Articles of Confederation:

The first American constitution
Codified the way the Second Continental Congress operated
Government was unwieldy and inefficient

Like a League of Friendship
Compare it to the Confederacy during Civil War.
Compare it to U.S. participation in the United Nations.

Features of the Articles of Confederation:

1. No strong central government
2. Sovereignty and independence retained by states
3. One house in Continental Congress—each state had an equal vote
4. State control of Congressional delegation
  • Delegates selected by state legislatures
  • Delegates paid by states
  • Delegates had one-year terms, up to a maximum of 3 terms

5. Nine of thirteen states' votes required for normal legislation
6. All 13 states' votes needed to amend the articles itself
7. No separate executive branch to administer the government
8. No national-level court system
9. No power to levy taxes
10. No authority to regulate commerce
11. No strong, centralized military

Northwest Ordinance of 1787

Confederation Congress successful in one thing: legislation for Northwest Territory
Today's states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio

Abolished slavery in Northwest territory
Guaranteed freedom of religion within the territory
Defined how formal governments would be organized:
When 6,000 settlers: territorial status
When 60,000 settlers: apply for statehood
New states would join Union on equal footing with original thirteen

Why did we have what became known as the Constitutional Convention?

Many American leaders felt that the laws of the Confederation government were not adequate to run the country.

Convention itself

Where: Philadelphia
When: May–Sept 1787

Delegates to the Federal (Grand) Convention are considered to be:
Founding Fathers
Framers of the Constitution

Procedural rules crucial to the outcome:

a. Absolute secrecy
b. OK to reopen questions
c. Only a majority vote of states required to approve provisions

James Madison—his vital role:

Well prepared: Studied comparative governments historically
Analyzed our existing government in his essay entitled "Vices of the Political System of the United States"

Took notes during entire Convention

Often called the "Father of the Constitution"
Later role as Fourth President of the United States

Virginia (Randolph) Plan

Presented to the Convention by Virginia Governor Edmund Randolph

Written primarily by James Madison

Goal: Replace the Articles of Confederation

Large states liked this plan

Two–house legislature:
Lower house elected directly by the people
Upper house selected by the lower house

Proportional representation in both houses

"National" executive with "supreme" powers

New Jersey (Patterson) plan

Goal: Just amend the Articles of Confederation

Small states liked this plan

One–house legislature
Each state would have an equal vote

Only a modestly stronger national government

Great [Connecticut] Compromise

Convention had almost collapsed because of the large state/small state split over representation.

The Great Compromise reconciled the Virginia and New Jersey plans:

1. Lower House

Proportional representation
Members elected directly by the people

2. Upper house

Each state had two members
Equal votes per state (so they thought)
Elected by state legislatures (1916: direct election)

Three–Fifths clause

Issue of proportional representation now became a stumbling block to the delegates.

How to allocate lower house representation among the states?
This question divided states between slave/free rather than state size
Slaves to count as "three–fifths" of a person for representation
South gained power: House of Representatives & electoral college

Other constitutional protections for slavery

Congress prohibited from outlawing slave trade for twenty years
Fugitive slave clause: states must return runaways to masters.
National troops can help put down states' "domestic violence"

Separation of powers

Power balancing power. Gridlock intentionally built in.

Checks and balances both horizontal and vertical:

a. Horizontal: President, Congress, and Supreme Court.

b. Vertical: Federalism—balance between national and state levels

Ratification (approval) Conventions:

Ratification of the Constitution required approval of nine states

Most state legislatures were only willing to revise the Articles

The question became: How to bypass the state legislatures

The solution: State constitutional conventions—people selected convention delegates
Rationale: Since a constitution more important than normal legislation, it should not be passed by regular legislative process.

Two general groupings arose out of the ratification conventions:


Called themselves Federalists, not nationalists.
  • Wanted a strong national government
  • Supported the Constitution as drafted
  • Promised a Bill of Rights after ratification


  • Wanted strong state governments as chief protectors of individual rights
  • Opposed the Constitution as drafted
  • Demanded a Bill of Rights to protect individuals from national government

Ratification (approval) vote:

The proposed Constitution was not overwhelmingly popular

Debate in the state constitutional ratifying conventions was spirited.

Some state votes were close:
  • Massachusetts (187–168)
  • New Hampshire (57–46)
  • New York (30–27)
  • Virginia (89–79)

But the Constitution was ultimately approved!

