APUSH notes Essay

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The Confederation and the Constitution


The Pursuit of Equality

The Continental Army officers formed an exclusive hereditary order called the Society of the Cincinnati.

Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom- created in 1786 by Thomas Jefferson and his co-reformers; stated that religion should not be imposed on anybody and that each person decided his/her own faith.

The Philadelphia Quakers in 1775 founded the first anti-slavery society.

The 1st Continental Congress called for the complete abolition of the slave trade in 1774. Several northern states went further and either abolished slavery altogether or provided the gradual emancipation of slaves. No states south of Pennsylvania abolished slavery.

Constitution Making in the States

The 2nd Continental Congress called upon the colonies in 1776 to draft new constitutions. Massachusetts called a special convention to draft its constitution and then submitted the final draft to the people.

As written documents, the state constitutions were intended to represent a fundamental law, superior to the short-lived impulses of ordinary legislation.

In the Revolutionary era, the capitals of New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia were all moved westward.

Economic Crosscurrents

Economic democracy preceded political democracy.

Due to the independence from Britain, the United States had to make everything on its own which it no longer imported from Britain.

Many Americans were poor because the economy was so bad.

Creating a Confederation

Shortly before declaring independence in 1776, the 2nd Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft a written constitution for the new nation. The finished product was the Articles of Confederation. It was adopted by Congress in 1777 and it convinced France that America had a genuine government in the making. The Articles of Confederation wasn't ratified by all 13 colonies until 1781.

The Articles of Confederation: America's First Constitution

The 13 colonies were joined together for joint action in dealing with common problems such as foreign affairs.

Congress had 2 major handicaps: It had no power to regulate commerce, and this loophole left the states free to establish conflictingly laws regarding tariffs and navigation. Congress couldn't enforce its tax collection program. The states were NOT required to pay the government taxes, they were merely asked.

Landmarks in Land Laws

Land Ordinance of 1785- stated that the acreage of the Old Northwest should be sold and the proceeds should be used to help pay off the national debt.

Northwest Ordinance of 1787- a uniform national land policy; created the Northwest Territories and gave the land to the government, the land could then be purchased by individuals; when a territory had 60,000 people, it might be admitted by Congress as a state, with all the privileges of the 13 other states.

The World's Ugly Duckling

Britain declined to make any commercial treaty with the colonies or to repeal its Navigation Laws. Lord Sheffield argued in his pamphlet that Britain could win back America's trade.

The British remained in the Americas where they maintained their fur trade with the Indians. The American states did not honor the treaty of peace in regard to debts and Loyalists. The British stayed primarily to keep the Indians on the side of the British so to defend against future attacks on Canada by the Americans.

Spain was openly unfriendly to the Americans. It closed off the Mississippi river to commerce in 1784.

The Horrid Specter of Anarchy

Shay's Rebellion- in western Massachusetts in 1786; when impoverished back-country farmers, who were losing their farms through mortgage foreclosures and tax delinquencies, attempted to enforce their demands of cheap paper money, lighter taxes, and a suspension of property takeovers; led by…