“Discussion Question”

In your opinion, were the Articles of Confederation destined to fail? Why, or why not?Be Original. The professor does not want any citation used in the discussion question.This is not an essay, it just a class discussion questions.


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Building a New Nation
Course Learning Outcomes for Unit IV
Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
6. Compare the influence of political parties on American society, government, and culture.
6.1 Identify significant concepts related to the Constitutional discussion.
6.2 Contrast dueling perspectives related to the founding of the American nation.
Learning Outcomes
Learning Activity
Unit IV Lesson
U.S. History reading passages
Unit IV Assignment
Unit IV Lesson
U.S. History reading passages
Unit IV Assignment
Reading Assignment
Throughout this course, you will be provided with sections of text from the online resource U.S. History. You
may be tested on your knowledge and understanding of the material listed below as well as the information
presented in the unit lesson. Click on the link(s) below to access your material.
Click here to access this unit’s reading from U.S. History. The chapter/section titles are also provided below.
Chapter 7 (Sections 7.1-7.4): Creating Republican Governments, 1776-1790
Section 8.1: Competing Visions: Federalists and Democratic-Republicans
Unit Lesson
During the war years, a mutual goal had been the galvanizing force that secured American unity, but now as a
sovereign nation, with domestic and international responsibilities, there was a need to again rally support to
ensure a stable government. The removal of the crown’s influence did ensure that a new government could
form, but independence alone does not a government make. The process to create the modern constitutional
republic the U.S. has today took multiple steps and revisions to become effective.
A New Government
In 1781, the Articles of Confederation, dubbed by many “America’s first constitution,” was put into place. This
document, a set of agreements determining the powers and responsibilities of local and national government,
is a representative look at the concerns of the American people as they separated from the crown. The
Articles outlined strict limitations against the federal government while maintaining its responsibility to act as
the unified voice of the new nation under the authority of a single congress of thirteen delegations.
Regardless of size or population, each state had a single vote, but could send multiple delegates. The
congressional responsibilities included diplomacy, foreign relations, trade regulation, and ensuring a working
postal service. The overwhelming consensus by these early delegates was the need to avoid a powerful
central (federal) government in order to ensure that a new monarch would never emerge. In a sense, this was
an attempt for these rebels to ensure that they would not fall to the “dark side,” as was perceived of the
HY 1110, American History I
What the congress was not granted were the essential tools to create this utopian
nor the
reasonable ability to amend the law enough to make these changes. Though currency
Title was officially a federal
requirement, each state had its own “pet” banks. Also, it was the state that taxed the citizen, not the federal
For the federal government to be funded, it was the request of the congress for the states to determine which
collections went to the federal and which to the state. What this caused was an unequal financial
responsibility for an equal vote–more population meant more tax dollars, but still only one vote, and there was
no repercussion if the state forbade the funding of a mutual government with state currency.
Why is this a problem? Just like today, if the tax flow is inconsistent or short, the programs that depend on the
money cannot operate. After the war, America owed France, Spain, and Holland loans back for their aid and
support. All bills of this type must be paid by a recognized national or world currency; however, with little tax
support, the continental dollar stalled, and the money in pet banks could not compensate as their inflation
rates were constantly changing. Not only did this put the economy into dangerous waters, but it also brought
negative attention to the nation’s claim of unity and status—its sovereignty.
So, why not simply amend the law to fix this oversight? There were two issues:
1. Taxpayers did not trust a strong central government and were likely unwilling to support any powers
of the state being transferred to the nation. Today, there is a general national culture across diverse
regions, and most citizens would never see the national government in action. However, from the
earliest local governments, the colonies/states saw themselves as independent entities with unique
identities, needs, and cultures. This is partly why the attempts at quickly fostering a sense of
nationalism were important as the war ended.
2. The original inception of the Articles needed to ensure that any laws or amendments must benefit the
overwhelming majority of citizens. Depending on what the change was, it may have required seven,
nine, or even all thirteen states to vote, which was very difficult as it was not always guaranteed to
have full representation present, or even enough for quorum.
Also, in the case of an amendment, one that fundamentally changed the way government functioned, it would
require ratification from all state governments, and thus a high agreement across all states. An ironic, yet
excellent, example of where getting necessary votes was a problem was with the holdout by Maryland on its
ratification of the Articles. Until western borders for all states were defined, the voters of Maryland demanded
its individuality, and the objections literally kept the remaining states divided in two.
Problems with the Articles
As a confederation, the states were once again locally governed first. Each state would write and ratify its own
personal constitution, and whatever the size and shape, the government’s role was to appease the interests
of that region, not the nation. Several states would include a bill of rights to outline the limitations of
As can be expected, with the differences between regions and the power struggle between state and federal
authority, there was soon to be a series of debates. The most glaring was arguably the debate over slavery,
which would start in the states but quickly blossom into the national forum. Similar to the feelings over
taxation, the local government was more likely to be visible to the common voter than the federal, which also
meant that local government was more likely to hear the voice of the common voter—this was part of the
expectation of true republicanism.
