Stockman's History Extravaganza
In The Beginning
What We Are Covering Today
Articles of Confederation
In the beginning the newly independent state were cautious about giving to much power to the central government. They preferred a confederation in which each state would maintain its sovereignty.
For this reason, Congress drafted the Articles of Confederation, this was the nations first set of laws. Finally ratified in 1781, the AOC failed because it did not give enough power to the federal government.
Congress was unable to pass a law because it took at least nine of the thirteen states to agree. Since states had different interests this seldom happened. The Articles did not allow the government to impose taxes. The federal government had to ask the states for money.
After the revolution the United States experienced an economic crisis. The value of U.S. currency was very low. Falling farm prices left many farmers unable to repay outstanding loans. At the same time, Massachusetts raised taxes (states could) Outraged, a Massachusetts farmer and Revolutionary war veteran name Daniel Shay led a rebellion.
Without an adequate national government, Massachusetts was forced to deal with the revolt alone. This event made it evident a stronger central government was needed.
Leaders called a convention to revise the AOC.
The Constitutional Convention and Ratification
In 1787, a delegation met in Philadelphia to revise the AOC. They decide to do away with the document and write a new set of laws. The result was the U.S. Constitution. This caused much debate therefore a number of compromises emerged.
The Great Compromise
Edmund Randolph and James Madison of Virginia introduced the Virginia Plan. They proposed a federal government made up of three branches: Legislative Branch, Executive Branch and Judicial Branch.
For the Legislative Branch the Virginia Plan called for two houses with representatives from each state. In each house, the number of representatives per state would be based on population. Larger states loved this idea but smaller states hated it because they would be left with less representation.
Wait There's More
As a result one of New Jersey’s delegates proposed the New Jersey Plan. It also had three branches. The New Jersey plan only called for one house with each state getting one vote. In the end the delegates decide on a compromise. It became known as the Great Compromise.
It established a legislative branch with two houses. One house, House of Representatives elected by the people with each state granted seats based on population. The other house, called the Senate, would be elected by state legislatures, with each state having two senators, regardless of population. Together these two houses would comprise Congress.
The Three-Fifths Compromise
Slavery also proved to be a point of contention. Northern states had fewer slaves and argued that since slaves were not voting citizens, they should not be counted as part of the population. Southern states had far more slaves and wanted to count them.
The answer to this question was important because it affected how many representatives each state would have in congress. Again, a compromise was reached. It was know as the three-fifths compromise.
The Slave Trade Compromise
Debate about the slave trade resulted in the Slave Trade Compromise. Northerners opposed the slave trade but allowed it to continue for twenty years. After this Congress could impose regulations. This was important to the Southerners who insisted their economy could not survive without the slave trade.
So Who Were The Federalist vs. Anti-Federalists?
There were also controversy surrounding the new constitution. Many favored the Constitution because they believed the U.S. needed a strong federal government with a powerful president. Others opposed it because they feared a strong federal government would trample their rights. Those that supported the Constitution were called Federalist. Those that opposed them and wanted a stronger state government were called Anti-Federalist.
Federalist had a loose interpretation of the Constitution. They believed the Constitution allowed the federal government to take certain actions not specifically stated as long as it was necessary. The Anti-Federalist held a strict interpretation of the Constitution. They believed the federal government could only do what the Constitution specifically said. To make their case for the Constitution, the Federalist wrote a series of essays known as the Federalist Papers. Another compromise was reached and although the Federalist won, the Anti-Federalist did secure a Bill of Rights.