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From Revolution to Government


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This interactive DBQ by Valeri Schiller explores two essential questions: How did the debates of colonial America shape the Constitution? ~ Do these issues still affect our government and us as citizens today?
A chapter excerpt from Exploring History Vol IV.

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From Revolution to Government

  1. 1. The American Revolution brought to the forefront colonial debates which had been happening on the sidelines for decades. Do people have rights? What is the role of government in protecting those rights? Who should be represented in a government which aims to protect every person’s rights? The 1st and 2nd Continental Congresses, and particularly the Constitutional Convention, would establish state and FROM REVOLUTION TO GOVERNMENT 1 VALERIE SCHILLER
  2. 2. personhood representation for years to come. On the path toward government, delegates from the colonies would represent the people in meetings and debates. The 1st Continental Congress began the journey. In the meantime, between meetings, founders wrote letters to each other and to their friends, expressing perhaps more genuine feelings about the established and potential government over the colonies. These essential debates and letters are best learned as a series of text and picture documents on a timeline toward the Constitution. In this lesson, after offering the essential question, I move 2 Previous image: Outside of Independence Hall, Philadelphia Current image: Inside of Independence Hall Assembly Room from the 1st Continental Congress, to the 2nd Continental Congress, to a powerful quotation from an Alexander Hamilton letter, onward to the first constitution, the Articles of Confederation. In response to the new and flawed government, George Washington and Henry Knox offer words to their friends and to each other which demonstrate the powerful undercurrent sweeping the country toward the Constitution. The Constitutional Convention serves as the final clash of ideas toward the ratification of the document which continues to govern our country today.
  3. 3. Essential Questions: How did the debates of colonial America shape the Constitution? Do these issues still affect our government and us as citizens today? 3 The US Capitol Building as it stands today. File:US_Capitol_South.jpg
  4. 4. 4 The British’s punishment for the Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts, convinced the colonists it was time to take larger measures. Delegates from the 13 colonies (other than Georgia) gathered at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia from September 5 until October 26, 1774, to reach a resolution. At the 1st Continental Congress, there was a great deal of disagreement among delegates. Most of the delegates at this time still felt strong ties to the mother country. They simply wanted to be treated fairly. Conservatives, reluctant to meet in secret, were still loyal to Great Britain and preferred finding compromise and reconciliation. On the other hand, some delegates demanded change. Radicals, like cousins John and Samuel Adams, believed colonists deserved rights and liberties as Americans. Some also began to see the colonies as united, and used Benjamin Franklin’s famous cartoon “JOIN, or DIE” to recruit support. Extreme radicals even called for independence. As a result, the delegates decided to pursue three actions: (1) a petition to King George III, recognizing common causes and unity, but calling for the removal of excess control over the colonies, particularly in Boston; (2) a boycott of British goods to continue until the Intolerable Acts were repealed; and (3) a call to meet again the following May should Parliament not address their grievances. Carpenters’ Hall, Philadelphia; https://,_or_Die
  5. 5. Second Continental Congress, 1775-1781 Independence Hall, Philadelphia The British Parliament took no official recognition of the colonists’ petition. As a result, the delegates reconvened the following May at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. The Congress issued their final attempt at avoiding war, an Olive Branch Petition to Parliament, to no avail. Colonists decided this was the final straw. Support for independence dramatically increased. With the first shots at Lexington and Concord, the American Revolutionary War officially began. Soon, the Congress selected a Committee of Five to draft and present a Declaration of Independence from Britain to the world. Featured to the bottom-right, the Committee--Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Robert Livingston--designated Thomas Jefferson to write the first draft. After incorporating changes the other members proposed, Jefferson produced a final copy. The Committee presented the document to the “Committee of the Whole” (featured to the top-right). Yet, even after approving the international document, delegates debated how independent the now declared states were. The Congress had the authority to appoint ambassadors, raise armies, and sign treaties, but was without any power to tax. While creating the first constitution, delegates from large and small states debated representation. The small states won the debate: each state, regardless of size, would have a single vote under the Articles of Confederation. Top painting by John Trumbull (1819)
