History 110 -
Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
Founding Moments: The Revolutionary Era in Retrospect
Below, please find discussion guides for today.
Founding Moments: The Revolutionary Era in Retrospect
- To examine the politics surrounding the three founding moments in US History:
- the 1776 declaration of American independence from England - the Declaration of Independence,
- the political declarations
of American nationhood as exemplified in the first governing structure
of the United States - the Articles of Confederation, and
- the second governing
structure - the Constitution.
- To understand the controversies and compromises that accompanied the creation of the governmental structures under the Constitution.
- To examine a few myths surrounding the Constitution.
- To gain a better understanding of the first two presidencies of Washington and Adams.
Goal #1: To examine the politics surrounding the three founding moments in US History
Founding Moment #1: The 1776 declaration of American independence from England - the Declaration of Independence
Founding Moment #2: The political declarations
of American nationhood as exemplified in the first governing structure
of the United States - the Articles of Confederation.
The Articles of Confederation, adopted in 1777,
created a weak central union of equal states whereby "each state retains
its sovereignty, freedom, and independence," as well as all powers and
rights not "expressly delegated" to the United States government. The central government was to be run by a unicameral central
legislature, Congress, which had the "sole and exclusive powers"
All other powers were left to the states. The states had complete
equality and the Articles placed very few restraints upon them.Each state had at least two and as many as seven Congressional representatives,
all of whom were selected by the state governments. Each delegation,
however, had only one vote. All laws had to be approved by 9 of the
13 state representatives. Any amendment to the Articles required
the unanimous approval of all 13 state legislatures. The rules for Congressmen were rigorous and designed to restrain the
political power of officeholders.
declare war - by requisitioning funds from the states "for the common defense
or general welfare" - and declare peace;
control foreign affairs;
regulate trade with Indians;
arbitrate disputes between the states;
regulate the value of its coinage and that of the states, but not to control
the emission of paper money by the states; and
organize and control the post office and the regulation of weights and
No one could be a member of Congress for more than three out of any six
No one could be president of Congress for more than one year out of any
All were subject to recall at any time by the state governments that selected
In short, the Articles of Confederation were designed to
prevent the central government from infringing upon the rights of the states. But, as Dr. Carol Berkin argues, that while the Articles met the war goals of the Revolution, they were not able to meet the nation’s needs for a new government. See the video of Dr. Carol Berkin discussing the Articles of Confederation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef280RNSUzo
The dispute over western land.
Anti-Federalists (radicals/Democratic Republicans/Democrats) -
Favored passage of the Articles of Confederation and were led by Thomas
Jefferson and James Madison and supported primarily by agrarians, westerners,
The Ordinance of 1784 called for the admission of 10
states carved out of the new territory as soon as their populations equaled
that of the smallest state in the Union, and democratic self-governance
for all free white males.
The Land Ordinance of 1785 established townships of 6 square
miles, each of which was divided into 36 lots of one square mile (640 acres) as shown in the map belo.
The price was set at a minimum of one dollar per acre.
Northwest Ordinance of 1787 overturned the idea of self-governance
and replaced it with Congressionally-appointed governors; stipulated that
between 3-5 states could be established out of the territory; forbade slavery
in the territory; and set up a 3-step process for statehood. After
5,000 adult males were settled, people could write a temporary constitution
and elect a legislature; with 60,000 settlers, people could write a state
constitution subject to Congressional approval prior to statehood.
Federalists (conservatives) - Did not favor
the Articles of Confederation and were led by Alexander Hamilton, Washington's
Secretary of the Treasury, and supported primarily by upper class northern
and mid-Atlantic businessmen and professionals.
Favored direct rule, widespread political participation by men of all classes,
and equal rights; and used the increasingly accessible press to assert
that Federalists planned to create a privileged order of men and re-create
the atmosphere of the European monarchy and aristocracy.
Believed power should be vested in state and local governments and that
locally-elected representatives would be more accountable to the people.
Distrusted a strong central government, fearing it would restore the worst
features of British rule. They believed men in power naturally lusted
for more power and that restraints must be placed upon them or the liberties
of the people would inevitably suffer.
