Conservapedia:American History Lecture Three
More tips on answer multiple-choice history questions:
1. Look for the best fit. The question is like a lock or key hole, and you are looking for the answer (key) that is the best fit. Matching the verb or concept behind the question with the best fitting verb or concept in the answer can help. For example, when the question asked about “exploration”, the answer that said to “find the best route” was the best fit and the correct answer.
2. Disqualify as incorrect answers language that is too sweeping, such as “everyone” or “only”. Question: Why was George Washington elected president? Potential answer: Because everyone wanted him. Nope, not “everyone”. Question: Why was slavery used? Answer: Only because of greed. Nope. Not “only” because of greed.
3. When a question completely baffles you, such as a question asking for the political motive behind the “Wizard of Oz” movie, look for an economic or money answer. Historical events and politics are motivated more by money than most students realize.
4. View multiple choice questions like a puzzle. Enjoy solving it. This class has more talent than any other class in our state, and maybe in the country. Don’t let any test or question intimidate you.
Note about last week’s homework: Massachusetts did not have religious freedom. They came here for their personal religious freedom, but they did not give that freedom to others. Also, be aware that there many slaves in Virginia and other colonies long before Bacon’s Rebellion.
Triangular trade: a system of trade that enabled the same set of ships to carry slaves from Africa to the West Indies, and then molasses up to New England, and then rum (alcohol manufactured from molasses) back to England or Africa. These trade routes, when mapped, took the shape of triangles.
There has always been constant conflict between debtors (farmers) and creditors (banks). Debtor’s prison: understand the financial motivation for it. It’s wrong, but understand why it existed. See both sides of every dispute. Put yourself back at that time. Think of what it must have been like. Imagine it. See both sides of the Boston Massacre, for example. What were British soldiers doing there??? Maybe it was reasonable to object to their presence.
We discussed how England justified its direct taxation to pay for the French and Indian War. But how do we know the taxes were to pay for the war??? Would that be all the taxes would be paying for??? Would the taxes cease when the war debt was paid? No, because that was a slippery slope. Those taxes would never end, even after the war was fully paid.
The American Revolution was a “conservative revolution.”
We won the Revolution. What next?
Before we won, there were meetings of the Continental Congress (initiated by the Committees of Correspondence) to organize war efforts and address issues common to all the colonies. It adopted Declaration of Independence in 1776 and proposed the Articles of Confederation in 1777. Eventually it was ratified by the 13 colonies (in 1781). It provided for a unicameral (one body) Congress to govern. No president and no courts. One vote for each state.
9 out of 13 states’ approval were needed to pass anything. All 13 states’ approval was needed to amend it. Those percentages are just too high for a collection of states that were very different from each other.
Powers given to Congress by the Articles of Confederation: declare war, raise and army and navy, make commercial treaties, borrow money, control currency and levy assessments against the states.
Powers Congress lacked under the Articles of Confederation: could not impose taxes on the people or enforce its will against states that refused to cooperate. It could ask the states for money, but could not force them to pay.
Bottom line: most power remained in each state under the Articles of Confederation. The national government could not raise money to pay its own obligations.
But the Articles of Confederation did succeed in its plan for the systematic admission of new states based on population: the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
Shay’s Rebellion in 1786-87 illustrated how inadequate the national government was under the Articles of Confederation. It was an armed uprising of Massachusetts farmers burdened with high debt. This was the first of many future clashes between Americans who owed money (debtors) and those who lent money (creditors). The farmers were angry that they had to pay back their loans in “specie” (gold or silver) rather than cheaper paper money, which was a common requirement of the time. They lost their farms when they could not pay their loans, and because of that they lost their right to vote, because at the time only property owners could vote. They violently took over the town courthouse to prevent any additional court-ordered seizures of their farms. The Massachusetts governor sent in the militia but there were more farmers in the rebellion then there were in the militia. Daniel Shays they led 1200 men to Springfield to capture the federal arsenal, but by then there were enough state militiamen to win. Shays fled to the Vermont area. Everyone was panicked by this uprising, and a newly elected Massachusetts legislature subsequently enacted some debt relief.
The Constitutional Convention convened in the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia to strengthen the national government by modifying the Articles of Confederation. Every state sent representatives except Rhode Island. (Remember Rhode Island – some claim its “separation of church and state” laid the foundation for the Constitution. It didn’t even show up!). The deliberations were held in secret, without any news leaking to the newspapers. Everyone was ordered to destroy their notes afterwards, but James Madison kept his notes and they were released about fifty years later.
Did the attendees limit their actions to fixing the Articles of Confederation? No. This same debate rages today by calls for a constitutional convention to balance the budget (1980s) or protect traditional marriage. No way to limit what a constitutional convention does. The only protection for the people is that the document still must be ratified by the states. (This debate over whether a constitutional convention can be called for limited issue continues today, with many saying that there is never a way to limit a constitutional convention.)