The Presidency of George Washington

Washington elected unanimously in the Electoral College voting.

Vice President was John Adams.

Washington acted cautiously
Aware of precedents for the future
Only used his veto power when he felt a bill was unconstitutional

First Congress (April 1789):

Members were Federalists—generally

Congress succeeded at its four immediate tasks:

a. Revenue Act of 1789.

Congress adopted a 5 percent tariff on certain imports.
Raised sufficient revenue to support the new government.

b. Bill of Rights

Responding to state ratification conventions' call for a bill of rights.
James Madison took the lead.
First ten amendments to the Constitution passed.

c. Beginnings of a "Cabinet"

1. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson
2. Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton
3. Secretary of War Henry Knox
4. Attorney General Edmund Randolph

d. Judiciary Act of 1789.

Organized the federal judiciary.
Supreme Court (6 members)
District courts (13)
Circuit courts of appeal (3)

First political party system:

Both groupings gradually divided into two opposing camps, each accusing the other of having sold out the principles of the Revolution.

I. Federalists

Key person: Alexander Hamilton

They began calling themselves Federalists to link themselves with the federal Constitution.

(Washington and Adams were both Federalists.)

Supporters: Those in favor of the Constitution during ratification.

Concentrated in New England

Federalists believed in the following:

a. For a strong national government
b. For Central economic planning
c. For a National Bank
d. For Internal improvements (roads, harbors)
e. Wanted a commercially-oriented America: for manufacturing
f. In favor of protective tariffs (a tax on imported goods—to protect American industry)
g. Who should hold power?: social elite—best interests of the people
h. Wanted more order, less liberty: protection of property rights
i. For a broad construction==loose interpretation of the Constitution
j. Foreign policy: wanted closer ties with Great Britain

II. Democrat-Republicans

Key person: Thomas Jefferson.
James Madison his principal associate.

They began calling themselves Republicans, contending that they were the true heirs of the Revolution and that Hamilton was plotting to subvert republican principles.

Their policies were generally the opposite of the Federalists on almost every domestic and foreign policy issue

a. Wanted a limited national government; favored States rights
b. Against a National Bank
c. Against Internal improvements (roads, harbors)
d. Against manufacturing—it would cause slums in cities
e. Against protective tariffs
f. Wanted an America based more on farming than on factories
g. Who should hold power?: the people
h. Wanted more liberty, less order
i. For a limited construction==tight interpretation of the Constitution
j. Foreign policy: wanted closer ties with France

Hamilton's economic program

a. Report on Public Credit (1790)

Approved by Congress

Consolidate debts at national level==power to national level
Debt holders will want national government to
Fund foreign and domestic debt at full face value
Speculators who paid 10% of face value would get rich
Assume remaining debts owed by states
Those who had paid off already were mad

Deal made to move U.S. capitol to Washington, D.C.

b. Defense of the Constitutionality of the Bank (1790)

Congress approved it
Hamilton liked the British system: Bank of England
Said U.S. need a central bank to facilitate money movements

Hamilton: a bank is permitted: loose construction view
Can make laws necessary for commerce, taxation, war, etc.
Implied powers argument

Jefferson: a bank not permitted: strict constitutional view

c. Report on Manufactures (Dec 1791)

Congress did not approve it
Reverse reliance on Europe for manufactured goods
Encourage infant U.S. industries (shoes and textiles) with govt subsidies
Tariffs to protect infant industries
Promote immigration of technicians and laborer.

Whiskey rebellion (1794)

Hamilton's economic program required tax on whiskey to fund debt
Farmers turned grain into whiskey (easier to ship)
Farmers (mostly Democrat-Republicans) in western Pa. refused to pay
Challenge to national authority had to be confronted
Army sent to disperse the "rebellion" which "faded away like a vapor"
Washington believed rebellion politically motivated by Jeffersonians
Jeffersonians believed military response unnecessary

French Revolution

Meanwhile, developments in foreign affairs magnified the domestic disagreements.
Disagreements over the American response to the French revolution led to partisan disagreements.
U.S. initially welcomed the French revolution but was bothered by its excesses.
(Remember: U.S. was first independent country without a king.)

