We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (Preamble to the United States Constitution). America today is a democratic superpower which sets examples for other countries, but it was not always in the vanguard of the practice of democracy. Therefore, I selected the topic of the transition from the Articles of Confederation to the US Constitution because I feel that of all the major historical events in the history of the United States, this is one with a massive impact on everyone involved after the Revolutionary War. When I looked at the description for this KNAC project option, my mind immediately went to the United States Constitution and I was left wondering what the current state of our nation would possibly be if we were to continue under the structure or lack thereof proclaimed by the Articles of Confederation. I selected the ratification of the constitution because of the impact it has in our current day politics and the fact that the constitution is not just a thing of the past but is rather something that has evolved with time and grown to accommodate every change this nation has faced and undertaken.
Under the Articles of Confederation, there was no executive branch and therefore, essentially, no authority. Since there was no executive branch, any major decision needed agreement from all thirteen states. An example of such a decision would be the ratification of this very document which shows an obvious issue. There were also many other problems with the Articles of Confederation beyond just the lack of explicit authority. Considering America had just fought a major war with Great Britain, there were certain war debts that needed to be paid off amongst other things. In order to do this, the ‘government’ would need to have the power to implement direct taxation. However, since there was no federal power and every state basically ran themselves based on the best course of action for them, there was a problem. Thus, the federal government decided that there was a specific amount of money that needed to be in the national treasury but then states could choose how to levy taxes and how much each state had to pay for the national treasury was based on their population. Another issue was the problem with land. Along with the land that already belonged to America, there was land to the west that some states had laid claim to. However, some states had no land claims and the Articles of Confederation would protect the states that did. To solve this, Delaware and Maryland ensured a national domain policy which would make any land that was volunteered to be given up, national property. Another complication that was borne from the lack of authority was the creation of constitutions specific to each state. These only addressed the circumstances in each specific state which left the federal government with only the power to declare war. A major issue lay with representation. Since ‘taxation without representation’ was one of the causes of the revolution, representation was an ideal that the Articles and the states were insistent on protecting. This led to the operation of a two-chamber assembly. This separated representation into the upper class and more elite and the chamber that was closer to the populace. To reiterate, since republicanism was a principle, the people in the lower chamber faced popular election more often which meant they rotated through positions frequently. Another issue was about what defined the people. Despite the ideology that all men are created equal (Declaration of Independence), voters, the people with influence, could only be white males with property or had to pay property taxes which meant ‘the people’ had limitations that were race, sex, and class specific. All these complications eventually led to redoing the Articles of Confederation to change everything that was wrong it. This is how the US Constitution was born. The short-term and immediate effects of the ratification by the necessary number of states included ten amendments that protected basic political and human rights such as the freedom of speech and religion. The initial ratification also led to other states ratifying the Constitution and eventually the last of the thirteen states being coerced into ratification at the threat of the cutoff of commercial relations (history.com) https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-constitution-ratified. Some of the long-term effects included the beginning of a strong federal system that divided power amongst the states and the government and in between three branches in the government to practice checks and balances. The federal system was now a strong central government rather than having no power as was the case with the Articles of Confederation. The government now had the power to change taxes and tariffs as they saw fit and pass laws that would indicate the rules all citizens had to follow for a harmonious democracy. This is not to say that the citizens lived under a dictatorship because the ratification gave citizens the ability and the encouragement to participate in matters of the government. The US Constitution also influenced the creation of constitutions similar to itself in many other countries around the world as well as the remodeling in the forms of governments many countries followed. This ratification impacted the Founding Fathers, the states in the United States, the US government, and the citizens of USA. The Founding Fathers were in-charge of foreseeing this event and they were impacted by this event and they impacted it too. It was their oppositional views that led to the need for the creation of a Constitution. The states and the citizens were affected by this event because should the Constitution not have been ratified, there would not be a structured set of rules and expectations for every citizen to live by. They would have more individuality to conduct other behavior. The US government was impacted by this historical event because under the Articles of Confederation, the government did not wield as much power as it would be granted under the Constitution even if that power would not allow them to run rampant.
Had the Constitution never been ratified, and the nation forced to follow under the guidance of the Articles of Confederation (AOC), we would be in a very different position. To begin with, democracy would not be in the form that it is today. If we were to continue under AOC, maybe white males who were property owners would still be the only ones with any real influence. Women and people of color would have no power and influence at all. With the limited people who would have influence, there would be issues in congress with representation. Beyond the problems regarding representation based on population versus fairness, if representatives are being switched out of the government very frequently, there is no chance for actual reformations. A lot of reforms today come from the fact that the representatives spearheading that particular cause have been in office for more than one term. Another problem may be that Americans would never explore further than just the thirteen colonies. Since under the AOC, states either had land claims or did not, there would be no actual exploration and expansion into the west because no state that had a land claim would voluntarily give up their land but at the same time, they may not be able to afford exploration and expansion. This would mean that the rest of the land on the North American continent would be available to anyone with the money and power to claim it. Maybe, it would be under the possession of the French or the British and this could lead to more wars in an effort to gain more power. Another aspect to this is that America would be economically poor and lack many resources. We would be poor since there is no central government with the power to collect taxes from every citizen and we would lack resources because many resources such as oil and timber are available in the west but without claim over that land, we would not have access to those resources. A major problem would be with the perpetuation of slavery. Since the North and South were divided in their perceptions of slavery, their own state constitutions either gave rights to people of color or completely refused to acknowledge as humans. This would just mean slavery was a continued practice with, perhaps, more frequent altercations between states because of what they each believe is right.
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