The two years of the Revolutionary War (United

 

 

 

 

 

The Confederation and The
Constitution

Alexa Brown

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Chamberlain College of Nursing

HIST 405N

January 2018

            The Articles of Confederation are
considered the first constitution of the United States.  The government conducted these affairs during
the last two years of the Revolutionary War (United States (U.S.) Articles of
Confederation, 2017).   The Land
Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, as well as the Treaty of
Paris in 1783 were monumental pieces of legislation also produced during this
time (United States (U.S.) Articles of Confederation, 2017).  It took many years for the Articles of
Confederation to become ratified. Ben Franklin presented the first draft to
congress in 1775 and its final ratification did not take place until 1779
(Articles of Confederation, 2009). 
Maryland was the last state to approve the articles.  Maryland was in a hard place as claims to
western lands led Maryland to be in an “inflexible opposition” (2009).  Maryland was a part of the so called
“landless states” and these states included the Carolinas, Georgia,
Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Maryland.  The “landless states” insisted that the west
belonged to the United States and that the United States should honor their
claims to having part of the western land (2009). Thomas Jefferson convinced
Virginia to yield their western claims and this eventually led Maryland to
agree to ratify the Articles (2009). 

 The Articles of Confederation were greatly
flawed.  Some flaws of the Articles were
that laws required a 9/13 vote majority to pass in Congress, Congress did not
have the power to tax or regulate foreign or interstate commerce, there was no
executive branch of government to enforce acts passed by Congress, each state only
had one vote in Congress (regardless of size), there was no national court
system, and when amendments of the Articles were attempted the vote had to be
unanimous (United States (U.S) Articles of Confederation, 2017).  Some of the things the Articles of
Confederation stated was that the states could issue their own currency,
collect its own taxes, and would provide for its own militia (United States
(U.S.) Articles of Confederation, n.d.). With the Articles in place, the
government was not able to govern properly and its main focus was to control
the foreign policy.  The government had a
true lack of power when it came to compelling states to honor national
obligations while under the Articles of Confederation.  During this time, the government owed more
than $42 million dollars, and in today’s world this would amount to more than
$40 billion dollars (United States (U.S. Articles of Confederation, 2017).  The debt was not paid off until the early
1800s (United States (U.S.) Articles of Confederation, 2017).  There were major efforts to amend the
Articles of Confederation and this was hard to do as all thirteen states had to
agree.  There were many attempts to amend
the Articles with failure.  The year
after the amendment failure in 1786 the Constitutional Convention met in
Philadelphia and the government of the Articles of Confederation was officially
closed (Articles of Confederation, 2009). 

The Constitutional Convention was
also called the 100-day debate.  The Convention
took place from May 14, 1787 until September 17, 1787 and took place in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The original
plan for the convention was to revise an amend the Articles of
Confederation.  There were many men
including Alexander Hamilton and James Madison that wanted to create a new
government and replace the Articles. George Washington was elected to oversee
the Convention. There were 55 out of 70 delegates that were able to attend the
Convention and Rhode Island was the only state that did not send delegates (The
Constitutional Convention, 2017).  There
were three rules during the Convention. 
Each vote was to be by state and each state was to have one vote
regardless of its population or size, the proceedings were to be strictly
secret, and proper decorum was to be maintained at all times (Spalding, 2007).

James Madison is considered to be
the father of the Constitution.  He was
the largest creator of the first blueprint called the Virginia Plan.  The Virginia Plan was the first to create the
idea of representation according to population (The Constitutional Convention, 2017).  The Virginia Plan was also the first document
to create the three branches of government separated into an executive,
legislative, and a judicial branch.  The
Virginia Plan also stated that the legislative branch should have two houses
and that states would be represented in proportion to their population (The
Constitutional Convention, 2017).  The smaller
states did not like this idea, of course. 
The New Jersey Plan was then created as an alternative to the Virginia
Plan.  This plan was created by William
Patterson.  The New Jersey Plan created
the idea of a single chamber legislature and each state, regardless of its
size, would have one vote (The Constitutional Convention, 2017).  One could call the Virginia Plan a large
state plan, whereas, the small state plan was the New Jersey Plan.  The New Jersey Plan was rejected, like the
Virginia Plan.  Small states did not like
the Virginia Plan as the smaller states would have less say in the government
compared to the larger states.  The
Convention eventually settled on a plan called the Connecticut Compromise and
it was a middle ground for the New Jersey and Virginia Plans (The
Constitutional Convention, 2017).  The
Compromise stated that there would be two houses instead of one.  The first house, The House of Representatives,
would have a representation according to population, whereas, the second house,
The Senate, would have an equal number of representatives regardless of size or
population (The Constitutional Convention, 2017).  The Senate would be represented by two
members from each state.  The Connecticut
Compromise was created by Roger Sherman. 
 