French Revolution (Historian of the State Department)

American neutrality (April 1793)

Proclamation issued by George Washington.
U.S. a small nation; caught in world war between Britain and France
U.S. wanted to remain neutral; continue trade with everyone
U.S. would act "friendly and impartial" toward the warring powers

Democratic–Republican societies:

A republic==consensus==no factions or disagreements
Composed chiefly of artisans and craftsmen
Members: Jefferson followers; sympathetic to French Revolution
Some 40 such societies organized (1793-1800)
Saw themselves as heirs of the Sons of Liberty
First grassroots political organizations
Opposed to Washington's administration; first formal political dissent

Washington's Farewell Address

"The great rule of our conduct in regard to foreign nations is to have with them as little political connection as possible."

"It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world."

The Presidency of John Adams:

Election of 1796 won by John Adams, but a quirk in Electoral College made Jefferson (opposite political grouping) vice president.

XYZ affair (1798)

Jay's treaty (between Britain and America) made France jealous
France began capturing American ships carrying British goods
President Adams sent three commissioners to ask France to stop
French demanded a bribe of $250,000 prior to any discussions
Americans took this as evidence of French disrespect
Anti–French sentiment—even cries for war—swept the country
Remember: partisanship between Federalists and Democrat-Republicans
Adams held off demand for war

Quasi–War with France:

An undeclared naval war began in the Caribbean between warships of the U.S. navy and French privateers seeking to capture American merchant vessels.

French–American Convention (1800):

Ended the Quasi–War
Freed America from French Treaty of Alliance
Peaceful settlement cost Adams re–election
Laid foundation for Louisiana Purchase (1803)

Alien and Sedition Acts (1798):

Federalist attempt to muzzle Jeffersonian-Republicans
Political criticism defined as treasonous
No concept of loyal opposition
First major crisis over civil liberties

Sedition Act of 1798 Becomes Law (On This Day, Finding Dulcinea)

Kentucky and Virginia resolutions:

How could Democrat-Republicans combat Alien and Sedition Acts
National-level institutions (President, Congress, Court) controlled by Federalists
They therefore turned to only other forum available for protest: state legislatures
We the People or We the States
Claimed Constitution a compact among states (and not individual citizens)
How far could states go in opposing the national government?
How could a conflict between the two be resolved?
This line of reasoning background to Nullification controversy and Civil War

Presidency of Thomas Jefferson

From 1801–1824, all three American presidents were Republicans and Virginians:

Thomas Jefferson (8 yrs.)
James Madison (8 yrs.)
James Monroe (8 yrs).

Jefferson's Empire of liberty

Jefferson shared with other Americans the belief that the U.S. was destined to expand its "empire of liberty."
Most past empires had been run by dictators.

Four obstacles to America's empire of liberty would have to be confronted:

a. French in New Orleans and the Louisiana Territory
b. Spanish in Florida and Mexico
c. British in Canada
d. Native Americans throughout the continent.

Presidential Election of 1800

Republicans Jefferson and Burr tied for the election
Jefferson selected by Federalist–controlled House of Representatives
Peaceful transition of power between political parties
New Congress controlled by Democrat-Republicans

Jefferson won election of 1800 (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Louisiana Purchase (1803)

The obstacle to the "empire of liberty" posed by the French was the first to be overcome.

Louisiana Purchase (Today in History, Library of Congress)

U.S. paid $15 million to France.
Doubled the size of America.

Jefferson compromised his strict constructionist views

Lewis and Clark Expedition (May 1804-Sept 1806)

4,000 Miles.
Explored extent of Louisiana Purchase: rivers that drain into Mississippi.
Began in St. Louis; up the Missouri River to its source
Across the Rocky Mountains (Continental Divide)
Rivers running east go to Mississippi, those to West to Pacific Ocean
Winter camp in Astoria, Oregon

Meriwether Lewis (The West)

Sacagawea (The West)

War with Barbary pirates (1801-1815)

Barbary States: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Tripoli (today's Libya).

Pirates attacked U.S. ships in the Mediterranean
U.S. got tired of paying protection money
U.S. built up its naval and marine capacity
Pirates defeated by 1815; no more protection money

Marine Corps Hymn: "To the shores of Tripoli":

Preserving American trading rights and neutral status in a world at war


World War b/n England and France started up again in 1803.
U.S. was the chief supplier of food to both sides for a while.
By 1805, France and Britain began blockading each other's ports.
As a trading partner of both countries, the U.S. paid a high price.

