Demobilizing the Army After the war, many of the troops refused to go home until the government acted upon their grievances regarding back pay and other benefits. Some officers began to hint at a military coup if demands were not met. Washington moved quickly to defuse the situation, asking for patience and giving assurances that pay would be rendered, as it eventually was.
Opening the West The most notable accomplishments of Congress during this period were: The Land Ordinance of 1785 – Provided for the systematic survey and sale of the lands west of Pennsylvania and north of the Ohio River. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 – Provided for the political organization and terms of eventual statehood for the same region. Congress operated as if the Native Americans were a conquered people who had given up their land by virtue of their alliance with Britain.Congress operated as if the Native Americans were a conquered people who had given up their land by virtue of their alliance with Britain. Subsequent treaties with Indian tribes were often produced by force, and usually spawned resentment and violence.Subsequent treaties with Indian tribes were often produced by force, and usually spawned resentment and violence.
Wrestling With the National Debt Evidence of the Confederation’s inadequacy rested in its inability to deal effectively with the nation’s war debt. The debt has been recently estimated at $35 million, owed largely to Dutch and French bankers. Lacking any authority to tax, Congress had to rely on the willingness or ability of the states to meet these debts.
Surviving in a Hostile Atlantic World Even after the United States had won its independence, England, France, and Spain continued to be an aggressive presence on the continent.
Separating Church and State Prior to 1776, only Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware promoted full religious freedom. Other states supported a central church to which they gave government funds for operation. The rhetoric of the Revolution inferred that freedom of choice was the only safe basis for church/state relations.
Slavery Under Attack By 1790, every state except South Carolina and Georgia had abolished the importation of new slaves within their borders. As a result, a higher proportion of slaves were American born, speeding the process of cultural assimilation. In the North, slavery was abolished or put on an eventual path to abolition.
Politics and the Economy Although the victors, America’s loss of trade with England sent the country into an economic depression. As always, certain artisans and people with the right political connections suffered little trouble. Many farmers were unable to pay the exorbitant taxes on their farms with the worthless paper money of the states.
The Limits of Republican Experimentation The period following the Revolutionary War saw a backlash in the political spirit of the country as conservatism returned to the mainstream. Political leadership began to fall to men who felt the republican experiment had gone too far.
Shays’s Rebellion Massachusetts citizens in 1786 had to borrow money to simply pay their taxes or support their families. People usually borrowed from each other rather than from a traditional bank. Facing foreclosure, the citizens turned to the state for “stay laws” prohibiting private creditors from demanding payment in “hard currency” rather than questionable paper money. Massachusetts scoffed at the citizens and demanded immediate payment of debts in gold or silver. Backed into a corner, the citizens – led by Daniel Shays – took up arms against the government of Massachusetts and later the United States. The insurrection eventually collapsed, but it underscored the problems of the Articles of Confederation.
The Rise of Federalism Federalists: the supporters of a strong, central government. Anti-federalists: Concerned with supremacy of the states. Federalist leaders feared the loss of their own political and social power. Congress’s inability to deal with the pressing issues of the country nullified the arguments for state supremacy.
The Grand Convention Delegates gathered at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1787 to construct the blueprint for a new and better form of government. George Washington was chosen as the convention president and all deliberations were to be kept secret.
Drafting the Constitution Two major differences separated the delegates: The Virginia Plan called for a bicameral system of legislature with proportional representation. Large states loved it. The New Jersey Plan called for representation in terms of equal votes per state but adopted the basic state supremacy plan of the Articles. After some debate, the Virginia Plan was votes as the most workable solution.
Another contentious question was how to census the number of blacks within its borders. The Great Compromise dictated that blacks be counted as three- fifths of a white resident for purposes of proportioning. An Electoral College of informed delegates would be selected by state legislatures for electing the president. Selection of the Senate would come from the votes of the House of Representatives. Dodging a political bullet, the founders agreed that slavery as an institution could not end for at least twenty years.
The Struggle Over Ratification No national referendum or review was ever held on the content of the Constitution. It took less than a year to secure the nine states needed to win ratification.
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