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Independence from Britain was more than just a severing of ties between the United States and its former mother country. It created the chance for the United States to establish its presence in the community of nations. Thus the American Revolution not only created the United States; it was the catalyst for the invention of American diplomacy.
Philadelphia was the commercial and cultural hub of the British colonies and is indelibly linked in Americans’ minds as the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the writing of the US Constitution.
Historians are generally agreed that if the Constitution had been put before the electorate for an up-and-down vote—a plebescite, in effect—it would not have been ratified. This essay considers how three large groups—African Americans, artisans, and small farmers—viewed the Constitution, and examines why these groups had deep reservations about its ability to steer the nation forward without compromising the founding principles of the American Revolution.
From long before the United States claimed its independence through revolution or established its governmental structure based on its grand Constitution, the contradiction of a freedom-loving people tolerating and profiting from depriving their fellow human beings of freedom was central to any understanding of the nation’s formation.
George Washington was among the first of America’s statesmen to recognize the flaws in the government under the Continental Congress and the Articles of Confederation. In the months following the new Constitution’s submission to the Congress he supported its ratification: the document was the best on which the Convention could agree, and a second such effort was not likely to do better.
A day after appointing a committee to write the Declaration of Independence, the Second Continental Congress named another committee to write the Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation represented an attempt to balance the sovereignty of the states with an effective national government.
How could our Founding Fathers balance the needs of the states as we created a national government?Materials The Virginia Plan, 1787 (PDF). Source: Virginia (Randolph) Plan as Amended (National Archives Microfilm Publication M866, 1 roll); The Official Records of the Constitutional Convention; Records of the Continental and...
The Evolution of the US Constitution: The Preambles to the Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution
This lesson plan is part of Gilder Lehrman’s series of Common Core State Standards–based teaching resources. These resources were developed to enable students to understand, summarize, and analyze original texts of historical significance. Through a step-by-step process, students will acquire the skills to analyze any primary or secondary source material.Overview
Students will have the opportunity to read, interpret, discuss, and compare portions of the Articles of Confederation and two versions of the...