Unit 3: Constitution

General Timeline
General Map

Map # 1: US

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Course Content

Creation of the Constitution:


Constitutional Convention

Differing Opinions Among Delegates

  • All delegates initially believed in a strong national government

    • Believed in having a national tax instead of state tax

    • Wanted one national policy instead of 13 smaller state policies

    • Wanted a strong national government that can stop rebellions & mobs

      • One example is Shays's Rebellion (1786-87)

  • Alexander Hamilton & James Madison wanted an interstate convention to write a new Constitution

    • Held a meeting at Annapolis in 1786, but only delegates from 5 states came

    • Later held a meeting at Philadelphia State House in 1787

      • Not many states were interested, but after Shays's Rebellion, they decided to come​

  • From May to Sept 1787, members from 12 states (no RI) met at Philadelphia as the Constitutional Convention

    • These were known as "Founding Fathers," were very young, well educated in modern affairs

    • George Washington presided over the meeting

    • Unanimously decided that a strong national gov was needed instead of strong state govs

  • Edmund Randolph & James Madison of Virginia proposed the Virginia Plan

    • Wanted 3 branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial)

    • Wanted 2 legislative houses

      • Lower house would have members proportional to the state's population​

      • Upper house would be elected by lower house

    • William Paterson of NJ advocated for small states & believed the Virginia Plan to be unfair

      • Wanted one house, with each state getting equal representation

    • The Convention made concessions: Upper house would be elected by state legislatures & each state would have at least one representative​

  • Question of slavery remained: Do they count as the state's population or property to be taxed?


The Final Compromise

  • Benjamin Franklin encouraged the delegates to not give up & come up with a compromise

    • Delegates created the "grand committee," consisting of one delegates from each state

  • The "grand committee" created the Great Compromise

    • Legislation has 2 houses

      • Lower house (House) is based on a state's population​

      • Upper house (Senate) has 2 reps from each state

    • Each slave counts as 3/5 of a person when determining property tax & total population

    • This was approved in July 1787

  • Also reluctantly came to a compromise on slavery

    • Northerns believed slavery to be unethical

    • Southerners believed abolishing slavery would harm their economy

    • Compromise was that no tax would be put on exports, congress can't tax more than $10 per imported slave, Congress can't interfere w/ slave trade for 20 years


The Final Constitution & Its Problems

  • After all the compromises, James Madison and others had to actually write the constitution

  • One main idea was that the power of the constitution came from the people, not the government

    • Starts with "We the people..."

    • National gov has broad & supreme powers, but each state & the people also have their powers​

  • Constitution also balanced power among all 3 branches to prevent the gov from becoming tyrannical

    • Each branch (executive, legislative, judicial) could "check" the power of the other branches

    • Both legislations (Senate & House) can check each others power

    • Prevents one branch from becoming too powerful

    • Idea came from Enlightenment thinker Baron de Montesquieu

    • Wanted to protect America from despotism in the English government

  • Limited the power of the people so that the representatives are indirectly elected by the people

  • Final Constitution was signed on 9/17/1787

    • Now, each state had to approve it & join the union​

  • Constitution served the whites (mostly males), but blacks & Indians weren't given many rights

Ratification of the Constitution

  • After the delegates signed the Constitution, each state had to approve it to join the Union

    • Most states organized Constitutional Conventions to approve it

    • Delegates were divided among Federalists & Anti-Federalists

  • Federalists wanted the Constitution, favored a strong national government

    • Led by Washington & Franklin, had really strong leadership

    • Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote The Federalist Papers to promote Federalism

  • Opponents of the Constitution were Anti-Federalists

    • Believed a central gov would increase taxes, harm individual liberties, and produce a dictatorship

    • Wanted a Bill of Rights, stating the fundamental rights of all people

  • Ratification started quickly as most states approved of the Constitution

    • 9 states had approved it (which was needed for it to go into effect), but NY and VA didn't yet​

      • As the largest states, it didn't make sense to exclude them​

      • They later narrowly approved the Constitution

    • RI opposed the Constitution as it was small & didn't receive equal representation

  • First elections happened in 1789, Washington became president, John Adams became VP

    • Ratified 10 amendments to the Constitution by 1791, which became the Bill of Rights