  6. 6. “...It may be pleaded, that Congress had never any definitive powers granted them and of course could exercise none—could do nothing more than recommend. The manner in which Congress was appointed would warrant, and the public good required, that they should have considered themselves as vested with full power to preserve the republic from harm. They have done many of the highest acts of sovereignty, which were always chearfully submitted to—the declaration of independence, the declaration of war, the levying an army, creating a navy, emitting money, making alliances with foreign powers, appointing a dictator...all these implications of a complete sovereignty were never disputed, and ought to have been a standard for the whole conduct of Administration. Undefined powers are discretionary powers, limited only by the object for which they were given—in the present case, the independence and freedom of America. The confederation made no difference; for as it has not been generally adopted, it had no operation. But from what I recollect of it, Congress have even descended from the authority which the spirit of that act gives them, while the particular states have no further attended to it than as it suited their pretensions and convenience. It would take too much time to enter into particular instances, each of which separately might appear inconsiderable; but united are of serious import. I only mean to remark, not to censure. But the confederation itself is defective and requires to be altered; it is neither fit for war, nor peace. The idea of an uncontrolable sovereignty in each state, over its internal police, will defeat the other powers given to Congress, and make our union feeble and precarious. Alexander Hamilton had already proven himself capable to General George Washington, while Hamilton served in the Continental Army. “make our union feeble and precarious” A Letter from Alexander Hamilton to friend James Duane 3 Sept 1780 ...The confederation gives the states individually too much influence in the affairs of the army; they should have nothing to do with it. The entire formation and disposal of our military forces ought to belong to Congress...It may be apprehended that this may be dangerous to liberty. But nothing appears more evident to me, than that we run much greater risk of having a weak and disunited federal government, than one which will be able to usurp upon the rights of the people...” Founders Online, National Archives
  7. 7. The 2nd Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft the United States’ first constitution, the Articles of Confederation. The committee completed an approved version which was sent to the states for ratification on November 15, 1777. The debates surrounding ratification would drag on for four years, due to land claims, before all 13 states signed on in agreement. A major debate of the 2nd Continental Congress was between federalists and anti-federalists. The federalists believed in stronger federal power, while the anti- federalists advocated for state power. In effect, the anti-federalists won. The Articles of Confederation created a loose confederation of sovereign states. The weak central government was designed to leave most of the power to the individual state members. Following from the foundational debate between small and large states, under the Articles, each state, regardless of size, would receive a single vote. The thirteen Articles of the document set forth the following: (1) “This confederacy shall be 'The United States of America’.” (2) “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated...” (3) “States...enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them...” (4) Establishes for the free people of each state equal treatment under the law and freedom of movement between states, except for “paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice.” (5) Allocates one vote in Congress to each state. State legislatures would appoint members of Congress. (6) Asserts only the central government can declare war. An individual state can wage war only with the permission of Congress. The exception is if a state is invaded or under imminent attack. However, each state must have a ready and well-trained militia. Regardless of federalist complaints, the Articles functioned well enough to direct the country through the war’s ending and accompanying international and territorial issues. Many found the biggest issue was when the Confederation needed to secure war resources from the states. The Articles of Confederation, 1781-1787 File:Articles_of_confederation_and_perpetual_union.jpg
  8. 8. A Letter from George Washington to friend Benjamin Harrison 18 Jan 1784 Following the end of the Revolutionary War, George Washington was seriously concerned about the state of the federal government for the new nation. “A half-starved limping Government” “...The disinclination of the individual States to yield competent powers to Congress for the Federal Government, their unreasonable jealousy of that body and of one another, and the disposition which seems to pervade each, of being all-wise and all-powerful within itself, will, if there is not a change in the system be our downfall as a nation. This is as clear to me as the A, B, C; and I think we have opposed Great Britain, and have arrived at the present state of peace and independency, to very little purpose, if we cannot conquer our own prejudices. The powers of Europe begin to see this, and our newly acquired friends the British, are already and professedly acting upon this ground; and wisely too, if we are determined to persevere in our folly. They know that individual opposition to their measures is futile, and boast that we are not sufficiently united as a Nation to give a general one! Is not the indignity alone, of this declaration, while we are in the very act of peacemaking and conciliation, sufficient to stimulate us to vest more extensive and adequate powers in the sovereign of these United States? For my own part, altho’ I am returned to, and am now mingled with the class of private citizens, and like them must suffer all the evils of a Tyranny, or of too great an extension of federal powers; I have no fears arising from this source, in my mind, but I have many, and powerful ones indeed which predict the worst consequences from a half-starved, limping Government, that appears to be moving upon crutches, and tottering at every step. Men, chosen as the Delegates in Congress are, cannot officially be dangerous; they depend upon the breath, nay, they are so much the creatures of the people, under the present constitution, that they can have no views (which could possibly be carried into execution,) nor any interests, distinct from those of their constituents. My political creed therefore is, to be wise in the choice of Delegates, support them like Gentlemen while they are our representatives, give them competent powers for all federal purposes, support them in the due, Ashland University
