had existed before, and the people of each of them had been expected to obey the monarch. The new type of nationalism, however, aroused and involved the people in a way that the old-fashioned patriotism never had. Europan monarchs, for example, had fought their wars with small bands of hired professional troops. By contrast, the American states and the Continental Congress relied upon citizen-soldiers in the revolutionary war. The French revolutionary leaders went even further. They passed a law in 1793 known as the “Leave en Masse”. It declared that every French man, woman, and the child was “in permanent requisition for service of the armies.” This, the first national draft in modern history, proved highly effective. Henceforth, all French people owed their highest loyalty to the nation and were required, if called upon, to die for it. The new kind of nationalism spread to other countries, especially to some of those Napoleon Conquered. Leaders in those countries passed conscription laws had aroused a national spirit in order to drive out the French invaders and regain national independence. Fraternity, in the form of nationalism, became a unifying force in a number of countries besides France.
The ideas of liberty and egality or equality led to divisions within countries, including France. Advocates of these ideas – called “democrats” — was opposed by members of the old order, who were known as “aristocrats”.
The French Revolution and the European wars accompanying and following to provide a background for Latin American history of that period. In these years the black people of Haiti overthrew the French regime on their island and set up a republic. In other parts of Latin America, the Spanish American colonics refused to recognize the French regime that scized control of Spain in 1808. Led by Simon Bolivar and jose de San Martin, the colonists started their own revolutionary wars, which would take some twenty years to complete.
In the United States in this period, the major developments were the adoption of the constitution, the strengthening of the national government, the rise of political parties, the beginning of neutrality, the purchase of the Louisiana territory and the fighting of two wars. These events developed in response, wholly or parily, to events in Europe, and all of them reflected the spirit of the times.
The influence of nationalism can be seen in several developments in the United States. The constitution of 1787, replacing the Articles of Confederation, created a stronger central government. This was further strengthened, during the 1790s, by the economic policies of Alexander Hamilton. Even though wars with France and Britain produced serious divisions within the United States, they, too, stimulated nationalism.
Differences of opinion over Foreign policy, as well as over Hamilton’s economic program, helped create two national political parties. The leaders of the emerging parties agreed, at first, that the United States should stay out of the wars raging in Europe. Hence the government adopted a policy of neutrality in 1793. And President George Washington, in his Farewell Address of 1796, argued that the United States should not get involved in European quarrels, the policy failed to work perfectly, but neutrality was, on the whole, fairly well maintained. It proved advantageous to the American people, for, during most of the 1. period from 1783 to 1815, they prospered.
5. Commerce and Slave Trade
American ships roamed the seas, opening United States Commerce to the World. Much of their trade was carried on in the Western Hemisphere, primarily with the French Spanish and British colonies in the West Indies. The start of the China trade in 1784 brought American merchants in touch with the Spanish and Portuguese colonies along the coast of South America with the Spanish colony of California and with Russian America. Some Americans continued to take part in the slave trade, selling black human beings from the Guinea coast of Africa to planters in the West Indies. The United States also fought a brief war with the Barbary pirates of North Africa, who were attacking ships in the Mediterranean and Atlantic.
6. Prosperity & Expansion
The conflicts among the European nations provided opportunities for the United States to grow and prosper. The country enlarged not only its commerce but also its territory. For years after 1783, Britain occupied United States soil in the Ohio country, and Spain disputed the American claim to territory in the Floridas. Because of the war in Europe, Britain in 1794 and spain in 1795 made treaties with the United States and recognized American claims to sovereignty over territory as far west as the Mississippi River. Again, because of the requirements of war in Europe, France in 1803 sold to the United States the vast territory known as Louisiana. This action doubled the area of the country and prepared the way for its growth as a great Continental Power.
Colonies drifting to loose Association
Americans, three million strong, settled into peace in 1783. Most people’s daily lives as citizens of state did not differ greatly from their lives as subjects of King George III. The state governments had for two years been working together under the Articles of Confederation. Yet some serious problems existed.
Many difficulties tested the strength of the national unity forged by the Revolutions. States found it hard to reconcile the conflicting interests of merchants and farmers, city and country, and seacoast and frontier. A few states had trouble in their direct dealings with other states. Other challenges were national in scope. The United States needed security and respect, and its citizens wanted a fair chance to engage in international trade. Governing and settling the vast western lands won by the United States in the Treaty of Paris, and transferred to the federal government by several states, offered another problem. Above all, the government had to convince its citizens that it was worth supporting.
- In the Second Continental Congress, Americans had created a central government. But this body was designed only to meet an emergency. It had no legal basis. Therefore, in june 1776, Congress appointed a Committee to draft a constitution.
- State Constitution: While the Continental Congress worked on a government for the nation, people in the thirteen colonies started remodeling their governments. The new state governments resembled the old colonial governments, and all were based on written constitutions. In some cases, temporary state legislatures, busy with wartime problems, drew up constitutions and put them into effect. In other states, the constitutions were written by special conventions that submitted – their work to the voters. These constitutions went into effect only after the voters had approved them.
Since the state constitutions grew out of a common heritage, they were alike in many ways. All tried to protect personal liberties, by listing them in the declaration of rights. In addition, all attempted to protect citizens from unjust rule by the executive. Each state had an elected governor with clearly limited powers. The writers of the state constitution deliberately planned for a weak executive branch. Although Americans of the Confederation era spoke of separating and balancing powers among the legislative executive and judicial bodies, in fact, they gave the legislature the greatest power. The legislatures almost all composed of two houses were elected by the eligible voters. The new state governments were generally conservative. They did not establish a complete democracy. All states had property qualifications for voting and higher ones for holding office. None granted every free white male citizen the right to vote on terms more governors them in the colonial period. In some states, many people could easily meet the property qualifications.
