1 Unit 3 Topic Outline Essay

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AP United States History Topic Outline for Unit 3—The New Nation (1783-1800)

Topic Outline Class Notes & Reading Notes

4. The American Revolutionary Era, 1754–1789

A. State constitutions and the Articles of Confederation
1. During the Revolutionary War, states created written constitutions based on democracy, protecting personal freedom, and limited government
2. Continental Congress approved of a framework for national government called the Articles of Confederation (1777-1789)
a. Organization: loose confederation of 13 states; States maintained political power; National government was a unicameral Congress in which each state received one vote; Few expressed powers (Make laws, settle disputes b/w states, negotiate treaties, handle Indian affairs, create a military)
b. Strengths: protected personal and state freedoms; Dealt with western lands gained after the Revolutionary War
i. Land Ordinance of 1785 ii. Northwest Ordinance of 1787
c. Weaknesses: No national unity; The government was weak: could not require states to pay taxes, no president, no court system, difficult to amend the government structure or pass laws
3. Shays’ Rebellion (1786-1787)
a. The national government had difficulty stopping a rebellion led by frustrated Massachusetts farmers
b. The rebellion convinced Americans to hold a Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787

B. The Federal Constitution
1. Constitutional Convention in 1787
a. The delegates agreed to replace the AOC, but proceedings were conducted in secret
b. The new government would be based on limited government, democratic republicism, separation of powers/checks and balances, federalism
c. Delegates disagreed over what the new government would look like:
i. Virginia Plan: James Madison proposed a framework of government that was a bicameral Congress with representation determined by a state’s population; Creating a strong president to lead the nation ii. New Jersey Plan: William Patterson proposed maintaining the structure of the AOC with a unicameral Congress with representation remaining one vote per state; With the added power to tax the states iii. The “Great Compromise” settled the disagreement by creating a bicameral Congress made up of a House of Representatives (based on state population size) and a Senate (with two Senators per state)
d. Delegates disagreed over how to count state population size
i. Southern states wanted to count slaves towards population size (more reps in the House) but not towards purposes of taxation ii. Northern states did not want to count slaves towards population, but did want them counted for taxes (because they were “property”) iii. The Three-Fifths Compromise settled the issue; 3 out of every 5 slaves was counted towards population size, taxation, and representation
e. Delegates could not agree on the issue of slavery
i. The Revolutionary War made the issue of slavery in America seem hypocritical; Many states outlawed slavery in the North; Many slave owners freed or manumitted slaves after the revolution ii. Southern delegates would not discuss slavery at the Constitutional Convention iii. Delegates agreed not to discuss the “slave question” until 1808
f. With these agreements in place, the delegates wrote out a structured framework of a national government

2. Structure of the National Government
a. Preamble
b. Article I—The Legislative Branch (Congress = House + Senate)
i. House of Representatives: Based on population size, 25 years old,
2 year terms; revenue (tax) bill must originate in House; impeachment ii. Senate: Two representatives per state; 30 years old, 6 year terms; Approve presidential nominees for ambassadors and judges; Ratify treaties with 2/3 vote; Conducts trial for impeachment iii. Powers of Congress: Make laws, taxes, declare war, determine citizenship, entry of new states to the Union, regulate trade iv. Section 8, Clause 18: Necessary and Proper Clause (Elastic Clause) gives Congress power to add use