BECK index

Confederation and a Constitution 1784-89

by Sanderson Beck

United States Confederation 1784-85
United States Confederation in 1786
Shays’s Rebellion and Congress 1786-87
Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia
Ratification and the Federalists
Transition and the Bill of Rights
American Frontier 1784-89

United States Confederation 1784-85

American War of Independence

As of the spring of 1783 the United States still had a debt of about $34,000,000 with less than $10,000,000 of this owed to foreigners. Private citizens also owed money to British subjects, including about £2,000,000 sterling ($10,000,000) by tobacco farmers in Maryland and Virginia from before the Revolutionary War. Congress tried three times to amend the Articles of Confederation to gain the power to levy a 5% duty on foreign imports, but they could not get all the states to agree. Some merchants had become rich from war profiteering, and many people resented this. The promise to pay Continental veterans half-pay for life was changed to full pay for five years.

The Congress of the United States of America unanimously ratified the final version of the Treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784. On the same day Congress recommended restoring the estates confiscated from Loyalists during the war. An agreement on trade had been removed from the treaty, and on July 2, 1783 the British Council had barred American ships from the West Indies. The treaty also authorized British merchants to recover debts owed them. Yet the United States was now free to trade with other countries. Benjamin Franklin had signed a treaty with Sweden on April 3, 1783. On April 20, 1784 Parliament closed the British West Indies to American shipping but not to American goods. The British also put duties on American whale oil and tobacco. On April 30 Congress asked the states for the power to regulate commerce for fifteen years to counter British regulations.

Trade with France was increasing. From 1783 on the United States exported more than 9,000,000 livres worth of goods to France every year while importing from France less than 2,000,000. This gave the Americans an annual balance of trade with France of more than $1,000,000. On August 30, 1784 France opened seven ports to American shipping and the French West Indies except for American fish. The Empress of China sailed from New York in February 1784, taking ginseng and other products to Canton and returned on May 11, 1785 with tea, silk, chinaware, and other items, making a profit of $37,000. In September of that year Prussia signed a treaty, and trade with India began in 1786 with the Chesapeake of Baltimore.

In February 1784 the Bank of Massachusetts was chartered by the state legislature with £500,000 capital. Alexander Hamilton obtained $500,000 capital and set up the Bank of New York with a discount rate of 6% that opened on June 9 as a private bank. New York passed a law disenfranchising anyone who had been a British official or helped them during the war. Southerners wanted the British to return the African slaves they had taken away, but John Jay objected to that for humanitarian reasons and advised compensation instead. Between 1783 and 1785 it was reported that 7,000 African slaves were brought from the Guinea coast to South Carolina.

About 4,000 immigrants were entering the United States each year, many as indentured servants. Cities grew and developed new problems. In Boston people complained about prostitution; Philadelphians suffered from dirty streets with dead animals. Conservatives worked to replace town meetings by incorporating cities. Charleston, South Carolina was the first to incorporate in 1783, followed by New Haven, Connecticut in 1784 with Roger Sherman as mayor. Sam Adams led those successfully opposing incorporation of Boston.

In March 1784 Superintendent of Finance Robert Morris announced his retirement, and a board of three commissioners was appointed in June. Because the British demanded gold and silver, by the spring of 1784 there was little hard money left in the United States. No longer controlled by the British government, the states now had revolutionary constitutions which gave the legislatures much more power than the governors. Governors and most judges were elected by the legislatures. Only in Massachusetts could the governor veto a bill, but it could be overridden by a two-thirds vote. Only male taxpayers could vote, but Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, and New Hampshire removed the property qualification for voting. Jonathan Trumbull was one of the few governors who supported the Revolution, and he governed Connecticut 1769-84. Many more newspapers and magazines were founded after the war than ever before.

Maryland had banned the slave traffic in 1783, and by 1785 every state except South Carolina and Georgia had passed laws to stop the slave trade. Slavery had been abolished in Vermont in 1777, in Massachusetts in 1780, and in New Hampshire in 1784, the year that Connecticut and Rhode Island passed laws that gradually abolished slavery. New Jersey freed all Africans who had fought for the Revolution and in 1786 prohibited the importation of slaves. The New York Society for Promoting Emancipation was organized in 1785 with John Jay as president, and they started the first African free school in New York City with forty students in 1787; but in 1790 New York still had 21,324 slaves, and New Jersey had 11,423.

On May 12, 1784 New York state deprived most Loyalists of the franchise for two years. Alexander Hamilton had been a receiver of taxes and a Congressman in 1783. He took the unpopular position that they should uphold the treaty and international law even though it helped the Loyalists. In June 1784 he wrote “Phocion” letters in defense of Joshua Waddington in the lawsuit Rutgers v. Waddington, arguing that treaties and international law are superior to state laws. Hamilton held that a citizen could not collect back rent from a Tory by New York’s 1783 Trespass Law because of the Peace Treaty. This case set a precedent that a judge could thus overturn the effect of a lower law. Hamilton urged New York’s Governor George Clinton (1777-95) not to allow persecution of Tories because it would drive out “useful citizens.” In his “Phocion” letters Hamilton emphasized moderation rather than violence and recommended honesty as the best policy, holding that justice and moderation are the surest supports of every government. The best way to preserve liberties and secure happiness is to “govern well.”

North Carolina ceded territory to become the state of Tennessee on June 2 but repealed the act on November 20. The Congress adjourned on June 3 and planned to reconvene at Trenton on October 30. Congress did not have a quorum until November 30 when they elected Richard Henry Lee president. They voted to meet in New York and adjourned on December 24. Congress held its first session in New York on January 11, 1785 and continued to meet there until the Confederation was replaced by the new Constitution in 1789.

Western treaties were negotiated at Fort Stanwix on October 22, 1784 and at Fort McIntosh on January 21, 1785. On January 24 James Monroe was appointed chairman of a new committee on foreign trade. On February 24 Congress appointed John Adams the first American minister to Great Britain. Henry Knox became Secretary of War on March 8, and two days later they named Thomas Jefferson to succeed Franklin as minister to France. Both Adams and Jefferson were already in Europe. On March 16 the Pennsylvania Assembly agreed to pay the interest on the national debt owed to Pennsylvanians who held about one-third of the domestic national debt. At least two delegates from each of nine states had to be present to vote on major issues, and the land ordinance was not passed until May 20, allowing the sale of 640-acre lots for at least $1 an acre with one lot in each town reserved for public schools.

On June 23 Massachusetts’ Governor Bowdoin pushed through the legislature an act to regulate navigation and commerce that discriminated against the British, and New Hampshire soon followed. On July 11 the Massachusetts government urged Congress to call a convention of delegates from all states to revise the Articles of Confederation, but their three delegates Rufus King, Elbridge Gerry, and Samuel Holten withheld the resolutions from the Congress, fearing a move toward aristocracy. They were especially concerned about the order of Cincinnati organized by Continental officers in May 1783. Samuel Adams, James Warren, and South Carolina’s Aedanus Burke criticized this society as an attempt to establish a “hereditary military nobility.” Washington responded to the outcry by persuading the members to renounce the hereditary rule. Not even nine states were present until November 23, 1785 when they elected John Hancock president; but he suffered from ill health and never served.

Maryland had more Catholics than any other state. John Carroll had been appointed Superior for the Catholic Missions for the United States, and on February 27, 1785 he wrote to Pope Pius VI asking permission for the American priests to elect their own bishop. The Vatican gave its approval, and Carroll was chosen in 1789 and became Bishop of Baltimore in 1791.

Universalism began in the United States when the Boston Congregationalist Charles Chauncey wrote The Salvation of All Men in 1782 and published his major work on theology, The Mystery Hid from Ages and Generations, in 1785. Chauncey argued that the benevolent God who created human souls intended them all to find salvation eventually.

Maryland and Virginia held a conference at George Washington’s Mount Vernon home in March 1785 to work on their trade relations and border dispute over the Potomac River, and together they chartered the Potomac Company to make the river navigable. The James River Company was also chartered for that purpose with state and private financial subscriptions. That year Thomas Jefferson got a bill passed banning primogeniture, and Pennsylvania reformed its penal laws.

In the treaty negotiations Benjamin Franklin and John Adams had been unable to preserve America’s economic privileges with British commerce. Adams urged a stronger central government so that the United States would not suffer from unfair British trade restrictions. From 1783 through 1789 American exports to England were about £5 million while imports were more than £14 million, draining America’s supplies of gold and silver, destabilizing the currency, and causing bankruptcies and a depression from 1784 to 1788. South Carolina’s exports of indigo fell to £50,000 a year, and their rice exports were half pre-revolution levels. Before the war Massachusetts had been building about 125 ships a year, but now they were turning out less than 25. Nantucket’s fleet of whaling vessels had fallen from 150 to 24. British firms also suffered; five London companies failed in 1784 because they could not collect from American debtors.

Commercial treaties made with Holland in 1782 and Sweden in 1783 helped American trade, but Spain closed the Mississippi River to American commerce in 1784. By 1786 less than one third of the states could pay even a portion of the requisitions from Congress. Barbary pirates from Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli were capturing American ships, enslaving sailors, and demanding large ransoms. Most of the states began levying tariffs on imports. Eight states passed laws that discriminated against British ships by taking tonnage duties in their harbors. In addition six states imposed taxes on goods imported in British vessels. In 1785 New York even imposed the same tariff on neighboring states as British imports had to pay.

