The American road to independence was not easy and stable. It was characterized by several unpredictable changes, sudden decisions, conflicts, and compromises. The states, including the government and ordinary Americans, had to make numerous attempts to prove their rationale for independent existence. Therefore, such activities as numerous drafts of policies, the creation of the articles, and the discussions between the representatives of different societies and parties were obligatory for America.
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Each historical period had its characteristics and impacts on the development of the country. In this paper, special attention will be paid to the situation that occurred in the mid-1780s when the new nation was struck by the economic and financial depression. The debates around the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of 1787, the necessity to draft the main political document, the ratification between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists, and the worth of the Bill of Rights were the main events in the 1780s to be reviewed in this historical essay.
The Articles of Confederation vs. the Constitution of 1787
The creation of new offices and governmentally approved documents was a significant part of American history. The Articles of Confederation was one of the first and the most important federal constitutions of the future United States at the beginning of 1781. Though that document had no direct power to taxes, military powers, and the court system, the Articles envisioned the development of the Confederation and the equality of the states in Congress during votes (van Cleve, 2017). Still, the growth of the Western problem was evident as the Articles did not mention its expansion and offered rather vague conditions of the central government (Tucker, 2014). Several economic and political issues were not solved and continued bothering people.
A new constitution was required to meet the demands of different groups of people, including the conservatives who wanted to have a strong national government and the radicals who focused on the solution of the existing financial burden. The result of the debate and mass concerns was the Congress’ vote to support a new constitutional convention in 1787 (van Cleve, 2017). The Constitution of 1787 promoted change, clear taxation conditions, and the establishment of judicial power and the executive branch of the government. New attempts to centralize authority were made. However, the Constitution was not a perfect solution for all American citizens. The question of slavery was not solved, and western expansion, as well as the idea of human rights, remained to be an open concern.
Drafting the Constitution
A list of new factors and the demands of the current leaders made it necessary to think about the creation of a strong national government. At the same time, it was crucial to regard the opinions of the East and the West and recognize the needs of free and enslaved people. Several constitutional debates were developed in different parts of America, including such attempts as James Madison’s plan to stabilize the overall role of the legislature and William Paterson’s focus on the state legislatures. Still, both of them were not able to find a compromise.
The final decision was made by Roger Sherman to create a two-house legislature and equally invite the representatives from each state to the Senate and the House of Representatives (Tucker, 2014). That draft was able to please large populations and underline the role of the government at the same time. It was also known as the Great Compromise.
Certain attention was paid to slavery and the place of slave representatives in the Congress. The Constitution was clear in its intentions to divide people “by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years” and “three fifths of all other persons” (Fields, 2017, p. 177). “Other persons” were black slaves. Their number, as well as their participation, is defined specially.
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Finally, the relationships between the East and the West had to be discussed. Political disposition in the western part of the country was a problem. The compromise was an obligatory solution because the West demanded its participation in the constitutional convention. No bargaining power was available to the West, and the triumph of the East was hard to control questioning the possibility to maintain the political equality of the Constitution.
The Federalists vs. the Anti-Federalists
The impact of the Great Compromise was also observed in the relationships between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. The ratification of the Constitution proved the importance of a strong government, and the creation of the Federalist Papers supported the idea of ratification and education for all political leaders and potential representatives in the Congress. Still, there were also groups of people who opposed the role of the government.
They called themselves Anti-Federalists and discussed the role of each state in legislatures questioning the power of the Congress in the country. The debates between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists were not necessary for the development of the country. Therefore, John Hancock, one of the brightest representatives of the Anti-Federalists, participated in the discussion of the compromise to support the ratification through several critical amendments to the Constitution. His enthusiasm and inspiration were remarkable for the Convention.
The Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights was the result of the compromise between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. It included the ten amendments to the US Constitution when personal freedoms and rights were discussed (Tucker, 2014). The government’s power had to be limited from the juridical and social points of view. Jurisdiction of the Bill of Rights was one of the direct causes of the creation of two official parties in the United States. The Republicans (Federalists) believed in the power of the government and the necessity to filter the demands of the population. The Democrats (Anti-Federalists) underlined the importance of people’s rights, social justice, and liberalism. Still, despite the oppositions and debates, the Bill of Rights was one of the main documents to support the balance between the national and states’ interests due to its ability to define human rights in terms of the governmental Constitution.
In general, the period of economic and financial depression in the middle of the 1780s was the beginning of considerable changes and improvements in the country. It was not enough for America to have a strong government. It was necessary to combine the idea of human rights and freedoms with governmental control and power. The Articles of Confederation, the Constitution of 1787, drafts, and the ratifications showed the fight for equality. Though not all attempts were successful, the result of the steps taken in the 1780s was prominent and determined the future of the United States.
Fields, S. K. (2017). The presence and absence of race: Ross v. Creighton university. In B. H. Hawkins, A. R. Carter-Francique, & J. N. Cooper (Eds.), Critical race theory: Black athletic sporting experiences in the United States (pp. 171-192). New York, NY: Springer.
Tucker, S. C. (Ed.). (2014). The encyclopedia of the wars of the early American Republic, 1783-1812: A political, social, and military history (Vol. 1-3). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
van Cleve, G. W. (2017). We have not a government: The articles of confederation and the road to the constitution. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.