Envisioned an America ruled by an agrarian democracy of small farmers who
would control the politics of their individual states.
Supported France (Francophiles) - saw leaders as men who replaced hereditary
privileges with liberty, equality, and brotherhood.
Favored a strict interpretation of the Constitution - the central
government had only the limited powers expressly assigned to it in the
Favored a representative government of elected officials who ruled in the
peopleís name without direct popular influence and who forged a
close relationship between government and the upper class.
Believed power should be vested in a strong central government that could
help them retain the political and economic structure that had been created
Distrusted small state governments that would be run by the masses of people
who were not qualified for political office.
Envisioned an America ruled by an informal aristocracy of elite, propertied
gentlemen who would control the politics of the nation.
Did not support France (Anti-French Revolution) - saw leaders as evil radicals
who incited the poor against the rich; equated democracy with mob rule.
Favored a loose interpretation of the Constitution - cited Article
1, Section 8 empowering Congress to make "all laws which shall be necessary
and proper" to carry out the provisions of the Constitution.
Creating Republican Governments: The State Constitutions
Pennsylvania - Constitution abolished all property qualifications
and granted the vote to all white males in the state; created a unicameral
assembly with no governor or separate executive officer and no upper house
in the legislature to represent the interests of wealthy citizens; and
required the annual election of all legislators to ensure that its assembly
remained responsive to the needs of the people.
Maryland - Constitution required that white men own property
in order to vote and that those who wished to run for office provide evidence
of greater wealth; created a three-way division of power between an executive
branch, upper house with high property qualifications, and lower house
with lesser property qualifications to represent and protect the interests
of the wealthy; and had longer periods between elections.
The remaining states fell between these two extremes.
- New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Georgia followed the more
democratic tendencies of Pennsylvania. Their colonial histories had
been dominated by coastal elites and lowland gentry. Thus, their
constitutions sought to correct this injustice by ensuring representation
to small farming districts in the interior and backcountry regions.
- New York, South Carolina, and Virginia followed the more
traditional, conservative approach of Maryland.
- New Jersey gave the vote to "all free inhabitants" who met modest
property qualifications. Thus, women with property could vote, while
men who were propertyless could not. In 1807, this right was rescinded
when state lawmakers argued that "the weaker sex" was too easily manipulated
by political candidates to be allowed to vote.
- Massachusetts took the opportunity to change colonial inequities
that gave control to elitist upper houses. Thus, it created a system
of checks and balances among the legislative, judicial, and executive branches,
and its bicameral legislature became a model for a strong but restrained
government that represented most of the people in the state.
- Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware took a middle ground
The second round of constitution making that occurred in the 1780s generally
expanded the powers of the state governments and curbed the democratic
extension of voting and office holding privileges. Wealth returned
as a qualification to govern, but the wealthy were not allowed to tamper
with the basic individual rights of citizens. Seven states adopted
a bill of rights guaranteeing freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly,
Founding Moment #3: The second governing
structure of the United States - the Constitution
Shortly after the Articles of Confederation were passed, a dedicated, small group of powerful, propertied men began the movement to create a new constitution based upon a centralized federal government.
First, they began writing letters to one another; by the 1780s, they were writing essays in newspapers and legal opinions.
These ideas spilled into the political arena in 1785 when Maryland and Virginia sent "commissioners" to Mount Vernon to consider a way to improve navigation on the Potomac River.
At that meeting, the commissioners proposed a general meeting of all state delegates to discuss commercial problems.
The following year, 5 states sent representatives to that gathering at Annapolis, Maryland. There, the delegates proposed a general gathering of state delegates to meet in 1787 to consider amendments to the Articles.
The result was the Constitutional Convention that met in Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation.
- For almost 4 months, 30 of the 55 delegates worked 6 days a week, five hours a day, from May 25 to September 17 in miserable summer heat and humidity - not to amend the Articles, but to create an entirely new framework for government that has lasted to this day and was like nothing ever seen before. Indeed, it was what one historian has called "the most remarkable example of sustained intellectual discourse in American history."
- The Convention kept its proceedings completely secret, even to the extent of having the windows of its meeting room nailed shut. When it adjourned, it simply presented its work as a finished product that the people could either approve or reject.
