C9 - The Confederation and the Constitution 1776-1790 Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in C9 - The Confederation and the Constitution 1776-1790 Deck (34):

Constitution of the United States

Drafted at the Constitutional Convention in Pennsylvania in 1787.

Had to be ratified by 9 of 13 states. Each state held a ratifying committee.

One reason that delegates looked to create a new Constitution was so that the central federal government could control money issues. There had been large economic problems due to the lack of laws dealing with money.


Consent of the governed

Idea that the people should elect representatives that will make up their government. That the government is only legitimate if the people have a say in how it is designed.


checks and balances

Idea that having 3 parts of government: legislature, executive branch and judicial branch would keep any one branch from getting too powerful.



More conservative political ideology. George Washington and John Adams were federalists. They ran the country in the 1790s, until Thomas Jefferson was elected in 1800, bringing the more liberal "jeffersonian" political ideas to power.


Shay's Rebellion

1786: Western Massachusetts. Led by Captain Daniel Shays, a captain in the Revolutionary war.

Farmers were going bankrupt and losing their farms. A group of them rebelled, demanding lower taxes and more time before property was seized.

The rebellion was put down by wealthy Massachusetts citizens - some rebels were killed. But wealthy landowners were scared that more rebellions would happen because of the unrest and economic problems.


Land Ordinance of 1785

Articles of Confederation did not provide a way for the central government to raise money. So this ordinance allowed for western land to be sold to raise money for the federal government.


Land Ordinance of 1785



"large-state plan"

Desire held by delegates to the Constitutional Convention from large states, that the Congress be made up of representatives based on population, so larger states would have more reps and therefore more power.


Abigail Adams

Wife of John Adams. In 1776, she told her husband that women had to be given political rights.



Group that is loosely bound together, as in the Articles of Confederation.


Popular Sovereignty

Idea that a government is legitimate only due to consent of the governed. anti federalists believed this took the form of having 1 single branch of government: the legislature. The federalists believed that every branch (executive, judicial and legislative) effectively represented the people.





Electoral College

Method of electing the President that called for a certain number of electoral votes by states.

the opposite of a directly democratically elected President.


Society of the Cincinnati

Continental Army officers formed this exclusive hereditary order. Most Americans ridiculed them as pretentious.


Northwest Ordinance

1787: Law passed that said all western lands would be divided and admitted to the United States as individual states...the land would not belong to any of the original 13 states. This made things equal between the states so no single state would benefit more than another when this land was sold or settled.


Articles of Confederation

America's first constitution, adopted by congress in 1777, but not ratified by all 13 states until 1781. The biggest obstacle to unanimous approval by all 13 states had to do with who would own western lands. Finally there was a commitment made that western lands would be divided and would become independent states of the United States.

Later the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 became law to confirm this. This western land would be sold by the Federal government and all individual states would benefit equally.

Articles of Confederation were loose and confusing. Mostly linked the 13 states together for joint action in dealing with foreign affairs. Congress was the only governmental power (no executive or judicial branch...these were in the states, but not the Federal government at the time)

The Federal or central government had very little power, and this was by design. States distrusted central power after just fighting for freedom from the King of Britain.



Some wealthy citizens feared more uprisings like Shays Rebellion because the masses or "mobs" would demand more power. This led some to think about a more powerful central government that could control the mobs.



Opposed the new strong central government defined in the new Constitution. Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry were anti-federalists.

They saw the Constitution as a plot to steal power from the common people.


"three-fifths compromise"

Decision at the Constitutional Convention that slaves would count as 3/5 of a person when counting population of a state to determine its representatives.


Alexander Hamilton

Framer of the Constitution who believed in a strong central federal government.


The Federalist

The Federalist Papers were a series of 85 articles written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay urging states to ratify the new Constitution.


states' rights

Belief that power should be held mostly by the states. This belief tended to be held more by the poorer people who wanted more democracy for more people.

Wealthier people were starting to believe that a more powerful central government was needed to keep anarchy from happening.


"bundle of compromises"

At Constitutional Convention some representatives pushed for the "large state plan" and some for a "small state plan"...disagreements about how many representatives from each state should be in the federal Congress.

the "Great Compromise" was finally agreed upon where the House of Representatives had the number of reps from their states determined by population (this was wanted by larger states). The Senate had 2 senators from each state regardless of size (this pleased the smaller states)

New Constitution also called for a strong executive branch...the President would be the military commander in chief.



Authority over a geographic area. The theory of republicanism said that the sovereignty of the States came from the people.


James Madison

In 1787, he wrote his opinion that trying to abolish slavery at that time would have broken the Union. He thought that slavery was awful but breaking up the United States would be worse.



Lawlessness. No rules. No government. Some conservatives feared this is how the country would become if the central government was not strengthened.


Daniel Shays

Former leader in the Revolutionary Army who led Shays Rebellion to demand lower taxes and relaxed laws for farmers who could not pay their debts.



medieval inheritance law: held that when a father died, all of his property is inherited by the eldest son. This was overturned in America after the Revolutionary War.


Separation of Church and State

Many struggles after the Revolutionary War to have churches and government separate. 1790: in VA, Thomas Jefferson won a great victory when the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was passed.


civic virtue

Central idea of republican ideology: notion that democracy depended on the unselfish commitment of each citizen to the public good (not just commitment to their own selfish needs). Women were seen as important in raising children who would have civic virtue and therefore keep the democracy strong.


Pursuing equality

After American was given its independence, the more aristocratic "Loyalists" who were loyal to the British King either left America or became non-influential.

Americans stated to talk about equality in these areas:

Voting: many states reduced the property-holding requirements for being able to vote.

Inheritance: primogeniture laws changed

Separation of Church and State:

Abolitionist movements: 1775 Philadelphia Quakers started the first anti-slavery society. Some laws were changed to help blacks, but slavery was not completely outlawed during this time.

Equality to women: Ideas were changing, but they were still not allowed to vote. Most still did traditional women's work like raising children, but their role was seen as important due to the believe in "civic virtue" as being important for the country.

Economic democracy: More people had opportunities to own land & improve their lives than ever before. (e.g. one large loyalist piece of land was seized and broken up so 250 families could own some land.


Constitutional Convention

May, 1787. In Philadelphia. 55 delegates from all states except Rhode Island were sent by their states to revise the Articles of Confederation.

Instead they scrapped the Articles of Confederation and started over with a new Constitution.

George Washington was the leader. Also important: Benjamin Frankilin, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.


James Madison

Named "father of the constitution" because he made such great contributions at the Constitutional Convention.



Believed in the stronger central government outlined in the Constitution. They were wealthier, better educated and better organized. George Washington was a Federalist.

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