The American Constitution A Historical Background Essay

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The American Constitution A Historical Background Essay, Research Paper The American Constitution: A Historical Background 1781-1788 Thesis Statement: The ratification of the United States Constitution in 1787 provided the framework for a new system of government. OUTLINE I. General Background A. Law B. Human Affairs II. Background of the Constitution A. Articles of Confederation B. Shay s Rebellion III. Constitutional Convention A. Popular Control B. Limited Power IV. Framers of the Constitution A. George Washington B. Benjamin Franklin C. James Madison D. George Mason V. Ratification A. Federalism B. Anti-Federalism VI. Future Outlook A. Bill of Rights B. Additional Amendments The Constitution of the United States comprises the nation s fundamental law, providing the

framework for its governance and the principles under which it must operate. When the constitution was written, it was intended to endure for ages and be flexible and adaptable for future generations. The constitution was intended to be the supreme law of the land. The Articles of Confederation, which were ratified in 1781 was the first constitution. The Articles of Confederation dealt with three issues: representation, taxation, and the extent of control over western territories. The first issue, representation, gave each of the thirteen states one vote. The second issue, taxation, gave Congress power to request money from the states in the form of taxes. The third and last issue placed emphasis on western lands: people were allowed to own land all the way to the Pacific and

Virginia. ( West and Northwest – Caughey, p. 119 ) The Articles of Confederation gave power to the states and was defective as an instrument of government. The lack of unity caused problems in international relations and the defense of the nation. Although the Articles of Confederation gave the states a central government, Congress did not have the power it needed to govern more satisfactory. (Robinson p. 169). By 1875 it seemed to many patriotic citizens that the confederation was a failure. Washington, Hamilton, Jay, Madison and other leaders repeatedly argued that the government needed to be strengthened. Some Americans had special reasons for wanting a stronger government. Some wanted the government to protect them from Indians, Spaniards, and the British. The groups of

merchants, traders, and ship owners suffered from tariff wars among states and from British laws. Men who loaned money to the government during the wars wanted a stronger government so they could be repaid. (America On-line 2). Many people think of the United States as a young country, and still our constitution is amongst the oldest written constitutions of any major nations in the world. Soon after the Revolutionary War, the three million people who lived in the United States became discontented with the Articles of Confederation. The government seemed too weak to control the people at home or to make the New Republic be respected abroad. Congress lacked power to raise money and could only request money from the states. Some states were poor, others paid too much taxes.

Congress had no authority to regulate commerce. All states were suppose to abide by the Articles of Confederation, but some violated them. Some states made treaties with the Indians and with others. They ignored foreign treaties made by Congress and regulated the value of money. Shays Rebellion (1786-1787) was one event that dramatized the weakness of the central government. When debtors were in desperation, many of them looked to the government for help. In Massachusetts, when legislation refused relief, Daniel Shays led armed men to intimidate the courts from proceeding with foreclosures. ( Caughey p. 126) The insurrectionists held out for almost six months before being overpowered by the state militia. Recognizing that the protesters might have had just cause, the legislature