Many Europeans had extravagant expectations about what they would find in America, and so in February 1784 Benjamin Franklin wrote “Information to Those Who Would Remove to America” to give them more accurate ideas of what they would find there. In “An Economical Project” he satirized Parisians who slept until noon and complained about having to use so many candles at night. The frugal Franklin suggested that if they got up when the sun rose, they would have six more hours of daylight. Then he calculated that doing this could save Paris as much as 96 million livres. Franklin got tired of switching between his two pairs of spectacles for seeing far and near. So he had his optician cut the lenses in half and fit the halves together with the reading lense on the bottom and called them “double spectacles.” Franklin could then see far or near simply by moving his eyes up or down, and thus he invented bifocals. During his last months in France he negotiated a treaty with Prussia which would ban the use of privateers by both sides during a war. He believed that justice between neighboring nations is as strictly due as between citizen neighbors. He tried to get other commissioners to put this in all the treaties, knowing how costly and wasteful war could be. He noted that if politicians were better at arithmetic, they would settle their disputes in other ways than by war. Franklin did not think the Loyalists deserved compensation, and he suggested they more properly should be called “Royalists.”

In September 1785 the Pennsylvania Assembly repealed the charter of the Bank of North America and authorized loaning paper money to farmers. That month Ben Franklin returned from France and led the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. He was elected president of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Executive Council in October and was unanimously re-elected the next two years, donating his salary to charity.

John Adams had led the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston since 1780, and on November 30, 1785 he demanded that the British evacuate their garrisons in the Northwest in accordance with the 1783 treaty. Boston had a Medical Society and Harvard three professors of medicine. Scientific societies urged American farmers to keep up with European agricultural advances in crop rotation, livestock breeding, and new farm machinery.

United States Confederation in 1786

Thomas Jefferson had written “A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom” in 1777, but he did not submit it to the Virginia legislature until 1779. He considered this writing one of the three accomplishments he ordered engraved on his tombstone along with writing the Declaration of Independence and founding the University of Virginia. Religious tests that established the Anglican Church in the South and the Congregationalists in most of New England discriminated against other sects as well as Catholics, Jews, and atheists. Gradually the Anglicans, Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, and Methodists broke their ties to Europe and grew in America. James Madison helped Virginia ban religious tests in 1785. Then he rallied the liberals, and on January 16, 1786 the Virginia Senate passed the following version of Jefferson’s bill:

Statute of Religious Freedom
I. Whereas Almighty God has created the mind free;
so that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments
or burdens, or by civil incapacitations,
tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness,
and are a departure from the plan
of the Holy author of our religion,
who, being Lord both of body and mind,
yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either,
as was in His almighty power to do;
that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers,
civil as well as ecclesiastical,
who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men,
have assumed dominion over the faith of others,
setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking
as the only true and infallible,
and as such endeavouring to impose them on others,
has established and maintained false religions
over the greatest part of the world, and through all time;
that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money
for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves,
is sinful and tyrannical;
that even forcing him to support
this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion
is depriving him of the comfortable liberty
of giving his contributions to the particular pastor
whose morals he would make his pattern
and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness,
and is withdrawing from the ministry
those temporary rewards which,
proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct,
are an additional incitement to earnest
and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind;
that our civil rights
have no dependence on our religious opinions,
any more than our opinions in physics or geometry;
that therefore, the proscribing of any citizen
as unworthy of the public confidence
by laying upon him an incapacity
of being called to offices of trust and emolument
unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion
is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which in common with his fellow citizens
he has a natural right;
that it tends only to corrupt the principles
of that religion it is meant to encourage,
by bribing with a monopoly
of worldly honors and emoluments
those who will externally profess and conform to it;
that though indeed these are criminal
who do not withstand such temptation,
yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;
that to suffer the civil magistrate
to intrude his powers into the field of opinion,
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles
on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy,
which at once destroys all religious liberty,
because he, being of course judge of the tendency,
will make his opinions the rule of judgment,
and approve or condemn the sentiments of others
only as they shall square with or differ from his own;
that it is time enough for the rightful purposes
of civil government for its officers to interfere
when principles break out into overt acts
against peace and good order;
and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself,
that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error,
and has nothing to fear from the conflict,
unless by human interposition
disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate,
errors ceasing to be dangerous
when it is permitted freely to contradict them.
II. Be it enacted by the General assembly
that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support
any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever,
nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested,
or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise
suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief;
but that all men shall be free to profess,
and by argument to maintain,
their opinion in matters of religion,
and that that the same shall in no wise
diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
III. And though we well know that
this Assembly elected by the people
for the ordinary purposes of legislation only,
have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies,
constituted with powers equal to our own,
and that therefore to declare this act to be irrevocable
would be of no effect in law;
yet we are free to declare, and do declare,
that the rights hereby asserted
are of the natural rights of mankind,
and that if any act shall hereafter be passed
to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation,
such act will be an infringement of natural right.1

Madison promoted a convention of all the states, and on January 21, 1786 the Virginia legislature scheduled a convention at Annapolis in September. David Ramsay of South Carolina acted as chairman, and on January 30 he sent a letter demanding that Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia send their delegates as soon as possible. James Monroe’s committee reported on February 3 that Congress had only received $2.4 million of the $25.6 million requisitioned since October 1, 1781. Massachusetts had not complied with the requisition of 1785, and New Jersey refused. On March 7, 1786 Congress sent Charles Pinckney of South Carolina, Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts, and William Grayson of Virginia to plead with them. Pinckney warned that the confederation might dissolve, and he urged New Jersey’s delegates to call for a general convention of the states to revise the federal system. Four days later on March 17 the New Jersey assembly rescinded their defiant resolution.

On February 28 the British government informed John Adams that they would not evacuate the garrisons in the northwest until the Americans paid British creditors and compensated Loyalists as called for in the peace treaty. The Bank of North America was a big creditor and opposed the paper currency that Pennsylvania had issued in March 1785. In January 1786 pamphlets debated both sides of the issue. One by “Curtius” opposing paper money argued that the legislature should not help debtors cheat creditors by discriminating against one part of the community to help another. Another by “Willing to Learn” suggested that putting more money into circulation would make borrowing easier and make capital available to help the economy. Pennsylvania revoked the bank’s charter in September, but the legislature restored it in March 1786. That month the farmer William Findley argued that the Bank of North America was a monopoly and that favoring the few at the expense of the many was not democratic. Robert Morris replied that anyone could buy stock and that the bank was serving the state by making loans.

In 1786 six more states emitted paper money, making the total more than £800,000. Like Pennsylvania, South Carolina prohibited using paper money to pay private debts, but New York allowed it to be used to pay creditors who sued. In North Carolina, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Georgia paper money was not restricted. The conservative Madison argued against issuing paper money in Virginia.

Rhode Island, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Virginia passed laws that favored local manufacturing. Legislatures also tried to stop the loss of hard money and the purchase of luxuries by putting excise duties on foreign manufactures.

On April 30, 1786 Rufus King noted that in the previous six months nine states had been represented in Congress for only three days. On May 3 Charles Pinckney proposed that Congress go into a committee of the whole to discuss the state of the nation. Dr. Ramsay’s three years as a delegate expired, and he left on May 12. Gorham was elected chairman on May 15 and president on June 6. On May 10 the committee reported on its plan for governing the western territory by appointing a governor and a council of five members with a secretary and five judges. Congress revised the plan in July.

Congress had elected John Jay to be foreign minister in 1784. He believed that Spain would not grant free navigation of the Mississippi River to the United States, and therefore he advised yielding on that demand in order to gain trade with Spain. This was opposed by the southern states, and in August 1786 Charles Pinckney argued that the nation should not “acquire benefits for one part of the confederacy at the expense of the other.” The trade treaty with Spain got the votes of seven states but failed because it needed nine.

In 1786 the United States exported more than 13,000,000 livres of goods to the French West Indies while importing from there 7,263,000 livres worth of rum, molasses, and manufactured goods. The southern states increased their production of tobacco, grain, and lumber. During the mid-1780s Robert Morris cornered the market on the export of American tobacco to France, and his Bank of North America forced down the price of tobacco he was buying. Jefferson and Virginians blamed a monopoly contract Morris had with the Farmers-General for the sharp fall in tobacco prices. Trade with the Dutch also increased. In 1785 American exports to Rotterdam and Amsterdam were nearly $1,000,000, and in 1788 the United States exported more than $4,000,000 in goods to Holland. The British paid the Barbary pirates for protection, but now Americans were no longer under that and were losing more than one million sterling a year to pirates. By 1789 American commerce was greater than ever before.

In May 1786 Charles Pinckney urged Congress to call a general convention and a grand committee to review the national situation. On July 3 the committee of the whole selected a grand committee to propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation, and in August they proposed giving Congress exclusive power to regulate commerce and to collect revenues, to appoint collectors to enforce this, to require eleven states to approve a new system of finance, and to require delegates to attend Congress. On August 2 Congress authorized a requisition of the states as proposed by the treasury board, but, fearing its unpopularity, after much debate on October 7 Congress voted not to forward it to the states. New York declined to give Congress the power to levy duties but reserved it for the state.