    • Later organized Judicial courts & appointed 6 justices to Supreme Court & created district courts

  • Congress later created 3 executive departments

    • Hamilton was secretary of treasury

    • Jefferson was secretary of state​

    • Henry Knox was secretary of war

    • Edmund Randolph was attorney general


State-Building After the Constitution:


Federalists vs Republicans


  • After ratification of the Constitution, Federalists & anti-Federalists (known as Republicans) had differing views regarding legislation​

  • Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of Treasury, was a leading federalist who wanted a central finance system

    • Wanted nat'l gov to assume all state debts & issue bonds to all speculators (people who invest in bonds)

      • National gov would keep issuing new bonds while repaying the old bonds

    • Wanted a central bank

      • Would act as a treasury for the nat'l gov

      • Can give loans to small businesses

  • Hamilton wanted to raise taxes to fund the national treasury

    • Wanted a tax on all liquor, angering many whiskey farmers (especially in NC, PA, and VA)

    • Wanted a tax on all imports to protest domestic manufacturing industries​​

      • Wrote "Report on Manufactures" in 1791, presented it to Congress to promote domestic manufacturing

  • Overall, Federalists wanted a strong nat'l gov ruled by the wealthy & upper class that fosters a thriving industry & gives the US importance in the world

  • Congress slightly disagreed on assuming all state debts, but they later approved it

    • Believed that states w/ little debt would have to pay for the states with lots of debt

    • VA (a state w/ little debt) later approved the law, contingent that the capital be moved closer to it

      • On 1790, the capital was moved to Washington, D.C., between VA and MD

    • Created a State Bank in 1791

    • With the new policies, the speculators (people who invest in bonds) and merchants profited



  • Republicans were led by Madison & Jefferson

    • Disagreed w/ Federalists, believed they were wielding too much power & were corrupt like the British

    • The Republican party created Republican committees & conventions in each state

  • Republicans wanted in decentralized agrarian republic

    • Hated when industry is concentrated in few places

    • Believed big cities to be bad as they have mobs and lots of landless workers

    • Wanted a decentralized society with small businesses & small landowners

  • Differences in Federalists & Republicans can be seen in their reaction to French Revolution

    • Federalists hated the French Revolution

    • Republicans praised it, believed the Jacobins (the Revolutionary Party) to be good

  • Washington claimed to be neutral although he was closer to Federalism

    • Won a 2nd term in 1792


Consolidating Internal Power

  • Many farmers in the Western regions hated the tax on all liquor & distilleries

    • Some farmers from Western PA organized the Whiskey Rebellion (1794), attacking tax collectors, refusing to pay taxes

      • Washington organized a huge militia to disperse this rebellion​

  • To gain allegiance among farmers, Washington added new states in Western lands to the Union

    • NC finally approved the Constitution in 1789

    • RI approved Constitution in 1790

    • VT joined in 1791 when NY & NH gave up their claims to it

    • KY joined in 1792 when VA gave up its claims to it

    • TN joined in 1796 as NC gave its claims to it

  • National gov struggled to decide the fate for Indians

    • Ordinances of 1784-1787 created many conflicts, but the gov had eliminated most conflicts w/ Indians

    • Indians were somewhat excluded in Constitution & weren't regarded as US citizens

    • Relationship with Indians was defined later on in a series of treaties


Diplomatic Relations

Maintaining Neutrality against France & Spain

  • In French Revolution, as Revolutionary Party declared war against Britain & its allies in 1793, US worked to declare neutrality

  • However, French diplomat Edmond Genet already arrived in the US & got US to help the French

    • Got American Gen. George Rogers Clark to lead expeditions to Spain​

    • Got American shipowners to help French navy

    • Negotiated to dock French ships in US ports

    • Ignored Washington's policies of neutrality

  • By the time Washington sought to end Genet's involvement, Genet had already retired to the US

  • In 1794, Britain started seizing American merchant ships in the French West Indies

    • Created anti-British feeling in the US

    • Hamilton didn't want war w/ Britain as that would stop British imports, which generated lots of taxes


Jay's Treaty & Pinckney's Treaty

  • Washington sent John Jay to Britain to negotiate a treaty to end British assaults on American ships

    • Negotiated Jay's Treaty (1794)