The Convention itself was described
by John Adams as “the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the
world has ever seen” and was a seminal event in the history of human liberty
(Spalding, 2007).  A Committee of Detail
reworded the resolutions of the plan into a drafted Constitution and then gave
it to a Committee of Style in which polished the language (2007). Of the 55
delegates that were a part of the Convention only 41 remained when the signing
was to take place.  Edmund Randolph,
George Mason, and Elbridge Gerry opposed and choose not to sign (2007).  The reason Randolph choose night to sign was
due to the fact that he believed the Constitution was not “republican enough”
and was wary of creating a single executive (2007).  Gerry and Mason were leery of the lack of a
declaration of rights (2007).   Mason and
Gerry eventually supported the Constitution and they served on the First
Congress (2007).  September 28 was the
day the Constitution was sent to be ratified. 
Delaware was the first state to ratify and they did so on December 7,
1781.  The last of the colonies to ratify
was Rhode Island who choose to ratify on May 29, 1790. 

During the ratification of the Constitution
there was a great debate and this debate had two sides, The Federalists and The
Anti-Federalists.  Alexander Hamilton led
the Federalists.  The Federalists were
considered the first political party of the United States.  The Federalists supported the Constitution
and they attempted to convince the states to ratify (The Great Debate, 2017).  John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James
Madison published the Federalist Papers and published them anonymously under a
pseudonym “Publis” (The Great Debate, 2017). 
The Federalists believed that a Bill of Rights was not needed.  They believed it would limit the rights of
the people and would not protect them. 

The Federalist Papers consisted of
85 essays that each argued in support of the United States Constitution (The
Federalist Papers, 2017).  The
Independent Journal published 77 of these essays.  Four essays were written by John Jay, 29 by
James Madison, and the rest by Alexander Hamilton.  Federalist No. 84 is said to be notable for
the opposition to what would later become the Bill of Rights.  Federalist James Madison eventually presented
the Bill of Rights to Congress, despite what he formally felt and stood against
(The Great Debate, 2017.). 

The Anti-Federalists opposed the
Constitution and they complained that the system threatened liberties and
failed to protect people’s individual rights (The Great Debate, n.d.).  They were not a unified group compared to the
Federalists.  Some of the
Anti-Federalists opposed the Constitution because they argued a new centralized
government would be like the Great Britain they worked so hard to get away from
and also believed that the stronger government threated the sovereignty of the
states (The Great Debate, 2017).  Patrick
Henry was a strong Anti-Federalist who came out publicly.  The Anti-Federalists were unsuccessful in
preventing the adoption of the Constitution but were responsible for the
creation and eventually the implementation of the United States Bill of Rights
(The Great Debate, 2017). 

The Bill of Rights was proposed by
James Madison.  Twelve amendments were
proposed with numbers three through twelve becoming permanent and adopted on
December 15, 1791.  Later two more
amendments were added for a total of 10 amendments.  Today the Bill of Rights and the Constitution
remain central pieces in the United States government and law.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Articles
of Confederation. (2009). Retrieved from

http://www.history.com/topics/articles-of-confederation.com/topics/articles-of-co

Spalding,
M., The Formation of the Constitution. (2007). 
Retrieved from             https://www.heritage.org/the-constitution/report/the-formation-the-constitution

The
Constitutional Convention. (2017) Retrieved from

            https://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-constitution-amendments/the-constitutional- convention/

The
Federalist Papers. (2017).  Retrieved
from

            https://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-articles-of-confederation/the-federalist-papers/

The
Great Debate. (2017). Retrieved from

            https://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-articles-of-confederation/the-great-debate/

United
States (U.S) Articles of Confederation. (2017). Retrieved from             https://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-articles-of-confederation/