What was the name of the first
written government of the US and
when was it written?
The Articles of Confederation was the first
government of the United States, written by John
Dickinson and adopted by the Second Continental
Congress in 1777. The AoC was ratified in March of
1781. The AoC gave the one house government it
created, the power to make war, make peace and
sign treaties.
What were the strengths and
successes of the Articles of
The congress under the Articles did accomplish
several important things: they won the
Revolutionary War , they helped keep Washington’s
army fighting and they negotiated favorable terms
in the Treaty of Paris 1783.
Why were the Articles of Confederation written the
way they were?
The writers of the AoC intended for this to be a
weak government so that most of the power
would be in the hands of the states
Describe the weaknesses of the Articles of
The Articles of Confederationdid not have the power to
collect taxes, regulate the economy or any type of
commerce, nor did they have any executive power to
enforce its own laws, there was no national court system
to settle disputes and there were 13 separate states that
lacked national unity. Also the AoC established a onehouse government – a Congress where each state had only
one vote and 9 out of the 13 was the required vote to pass
laws. To amend (change) the articles, a unanimous vote
was required.
Who was Daniel Shays?
Daniel Shays was a Massachusetts farmer who had fought
in the Revolutionary War. He had much debt due to his
time spent serving his country and not tending to his farm
and now faced debtors prison. He believed he should not
be taxed so heavily because he was in the army.
How did Daniel Shays start a rebellion and what was
it about?
Shays convinced others to join him in trying to close down
the courts in Massachusetts so they could not put them in
jail. In September 1786, Shays led 1200 men to an arsenal
in Springfield, MA to try and get arms. State officials called
out the militia.
How did the government react to Daniel Shays Rebellion?
Panic spread through the nation’s leaders. If the states were
unable to keep these types of situations out of control, it could be
dangerous. Leaders felt this event demonstrated the need for a
strong national government that could help keep order.
How did the Constitutional ratification process bring about
political divisions in America?
When it came time to approve the Constitution, the AntiFederalists and Federalists had opposing ideas about what
powers the federal government should have versus what
powers the state governments should have
Who were the Federalists and Anti-Federalists?
The supporters of the Constitution, who claimed the name
"Federalists," were arguing against a loosely organized
group known as "Anti-federalists" who wanted the states’
goverments to have most of the power.
What was the Anti-Federalist argument against the
The Anti-federalists denounced the Constitution as a
radically centralizing document that would destroy
American liberty and betray the principles of the
What was the argument of the Federalists in
support of the Constitution?
The Federalists urged that the nation's problems were
directly linked to the frail, inadequate Confederation and
that nothing short of the Constitution would enable the
American people to preserve their liberty and
independence, the fruits of the Revolution.
Who were some of the prominent Federalists and
what advantages did they have in the debate over
the Constitution?
The Federalists--led by Alexander Hamilton, James
Madison, John Jay, John Marshall, James Wilson, John
Dickinson, and Roger Sherman--had several advantages. In
a time of national political crisis, they offered a clear
prescription for the nation's ills; they were well organized
and well financed; and they were used to thinking in
national terms and to working with politicians from other
states. They also had the support of the only two truly
national political figures, George Washington and
Benjamin Franklin.
Who were some of the prominent Anti-Federalists
and what advantages did they have in the debate
over the Constitution?
The Anti-federalists--led by Patrick Henry, George Mason,
Richard Henry Lee, James Monroe, John Hancock, Samuel
Adams, Elbridge Gerry, George Clinton, Willie Jones, and
Melancton Smith--counted among their advantages the
support of most state politicians and the American
people's distrust of strong central government. Their most
potent argument against the Constitution was that it
lacked a bill of rights.
How was the debate over the Constitution carried
The lively newspaper and pamphlet war over the
Constitution was a key element of the ratification
controversy. Federalists and Anti-federalists published
hundreds of essays praising or denouncing the document.
What role did Alexander Hamilton, James Madison
and John Jay play in this newspaper war?
The wrote a series of 85 essays known as The Federalist ,
in support of the principles of the Constitution that were
instrumental in winning support for ratification.
What finally persuaded the Anti-Federalists to
accept the Constitution and ratify it?
The Federalists came up with a BILL OF RIGHTS – 10
amendments to the US Constitution that protected
individual liberties, written by James Madison . The
Constitution was ratified (approved), but the debate over
what it means continues even today.
How is the Constitution structured?
It is broken into articles. Each article defines the power of
a particular branch of the government – Legislative,
Executive and Judicial – and the limits of the power of
each of those, plus the Amendments.
What was the Great Compromise?
The Great Compromise was an agreement made among
the delegates to the Constitutional Convention that the
American government would have two houses in
Congress: the Senate where each state has two Senators,
and the House of Representatives where each state has a
number of Representatives based on population.
How did the Great Compromise help with the
ratification of the Constitution?
The Great Compromise ended one of the most serious
disagreements among the new states. Small states felt
that all states were equal in stature and that if
Congressional representation were based upon
population, they would be outvoted on everything. Large
states felt that populations should determine how many
representatives a state should have, because they were
afraid that they would be outvoted by the small states.
This disagreement was preventing the Constitution from
being adopted. In order to move forward on the
Constitution, the states compromised and made Congress
as a bicameral legislative body.
Explain how the men who attended the
Constitutional Convention felt about slavery.
The enslavement of blacks in America was of great concern to the
men at the convention. Some genuinely felt that the black man
was as much "man" as the white man. But this was a minority
view. Southern delegates had one thing in mind when it came to
slavery: to keep it going to prop up the Southern economy. Indeed,
many of the largest slave holders in the United States were at the
Convention. Most Northern delegates did not like slavery, but that
does not mean they cared for blacks either. Many felt that the
larger the black populations in the South grew, the larger the
threat that that population would revolt against their masters and
march north to exact revenge on the people who bought the
goods they had been driven to tend.
