|AP US History Document based Question
Directions: The following question requires you to construct a coherent essay that integrates your interpretation A-H and your knowledge of the period referred to in the question. High scores will be earned only by essays that both cite key pieces of evidence from the documents and draw on substantial outside knowledge of the period.
Analyze the major concerns generated by the writing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Confine yourself to the period 1786-1792.
Source: Federalist Papers #10, Madison
Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority. However anxiously we may wish that these complaints had no foundation, the evidence, of known facts will not permit us to deny that they are in some degree true.
Source: Federalist Papers #30, Hamilton
IT HAS been already observed that the federal government ought to possess the power of providing for the support of the national forces; in which proposition was intended to be included the expense of raising troops, of building and equipping fleets, and all other expenses in any wise connected with military arrangements and operations. But these are not the only objects to which the jurisdiction of the Union, in respect to revenue, must necessarily be empowered to extend. It must embrace a provision for the support of the national civil list; for the payment of the national debts contracted, or that may be contracted; and, in general, for all those matters which will call for disbursements out of the national treasury. The conclusion is, that there must be interwoven, in the frame of the government, a general power of taxation, in one shape or another.
Money is, with propriety, considered as the vital principle of the body politic; as that which sustains its life and motion, and enables it to perform its most essential functions. A complete power, therefore, to procure a regular and adequate supply of it, as far as the resources of the community will permit, may be regarded as an indispensable ingredient in every constitution. From a deficiency in this particular, one of two evils must ensue; either the people must be subjected to continual plunder, as a substitute for a more eligible mode of supplying the public wants, or the government must sink into a fatal atrophy, and, in a short course of time, perish.
Source: Federalist Papers #38, Madison
A third does not object to the government over individuals, or to the extent proposed, but to the want of a bill of rights. A fourth concurs in the absolute necessity of a bill of rights, but contends that it ought to be declaratory, not of the personal rights of individuals, but of the rights reserved to the States in their political capacity. A fifth is of opinion that a bill of rights of any sort would be superfluous and misplaced, and that the plan would be unexceptionable but for the fatal power of regulating the times and places of election.
Source: John Jay, Letter to George Washington, June 27, 1786.
To oppose popular prejudices, to censure the proceedings, and expose the improprieties of States, is an unpleasant task, but it must be done. Our affairs seem to lead to some crisis, some revolution–something that I cannot foresee or conjecture. I am uneasy and apprehensive; more so than during the war. Then we had a fixed object, and though the means and time of obtaining it were often problematical, yet I did firmly believe we should ultimately succeed, because I was convinced that justice was with us. The case is now altered; we are going and doing wrong, and therefore I look forward to evils and calamities, but without being able to guess at the instrument, nature, or measure of them.
Source: Jefferson Writings, Letter to James Madison, Objections to the Constitution, December 20, 1787
I will now add what I don not like. First the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly & without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal & unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land & not by the law of nations . . . Let me add that a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, & what no just government should refuse, or rest on inferences. The second feature I dislike, and greatly dislike, is the abandonment in every instance of the necessity of rotation in office, and most particularly in the case of the President. Experience concurs with reason in concluding that the first magistrate will always be re-elected if the Constitution permits it. He is then an officer for life. This once observed, it becomes of so much consequence to certain nations to have a friend or a foe at the head of our affairs that they will interfere with money & with arms . . . If once elected, and at a second or third election out voted by one or two votes, he will pretend false votes, foul play, hold possession of the reins of government, be supported by the States voting for him, especially if they are the central ones lying in a compact body themselves & separating their opponents.
Source: "Brutus" Letter IV, Nov. 29, 1787, Anti-federalist Papers
The great art, therefore, in forming a good constitution, appears to be this, so to frame it, as that those to whom the power is committed shall be subject to the same feelings, and aim at the same objects as the people do, who transfer to them their authority. There is no possible way to effect this but by an equal, full and fair representation; this, therefore, is the great desideratum in politics. However fair an appearance any government may make, though it may possess a thousand plausible articles and be decorated with ever so many ornaments, yet if it is deficient in this essential principle of a full and just representation of the people, it will be only like a painted sepulcher -- For, without this it cannot be a free government, let the administration of it be good or ill, it still will be a government, not according to the will of the people, but according to the will of a few.
Source: "Brutus" Letter XVI April 10, 1788, "John DeWitt" Letter III Nov. 5, 1787, Anti-federalists Papers
They uniformly exercise all the powers granted to them, and ninety-nine in a hundred are for grasping at more. It is this passionate thirst for power, which has produced different branches to exercise different departments and mutual checks upon those branches. The aristocratical hath ever been found to have the most influence, and the people in most countries have been articulately attentive in providing checks against it. Let us see if it is the case here. -- A President, a Senate, and a House of Representatives are proposed. The Judicial Department is at present out of the question, being separated excepting in impeachments. The Legislative is divided between the People who are the Democratical, and the Senate who are the Aristocratical part, and the Executive between the same Senate and the President who represents the Monarchial Branch. -- In the construction of this System, their interests are put in opposite scales. If they are exactly balanced, the Government will remain perfect; if there is a preponderancy, it will firmly prevail. When great and extraordinary powers are vested in any man, or body of men, which in their
exercise, may operate to the oppression of the people, it is of high importance that powerful checks should be formed to prevent the abuse of it.
