H105, American History I

Lecture 13:  Confederation and Constitution — Creating a New Government, Creating a New Nation

I.  The fragility of freedom, and the creation of a national “American” culture
II.  Problems of money, and the invention of a new federal government
III.  Problems of authority, and the quest for “natural aristocracy”

1775-1836 Inventing American Culture
1775-1783 war ending in peace treaty
1787-1789 debate over Constitution
1776 Edward Gibbon, “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”
1785 David Ramsay, “History of the Revolution of South Carolina”
1789 David Ramsay, “The History of the American Revolution” [first American history]
1789 David Ramsay, “The History of the American Revolution” [first American history]
1789 Jedidiah Morse, “American Geography, or a View of the Present Situation of the United States” [first American geography]
1789 William Hill Brown, “The Power of Sympathy; or, The Triumph of Nature” [first American novel]
1796 Amelia Simmons, “American Cookery” [first American cookbook]
1816 John Pickering, first dictionary of American slang
1828 Noah Webster, “An American Dictionary of the English Language” [first American dictionary]
1836 Thomas Cole, “The Course of Empire”

1780s Economic Crisis
1786 national debt:
1786 interest payments due    2.5 million
1786 government revenues    0.4 million
1784 national trade deficit:
1786 imports from England    3.7 million
1786 exports to England        0.75 million
state-level solution:  paper currency; softer bankruptcy laws
1786-1787 Shays Rebellion in western Massachusetts suppressed by federal army
1786-1787 John Jay treaty negotiations with Spain over access to Mississippi River — north favored commerce; south favored land
1787 several leaders of Shays Rebellion were elected to Massachusetts state legislature
1787 federal constitutional convention in Philadelphia
federal-level solution:  central government; tax and tariff revenues
1787-1789 constitutional debate:
federalists — restrict people, empower government leaders
anti-federalists — restrict government, empower people

1776-1789 Transformation of Political Mainstream
1776 states’ independence from centralized government
actual representation at state level
overthrow of strong central government (British empire)
1789 centralized government controlling states
virtual representation at federal level
return of strong central government (American empire)
1776 Declaration of Independence
1781 Articles of Confederation (interim government structure)
1787 Constitutional convention (May to September)
1788 New Hampshire ratified Constitution (9th state — Constitution in force)
1788 Virginia (10th state) ratified Constitution
1789 United States Congress convened — April 1 (House), April 6 (Senate)
1789 President sworn in (April 30)
1789 New York (11th state) ratified Constitution (July 26)
1789 Congress presents Bill of Rights to states (September 25)
1789 North Carolina (12th state) ratified Constitution (November 21)
1790 Rhode Island (13th state) ratified Constitution (May 29)
1791 Bill of Rights ratified (December 15)

1782-1837 National Iconography
1782, 1786 Great Seal of the United States
1789 Capitol in New York City
1797 Capitol plan for Washington DC
1837 Alexander Jackson Davis, “American House”