- So what happened that made the delegates ultimately decide not to amend the Articles, but rather to create an entirely new constitutional structure?
- Joseph Ellis tells us that it was the intellectual interaction and dedication of the "Founding Brothers" that was responsible for this founding moment - men who were but a "tiny minority of prominent political leaders from several key states" and who "conspired to draft and then ratify a document designed to accommodate republican principles on a national scale." (p. 8)
- The combined power, prestige, intelligence, and wisdom of these men shaped a new legal structure that favored their vision of a developing nation
U.S. Constitution. At the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the delegates voted
to adopt the new Constitution which created a new structure for a federal
government with three independent branches (legislative, executive,
and judicial) that would serve as a "check and balance" for one another.
In summary, the Constitution represented a great power shift:
Legislative. A bicameral Congress had the power
to make the laws that governed the U.S. It consisted of:
Executive. A President presided over the Executive Branch
and as such, had the power to command the armed forces, to conduct diplomatic
relations, to nominate judges and officials in the executive branch, and
to veto congressional legislation. He was to be popularly elected
every four years.
The Senate with equally elected members (2 representatives from each state
elected by state legislatures); and
The House of Representatives elected by popular vote determined in proportion
to each stateís population.
Judicial. A Supreme Court was vested with the judicial power
of the nation. The Supreme Court was to hear cases involving the
laws of the U.S.; treaties; ambassadors and consuls; admiralty and maritime
jurisdiction; and controversies between two or more states, between a state
and citizens of another state, between citizens of different states, and
between a state or its citizens and a foreign state or citizens. Inferior
courts could also be created by Congress according to need.
Voters in each state selected presidential electors - the number for each
state decided by the total number of senators and representatives.
Electors belonged to the Electoral College which actually elected the president.
1. Under the Articles, the central government was decentralized
and real power remained with the state governments. The central government
consisted of a unicameral legislature (Congress) that had few powers.
2. Under the Constitution, the central government was centralized
and real power was vested in its three independent branches. The
central government consisted of the legislative (a bicameral Congress),
executive, and judicial branches that shared many powers. All power
not specifically vested in the central government under the Constitution
was left to the state governments.
Goal #2: To understand the controversies and compromises that accompanied the creation of the governmental structures under the Constitution
- The Preamble - Below is page 1 of the first draft of the Constitution printed in August 1787 as a text for the Founders during their debate:
"We the People of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennslvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, do ordain, declar and establish the following Constitution for the Government of Ourselves and our Posterity".
Below is the final version of the Constitution printed on September 17, 1787:
"We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
2. Congressional Representation.
- If they used proportional representation, states with large populations would have a great deal of power while states
with small populations would have less representation. For instance,
Virginia and Pennsylvania would have one-third of the nation's political
power, while Delaware would be entitled to one-nineteenth.
- Slave-owning states could have more power than non-slave-owning states.
- Eastern states with fixed borders could be stuck with smaller populations
while those of the west with an untapped continent could host potentially
- If they used equal representation, each state, regardless of size,
would have the same number of representatives. Thus, seven states
with only 25% of the total population could have the majority control over
- The compromise - a bicameral Congress.
- Senate was based upon equal representation
- House of Representatives was based upon proportional representation.
3. Slavery. The Constitutional debate over slavery included
two extreme arguments:
- New England and most Middle Atlantic delegates argued that slavery was
inherently incompatible with the values of the American Revolution, that
it retarded economic development in the south, and that it should be abolished
in the territories. Some argued for its abolition in the Constitution
while others argued for the abolition of the slave trade.
- The Southerners argued that they should have open-ended access to African
slaves and open access to slave labor in the territories, and that a provision
guaranteeing the property rights of slave owners should be included in
the Constitution. They also argued that although slaves were
property, they should count in terms of representation in the House.
Indeed, all southern states had a distinct disadvantage:, at
least half of their population were slaves who, as property, could not
count for voting purposes.
- The Compromise:
- Omission of the words "slavery," "slaves," or "Negroes" in the final draft
of the Constitution.