Also in 1786 the Young Ladies’ Academy was founded in Philadelphia, and the speeches at their annual exhibition organized by Susanna Rowson were published by the Boston Weekly Magazine.

Shays’s Rebellion and Congress 1786-87

Until the 19th century every state still had laws that imprisoned people for debt. Creditors had most of the coined money (specie), and they demanded coins from debtors. More than half of the people incarcerated were debtors, and prison conditions were wretched. The Rhode Island legislature had large quantities of paper money printed so that they could pay off their debts with depreciated money. The rich classes resented this and insisted that debts be paid promptly even though that forced the sale of people’s remaining assets.

Many debtors waited until paper money issued by states had depreciated. Virginia received £275,554 in paper money worth only £15,044 sterling, and Maryland collected £144,474 in currency valued at £86,744 sterling. As had happened a generation before, the end of a war was followed by difficult economic conditions. Wages in urban areas fell from an index of 23 in 1785 to 17 in 1789. The credit bubble burst, and many more Americans became unemployed than ever before. Efforts were made to redistribute the wealth of Loyalists; but this was difficult and was opposed by conservatives. Five state constitutions authorized state funding for public education, but none of them had the money to do so.

Massachusetts was one of the states that refused to issue paper money. Farmers in western Massachusetts complained in county conventions about having to pay taxes with hard money, and facing foreclosures they petitioned the Great and General Court of the state which obliviously imposed a stamp tax with duties on bonds, notes, deeds, writs, newspapers, etc. Western and southern counties of Massachusetts had been meeting in conventions since early 1784 to discuss relief from debts and state taxes. In two years the Hampshire County court had prosecuted 2,977 cases of debt, and in 1785-86 Worcester County filed 4,000 suits for debt. Forty-one towns in that county joined in a petition calling for a convention to write a new constitution to relieve debtors and reform the financial system. On August 22, 1786 delegates from fifty towns met at Hatfield in Hampshire County and listed 25 proposals for relieving debtors. On the 29th at Northampton armed men stopped the court from sitting. Farmers in Worcester vowed not to let courts function, and on September 5 several hundred armed men blocked Judge Artemas Ward from entering the court. One week later at Great Barrington in Berkshire County about 800 farmers abandoned the militia to join the rebels and stop the Court of Common Pleas from meeting. Then they freed all the debtors from prison.

The commissioners from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia met at Annapolis for only four days in September before deciding they were too few to act. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and North Carolina sent commissioners, but they arrived too late. The other four states did not appoint delegates. Hamilton and Madison persuaded the Annapolis convention to suggest “a general meeting of the States in a future Convention” at Philadelphia on May 14, 1787, and Hamilton drafted their report which was presented to Congress by the Convention chairman John Dickinson on September 20.

In Newport, Rhode Island the butcher John Weeden had refused to accept paper money from John Trevett for meat. In September 1786 the defense lawyer, General James Varnum, argued in Trevett v. Weeden that his client had a right to a jury trial and an appeal. The judges in the case found that the state law on paper currency violated the state constitution and was thus invalid. In the next election only one of the superior court judges was re-elected, but the case became a precedent for judicial review.

Crowds calling themselves Regulators marched on courthouses to stop hundreds of foreclosures in Massachusetts. Job Shattuck led the rebels who stopped the Concord court from meeting. The veteran army captain Daniel Shays organized 700 armed volunteers and closed down the state’s supreme court at Worcester. He negotiated with General Shepard, and the state militia withdrew, leaving Shays’ irregulars in control. The Great and General Court met at Boston and made concessions, but a county convention in Worcester judged them inadequate. Secretary of War Knox investigated and reported to Congress that the rebels numbered between 12,000 and 15,000, and he believed they wanted to distribute all property. The turmoil spread to rural parts of five other states, and Shays’s Rebellion caused the Congress to raise a special body of troops and provide a fund by authorizing a loan of $500,000 on October 20 to increase the national army of 700 by 1,340 soldiers; 660 were to come from Massachusetts. In late November the Court of General Sessions was unable to meet at Worcester, and Col. Greenleaf ordered the crowd to disperse. They refused, and the judges went back to Boston.

On January 4, 1787 Governor James Bowdoin called out 4,400 troops without consulting the legislature, and he asked businessmen in Boston to contribute to his goal of £6,000. The banker William Phillips gave £300, and Bowdoin himself subscribed £250. General Benjamin Lincoln led the militia. Shays’ forces needed gunpowder, and they attacked the Worcester garrison on January 25. Four farmers were shot, and the others fled. Lincoln’s force arrived the next day and camped on the snowy hills near Pelham. Shays led his men to Petersham, and on February 4 Lincoln’s vanguard attacked the town. Many Regulators retreated to Vermont as Lincoln’s cavalry captured several hundred men. Eli Parsons tried to raise soldiers in Vermont on February 13, but Ethan Allen declined to lead them. The rebels also appealed to Canada’s Governor Dorchester, but the British foreign office vetoed the project. On February 16 the Massachusetts legislature barred rebels from voting, serving as jurors, or holding office for three years.

In late February a contingent of about ninety Regulators led by Captain Perez Hamlin marched from New York state to Stockbridge and then took supplies and 32 prisoners toward Sheffield. Col. John Ashley was the largest landowner there, and he led eighty men who routed Hamlin’s men and took 150 prisoners in the last major battle of the rebellion on February 27. In Springfield the state militia attacked the insurgents, killing two and wounding thirty as the others fled out of state again.

Jefferson wrote to an aghast Madison that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.” Washington was concerned and recommended amending the constitution. The liberal John Hancock had been governor of Massachusetts from 1780 to 1785, and in the next election he defeated the conservative Governor Bowdoin. Hancock then implemented reforms, reducing court fees and enacting no taxes in 1787, and he pardoned the captured rebels. However, Massachusetts still refused to issue paper money or revise its 1780 constitution.

In early January 1787 John Adams published his pamphlet, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America. He argued for a strong executive to keep the legislature from dominating the government, but he still believed the legislative branch should be sovereign over the executive. He cited the ancient Cicero as well as Montesquieu for the wisdom of having three branches of government. He warned against having a unicameral legislature lest just one house become tyrannical in making laws. Of the thirteen states only Pennsylvania and Georgia did not have a bicameral legislature.

On January 16 Jefferson wrote in a letter from Paris to Edward Carrington that he believed that people having correct opinions is so important that given the choice between having only a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, he would choose the latter, assuming that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.

Hamilton lobbied for a more demanding tax system, and he advocated a strong central government. In 1787 he was elected to the New York legislature, and he fought for the supremacy of the peace treaty to protect the Tories. New York passed laws to end entailing and feudal privileges.

After November 3 until January 17, 1787 Congress could not meet until seven states were represented. They were unable to elect a president until February 2 when they chose Arthur St. Clair. On February 21 the grand committee on the Annapolis recommendations agreed with them on assembling a convention in Philadelphia in May to make the federal government adequate for the needs of the nation. Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts passed similar resolutions. In April the Congress sent out a letter by Jay to the states calling on them to comply with the peace treaty as the law of the land. Congress was not able to meet between May 11 and July 4.

In April 1787 James Madison wrote “Vices of the Political System of the United States” on the following problems of the Confederation:

1) failure of states to comply with requisitions,
2) states encroaching on federal authority,
3) states violating treaties and international law,
4) states trespassing on each other’s rights,
5) lack of cooperation for common interests,
6) inability to stop internal violence,
7) the Confederation’s inability to enforce laws,
8) people did not ratify the Articles of Confederation,
9) too many different laws in the states,
10) too many changes in state laws, and
11) unjust state laws.

By 1787 the United States had liquidated about $28 million of its debt, and in May the foreign debt to France, Spain, and Holland was estimated to be $10,271,561. Most states after the war had debts of more than one million pounds, and the debts of Pennsylvania and Virginia were over four million. Between 1780 and 1786 Massachusetts collected nearly £1,900,000 in direct taxes.

Seven states were present to pass the Northwest Ordinance on July 13. The Northwest was to have no more than five states. Congress appointed a governor, secretary, and three judges for each territory. When they had at least 5,000 male inhabitants, they could elect their own legislature; but the governor could still veto legislation. The number of inhabitants for a new state was set at one-thirteenth of the United States population which came to 60,000 people. Jefferson’s proposal to ban slavery was included but without the limitation of “after the year 1800.” Southerners voted for it because they wanted to avoid competition in tobacco and indigo from the northwest; also a provision for the recovery of fugitive slaves was included. The Northwest Ordinance included the protection of civil liberties and public support for schools. Article III promised Indians that

their lands and property shall never be taken
from them without their consent;
and, in their property, rights, and liberty,
they never shall be invaded and disturbed,
unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress.

The current laws and customs of French and Canadian inhabitants of the Illinois territory were preserved. On October 5 St. Clair was appointed governor and Winthrop Sargent secretary. A contract was made on October 27 so that the government could get revenue from land sales by the Ohio Company that had been formed in Boston in March 1786 by three generals and the multi-talented Rev. Manasseh Cutler. They managed to buy 1.7 million acres for 8 cents an acre.

Congress lacked a quorum from August 3 to September 20, the day of the report by the Philadelphia Convention. Eleven states were represented to receive the proposed Constitution, two resolutions, and a letter from its president Washington. Eight days later the Congress unanimously resolved to transmit the documents to the state legislatures so that they could be submitted to state conventions. The old government lacked money and could hardly function.