  9. 9. A Letter from Henry Knox to friend George Washington 21 Dec 1786 “The insurgents who were assembled at Worcester in Massachusetts have disbanded. The people at Boston seem to be glad at this event and say it was the effect of fear. But the fact is that the insurgents effected their object, which was to prevent the Court of Common Pleas from proceeding to business. It is probable that the seizing some of the insurgents at Middlesex occasioned a greater number of them to assemble at Worcester than otherwise would have assembled merely on Account of preventing the common Pleas. By Private Letters of the 13th from Boston it appears that government were determined to try its strength by bringing the insurgents to action but were prevented by the uncommon deep snows, which are four and five feet on a level. The commotions of Massachusetts have wrought prodigious changes in the minds of men in that State respecting the Powers of Government every body says they must be strengthned, and that unless this shall be effected there is no Security for liberty or Property. Such is the State of things in the east, that much trouble is to be apprehended in the course of the ensuing year. I hope you will see Colo. Wadsworth in Philadelphia in a few days. I expect he will be here on Saturday next.” After befriending General George Washington, Henry Knox rose to the position of chief artillery officer and would accompany Washington during his war efforts. File:Henry_Knox_by_Gilbert_Stuart_1806.jpeg “no Security for liberty or Property” Shays’ Rebellion was the defining event which tipped the United States toward establishing a stronger central government. changed-america
  10. 10. The Constitutional Convention, 1787 Independence Hall, Philadelphia In the midst of Shays’ Rebellion, delegates called for a meeting to discuss needed improvements to the Articles. Fearing a bias against small states, Rhode Island delegates boycotted the convention. The delegates at the convention unanimously elected George Washington president. From May 25 to Sept 17, 1787, twelve of the thirteen states met at Independence Hall in Philadelphia to debate the merits and demerits of the Articles, and discuss a possible new government. Even before all of the delegates arrived, James Madison had already begun drafting the Virginia Plan, which favored representation for large states, based on population. Madison’s plan also proposed a bicameral legislature. In response, the New Jersey Plan would reassert an Articles-style unicameral legislature, which favored representation for small states, based on a single vote for each state, regardless of size. In the end, both sides won. The Connecticut Compromise, following Madison’s two- chamber model, satisfied the large states representation by population via the House of Representatives, as well as assured the small states equal representation via the Senate. Similarly, delegates tussled over personhood representation. Whether slavery would still be allowed under the new Constitution was heavily debated, for the southern states had the majority of slaves. Many southern delegates refused to join the Union if slavery was not allowed. Northern delegates insisted, at the very least, the Union not participate in the international slave trade. In the end, the states compromised, keeping slavery but planning for the elimination of the slave trade. However, the states also conflicted over how slaves would be represented. The northern states determined slaves were property, that they should be counted for taxation but not for representation. Southern states preferred to count slaves only for representation. Ultimately, the three-fifths compromise catered to the south by counting slaves as three-fifths of a person for representation.
  11. 11. During the Constitutional Convention’s final session, after months of debates and compromises, the final draft of the document was complete. Between 1787 and 1788, eleven of the thirteen states ratified the Constitution, more than enough to begin the new government. However, while the Federalists wanted to go ahead with the new, more powerful, government, the Anti-Federalists disputed the proposed Constitution. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison would go on to publish the Federalist Papers in support of the new government. The Constitution has three sections: the Preamble, the Articles, and the Amendments. The Preamble sets forth the framework of the document, the Articles explain the function of the branches of government, and the Amendments define the rights of the people. While the Articles were a The U.S. Constitution, 1789-- As people, particularly judges, have examined the document over the years, interpretations of the framers’ work have been limitless. While concepts such as separation of powers and checks and balances are more obvious, just how those concepts apply to specific situations has been challenging. Courts at different levels of the country cannot agree on a single interpretation of the powers of government nor the rights of the people and of individuals. However, should politicians, journalists, academics, and everyday people learn more about the historical background of the document’s development, one of compromise, people would be less likely to insist on framers’ priorities and perhaps be more appreciative of the nuances and complexities the document holds for its readers. response to the debates of the Constitutional Convention surrounding the needs of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, the Amendments were a last minute addition. Originally, the Constitution did not include a Bill of Rights. According to Anti-Federalists, such as Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Samuel Adams, the limitations of government were not clear. Thus, Federalist James Madison drafted additional articles, which would later become a separate section called the Amendments.