Few states allowed free blacks to vote and none permitted slaves to do so. Although Indians were not specifically barred from voting, few could meet the property or citizenship requirements. Women were not given the vote except in New Jersy, and the legislators there soon revoked the right. Even if a state constitution did not limit the right to vote or hold office, state and local laws sometimes did. For instance, although the constitutions did not include religious qualifications, the laws in some states forbade Catholics, Jews, or non-believers in Christianity from holding office. Despite their limitations, the new state governments started the American people on the road to local self-government.
1. The Confederation
The Articles of Confederation were drawn up in 1776 by a committee led by John Dickson of Pennsylvania. They were amended by the second Continental Congress and finally, in November 1777, were sent to the states for approval. The Articles set up a loose form of government that did not limit the sovereignty or basic independence of the states. The authors of the Articles deliberately created a weak government which they called a firm league of friendship. They were not ratified by all thirteen states until 1781, at which time the Articles became the official basis for government. The new confederation would have a Congress composed of delegates appointed by the states. Congress would maintain an army, conduct foreign relations, make treaties, declare war, and handle Indian affairs. Each state delegation, regardless of the state’s size, would have one vote. In larger issues, such as those affecting war and peace, it could act only if nine of the thirteen states approved.
Under the Articles, the states retained all powers except those expressly delegated to the central government. Congress had no power” to tax. To obtain funds, Congress had to ask the states for them. The states were supposed to contribute in proportion to the value of their improved lands. Congress would have a president but he would not be a true executive officer. He would mainly preside over meetings of Congress. The Articles did not provide for national courts, except for those to deal with specific disputes between states. Each state was obliged to know the laws and judicial decisions of every other state. This loose union of states, the Articles said was to be perpetual. It would be almost impossible to change this constitution, for any amendment required the approval of all the states.
The second Continental Congress insisted on Ratification of the Articles as written. Within a few months most of the states accepted them. The other states refused to ratify unless the Articles were changed.
The source of difficulty was a clause that said, “No state shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States”. This clause would protect the claims of seven states to the lands between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.
Maryland, one of the six states without western lands, refused to accept the Articles unless the clause was removed. With the support of other “landless“ states Maryland argued that the western lands should belong to all Americans rather than to individual states. All the states had fought for this territory, therefore, all should profit from it. Despite the arguments, the need for the union during the war was so great that by February 1779 all the states but Maryland had ratified the Articles. Maryland’s refusal meant the Articles could not go into effect. In October 1780, New York and Virginia, which had the largest land claims, accepted a congressional resolution that satisfied the landless states. The resolution said that the western lands should be sold for the benefit of the whole nation and that the territory should be formed into states. Several months later, the landed states, led by Virginia, surrendered most of their western claims. On March 1, 1781, Maryland ratified the Articles, and the nation’s first constitution went into effect.
2. A New Social Order
As discussed in the last paragraph of the previous chapter, there was virtually a home revolution. So important were the social changes in the American Revolution that some historians have talked about two revolutions. One gained freedom from Britain, and the other changed the social system at home. Before the Revolution, the upper class in the colonies had consisted of a landholding gentry, many of whom had inherited their wealth. During and after the Revolution, many other Americans for the first time fell free of the restrictions, that had limited their social standing for life. These people wanted to keep their newly found personal freedom and were willing to experiment with a new social order where advancement was open to all at least to all white males regardless of birth.
3. Abolishing Aristocracy
In colonial times, the use and ownership of land often determined a man’s political rights and his place in society. For example his right to vote and to hold office usually depended upon the amount of property he owned. Americans who wanted to build a social democracy, therefore, worked to change the property the laws to discourage large inherited holdings of land. The reformers also attacked other symbols of the old order, such as hereditary titles and honors. Many of the state constitutions prohibited the new governments and their officials from creating granting or accepting titles of nobility. The Articles of confederation also forbade officials to accept such titles from foreign governments.
4. Loyalist Losses
Historians have estimated that one-fourth to one-third of the people stayed loyal to Britain during the Revolution. Although most aristocrats were loyalists, most Loyalists were not aristocrats. In wealth, education, and social standing they differed little from the average patriot: From the British point of view, the Loyalists had been faithful subjects and valuable allies. Fifty thousand of them had fought with the British armies, and others had given food, supplies, and information to the British. The Patriots, however, thought of the Loyalists as traitors who had turned against friends and neighbors. During the Revolution, the patriots had dealt harshly with Loyalists. In 1777, the Continental Congress urged the states to seize and sell Loyalists property to help pay for the war. All the states eagerly took Loyalist land and other forms of wealth. Eighty, thousand Loyalists left the country to avoid persecution by angry patriots.
After the war, British authorities tried to help the Loyalists. The peace Treaty of 1783 required congress to ask the states to settle the Loyalists claims. congress did so but the states ignored the request. Many Patriots had become landowners by buying Loyalist property partly because of the influence of these new landowners in state legislatures, the Loyalists were unable to recover their property. No payment was made to them, and some Americans even suggested that Loyalists should not be allowed to return to the United States. Nonetheless, some loyalists did return. Like those who had remained in the country throughout the Revolution, they gradually accepted independence. They too began to profit from the changes it brought.