Reformers such as Dr. Benjamin Rush and William Bradford worked to make punishments less cruel and to improve prison conditions. Rush was influenced by the writings of John Howard and Cesare Beccaria on prison reform, and on March 9 1787 at Franklin’s home he read his Enquiry into the Effects of Public Punishments upon Criminals and upon Society in which he advocated solitary confinement rather than public mutilation. Rush also campaigned against capital punishment, and Pennsylvania limited the death penalty to first-degree murder. Rush, Jefferson, and the Pennsylvania Council of Censors in 1784 advocated comprehensive education as essential in a republic. On July 28, 1787 Rush gave an address at the Young Ladies’ Academy in Philadelphia that he published as “Thoughts upon Female Education.” On October 29 Rush published his essay, “Plan of a Federal University.”

In 1787 Elizabeth Cornell Bayard in North Carolina tried to recover property taken away because her father had remained loyal to Britain during the Revolution. Spyers Singleton had purchased the property. In Bayard v. Singleton the three judges on the court delayed the case, and in November the legislature investigated their refusal to dismiss the case. The General Assembly decided that the court had a right to hear the case. The court ruled against Bayard but decided that a law passed in 1785 that allowed courts to dismiss such cases was unconstitutional because it denied the plaintiff a jury trial. This set a precedent for the judicial review of laws that violate the constitution of a state.

Germans and other ethnic groups had societies to help immigrants and each other. Literary, humane, and scientific societies met in large cities such as Philadelphia, New York, Charleston, and Boston. A group of intellectuals called the “Wits of Connecticut” were led by the painter John Trumbull and the writer Timothy Dwight. During the chaos Joel Barlow, John Trumbull, David Humphreys, and Dr. Lemuel Hopkins published in the New Haven Gazette from October 1786 to September 1787 excerpts from Barlow’s The Anarchiad that satirized the dangers of anarchy. Jedidiah Morse pioneered geography, publishing Geography Made Easy in 1784 and in 1789 The American Geography, which included cultural information. While Dwight preached about Calvinist sins, Joel Barlow was more concerned with social injustice and became a Republican. Barlow wrote the epic poem, The Vision of Columbus, in 1787. His preface declared that the purpose of his poem

is to inculcate the love of national liberty, and
to discountenance the deleterious passion for violence and war;
to show that on the basis of republican principle
all good morals, as well as good government
and hopes of permanent peace, must be founded.2

On April 16, 1787 The Contrast by Royall Tyler was performed by a professional company of actors at the John Street Theater in New York City. This is the earliest known professional production of a play in America, and it also was performed in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Williamsburg, Charleston, and Boston. The comedy presents a New England Yankee called Col. Manley the Hero, who is contrasted to the foreign affectations. Tyler’s other plays include the farce The Island of Barrataria based on Don Quixote, and the religious dramas written in blank verse, The Origin of the Feast of Purim, Joseph and His Brethren, and The Judgment of Solomon. Tyler was also a lawyer in Vermont, and his novel The Algerine Captive about religious freedom was published in 1797 and became only the second American novel to be published in England. During the Revolutionary War he served as General Benjamin Lincoln’s aide-de-camp, and as a major he fought against Shays’s rebellion in Massachusetts. Tyler became chief justice of Vermont’s Supreme Court in 1807 and taught law at the University of Vermont.

Like most of the Connecticut intellectuals, Noah Webster (1758-1843) studied at Yale. He became expert on American English and published his first speller in 1783, followed by a grammar in 1784, and a reader in 1785. That year his Sketches of American Policy argued that representative democracy is the best form of government. In 1787 he founded The American Magazine in New York. In the spring of that year Webster published an essay defending those who held the national debt, and in the fall he wrote a pamphlet in favor of the new Constitution. He was concerned that the Congress did not have the power to enact copyright laws, and he complained about “so many public invasions of private property—so many wanton abuses of legislative powers!”3 In 1793 Hamilton loaned Webster $1,500 so that he could move to New York and edit the newspaper of the Federalist Party. Webster’s speller was used widely and had 385 editions during his long life, selling fifteen million copies by 1828, the year he published his first dictionary.

Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia

The Convention to revise the Articles of Confederation was scheduled to begin on May 14, 1787 in Philadelphia, but James Madison arrived on May 3. A quorum of seven states was lacking on the first day, and the Virginia delegation used the next eleven days to meet privately and prepare their plan. Seven delegations and two other delegates were present on May 25, and the 29 delegates began formal meetings in the Pennsylvania State House. Rhode Island did not send a delegation, and no more than eleven states were represented at any one time during the four months of the Convention. Most of the delegates were wealthy, and 40 of the 55 who were bondholders probably wanted a more stable financial system without the inflation caused by paper money.

Wealthy Robert Morris, who was providing hospitality for George Washington, nominated him to be president of the Convention, and he was elected unanimously. Major William Jackson of South Carolina was elected secretary over William Temple Franklin. Madison sat next to the secretary at a table next to the president’s platform facing the other delegates and took detailed notes during the entire Convention. The credentials of the delegates were read. For the only time they took the first Saturday off, and nine more delegates arrived by Monday. Maryland and Connecticut allowed one delegate to vote for the state, but New York required all three delegates and could not vote after June 30. Since New Hampshire was not represented during the first two months, the non-slave states were less represented than the five southern states. The law professor George Wythe of Virginia was appointed chairman of the rules committee, and on the 28th the delegates unanimously adopted the rules that continued the Congress’s voting by state. However, even a decision by majority vote could be discussed and voted on again. Publication of any information about the Convention was banned, and the secrecy was carefully maintained to the end of the Convention.

Virginia’s Governor Edmund Randolph began presenting the Virginia Plan which consisted of the defects of the Articles of Confederation and fifteen resolutions. Everyone knew that this plan was primarily the work of Madison. The first resolution was to correct and enlarge the Articles; but that was pushed aside when they realized that the other resolutions were proposing an entirely new constitution. The national legislature would have two branches. The first would be elected by the people based on each state’s financial contribution or the number of free inhabitants. The first branch would then elect the second, and the national legislature could cancel state laws. The national legislature would also elect the national executive and the national judges, and it would admit new states into the union. The new articles should be subject to amendment, and the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the states ought to be bound by oath to support the articles of the union. Finally amendments proposed by a convention and approved by Congress must be ratified by assemblies of the people recommended by the state legislatures. The Convention then voted to submit these resolutions to a Committee of the Whole for discussion. Charles Pinckney of South Carolina also presented a plan, but no one even took notes on that.

On May 30 Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts was elected chairman of the Whole Committee. The large states of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts had more people than the other ten states combined, and they resented the equal votes by small states. The delegates from Delaware were bound by their commission not to change the equal representation of the states, and the slave states were concerned that only free inhabitants would be counted for representation. Several delegates said that the Confederation did not have adequate powers but that a national government with a supreme legislature, executive, and judiciary could. Election of the House of Representatives by the people was approved by a vote of 6-2. Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Richard Dobbs Spaight of North Carolina wanted senators elected by the state legislatures. George Mason of Virginia and James Wilson of Pennsylvania advocated for the people electing the senators, but Wilson’s motion failed 2-8.

Charles Pinckney’s plan called for a single executive, and that was supported by Wilson and passed 7-3 on June 4. That day Wilson advised against mingling the executive and judicial branches on the veto, arguing that the three branches should be independent of each other. Ben Franklin warned against giving one man an absolute negative, and Elbridge Gerry’s proposal passed 8-2 that a 2/3 vote by both houses of the legislature could over-rule a veto. John Dickinson of Delaware argued for the state legislatures choosing senators, and that passed on June 7 unanimously 10-0. On June 9 New Jersey delegates began arguing that each state should be equally represented in both houses of the legislature.

Franklin had agreed to head the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and on May 23 its charter had been published. On June 2 the Pennsylvania Society asked the Convention to end slavery, but Franklin never presented the proposal. Gouverneur Morris of New York had also previously owned slaves, but he became an abolitionist and got a clause in the New York constitution of 1777. On June 11 South Carolina delegates proposed that blacks be counted as part of the population for representation. Dr. Hugh Williamson of North Carolina moved that they take a census of the free inhabitants, and that passed 6-4. Wilson and Charles Pinckney suggested a compromise by counting 3/5 of the slaves, and that passed 9-2. Rufus King of Massachusetts argued that it was too difficult to calculate the wealth of each state, and Randolph’s motion to eliminate wealth as a consideration for representation was approved unanimously 9-0.

With Washington presiding on June 13 the Committee of the Whole reported the revised Virginia Plan with 19 resolutions, the first having been changed to a national government consisting of a supreme legislative, executive, and judiciary. Two days later New Jersey’s Attorney General William Paterson presented a plan to replace Randolph’s plan by amending the Articles of Confederation. The New Jersey Plan maintained the unicameral legislature with one vote for each state but included the election of an executive and a federal judiciary. On June 16 equality of votes in the Senate passed 5-4, and that day another Committee of the Whole began discussing the New Jersey Plan. Two days later Alexander Hamilton of New York, who admired the British system, presented his conservative plan that would let the executive and senators serve for life during good behavior. On June 19 Madison criticized Paterson’s plan in a long speech. Then the Committee voted 7-3 to accept Randolph’s propositions rather than Paterson’s.