- For purposes of representation, each slave was counted as three-fifths
of a person
- The New England states agreed to extend the slave trade for 20 years, allowing
Congress to revisit the topic in 1808; in return, the Deep South agreed
to a majority rather than a two-thirds vote on matters regarding federal
regulation of commerce.
- The "bottom line" was that neither side got what it wanted.
No provisions were included for placing slavery on a road to extinction
and no guarantees were included for making slavery a permanent and protected
- There was somewhat of a Southern victory - when the Southern states ratified
the Constitution, they did so with the implicit and broadly-shared understanding
that the federal government could and would do nothing to interfere with
the existence of slavery in the South. Many states further felt that
if the federal government ever failed to honor this understanding, they
had the right to leave the union.
4. Basic Freedoms. There were no inclusions of basic freedoms in the Constitution. It was the southern states that insisted on these amendments and required their addition as a condition of ratification. They were adopted in 1791 and were certainly the most radical guarantees of their time.
- First Amendment prohibits Congress from establishing an official
religion and provides for the freedoms of assembly, speech, press, and
right of petition.
- The other amendments guarantee:
- the ability to limit the government's power to quarter troops in
- the ability to restrain the government from unreasonable searches or seizures;
- the assurance that people cannot be denied their legal rights under the
common law, including prohibition of double jeopardy, right not to be compelled
to testify against oneself;
- the guarantees that due process of the law will occur before life, liberty,
or property can be taken; of trial by jury; and no excessive bail, fines,
nor cruel and unusual punishment;
- protection of the unenumerated rights of the people.
- Tenth Amendment reserves "all powers not delegated to the United
States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States," to the
states or to the people.
Goal #3: To examine a few myths surrounding the Constitution
Myth: The Constitution represented a radical break with
the past in that the Founding Fathers, most of whom
were true believers in democracy, created a true democratic form of
A democracy is a government in which the supreme power is vested
in the people and exercised by them directly through periodically free elections. In a democracy, the vote is open to all the people and power is invested
in the people.
A republic is a government in which the supreme power resides
in a body of citizens - not a king or queen - but
in the people. These citizens are entitled to vote - and they do so by voting for representatives
who are responsible to the people. In a republic, the vote is limited to those who are entitled and power is invested
in the elected.
In reality, the Founding Fathers did not create a radically revolutionary
document. Rather, the Constitution
represented a shift from a nondemocratic form of government to a somewhat
more democratic form of
Myth: The Constitution established English as the official language
of the United States.
In reality, there is no mention of any official language in the
Constitution. In fact, so many Americans spoke so
many different languages at the time that the Constitution was written,
it would have been an absurdity to consider
one language as "official."
Myth: The Constitution establishes the United States as a Christian nation and was, in fact, written to promite and prepetuate a Christian order.
In reality, the Founding Fathers defined government in secular
terms - in terms that clearly delineated a "wall of separation" between church and state. If anything was truly revolutionary
about the Constitution, it was this separation of church and state.
Goal #4: To gain a better understanding of the first two presidencies of Washington and Adams.
George Washington - elected during the first federal election in 1788; inaugurated on April 30, 1789. President between 1789-1796; vice president was John Adams.
- A federalist, wealthy landowner, and famous general - member of the elite.
- As President, he suggested few laws to Congress, seldom criticized opponents of governmental policy, limited public statements to foreign affairs and military matters, and generally deferred to Congressional decisions on domestic policy (only vetoed 2 measures in eight years.) His style set a precedent for presidents who followed.
- Established the first cabinet of presidential advisors who headed executive departments and gave President advice on executive policy. Constitution made no provision. Today, Senate must approve all cabinet members.
John Adams - elected 1796; President between 1797-1800.
- A Federalist - ran against Republican, Thomas Jefferson. (Jefferson becme Vice President as Constitution provided that the candidate receiving second highest number of electoral votes became VP. 12th Amendment (1804) revised this procedure, allowing presidential candidate to appoint a running mate.)
- An intellectual with more theoretical knowledge than practical experience. Was unable to unify the nation at a time when it was becoming more politically fractured
The Judiciary - Under the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress established a Supreme Court, 13 district courts, and 3 circuit courts.