The Revolution also affected black slaves. Although many Americans were opposed to any change in the institution of slavery, some Patriots attacked both the slave trade and slavery. The African slave trade had started in the 1440’s. Explorers brought Africans from the Guinea coast the long coastline from present-day Mauritania to Namibia (South-West Africa) — to work in the fields of Portugal. When the Spanish and Portuguese began settling in South America in 1502, they brought slaves to the New World. Most of these slaves were purchased from African slave traders on the Guinea coast and taken to the West Indies. Those who survived the crossing were kept in the islands for a while to get used to the climate, diseases, and work methods in the New world. Of the 5 million Africans who survived the Atlantic crossing before 1800, probably only one-tenth were taken to the North American mainland.
The slave trade had been the subject of debate in colonial assemblies for many years. Some legislatures had abolished the trade, only to have their laws vetoed in England. In general, those who profited from the trade, whether in England or the colonies, wanted to see it continue. After independence, states began prohibiting the trade. Within ten years every state but Georgia and South Carolina had outlawed it. The traffic in human beings continued illegally for many years, but the laws did limit it. The Campaign against slavery itself was far more difficult. In the North, where slaves were few, defenders of slavery were scarce. Vermont abolished slavery in 1777, Pennsylvania in 1780, and Massachusetts in 1783. During the Confederation period, slavery lost ground everywhere in the North.
In the South, the situation was different. Though many important southerners were opposed to slavery, most southern whites considered tit profitable and necessary. For example, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson spoke out against slavery but owned many slaves themselves. James Madison said that slave labor allowed him free time to carry on his public career. Some southern states, such as Virginia and Maryland, permitted “manumission”, or the freeing of a slave by his or her master. In addition, the codes governing slave life were eased in some ways.
Both northerners and southerners worried about the Consequences of freeing the slaves. A year after slavery was outlawed in Massachusetts, some whites agitated to keep blacks blackout of Boston. They claimed that if Negro workers were allowed in the city, they would compete for the jobs of lower-class whites. This agitation did not keep free blacks out of Boston, but it reduced the number living there.
6. Church – State
Religious discrimination was common in the colonies. Every colony allowed freedom of worship, but this freedom mainly benefitted Protestants rather than Catholics or Jews. In most colonies, there had been established churches – churches supported by taxes paid by all the people, regardless of their religious beliefs. In New England, except Rhode Island, the established church was congregational. In the South, Patriots favored freedom of religion and believed that worship should be a private matter. To them, religious freedom also included a person’s right to deny support to any church. Others went even further, saying that they had the right to be non-believers if they so chose. They wanted to separate church and state. Many Americans wanted this separation because they saw it as an important step toward social democracy. Soon after the Revolution, a number of states ended public support for religious groups. In some places, however, the last ties were not cut until years later.
In December 1785, the Virginia legislature passed a noteworthy law, the Statute of Religious Liberty.
It said that “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever”, and that all people were free to think as they desired in matters of religion.
7. Public Education
Schools at all levels suffered in one way or another during the Revolutionary War. Some were abandoned, others lost students and financial support, and many were swept clean of teachers with Loyalist leanings. Some Patriot leaders worked to establish a system of Public education open to both the rich and the poor. Beginning in 1779, Thomas Jefferson urged the state of Virginia to set up a public school system. He proposed elementary education for white girls and boys, secondary schooling for some white boys, and liberal university education for the most gifted white boys, especially those who gave promise of becoming leaders in society. The bill failed, however, to pass the legislature.
In constitutions, laws and legislative resolutions, the states supported the concept of expanding the education system at public expense. The number of private colleges increased, and a few public schools were set up; some actually opened their doors in the 1780s. Unfortunately, states did not get beyond the talking or planning, stage Americans of the confederation era did not have the many or the will to build public schools.
The Challenge of Independence
The Western country, Planning and orderly Growth Perhaps the most appealing opportunity for Americans lay in the west, where millions of acres of fertile land stretched from the Appalachians to the Mississippi River. Even during the war, frontiers-men by the tens of thousands had flooded over the mountains into the Kentucky and Tennessee country, where British influence among the Indian tribes was weak. Although Virginia and North Carolina still held title to those western lands, the frontiersmen had gone beyond the practical limits of eastern control. They began to agitate from new state governments west of mountains. With the end of the war, the lands north of the Ohio River lay open to settlement. States with claims to this territory had ceded their claims to the federal government in order to get the “landless” states to accept the Articles of Confederation. Speculators began lobbying to get Congress to sell them large tracts of land cheaply. Meanwhile, frontiermen bagan moving into the Ohio country, illegally “Squatting“ wherever they found good land.
1. Resolution of 1780
If the process of settlement was to be directed by the government and if the public lands were to provide a source of national income some kind of land policy had to be worked out. The Continental Congress had promised in 1780 to create new states from the lands ceded to the national government. The new states were to enjoy the same rights as the older ones. Congress’s western lands’ resolution of October 1780, established a policy that affected the nation’s growth for the next hundred years. In the past, most countries had treated settlements beyond national boundaries as colonies. Americans of the confederation era, many of whom were crossing the mountains to settle in the west, rejected the colonial idea. They decided that their rapidly growing settlements should be governed not as colonies, but as territories that would some day become states equal to all other states.
2. Survey and Sale of Land
When the Revolutionary war began only a few thousand colonists lived west of the Appalachian Mountains. During and after the war, settlers swarmed into the area. By 1790, some 120,000 were living there, To profit from this rapid western settlement, the central government had to set up a system for selling the land and crcating new states. A committee headed by Thomas jefferson worked out the Land Ordinance of 1785, which provided for the survey and sale of western lands. This ordinance divided the Northwest(the arca northwest of the Ohio River and east of Mississippi River) into six-mile-square. Four sections were to be set aside for the federal government and one for the support of Public schools. The other sections were to be sold for not less than a dollar an acre in public auctions at land offices in the Northwest.
