Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation was the first constitution of the United States
Britain, by contrast, didn't have a constitution
Only the Magna Carta 1215 and English Bill of Rights 1688.
Created the "United States" but did NOT create a nation.
Each of the thirteen states were independent.
Articles created a "league of friendship" among states
Each state was equal
State constitutions were more important than the Articles
Drafted (written) 1776-77, Ratified in 1781
Replaced by the U.S. Constitution in 1789.
No chief executive (like a president) -- Congress alone was the government
Confederation Congress was deliberately weak
because of fear and hatred of powerful government (like Britain)
Articles stipulate freedom of speech and debate in Congress
Members of Congress (delegates) were chosen by states and represented states
Delegates (2-7 from each state) elected annually.
Delegates could only serve maximum 3 years in 6-year period
Each state had one vote (no matter how many delegates they had in Congress)
Approval of 9 states required for Congress to
engage in war
coin or borrow money
and pay for defense
Approval of all 13 states needed
To make changes to the Articles of Confederation
POWERS ALLOTTED TO THE CONGRESS AND STATES
What the Confederate Congress could do
Power to declare war and make peace (with approval of 9 states)
Power to make coins, issue paper money and borrow money (with approval of 9 states)
Power to make deals with foreign countries and Indians and sign treaties (with approval)
Power to establish and regulate post offices.
Could establish uniform weights and measures.
Decide controversies over disputed grants of land.
What it couldn't do
Could not force the states to obey its laws
No power to tax (revenue came from state contributions)
No power to regulate commerce.
No strong, central power (no chief executive)
No power to raise a national army or navy
No national courts
Power given to the states.
Power to issue their own paper money
Power to levy tariffs (taxes on imports) on trade between states.
Power to tax the people in their states.
Power to make treaties and declare war with foreign countries (with consent of the Congress)
Each state was required to maintain a ready, well-regulated and disciplined militia
States could ignore national standards of measurement'
State constitutions were written by constitutional conventions elected for that purpose
State assemblies made laws that upheld the state constitutions
Ultimate power rested with "the people" (white men with property in most cases)
To stop elites from dominating
State officials stood for election every year.
And executive officers had little power.
Rhode Island and Connecticut
Simply retouched their colonial charters (documents that defined the relationship between colonies and Britain)
Britain, by contrast, didn't have a written constitution.
But referred to accumulated laws, customs and precedents.
Loyalists (most in N.Y. and S.C.)
Many states required citizens to take an oath of allegiance to the new nation.
More than 100,000 Loyalists were banished from the US or left on their own.
Came from selling confiscated loyalist holding
Still belief that religion necessary as foundation for public morality
But drive to separate church and state (RI was first)
Seven state constitutions declared free exercise of religion.
Encouragement of "civic virtue" and self-sacrifice for public good.
"Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom" separated church and state.
Church of England (aka Episcopal Church)
Disestablished in states where it was the official church (signalling break from England)
No more state taxes collected to support it exclusively.
Congregationalist Church (Puritans)
New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts Congregationalist Church still the official church.
Not permitted to vote in North Carolina.
But generally more accepted because of help of Catholic France in Revolution.
Could worship without persecution in all states.
Jews could only vote in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New York
Vote associated with idea of freedom.
Every state expanded franchise to more people than under colonial law (except S.C.)
But most required voters to own property (not much, though)
Pennsylvania's 1776 constitution: allowed all tax-payers (even those without property) to vote
Southern states least democratic (landed gentry kept poltical power)
Women with property could vote in New Jersey until 1797.
Free blacks with property could vote in New Jersey, Massachusetts and New Hampshire
By 1800, indentured servitude had virtually disappeared.
Distinction between slavery and freedom grew.
None of the southern states abolished slavery
But most southern states forbade ore importation of slaves from Africa and West Indies
Several states made manumission (voluntary freeing of slaves) easier.
Maryland - 1/5 of slaves freed
Delaware -- more than 80% of blacks were free.
North Carolina - Quakers freed slaves
Slavery abolished in North
Vermont - forbade slavery beginning in 1777
Massachusetts -- slavery abolished 1783
Pennsylvania (Quakers) -- gradual emancipation beginning 1780
All people born after 1780 were free, slaves born before 1780 were free at age 28
Ban on buying and selling slaves.
Slaves brought into Penn. would be freed after 6 months.