WAR OF 1812

Remember: Britain and France locked in a world war

Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812.

American grievances with British:

1. Impressment

Britain's navy suffered a severe shortage of sailors.
Britain stopped American ships
Forcible draft of American sailors.

2. Desire to defend American independence and honor

The vote for war

Congress deeply divided over whether to go to war with Britain.
Federalists in New England did not want to go to war.
Many Federalist considered conflict to be "Mr. Madison's War."
Raising troops in New England was difficult.
People in west wanted to go to war.

War Hawks

Their fathers had fought in the Revolution.
They themselves wanted to prove themselves in war

Key War Hawks:

a. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina

b. Henry Clay of Kentucky

War Hawk's desire to take British Canada

A "mere matter of marching"

Americans were unsuccessful.

Key battles of the War of 1812:

1. Washington, D.C.

British captured the city.

British Troops Burn White House and Capitol (Finding Dulcinea, On This Day)

2. Baltimore

British bombarded; Americans held out.

Francis Scott Key Writes “The Star-Spangled Banner” (Finding Dulcinea, On This Day)

3. Horseshoe Bend (in today's Alabama)

Andrew Jackson (future American president) defeated the Creek Indians.
He forced them to sign away most of their land.

Andrew Jackson's Victory in Creek War (Today in History, Library of Congress)

4. New Orleans (8 Jan 1815)

Andrew Jackson's troops defeated the British.

British: 300 killed, 1300 wounded, 500 captured
Americans: 30 killed, 40 wounded

Battle of New Orleans

Hartford Convention (15 Dec 1814—5 Jan 1815)

Federalist delegates from New England
Unhappy with the war's stoppage of New England trade
Seemed treasonous during wartime.
Led to demise of Federalist Party
News arrived in Washington at same time as that of New Orleans

Treaty of Ghent (located in Belgium) (24 December 1814)

Did not specifically address any of the issues for which America went to war.
Merely restored the prewar status quo.

Consequences of War of 1812

1. Affirmed the freedom won in the Revolutionary war
2. Strengthened America's resolve to avoid European politics
3. Dealt a serious blow to Indian resistance to American expansion
4. Increased nationalism—renewed feeling of confidence and assertiveness
5. Stimulated economy (capitalists began to invest in home manufactures)
6. Sealed the fate of the Federalists


Native American Resistance and Removal

Most whites wanted land
Most whites were racist: had little respect for Indians' rights and culture
Indians always seemed to be in the way of whites' land hunger
Some whites: physically separate Indians and white settlers
Other whites: "civilize" Indians and assimilate them into American culture

Removal Act of 1830

The government forced the Five Civilized Tribes to move west of the Mississippi River.

Five Civilized tribes: Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Cherokee, Seminole

Indian Removal


Cherokees. If civilizing Indians was the American goal, no tribe met that test better than the Cherokees


Bilingual tribal newspaper
Formal government complete with legislature and court system
Written constitution modeled after that of the U.S.
Ownership of black slaves
Almost total conversion to Christianity.

Cherokee Trail of Tears

One part, a sad one, of the overall Indian removal.

Some 4,000 of the 13,000 Cherokees died along the way.

Oregon Trail:


Map and pictures of landmarks

Independence, Missouri to Oregon/California

Trip was 2,000 miles; took 6 months

"Oregon fever" began after the Panic of 1837

Fremont mapped the trail (1842)

1843—major increase in migration over the Trail

Oregon Trail:

a. Introduction
b. Discoverers and Explorers

c. "Jumping off"
d. The Route West
e. Power
f. Hardships
g. Camping
h. Buffalo
i. Native Americans

Oregon Country

Northwest boundary dispute

U. S. negotiated for Oregon Country (1846).
U.S. to brink of war with Britain over Oregon boundary.
President James K. Polk's campaign slogan: Fifty-Four Forty or Fight
U.S. could not fight Mexico and Britain at same time

Boundary dispute map:

California Gold Rush (1849)

1. Discovery of gold (1848) (2 months before Mexican-American war treaty)

California Gold Rush (1849)
Overland trail plus passage around South America
100,000 arrived in one year

2. California statehood (1850)

Gold discovered at Sutter's Mill

President Polk sparks the California Gold Rush

Manifest destiny

Term first used by editor John L. O'Sullivan (1839)

