Constitution Essay

With the Constitution the elite society protected rights for every American that would secure and ensure our nation’s existence for hundreds of years - Constitution Essay introduction. 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.

ShaysNet. Shay’s Rebellion. Trans. Peg Larson. Online. Wintergreen Associates. Internet. 26 February 2000.

The Virginia Anti-Federalist. Online. Internet. 26 February 2000.
Yesterday’s Anti-Federalist. Online. Internet. 26 February 2000.

Constitution Essay

The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union were drafted by a committee headed by John Dickinson on July 12, 1776 - Constitution Essay introduction. The colonies were still weary of strong central government after the problems they faced with the Parliament in England. Therefore, rather than granting authority to a central government, the Articles of Confederation gave the majority of power to the states.

While Congress had power over foreign affairs, war and peace, coinage, postal service, and Indian affairs, there were no courts to enforce the resolutions, laws, and taxes on the states. Instead, Congress relied on state requisitions, which states could easily ignore. (Tindall/Shi 208).

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Important acts required a special majority in which nine out of the thirteen states had to approve of the act. This was used in measures taken with war, treaties, coinage, finances, and the army and navy. All amendments to the Articles required unanimous ratification.

Congress was also weary of executive power. There was no head of government, but rather a President of Congress, whom was re-elected yearly.

Committees were made for nearly everything. Organization was poor, and one man served on eighty committees at one time.

Congress also set up three departments: Foreign Affairs, Finance, and War. These were much like the departments later set up in the Constitution.

Due to the little power held by Congress, many problems sprang up. States began coining their own money and refusing to trade with one another. A central bank could not be set up because the required amendment did not receive a unanimous vote from the states. Debt in the states grew from $11 million to $28 million. Indian lands were trampled by white settlers.

Farmers became angry because crop prices dropped and their land taxes were increased in order to gain revenue for war debts. Captain Daniel Shays, a war veteran and farmer, led a rebellion of 1,200 farmers against the federal arsenal in Springfield in 1787. (Tindall/Shi 216) They wanted a better monetary policy consisting of the right to use corn and wheat as hard money. The farmers also wanted a break from taxes until the depression lifted. The rebels fought and four were killed. This small riff convinced many politicians that the states were in need of a different and better suited constitution.

Twenty-nine delegates from 12 states (Rhode Island sent none) met in Philadelphia on May 25 of 1787 at a convention for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation. (Tindall/Shi 219) George Washington was the was the presiding officer.

The delegates decided upon a seperation of powers, giving certain rights to states and others to a central government. One person was also to be named chief executive, or president, but with limited powers in certain areas concerning state government. This leader could veto certain acts of Congress, but could also be overridden by a two-thirds majority of Congress.

Three branches were also proposed: the Legislative Branch, the Judicial Branch, and the Executive Branch. The Legislative branch is made up of Congress, Senate, and the House of Representatives. The Judicial Branch contains the Supreme Court, and the Executive Branch is the Office of the President. These three branches have a system of checks and balances with no branch being more powerful than another.

After a struggle to pass the Constitution, the last state agreed and on October 10 of 1788, it was passed. Benjamin Franklin stated, Our constitution is in actual operation… everything appears to promise that it will last.

Constitution Essay

After the Constitution was signed and approved by delegates of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, it had to be ratified by the states - Constitution Essay introduction. As determined by Article VII of the Constitution, ratification required the approval of nine special state conventions. States that did not ratify the Constitution would not be considered a part of the Union and would be separate countries.

Passage of the Constitution by the states was by no means certain in 1787. Indeed, many people at that time opposed the creation of a federal, or national, government that would have power over the states. These people were called Anti-Federalists. They included primarily farmers and tradesmen and were less likely to be a part of the wealthy elite than were members of their opposition, who called themselves Federalists. The Anti-Federalists believed that each state should have a sovereign, independent government. Their leaders included some of the most influential figures in the nation, including PATRICK HENRY and GEORGE MASON, leading national figures during the Revolutionary War period. Many Anti-Federalists were local politicians who feared losing power should the Constitution be ratified. As one member of their opposition, EDMUND RANDOLPH, said, these politicians “will not cherish the great oak which is to reduce them to paltry shrubs.”

