Key Concepts:

Terms in this set (79)

National legislature with one house; states could send as many as seven delegates or as few as two, but each state had only one vote
No president & no national court, & powers of national legislature were strictly limited
Most authority rested with state legislatures because new nation's leaders feared strong central government would become as tyrannical as British rule
Unanimous consent of states was needed to put Articles into operation, so even though they were adopted by Continental Congress in 1777, they didn't go into effect until 1781, when Maryland finally ratified them
In meantime, Continental Congress barely survived, lurching from crisis to crisis; at one point during war, some of Washington's troops threatened to create monarchy with him as king unless Congress paid their overdue wages
Even after Articles of Confederation were ratified, many logistical & political problems plagued Congress; state delegations attended haphazardly
Congress had few powers outside maintaining army & navy--and little money to do even that; it had to request money from states because it had no power to tax; if states refused to send money, which they often did, Congress did without
In desperation, Congress sold off western lands (land east of the Mississippi & west of the states) to speculators, issued securities that sold for less than their face value, or used its own presses to print money that was virtually worthless; Congress also voted to disband army despite continued threats from Britain & Spain
Congress lacked power to regulate commerce, which inhibited foreign trade & development of strong national economy; it did manage to develop sound policies for management of western frontiers, passing Northwest Ordinance of 1787 that encouraged development of Great Lakes region
Weak & ineffective national government could take little independent action; all government power rested in the states; national government couldn't compel states to do anything, & it had no power to deal directly with individual citizens
Weakness of national government prevented it from dealing with hard times that faced new nation; however, there was one benefit: when nation's leaders began to write new Constitution, they could look at provisions of Articles of Confederation & know some of the things they should avoid
Dramatic increase in democracy & liberty (for white males); many states adopted bills of rights to protect freedoms, abolished religious qualifications for holding office, & liberalized requirements for voting; expanded political participation brought new middle class to power
New middle class included farmers who owned homesteads rather than manorial landholders & artisans instead of lawyers
Before Revolution, almost all members of New York's assembly were either urban merchants or wealthy landowners; in 1769 assembly, for example, 25% of legislators were farmers, even though 95% of New Yorkers were farmers
After Revolution, major power shift occurred; with expanded voting privileges, farmers & craftworkers became decisive majority, & old elite of professionals, wealthy merchants, & large landholders saw its power shrink; same change occurred in other states as power shifted from handful of wealthy individuals to more broad-based group
Structure of government also became more responsible to people; state constitutions concentrated power in legislatures because most people considered legislators to be closer to voters than governors or judges; legislatures often selected governors & kept them on short leash, with brief tenures & limited veto & appointment powers; legislatures also overruled court decisions & criticized judges for unpopular decisions
Idea of equality (among white men) was driving change throughout nation; although Revolutionary War itself didn't transform American society, it unleashed republican tendencies in American life; American were in process of becoming "most liberal, most democratic, most commercially minded, & most modern people in the world"; members of old colonial elite found this turn of affairs quite troublesome because it challenged their hold on power
Congress was to be chief economic policymaker; it could obtain revenues through taxing & borrowing; these tools, along with power to appropriate funds, became crucial instruments for influencing economy
By maintaining sound money & guaranteeing payment for national debt, Congress encouraged economic enterprise & investment in US
Constitution also allocates to Congress power to build nation's infrastructure by constructing post offices & roads & to establish standard weights & measures; to protect property rights, Congress was charged with punishing counterfeiters & pirates, ensuring patents & copyrights, & legislating rules for bankruptcy; equally important was Congress's new ability to regulate interstate & foreign commerce; in sum, Constitution granted Congress power to create conditions within which markets could flourish
Framers prohibited practices in the states they viewed as inhibiting economic development, such as maintaining individual state monetary systems, placing duties on imports from other states, & interfering with lawfully contracted debts; moreover, states were to respect civil judgments & contracts made in other states, & they were to return runaway slaves to their owners; to help states, national government guaranteed them "republican form of government" to prevent recurrence of Shays' Rebellion, in which some people used violence, instead of legislation & courts, to resolve commercial disputes
Constitution also obligated new government to repay all public debts incurred under Continental Congress & Articles of Confederation--debts that totaled $54 million
Paying off debts would ensure from outset that money would flow into American economy & would restore confidence of investors in young nation
Fierce battle erupted between Federalists & Anti-Federalists
Newspapers were filled with letters & articles, many written under pseudonyms, praising or condemning document
James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, & John Jay wrote series of articles under name Publius; these articles, known as Federalist Papers, are second only to Constitution itself in reflecting thinking of Framers
Beginning on October 27, 1787, barely a month after the Convention ended, Federalist Papers began to appear in NY newspapers as part of ratification debate in NY; 85 were eventually published; they not only defended Constitution detail by detail but also represented important statement of political philosophy (essays influenced few of the NY delegates who voted to ratify Constitution only after NYC threatened to secede from state if they didn't)
Anti-Federalists sincerely believed new government was enemy of freedom (freedom they'd just fought a war to ensure); launched bitter, biting, even brilliant attacks on work of delegates, questioning motives of Constitution's authors
One objection was that new Constitution was class-based document, intended to ensure that particular economic elite controlled public policies of national government; another fear of Anti-Federalists was that new government would erode fundamental liberties
To allay fears that Constitution would restrict personal freedoms, Federalists promised to add amendments to document specifically protecting individual liberties; James Madison introduced 12 constitutional amendments during First Congress in 1789; 10 were ratified by the states & took effect in 1791; the first 10 amendments, which restrain national government from limiting personal freedoms, are Bill of Rights; another one of the original amendments, one dealing with congressional salaries, was ratified 201 years later as 27th Amendment
Opponents feared that Constitution would weaken power of states (which it did); Patrick Henry railed against strengthening federal government at expense of states; many state political leaders feared that Constitution would diminish their own power as well
Not everyone wanted economy placed on more sound foundation; creditors opposed issuance of paper money because it would produce inflation & make money they received as payment on their loans decline in value; debtors favored paper money because their debts (such as mortgages on their farms) would remain constant, but if money became more plentiful, it would be easier for them to pay off their debts