The First National Government: the Articles of Confederation

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The geography of New England was primarily rocky terrain making farming difficult. New England relied on alternative methods and practices for income such as whaling, fishing, hunting, trading animal skins(with Native Americans), and raising cattle. The New England area suffered from a lack of diversity with a very low population of slaves or immigrants. While in the Chesapeake area, the fertile lands required slaves and indentured servants for the labor-intensive duties of harvesting cotton and tobacco. New England’s limited diversity can be attributed to a dominant Purtain population and religious influence. The Puritans sought to keep diversity at a minimum and put the community as a whole over an individual regardless of class. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, the Quakers practiced a self-regulating government consisting of town meetings, unity, etc. 

However the religion that the Quakers practiced differed from Puritanism in New England, Quakers believed equality for both men and women. They also believed in religiously integrating the natives and creating a free and liberal society. Out of all of these various societies, the Virginian’s society in the Chesapeake area was the most different and unique. The society had a rather diverse English population, slaves, and immigrants ruled under the House of Burgesses(the royal government). The House of Burgesses was tasked with strictly maintaining English law, religion. They regarded the Native Americans as savages intruding on their land. The economic structure in the Chesapeake was similar to Pennsylvania and the Quakers in some aspects with the crops and fertile land along with their regulation of trade. The Quaker government would eventually be taken over by the Chesapeake people due to lack of strong leadership.

The Great Awakening transformed American life and thought in many different ways but perhaps the most significant is the notion and concept that God created everyone equal and everyone deserves an opportunity. Various enlightenment leaders including John Locke helped instill a sense of self-worth and freedom which would eventually lead to revolution.The first step in this revolution would be the challenging of the church.The social structure at the time would be dramatically impacted and affected after the separation of church and state in the 1740s. Americans gradually began to oppose the authority and laws of the king. Americans rather created their own unique government with representatives to voice their thoughts and beliefs. Americans were able to gain a slight sense of independence and pride during this period of enlightenment.

The French and Indian War proved to be one of the first important events that allowed the English colonies to believe they should control themselves. The colonists believed that a king should not have strict order and rule over colonies thousands of miles away. The $145 million debt from the war, which would allow for more acts of taxation to be placed on the colonists, outraged them who fought on behalf of the British. In defiance of these outrageous taxes, the colonists began protesting and these protests were rather violent. These acts of rebellion and lack of cooperation with British rule allowed the Colonists to have a sense of strength, unity, and defense as they were already able to protect themselves during the absence of the British. Many of the colonists were now convinced that they could function independently without British rule if they could properly defend themselves. The path to revolution and freedom would soon become more clear than ever before.

The French and Indian war was a turning point as it had soured relations between the Colonists and the British. The colonists had suffered thousands of casualties at the hands of a war they did not wish to fight. The hefty taxes also further escalated tensions and relations between the two, with the colonial economy in shambles and ruin. The colonial economy had begun to experience and suffer an economic depression which had severely impacted the coastal towns making items difficult to purchase. The taxes also took a toll on the poor and low-income workers who were unable to pay these taxes and were not able to financially support themselves. The treaty of Paris pushed back the natives beyond the Mississippi river making trading between colonies and natives impossible, trade was a fundamental part of the New England territories economies. While suffering through this economic depression the colonists why were they being punished for a war they won with their militia. The British, however, saw it another way they believed that the colonists desperately need their help to have a fighting chance of winning. The colonists after the war wanted to be independent of British rule so they could no longer suffer from the outrageous taxes and policies that had no relevance to the colonists.

The colonists had been fed up and wanted nothing to do with the British monarchy and their imperial system which had inhibited their freedoms and liberty. They wanted a self regulating government that would govern on behalf of the people. The system of government revolved around serving on behalf of the people and voicing their opinions. The colonists attempted to limit government power through the articles of confederation which made those in office liable for their actions.This concept was rather risky because giving the people too much power would prevent the government from imposing taxes and other laws which would keep the government functioning. The colonists decided on a middle ground between an imperial system so that government could regularly function and a republic which would give a voice and liberty to the people.

Some slaves during the revolutionary war had escaped the hands of their abusive owners to have a chance at freedom and fight for the British. However this was not the case many slaves would end up just being transported to the even harsher sugar plantations in the West Indies and slaves who rebelled against the colonies were severely punished. However, by the end of the war thousands of slaves were able to escape the hands of slavery and create various free black settlements along Nova Scotia. As for the effect on Native Americans,the Iroquis,Oneida,and Tuscarora had suffered tremendous casualties and lost land after leading multiple offensives against the Colonists.The Native American tribes had been significantly weakened after these failed military campaigns,the colonists had not only treated them poorly but the British to.The war also had an impact on the attitudes of women who were no longer content with being shunned and excluded from politics. Women brought into question why their gender should have anything to do with limiting their freedoms or ability to participate in political affairs and were inspired to no longer sit back but take action. By the end of the war, some women were able to make public ties and fund soldiers by raising money. Women held an important role in society as they would be the ones raising the next generation and instructing html in the value of the republic pushing for a brighter future.

Articles of Confederation were considered too weak for the fledgling republic. There were multiple instances where the articles of confederation had shown their weakness the first sign was their inability to expand to new territories beyond the Mississippi River. The Natives after their multiple losses from fought from previous wars had now hated the colonists and would constantly be attacking the white settlers looking to settle on these new lands. The articles had also failed to properly defend the Colonists’ land an example would be in 1784 when Spain had closed part of the Mississippi which led into New Orleans and this cut of a vital route of transportation which devastated the colonial economy. Congress took no action and had to settle for a treaty that would give free passage to the Mississippi River and the Spanish would be allowed to trade with the colonists. Congress itself was rather weak and unstable being unable to pay off a $35 million debt they had to look abroad to borrow money. Congress also had a lack of power and authority, they were unable to tax the people and had to rely on the states' verdict to collect or impose taxes. In 1781, Robert Morris had attempted to use paper money to gain off taxes, he requested $8 million from the states only $6.5 million came in. The federal government had annually collected $370k which was not substantial to maintain a fully functioning government. The war debt had led to inflation with many states not being able to pay off the taxes. The failures with the articles revolve around its inability to protect or expand territory while not giving enough power to congress.

The roots of the main provisions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are in the colonial experience under English rule as well as in the Articles of Confederation period. Most colonists had already experienced and feared how Britain had absolute power over the colonies. The constitution had outlined in giving the central government, power over the states. Bloodworth was one of those individuals who showed heavy signs of concern for a central government because the states’ power would vanish along with the articles of confederation. Luther Martin during the constitutional convention showed strong support for the concept of state sovereignty and believed if anything threatened the power it would lead to another British monarchy. Federalists believed in a strong central government because under the articles of confederation congress was unable to handle the national debt and struggled with a weak military. The constitution outlines two houses where one for the people elected representatives and the other for those representatives suggested nominees that were voted on. This would create a system of checks and balances so that one branch of government could not abuse power. The Virginia plan established by congress was a form of representation and preferred a strong central government over the loosely sovereign state governments. Rough representation was needed from all states to provide an equal opportunity for states with less population to have an equal say in government. This lead to the ? compromise which gave southern states representation based on the white population and ? of the black population. These seemed to serve as the main concern during the drafting of the constitution. 

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The First National Government: The Articles of Confederation. (2021, Dec 28). Retrieved February 22, 2024 , from
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