The Congress - Wrote and passed the Judiciary Act of 1789 and the Bill of Rights; established four executive departments - State, Treasury, War, and Justice; and overturned Chisholm case by passing the 11th Amendment in 1798 which declared no state could be sued by citizens from another state (response to localist fears about usurping state authority).
A very short-lived spirit of unity marked the early days of Washington's administration. Federalists sought and won the overwhelming majority of seats in the new Congress and this success enabled them to work quickly and efficiently on matters that they agreed were a priority.
However, within a few months of Washington's presidency, it was apparent that the founding fathers had split into two distinct groups, each with conflicting dreams.
1. Alexander Hamilton, the Federalist, dreamed of transforming an
agricultural America into a manufacturing, commercial society that would
rival Great Britain. He planned to achieve this goal by
passing tariffs designed to protect developing American industry;
creating governmental subsidies of financial assistance provided to new
giving economic incentives to new industries.
2. Thomas Jefferson, the Republican, dreamed of making America an even
more prosperous agrarian society than it had already become. He planned
to achieve this goal by
promoting free trade between nations without protective tariffs; and
encouraging the growth of an agrarian society that was complimented, not
dominated by, manufacturing interests.
The Whiskey Rebellion
The problem - To produce enough revenue to support the national assumption of state debts, Secretary of State Hamilton proposed an excise tax on domestically-produced whiskey. Congress passed the tax in March 1791. Problems immediately erupted in western Pennsylvania.
- To avoid high costs of shipping corn and rye crops over the Appalachians, most farmers distilled them into whiskey before transportation. A pack-horse could move only 4 bushels of grain over the mountains, but condensing 24 bushels into 2 kegs of whiskey doubled his profits. The tax greatly decreased the farmers' already small margin of profit.
- For the first several years, Pennsylvanians refused to pay, threatened tax collectors, and sometimes beat them up. In the summer of 1794, 100 men attacked a U.S. marshal serving delinquent taxpayers with court summonses. Large crowds torched buildings and assaulted tax collectors.
The excise tax required a 25% charge on all production and sale of liquor. Additionally,
- Distillers were expected to keep accurate records of production and to gauge and label each cask before shipment (a particular burden on part-time, small-scale distillers not accustomed to such strict accounting).
- Federal tax inspectors were empowered to inspect stills and search property for contraband goods and illegal distilling operations.
- Tax evaders were to be tried in federal courts at Philadelphia, a time-consuming and costly trip that could ruin a distiller financially, even if he were found innocent.
The significance - It defined all the fundamental issues and debates facing the new federal republic: federal versus states/local rights; western versus eastern interests; agricultural versus industrial interests; the nature of taxation; and the duties and rights of citizens. For Hamilton, the farmers' resistance was a direct threat to his plan for national economic expansion. If one group of citizens chose to oppose government taxes by force and succeeded, Hamilton reasoned, their success would set a dangerous precedent for other groups.
The outcome - Hamilton convinced President Washington to head an army of 13,000 men. When the rebels saw the huge army marching against them, they quickly dispersed - and the new federal government had proved its credibility. The cost for putting down the rebellion was $1.5 million - about one-third of the revenues raised by the whiskey tax during its entire life Ironically, Washington, who had led the revolt against British taxation, led this army to crush a revolt against a similar internal tax.
Social Divisions, 1789-1800. By 1800, the population of the U.S. was 5.3 million and was growing
at an annual rate of 3 percent. While the population grew, so did
- Rich versus poor. The gap between rich and poor
widened - partly because the Federalists were in power - northern industrialists,
merchants, speculators - and their policies increasingly alienated the
members of the growing Republican party - farmers, westerners, and southerners.
- Free versus Slave. In 1790, 8% of all African-Americans
were free; by 1800, 11% were free. While freedmen gained some rights
in the 1780s and early 1790s - freedom of movement, property protection,
enrollment in militia, voting in all but 3 states - by 1800, the social
and legal distances between all blacks and whites increased.