The Ordinance was designed to bring money to the national government rather than to make settlements easy. It did not permit the sale of less than one section (640 acres). A person, therefore, would have to have at least $640 in order to buy directly from the government land offices. Few pioneers could bring together that much money. Thus the terms favored speculators, who often formed private companies to buy government lands. Several land companies wanted even greater advantages than they had under the Ordinance of 1785. They tried to get Congress to suspend the ordinance. Because the government wanted money immediately, Congress gave in to the speculators. The most successful speculative group was the “Ohio Company formed in Boston in 1786, Congress agreed to sell a vast tract of land to the Ohio Company at bargain prices. Although congress reserved some sections for educational and other purposes, 1.5 million acres went to the Ohio company for less than nine cents an acre. Once the members of the Ohio Company owned the land, they wanted to be sure that they could use it for profit. Without government support, this would be difficult.
3. Tribal Rights and Claims
Even though Congress had set up a system for surveying and selling the land, it still did not own the land. The states, to be sure had given up their colonial claims to western lands. The indian tribes had not, however, given up their rights to most of the lands between the Appalachian Mountains and Mississippi River. Before. Iand could be sold the Indian title to it had to be “extinguished”. Congress would follow the British practice of requiring formal, written treaties to transfer the land. Many indian tribes were forced to cede their land to the United States Government. Some, however, voluntarily gave up their territory because their hunting grounds no longer provided enough game for the tribe. Some of the Cherokee in Georgia, for instance, gave up their lands before 1830 and moved west. Many more tribes ceased to rely on hunting and became farming communities. These tribes rarely agreed willingly to give up their land, and they ceded it only when forced. Not until 1848 was the last land east of the Mississippi ceded.
A common way to extinguish the Indian titlo-to tribal lands was this American pioneer would settle in areas that were closed to them by treaty and by law. When the tribes tried to remove them by force the pioneers would fight back. Often the United States Army was called in to put down the “indian uprising”. With better weapons and greater numbers behind them, the pioneers invariably won. The losing indians would then make a treaty giving up the section of land in question. Some treaties were made with indians who did not truly represent their tribes. In most tribes, there were a few people who were willing to sell tribal lands for their own personal gain. The men who were called ” chiefs” by the government were not always the true Icaders of their tribes. Moreover, the Central government’s role was limited. The Articles of Confederation gave Congress control over relations with those indians” not members of any state”. A number of states exceeded their powers by signing treaties or waging war with indians who lived bcyond their borders. Congress was powerless to stop them.
4. The Northwest Ordinance
Many of these mass sales fell through within the next few years. But the land companies pressured Congress into changing the system of government in the Northwest so that they could exert more influence upon the territorial governments than they could under Jefferson’s democratic scheme. Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which served in the future as a model for American territorial organization. It created the Northwest Territory, which could be divided into three to five new territories. It provided a system of limited self-government under which statehood could be reached in three stages. In the first stage, Congress would choose officials who would govern the entire Northwest Territory. They would put into effect those laws from the thirteen states that they thought suitable. In the second stage, when the Northwest Territory had a population of five thousand free adult males, the eligible voters could elect a legislature that would share power with appointed officials. The legislature could, at this stage send a non-voting delegate to Congress. Neither the legislature nor the territorial officials could interfere with the personal freedoms of the people, which were protected by a bill of rights. However, not all would have the right to vote. No women were allowed to vote, and only those men who owned at least fifty acres of land could vote.
The law called for dividing the Territory into no fewer than three and no more than five states. When any part of the Territory had a free population of 60,000 or more, it became a territory. In this, the third stage, it could write a constitution and apply for statehood. Congress would then admit it to the Union as a state on an equal footing with the original thirteen states.
The Northwest Ordinance prohibited slavery in the entire Territory. This provision had the effect of keeping slavery south of the Ohio River. Some of the local communities also prohibited free blacks from settling within their boundaries, although this was not part of the Northwest Ordinance. The proceeds from the sale of one square mile in each township went to support public schools. Like most other land laws enacted after 1763, the Ordinance of 1787 required fair treatment of the Indian tribes in the area. Indians often lived or hunted on land the government offered for settlement. As the settlers advanced, they killed the Indians or forced them to retreat westward. Sometimes, the federal government managed to acquire the land peacefully through treaty or purchase. When the Indians resisted Chinese attempts to dislodge them, small-scale wars often followed. The Indians found that their days on the land were clearly numbered under the pressure of the land-hungry easterners. Now they were to face a flood of settlers crossing the Appalachians and taking their land.
Foreign Relations and Foreign Trade
Firstly, we should take into consideration the nature of foreign affairs. The British gave up the territory south of the Great Lakes in the treaty that followed the Revolutionary war. Yet they violated that treaty by maintaining military posts at Detroit, in northern Michigan, and in northern New York. They kept these posts for several reasons:
- to retain their trade with the Indians
- to put pressure on the United State to fulfill such unpleasant obligations in the treaty as paying loyalists for confiscating property
- allowing British creditors to collect debts from Americans
- to be able to exert influence in case the settlers in areas that did not state, decided to break away from the United States.
The possibility of settlers breaking away presented a real threat to the new nation. Under the Articles of Confederation, only Congress was to carry on relations with foreign governments. It could send and receive ambassadors, and negotiate treaties and alliances. However, it lacked effective power in foreign relations, for it could not make the states comply with the treaties it .made. Foreign nations were aware of the weakness of showed little respect for it. They interfered in American politics and tried to manipulate the new government.
