Chapter 9: “The Confederation and the Constitution”
~ 1776 – 1790 ~
A Revolution of Sentiments
The American Revolution was more of an accelerated evolution than a revolution.
However, the exodus of some 80,000 Loyalists left a great lack of conservatives.
This weakening of the aristocratic “upper crust” let Patriot elites emerge.
The fight for separation of church and state resulted in notable gains.
The Congregational church continued to be legally established by some New
England states, but the Anglican Church was humbled and reformed as the
Protestant Episcopal Church.
Slavery was a big, problematic issue, as the Continental Congress of 1774 had called for the
abolition of slavery, and in 1775, the Philadelphia Quakers founded the world’s first
This new spirit of “all men are created equal” even inspired a few slave owners to
free their slaves.
Another issue was women: they still were unequal to men, even though some had served
(disguised as men) in the Revolutionary War.
There were some achievements: New Jersey’s 1776 constitution allowed women to
vote (for a time).
Mothers devoted to their families were developed as an idea of “republican
motherhood” and elevated women to higher statuses as keepers of the nation’s
Constitution Making in the States
The Continental Congress of 1776 called upon colonies to draft new constitutions (thus began
the formation of the Articles of the Confederation).
Massachusetts contributed one innovation when it called a special convention to
draft its constitution and made it so that the constitution could only be changed
through another specially called constitutional convention.
Many states had written documents that represented a fundamental law.
Many had a bill of rights and also required annual election of legislators.
All of them deliberately created weak executive and judicial branches (they
distrusted power due to Britain’s abusing it).
In most states, the legislative branch was given sweeping powers, though some
people, like Thomas Jefferson, warned that “173 despots [in legislation] would
surely be as oppressive as one.
Many states moved westward, like New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, the Carolinas, and
After the Revolution, Loyalist land was seized, but people didn’t chop heads off (France…).
Goods formerly imported from England were cut off, forcing Americans to make their own.
Still, America remained agriculturalist by a lot.
While, with Britain, Americans had great trade, and now they didn’t, they could now trade
with foreign countries, and with any nation they wanted to, a privilege they didn’t have before.