Washington presided again as the Convention resumed on June 20. On the 26th they voted 7-4 that senators should be elected for six years with one-third going out every other year. On June 28 Franklin recommended prayer, but the prospect of having to pay a minister ended that proposal. George Read of Delaware warned that the small states would not accept unequal representation for states in both houses. Hamilton left the Convention on June 30, and New York’s other two delegates left a few days later, leaving New York unrepresented and without a vote for the remainder of the Convention. Also on the 30th Franklin suggested a compromise by allowing states equal representation in the Senate. That was moved by Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, but the vote was a 5-5 tie. On July 2 a committee of one member from each state was appointed to work on this. Sherman had an axiom that advised voting when you have a majority but talking when you are in the minority. The delegates from the small states now extended the debates for days.

After a two-day holiday to celebrate the 4th of July, the Convention resumed on Thursday the 5th. On July 12 they voted 6-2 for the 3/5 compromise again and for a census every ten years, and the next day they unanimously struck out the wealth consideration. On that day the Congress in New York was passing the Northwest Ordinance, and the Convention agreed on giving equality to new states rather than treating them as colonies as many empires had done. Equal representation for states in the Senate passed 5-4 on July 16. Two days later Wilson struck a balance when he suggested that the new constitution should guarantee that each state has a republican form of government and that states should be protected against foreign and domestic violence.

After more than three weeks with only ten states represented, two delegates from New Hampshire arrived on July 23. The Convention began discussing the executive with some reticence because all the delegates realized that Washington surely would be elected the first president. On the 26th Mason and Franklin suggested that the legislature should be able to impeach and remove the president. Franklin noted that in free governments the elected officials are the servants of the people who are their superiors and sovereigns. Thus when politicians leave office, they are not degraded but promoted. At first they agreed that the president should be elected by the national legislature for only one term of seven years and be paid a fixed salary and that he would enforce the laws, make appointments, and could be removed for malpractice or neglect of duty.

Then before adjourning for eleven days they elected a Committee of Detail chaired by John Rutledge of South Carolina with Gorham, Ellsworth, Wilson, and Randolph to write the first draft of the Constitution. The nineteen resolutions approved were 1,200 words, but they tripled that in 23 articles with 41 sections. They made changes and added new provisions. They authorized the Senate to make treaties and choose ambassadors. They adopted Wilson’s proposal to prohibit the states from entering treaties, issuing bills of credit or money, taxing imports, or engaging in war. Rutledge was persuasive, and southerners gained the following three new provisions: they guaranteed that the importation of slaves would not end; they banned taxes on exported goods such as cotton, tobacco, and indigo; and they required that legislation on interstate commerce and foreign trade pass by a two-thirds vote in both houses.

The Convention resumed on August 6 with only eight states having enough delegates to vote, and the Committee of Detail also kept meeting for another month. Four more committees with a delegate from each of the eleven states were appointed. In Franklin’s compromise between the large and small states, the House of Representatives was given the exclusive right to initiate money bills, but this was being challenged by Charles Pinckney. After Pinckney proposed that the President must have at least $100,000 in property and judges half that, Franklin warned that the wealthy can be tempted as well as the poor because they often desire to increase their property. He persuaded others to reject this so as not to discourage the common people.

Rufus King opposed counting 3/5 of the slaves for representation, and he would not agree to their being imported for this. Then Gouverneur Morris gave one of the first great speeches for the abolition of slavery in America. Northerners would have to defend southern states against slave uprisings and pay import taxes while southerners could import more slaves duty-free. On August 21 Luther Martin proposed that Congress be able to tax or prohibit the importation of slaves, a trade he called “dishonorable to the American character.” Rutledge and Ellsworth disagreed, and on that day Connecticut joined with the five southern states to defeat a proposal to let Congress impose export taxes with a two-thirds vote. The next day Mason argued that the general government should have the power to prevent the increase of slavery, and Dickenson considered it inadmissible that the importation of slaves should be authorized by the Constitution.

On August 24 William Livingston, who had persuaded the New Jersey legislature to ban the slave trade in 1786, proposed that the migration or importation of slaves “shall not be prohibited by the legislature prior to the year 1800,” and the next day Charles Cotesworth Pinckney moved they extend that to 1808. On August 28 Charles Pinckney and Pierce Butler of South Carolina proposed that “fugitive slaves and servants be delivered up like criminals,” a provision included in the Northwest Ordinance. The 20-year extension would result in 170,000 additional Africans being imported into the United States with South Carolina importing 75,000 of them in the last four years before the importation was prohibited in 1808.

In late August the Convention also discussed the presidency, making him commander-in-chief and responsible for executing the laws and appointing government officials. Rutledge suggested that both houses of Congress together elect the president, and Gouverneur Morris revived Wilson’s idea of the people voting for electors. On August 31 they came to the end of the issues in the Detail Committee report, and they voted that the Constitution must be ratified by at least nine states. They had put off many hard issues, and they formed the Committee of Postponed Parts with King, Sherman, Gouverneur Morris, Dickinson, and Madison. New Jersey’s Chief Justice David Brearley had replaced Paterson, and he was elected chairman. This committee reduced the President’s term from seven years to four but allowed re-election. The people would vote in each state for electors who would be equal to the number of Representatives and the two Senators from each state. They gave the President the power to make treaties and appoint ambassadors and Supreme Court justices with confirmation by the Senate. If no candidate for president had a majority in the electoral college, the House would vote by state. The Convention passed this 10-1. On September 8 they decided that only the House could initiate money bills but that the Senate could amend them.

A Committee of Style was appointed, and Madison asked Gouverneur Morris to write the final draft which was presented in print on September 12 with the following brilliant Preamble:

We, the people of the United States,
in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice,
insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,
promote the general Welfare,
and secure the Blessings of Liberty
to ourselves and our Posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution
for the United States of America.

Morris organized the previous 23 articles into seven with the first three on the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. Morris also wrote a document with two resolutions explaining the ratification process and a letter for transmitting the Constitution to the Confederation Congress in New York.

Luther Martin did not approve of the Constitution reducing the power of state governments, and he left the Convention in the first week of September. On the 10th Randolph explained his objections and said he would not sign it because he wanted to see what the people thought. He hoped state conventions would propose amendments for another general convention. Elbridge Gerry moved that they reconsider the amendment process, and they went back to the Virginia Plan’s proposal to allow the Congress to propose amendments that must be ratified by two-thirds of the state legislatures, the process used by all 27 amendments so far. Mason and Gerry objected to the office of vice president, and Gerry denounced having a standing army in peace time. Mason was bothered by the slave provisions and the navigation laws, and he wanted a bill of rights included that he said could be done in a few hours. Gerry moved that, but at this late stage all ten states voted against it.

On September 15 the Convention added another method for amending the Constitution, and all the states present approved the Constitution. The delegates met for the last time on Monday, September 17. Franklin had written a speech that was read by Wilson explaining why he believed they all should sign the document, stating,

Thus I consent, sir, to this Constitution
because I expect no better,
and because I am not sure that it is not the best.
The opinions I have had of its errors,
I sacrifice to the public good.4

Gouverneur Morris at the bottom drafted a statement that the Constitution was “done in Convention by the unanimous consent of the states present the 17th of September.” The names inscribed were witnesses of this. Therefore signing did not necessarily mean that the person agreed with the Constitution. Morris thus urged all of them to sign, as did Williamson and Hamilton. However, Mason, Gerry, and Randolph still refused to sign.

Thomas Fitzsimons of Pennsylvania took the Constitution upstairs where the Pennsylvania Assembly was meeting, and copies were sent throughout the nation. As Franklin was leaving the Pennsylvania State House, Elizabeth Powel asked him if they had created a republic or a monarchy. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”5

Ratification and the Federalists

On September 20, 1787 Congress received a copy of the Constitution, and copies were published in New York newspapers. On the same day New York’s Governor George Clinton as “Cato” published an article opposing the Constitution. Eighteen delegates from the Convention were present among thirty-three members of the Confederation Congress, and on September 28 the twelve states represented in the Congress unanimously passed a resolution to transmit the Constitution to the state legislatures.

On October 5 Samuel Bryan as “Centinel” published a letter “To the Freeman of Pennsylvania” in the Independent Gazetteer, arguing against accepting the new Constitution. Believing that a republican government can only exist when “people are virtuous and where property is pretty equally divided,”6 he warned against the complicated new government as compared to Pennsylvania’s unicameral legislature with its frequent elections. He also warned against maintaining a standing army in peacetime, giving a central government absolute control over American commerce and taxes, and adding a federal judiciary. The framers of the new Constitution made no provision to protect freedom of the press and other rights such as a jury trial in civil cases.

The next day James Wilson made a speech at a public meeting in Philadelphia in which he argued that those things not reserved to the federal government in the Constitution are given to the people and the states, not taken away from them. He believed that a nation requires some military force. Against the charge that the Senate would give aristocrats control, he noted that the Senate could not pass anything without the concurrence of the more democratic House of Representatives and the elected President. Also Senators would be elected by representatives who would be elected by the people. If errors in the Constitution are found, they could be amended by a vote of two-thirds of the Congress and would have to be ratified by the three-quarters of the state legislatures.