Source: Bill of Rights, 1791
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.
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.
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.
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.
Source: The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.--vol. 29
Mount Vernon, September 24, 1787.
Dear Sir: In the first moment after my return I take the liberty of sending you a copy of the Constitution which the foederal Convention has submitted to the People of these States. I accompany it with no observations; your own Judgment will at once discover the good, and the exceptionable parts of it. and your experience of the difficulties, which have ever arisen when attempts have been made to reconcile such variety of Interests and local prejudices as pervade the several States will render explanation unnecessary. I wish the Constitution which is offered had been made more perfect, but I sincerely believe it is the best that could be obtained at this time; and, as a Constitutional door is opened for amendment hereafter, the adoption of it under the present circumstances of the Union is in my opinion desirable.
Whenever an important event occurs there is always a very god reason for it. It is usually a concern or the people involved with the issue are looking to make their lives better in some way. This is the case with the constitution of the United States and the ratification thereof. When dealing with the constitution the founding fathers had many concerns that were involved when trying to ratify it. Social, political, and economic concerns were the main categories that were dealt with during this time period. Because of all the problems they were facing at the time, and all the concerns they had for the future, the founding fathers ratified the constitution believing that it would make their country better for the people.
Political concerns were very prevalent when dealing with the ratification of the Constitution. Ever since the Virginia plan which called for two houses, one which is made up based on population, and the other made up by elections of the lower house, there have been major political controversies. When writing the constitution this was considered greatly. In the Anti-federalist Papers "Brutus" says, "The great art, therefore, in forming a good constitution, appears to be this, so to frame it . . . There is no possible way to effect this but by an equal, full and fair representation." This shows how there was great concern for the type of representation the U.S. people would receive. Because of this the founders said how the country would be divided in the constitution. Edmund Randolph of Virginia said A national government . . . ought to be established consisting of a supreme legislative, executive, and judiciary branches. Also "Brutus" states that "If they (the branches of government) are exactly balanced, the Government will remain perfect; if there is a preponderancy, it will firmly prevail." This letter shows how the fear of an unbalanced government was very large during this time period. The way the founding fathers set up the government in the constitution shows how they took great care not to unbalance power and how this was another primary concern when ratifying the constitution.
Economic issues were also concerns when dealing with the constitution of the United States. John Jay’s concerns were that "our affairs seem to lead to some crisis, some revolution-something that I cannot foresee or conjecture. I am uneasy and apprehensive; more so than during the war." What Jay could not foresee became events like Shays’s Rebellion. Shays’s Rebellion started because of money problems. They wanted paper money, tax relief and a memoriam on debts. Also, Alexander Hamilton called for a bank. Hamilton said, "Money is, with propriety, considered as the vital principle of the body politic; as that which sustains its life and motion, and enable it to perform its most essential functions. A complete power, therefore, to procure a regular and adequate supply of it, as far as the resources of the community will permit." In this it shows how the people wanted to set rules on how money would be handled. Hamilton shows his concern and it is responded to in the constitution in Amendment Eight which says that "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed." In this it shows how the concern for fines and money related issues was very prevalent.
Finally, social concerns were a main aspect of problems for the men that ratified the constitution. During Shays’s Rebellion there was discontent with the Articles of Confederation. From the "Great Compromise" there were great issues that were resolved. Jefferson and Madison saw problems like these and reacted to them with solutions like the Bill of Rights. In Amendment One of the Bill of Rights it says that "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 peaceable to assemble, and to petition the government of a redress of grievances." This shows how Madison, Jefferson and the other founding fathers saw problems in society and reacted to them by putting a Bill of Rights into effect in addition to the Constitution. In a letter to James Madison, Jefferson said, " Let me add that a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inferences." This is very important in showing how these men wanted a set of specific rules for the people and how the Articles of Confederation were not enough to ensure freedom for them. Finally when Madison states that "A fourth concurs in the absolute necessity of a bill of rights, but contends that it ought to be declaratory, not of the personal rights of individuals, but of the rights reserved to the States in their political capacity" and in "that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the right of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority." This is another example that shows how there was great concern for the rights of the people. They designed a bill of rights that would strengthen the Constitution. All of these social concerns were very important to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
Social, political, and economic issues all dealt with the problems that the founding fathers faced when ratifying the constitution. Because the founding fathers saw all the problems that they were faced with they also knew how to incorporate this into the constitution. The Bill of Rights was needed to satisfy the social issues that concerned the American people. The founding fathers realized that an equal balance of powers would be needed to control the power of the different areas of the government. Representation was a major concern of the states. The Constitution solved that problem by making an agreeable compromise that would satisfy the demands of all the states. The writers of the Constitution used their knowledge of the concerns of the people to create a document that would satisfy the new nation.
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