American expansion westward and southward was
a. Inevitable
b. Just
c. Divinely ordained

In accordance with this view:
Native Americans: savages, best eliminated
Hispanics: inferior peoples, best controlled or conquered



Americans move into Spanish, then Mexican Tejas
Panic of 1819 pushed some Americans westward
Mexico gained its independence from Spain (1821)

Spain gave land grants to Moses Austin
Mexico continued the same deal with Stephen Austin (1824)

Americans not happy with three aspects of life in Mexico:

a. Catholicism: Settlers either converted superficially or ignored requirement
b. Slavery
In 1829 Mexico freed its slaves
Colonists freed slaves but signed them to lifelong indentured servant contract
c. Self government

Texas part of Mexican Coahuila (Texas outnumbered 3 to 1)
Americans demanded a Mexican state of their own

Dictator Santa Anna abolished separate Mexican states (1834)

Texas revolution (1836)

By 1835, Texas population: 30,000 Americans; 3,000 Mexicans
"War party" declared Texas independent in1836
Guests who rebelled against their hosts

Main battles of the Texas Revolution:

a. Alamo: 187 all died (Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, William Travis)

The Alamo Came Under Attack (Finding Dulcinea, On This Day)

b. Goliad: 350 captured Americans were massacred

c. San Jacinto:

Sam Houston attacked Mexicans during a siesta
630 Mexicans killed
Santa Anna captured

Texas: the Lone Star Republic (1836–1845)

Texas a separate country

Sam Houston the first president.

Population increased from 30,000 to 142,000
Annexation delayed until 1845: volatility of the slavery issue

Wilmot Proviso (1846)

a. Many northerners opposed the war with Mexico
b. They saw in a war an evil design by slave owners to increase possible slave territory
c. Democrat Congressman David Wilmot of Pennsylvania proposed a bill that would outlaw slavery in any territory won from Mexico.
d. His proposal did not pass Congress.
e. But the Wilmot Proviso became a rallying cry for abolitionists & those against spread of slavery.
f. Most white northerners were racists, not abolitionists.
g. Whites wanted to protect themselves—not southern blacks—from the Slave power.
h. They wanted to keep this new land only for free white people

Free–Soil Party

Formed in 1848 to prevent slavery in the territories won from Mexico.

Free Soilers did not necessarily want to abolish slavery.

They simply wanted to prevent its spread into the Western territories.

Party slogan was Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor, and Free Men.

Free Soil party was made up of
1. Northern Democrats committed to the Wilmot proviso
2. Antislavery ("Conscience" as opposed to "Cotton") Whigs

U.S.-MEXICAN WAR (1846–1848)

1. Mexico felt annexation of Texas cause for war

American sent forces into disputed region to provoke a Mexican attack
Mexicans did attack
America declared war

Some in U.S. opposed war:

Many northerners opposed the war with Mexico
They saw in a war an evil design by slave owners to increase possible slave territory

Henry Clay; Abraham Lincoln

2. American interest in California--then a part of Mexico:

Bartered manufactured goods for cowhides
Boston companies set up resident agents in California
Agents' reports back East sparked interest in California

a. Richard Henry Dana's Two Year Before the Mast: a best seller (1840)

Ship was named the Pilgrim.

Richard Henry Dana

Dana Point. Ship visit: Pilgrim.

b. Sutter's Fort. Sacramento. At end of Overland Trail.

3. When war with Mexico seemed likely, U.S. claimed California

Bear Flag Revolt (June 14, 1846)

Key names: Sonoma; William B. Ide; John Fremont; Mexican Governor Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo

Separate country for less than a month

4. U.S. Forces in Mexico

a) General Zachary Taylor: invaded Mexico from north

Battle of Buena Vista

b) General Winfield Scott: invaded Mexico from seacoast

Battle of Chapultepec

Halls of Montezuma
Marines raised U.S. flag over National Palace in Mexico City

5. Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

U.S. paid Mexico $15 million
Present states: California, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona
U.S. territory enlarged by 20%

Legacy of the Mexican-American War

$100 million in military costs
13,000 Americans died
Training ground for military officers later famous in Civil War
Gold discovered in California (1848): a few months before treaty signed
Continuing controversy over extension of slavery in land won from Mexico