On October 18 the first article by “Brutus” appeared in the New York Journal. Probably written by the delegate Robert Yates who left the Convention after it decided not to amend the Articles of Confederation, he started by agreeing that the people have the right “to make or unmake constitutions;” but he argued they should reject this one. The question he asked was “whether the thirteen United States should be reduced to one great republic,… or whether they should continue thirteen confederated republics.”7 He was concerned that the federal government by its laws and treaties would be “the supreme law of the land” and that only a small portion of the power was left to the states. The federal government could tax, and he feared its courts would “swallow up all the powers of the courts in the respective states.”8 He noted that when the ancient republics of Greece and Rome extended their territories, the result was that their free governments became tyrannical. He was concerned that in a large republic it would be too difficult to hold men accountable for their misconduct or prevent abuses of power. In “Brutus 3” on November 15 he expressed concern that the new democratic House would have only 65 elected representatives compared to 558 in the British House of Commons and the nearly two thousand in the legislatures of the thirteen states.

On October 27 the first of the Federalist Papers published with the name “Publius” appeared in New York’s Independent Journal to defend the new Constitution. In the next seven months 85 such essays would be published in numerous newspapers. Alexander Hamilton wrote 51 of them, James Madison 29, and John Jay 5. In the first one Hamilton began with the importance of a UNION to protect the safety and promote the welfare of the American empire. The question he posed is whether the people would be able to establish a good government by choice rather than live under governments by accident or force. The next four articles were written by the current foreign minister of the United States, John Jay, who had been the author of New York’s constitution and the state’s first chief justice. Jay argued that American prosperity depended upon their remaining united. He warned against dangers from foreign forces and argued that a strong central government was essential.

Hamilton published the Federalist Papers #6-9 November 14-19. He wrote more on foreign dangers and then turned to the risks of internal divisions and civil war which could end the Union. Only a firm Union could protect against domestic faction and insurrection. Yet he noted that the federal power was distributed into distinct departments of the legislative, executive, and judicial in a comprehensive system of checks and balances. He observed that Montesquieu did not oppose a confederate republic and even held that a large republic could extend popular government and better “withstand any external force and may support itself without any internal corruptions.” Hamilton believed that the Constitution does not abolish the state governments but rather “makes them constituent parts of the national sovereignty.”

George Mason circulated his “Objections to the Constitution” in early October, but it was not published in the Virginia Journal until November 22. He urged a dispassionate consideration of the Constitution by all citizens capable of discussing this important issue. His first objection was that there was no declaration of rights and that the paramount laws of the federal government gave no security to the states. He was also concerned that the President would have no constitutional council to advise him. Making treaties the supreme law gave extra power to the President and the Senate which confirms them.

Madison had seen an early copy of Mason’s “Objections,” and on November 22 he published Federalist #10. He considered the greatest advantage of the stronger Union would be its ability “to break and control the violence of faction.” He believed the most common source of factions is the “unequal distribution of property.” The “principal task of modern legislation” is regulating the interfering interests. Individuals are not allowed to judge their own causes because their interests bias their judgment, and this can be even more of a problem with large groups. Apportioning taxes on property requires the most impartiality, but opportunities and temptations can influence a party’s legislation and “trample on the rules of justice.” Enlightened politicians will not always be in control.

Since the causes of faction cannot be removed, Madison suggested relieving the effects. The republican principal enables a majority to defeat sinister views. When a majority includes a faction, popular government may persuade it to sacrifice its passion and interest for the public good and the rights of other citizens. If not, this majority must be prevented from putting into effect its oppressive schemes. Madison recognized that a government giving people equal political rights does not necessarily equalize their possessions, passions, and opinions. A republic differs from a democracy in that it has elected representatives governing, and therefore it can govern a larger country. Also a larger population increases the chances that more worthy representatives will be chosen. The federal Constitution combines the aggregate interests of the nation with the local and state legislatures. Madison believed that the larger the nation the less likely a majority will invade the rights of other citizens. More representatives should foster more enlightened views over local prejudices such as the rage for paper money and the abolition of debts.

On December 19 in Federalist #24 Hamilton answered the concern about standing armies in peacetime by noting that the Constitution in Article I, Section 8 forbids appropriations for the army for longer than two years. Also how large the military is depends on the legislature. On the 28th in Federalist #30 he argued that the national government needed not only to raise revenue for military defense but also for civil purposes such as paying of national debts contracted and disbursements from the national treasury.

Pennsylvania set the first Tuesday in November for the election of delegates to a state convention that would begin on November 21. On the 24th James Wilson gave a speech urging ratification of the Constitution that would create a “comprehensive Federal Republic.” On December 7 thirty delegates to Delaware’s convention ratified the Constitution unanimously. Five days later Pennsylvania ratified it 46-23. New Jersey’s convention also ratified unanimously on December 18, as did Georgia on January 2, 1788. Two days later Connecticut’s delegates ratified it 128-40.

Between November 1787 and January 1788 James Winthrop published eleven letters by “Agrippa” to the people of Massachusetts and then six more to the state convention. He argued that the Constitution gave too much power to the central government and not enough to the states, and he warned that it would create a permanent aristocracy. He noted that Virginia was demanding amendments and had postponed their convention until May, and he suggested they recommit the Constitution to a new convention or to Congress. Samuel Adams in a letter on December 3, 1787 to Richard Henry Lee expressed his concern that the sovereignty and diversity of the states would be lost. Massachusetts elected 355 delegates to their convention, and starting on January 9, 1788 about 700 people watched from the gallery. Elbridge Gerry was vehemently against ratification, but he was not allowed to speak but could only write his comments. John Hancock was persuaded to approve the Constitution if it was accompanied by a proposal for amendments, and his speech on February 6 helped passage on a vote of 187-168.

In Federalist #41 on January 19 Madison listed the powers conferred on the government of the Union as:

1. Security against foreign danger;
2. Regulation of the intercourse with foreign nations;
3. Maintenance of harmony and proper intercourse
among the States;
4. Certain miscellaneous objects of general utility;
5. Restraint of the States from certain injurious acts;
6. Provisions for giving due efficacy to all these powers.

In #44 Madison considered the axiom well established that the means are authorized whenever the end is required. Wherever a general power is given, the particular means for accomplishing it is included.

On February 6 Madison published Federalist #51 to explain how the checks and balances in the Constitution work. He wrote,

If men were angels, no government would be necessary.
If angels were to govern men,
neither external nor internal controls on government
would be necessary.
In framing a government
which is to be administered by men over men,
the great difficulty lies in this:
you must first enable the government to control the governed;
and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

The first remedy is to divide the legislative, executive, and judicial functions of government into different departments so that none of them has complete control. Because in a republican government the legislature is the most important, dividing the legislature into two houses provides an additional remedy. In a republic not only must society be guarded against oppression by its rulers but also one part of society must be protected against the injustice of another part. Madison believed that the purpose of government is to establish justice, and the best way to do that is through liberty, writing,

Justice is the end of government.
It is the end of civil society.
It ever has been and ever will be
pursued until it be obtained,
or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.

New Hampshire delegates met a week later, but fearing a close vote, the Federalists got the convention adjourned. Rhode Island’s legislature refused to call a state convention in February, and the total vote from town meetings was 235 in favor with 2,708 opposed. Attempts to have the Rhode Island legislature call a convention also failed in March, October, and December of 1788 and in June 1789.

The irascible Luther Martin published The Genuine Information in Baltimore newspapers to oppose ratification, arguing that state courts would make better decisions than the federal judiciary. Maryland’s convention ratified the Constitution on April 26, 1788 by a vote of 63-11, and South Carolina approved it 149-73 on May 23. New Hampshire’s delegates met again and on June 21 by a vote of 57-47 became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, meeting its requirement to go into effect. Thus the votes for ratification in the last four states essentially became referenda on whether those states were going to join the new union. Of course without Virginia and New York the prospects for the new government would not be good.

Virginia’s convention had been meeting since June 2. Edmund Randolph decided to support the Constitution, but Patrick Henry, George Mason, and the Anti-Federalists were very much opposed and proposed forty amendments—20 for a bill of rights and 20 to protect the sovereignty of the states. Henry spoke for many hours, and Mason wrote Objections to the Proposed Constitution. Madison was supported in his defense of the Constitution by the successful young lawyer John Marshall who contended that the friends of the Constitution were as tenacious for liberties as its critics; they wanted to give government enough power to secure and protect liberties. On June 25 Henry’s attempt to make the amendments a condition for ratification failed 80-88, and the motion to ratify then passed 89-79.

New York’s convention had started on June 17 with 46 of 65 delegates opposed to the Constitution. Alexander Hamilton supported thirteen amendments to protect civil rights and was debating the Anti-Federalist Melancton Smith who had written Letters from a Federal Farmer and an “Address to the People of New York” in which he argued that the Constitution would lead to despotism. On July 11 Smith suggested ratification with the condition that a second convention could propose amendments. During the negotiation over this Smith decided to support the Constitution with the “recommendation” of amendments, and on July 25 New York ratified it 30-27.