1. The tussle with Britain
The Confederation government’s most serious diplomatic problems were with Britain. British leaders demanded harsh treatment of the former colonies. The British government prohibited trade with Americans in the British West Indies. It also required that most products going to its ports be carried in English ships. These actions particularly hurt New England towns where shipbuilding and trade were important. Many Americans were unhappy with Britain’s treatment. The ‘states would not, however, follow a common policy towards Britain, and the Confederation government had no way to force the British leaders to change their policies.
In 1785, Confederation government sent John Adams to London to negotiate a Commercial treaty with Britain. The British would make no treaty, and they refused to send a minister to the United States. Adams also tried to deal with violations of the peace treat of 1783. Both the United States and Britain were guilty of some violations. The British, for instance, had carried away American property and slaves. The Americans, in turn, refused to repay million of dollars that had been loaned to them before the Revolution. The Confederation Congress tried to uphold the repayment provision of the treaty, but some of the states passed laws forbidding state Courts to help collect the debts. Congress had no power to force the states to honor the treaty. It was equally helpless in trying to carry out the treaty provisions dealing with Loyalists. The unpaid debts and mistreatment of Loyalists gave the British an excuse to keep military and trading posts in the Northwest. In the peace treaty, Britain had promised to give up these posts. Some Englishmen believed that their government had been foolishly generous by granting the Northwest to the United States. Others argued that the treaty violated Britain’s obligations to its Indian allies in the territory, British commanders feared an Indian uprising if the area were to come under American control. The British government, therefore, told its officials in North America not to deliver the posts to the Americans. The presence of British soldiers on United States soil angered many Americans. Many westerners were convinced that British Agents from the posts supplied indians with arms and supported raids on pioneers settlements. Yet the Confederation government would not make Britain honor the treaty.
2. Disagreements with Spain
Relations with spain were about as bad as those with Britain. There were three major issues:
- use of the Mississippi River
- the southern boundary
- trade policy
Each of these issues affected a different section of the country. Westerners depended on using the Mississippi River to get their produce to eastern markets. Since Spain owned Louisiana and the Floridas, it controlled the last two hundred miles of the Mississippi. In 1784, it closed the river to Americans. Westerners demanded that Congress force Spain to reopen the river.
At the same times, a disagreement arose about the southern boundary. The peace treaty with Britain had set the boundary between the United States, and West Florida at the 31st parallel. The Spaniards argued rightly that they were not bound by the Anglo-American peace treaty. They established military posts far north of the 31st ‘parallel and also armed the Indians in that area.
In Congress, delegates from the Northeast represented trading interests and were not greatly .concerned about the problems of western settlers. What they wanted most was a commercial treaty that would allow Americans to trade in Spanish ports.
Spain sent a special representative to the United States to negotiate the issues. The resultant treaty was not ratified by Congress. It aroused strong disagreement between the sections and even threatened to break up the loose Confederation.
3. Discontentment on Confederation
In the foregoing paragraph, we have examined the failures in foreign policy, stressed the basic need for a stronger national government. Many Americans saw that thcy could have an effective forcign policy only if the Confederation government had more power. At the same time, internal problems also led to criticism of the government. The following are the various factors which led to the dismantling of the Articles of Confederation and framing a federal constitution with a strong central executive organ and wielding unique democratic values and national integration.
4. Financial Failures
When the United States became independent, the people did not become as prosperous as they had expected. Instead they faced years of financial troubles. There was some economic growth, but from 1783 to 1787, the United States suffered from an economic depression. This struck New England especially hard. In financing the war, Congress had run up a large public debt. It had also tried to pay some of the war costs by issuing paper money that was not backed by gold or other forms of wealth. The states also issued uncounted sums of paper money. This paper currency fell rapidly in value, becoming worthless. At the end of the war, most states refused to accept the paper money in payment of taxes. In effect, because they now refused to redeem it, Congress and the states had used paper money as though it were a tax to finance the war.
After the war, Congress tried to raise money to pay its remaining debts at home and abroad by asking the states for it. Between 1781 and 1786 the payments sent by the states to the national treasury usually could not even pay the government’s running expenses, let alone its debts. The states, too, had come out of the war with large debts. They tried to pay wartimes debts by raising taxes. Most states directly taxed land, and buildings. Some states had import duties, and others had excise taxes. The taxes, especially import duties, led to conflict and misunderstanding. Some states treated the boats, barges and ships of other states as if they were foreign. In some cases, one state might refuse to trade with another state. As the depression grew worse, seven states issued more paper money. As before, this money fell in value. Nonetheless, some states legislatures made this money legal tender (that is, they passed laws, requiring that it be accepted for debts). In Rhode Island, merchants and creditors nevertheless refused to accept payment in Paper money. Creditors found the situation intolerable. They wanted to strengthen the power of the national government in financial matters.
Even before all of the states had adopted the Articles of Confederation, Congress had struggled with its lack of financial power. It tried to amend the Articles to increase its taxing powers. Various states blocked ratification, and the Congress Continued to limp along with little power. The failure to amend the Articles of Confederation pointed up one of their major defects the need for unanimous consent by the states for any amendment.
5. Shays’s Rebellion
While the amendments were under consideration, farmers who could not pay their taxes or their private debts saw the courts take their property and sell it. The situation was particularly bad in New England. Farmers there believed that their welfare was being sacrificed to add to the wealth of creditors in Boston and other towns. In several areas, mobs of poor farmers rioted in protest. In western Massachusetts, Danial Shays, a former captain in the Continental Army, led farmers in a revolt known as “Shay’s Rebellion.” In 1786, he organized and trained his followers, many of them war veterans armed only with sticks and pitchforks. He announced a program that demanded cheap paper money, tax relief, a “moratorium” (legal delay) on payment of debts, and the abolition of imprisonment for debts. Shays’s followers used forcë or threats of violence to prevent the collection of debts. They invaded country courts and broke up sheriffs’ sales of seized property.