After Revolution, colonists no longer restricted to the land east of Appalachians (see 1763 Proclamation Line)
Seven colonies claimed western lands because of royal charters (inc. NY and VA see above)
Which granted them territory to the "South Sea" (Pacific Ocean)
Meant they could sell the land to pay off their debts.
Six states didn't have any holdings (incl. Pennsylvania, Maryland)
Meant they'd have to pay debts by heavily taxing people.
Non-land-holding states refused to ratify the Articles of Confederation unless Western lands pledged to the Congress for the "common benefit" of all states.
In interest of national unity, VA and NY gave up their claims, others followed.
VA territory in south became Kentucky in 1792
NC territory became Tennessee in 1790.
Northwest Territory managed by Congress.
With peace came large settlement west of Appalachians (see Proclamation Line of 1763)
Caused fear of conflict with Indians
Land was occupied by Indians but since they supported Britain (not all did), Congress claimed they gave up their rights to the land.
Selling the land would provide the Confederate Congress with badly needed income.
Land Ordinance of 1784
Established stages of self-government for the western regions
Would be divided into districts initially governed by Congress
Would eventually be admitted to Union as member states
No slavery after year 1800 (superseded by 1787 Ordinance = no slavery)
Ordinance of 1785
Regulated land sales north of Ohio River ("Old Northwest")
Established the township system
Land would be surveyed by the government
Then sold in "sections" of square miles (640 acres) at $1 per acre.
In each township, one section would be set aside to provide funds for public education.
Minimum purchase price of $640 made it too expensive for most settlers
Settlers bought smaller parcels of land from speculators.
1787 Congress decided to sell off large tracts of land to private groups
Incl. 1.5 million acres to the Ohio Company
Northwest Ordinance of 1787
Called for the eventual establishment of 3 to 4 states north of Ohio River, east of Mississippi.
Territories would become states
When the population of the territory equaled the population of the smallest existing state (Delaware in 1787)
No new states were created during the Confederation period
But the same principles were adopted by the new Constitution in 1787
Pledged that "the utmost good faith" would be observed toward local Indians and that their land would not be taken without consent.
Prohibited slavery in Northwest.
So that land would be reserved for independent farmers who didn't have to compete with slave owners.
FOREIGN POLICY UNDER ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION
In vengeance, Britain closed their profitable West Indies to trade with the U.S.
Began negotiating with Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys to take over Vermont (Vermont chose to join U.S. as 14th state in 1791).
Closed access to the mouth of the Mississippi River to American commerce in 1784.
Claimed Florida (granted to U.S. by Br.) and area north of the Gulf of Mexico
Demanded repayment of money loaned to the U.S. during the war
Restricted U.S. trade with French West Indies
Barbary Pirates of north Africa
They had been paid off by the British - but now colonists were independent and couldn't afford protection money to conduct trade in Mediterranean.
SHAYS'S REBELLION 1786 (Massachusetts)
U.S. suffering from debt crisis after American Revolution
Continental Army and state militias veterans struggling because of decreased value of Contitental dollar (their pay) and high taxes levied to paid state debts.
Farmers angry because:
Mass. laws favored trade at expense of agriculture
Farmers in debt were losing their farms
Without property, farmers also losing right to participate in govt.
Elite policymakers in urban Boston (eastern Mass.) ignoring grievances of farmers in rural, western part of the state.
1786 100s of farmers held meetings
Demanded reduction of property taxes
And end to domination of Boston government by privileged elite.
Crowds in several towns surrounded courthouses and harassed lawyers and judge
As long as the courts were closed, farms couldn't be taken away.
Uprising grew to 9,000
Led by Daniel Shays
Former Continental Army Captain and farmer who lost his farm.
Sam Adams (now serving as state senator) passed laws to punish rebels
Death sentence for rising against republic
Suspended writ of habeas corpus: could imprison anybody for any reason.
Riot Act: if more than 12 people gathered, government could jail them, take properties and try for treason
Massachusetts asked federal government for help.
Congress too weak
And because it was a state matter, didn't have power to help.
Boston government created a militia to target rebels.
Rebellion collapsed Dec. 1786
Realization that social instability and disorder were inevitable because of weak government
Prompted meeting to revisit Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation scrapped for a new constitution in 1787
Click here to see a video about Shays's Rebellion