HTAV Student Lectures Sunday March 23rd 2014 Lauren Perfect Haileybury firstname.lastname@example.org American Revolution Creating a New Society 1776 (Declaration of Independence) – 1789 (Inauguration of George Washington)
Section A, Part 2 of the ExamThe Task • Write on the same revolution as Section A, Question 1 and 2 • Document, commentary, visual representation or interpretation • 4 scaffolded questions • 2 comprehension style questions • 1 on context – “using your knowledge” • 1 on “usefulness” • Total 20 marks • Spend 30 minutes maximum
Section B, Part 2 of the ExamThe Task • Write on the same revolution as Section B, Question 1 • Short essay question • Four questions – one on each revolution • Answer only the question labeled ‘America’ • Total 20 marks • Spend 30 minutes maximum
Series of Crises and Responses • For an excellent summary of key crises and responses see www.alphahistory.com
After the Declaration of Independence • The 13 colonies became sovereign/independent states • Unification? • Was this a revolutionary aim? • The states were not ready to relinquish autonomy • On the whole, they pursued individual interests
Political Structure of the States • Written Constitutions • Bills of Rights • State political structures • Delegates were appointed by election • Some states retained property qualifications for voting, this differed from state to state
Unity? • States were essentially sovereign nations • Very little altered in terms of structure, however, now without British rule • Most political power lay with the states rather than the national Congress
Articles of Confederation • Written 1777 • Ratified 1781 • ‘Loose union’
Crises under the Articles The Confederation Congress was faced with several problems: • International relations • Trade • Economic management • Defense • Establishing a bureaucracy
Reasons for Crises • Federal Congress was weak under Articles • State legislatures held most power • Congress had no coercive power or legal authority over states • Congress lacked the power to tax or manage trade • While Congress could request money from states, they were not obligated to supply it • Congress consisted of a legislative branch of government only and had no judicial or executive power
Reasons for Crises • States possessed the power to act as they pleased, without Congress approval • Foreign powers kept maintained a presence in the states, including Britain • Britain did not honour the Treaty of Paris (1783)
Limitations of Congress • Confederation Congress - formed by the Articles of Confederation • Severely restricted • Faced a variety of problems in the 1780s • Compounded by national debt and loss of trade with Britain that followed the revolutionary war
Historiography Historian Dennis Phillips: “…The American founding fathers believed strongly in a written constitution that spelled out specifically what their government could and could not do. They also believed in limited government…
…Since most of them were loyal to their own state first and the new national government second, they composed a constitution, known as the Articles of Confederation, which strictly limited the powers of the central government…
…Having declared their independence from what they saw as British tyranny, they did not want to replace it with a new homemade despotism. They felt that the best way to prevent an abuse of power was to keep government decentralised and focused at the local level…
…In brief, congress under the articles had many responsibilities and few powers. Weak though the system may have been, it reflected the revolutionary generation’s commitment to the philosophy that the government is best which governs least.” Dennis Phillips, ‘Empire of Liberty, United States History from 1492’, pp. 44-45
Economic Crisis • Congress unable to regulate trade – states free to trade with foreign powers • Also unable to control trade between states • Difficult to establish clear markets for American exports • Unable to levy taxes • Enormous war debt • Not able to issue paper money • Not able to prevent the states from printing their own
Economic Crisis • Economic crisis ensued • New export markets required • ‘Safe’ and established trading partner Britain and her empire gone • Unable to recoup severe war debt • States issued large amounts of paper money – e.g. Rhode Island • Widespread hyperinflation • Tension mounts between the states
Economic Social Crisis • Following revolutionary war returned soldiers face severe economic problems • Particularly farmers • Suffered high levels of debt and state taxation • Compounded by low prices for produce
Economic Social Crisis • Urban merchants and creditors also under financial pressure recall debts • Farmers and working-class were generally unable to met repayments • Debtors’ courts established • Role of courts – to ensure payment of debts or impose foreclose on mortgages or even imprison those in debt
Shays’ Rebellion • Massachusetts • 1786-87 • Group of disgruntled farmers (Shaysites or Regulators) • Led by former Continental Army officer, Daniel Shays • Marched on Springfield and force the debtors’ court to adjourn
Shays’ Rebellion • It was argued the revolution had not improved the lives of the people • They had fought for key revolutionary ideals that had not been achieved • Some state assemblies cancelled the debts of farmers and workers • Sympathetic to the farmers? OR • Worried about further rebellion?