      • Recognized US sovereignty

      • Created strong trade relationships with Britain

    • Many hated Jay's Treaty, especially Republicans, as it was Pro-Britain & Anti-France

      • In the end, Senate ratified it​

  • Spain believed US & Britain would ally against Spain, so US sent Thomas Pinckney to Spain to negotiate peace

    • Negotiated Pinckney's Treaty (1795)

      • Resolved territorial disputes in FL, gave Spain all lands south of 31st parallel in FL

      • Allowed US ships to sail through Mississippi River & use Port of New Orleans


The Decline of the Federalists:


Election of John Adams (1796)

  • Washington decided not to run for a 3rd term

    • In his farewell address, he attempted to bring a vision of unity among Republicans & Federalists

  • Thomas Jefferson became Republican nominee

  • Federalists had 2 choices: Hamilton or John Adams

    • Hamilton was more extreme & many hated him

    • Adams was a bit moderate & didn't associate himself with the extreme Federalist ideas

    • Adams became the nominee

  • At this time, nominee w/ most votes becomes president, nominee w/ 2nd most votes becomes VP

    • Thomas Pinckney was Adams's running mate

    • Federalists were divided among Pinckney & Adams, so not all Federalists voted for both of them

    • Adams received the most votes, but Jefferson received 2nd most

      • Adams became Pres, Jefferson became VP

      • Created awkward situation w/ Federalist pres & Republican VP, was very inefficient

  • Adams was not a strong president, Federalists were very divided, and Republican opposition was strong


XYZ Affair (1797) & Quasi War with France

During French Revolution, France was angered that US signed peace treaties w/ Britain & Spain. France started attacking US ships at sea

John Adams sent Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (brother of Thomas Pinckney) to France as a diplomat, but France refused to accept him

Adams sent 2 more people, John Marshall & Elbridge Gerry, to join Charles C. Pinckney in France

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Before war gets bigger, France sought peace. Napoleon agreed to peace agreement in 1800

In response, Congress allowed American ships to attack French ships & created the Dept. of Navy. Americans captured 85 French ships (Quasi War, 1798-1800)

French agents refused to accept them, forced them to pay a bribe. French sent a report to US Senate, labeling the diplomats as X, Y, and Z (XYZ Affair)

Alien & Sedition Acts (1798)

  • Federalists gained popularity after successful war w/ France

    • Sought to maintain this popularity by suppressing Republicans

  • Passed Alien Acts (1798), making it harder to become US citizens

    • Many immigrants were Republicans​

    • It was harder for immigrants to gain citizenship & be able to vote

  • Later passed Sedition Acts (1798), allowing Congress to prosecute anyone who opposes the government

    • Many Republicans were distributing anti-Federalist propaganda & some ended up in jail

  • Madison & Jefferson made the Virginia & Kentucky Resolutions, seeking to nullify those acts

    • Believed that Congress is a compact/contract between the states & only has certain powers

    • States can nullify any legislation they believe exceeds those powers delegated to Congress

    • Only KY and VA actually nullified the acts

    • News of these resolutions spread nationally, and protests broke out, causing the acts to be repealed


Election of 1800

  • Election of 1800 was between Adams & Jefferson

    • Federalists portrayed Jefferson as a radical that wanted a reign of terror like French Revolution

    • Republicans portrayed Adams as a dictator that'll take away human liberties

    • Aaron Burr was Jefferson's running mate​

  • The Tammany Society, a political group in NYC, promoted republican ideals

    • Helped win support for Republicans throughout NY, one of the main factors in Jefferson's victory

  • Election was a tie between Burr and Jefferson

    • Candidate w/ most votes becomes pres, candidate w/ 2nd most votes becomes VP

    • Congress had to decide the pres & VP in case of a tie

      • This Congress was the Federalist congress under Adams as the new Republican congress only convenes after Inauguration Day

      • Thought about electing Burr as pres & gaining Federalist concessions from him

      • Later realized that Burr was unfit & made Jefferson the pres

  • Federalists controlled the judiciary & wanted to keep it

    • Adams & Congress modified the Supreme Court to maintain a Federalist majority​

    • Stayed up the night before Jefferson's inauguration to appoint court justices ("midnight appointments")

  • Republicans viewed their win as saving US from tyranny