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Lecture 8

HIST 2110Y Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: Grand Committee, Indentured Servant, Debt Relief

Course Code
HIST 2110Y
Jeremy Milloy

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November 6, 2013
“To Form A More Perfect Union”: Creating The Nation
This week, we turn our attention more closely to the construction of the new nation, a
process that, given the American rise to global power and the incredible influence of the
US Constitution, both in America and overseas, was one of the most important political
processes of the last three hundred years.
The Founding Fathers successfully created a political structure that would last for
centuries. However, the compromises and contradictions of this new structure would lead
to conflict and turmoil, as buried conflicts rose to the surface and Americans pressed the
United States to resolve these contradictions.
The Creation of State Continuations
After the Declaration of Independence, the colonies shed that old identity and
began referring to themselves as “states”
They created new constitutions to reflect this fact
Early constitutions created very weak governments with little central authority
This reflected their fear of tyrannical central government, like they believed
England to have suffered
However, these governments were too weak
Later governments provided for more state power
A separation of church and state; religion was important, but no one religion
Many northern states abolished slavery after the Revolution; every state but SC
and GA outlawed the importation of slaves from overseas
Although there was pressure to abolish slavery, this stalled due to the enormous
economic value of slaves and the inability of elites to imagine America without it
Thomas Jefferson captures the contradictions of elite beliefs about slavery in this
The strength of the government depended on the people who lived there
Independent citizens would make up the state
Founded based on equality – all men were created equal, based on Thomas Paine
A society different from Europe
Equality of opportunity, only for certain people, women and blacks were excluded
Continuations were written down, believed if you write things down then there
was no arguments, clear between black and white
Most states reworked their continuations to change the power
Reflected the new belief of religious freedom
Didn’t believe one religion was above another religion based on the governments
favour – no forcing different religions on anyone
Stop financing the church of England
Slavery was abolished in the northern states where slavery was weak, the southern
states were encouraged to band slavery

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November 6, 2013
Some people were not sure what would happen to the blacks if slavery was
abolished – could they be integrated into the system – feared the blacks would
hold a grudge and wouldn’t be good Americans
Jefferson thought blacks should be free although not in America, in Africa or the
Articles of Confederation Government and its failures (weaknesses)
The AOC government was created as a central body to manage the fight against
The AOC’s only powers as the central government between 1781-89 were to wage
war, foreign policy, appropriate funds, borrow money, issue money
Could not tax, regulate commerce, or draft soldiers
Its failures in the years after the Revolution would convince Americans to seek a
stronger, more “energetic” central government, as Alexander Hamilton put it
Four major issues confronted the AOC between 1781-1789
1. Diplomacy
The AOC was not taken seriously by foreign powers, especially the
British, who American had territorial and military disputes with after the
2. Western Lands
The AOC was more effective in this area
As indigenous people had predicted, American victory in the Revolution
increased pressure on settling the West
At the start of the Revolution, only a few thousand whites lived west of
the Appalachians; 120,000 did by 1790
Who would have authority over these lands? The states or congress? It
was agreed it would be the AOC
After one policy proved unsuccessful, the AOC passed the Northwest
This provided for the division of land, some to stay with the government,
and a process for western territories to become states
Southwestern territories like Kentucky and Tennessee, though, were
chaotically settled, without effective AOC regulation
3. Relations with Indigenous Peoples
Of course, the Northwest Ordinance only created order on paper
In reality, indigenous peoples lived in and claimed much of the land it
divided up and doled out
Accelerating western settlement sparked a decade of violence between
settlers and indigenous peoples
The Miami leader Little Turtle led some of the most effective resistance
His forces killed 630 Americans in a 1791 battle, before being defeated
by a 4,000 strong force at the Battle of Fallen Timbers
However, the peace treaty signed at the defeat, the Treaty of Greenville,
while ceding much land to the US, also contained the first ever
recognition from the government of aboriginal land claims and land title
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