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Notes: Give Me Liberty! An American History: Chapter 7

Eric Foner: Book Outline Notes for Give Me Liberty! An American History Second Edition

Eric Foner: Book Outline Notes for Give Me Liberty! An American History Second Edition


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Chapter 7 - Founding a Nation (1783-1789)

Focus Questions

  1. What were the achievements and problems of the Confederation government?
  2. What were the major debates that gave shape to the Constitution?
  3. What were the purpose and meaning of the Bill of Rights as it emerged from the ratification process?
  4. What did “We the People” mean in the new nation fro Indians and African-Americans?

Chapter 7 Notes

  1. Founding a Nation - Introduction
  1. June and July of 1788 - Everyone in AM was celebrating the ratification of the US Constitution. For this time, all social classes were forgotten
  2. The parads testified to the strong popoulary support for the Const in the nation’s cities....”May commerce flourish and industry be rewarded”
  3. AM was very different from other countries: had advantages and disadvantages...also wasn’t governed by force like other countries.
  1. Advantages: very large, isolated from Old World, youthful population to grow, and a broad distribution of property ownership and literacy
  2. Disadvantages: Area was so large that it was hard to secure it all. SP might could have closed New Orleans to commerce

America under the Confederation

  1. The Articles of Confederation
  1. First written const of US, was designed more for mutual defense (“a firm league of friendship”) among the states
  2. Major decisions needed 9/13 to agree to make something happen, states were independent.
  3. Congress could coin money but could levy taxes or regulate commerce
  4. However, Congress under the AoC did mng to establish national control over land west of the 13 states

Congress and the West

  1. Establishing boundaries of existing stat es to the Mississippi was not easy...100k Indians inhabited the region.
  2. Congress believed that the Indians forfeited their right to the western land when they joined the BR in the war
  1. They did this through treaties with the Indians

Dealing with regulating settlement in the west, Congress didn’t know whether or not to charge for the land and make $$ or what...Land companies hoped to profit by buying it and selling it to farmers/colonists. Settlers and the West

  1. Many settlers wanted to travel west to get lands for cheap or for free.
  2. Kentucky - Many ppl used land they thought was their’s, but then there were a ton of lawsuits where those ppl lose land they thought was theirs.
  3. Leaders made strict rules for those settling in the West b/c they didn’t want troubles with Indians to stir up

The Land Ordinance

  1. Drafted by Jefferson, the Ordinance of 1784 established stages of self-government for the West.
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  1. Region divided into districts governed by Congress then eventually became states

Ordinance of 1785 - regulated land sales in the “Old Northwest Region” (north of the Ohio River) Land sold at $1 per acre, sections of 1 mile (640 acres).

  1. One section per township = to provide for public education

$640 was still out of reach for some. Had to buy from land speculators. Ordinance of 1787 - establishment of 3-5 states north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi Northwest Ordinance - first recognition of Indian lands. Also prohibited slavery in Northwest The confederation’s weaknesses

  1. Many AM’s thought the achievements of the AoC outweighed it’s failings. But it lacked a secure source of revenue, imported more than exported.
  1. This undercut the AM craftsmen. States printed lots of money to make up for it (state-wise), also enacted laws postponing debt collection

Shay’s Rebellion

  1. Daniel Shays = leader. He led debt0ridden farmers b/c Mass firmly resisted printing paper money. Farmers/participants were acting in spirit of the AM Rev
  2. Gov James Bowdoin sent an army there, 1,000 arrested and rebels = dispersed
  3. Thomas Jefferson (from Paris) - said that a little rebellion is necessary...eventually needed a new gov
  4. Idea that came into play - Liberty could be threatened bt the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power, other words - too much power in ppl’s hands can destroy liberty.

