The transition from the Articles of Confederation to the new Constitution was not smooth and both documents imposed either limitations or new complications to the lives of the American people despite their initially positive aims. The changes provoked numerous debates among the states, authorities, and the people of the USA. The problems that evolved from the Articles of Confederation affected the way the country was being managed and the ways authorities could execute their power.
Articles of Confederation and the new Constitution
In 1777, the Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation. They were an international legal agreement, which marked the creation of the 13 independent union confederations and was created for the common defense, freedom, and the general welfare (Hill, 2012). The US Constitution adopted 1787 was the first to be set out in writing. It consolidated the bourgeois-democratic principles of the American people and contributed to the development of the capitalism in the country.
As per the strengths and weaknesses of the Articles vis-à-vis the Constitution, it should be mentioned that the weaknesses dominated. Regarding the strengths, the Articles enabled announcing war and creating peace. Further, they gave the possibility to mint or borrow money, which later turned out to be a misguiding idea. Moreover, they dwelled upon foreign countries as well as reinforced the regulatory body to sign treaties (Hill, 2012). In addition, they promoted operating the post offices. Nevertheless, the weaknesses were evident, and they touched upon crucial issues existing in the country. For instance, the national government did not have the power to make states abide by its laws. It could not tax or enforce the laws and, in general, the Congress was not able to execute the sufficient leadership. Furthermore, it did not institute the national army or courts and allowed each state to place tariffs among the states (Hill, 2012). One of the vivid examples of the Articles’ weaknesses was the situation when the states faced contradictions because of the different views on the independence, sovereignty, and territories. For instance, in the Western Problem, the stipulations on the western lands of America caused Maryland to reject the validation of the Articles. The situation remained unresolved until one of the biggest landholders on the West conceded its assets to the government.
Drafting of the Constitution
Drafting the Constitution was a long process during which it became apparent that people and states understood the Constitution differently. For a long time, the people, the government, and the states could not agree on the numerical and qualitative representation of the states in the House of Representatives (Congress) and in the Senate. Roger Sherman, a spokesperson for the State of Connecticut, offered the compromise, later called the “Great Compromise” (Kennedy, 2015). Its essence lay in the fact that Congress had to represent the population of the state proportionally, the Senate was to represent the states (two delegates from each), and the President had to be chosen by a special committee of electors representing both the people and the legislators. Many people considered this idea as meaningful; nonetheless, many people remained hesitant. The states were too unequal in terms of the population, political influence, and especially in economic opportunities.
When the representatives from all the states gathered in Philadelphia to introduce amendments to the Constitution, the specific contradictions emerged between the two groups with different views on the reorganization of the state. The Federalists and Anti-Federalist represented these two groups. The Federalists were businesspersons, big merchants, who defended the idea of a strong federal government and had a clear plan of building the political system (Hamilton, Madison, & Jay, 2014). The most famous Federalist John Adams defended the financial independence of the federal government but did not agree with Hamilton’s economic program, which had placed the debts of all the states, accumulated during the war, on the federal center (Kennedy, 2015).
Anti-federalists defended the idea of the Bill of Rights and the minimum intervention of the federal government in the affairs of the state. In contrast to the Federalists, they had developed a plan for the organization of the new government. Anti-federalist Patrick Henry is known for a variety of speeches about freedom and the dangers of creating the national government (Kennedy, 2015). Anti-federalists opposed the authoritarian national government fearing that it could take away their rights, including the right to life and liberty.
The ratification process has taken nine months, during which it became apparent that different people and different States perceived the Constitution differently. An important discussion of the Constitution appeared in Massachusetts. John Hancock, one of the political generation of leaders, offered nine essential amendments which three years later became a part of the Bill of Rights (Maier, 2011). One of the amendments has made a fundamental constitutional principle that everything that was not explicitly stated as the jurisdiction of the federal government was the prerogative of local government.
At the heart of the Bill lies the recognition of the non-adoption of the laws that violate the freedoms (religion, speech and press, peaceful assembly, the right to appeal to the government) and the declared principles of the democratic justice (Maier, 2011). Despite criticism and court cases related to the loopholes in the Bill of Rights, it is worth noting that it dwelled upon the basic integrity of the individuals and their homes.
In conclusion, the provisions of the Bill of Rights were progressive in their nature. They raised the Americans to fight against the vestiges of slavery and feudalism and opened up the prospects of the democratic development of the country. However, the constitution was contradictory in the content. It claimed the sovereignty of the people and the aristocracy; and claimed the properties of the political system, which was constructed with the help of the right to vote.
Hamilton, A., Madison, J., & Jay, J. (2014). The federalist papers. Chelmsford, MA: Courier Corporation.
Hill, K. (2012). An essential guide to American politics and the American political system. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.
Kennedy, D. (2015). The American spirit. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Maier, P. (2011). Ratification. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.