- Congress limited naturalization procedures to foreign whites (1790)
and passed the Fugitive Slave Law (1793) - judges required to return
runaway slaves to their masters; accused runaways denied jury trials and
could be prevented from submitting evidence; slavesí legal status
as property disqualified them from any constitutional privileges; free
blacks denied all legal protections in the Bill of Rights.
- Navy and marine corp forbade nonwhite enlistment (1798).
- Some states denied free blacks the vote (Delaware, MD, Kentucky, NJ)
- Urbanization. Between 1775 to 1800, urbanization begins
to alter social conditions on the new frontier.
- Mercantilism and merchants - spokesmen for federalism - dominated
frontier city society, economy, and politics - often at the expense of
the farmers - the spokesmen for republicanism.
- Living quarters were crowded; housing could not keep up with the
incoming wage earners.
- Economic, cultural and racial diversity brought about social stratification
professionals whose status was unconnected to income
wage earners/service providers
transients and rootless
- American Press. At the beginning of the Revolution,
37 weekly or semi-weekly newspapers operated in the 13 colonies; by 1789,
the number had grown to 92, including 8 dailies. U.S. had more newspapers
than any other country in the world and also had a very high literacy rate.
During the 1790s, newspapers became the principal medium for Federalist
and Republican opinion and papers began to be identified by their politics.
Alien and Sedition Acts. In 1798, Congress was dominated by Federalists who were alarmed over two primary issues:
Problems that had erupted with France. France had interpreted Jay's Treaty as an American attempt to help the British in the war with France. In response, the French ordered the seizure of American ships; within a year, they had plundered more than 300 U.S. vessels and had ordered that every American captured on a British ship should be hanged. Congress then cut off trade with France and authorized American privateers to seize French ships. An undeclared war with France ensued between 1798 and 1800. Many republicans were highly critical of these actions and spoke out against the government.
The "hordes of foreigners" entering the US, especially the Irish, French, and some English radicals.
The Federalist Congress responded by passing four measures known as the Alien and Sedition Acts which:
permitted deportation of aliens from a nation with which the US was at war (Alien Enemies Act);
• authorized president during peacetime to deport any alien he considered dangerous (Alien Friends Act);
required applicants for naturalized citizenship be white, reside in the US for 2 years, and provide “proof” of good character so that the government could exclude “vagrants” and “bad men" (the Naturalization Act which was not nullified until 1952); and
forbade an individual or group “to oppose any measure or measures of the United States” and to print any statement that would bring the president “into contempt or disrepute” (Sedition Act).
17 Republican newspaper editors and politicians were accused of sedition and 10 were found guilty and imprisoned. They charged that the Sedition Act violated the First Amendment. While it was unconstitutional, the Republicans did not appeal to the Supreme Court because it was packed with Federalists and the Court’s power to review federal legislation had not yet been established.
International Politics, 1789-1800. In at least three spheres, the new nation grapled with international politics.
- U.S. vs. American Indians. By 1789, the Appalachians west to the Mississippi belonged to more than 80 tribes of about 150,000 people; about 200,000 frontier settlers also lived in the area. Indians were stronger militarily: in 1786, Mohawks had united Ohio River tribes into a military alliance; south eastern tribes refused to acknowledge American rule; northwestern tribes resisted America with British help; and southeastern tribes resisted with Spanish help. Indian war parties were common, as shown in frontier Kentucky - between 1784-1790, 1500 of the state’s 74,000 settlers were captured or killed in Indian raids, a casualty rate twice that of the Revolutionary War. Because massive, national military force was not available, settlers retaliated ruthlessly. Federal gov't defined its relationship with the Indian nations through two vehicles:
- Commerce Clause, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution stated that "The Congress shall have Power...to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."
- Intercourse Act of 1790 declared that the US government would “regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes” and that treaties between the US and the Indian nations were the only legal means to obtain Indian land.
- France and England. French Revolution began in 1789, ending in 1793 with creation of the Republic. Soon thereafter, France declared war on Britain and Spain and asked the U.S. to enter as an ally.
Washington issued a Proclamation of Neutrality on April 22, 1793. But the English responded to America trade with the French by seizing American vessels and cargoes. Anti-British emotion ran high, and in 1794, Washington sent Justice John Jay to England as a special envoy.