The creditors asked Congress to help put down the revolt, but Congress had no money to pay troops. Neither did the state. Finally, wealthy Boston merchants agreed to provide funds, and they got the governor to call out the state militia. In January 1787, these troops attacked the rebels and killed 3, wounded, and captured about 150, including Daniel Shays. Although Massachusetts had crushed the rebellion, people with property continued to fear for their safety. The rebels were tried and sentenced to death but were later pardoned. The state gave in to the farmers’ demands by granting tax relief and allowing postponement of debt payments. More important, Shays’s Rebellion Convinced many people in various parts of the country that only a strong national government could keep mobs from gaining control of state governments. These people decided to try to change the Articles.
6. Special Convention
The movement for change in the first constitution grew out of an effort by several states to cooperate on problems they could not handle alone. Representatives from Maryland and Virginia met at Mount Vernon in 1785 to try to settle a quarrel over the use of the Potomac River, which formed a boundary between the two states. After agreeing on uses of the Potomac, they decided to discuss other interstate problems; they invited all the states to a Conference at Annapolis, Maryland, in September 1786. Only five states sent delegates to the Annapolis Conference. With such small representation, the meeting was not able to do anything about inter-state problems. It did prepare a report asking the Confederation Congress to call a special convention of delegates from all the states to discuss amendments to the constitution. The convention would meet in Philadelphia on May 14,1787 and would report its results to the Congress. Congress was slow to back the convention. In February 1787, it invited all the states to Philadelphia, explaining that the sole purpose of the convention was to revise the Articles. All but Rhode Island responded favorably and chose delegates.
Active Preparation Started for National or Central Government
Some Americans were satisfied with the existing state of affairs and doubted the need for the convention. Also, a large number of Americans distrusted the Convention delegates. They were afraid that the delegates would establish a strong central government controlled by an aristocracy.
1. The Delegates
The states legislatures or governors appointed seventy-four delegates to the convention at Philadelphia. Of these, nineteen failed to appear. Those who did attend made up an outstanding group of Americans. The delegates came from twelve states and from practically every geographic or political division within the states. Social and economic groups did not receive broad representation. All of the delegates were white men, mostly Protestants of English descent. None came from the poor, the debtors, or the working class: They were mostly lawyers, merchants, and plantation owners. Many were leaders in their own states. Forty-two of them had served in the Continental Congress. Nearly all had held some important public position or had served to the state legislatures. Many had read widely and knew much about history, law, and politics. About half of them had graduated from college – a remarkable achievement in the 1780s.
2. Nationalists in Command
Poor weather and bad roads made travel difficult; especially for delegates from New England. By May 25, the delegations from seven states had arrived, and the necessary quorum was finally present. The sessions were called to order at Philadephia’s State House known to later generations as Independence Hall where independence had been declared. The South had the largest representation at the convention. Southern delegates were also most regular in attendance and most influential in debate. Fourteen of them worked throughout the convention and signed the constitution. New England’s representation was smaller, and only six New England signed the Constitution. A few others from the area refused to sign it.
Delegates who favored a strong central government called nationalists – held private meetings before the sessions opened to plan how to replace the Articles. Therefore, when the convention opened; the nationalists took command. At the start, the nationalists arranged to elect George Washington as presiding officer. To encourage free debate, the delegates moved to keep, the convention’s proceedings secret. To prevent the intrusion of public pressure, they closed the doors and stationed armed guards outside and inside the hall.”
3. Important Decisions
Committees did most of the work at the convention, and debate most often revolved around Committee reports. In the committees and in the convention, about a dozen men made the key decisions.
James Madison, who combined leadership, youth, hard work, intelligence and learning, was in this group. During the convention, he made notes on the proceedings. These notes were published more than fifty years after the convention.
Benjamin Franklin, who was famous as a statesman and scientist, was also at the meeting. Although Franklin was too old to be as active as Madison, he gave dignity to the convention.
The most important delegate was George Washington, who was a national hero. His participation helped the results of the convention. Washington seldom spoke or took part in the proceedings, but he was almost always present. Like Franklin, he took a moderate position on most issues.
4. Randolph’s Plan
On May 29, when the convention, at last, met for its main business, Governor Edmund Randolph of Virginia spoke to the group. He noted the defect of the Articles of Confederation and then proposed fifteen resolutions to correct them.
His first resolution went directly to the core of the issue. He proposed that the delegates forget their instructions to revise the Articles and, instead, drew up a new constitution. The delegates at first reacted to this idea. with silence. Then heated debate broke out.
The nationalists realized that public sentiment was against them. They . also knew that they might not get another chance to write a new resolution.
They would have to plan a national government that was so much better than the existing one that the voters would be willing to adopt it.
Washington urged the delegates to do what they believed to be right, even if their plans should turn out to be unacceptable to the voters.
“If to please the people”,
“We offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterward defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.”
Many of the delegates apparently took his advice. Randolph’s resolution to set up a new government passed. It was after the adoption of this resolution that the gathering became a constitutional convention. The delegates themselves, not the people or their elected representatives, made the decision to draw up a new constitution. In this, they went beyond their instructions.
Laying Foundation of Government
The delegates now faced the problem of working out a plan of government that they themselves could accept. They had to devise a government that would not favour large states over small states or one section over another.
