Articles of Confederation

Constitution Sunday: Governor Samuel Huntington on the Need for Coercive National Power

Connecticut Ratifying Convention. January 9, 1788 When Connecticut’s Governor, Samuel Huntington, rose to speak at the state’s ratifying convention, he rose to second a motion by General Parsons to “assent to, ratify, and adopt the Constitution,” but in seconding the motion, Governor Huntington provided perspective and context for why he was asking the state’s delegates […]

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Constitution Sunday: Oliver Ellsworth defends the Taxing Power and Comments on Dual Sovereignties and Judicial Review

Connecticut Ratifying Convention January 7, 1788 When the Connecticut Ratifying Convention assembled, there were objections against the draft Constitution on the basis that it was “despotic” in its bestowing great power upon Congress: to the objectors, Congress having both the power of the purse and the power of the sword was intolerable. Oliver Ellsworth, however, […]

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Constitution Sunday: The Weaknesses of Brutus Exposed: “A Citizen of Philadelphia” [Pelatiah Webster]

The Weaknesses of Brutus Exposed: “A Citizen of Philadelphia” [Pelatiah Webster] Philadelphia, November 8, 1787 Following is a series of excerpts from Pelatiah Webster’s article published in Philadelphia: “This government must have a supreme power, superior to and able to controul each and all of its parts. ‘Tis essential to all governments, that such a power

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The Panic of 1819

America’s reliance on cotton as an economic staple presented an opportunity for prosperity and an accompanying risk. In late 1818, the value of cotton fell as supply outpaced demand and “London banks decided there was no longer a need to extend more credit.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 142. Then, […]

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A Supreme Sovereign Power

Despite the fact that the Articles of Confederation loosely held the states together, there was still a remarkable union achieved. There were privileges and immunities granted, “reciprocity of extradition and judicial proceedings among the states,” no “travel and discriminatory trade restrictions between states, and the substantial grant of powers to the Congress in Article 9 […]

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Coalescing All the States

Americans had a keen understanding of the idea, popularized by Montesquieu, that “only a small homogeneous society whose interests were essentially similar could properly sustain a republican government.” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 356. This idea created a fundamental problem for America: it was not a small homogeneous society, and it was rapidly […]

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