- Jay's Treaty - British promised to withdraw troops from U.S. by 1796 and US promised to pay prewar debts to British merchants. But the treaty did not honor America’s demand for freedom on the seas.
- British/Spanish/Indian Allies. The British and Spanish tried to detach the West from the U.S. through “divide and conquer” techniques. In 1794, British and Spanish built new forts. Two treaties resulted:
Pickney's Treaty with Spain - Spain recognized 31st parallel as southern border of U.S., granted Americans free navigation of Mississippi River, promised to dismantle all fortifications on U.S. soil, and pledged to discourage Indian attacks on western settlers.
Treaty of Greenville with 12 northeastern tribes - After a year-long campaign of American militia against the British-backed tribes, the Indians were severely beaten. Treaty opened most of the Ohio Valley to white settlement and temporarily ended Indian hostilities.
Both treaties established American sovereignty over the land west of the Appalachians; opened a vast market to American commerce; and furthered the political rift - Republicans claimed the treaties sold out American neutrality and republican principles in exchange for profits.
- There were essentially three "founding moments" in the Revolutionary
Era of U.S. History that created three founding documents - the 1776 Declaration of American independence, the Articles of Confederation; and the Constitution.
- The Articles of Confederation, the first American constitution, provided
for a weak central government and a loose union of strong state governments.
The Articles were replaced by the Constitution which created a strong central
government within a federal system of shared power and dual lawmaking between
three branches of government
The adoption of the Constitution set off a political debate between
two potent forces - the Federalists and the Republicans (Anti-federalists).
Today, the battle still rages between the forces of federalism who favor
a strong central government with broad governing powers, and the forces
of anti-federalism who feel the central government has usurped the powers
of the people and that power needs to be devolved to the state and local
The Founding Fathers did not create a radically revolutionary document.
The Constitution did not end slavery, nor did it significantly broaden
the electorate. Rather, the Constitution represented a shift from
a completely non-democratic form of government that existed prior to the
Revolution, to a somewhat more democratic government. In essence,
the republic it created opened the door for true democratic involvement
- a process that continues through today.
The Founding Fathers defined the federal government in secular terms
that clearly delineated a "wall of separation" between church and state.
In so doing, they enacted the only really revolutionary provisions of the
Despite the Founding Fathers' intention to avoid partisan politics,
by the turn of the 19th century, political, social, economic, and ideological
divisions were apparent throughout the United States.
Many positive trends developed during the first 11 years after the
Constitution was signed.
- The Articles of Confederation were designed to prevent the central
government from infringing upon the rights of the states, whereas the Constitution
was written to create a strong central government that would check the
power of the states.
At the same time, several divisive trends also developed:
- The nation grew geographically and economically.
- American sovereignty was established over land west of the Appalachians
via a series of treaties with Spain, England, and the American Indians.
- Federal policy recognized American Indian tribes as independent nations.
- Two separate political parties originated..
- A precedent arose for collecting federal revenues by imposing duties on
imported goods, rather than by direct taxation.
- Communication between regions and among states improved with increasing
number of newspapers.
The sum total of the positive and negative trends that occurred during
this period represented an evolutionary step forward rather than a revolutionary
departure from the past.
- The nation grew at the expense of the American Indians.
- The nation increasingly was divided by sectionalism between easterners
and westerners and between northerners and southerners.
- Politics became increasingly partisan with Federalists aligned primarily
with northern, urbanized monied classes and Republicans appealing to agrarian,
western, and southern interests of the "little" people.
- Government increasingly was divided between those who favored strong centralized
control in the hands of privileged leaders and those localists who favored
states rights and direct elections of the electorate as a whole.
- The first federal laws were passed to curb opposition to government - Alien
and Sedition Acts.
- The first armed opposition to federal law - the Whiskey Rebellion - was
organized, carried out, and put down with federal forces.
- Social and economic gaps widened between rich and poor, whites and blacks.
- Frontier urbanization brought disorder, confusion, and greater social stratification
among the population of growing cities.
- A division arose over the Founding Fathers' original intent of the Constitution
- loose versus strict constructionism.