Newly independent Americans were cautious about giving up too much power to a national government Articles of Confederation was ratified (agreed) in 1781: put Articles into place
Even though the states were joined together by the Revolutionary War, they still saw themselves as members of their state first and of the United States second.
Confederation – alliance of states united together for a specific purpose Under the Articles of Confederation, states had more power than today and were treated more like individual nations. Congress, the national govt., held certain powers to unite the states together. ◦ However it was a very weak central government
Set up of Congress: ◦ Composed of representatives from each state. (Allowed only 2-7 members) ◦ Each state had one vote ◦ Laws: 9 out of 13 had to agree ◦ Amendments had to be agreed upon unanimously ◦ No Courts or President Powers: ◦ Build military ◦ Foreign relations – make and sign treaties ◦ Establish a postal service ◦ Could only borrow money – no right to tax
Problems with foreign nations ◦ 1. Spain – closed off the Mississippi River to Americans preventing farmers from shipping their crops to other markets.
◦ 2. England - could not pay debts to British merchants and Britain refused to evacuate its military forts on the Great Lakes.
3. Without the power to tax, the new nation could not pay off military debts States faced similar issues ◦ After the war, wealthy people who had lent money to the state favored high taxes so the state could pay them back.
Daniel Shays was a captain of the Revolutionary War and after the war he returned to his farm in Massachusetts. Shays was one of those farmers who couldn’t pay off his debt, had his farm seized, and faced debtors prison. He was upset about this and the high taxes keeping them in debt.
Shays and farmers like him closed the courts of Massachusetts by force in 1786 and freed those in debtors prison. State officials called out the militia ending with 4 rebels killed.
One of the biggest problems between the states at this time was states imposing taxes on one another's goods traveling between them. In 1786, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton called a meeting to discuss the issues of interstate trade.
Only representatives of 5 states showed up. Not much was decided other than meeting again the following year in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, news of Shays’ Rebellion spread convincing 12 states to send delegates to the Philadelphia convention in May 1787.
In May 1787, they all gathered in Philadelphia, in the same room the Declaration of Independence was signed 11 years earlier. It was very hot, yet they closed all the windows to prevent outsiders from eavesdropping in on their discussion. Why?
Virginia PlanNew Jersey Plan Created by James Madison ◦ Bicameral legislature (2 houses) ◦ Membership based on a states population ◦ People elect the members of the lower house, while members of the lower house elect members of the upper house. Created by William Paterson ◦ Unicameral legislature (1 house) ◦ Each state had an equal vote
By Roger Sherman Bicameral Congress ◦ Lower House – House of Representatives States population size determines the number of representatives. Representatives would be voted by the people ◦ Upper House – Senate Each state had equal representation in the Senate State legislatures would choose members of the Senate (Done this to ensure the Senators do their job rather than fear the support of the people. Since 1913, people directly vote for the Senate)
Now that representation is based on population, do slaves count as part of a states population? Also, Congress has the right to regulate foreign trade. With many in the north in support of ending the slave trade, would Congress get rid of it?
NorthSouth Since slaves did not vote nor were they represented in Congress, their numbers should not count. If they did count, the Southern states would have more representatives than Northern states. (Thus more influence in Congress) Not counting slaves would give the Northern states more representatives.
Three-fifths of a state’s slaves were counted as population To resolve the issue on the slave trade, the convention gave Congress the right to regulate trade, but they could not interfere with the slave trade for 20 years.
People still feared having too strong of a central government, however, the central government still needed enough power to do its job. A balance must be found!
It was decided that power would be divided between the national government and state governments. Powers granted to the national government include: foreign affairs, national defense, regulating trade between states, and coining money (however, we virtually gave up that constitutional power to the Federal Reserve but we will go into more of that later).
This is a picture of an old dollar. It may be hard to see but notice that you may redeem this paper for silver if you wanted. 1. Pull out a dollar if you have one. At the top it will say that it’s a note of the bank it belongs to. What does it say? 2.Is this bank public or private? 3. Carefully examine the bill. Does it say you can redeem the note for gold or silver? 4. Banks make money from interest. So… who pays interest to this bank?
Just as the national government would be granted certain powers, so would individual states. Powers granted to the states included: providing and supervising education, establishing marriage laws, and regulating trade within a state. Both the federal and state governments share the power to tax, borrow money, pay debts, and establish courts.
The constitution divided government power into three branches to try to prevent any person or group from becoming too powerful. This idea was heavily influenced by Montesquieu’s Theory of Separation of Powers ◦ The best way to secure liberty and prevent a government from becoming corrupted was to divide the powers of government among different actors who would check each other.
The Legislative branch (Senators and state representatives) ◦ makes the laws The Executive branch (President, Vice President, and cabinet) ◦ enforces the laws The Judicial branch (supreme court) ◦ interprets the laws.
The delegates created a system of checks and balances to ensure that no branch of government can dominate the others. Examples: A) The President may have control over the armed forces but Congress has the power to declare war. B) Congress may pass a bill into law but the President can say no by a veto. C) The Supreme Court can undue a law by declaring it unconstitutional. Look in your book at page 143 for more information
The delegates in some ways feared a popular vote. Some distrusted the lower classes, some distrusted the common people to vote wisely, and some feared that the popular vote would be divided among many candidates. Therefore they devised a new system for electing a president. Instead of electing a president directly, each state would choose a number of electors equal to the number of senators and representatives the state had in congress. The group of electors, call the electoral college, would cast ballots for the candidates.