Meredith Williams History 1301 Collin College-SCC Fall 2018 U
U.S. Constitution Fight
The U.S. Constitution strengths lies entirely in the determination of every U.S. citizen to feel their duty to defend it. Is every citizen doing his or her share in defense, and are our constitutional rights secure? Do you think our Constitution was revolutionary or counterrevolutionary? What led our founding fathers to create our new foundation for government? Let’s look to compare the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution and what issues may have occurred. As well as, what motivated individuals to either support or oppose the constitution. Comparison between the Federalists and Anti-federalists. The consequences of the Anti-federalists choosing to continue their opposition to the Constitution or to work within the new system of government.
The U.S. Constitution showed to be revolutionary. Overthrowing the current existing political and social conditions and overthrowing the Articles of Confederation. A revolution of the U.S. Constitution brought many changes. The Revolution took place at three levels simultaneously. “It was a struggle for national independence, a phase in a century long global battle among European empires, and a conflict over what kind of nation an independent America should be.” (Foner 218) Unleashing public debates and political and social struggles that expanded the choice of liberty and challenged structures of power within America. “In rejecting the crown and the principle of hereditary aristocracy, many Americans also rejected the society of privilege, patronage, and fixed status that these institutions embodied.” (Foner 218) The provisions of the new constitution reflected the balance of power between supporters of internal change, and those who feared excessive democracy. “In Virginia and South Carolina, the new constitutions retained property qualifications for voting and authorized the gentry domination legislature to choose the governor. Maryland combined a low property qualification for voting with high requirements for officeholding, including 5,000 euros for the governor.” (Foner 222) Most of the democratic new constitutions moved toward the idea of voting as an entitlement rather than a privilege, but they stopped short of universal suffrage. “Vermont’s constitution of 1777 was the only one to sever voting completely from financial considerations, eliminating not only property qualifications but also the requirements that voters pay taxes. Pennsylvania’s constitution no longer required ownership of property, but it retained the taxpaying qualification.” (Foner 222) Eventually, led to a great increase for the right to vote. “New Jersey’s new state constitution, of 1776, granted the suffrage to all “inhabitants” who met a property qualification. The new constitution also expanded the number of legislative seats, with the result that numerous men of lesser property presumed political office.” (Foner 222-223)
The Revolution had a remarkable impact on American religion. “Religious toleration, declared one Virginia patriot, was part of “the common cause of Freedom.” (Foner 223) Before the Revolution, many colonies supported religious institutions with funds and discriminating voting and officeholding against Jews, Catholics, and even Protestants. It enhanced the diversity of American Christianity and expanded religious liberty. The separation of church and state created social and political space that allowed all kinds of religious institutions to flourish.
Even made an impact on slavery. African-Americans saw the Revolution as an opportunity to claim freedom. Contradiction between freedom and slavery seemed difficult to appreciate the power of the obstacles to abolition. “At the time of the Revolution, slavery was already an old institution in America. It existed in every colony and formed the basis of the economy and social structure from Maryland southward.” (Foner 239) The value of liberty and defining freedom as a universal entitlement rather than a set of rights to a place or people, the Revolution raised questions about the status of slavery in the new nation. “Before independence, there had been little public discussion of the institution, even though enlightened opinion in the Atlantic world had come to view slavery as morally wrong and economically inefficient, a relic of a barbarous past.” (Foner 240) The Revolution brought widespread hopes that slavery would be removed from American life.
Helped bring independence for women to participate at home in political discussions and enlist in the military. “Deborah Sampson, the daughter of a poor Massachusetts farmer, disguised herself as a man and in 1782, enlisted in the Continental army. Sampson showed remarkable courage, participating in several battles and extracting a bullet from her own leg so as not to have a doctor discover her identity. She was honorably discharged at the end of the war and Congress awarded her a soldier’s pension.” (Foner 245) “Other Women participated in crowd actions against merchants accused of seeking profits by holding goods off the market until their prices rose, contributed homespun goods to the army, and passed along information about British army movements.” (Foner 246) Women even participated in political discussions released by independence. “Adams wife, Abigail Adams, was a shrewd analyst of public affairs. Mercy Otis Warren, a founder of the Boston Committee of Correspondence was another commentator of politics.” (Foner 246) The U.S. Constitution was indeed Revolutionary. The Revolution led to a great expansion to the right to vote. Made a remarkable impact on American religion. Brought hopes to removing slavery from American life. Allowed women to participate and gain independence. These were some of the many changes that made the U.S. Constitution Revolutionary.
Factors that brought direction for the founders to create a new foundation for government. Many Americans believed that their governments must be republics. Meaning that authority rested on the consent of the governed, and that there would be no king or hereditary aristocracy. “The essence of a republic, Paine wrote, was not the particular form of government, but its object, the public good.” (Foner 221) How could a republican government be structured to promote the public good? “Pennsylvania’s new constitution reflected the belief that since the people had a single set of interests, a single legislative house was sufficient to represent it.” (Foner 221) “John Adams published Thoughts on Government, which insisted that the new constitutions should create balanced governments whose structure would reflect the division of society between the wealthy and ordinary men. A powerful governor and judiciary would ensure that neither class overstepped on the liberty of the other.” (Foner 221) There was a creation of a legislature, an executive, and a national judiciary. The government would represent the people. It was agreed that a two-house Congress consisting of a Senate in which each state has two members and a House of Representatives assigned according to its population. “The key to a stable, effective government was finding a way to balance liberty and power.” (Foner 265)
The United States first written constitution was the Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation pursued a balance to the need for a national coordination of the War of Independence with widespread fear that had centralized political power, posing a danger to our liberty. “Under the Articles, the thirteen stated retained their individual “sovereignty, freedom, and independence. The national government consisted of a one-house Congress, in which each state, no matter how large or populous, cast a single vote. There was no president to enforce the laws and no judiciary to interpret them. Major decisions required the approval of nine states rather than a simple majority. Congress could coin money but lacked the power to levy taxes or regulate commerce. Its revenue came mainly from contributions by the individual states. To amend the Articles required the unanimous consent of the states, a formidable obstacle to change.” (Foner 255) Those important to the struggle for independence declaring war, conducting foreign affairs, and making treaties with other governments were the only powers granted to the national government by the Articles of Confederation. In time the structure of the Government formed a new Constitution. “The new Constitution created a legislature, an executive, and a national judiciary. Congress would have power to raise money without relying on the states. States would be prohibited from infringing on the rights of property. The government would represent the people.” (Foner 263) These essential foundations are what was in the Articles of Confederation in comparison to the new Constitution.