On August 2 North Carolina’s convention, wanting the state to have more power, rejected the Constitution by a vote of 184-83. They proposed 20 amendments on rights also and 26 other amendments. George Washington was elected President of the United States and was inaugurated, and the new government was functioning before North Carolina joined the union by ratifying the Constitution on November 21, 1789 by a vote of 194-77. Franklin wrote in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy on November 13, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Rhode Island finally ratified the Constitution 34-32 and became the thirteenth state on May 29, 1790.

Transition and the Bill of Rights

On January 21, 1788 seven states each had two delegates in Congress, and two days later they elected Cyrus Griffin of Virginia president. On February 29 Kentucky applied to Congress for admission as a state, but the issue was put off to the new government. Notices of state ratification of the Constitution were sent to Congress, and on June 21 New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify. Congress had all thirteen states represented on July 11 for the first time since April 1777. Congress appointed a committee to put the new Constitution into operation, and on August 6 they decided that the electors for the states should be appointed by the first Wednesday of January 1789, that the electors were to assemble and vote for President on the first Wednesday of February, and that on the first Wednesday in March the Constitution should proceed. On August 20, 1788 the Congress approved a requisition for funds from the states. After a long debate the Congress decided on September 12 that the new government should meet in New York. After October 10 the Congress never had a quorum of at least seven states. However, most of the executive departments were passed over to the new government and continued to function for several months.

David Ramsay of South Carolina wrote The History of the American Revolution and published it in two volumes at Philadelphia in 1789, but few copies were sold. He admitted that the army won the war; but they could not have done so if the people had not steadily opposed the British. Ramsay believed that the new Constitution would be a check on the excesses of democracy.

Because of nonpayment Virginia reduced taxes one-third in 1788 and one-fourth in 1789. Most taxpayers were farmers, and they demanded paper money to help them pay taxes and private debts. In the first three months of 1789 states reported their debts as South Carolina $5,386,232, Massachusetts $5,226,801, Virginia $3,680,743, Connecticut $1,951,173, New York $1,167,575, and New Jersey $788,680. The other states did not report, but Hamilton estimated Pennsylvania’s debt as $2,200,000, Maryland’s as $800,000, and New Hampshire’s as $300,000. A legislative committee in North Carolina put their debt at $3,480,000. Rhode Island’s debt in 1787 was about $510,000, and Georgia’s debt in 1786 was nearly a million dollars. Conservatives calling themselves Republicans managed to take over the Pennsylvania legislature and incorporate Philadelphia in 1789 with Samuel Powell as mayor.

The strongest argument of the Anti-Federalists against the Constitution was that it lacked a bill of rights. Both George Mason and Richard Henry Lee of Virginia wrote pamphlets emphasizing the importance of explicitly declaring the rights the government must protect. In his Letters from the Federal Farmer Lee was concerned that power was going to be transferred from the many to the few. Jefferson believed that the people are entitled to a bill of rights against every government and that no just government should refuse this. From France he suggested the strategy of having the first nine states ratify the Constitution, and then have the other four states refuse to join until a declaration of rights was added.

On December 12, 1787 Robert Whitehill presented a petition to the Pennsylvania convention from 750 people of Cumberland County that the Constitution should only be approved with amendments that included a bill of rights. Samuel Adams proposed an amendment that included a bill of rights during the Massachusetts convention which became the first state to include recommended amendments with the ratification. During the Maryland convention Luther Martin demanded either amendments or a second convention, but he was outvoted. The Anti-Federalists felt so strongly that they published their 28 amendments as a pamphlet. The Federalists were afraid that this objection and others might prevent ratification, and they argued that the rights were already established in America through state constitutions and did not need to be explicitly stated in the national Constitution.

In June 1788 during the Virginia convention Madison decided to support a bill of rights and other minor amendments to keep the opposition from adjourning. Although he did not think they were necessary, he believed they would not produce any possible danger. Before adjourning, the Virginia convention sent a copy of the forty amendments proposed to the governor and legislatures of every state. In July the New York convention also decided not to reject ratification or even withdraw from the Union if amendments with a bill of rights were not passed.

In the House of Representatives on June 8, 1789 James Madison proposed that they consider amendments to the Constitution to protect rights which he drew from Virginia’s Declaration of Rights in 1776 and from the state ratifying conventions of 1788. On August 24 the House of Representatives approved and sent 17 amendments to the United States Senate, which combined some together. On September 25 the Senate and the House approved twelve amendments and agreed to send them to the states for ratification. As a consequence the North Carolina convention ratified the Constitution on November 21. Rhode Island became the thirteenth state on May 29, 1790, and Vermont was admitted as the fourteenth state on March 4, 1791. The two amendments on apportioning the legislators and fixing the pay of Congressmen were not ratified, and the nine protecting the rights of citizens and the tenth the rights of the states became the Bill of Rights and the supreme law as part of the Constitution on December 15, 1791 when Virginia became the eleventh state to ratify them.

The Bill of Rights consists of the following ten amendments to the United States Constitution:

1. Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
or abridging the freedom of speech,
or of the press;
or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

2. A well regulated Militia, being necessary
to the security of a free State,
the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,
shall not be infringed.

3. No Soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house,
without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war,
but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

4. The right of the people to be secure
in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures,
shall not be violated,
and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by Oath or affirmation,
and particularly describing the place to be searched,
and the persons or things to be seized.

5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital,
or otherwise infamous crime,
unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury,
except in cases arising in the land or naval forces,
or in the Militia, when in actual service
in time of War or public danger;
nor shall any person be subject for the same offence
to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb;
nor shall be compelled in any criminal case
to be a witness against himself,
nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property,
without due process of law;
nor shall private property be taken for public use,
without just compensation.

6. In all criminal prosecutions,
the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial,
by an impartial jury of the State and district
wherein the crime shall have been committed,
which district shall have been previously ascertained by law,
and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation;
to be confronted with the witnesses against him;
to have compulsory process
for obtaining witnesses in his favor,
and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

7. In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy
shall exceed twenty dollars,
the right of trial by jury shall be preserved,
and no fact tried by a jury,
shall be otherwise re-examined
in any Court of the United States,
than according to the rules of the common law.

8. Excessive bail shall not be required,
nor excessive fines imposed,
nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

9. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights,
shall not be construed to deny or disparage others
retained by the people.

10. 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.

Federalist United States 1789-1801

 American Frontier 1784-89

Western Frontier 1763-75
Frontier during the Revolutionary War

After the Revolutionary War many people moved west into the frontier. Kentucky went from 30,000 people in 1784 to 73,677 in 1790 including 12,430 slaves and 114 free Africans. People also settled in the backcountry of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Between 1774 and 1790 the population of Virginia increased from 400,000 to nearly 750,000, South Carolina from 150,000 to 250,000, and Georgia from 50,000 to 82,000. New Englanders moved into Maine and Vermont which went from 30,000 in 1784 to 85,000 in 1790.

On March 1, 1784 Governor Thomas Jefferson signed Virginia’s cession of the Northwest Territory containing about 250,000 square miles that would eventually make up most of the states Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Congress on the same day they received this territory discharged all the Continental soldiers in the western territories except for the garrison of 26 men at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This left the British and the Indians with the most control in the Northwest. Jefferson was appointed chairman of a committee “to prepare a plan for the temporary government of the western territory.” They proposed the abolition of slavery there, but the Congress rejected that. On April 23 Congress adopted Jefferson’s plan to create up to ten states with at least 20,000 inhabitants.

The Pennsylvania Assembly ordered the Connecticut settlers in the Wyoming Valley evicted; but in May they resisted the troops, and in September the Pennsylvania Council of Censors condemned the Assembly’s action and restored land to the dispossessed settlers. On June 3 Massachusetts tried to claim land within the reserved boundary of New York, but in November they ceded all their lands west of New York. On June 26 Spain announced they would close the Mississippi River to American commerce, and it was implemented at New Orleans by July 22.

Alexander McGillivray was the son of Lachlan McGillivray and was one-quarter Creek, and in June 1784 he and other Creek chiefs signed a treaty with the Spanish at Pensacola, making him an agent of the Panton and Leslie company. He put the Creek nation under Spanish protection, and in 1785 he sent a message to the American Congress complaining that the Indian nations had been excluded from the peace negotiations in Paris.

North Carolina ceded its Tennessee territory to Congress in July 1784, and on August 23 the upset settlers at Holston elected a convention which met on December 14 to form the new state of Franklin which adopted the constitution and laws of North Carolina. John Sevier led the Holston settlers, but he was opposed by Col. John Tipton. On May 31, 1785 the Franklinites made a treaty with minor Cherokee chiefs at Dumplin Creek, but in November the United States commissioners made a treaty at Hopewell which ignored Franklin and gave some of that land to the Cherokees while gaining a narrow strip for North Carolina. At a second convention that month the Franklinites elected Sevier governor and William Cocke as their delegate to Congress to ask for admission as a state.

George Washington visited the west in the fall of 1784 and urged Congress to act quickly lest speculators and squatters make the rational disposal of land impossible. American commissioners were sent to Fort Stanwix where on October 2 they met with Iroquois chiefs of the Six Nations and Shawnees. The Americans promised they would take only a small portion of this territory and would decide which portions were reserved for Indian nations. The Americans demanded hostages. The chiefs there signed this agreement on October 22, but other Indians disagreed and refused to cooperate. Two Senecas were turned over for crimes and were lynched after the treaty was signed.