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The Federalists favored the creation of a strong federal government that would more closely unite the states as one large, continental nation. They tended to come from the wealthier class of merchants and plantation owners. Federalists had been instrumental in the creation of the Constitution, arguing that it was a necessary improvement on the ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION, the country’s first attempt at unifying the states in a national political arrangement. Leaders among the Federalists included two men who helped develop the Constitution, JAMES MADISON and ALEXANDER HAMILTON, and two national heroes whose support would greatly improve the Federalists’ prospects for winning, GEORGE WASHINGTON and BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.

Between September 17, 1787, the day the Constitution was signed by the Constitutional Convention, and May 29, 1790, the day Rhode Island became the thirteenth and last state to ratify the Constitution, the Federalists and Anti-Federalists engaged in a fierce national debate on the merits of the Constitution. This debate occurred in meeting halls, on streets, and on the printed page. Both sides in the argument had a considerable following. Many of the questions raised remain with us today: What is the best form of government? What rights must the government protect? Which government powers should be granted to the states, and which to the federal government?

The Anti-Federalists The Anti-Federalists found many problems in the Constitution. They argued that the document would give the country an entirely new and untested form of government. They saw no sense in throwing out the existing government. Instead, they believed that the Federalists had over-stated the current problems of the country. They also maintained that the Framers of the Constitution had met as an elitist group under a veil of secrecy and had violated the provisions of the Articles of Confederation in the means selected for ratification of the Constitution.

In making their arguments, the Anti-Federalists often relied on the rhetoric of the Revolutionary War era, which stressed the virtues of local rule and associated centralized power with a tyrannical monarch. Thus, the Anti-Federalists frequently claimed that the Constitution represented a step away from the democratic goals of the American Revolution and toward the twin evils of monarchy and aristocracy. The Anti-Federalists feared that the Constitution gave the president too much power and that the proposed Congress would be too aristocratic in nature, with too few representatives for too many people. They also criticized the Constitution for its lack of a BILL OF RIGHTS of the kind that had been passed in England in 1689 to establish and guarantee certain rights of Parliament and of the English people against the king. Moreover, the Anti-Federalists argued that the Constitution would spell an end to all forms of self-rule in the states.

Many Anti-Federalists believed in a type of government that has been described as agrarian republicanism. Such a government is centered on a society of landowning farmers who participate in local politics. THOMAS JEFFERSON agreed with this view. He felt that the virtues of democratic freedom were best nurtured in an agrarian, or agricultural, society, and
that with increasing urbanization, commercialization, and centralization of power would come a decline in political society and eventual tyranny. Unlike the Anti-Federalists, however, Jefferson supported the Constitution, although rather reluctantly. He was not strongly identified with the Federalist position and would eventually oppose the Federalists as a member of the DEMOCRATIC-REPUBLICAN PARTY.

The Anti-Federalists also shared the feeling that so large a country as the United States could not possibly be controlled by one national government. One Pennsylvania Anti-Federalist, who signed his articles “Centinel,” declared,

It is the opinion of the greatest writers, that a very extensive country cannot be governed on democratical principles, on any other plan than a confederation of a number of small republics, possessing all the powers of internal government, but united in the management of their foreign and general concerns.

… [A]nything short of despotism could not bind so great a country under one government.

Although the Anti-Federalists were united in their opposition to the Constitution, they did not agree on what form of government made the best alternative to it. Some still believed that the Articles of Confederation could be amended in such a way that they would provide a workable confederation. Some wanted the Union to break up and re-form into three or four different confederacies. Others were even ready to accept the Constitution if it were amended in such a way that the rights of citizens and states would be more fully protected.