How did the delegates compromise over the issue of
slavery and representation in Congress?
One important concern about slaves, was if and how should they
be counted for representation in Congress. The South wanted their
slaves counted as whole persons, but that would never happen.
James Wilson wanted to get the issue out of the way quickly, and
asked the Convention to adopt the same standard as that in the
Articles: slaves would count as three-fifths persons. This became
known as the three-fifths compromise.
How did the Constitution deal with the problem of the slave
The states of the deep south wanted to continue
importing slaves; the North and the middle south was
opposed. As the Convention progressed, though, it
became clear to the South and her allies that some
compromise would be needed. In exchange for a
prohibition on export taxes, the South agreed to allowing
the slave trade to continue for just 20 more years, and for
imported slaves to be taxable. As a side note, the very day
that the slave trade could constitutionally be prohibited, it
was: on January 1, 1808.
What does the Bill of Rights say?
The Bill of Rights gives individuals the right to freedom of
religion; free speech; freedom of the press and political
activity; the right to bear arms against violence and
government intrusion; the right to a fair and speedy trial.
These rights are not denied to anyone, according to this
collection of the first 10 amendments to the U.S.
Constitution, people have these rights and privileges. The
federal government cannot stand in the way of any of
these rights.
Who was the first President of the US?
Washington took office as the First President of the United
States. He and Congress had to create an entirely new
government. Many of his early decisions have shaped the
course of America’s history.
How did Washington shape the Judicial Branch of
the Government?
First Washington and Congress created a judicial
system with the Supreme Court as its head through
the Judiciary Act of 1789.
How did Washington shape the Executive Branch of
the government
Next he built an executive branch to help him make
policies and carry out the laws. When Washington took
office the executive branch was only the President and
Vice President. Washington created three executive
departments, The Department of State to deal with
foreign affairs, the Department of War to handle military
matters and the Department of the Treasury to handle
financial matters. These departments became known as
the Cabinet.
How did Washington’s first cabinet lead to the
development of political parties in the US?
Immediately, argument broke out as to how to best run the
country. Divisions sprang up between Thomas Jefferson and
Alexander Hamilton. Even though Washington tried to
remain above this, the split in his cabinet led to the
formation of political parties in America. The key issue at the
center of the argument was the power and size of the
Federal government in relation to state governments. Those
who wanted a strong federal government were called The
Federalists (Hamilton, Washington, Adams) and those who
favored strong state governments called themselves
Republicans (Jefferson, Madison, Monroe).
What was the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794?
Congress had passed an import tax on goods produced in
Europe. This tax meant to encourage American production
and brought in a lot of revenue. Hamilton, Secretary of the
Treasury wanted more revenue and encouraged an excise
tax – a tax on the manufacture and sale of a product – on
the manufacture of whiskey. Whiskey distilled from corn
was the major source of cash for frontier farmers. The
western Pennsylvania farmers rebelled in 1794 – this
became known as the Whiskey Rebellion.
What was important about the Whiskey Rebellion?
Hamilton sent in 15,000 militiamen to put down the
rebellion. This was an important show of force for the
federal government to prove it could enforce the law. The
Whiskey Rebellion was a milestone in the consolidation of
federal power in domestic affairs.
What problems did the early Republic have in
international affairs?
Another problem during Washington’s presidency carried
over into the next presidency of John Adams and had to do
with international affairs. The French had come to the aid
of the colonists in the Revolutionary War. The French and
the United States had signed an alliance (treaty) in 1778.
When Revolution broke out in France the French wanted
the help of the Americans. Republicans under Jefferson
supported this idea. The Federalists under
Washington/Hamilton/Adams were opposed
What did Washington do on April 22, 1793 regarding
this issue?
Washington issued a declaration of neutrality saying
that America would not get involved.
How did Jefferson respond?
Jefferson continued to support the French and
resigned from Washington’s cabinet in 1793.
What did Washington day in his Farewell Address?
Washington decided he didn’t want to run for president
for a third term. In a Farewell Address to the nation he
urged the U.S. to “steer clear of permanent alliances with
other nations”, to “not form political parties” and to
remember the union of the states was of the utmost
Who became President after Washington?
In the election of 1796, John Adams, a Federalist and
Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican ran against
each other. Adams won, but due to election procedures at
the time, Jefferson became his Vice President even though
he was of a different political party. Northern states mostly
supported Adams, southern states supported Jefferson.
What problems did Adams deal with as President?
Adams faced the continuing pressure from the European
war. The French government was angry the Americans had
signed Jay’s Treaty with Great Britain, which they saw as
favoring Britain over them. The French began to seize
American ships bound for Britain. Adams sent a three man
delegation to France to work this out. When they arrived,
the French diplomats who were to meet with them
demanded a $250.000 bribe to see the Foreign Minister
Talleyrand. This event became known as the XYZ Affair and
it provoked a strong wave of anti-French feeling in
What was a major accomplishment under Adams?
Congress authorized the building of a navy and an
What made Adams lose popularity and his bid to be
reelected in 1800?
Anti French feelings continued. Federalists believed that
French spies were everywhere, plotting to overthrow the
American government and convinced Adams to pass the
Alien and Sedition Acts. These laws made a longer waiting
period for immigrants to become citizens, from 5 to 14
years. They also said the President could deport or jail and
alien considered undesirable and fines and jail terms were
imposed on people who spoke out against the
government. These acts proved to be the downfall of