Notes: Give Me Liberty! An American History: Chapter 7
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Chapter 7 - Founding a Nation (1783-1789)
- What were the achievements and problems of the Confederation government?
- What were the major debates that gave shape to the Constitution?
- What were the purpose and meaning of the Bill of Rights as it emerged from the ratification process?
- What did “We the People” mean in the new nation fro Indians and African-Americans?
Chapter 7 Notes
- Founding a Nation - Introduction
- June and July of 1788 - Everyone in AM was celebrating the ratification of the US Constitution. For this time, all social classes were forgotten
- The parads testified to the strong popoulary support for the Const in the nation’s cities....”May commerce flourish and industry be rewarded”
- AM was very different from other countries: had advantages and disadvantages...also wasn’t governed by force like other countries.
- Advantages: very large, isolated from Old World, youthful population to grow, and a broad distribution of property ownership and literacy
- Disadvantages: Area was so large that it was hard to secure it all. SP might could have closed New Orleans to commerce
- The Articles of Confederation
- First written const of US, was designed more for mutual defense (“a firm league of friendship”) among the states
- Major decisions needed 9/13 to agree to make something happen, states were independent.
- Congress could coin money but could levy taxes or regulate commerce
- However, Congress under the AoC did mng to establish national control over land west of the 13 states
- Establishing boundaries of existing stat es to the Mississippi was not easy...100k Indians inhabited the region.
- Congress believed that the Indians forfeited their right to the western land when they joined the BR in the war
- They did this through treaties with the Indians
- Many settlers wanted to travel west to get lands for cheap or for free.
- Kentucky - Many ppl used land they thought was their’s, but then there were a ton of lawsuits where those ppl lose land they thought was theirs.
- Leaders made strict rules for those settling in the West b/c they didn’t want troubles with Indians to stir up
- Drafted by Jefferson, the Ordinance of 1784 established stages of self-government for the West.
- Region divided into districts governed by Congress then eventually became states
- One section per township = to provide for public education
- Many AM’s thought the achievements of the AoC outweighed it’s failings. But it lacked a secure source of revenue, imported more than exported.
- This undercut the AM craftsmen. States printed lots of money to make up for it (state-wise), also enacted laws postponing debt collection
- Daniel Shays = leader. He led debt0ridden farmers b/c Mass firmly resisted printing paper money. Farmers/participants were acting in spirit of the AM Rev
- Gov James Bowdoin sent an army there, 1,000 arrested and rebels = dispersed
- Thomas Jefferson (from Paris) - said that a little rebellion is necessary...eventually needed a new gov
- Idea that came into play - Liberty could be threatened bt the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power, other words - too much power in ppl’s hands can destroy liberty.
- Madison - Virginian and lifelong disciple and ally of Thomas Jefferson, was for stronger national government
- Alexander Hamilton - Came to N AM from the West Indies - most vigorous proponent of an “energetic” government that would enable the new nation to become a powerful commercial and diplomatic presence in world affairs.
- Said that liberty required proper degree of authority. Him and Madison were “nation-builders”
- 55 men Gathered for the National Convention. Jefferson and Adams were diplomats in Europe, but George Washington was able to take part
- Nearly all the people were prosperous by the standards of the day. They were legit to say the VERY least.
- Delegates agreed on many points:
- Creating a legislature, an executive, and a national judiciary - now could raise $$ w/out relying on states.
- Choosing of the H of Reps represented an expansion of democracy
- Ensured that the Senate was composed of only the most prominent citizens
- The H of Reps was actually made quite smaller (only 65 at start)
- Pres elected by electoral ppl = chosen either by its legislature of popular vote
- Was supposed to cast two votes for president, with the leader becoming president and second place becoming vice president
- Took 4 months to write the less than 4,000 word outline for the new government. It embodied two principles
- Federalism (division of powers
- Checks and Balances - btwn the diff branches of government (sep. of powers)
- Many who gathered in Philly were slaveholders. “Slave” not in the Const. Including it would “contaminate the glorious fabric of American liberty”
- Madison said the new const supported it.
- Const prohibited Congress from abolishing the AF slave trade for 20 years
- Ppl from South Carolina strongly defended slavery.