1. Two Plans
The Virginia plan was proposed by the nationalists. It would set up a strong, unified central government that would operate directly upon the people rather than upon the states. It would have its own officers and agencies to carry out its laws and duties. The source of government power would be a national legislature. There also would be an executive officer and a system of national courts. Under the Virginia Plan, the states with the largest free population would control the national legislature. The legislature would set the limits of its own power as well as the power of the states. The large states, therefore, favored the plan. Delegates from the small states feared that the Virginia plan would destroy their independence. They wanted all the states to be represented equally in the national legislature. Such representation would prevent the large states from controlling national affairs and would at least suggest that the states were independent. The small states delegates wanted the states to control the central government. These ideas were the basis of the New Jersey plan.
With some changes, the New Jersey plan would keep the main features of the Articles of Confederation. It would strengthen the Congress by allowing it to regulate commerce among the states and raise money with taxes. It would also make acts of Congress and all treaties the supreme law of the land, regardless of laws within the states.
Virginia, and New Jersey plans offered the convention two choices a strong, centralized union or a loose association of states tied more firmly than before. Both plans would keep republican government – rule through elected representatives. In both plans, the legislature would have the greatest power.
Faced with these choices, the delegates debated. When neither side would give in, the Convention deadlocked. This alarmed Benjamin Franklin. If the convention failed, he warned,” mankind may hereafter the despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.” Franklin’s comments influenced the delegates, and they worked to settle their differences.
Representatives from Connecticut presented the plan that brought the two sides together. They suggested that there be a two-house institute. The Lower house the House of Representatives would be elected by the eligible voters. States would be assigned representatives according to population. The Upper House, or Senate, would be chosen by the legislatures of the states. Each state, regardless of population or wealth, would have two senators. This plan, the “Great Compromise,” was adopted by the convention.
The delegates now turned to sectional differences. Northerners wanted slaves to be included in the population when figuring a state’s share in the payment of direct taxes. But they did not want the slaves counted toward representation in the House. They also wanted Congress to have the power to set up tariffs and regulate trade. Southerners, who owned most of the slaves, wanted the slaves counted toward representation, but not for direct taxation. Also, southerners feared that if Congress had power over tariffs and trade, it might put export taxes on their crops, stop the slave trade, and make commercial treaties that injured the South.
By Compromise, it was decided that three-fifths of the slaves would be counted for purposes of representation and direct taxation. Congress was allowed to regulate commerce but not to levy export taxes. Congress was prohibited for twenty years from ending the foreign slave trade. The new constitution gave the president the powers to make treaties, but two-thirds of the Senate, rather than a simple majority, had to approve them. Acting as a group, the states in one section would be able to vote a commercial treaty that they did not favour.
3. New Powers
As more compromises were reached, the constitution took shape. The kingpin clause in the new constitution was basic to holding the union together. It said that the constitution and the laws and treaties made under it would be the “Supreme Law of the Land.” The new constitution granted certain specific powers to the central government. Among these was exclusive control over foreign relations. In addition, Congress was given the power to levy taxes, regulate commerce, fully control money, and pass laws “necessary and proper” to carry out its responsibilities. The constitution took from the states some of the powers that could best be exercised by the national government. At the same time, certain powers were to be shared by the national and state governments. The new constitution did not recognize the claim of any state to independence. It was a plan for a nation, not a loose association of states.
4. Provisions for Change
The delegates wrote a brief, general document one that did not attempt to spell out all the powers of government. They left it to Congress, the President, and the courts to add to what they had written and to interpret what was not entirely clear. The delegates provided two ways of proposing amendments and two ways of satisfying them. These provisions made amendment difficult but not impossible. The amending process was important in the development of democracy.
For example, the right of black Americans, women and young people to vote has been granted in amendments to the constitution. Since the process of amendment is difficult, Americans often have had to take advantage of the broad wording of the Constitution to bring about change. Particularly when they have thought it unlikely that an amendment might be adopted. American have changed the constitution by having the courts interpret it. Within the design of the original constitution, the people of the United States have taken a republican government with limited democratic features and made it into a government that is basically democratic.
5. Checks and Balances
The delegates created a government with checks and balances. Each branch – legislature, executive and judicial – would have specific powers. At the same time, each branch would have enough power to stop abuses of power by the other branches. When power was used properly, the whole government would be in balance and would work in an orderly way. As a result of their experiences under British rule, the delegates feared the abuse of power by the executive. At the same time, they thought of democracy as mob rule that would lead to control by dictators.
Several features of the new government showed the influence of these beliefs. For example, the constitution gave the voters a direct part only in the election of representatives to the House. The state legislatures, not the voters themselves, would choose the senators.
The delegates made the selection of the executive — the President even more indirect. The President was to be chosen by electors who had been appointed by the State legislatures or by the voters. The powers given to the President were limited. Still, despite the controls on the presidency, it became a position of considerable power.
The courts were also to be removed from control by the voters. With the consent of the Senate, the President would appoint judges to the national courts. They would hold for life.
Practically all of the delegates wanted to Supreme National Court, but they disagreed on its powers. Some wanted to give the Supreme Court a veto over laws it considered unconstitutional; others did not. When the Constitution was completed, it did not specifically give the Court such a veto.
After all of the compromises had been agreed up, a Committee polished the language. When this final draft, went to the convention, only forty-two delegates were still present. Few were fully satisfied with the package of compromises, but only three delegates refused to approve it. On September 17, 1787, thirty-nine delegates signed the Constitution.