Regarding who could vote and what rights they had would also differ by state. Property, gender, and age
were common qualifications, though different states included different language. These credentials were
reasoned as a way to judge how much the potential voter had actually seen the government work, and they
were so common that they were not always spelled out.
This segregation was considered as applicable to women and children as it was to the poor, as each were
considered too out of touch with the government process to make the best decisions—a reasoning that would
enrage some upper-class women to challenge this law, including future First Lady Abigail Adams. When
these educated women discovered that some states just left women out of the discussion altogether, they
came to the polls. These demonstrations prompted some of the first amendments to state constitutions in
HY 1110, American History I
order to ensure the status quo. African Americans, too, had difficulty in voting.UNIT
With xrare
states ensured that free African-American men had to take great leaps to ensure
their rights, including taking
cases to court.
The Articles’ problems did not end with Maryland’s ratification. In only a few years’ time, the issues of debt
(international and to America’s own people) and relationships on all sides became unavoidable pressures on
the new nation. Soldiers had not been paid, citizens had not been recompensed, and those European nations
who stepped in to sway the war’s outcome demanded America’s attention. The states, as a loose association,
simply did not have the strength, finances, or unity to represent themselves as one economic entity. There
needed to be a centralized national authority.
The Final Straws
Along with these pressures, the relationships with neighboring Native Americans were still relatively hostile
after the war. The most pressing issues were land disputes between states and tribes, such as the events
leading to the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. Soon, America would begin its controversial push to the western lands,
starting with the Northwest Territory, and with that this relationship would suffer like never before. The rhetoric
of good faith would not be enough to compensate those who would lose their rights and claims. Neither
suffrage nor slavery would die after their first attempt at equality, and Native Americans would see that finding
common ground with the American nation would prove difficult. Despite the protests of the majority of
Americans, those with the power continued to refine the meanings of “freedom” and “citizenship.”
As the debts began to pile and multiply, again and again, Congress would request taxation from the states to
use in relation to foreign powers and individuals. States, though, were not filling their coffers each and every
year, especially those that were landlocked. Making this even worse was the pattern of upper-class
representation of the less wealthy, causing a lack of sympathy. With the common man being taxed to the
breaking point, and quite often having not received due pay, chaos ensued.
Shay’s Rebellion is a rather famous example of where the
fallout of impossible demands by the state (Massachusetts)
led to irritated citizens taking violent action against any
authority they could. Actually a series of events taking place
between 1786 and 1787, this rebellion is best remembered
for its clash at the U.S. Armory in Springfield,
Leading the assault was a collection of poorer landowners
and farmers, who, after several poor crop yields, were
drowning in debt due to the high taxation by the state.
Captain Daniel Shays, a former Continental officer, would
be the leader of these “rebels,” and their revolt would force
the leaders of the country to take note of the realities of the
struggles that continued to harm the now-“free” nation. Even
though this challenge was too small to significantly
destabilize the Union, the fact that these rebels were willing
to take up arms was a grave concern to the young nation,
considering the rhetoric of the Revolution had centered on
the rebellion against unfair taxation and poor government
A Convention
The U.S. in 1790, seen here with much of the
territory away from the coast still heavily
influenced by Britain, France, and other European
It was clear that the Articles of Confederation were not
working, and the dream republic was dying; a new
government was necessary. In hope to amend these
leaders from the thirteen states were called to
(Map of Territorial growth, 1790, n.d.)
Annapolis in 1786, but only five delegations showed.
Without quorum, the only decision made was to meet in Philadelphia in May of 1787, but this would prove to
be the scene of a political revolution.
HY 1110, American History I
This second attempt to address the flaws in the Articles successfully received UNIT
from twelve of
the thirteen states, but there were some notable holdouts. Rhode Island sent no
one but was not the only
outlier, as New York retained only the outspoken and over-ambitious Alexander Hamilton, and the fiery
Patrick Henry felt something amiss and refused to take part.
Among those gathered in the Philadelphia courthouse were an unlikely sampling of the population. Each man
was a highly educated, upper crust member of society, and (with few exclusions) from a generation raised in
the ethos of revolution and the War for Independence. This gathering, however, was far different from the
Sons of Liberty that had used physical assault and personal sacrifice to rally troops against the oppressive
British. Instead, this was a snapshot of the America’s political future: highly dogmatic, well-bred, and masters
of rhetoric.
To set the scene for the convention, a collection of up to fifty-five men met in agreed secrecy. It was the
beginning of a sweltering summer, but the doors remained shut and the windows nailed down, as no
discussion could be allowed to be overheard. The simplest misunderstanding outside could be enough to
destroy confidence in the existing government. Within the halls, the stirring debate only increased the tension
and temperature; a range of topics were brought forth to debate, ranging from state laws to federal offices.
Questions such as what laws were subject to federal veto, repercussions to increasing federal power, the
justification of the slave trade, questions about what a slave’s value in the census would be, and if a federal
office should be voted on by the people were discussed at length.