  12. 12. 12 To return to the essential questions: (1) How did the debates of colonial America shape the Constitution? and (2) Do these issues still affect our government and us as citizens today? It is important to consider counterarguments to traditional narratives about the debates and compromises of colonial America toward the Constitution. For example, Charles Beard’s Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States claims the framers were motivated primarily by their status as wealthy white men, molding the Constitution toward their own interests of protecting personal property. He points to the traits of those delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention as evidence.
 Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States follows Beard’s interpretation and concludes that the Constitution was written to benefit wealthy people. On the other hand, legal theorist Ronald Dworkin offers a “moral reading” which finds the Constitution was written to emphasize the country’s moral principles, such as it is wrong for the government to censor an individual. Judges who interpret the Constitution every day, Dworkin argues, follow this ideology. While there are many interpretations of how the Constitution came to be, the interpretation a reader follows will often predict their view of the effectiveness of government today. As the future path of the U.S. government becomes evermore uncertain, it is increasingly important that professionals and citizens remain vigilant historians, keeping a critical eye on the information they are presented before reaching a conclusion.
  13. 13. REFLECTION Learning the document-based lesson "From Revolution to Government," which covers the debates leading up to the Constitution, has been both advantageous and disadvantageous to me as a teacher. As a teacher, it is valuable to be familiar with technology such as Google Slides and eBook, in case I have the opportunity to share it with students in a future classroom. As a historian, it is always helpful for me to see old content in a new way. Dealing with often complex software, it is essential that I am able to guide my students toward an ease of access. At the same time, the classrooms I have taught in have little, if any, access to digital technology. The technology they do have access to is definitely not this kind. I do not anticipate a generous donation from the Steve Jobs foundation any time soon. Nor do I expect this type of technology to become cheap enough for our state and local government to suddenly invest. So, I am unsure of when as a teacher I will actually put this knowledge into practice. I do know as a teacher I will be teaching most lessons without much technology but with a lot of discussion. I wished we would have spent more time learning how to generate and hold in-class discussions. Even more valuable than the technology tools we have focused on in class are the communication tools we always have access to as human beings. However, as an adventurer of technology, I believe this experience has been advantageous. Gaining greater familiarity with foreign technology and learning more in general is always a plus. Nevertheless, I would have preferred focusing on a smaller quantity of programs in more depth. Even though I learned Google has a multitude of programs to offer that I have access to, I would have preferred more time to learn about their features. At the end of the class, I will have a basic understanding of many tools rather than a deeper understanding of a few tools. Perhaps this is where my adventurous spirit will have to come into play. Connect with Valerie on Linkedin! Thanks for reading!
  14. 14. Exploring History Vol IV University of Portland Students
 Peter Pappas, Editor
  15. 15. This eBook is a collaborative project of Peter Pappas 
 and his Fall 2016 Social Studies Methods Class 
 School of Education ~ University of Portland, Portland Ore. Graduate and undergraduate level pre-service teachers were assigned the task of developing an engaging research question, researching supportive documents and curating them into a DBQ suitable for middle or high school students. For more on this class, visit the course blog EdMethods 
 For more on this book project and work flow tap here.
 Chapters in chronological order 1. Mysterious Bronze Age Collapse by Sam Hicks 2. From Revolution to Government by Valerie Schiller 3. Imagination, Innovation & Space Exploration by Molly Pettit 4. The Real Romanovs by Kelly Marx 5. World War I: The Human Cost of Total War by Anna Harrington 6. Collectivization and Propaganda in Stalin’s Soviet Union by Clarice Terry 7. Holy Propaganda Batman! by Karina Ramirez Velazquez 8. The Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade by Scott Hearron EXPLORING HISTORY: VOL IV i Engaging questions and historic documents empower students to be the historian in the classroom.
  16. 16. Peter Pappas, editor 
 School of Education ~ University of Portland His popular blog, Copy/Paste features downloads of his instructional resources, projects and publications. Follow him at Twitter @edteck. His other multi-touch eBooks are available at here. © Peter Pappas and his students, 2016 The authors take copyright infringement seriously. If any copyright holder has been inadvertently or unintentionally overlooked, the publisher will be pleased to remove the said material from this book at the very first opportunity. ii Cover design by Anna Harrington Cover image: Timeless Books
 By Lin Kristensen from New Jersey, USA 
 [CC BY 2.] 
 via Wikimedia Commons