Response: Shays’ Rebellion • Congress and the Articles of Confederation were unable to protect both groups involved • Debtors – suffered poor trade, low prices, high debt and high taxation • Creditors – rights were not protected • A Constitutional Convention was needed - elite members of society called • Philadelphia (1787) • Purpose - revise the Articles of Confederation and improve the system of government
Historiography Historian CP Hill: “...The end of the war brought its inevitable economic troubles. There was a certain amount of unemployment, notably in the northern states. The issue of paper currency during the war, notes which did not represent real wealth, made the situation worse...
...A peculiarly serious problem, one which crops up throughout American history, was that of debt. The farmers of the western regions of the states had borrowed heavily from the merchants of the eastern towns. After the war Britain closed the West Indian islands to American trade, and farmers could not sell their produce. Many of them were forced to sell their farms: others went to debtors’ prisons...
...the position was worst in Massachusetts, and here in 1786 Shays’ Rebellion broke out. Daniel Shays, an ex-officer, led mobs of farmers in attacks upon the courts, with the object of preventing judges from giving decisions in cases of debt. They refused to disperse when ordered to do so, and the movement turned into a rebellion which for a short time threatened Boston...
...Eventually the Massachusetts militia, armed with firearms, crushed the rebels, whose weapons were often pitchforks or clubs. This episode caused grave alarm among the richer inhabitants of the states, and made many men ready to welcome some stronger united government.” CP Hill, ‘History of the United States’, p.34
Constitutional Convention • Philadelphia (1787) • Completely scrapped the Articles of Confederation – revising impossible • New governmental framework to be built on a federal system • Result – the Constitution
The Constitution • National government significantly strengthened • Autonomy and powers of 13 states greatly reduced • Congress divided into two houses – House of Representatives and the Senate • Power to pass laws, tax, raise armies and navies, control trade and commerce
The Constitution • Executive branch (presidency) - to run the government on a day-to-day basis • Legislative branch – law makers • Judicial branch (courts) – interpret laws and make legal rulings • ‘Checks and balances’ • Designed to prevent tyranny
Ratifying the Constitution • Met with significant public debate • Anti-Federalists - feared the return to a strong central government and the potential for tyranny (Jefferson and Henry) • Federalists - supported the new system (Madison and Hamilton) • Became law following ratification by 9 of the 13 states
Ratifying the Constitution • Ratification – a ‘crisis’? • The process had the potential to fail • Debate and propaganda ensued • Madison’s Federalist Paper – in support • Support of George Washington as a strong figurehead convinced many
Ratifying the Constitution • Passed in 1788 • Promise that a Bill of Rights (a series of ten amendments) would be added after ratification • Appeasement for the anti-federalists? • Many believed the protection of natural rights was not inherent in the Constitution • Bill of Rights – to protect the natural rights of individuals and avoid tyranny
Historiography Howard Zinn: “The problem of democracy in the post-Revolutionary society was not the Constitutional limitations on voting. It lay deeper, beyond the Constitution, in the division of society into rich and poor…
…For if some people had great wealth and great influence; if they had the land, the money, the newspapers, the church, the education system – how could voting, however broad, cut into such power?...
…Alexander Hamilton …voiced his political philosophy: “All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and well-born, the other the mass of the people…
…The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God [but] it is not true in fact: the people are turbulent and changing, they seldom judge or determine right. Give, therefore, to the first class a distinct permanent share in government… check [limit] the carelessness of democracy.” (Adapted from Howard Zinn, ‘A People’s History of the United States’)
Historiography Gordon Wood: “Thus in 1776, when Americans came to make their own constitutions for their newly independent states, it was inevitable that they would seek to make them fundamental and explicitly write them out in documents…
..It was one thing, however, to define the constitution as fundamental law, different from ordinary legislation and circumscribing the institutions of government; it was quite another to make such a distinction effective...
…In the years following the Declaration of Independence, many Americans paid lip service to the fundamental character of their state constitutions, but like eighteenth-century Britons they continued to believe that their legislatures were the best instruments for interpreting and changing these constitutions.
…The state legislatures were the representatives of the people, and the people, it seemed, could scarcely tyrannize themselves. Thus in the late 1770s and early eighties, several state legislatures, acting on behalf of the people, set aside parts of their constitutions by statute and interpreted and altered them…
…as one American observed, "upon any occasion to serve a purpose." Time and again the legislatures interfered with the governors' legitimate powers, rejected judicial decisions, disregarded individual liberties and property rights, and in general, as one victim complained, violated "those fundamental principles which first induced men to come into civil compact." Gordon S. Wood, ‘Eighteenth-Century American Constitutionalism’
Bill of Rights • 1789 • Guaranteed freedoms of speech, religion, the press, of association and assembly • Ensured a due legal process