Articles of Confederation

Constitution Sunday: Nathaniel Barrell, a “Plain Husbandman,” Warns of the Passion for Power, but Favors Ratification

February 5, 1788 Massachusetts Ratifying Convention The draft Constitution had its parts that inspired and other parts that terrified. Nathaniel Barrell, either as a sign of his modesty or as a way to relate to his fellow residents of Massachusetts, claimed that he would not speak with the eloquence of a Cicero but would articulate […]

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Constitution Sunday: Samuel Nasson’s “Pathetick Apostrophe” to Liberty

Massachusetts Ratifying Convention February 1, 1788 Changing a system—particularly a system about which one is fond—is difficult. For some, the system that the Articles of Confederation created was an ideal one as it permitted states to maintain a level of autonomy that the proposed Constitution would subsume. For Samuel Nasson, at the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, […]

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The Revolution: Thomas Jefferson on the Draft Articles of Confederation (Part I)

The Autobiography. By: Thomas Jefferson. July 30, 1776 – July 31, 1776 In Thomas Jefferson’s autobiography, he wrote of the debate and adoption of the Articles of Confederation. While the country has long learned that the Constitution is far superior to those Articles, the reasons why must extend beyond “a stronger national government was needed […]

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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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