There was a great influence of motivation from individuals to either support or oppose the Constitution. Madison presented the Virginia Plan. “It proposed the creation of a two-house legislature with a state’s population determining its representation in each.” (Foner 265) There was the New Jersey Plan. “This called for a single-house Congress in which each state cast one vote, as under the Articles of Confederation. In the end, a compromise was reached a two-house Congress consisting of a Senate in which each state had two members, and a House of Representatives apportioned according to population.” (Foner 265) The Constitution represents two basic political principles. “Federalism, sometimes called the division of powers, and the system of checks and balances between the different branches of the national government, also known as the separation of powers.” (Foner 266) The Constitution provided slavery clauses. The slave trade clause and the fugitive slave clause to compromise efforts to find middle ground between the institution’s critics and defenders. There was the three-fifth clause that provided the slave population be counted in determining each state’s representation in the House of Representative and electoral votes for president. “Gouverneur Morris placed the finishing touches on the final draft of the new Constitution.” (Foner 269) The new Constitution began with, “We the people of the United States. He added a statement of the Constitution’s purposes, including to “establish justice,” promote “the general welfare,” and “secure the blessings of liberty.” (Foner 269) Comparison between the Federalists and the Anti-federalists created the ratification debate. There were hundreds of pamphlets and newspaper articles and campaigns produced to help elect delegates. “To generate support, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay composed a series of eighty-five essays that appeared in newspapers under the pen name Publius and were gathered as a book, The Federalist, in 1788. Hamilton wrote fifty, Madison thirty, and Jay the remainder.” (Foner 270) Today these essays are the most important American contributions to political thought. “At the time, they represented only one part of a much larger national debate over ratification, reflected in innumerable pamphlets, newspaper articles, and public meetings. Again, and again, Hamilton and Madison repeated that rather than posing a danger to Americans’ liberties, the Constitution in fact protected them.” (Foner 270-271) The Anti-federalist were opposed of the ratification. They insisted that the Constitution would shift the balance between liberty and power. “Anti-federalist lacked the coherent leadership of the Constitution’s defenders.” (Foner 272) “Anti-federalist insisted that “a very extensive territory cannot be governed on the principles of freedom.” (Foner 272) They believed in self-government would be best in small communities. Only wealthy men would have the resources to win election to a national government. “America’s happiness, they insisted, “arises from the freedom of our institutions and the limited nature of our government,” both threatened by the new Constitution.” (Foner 274)
The consequences of the Anti-federalists choosing to continue their opposition to the Constitution or to work within the new system of government brought a challenge. Anti-federalists believed that a new national government would not be able to efficiently govern an extent of territory as massive as the United States. Such a system would only work if a national government gradually seized all powers from the states, resulting in what they call a consolidated government. Anti-federalists argued that a national government would resort to force in order to maintain the union and ensure compliance to the national laws. They believed the balance between liberty and power was too far in one direction. “Anti-federalist predicted that the new government would fall under the sway of merchants, creditors, and others hostile to the interests of ordinary Americans.” (Foner 272) “Repudiating Madison’s arguments in Federalist nos. 10 and 51, Anti-federalist insisted that a very extensive territory cannot be governed on the principles of freedom.” (Foner 272) “It was warned to Melancton Smith of New York, a member of Congress under the Articles of Confederation, would be domination of the common people by the well born. This, Smith predicted will be a government of oppression.” (Foner 272) The belief of America’s happiness arises from the freedom of the institutions and limited government. Anti-federalist claimed that the Bill of Rights left unprotected rights such as trial by jury, freedom of speech, and press. “The absence of the Bill of Rights, declared Patrick Henry, was “the most absurd thing to mankind that ever the world saw.” (Foner 273) In the end, newspapers published a significant number of Anti-federalist pieces. James Madison won support under the new Constitution by promising Congress would enact the Bill of Rights. “By 1788, nine states had ratified.” “Only Rhode Island and North Carolina voted against ratification, and they had little choice but to join the new government.” (Foner 274) The Anti-federalist died. Still to this day they believe that a too powerful government is a threat to liberty.
The U.S. Constitution showed to be revolutionary bringing great changes and making a remarkable impact in America. “The key to a stable, effective government was finding a way to balance liberty and power.” (Foner 265) This helped to create a new foundation for new government. Looking into the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. Seeing the beliefs between Federalist and Ant-federalist. Discovering the consequences of the Anti-federalist choosing to continue their opposition to the Constitution within the new government. The U.S. Constitution fight was a major impact for the people and for our country.
Foner, Eric. Give Us Liberty. 7th ed., vol 1. New York: W.W. Norton, 2017. Print.