Nationalists in the 1780s

  1. Madison - Virginian and lifelong disciple and ally of Thomas Jefferson, was for stronger national government
  2. Alexander Hamilton - Came to N AM from the West Indies - most vigorous proponent of an “energetic” government that would enable the new nation to become a powerful commercial and diplomatic presence in world affairs.
  1. Said that liberty required proper degree of authority. Him and Madison were “nation-builders”

All believed in a need for a stronger national government Delegates from 6 states met in Philly - talked about regulating interstate and international commerce A New Constitution

  1. Introduction
  1. 55 men Gathered for the National Convention. Jefferson and Adams were diplomats in Europe, but George Washington was able to take part
  2. Nearly all the people were prosperous by the standards of the day. They were legit to say the VERY least.

The structure of Government

  1. Delegates agreed on many points:
  1. Creating a legislature, an executive, and a national judiciary - now could raise $$ w/out relying on states.

Creation of a two house legislature: ended up w/ the Senate and H of Reps so that small states were still influential. Reps chosen 2 yrs, Senate every 6 yrs The Limits of Democracy

  1. Choosing of the H of Reps represented an expansion of democracy
  2. Ensured that the Senate was composed of only the most prominent citizens
  3. The H of Reps was actually made quite smaller (only 65 at start)
  4. Pres elected by electoral ppl = chosen either by its legislature of popular vote
  1. Was supposed to cast two votes for president, with the leader becoming president and second place becoming vice president

The Division and Separation of Powers

  1. Took 4 months to write the less than 4,000 word outline for the new government. It embodied two principles
  1. Federalism (division of powers
  2. Checks and Balances - btwn the diff branches of government (sep. of powers)

Const. declared national legislation the “Supreme Law of the Land” President charged with enforcing law and commanding the military Congress could now levy taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce, declare war, deal with foreign nat ions and Indians, and promote the “general welfare” The Debate over Slavery

  1. Many who gathered in Philly were slaveholders. “Slave” not in the Const. Including it would “contaminate the glorious fabric of American liberty”
  2. Madison said the new const supported it.
  3. Const prohibited Congress from abolishing the AF slave trade for 20 years
  4. Ppl from South Carolina strongly defended slavery.
  5. In Philly Convention, they agreed on: the fugitive slave clause, the 3/5ths clause, and the electoral college

Slavery in the Const

  1. January 1st, 1808, Congress immediately prohibited the slave trade
  2. Fugitive slave clause - accorded slave laws “extraterritoriality” - the condition of Slaves were still slaves if they escaped to a place where there was no slavery
  3. B/c of the 3/5ths clause, the slaveholders helped get the H of Reps up.
  1. Example: First 16 presidents, only 4 were not slaveholders

The Final Document

  1. Governor Morris put some final touches on the US Constitution; all things that the A of C did not have
  2. Constitution created a new framework for AM development

The Ratification Debate and the Origin of the Bill of Rights

  1. The Federalist
  1. Hamilton, Madison, and Jay composed these (85) essays to generate support for the Constitution. They wrote 50, 30, and 5, respectively.
  1. Hamilton - said that government was n expression of freedom, and tyranny was almost impossible w/ checks/balances. Said it was the “perfect balance btwn liberty and power”

“Extend the Sphere”

  1. Madison (writer of the Federalist #10 and 51) showed that government should be based upon the will of the people, but those ppl were shown to be to dangerous enthusiasms.

He showed that although gov is based on will of ppl, ppl shouldn’t be given too much power (essentially)

  1. Madison argued that the size of the US was, in fact, a weakness
  2. Main argument - America’s diversity (factionalism) was good b/c the “rights of the individuals” would be protected - no single one would ever be able to take over the gov and oppress the rest

The Anti-Federalists

  1. Opponents of ratification, didn’t have coherent leadership (some included Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Patrick Henry.
  2. Saw no need for a stronger central government
  3. Believed liberty “arises from the freedom of out institutions and the limited nature of our government”
  4. Also pointed out the lack of a Bill of Rights, which left unprotected rights such as trial by jury and freedom of speech.
  5. Federalists - were usually more prominent ppl/ppl connected w/ the marketplace
  6. Federalists just, overall, had much more power and influence than Anti-Feds

