The American National State and the Early West

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They met with stout resistance from the state government, and for a few days there was danger that the state house in Boston would be besieged by an infuriated yeomanry. But the rebels, armed chiefly with staves and pitchforks, were repulsed by the militia and scattered into the hills. Only after the uprising was crushed did the legislature consider the justice of the grievances which had caused it and take steps to remedy them. At this time, Washington wrote that the states were united only by a "rope of sand," and the prestige of the Congress had fallen to a low point. Disputes between Maryland and Virginia over navigation in the Potomac River led to a conference of representatives of five states at Annapolis in One of these delegates, Alexander Hamilton, convinced his colleagues that commerce was too much bound up with other questions and that the situation was too serious to be dealt with by so unrepresentative a body as themselves.

He induced the gathering to call upon all the states to appoint representatives of the United States and to "devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the Constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union. The state legislatures sent leaders with experience in colonial and state governments, in Congress, on the bench, and in the field. George Washington, regarded as the outstanding citizen in the entire country because of his military leadership during the Revolution and because of his integrity and reputation, was chosen as presiding officer.

The sage Benjamin Franklin, now eighty-one and mellow with years, let the younger men do most of the talking, but his kindly humor and wide experience in diplomacy helped ease some of the difficulties among the other delegates. Prominent among the more active members were Gouverneur Morris, able and daring, who clearly saw the need for national government, and James Wilson, also of Pennsylvania, who labored indefatigably for the national idea. From Virginia came James Madison, a practical young statesman, a thorough student of politics and history and,.

Roger Sherman, shoemaker turned judge, Was one of the representatives from Connecticut. From New York came Alexander Hamilton, just turned thirty and already famous.

The Growth of the Early U.S. Economy in the West

One of the few great men of colonial America absent was Thomas Jefferson who was in France on a mission of state. Among the fifty-five delegates, youth predominated, for the average age was forty-two. The Convention had been authorized merely to draft amendments to the Articles of Confederation but, as Madison later wrote, the delegates "with a manly confidence in their country" simply threw the Articles aside and went ahead with the consideration of a wholly new form of government.

In their work, the delegates recognized that the predominant need was to reconcile two different powers -the power of local control which was already being exercised by the thirteen semiindependent states and the power of a central government. They adopted the principle that the functions and powers of the national government, being new, general, and inclusive, had to be carefully defined and stated, while all other functions and powers were to be understood as belonging to the states.

They recognized, however, the necessity of giving the national government real power and thus generally accepted the fact that the national government be empowered - among other things -to coin money, to regulate commerce, to declare war, and make peace. These functions, of necessity, called for the machinery of a national government.

The eighteenth-century statesmen who met in Philadelphia were adherents of Montesquieu's concept of the balance of power in politics. This principle was naturally supported by colonial experience and strengthened by the writings of Locke with which most of the delegates were familiar. These influences led to the understanding that three distinct branches of government be established, each equal and coordinate with the others. The legislative, executive, and judicial powers were to be so adjusted and interlocked as to permit harmonious operation.

At the same time they were to be so well balanced that no one interest could ever gain control. It was natural also for the delegates to assume that the legislative branch, like the colonial legislatures and the British Parliament, should consist of two houses. On these broad, general views there was homogeneity.

But sharp differences arose within the assemblage as to the method of achieving the desired ends. Representatives of the small states, New Jersey, for instance, objected to changes that would reduce their influence in the federal government by basing representation upon population instead of upon statehood, as under the Articles of Confederation. On the other hand, representatives of the large states like Virginia argued vehemently for proportionate representation. Over this question, the debate threatened to go on endlessly until finally the Connecticut delegate came forward with very able arguments in support of a plan for representation in proportion to the population of the states in one house of Congress and equal representation in the other.

The alignment of large against small states then dissolved. Almost every succeeding question, however, raised new alignments to be resolved only by new compromises. Certain members wished no branch of the federal government to be elected directly by the people; others thought it must be given as broad a basis as possible. Some delegates wished to exclude the growing west from the opportunity of statehood; others championed the equality principle established in the Ordinance of There was no serious difference of opinion on such national economic questions as paper money, tender laws, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts.