More negotiations occurred at Fort McIntosh in December, and in January 1785 the Wyandot, Ottawa, Chippewa, and Delaware chiefs agreed to stay on reservations in Ohio. Congress approved these treaties and passed the land ordinance on May 20 mandating townships with six-mile squares divided into 36 lots, one of which was set aside for schools. The price was to be $1 per acre, but one had to buy at least a square mile for $640. This was bad for settlers while helping land speculators. Congress ordered Col. Josiah Harmar to drive the Indians out of the northwest, and he did so in the spring while finding several thousand “banditti” squatting there.

Kentucky held its first convention on December 27, 1784 and elected Col. William Fleming president. They complained about special taxes levied on them by Virginia, and in the second convention on May 23, 1785 they considered separating from Virginia. In the third convention on August 8 they complained again of the five shillings tax, and General James Wilkinson began suggesting that Kentucky be a free and independent republic. They sent two members to Virginia’s House of Delegates to petition for separation on October 8, and on January 10, 1786 Virginia approved. In 1785 the American Secretary of War Henry Knox wrote that if patriotism is sacrificing for the good of all, then the Indians were the most patriotic during the American Revolution. New York’s Governor Clinton forced the Oneidas to cede 5.5 million acres in 1785 and 1788. The Confederation made treaties with the Wyandots and the Cherokees in 1785 and with the Shawnees, Choctaw, and Chickasaw in 1786.

Georgia claimed territory west as far as the Mississippi River and created Bourbon County to include Natchez on February 7, 1785, and on October 10 Louisiana’s Governor Esteban Miro ordered Bourbon officials to leave Natchez. The Creeks made war against Georgians from May to November. The Cherokee chief Old Tassel did not like the previous treaties, and he went to Hopewell with 36 chiefs and 918 people. The Cherokees ceded extensive portions of their homeland to the Americans in the Treaty of Hopewell in November, trusting that this would established fixed boundaries, but things got worse for the Cherokees. The Creeks were on the war path in the summer of 1786, but on November 3 they signed a treaty with commissioners fixing their border once again on the Oconee River. Congress appointed Benjamin Hawkins, Andrew Pickens, and Joseph Martin as commissioners, and they also negotiated major treaties with the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw at Hopewell in the winter of 1785-86.

On January 31, 1786 the Shawnees signed a treaty at Fort Finney at the mouth of the Great Miami. Many Shawnees resented this treaty, and they raided settlements in the spring. The Ohio Company was organized in Boston on March 1, and eleven delegates promised to sell $1,000,000 in stock for Continental certificates. Connecticut gave up its claim to the Wyoming Valley to Pennsylvania in May, retaining only the Western Reserve in northwest Ohio. The Iroquois renounced the Stanwix treaty and warned of war if their lands were taken. On July 15 about 500 Miami warriors surrounded Vincennes. George Rogers Clark declined to lead an army in Kentucky, but on September 10, 1786 about 1,200 militia gathered at Clarksville by the Ohio falls. Three days later Clark agreed to lead them to Vincennes. Some Indians captured Robert Clark and two Africans. After they escaped, the two Negroes were captured again and scalped. Benjamin Logan with 800 men pursued them in Kentucky, and on September 30 they crossed the Ohio and marched north toward Wabash. On October 5 Logan’s men destroyed seven towns, killing ten warriors, capturing 32 mostly women and children, and burning more than 200 cabins and 15,000 bushels of corn.

Edmund Randolph became Governor of Virginia on December 1, and he approved of this campaign and asked Congress to pay its expenses. Congress eventually appropriated $500,000 in 1788. Virginia’s last militia attack in the Northwest was led by Major John Hardin with 220 mounted militia on a Shawnee camp that killed eight people. Federal authorities at Vincennes criticized this expedition because they were trying to make peace. By the end of 1786 the United States claimed all of the Northwest except the Virginia and Connecticut reserves and passed an ordinance to set up an Indian Department, but that winter the tribes held two conferences and repudiated the treaties made at the forts Stanwix, McIntosh, and Finney. In the spring Congress ordered the garrisons strengthened at Ft. Pitt, Ft. McIntosh, Ft. Harmar, Ft. Finney, Ft. Steuben, and Vincennes.

In December 1786 the Iroquois confederation held a grand council in Detroit and sent an address to Congress complaining they had been left out of the peace treaty of 1783. In a compromise that month New York claimed territory between the Hudson River and Lake Ontario while Massachusetts held six million acres west of Fort Stanwix. In 1786 and 1787 the Shawnees helped the Creeks and Cherokees drive Americans from disputed lands in Georgia and Tennessee.

On January 25, 1787 Governor Randolph of Virginia proclaimed land north of the Ohio open for Continental Army veterans. A surveyor’s office opened on August 1, and by September 6, 1788 nearly 1.5 million acres had been located, leaving one million acres of Continental warrants outstanding.

On July 13, 1787 Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance. That month Manasseh Cutler made a deal with Col. William Duer of the Board of Treasury that gave the Ohio Company 1,500,000 acres at eight cents an acre. The 1787 Ordinance established three phases of becoming a state. They were under a governor until they had 5,000 men. Then they could elect a legislature to share power with the governor and his council. When a territory passed 60,000 inhabitants, it could apply to be a state on equal terms with the other states. The third section guaranteed freedom of worship, representation by population, jury trials, common law, habeas corpus, and private contracts. Slavery was prohibited, and laws protecting aristocratic inheritance were banned. On October 5 General Arthur St. Clair was appointed governor, and Winthrop Sargent of the Ohio Company became secretary of the territory. In the first public auction land brought in $176,000. The Company sent parties ahead in April to found the town of Marietta near Fort Harmar. The politician John Cleves Symnes purchased a million acres, but such speculation hindered development of the frontier by raising prices for others.

In June 1787 Creeks, Cherokees, Shawnees, and other nations met in Alabama country, and in August they began attacking Cumberland settlements. That month South Carolina ceded its narrow strip in the west, leaving only Georgia with western territory. By the end of 1787 newspapers reported that all the state laws conflicting with the treaty with Britain had been repealed, and so the British no longer had an excuse for maintaining their posts at Oswego, Niagara, Detroit, and Michilimackinac. In 1788 the Spanish began letting American ships paying duties use the Mississippi River.

During the summer of 1787 revolutionary committees of correspondence were active in Nashville, Holston, Franklin, Kentucky, and western Pennsylvania. General James Wilkinson tried to get Kentuckians to join him in a conspiracy with the Spanish Governor Miro whom he met in New Orleans; but that idea was not popular with Americans, and King Carlos III reversed the policy. Most settlers in Kentucky owned no land while enormous tracts were held by speculators who did not live there. On September 22 a Kentucky convention voted to accept the separation terms proposed by Virginia. On July 3, 1788 a convention submitted the admission of Kentucky as a state to the new government under the federal Constitution. The population of Kentucky had increased to about 66,000.

In February 1788 John Tipton and state officers seized slaves from John Sevier for the North Carolina taxes he owed. On February 29 Richard Winne of South Carolina became the Superintendent of the Southern Indians, but violence was erupting. Dragging Canoe’s Cherokee brothers attacked settlements in May by the Tennessee River, and Sevier led the retaliation. He tried to revive the state of Franklin in western North Carolina; but even Spain would not recognize it, and it collapsed before the end of the year. In August 250 men of the Franklin militia accused Old Tassel and Hanging Maw of murdering Col. William Christian and John Donelson, and they were eventually killed under a flag of truce. On September 1 Congress forbade whites from intruding on Cherokee territory. North Carolina’s Governor Samuel Johnston arrested Sevier for treason in October, but he escaped. On January 12, 1789 Sevier defeated Cherokees in the mountain passes. That year he was elected to the North Carolina Senate as a Federalist, and the legislature pardoned him. The North Carolina Assembly ceded its remaining western lands to Congress.

Governor St. Clair negotiated two treaties at Fort Harmar in January 1789. The first gave the Six Nations of the Iroquois similar terms to the Fort Stanwix treaty of 1784 while the second promised the western nations what was in the Fort McIntosh treaty.

American Frontier 1789-1801

Federalist United States 1789-1801


1. “Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom” in The Annals of America, Volume 3 1784-1796, p. 53-54.
2. Quoted in Main Currents in American Thought by Vernon Louis Parrington, Volume 1, p. 387-388.
3. “Government” by Noah Webster, American Magazine, 1 (1787-88), 75, 206 quoted in The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787 by Gordon S. Wood, p. 411.
4. Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison, p. 654.
5. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 ed. Max Farrand, Volume 3, p. 85.
6. Quoted in The Debate on the Constitution, Part One, p. 56.
7. Ibid., p. 165.
8. Ibid., p. 168.

Copyright © 2011 by Sanderson Beck

American Revolutions 1744-1817 has been published as a book .
For ordering information, please click here.

AMERICA to 1744

South America 1744-1817
Mexico and the Caribbean 1744-1817
English and French Conflict in America 1744-54
English, French, and Indian Wars 1754-63
American Resistance to British Taxes 1763-75
American War of Independence
Confederation and a Constitution 1784-89
Federalist United States 1789-1801
Jeffersonian Democracy 1801-1809
Madison and the War of 1812
Canada under the British 1763-1817
Summary and Evaluation of American Revolutions 1744-1817

World Chronology
Chronology of America to 1817

BECK index