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Building a Nation...

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Dr.Liamvan Beek

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HIS271Y Building a Nation October 20th 2010
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Last Week
Lexington and Concord
Unwillingness of parliament and crown to change their minds about governance of
Thomas Paines Common Sense, critiquing the imperial system
Declaration of Independence
American Revolution, formation of new governments, funding, etc.
Was this a revolution, and if so, how revolutionary was it?
Revolution was important was because although it didnt bring immediate change, it
set the foundation for that sort of change to happen later, creating the framework
and language with which marginalized groups would use to gain equality
Restructuring of politics, saw that the new governments were weak and
decentralized, suspicious of too much power in the hands of the few
The idea of a weak government made it very hard to govern
Organized convention in 1787 to alter Articles of Confederation to address the failure
of the weak government
Concerns: nothing binding the states to the articles, each state had different laws,
power didnt really rest in the power of the population
Virginia Plan privileged the largest four states because it was based on
representation by population
New Jersey plan privileged the smaller states, representation was equal
Both plans benefited and gave more power to Congress
The greatest concern was the issue of representation
Within that concern was the issue of slavery (were they people with voting power?)
How to balance the need for national sovereignty with state rights and how to limit
the power of the executive
The Great Compromise

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HIS271Y Building a Nation October 20th 2010
Connecticut compromise
Goal was to balance the needs of the small and large states and create a stronger
sense of national union
Called for a bicameral legislature, a president who would be chosen by an electoral
college, a supreme court
In the upper house, every state had equal representation
In the lower house, representation by population
Divisions between north and south seem immediately because of this
Southern states wanted slaves to count as people because it gave them more power
in the lower house
Northerners didnt want this, considered them property
To come to terms, a compromise that slaves counted as 3/5 a person, for taxation and
While most states wanted to prohibit the slave trade, the document barred the
government from abolishing the slave trade for 20 years
Established the fugitive slave clause, detailing runaway slaves needed to be returned
Many ambiguities within the document such as the protection of individual rights,
We can see a great emphasis that national governments garner their power from the
Applied the concept of federalism
Refers to the division of power between state and national government
Reflects again that the Americans feared too much power in the hands of too few
Checks and balances, separation of power into three groups: executive, legislative,
Also a fear that too much power in the hands of too many would lead to problems
Fear the idea of mobocracy
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