- In Philly Convention, they agreed on: the fugitive slave clause, the 3/5ths clause, and the electoral college
- January 1st, 1808, Congress immediately prohibited the slave trade
- Fugitive slave clause - accorded slave laws “extraterritoriality” - the condition of Slaves were still slaves if they escaped to a place where there was no slavery
- B/c of the 3/5ths clause, the slaveholders helped get the H of Reps up.
- Example: First 16 presidents, only 4 were not slaveholders
- Governor Morris put some final touches on the US Constitution; all things that the A of C did not have
- Constitution created a new framework for AM development
- The Federalist
- Hamilton, Madison, and Jay composed these (85) essays to generate support for the Constitution. They wrote 50, 30, and 5, respectively.
- Hamilton - said that government was n expression of freedom, and tyranny was almost impossible w/ checks/balances. Said it was the “perfect balance btwn liberty and power”
- Madison (writer of the Federalist #10 and 51) showed that government should be based upon the will of the people, but those ppl were shown to be to dangerous enthusiasms.
- Madison argued that the size of the US was, in fact, a weakness
- Main argument - America’s diversity (factionalism) was good b/c the “rights of the individuals” would be protected - no single one would ever be able to take over the gov and oppress the rest
- Opponents of ratification, didn’t have coherent leadership (some included Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Patrick Henry.
- Saw no need for a stronger central government
- Believed liberty “arises from the freedom of out institutions and the limited nature of our government”
- Also pointed out the lack of a Bill of Rights, which left unprotected rights such as trial by jury and freedom of speech.
- Federalists - were usually more prominent ppl/ppl connected w/ the marketplace
- Federalists just, overall, had much more power and influence than Anti-Feds
- It’s an Anti-Federalist enduring legacy
- Madison believed this to be something that was “redundant or pointless”.
- However, Madison still presented Congress with a series of amendments known as the Bill of Rights
- National Identity
- Very diverse population. All citizens (“We the People”) are to possess “the Blessings of Liberty” as a birthright and pass them on to “Posterity”
- The Constitution identifies three groups of people; Indians - treated as members of independent tribes and not part of the AM body public, “other persons” or slaves, and the “people”. Only the “people” had the freedoms.
- American Identity = Historians say it was both civic and ethnic nationalism
- Civic - nation as a community open to all those devoted to its pol institutions and values
- Ethnic - community of descent based on a shared ethnic heritage, language, and culture
- AM leaders agreed that West shouldn’t be left in Indian hands, but DISagreed about what to do with the Indians (their fate)
- Often a treaty was signed with small portion of Ind tribe, but whole tribe had to abide by it.
- Congress forbade the transfer of Indian land w/out federal approval
- Ohio River Valley battles
- Little Turtle defeated Am’s, but then the AM’s came back 3 yrs later (1794) w/ 3,000 troops troops at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. Led directly to the Treaty of Grenville of 1795, were Indians ceded Ohio and Indiana to the fed gov.
- Some ppl (Jefferson) believed that Indians were normal ppl who could be changed, but AM freedom in the Indian’s eyes was an “entire stranger to us”
- Free blacks - where’d they fit in? Some free blacks enjoyed at least some legal rights accorded to whites, but the majority of blacks were slaves
- Crevecoeur - Wrote Letters from an AM farmer - described the US as a “melting pot”
- Like Crevecoeur, many white AMs excluded blacks from their conception of the AM people
- Nationalization Act of 1790 offered the first legislative definition of AM nationalist...eventually restricted it from abroad to “free white persons”
- Saying “White” excluded a large amt of people from becoming naturalized
- John Locke wrote that man’s liberty flowed from “his having reason”
- Jefferson didn’t want to degrade a whole race of people, so he voiced the idea “as a suspicion only”
- Jefferson believed people were shaped by their circumstances & surroundings
- A black man sent Jefferson workings about how he solved a mathematics thing, but Jefferson said that a white man must’ve helped him, and that ‘he wishes that a black man could be smart enough to do that’ (paraphrase)
- Jefferson believed slaves should have the enumerated rights, just not in AM (in the West Indies and AF was fine, but not AM)
- Jefferson died with a huge debt, thus making the gov take everything, including his massive amount of slaves
- Race now emerged as a convenient justification for the existence of slavery in a land that claimed to be committed to freedom.
- “We the People” increasingly meant only white AM’s.
- Anonymous writer - “Principles of freedom, which embrace only half mankind, are only half systems.” Another = “Tell us not of principles. Those principles have been annihilated by the existence of slavery among us.”
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