The Bill of Rights

  1. It’s an Anti-Federalist enduring legacy
  2. Madison believed this to be something that was “redundant or pointless”.
  1. However, Madison still presented Congress with a series of amendments known as the Bill of Rights

1st = 5 freedoms; 2 = right to bear arms; it was the unalienable rights Jefferson talked about. 9th = were any that were not talked about explicitly Unlike the Dec of Independence, which talks about divine providence, the Constitution is a purely secular document (no reference to god. It reinforced the idea that concentrated national power posed the greatest threat to freedom. The Bill of Rights did much to establish freedom of expression as a cornerstone of the popular of American understanding. “We the People”

  1. National Identity
  1. Very diverse population. All citizens (“We the People”) are to possess “the Blessings of Liberty” as a birthright and pass them on to “Posterity”
  2. The Constitution identifies three groups of people; Indians - treated as members of independent tribes and not part of the AM body public, “other persons” or slaves, and the “people”. Only the “people” had the freedoms.
  3. American Identity = Historians say it was both civic and ethnic nationalism
  1. Civic - nation as a community open to all those devoted to its pol institutions and values
  2. Ethnic - community of descent based on a shared ethnic heritage, language, and culture

Indians in the New Nation

  1. AM leaders agreed that West shouldn’t be left in Indian hands, but DISagreed about what to do with the Indians (their fate)
  2. Often a treaty was signed with small portion of Ind tribe, but whole tribe had to abide by it.
  3. Congress forbade the transfer of Indian land w/out federal approval
  4. Ohio River Valley battles
  1. Little Turtle defeated Am’s, but then the AM’s came back 3 yrs later (1794) w/ 3,000 troops troops at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. Led directly to the Treaty of Grenville of 1795, were Indians ceded Ohio and Indiana to the fed gov.
  2. Some ppl (Jefferson) believed that Indians were normal ppl who could be changed, but AM freedom in the Indian’s eyes was an “entire stranger to us”

Blacks and the Republic

  1. Free blacks - where’d they fit in? Some free blacks enjoyed at least some legal rights accorded to whites, but the majority of blacks were slaves
  2. Crevecoeur - Wrote Letters from an AM farmer - described the US as a “melting pot”
  3. Like Crevecoeur, many white AMs excluded blacks from their conception of the AM people
  4. Nationalization Act of 1790 offered the first legislative definition of AM nationalist...eventually restricted it from abroad to “free white persons”
  5. Saying “White” excluded a large amt of people from becoming naturalized

Jefferson, Slavery, and Race

  1. John Locke wrote that man’s liberty flowed from “his having reason”
  2. Jefferson didn’t want to degrade a whole race of people, so he voiced the idea “as a suspicion only”
  3. Jefferson believed people were shaped by their circumstances & surroundings
  4. A black man sent Jefferson workings about how he solved a mathematics thing, but Jefferson said that a white man must’ve helped him, and that ‘he wishes that a black man could be smart enough to do that’ (paraphrase)
  5. Jefferson believed slaves should have the enumerated rights, just not in AM (in the West Indies and AF was fine, but not AM)
  6. Jefferson died with a huge debt, thus making the gov take everything, including his massive amount of slaves

Principles of Freedom

  1. Race now emerged as a convenient justification for the existence of slavery in a land that claimed to be committed to freedom.
  2. “We the People” increasingly meant only white AM’s.
  3. Anonymous writer - “Principles of freedom, which embrace only half mankind, are only half systems.” Another = “Tell us not of principles. Those principles have been annihilated by the existence of slavery among us.”


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Sara on October 19, 2015:

Is there a reason that chapers 5 and 6 were left out?

Erik on October 21, 2013:

The notes were copied directly in from word, so if your having trouble reading them, I suggest copy and pasting them into word. It works really well, and I used the highlight tool to show the start of each focus question when I studied.

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