With the Constitution the elite society protected rights for every American that would secure and ensure our nation’s existence for hundreds of years. Under the Articles of Confederation, the United States’ government was in a state of chaos. To end the existing chaos and build a stronger democratic society for the future, the government would need to be more powerful and centralized. Thus, the elite class established the rules and boundaries that would protect the rights of all citizens from a suppressive government.
The Articles created a weak, almost non-existent government had neither an executive or judicial branch, which meant that it lacked enforcement powers. The newly formed government had neither and executive or judicial branch, which meant that it lacked enforcement powers. There were three problems that existed under the Articles of Confederation that would spawn and act of change. First, under the Articles of Confederation the government could not protect property and other rights of the citizens. Second, the society created under the Articles of Confederation lacked a means of advancing commerce and interstate trade. Third, government lacked the money and power to provide and adequate national defense (Dye 65-66).
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Traders and commercial men found their plans for commerce on a national scale impeded by local interference with interstate commerce. The currency of the states and the nation were hopelessly muddled. Creditors everywhere were angry about the depreciated paper money, which the agrarians had made and were attempting to force upon those whom they had borrowed specie. Poor, small landowning farmers could not sell or trade goods that they produced on their land to other states.
The “muddled currency” in 1786, led to the loss of land in Massachusetts. During this time Continental army veterans were unable to pay their debts with the paper money that they were supplied with by the Continental Congress. This bankruptcy led to the loss of land and a great rebellion led by Daniel Shays. The Shay’s rebellion was ended easily enough but it was the lack of national government that frightened people. Had Daniel Shays gathered a larger number of people and had more firepower the small amount of farmers and townspeople might not have been able to squash this rebellion. Anarchy in the States could not be tolerated (ShaysNet).
However it was James Madison that stated that the way to abolish the rule by faction is to abolish liberty but that liberty is essential to a faction as air is to fire. Madison continues to state that, “The interference to which we are brought is, that the causes of faction cannot be removed and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects.” Madison understood that to take away liberty was to stop a faction and therefore if a hindrance or boundary on liberty was established of liberty and therefore the most reasonable decision were to place boundaries on it. Madison and the elite class noticed how the Articles of Confederation disrupted the majority of the American people and created a system of government where liberty was so free that it hindered society. The decision to create a new system of government was in the best interest of all the people in America (James).
In creating the Constitution there were many conflicting views of how the newly created government should function. Alexander Hamilton, wanted a strong central government in which a Senate and executive power were chosen for life by indirect election; therefore creating an aristocracy.
George Mason, an anti-federalist, objected to the final document because of the possibility that this new government would create aristocracy. Mason also proposed that, “there is no declaration of Rights” and the “Legislature cannot prohibit the further importation of slaves,” which he felt was destructive of the country’s moral fiber (Virginia).
On the Bill of Rights issue, the government did not need regulations that stated what it couldn’t do because a government cannot act unless it is stated within the law. If there was not a law that stated that they could censor the press then it is illegal for them to do so. Mason and many other anti-federalists were opposed to the Constitution because it allowed the importation of slaves for at least another twenty years. Without this clause in the Constution it never would have been ratified because the South would not have voted for ratification denying the Constution the three-fourths vote that it needed. Although the importation of slaves in the Constution was not ideal there was not a way to ratify the Constitution without the South’s vote on this issue. Charles A. Beard critizes the creators of the Constitution deeming that:
“I believe in the infallibility, all-sufficient wisdom, and infinite goodness of the late convention; or in other words, I believe that some men are of so perfect a nature that it is absolutely impossible for them to commit errors or design villainy.
I believe that the great body of the people are incapable of judging in their nearest concerns, and that, therefore, they ought to be guided by the opinions of their superiors . . . I believe that aristocracy is the best form of government . . . I believe that trial by jury and the freedom of the press ought to be exploded from every wise of government . . . I believe that the new constitution will prove the bulwark of liberty — the balm of misery — the essence of justice — and the astonishment of mankind(Anti-Federalist).
Another anti-federalist, Patrick Henry gave a speech at the Virginia Convention, which is telling the founders that their new Constution will have the same rule of the land that does not differ from the former rule of England. Below is a small section of the speech from Patrick Henry:
THIS, sir, is the language of democracy–that a majority of the community have a right to alter this! How different from the sentiments of freemen that a contemptible minority can prevent the good of the majority! If, then, gentlemen standing on this ground are come to that point, that they are willing to bind themselves and their posterity to be oppressed, I am amazed and inexpressibly astonished. If this be the opinion of the majority, I must submit; but to me, sir, it appears perilous and destructive. I can not help thinking so. Perhaps it may be the result of my age. These may be feelings natural to a man of my years, when the American spirit has left him, and his mental powers, like the members of the body, are decayed. If, sir, amendments are left to the twentieth, or tenth part of the people of America, your liberty is gone forever (Yesterday‘s).
There were a few problems within the Constution of the United States of America, but the effects that it produced in society was far more positive than that of the Articles of Confederation. The chaos that was constructed under the Articles was legally banned under the Constution. The slave trade and acts of slavery would last many more years but finally it was ended very bloodily. Although the history of the United States has not always been a happy on the ratification of the Constution still is on of America’s best accomplishments.
Dye, Thomas R. (1998) Politics in America – Third Edition. New Jersey: Prentice, Inc
James Madison University. James Madison: His Legacy. Trans. Devin Bent. Online. James Madison Center. Internet. 26 February 2000. http://www.jmu.edu/madison.
ShaysNet. Shay’s Rebellion. Trans. Peg Larson. Online. Wintergreen Associates. Internet. 26 February 2000. http://www.shaysnet.com/~shayg/dshay.htm.
The Virginia Anti-Federalist. Online. Internet. 26 February 2000.
Yesterday’s Anti-Federalist. Online. Internet. 26 February 2000. http://www.no-debts.com/anti-federalist
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