Tussles and Struggles over Ratification
Three delegates to the Philadelphia convention immediately brought the new constitution, to the Confederation Congress. Ten days after the convention had ended, Congress, sent the Constitution to the states.
Since the people of Rhode Island were opposed to a stronger union, the state refused to call a ratifying convention. In the other states the legislatures held elections for delegates to the ratifying conventions. These elections were contests for or against the Constitution, for the delegates were chosen on the basis of their attitudes towards the new document.
In the elections, the voters sometimes split into groups over local issues. Most of the time, though they voted on the basis of economic, class or sectional interests. Most merchants, plantation owners, lawyers, doctors and people with property and education were nationalists. They called themselves “Federalist” and supported the new constitution. Owner of small farms, frontiermen, debtors and the uneducated and the poor were generally “Antifederalists”. They opposed the new plan.
Federalists had many advantages in the ratification battle. They had a i positive program that they believed could overcome difficulties facing the nation. They had better organization and greater resources than did the Antifederalists. Most of the newspapers and many highly respected citizens favored the Federalists position on ratification.
Even the method of electing delegates to the state convention favored the Federalists. Delegates were to be elected in the same way as representatives to the state legislatures. This meant that people from the coastal areas would be over-represented. The property, qualifications for voting also assured Federalists of heavy representation.
Despite these advantages, the Federalists knew that public opinion was not on their side. To overcome this, they began a campaign of persuasion in newspapers and pamphlets. The Federalists admitted that the Constitution had flaws, but they also argued that it was the best plan of government that the nation’s finest minds could produce.
For ten months, Federalists pleaded for support for ratification. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay published a series of essays that examined the Constitution and explained the Federalists point of view. These essays were later published as a book called “The Federalists.” “The Federalists” was not an objective view of the Constitution. The authors were careful to point out, however, that the Constitution was federal as well as national. They tried to show that the powers of the government would be shared between the states and the Central government. They insisted that the Central government had to be strong enough to ensure survival as a nation. The Federalists argued for a government that would have independent powers to tax and to act directly on the people.
2. Anti Federalists
Nearly all the Anti-Federalists believed that the Constitution would give too much power to the central government. Critics said that the Constitution would cripple good government, destroy state sovereignty, and take away the rights of the people. Anti-Federalists argued, for example, that the “necessary and proper” clause would allow the central government to take away the powers of the states. They also insisted that the government’s independent powers of taxation could drain the states of their sources of revenues.
Of all the Anti-Federalists arguments, the strongest was the statement that the proposed Constitution had discussed including such a bill. They had decided it was unnecessary because of the state constitutions in some way guaranteed personal liberties to free citizens. The Anti-federalists pointed out, however, that the central government would have the sovereignty of its own and would operate directly on the people. Without a bill of rights to restrain it, that government might someday take away basic human freedoms.
The Anti-federalists also wrote in defense of their ideas. The “Letters of a Federal Farmer”, published in October 1787, was one of the most influential Anti-federalist works. Its author, Richard Henry Lee, presented most of the standard Anti-federalist arguments. They reflected the common fear of the Anti-federalists that the new government would be controlled by the rich upper classes. Lee’s essays were moderate in tone and won a wide audience.
The Anti-federalists had strong arguments, great concern about democracy, and probably, majority sentiment on their side. However, they were not as effective as the Federalists in swaying public opinion. At a time when the nation needed a positive program, their stand was defensive and negative.
3. Process of Ratification
Several states acted promptly. Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey ratified the Constitution on December 1787, Georgia and Connecticut in January 1788, and Maryland in April 1788. South Carolina became the. second large state to approve in May 1788.
Elsewhere, Federalists and Anti-federalists fought close battles. In Massachusetts, after a hard struggle, the Federalists won. In February 1788, that state voted for ratification. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state of ratifying, making official the adoption of the Constitution. Nonetheless, the nation’s fate was still in doubt. Four states, where about 40 percent of all Americans lived, still had not ratified it. Without two of those states, Virginia and New York, it seemed unlikely that the new Union could succeed.
Virginia at the time had the largest population and the greatest influence in the Union. The Anti-federalists fought and lost their best battle in Virginia. On June 25, 1788, that state became the tenth to ratify.
On the Fourth of July, many people celebrated the ratification with parades and bonfires. In Providence, Rhode Island, however, mobs of farmers attacked the merrymakers in New York, rioting broke out between Federalists and Anti-federalists.
New York was a key state. The Anti-federalists had a large majority in the ratifying Convention. Yet New York City threatened to secede if the state did not ratify the Constitution. Finally, on July 26, New York’s convention approved the Constitution by a narrow margin.
The Constitution had needed the backing of these major states before it could really go into effect. North Carolina and Rhode Island continued to be Anti-federalists stronghold. North Carolina did not give approval until November 1789, nor Rhode until May 1790.
5. Launching of New Government
How that the Constitution had been ratified, people turned their attention to the election of members of the new Congress. As critics of the Constitution had foreseen, the first Congress included new Anti-federalists. When the first Congress assembled almost a month late many friends of the Constitution were among its members.
The Presidency too, was entrusted to a friend of the Constitution. In accordance with the Constitution, the electors voted for two persons. The one with the largest vote, if a majority, was to be president. The one with the next largest vote was to be vice-President. As expected, George Washington was a unanimous choice. John Adams of Massachusetts came in second.
At noon on April 30, 1789, Washington rode alone in a four-horse carriage to Federal Hall in New York City. There on a balcony, the state’s highest judge administered the oath of office. Afterward, he cried,
“Long live George Washington President of the United States!”
The crowd below shouted the same words, and the cannon roared.