The Federalists The Federalists focused their arguments on the inadequacies of national government under the Articles of Confederation and on the benefits of national government as formed by the Constitution. They were also much more favorably disposed toward commerce than were the Anti-Federalists, and they argued that a strong central government would foster the commercial growth of the new country. Moreover, the Federalist vision of society was more pluralistic than the Anti-Federalist vision. That is, the Federalists did not see society as made up principally of farmers, as did the Anti-Federalists, but instead viewed it as comprising many different and competing interests and groups, none of which would be completely dominant in a federalist system of government. For this reason, many later scholars have argued that the Federalists were more aware of the economic and social changes then transforming American society.

The most famous example of Federalist doctrine is The Federalist Papers, a collection of 85 essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and JOHN JAY. Published in New York newspapers and in two bound volumes distributed during the ratification debate, these essays were signed with the pseudonym Publius, taken from Publius Valerius Poplicola, a man who reputedly saved the ancient Roman republic. The Federalist Papers is an important American contribution to political philosophy and remains a classic today. It is also a great and authoritative commentary on the Constitution.

The Federalist Papers communicates the central ideas of the Federalists: the benefits of a Union between the states; the problems with the confederation as it stood at the time; the importance of an energetic, effective federal government; and a defense of the republicanism of the proposed Constitution. The Federalist Papers makes a persuasive case for the necessity of federal government in preserving order and securing the liberty of a large republic. In doing so, it asserts that a weak union of the states will make the country more vulnerable to internal and external dissension, including civil war and invasion from foreign powers.

One of the most famous of its essays is The Federalist, number 10, by James Madison. In it, Madison addressed the issue of whether or not the republican government created by the Constitution can protect the liberties of its citizens. The problem that Madison saw as most destructive of popular government is what he called faction. A faction, according to Madison, is “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Factions, Madison added, become especially dangerous when they form a majority of the population.

Madison divided popular government into two types, democratic and republican, and preferred the latter. In a democracy, all citizens participate directly in the decisions of government. In a republic, representatives elected by the people make the decisions of government.

In his intricate argument in The Federalist, number 10, Madison contended that a republican government of the kind envisioned by the U.S. Constitution can best solve the problem of faction not by “removing its causes”—which only tyranny can do—but by “controlling its effects.” Madison proposed that elected representatives, as opposed to the people as a whole, will be more disposed to consider the national interest ahead of a particular factional interest. He also argued that the nature of an “extensive,” or large, republic such as the United States will naturally frustrate the ability of a single faction to advance its own interests ahead of the interests of other citizens. With the huge variety of parties and interests in an extended republic, it becomes “less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens.” Thus, Madison, in contrast to the Anti-Federalists, saw the large size of the United States as a help rather than a hindrance to the cause of liberty.

This is only one of the many points that The Federalist Papers makes in favor of the Constitution. However, as brilliant and carefully reasoned as The Federalist Papers may be, it probably did not greatly sway opinion toward ratification of the Constitution. The politics of ratification were instead influenced most by direct, face-to-face contact and negotiation. Nevertheless, The Federalist Papers aided the Constitution’s cause by giving the Constitution’s adherents ideas with which to counter their opposition.

The outcome Ultimately, the ratification provisions of Article VII of the Constitution, created by the Federalists themselves, were one of the best allies the Federalists had in their attempt to ratify the Constitution. After the Constitution had been created at the Constitutional Convention, Federalist leaders quickly returned to their states to elect Federalist delegates to the state conventions. The Anti-Federalists were not able to muster enough votes in response, though in several states, they nearly defeated the Federalists. By 1790, all thirteen states had ratified the document, giving the Federalists and their Constitution a great victory.

The Anti-Federalist outcry was not without its effects, however. By 1791, in response to Anti-Federalist sentiments, state legislatures voted to add the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Those ten amendments are also called the Bill of Rights, and they have become an important part of the Constitution and its heritage of liberty.

Read more: Constitution of the United States – Federalists Versus Anti-federalists – Government, Madison, National, and Papers – JRank Articles

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