The primary dividing line, however, was the population debate. The states that had amassed both a large
area and population, such as Virginia, felt that a single vote per state had been unfair to those they
represented under the Articles of Confederation and suggested instead that population census dictate the
number of votes given. States of smaller population, such as New Jersey, identified the disparity and argued
how if one region was able to sway the vote, then their population was no longer represented at all. The two
plans for government that emerged were aptly called the Virginia Plan and New Jersey Plan.
Virginia Plan
1. Votes given were based solely on
2. A bicameral Congress was
3. Congress can override states on
4. Ratification of voting would be
secured by popular vote.
New Jersey Plan
1. Votes given were equally based
per state.
2. A unicameral Congress was
3. Federal levels can require state
action on matters.
4. Ratification of voting would be
secured by state vote.
After weeks of chaos, and on the verge of likely dissolution, both sides understood that they had to provide
concessions, and from both plans emerged the Great Compromise, which is the foundation for the modern
U.S. government structure. The compromise included the following: the office of the President moved from
Congress into the executive office; a bicameral Congress was established with both a representative (House
of Representatives) and equal (Senate) chamber, where the federal had the ability to weigh in on state laws
except where protected; and a system of state primaries was created to determine a state-wide
representative vote to ensure republican ideals. With the debates ended, the Constitution was signed by
almost all, and sent for ratification.
Ratification Fight
Nine states had to approve, but that in itself was going to be a fight. The Americans did not know that their
government under the Articles of Confederation was expected to change and were still wary of a centralized
(federal) entity, even if there were multiple branches. In the final days of the British colonies, it was both
George III and Parliament that outwardly denied representation and leniency, which led to the revolt. With the
common man having little role in politics, it was not hard to imagine this situation developing again. The
people were, however, lucky because of the deepening rivalries within the political elite, and the fact that it
HY 1110, American History I
was the people who voted in the state conventions, not the legislators. As the UNIT
trail began,
considered the point moot.
Six states—New York, New Hampshire, Virginia, Massachusetts, North
Carolina, and Rhode Island—would not ratify the Constitution as it was.
These states represented the largest populations or simply did not hold
conventions. Either way, it mathematically stopped the potential for
successful ratification. To vocalize and debate the intricate details of the
proposed Constitution, two groups would emerge: the Federalists (proratification) and Antifederalists (anti-ratification).
The immediate reaction to the mathematic problem caused the
Federalists to emerge first. Their first action was to secure the states they
could: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut,
Maryland, and South Carolina came first. All of these had their personal
reasons for supporting a centralized authority. Surprisingly,
Massachusetts, a larger-population state with reasons to support states’
rights, narrowly changed with the promise of amendments, and with eight
for and only five against, there was a chance.
Pamphlets such as this quickly
made their way around the new
nation; the printing press proved to
be an essential cog in politics.
(Cover page from the Federalist,
With the change of heart by Massachusetts, the Antifederalists emerged
and used the power of recent memory to illustrate the dangers of an
overbearing central power. To be clear, though the two sides were nearpolar opposites, the Antifederalists were not necessarily anti-central
government. These supporters feared the potential for federal corruption
because the rights of states were not clearly included in a bill of rights,
such as those that several state constitutions had included to check their
own powers. To appeal to the common people, these Antifederalists
painted the Federalists as elitists trying to ensure that elitists kept power.
They pointed out the problems with a distant representative, the
mathematics of addressing individual concerns, and resurrected much of
the same propaganda used by the Patriots against the British.
On June 21, 1788, with the promise of twenty amendments being put on the ballot for a bill of rights, New
Hampshire flipped. A small state with a smaller population, this was likely the last possible option for the
Federalists as the rest could economically survive as an independent entity. To unite the nation, there was
still work to be done, and to aid the campaigns, both sides began putting their platforms on paper in the
Federalist Papers and Antifederalist Papers.
In May 1790, Rhode Island, the last to hold out, finally ratified the proposal, and the young nation was again
united. To calm the fears of these states, more than twenty proposed amendments and thirty changes were
promised to go before Congress in their first session in hopes of building a bill of rights and securing the
balance with states’ rights. This period in building the United States is sometimes forgotten in the wake of war
and powerful first leaders, but creating the nation took years of tiring effort from some of the most educated
and enlightened minds in history. From declaring independence in July of 1776 to the final ratification in May
1790, the new nation began with a rocky start, but strong leadership and determination saw it through. As the
last of the old guard left, the still-divided younger generation came to maturity and to power. With their
emergence, the nation would again divide and find itself on the brink of war with an old ally.
A New Government
To clarify possible confusion, it is first important to note that after this paragraph, any mention of the term
“President” in this course will reflect the context of the U.S. chief executive; however, the term “Office of the
President” did not begin with George Washington. The modern U.S. government, as we know from this
lesson, did not start in 1776. In the years 1774-1789, there were sixteen appointments to the position of
President, each for a one-year term.
The …
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