What the delegates to the Constitutional Convention did was create a written Constitution that has lasted as the oldest written national instrument of government in the world today. Their product is probably the greatest single written document of a collection men ever created in the history of the world.
Key participants in the Constitutional Convention: James Madison, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin. Missing: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson. Adams and Jefferson were overseas in diplomatic missions, Adams to England and Jefferson to France. Remember those alliances: Adams (and all of New England) was allied with England, while Jefferson (and much of Virginia) was allied with France.
The delegates to the Constitutional Convention were bright, dedicated, and spiritual men. This was a very special event.
The resulting Constitution breaks government into three separate branches that can check and balance each other. If one branch grabs too much power, then the other two can gang up to stop it.
The three branches are these:
Congress (Article I) President/Executive (Article II) Judiciary (Article III)
Article IV of the Constitution outlines the relationship between the federal (national) government and the states. Article V outlines the procedures for amending the Constitution, contrary to the Articles of Confederation, unanimous consent of the states is NOT required for an amendment. Article VI declares the Constitution the supreme Law of the Land. Article VII provides for the procedure to ratify the Constitution.
Many small states ratified the Constitution quickly, because they liked the idea of having equal representation in the Senate. But bigger states, such as Virginia and New York, were more reluctant to give up their power to a national government.
A huge debate followed in some of the states, particularly Virginia and New York. To persuade New Yorkers to ratify the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote the Federalist papers, which was a series of editorials that ran in a big New York newspaper. Most famous of these is Madison’s Federalist No. 10: “Among the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction.” Madison’s insight was that a new United States of America, with its large size and separation of powers, could protect freedom against the tyranny of a small group better than individual colonies could.
The debate over ratification pitted the Federalists (for example, Alexander Hamilton) against the Anti-Federalists (for example, Patrick Henry)
Once the ninth state (New Hampshire) ratified on June 21, 1788, the Constitution became law of the land. George Washington was elected a few months afterwards as our first president.
George Washington was so popular and respected that he probably could have become king. He was in his fifties, about the age of our President Bush. Even if Washington did not become king, he could have ruled as president for the rest of his life. But his greatness was, like Jesus, in his declining power to rule over everyone else. Washington was inaugurated as president in 1789.
An example of Washington’s greatness was his handling of “Citizen” Edmond Genet (pronounced zhe – nay), who was sent by France to the United States just after the French Revolution. France felt that the United States owed it assistance after all France did to help us win the Revolutionary War. But in 1793 Washington issued his Proclamation of Neutrality to keep us neutral in the enormous turmoil in Europe. But Genet went around our new country stirring up pro-French sentiment with impassioned speeches. He sent out private American citizens to attack British shipping (called “privateers,” but acting like pirates). Washington told Genet to stop this, but he refused. Washington told France to recall him. But the French Revolution got out of hand, with senseless violence and executions. “Citizen Genet,” as he was known, reasonably feared the guillotine if he returned to France. He begged Washington to grant him asylum in this country. Washington did. Genet later married the daughter of the governor of New York, and became a normal farmer.
Another example of George Washington’s greatness was his handling of the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. Farmers in western Pennsylvania protested a 7-cent per gallon tax on corn whiskey. These farmers refused to pay the fax, retaliated against farmers who did pay it, and attacked U.S. marshals and revenue agents. Washington told the Pennsylvania governor to end the rebellion. But he refused. Washington himself then raised an army from neighboring states and personally rode out as their leader to quell the rebellion. The farmers gave up without bloodshed. Several were caught, tried and convicted for their rebellion. What did Washington do? He pardoned them.
In 1796, Washington was up for reelection. He then did something that no leader of a revolution has ever done: he gave up his power for the good of others. He left by publishing one of the greatest documents in all of American history: Washington’s farewell address. Written by Alexander Hamilton, this Farewell Address urged Americans to stay out of conflicts in Europe. It also reminded Americans that morality is the foundation is our society.
Several other important things happened during the presidency (the Administration) of George Washington. The Bill of Rights passed in 1791 to limit the federal government. A rivalry developed between Alexander Hamilton, who favored a strong national government, and Thomas Jefferson, who favored states’ rights.
Alexander Hamilton: federal government has whatever powers are not denied to it (e.g., power to establish a national bank, by virtue of the “elastic” or “necessary and proper” clause of the Constitution). Jefferson: federal government only has the powers expressly given it.
John Adams, born to prosperous farmer in Massachusetts, became president after Washington, and served just one term (four years). His presidency was a failure. Symbolic of his failure was his signing of the Alien & Sedition Acts, which made it a crime to criticize him! Jefferson and Madison responded with strong state resolutions (Kentucky and Virginia) to “nullify” or declare the Acts unconstitutional.
Debate: can a State nullify an act of Congress? Can a State secede (withdraw) from the United States?