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Articles of Confederation. Battle of Yorktown in 1781 French and Americans defeat British General Cornwallis surrenders. The Second Continental Congress.

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Presentation on theme: "Articles of Confederation. Battle of Yorktown in 1781 French and Americans defeat British General Cornwallis surrenders. The Second Continental Congress."— Presentation transcript:

1 Articles of Confederation

2 Battle of Yorktown in 1781 French and Americans defeat British General Cornwallis surrenders. The Second Continental Congress had been the ruling body during the Revolution. 1775: Appointed George Washington commander in chief of the army. Did not have a constitution laying out their powers.


4 Created in 1777 to form a single national government. 13 States form a “League of Friendship” Gave authority to a new national Congress. Required ratification of all 13 states. Last one to do so was Maryland in 1781.

5 Many leaders in the colonies wanted a loose confederation of states. Why?

6 Legitimate fear of a strong national government. Powerful national government could threaten the power of the states and the freedoms of the people.

7 The Congress under the articles was a unicameral legislature. Delegates for the Congress were chosen by each state’s legislature. Each state’s delegation had one vote. Majority approval was required to pass most decisions. Nine votes were necessary to make major decisions. (wage war, or sign a treaty)

8 Amendments to articles required approval of all 13 states. No executive or judiciary These powers were handled by committees within the legislature. Benjamin Franklin and John Adams appointed representatives to France. Congress had the power to borrow money, settle arguments between states, and manage relations with American Indians.

9 No President or executive branch. No national court system. States had to enforce national laws. Congress couldn’t make states enforce them. No officials to enforce laws. (No Executive) No power to tax. (Voluntary Contributions) Had debts to pay. States began issuing their own money.

10 No power to regulate trade. States taxing other states’ goods. Passing laws to protect their goods. Hurt economic development. No power to establish national armed forces. States raised their own militias. Major laws required approval of 9 out of 13 states. Amendments required unanimous agreement. (Couldn’t increase power).

11 U.S. acquired territory between the new U.S. and the Mississippi River. Northwest Ordinance laid out a procedure for granting statehood to territories in this area. New states could join as equal partners with the original 13. Bill of Rights was included for the new territories. Ensured the new states would have the consent of the governed. Passed in 1787 Slavery was banned in the Northwest Territory


13 Weaknesses in the Articles were first hurdle. There had already been major differences in the colonies that made unity difficult. Remember the difficulty faced during the war against GB. Cultural, economic, and geographic obstacles.

14 Varying religious beliefs: Catholics, Protestant Groups, Jews, Baptists (RI, NC), Presbyterians (NJ, DE) Puritans, Quakers, etc. Most colonists were from England However, there were Germans, Swedes, French, and others. Fear that a unified government would force groups to give up their beliefs.

15 Fear that economic interests of some regions might win unfair advantages over others. SLAVERY: Divisive issue of economics as well as culture. South’s economy relied on slavery to continue to flourish. Many Americans in the states where slavery was illegal found it to be against the principles the U.S. was founded on. Many believed it was our jobs to protect the natural rights of all human beings. Thus, Southern states feared a strong national government backing these ideals

16 The amount of territory that composed the 13 states was a problem. Transportation between the North and South was difficult and time consuming.

17 The independence of the states made for serious difficulties. Some states refused to fund the new national government, obey laws passed, and honor treaties with other nations. With some states forming their own armed services, some began to argue that a weak and poorly unified central government was more dangerous than a strong central government.

18 In September 1786, representatives from VA organized a convention in Annapolis Maryland. They sought to resolve differences between the various states. Only five states attended: Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The delegates determined a future meeting was necessary. All states were called to send representatives to Philadelphia in May 1787.

19 Armed Rebellion later in 1786 in Massachusetts. The Revolution and tough economic times afterwards left many farmers in dire straits. Armed groups of farmers were trying to prevent the state from seizing the land of those who still owed debts. Daniel Shays led the “rebellion.” It was put down by force.

20 After the war, many of the European war investors (and others) wanted their payment in gold and silver. The states did not have enough hard currency. Many wealthy urban businessmen were trying to squeeze what gold and silver that could be found out of the American people. Failure to provide enough hard currency to cover the debts owed meant the seizure of whatever property farmers and soldiers had.

21 "I have been greatly abused, have been obliged to do more than my part in the war, been loaded with class rates, town rates, province rates, Continental rates and all rates...been pulled and hauled by sheriffs, constables and collectors, and had my cattle sold for less than they were worth...The great men are going to get all we have and I think it is time for us to rise and put a stop to it, and have no more courts, nor sheriffs, nor collectors nor lawyers.“ -Plough Jogger, a MA Farmer

22 The farmers agreed to petition the General Court (MA legislature) in Boston. Many veterans of the Continental Army were angry because they had been conscripted, had to fight with no payment to help them pay for their living, and because they were treated poorly upon discharge. Some were being locked up in debtors' prison. In order to stop the confiscations, the soldiers began to organize their neighbors, the besieged farmers, into armed squads and companies.

23 A veteran, Luke Day of West Springfield, Massachusetts asked the judges who were seizing the property of debtors to stop until a meeting of the MA legislature could be called. Remember: They wanted the chance to petition. Throughout Massachusetts, the newly organized farmers and veterans faced militia at courthouse thresholds. Sometimes the farmers and veterans were the militia, and often the majority of the militias sided with the veterans and farmers.

24 Things become rebellious when seven leaders of the rebellion were charged for being "disorderly, riotous, and seditious persons.“ Shays organized 700 farmers (mostly war veterans) and led them on a march to Springfield. As they marched many local militias stepped aside or joined with them. Local Farmers also joined in as they passed.

25 The elites of Boston were mortified by the scale and participation of the demonstrations. The judges first postponed the hearings for a day then adjourned the court. Samuel Adams made claims that foreigners (British emissaries) were instigating treason among the commoners. He helped to draw up a Riot Act which gave the government the power to call in soldiers to suppress insurrections. Adams proposed that rebellion in a republic, unlike in a monarchy should be punishable by execution.

26 A militia financed by Boston merchants and led by Revolutionary War General Benjamin Lincoln was dispatched to protect the legislature and courts. He received help from a 900 man local militia led by General William Shepard. They were protecting the Springfield Armory When Shays and his men approach the Springfield Armory, Shepard’s cannons fired a “warning shot” into Shay’s men. 4 were killed, 20 were wounded.


28 There was no musket fire from either side. Never thinking that their fellow veterans would fire on them, Shays’ men fled yelling “murder.” Some of the rebels were imprisoned, fined, and sentenced to death. A general amnesty was granted in 1788. Shays was pardoned. He died poor and obscure in Conesus New York in 1825. He had served in the Continental Army, fought at Lexington, Bunker Hill, and Saratoga. He was wounded and had returned home never being paid for his service.


30 Shays’ Rebellion frustrated many, including George Washington, because the new country could win a war but failed to keep order during peace time. Shays’ rebellion helped Congress to recognize the need for a meeting among the states to address the issue of a stronger government. At the time, everyone agreed the purpose of the meeting was for the sole purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation. No mention of drafting a Constitution.

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