Unit 4: Experiments in Government

  • Course Outline


    Unit 4: Experiments in Government

    I. The Articles of Confederation and the Critical Period

    A. Need for a formal plan of union

    1. Historical precedent: the Albany Plan of Union

    2. Development of state constitutions

    3. Inadequacy of Continental Congress as a national government

    B. Development of a formal plan of government

    1. Draft and debate in Congress (1776-1777)

    2. Ratification by the states (1778-1789)

    a. Period of operation (1781-1789)

    C. The structure of government under the Articles of Confederation

    1. Congress was the only branch of government.

    2. Each state had equal representation.

    3. Congressional power under the Articles included:

    a. making war and peace

    b. Conducting foreign and Native American Indian affairs

    c. The settlement of disputes between and among states

    d. Issuance of currency and borrowing

    D. The Articles suffered from many weaknesses.

    1. Indirect representation

    2. No coercive power; decisions more advisory than binding (for example, Shays' Rebellion)

    3. Lack of national executive and judicial functions

    4. Lack of taxing power

    5. Difficulty in passing legislation

    E. The Articles did have several achievements and contributions.

    1. The Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance (1787)

    2. Developed the privileges and immunities of citizenship

    3. Developed a concept of limited government

    II. The New York State Constitution of 1777

    A. Adopted by convention without submission to popular vote

    1. Included Declaration of Independence

    2. Influence of leaders such as John Jay

    B. Chronology of the document

    1. Draft and debate in convention (1776-1777)

    2. Period of operation (1777-1822)

    C. Form of early state government

    1. Similar to colonial government

    2. Governor with limited authority and three-year term

    3. Inclusion of rights and liberty

    4. First system of state courts

    5. Limited franchise

    6. Bicameral legislature:

    a. Senate (four-year term)

    b. Assembly (one-year term)

    D. Effectiveness

    1. Smoother functioning than national government under the Articles of Confederation

    2. Cumbersome administrative procedures

    3. excessive use of veto procedures

    4. A model for the United States Constitution of 1787

    III. The Writing , Structure, and Adoption of the United States Constitution

    A. Annapolis Convention (1786)

    1. Impracticality of correcting weakness in Articles of Confederation

    2. Need for an improved form of government without losing key elements of new philosophy of government

    3. Decision to write constitution

    B. Constitutional Convention: setting and composition

    C. Major Issues

    1. Limits of power: national versus state

    2. Representation: slaves and apportionment

    3. Electoral procedures: direct versus indirect election

    4. Rights of the individuals

    D. The need for compromise

    1. The issue of a federal or national government

    2. The Great Compromise on representation

    3. The Three-Fifths Compromise on slavery

    4. The commerce compromises

    E. The underlying legal and political principles of the Constitution

    1. Federalism

    2. separation of powers

    3. Provisions for change

    4. Protection of individual rights

    F. The Constitution and the functioning of the federal government

    1. The Preamble states the purpose of the document

    2. The structure and function of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches (Articles I, II, and III)

    3. The relation of states to the federal union (Article IV)

    4. Assuming the responsibility for a federal system (Article VI)

    G. The Constitution as a "living" document

    1. The elastic clause and delegated power facilitate action

    2. Amendment procedure as a mechanism for change (Article V)

    3. The Bill of Rights

    4. Supreme Court decisions

    H. The evolution of a "unwritten constitution"

    1. Political parties

    2. The president's cabinet

    3. President's relation to Congress

    4. Committee systems in Congress

    5. Traditional limitations on presidential term

    I. The ratification process

    1. The debates in the states, especially New York

    2. The Federalist Papers

    3. Poughkeepsie Convention

    a. Federalists (Hamilton)

    b. Anti-federalists (Clinton)

    4. Formal ratification of the Constitution and launching of the new government

    5. The personal leadership of people such as Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, and Madison





Unit 4: Experiments in Government