But there was a need for balancing the distinct sectional economic interests; for settling heated arguments as to the powers, term, and selection of the executive; and for solving the problems concerning the tenure of judges and the kind of courts to be established. Conscientiously and with determination, through a hot Philadelphia summer, the Convention labored to iron out problems.

It finally achieved a satisfactory draft which incorporated in a brief document the organization of the most complex government yet devised by man -a government supreme within its sphere, but within a sphere that is defined and limited. As the Tenth Amendment made clear in , 11 the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people"; and the supremacy of federal laws is limited to such as "shall be made in pursuance of the Constitution.

In subsequent years, the scope of federal power has been widely extended by amendment, implication, judicial interpretation, and the necessities of national crises. The same, however, is true of the states. Even in the twentieth century, the American citizen comes far more frequently into contact with his state than with his national government.

For to the states belong, not by virtue of the federal constitution but of their own sovereign power, the control of municipal and local government, the police power, factory and labor legislation, the chartering of corporations, the statutory development and judicial administration of civil and criminal law, the control of education, and the general supervision of the people's health, safety, and welfare.

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In conferring powers, the Convention freely and fully gave the federal government the power to lay taxes, to borrow money, to lay uniform duties, imposts, and excises. It was given authority to coin money, fix weights and measures, grant patents and copyrights, and establish post offices and post roads. It was empowered to raise and maintain an army and navy and could regulate interstate commerce. It was given the whole management of Indian relations, of international relations, and of war It could pass laws for naturalizing foreigners and, controlling the public lands, it could admit new states on a basis of absolute equality with the old.

The power to pass all necessary and proper laws for executing these defined powers rendered the federal government sufficiently elastic to meet the needs of later generations and of a greatly expanded body politic. In constructing this frame of government, practically every feature showed the influence of the unwritten constitution of the British Empire; but also there is hardly a clause which cannot be traced to the constitution of one of the thirteen American states or to colonial practice.

The principle of separation of powers, familiar in most colonial governments, had already been given a fair trial in most state constitutions and had been proven sound. And so the Convention set up a governmental system in which there was a separate legislative, executive, and judiciary branch - each checked by the others. Congressional enactments did not become law until approved by the President. And the President was to submit the most important of his appointments and all of his treaties to the Senate for confirmation.

He, in turn, might be impeached and removed by Congress. The judiciary was to hear all cases arising under the laws and the Constitution.

America, the Nation of Nations (U.S. National Park Service)

The courts were, therefore, in effect, empowered to interpret both the fundamental and the statute law. But the judiciary, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, might also be impeached by Congress. Foreseeing the possible future necessity for changing or adding to the new document, the Convention included an article which delineated specifically methods for its amendment. However, to protect the Constitution from indiscriminate alteration, Article Five-used successfully only twenty-one times -was designed. It states that either two-thirds of both houses of Congress or two-thirds of the states, meeting in convention, may propose amendments to the Constitution.

The proposals become law by one of two methods -either by ratification by the legislatures of threefourths of the states, or by convention in three-fourths of these states. The Congress proposes which method shall be used. Finally, the Convention faced the most important problem of all: how should the powers given to the new government be enforced?

Under the old Articles of Confederation, the national government had possessed - on paper - large, though by no means adequate, powers. But in practice these powers had come to naught, for the states paid no attention to them. What was to save the new government from meeting precisely the same obstacle? At the outset, most delegates furnished but one answer-the use of force, But it was quickly seen that the application of force upon the states would destroy the Union.

A Brief History

As the discussion progressed, ;t was decided that the government should not act upon the states but upon the people within the states. It was to legislate for and upon all the individual residents of the country. As the keystone of the Constitution, the Convention adopted a brief but highly significant device: "Congress shall have power.

Article I , Section viii. Thus the laws of the United States became enforceable in its own national courts, through its own judges and marshals. They were also enforceable in the state courts, through the state judges and state law officers. At the end of sixteen weeks of deliberation -on September 17, -the finished Constitution was signed "by unanimous consent of the states present. But Franklin relieved the tension by a characteristic sally. Pointing to the half sun painted in brilliant gold on the back of Washington's chair, he remarked that artists had always found it difficult to distinguish between a rising and a setting sun.

For the consent of popularly elected state conventions was still required before the document could become effective.