3a - Civil Rights - US Constitution

3a - Civil Rights - US Constitution - From...

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From: [email protected] Sent: Saturday, November 09, 2002 3:15 PM To: [email protected] Subject: Britannica Student Encyclopedia Article United States Constitution Britannica Student Encyclopedia Many people think of the United States as a young country. Yet it has the oldest written constitution among the major nations of the world. Moreover, it was, for the first time in history, a constitution that specifically limited the powers that the federal government would be able to exercise over its citizens. Soon after the 3 million people who lived in the United States had won the Revolutionary War, various groups among them became discontented with the Articles of Confederation (see Articles of Confederation). The government under the Confederation seemed too weak to control the people at home or to make the new republic respected abroad. One difficulty was that Congress lacked sufficient power to raise money: it could only make requests of the states. It was always poor, while generous states such as New York and Pennsylvania complained that they paid more than their share. Congress also had no authority to regulate commerce. When some of the states began laying tariffs and other burdens on the shipping trade of their neighbors, it caused heavy losses. All states were supposed to abide by the Articles of Confederation; yet some states violated them. They made treaties with the Indians and agreements with each other. They ignored foreign treaties made by Congress and regulated the value of money. Need for a Stronger Government By 1785 it seemed to many patriotic citizens of the United States that the Confederation was a failure. Washington, Hamilton, Jay, Madison, and other leaders repeatedly declared that the government ought to be strengthened. In 1782 the assembly of New York, and in 1785 the legislature of Massachusetts, voted in favor of a constitutional convention. Some Americans had special reasons for wanting a stronger government. One group was made up of the Westerners, who after the American Revolution moved into Kentucky, Tennessee, and the new Northwest Territory. They wanted a powerful federal government to protect them from the Indians, Spaniards, and British. Others who speculated in western lands believed that a strong government would make these lands more valuable. Another group consisted of merchants, traders, and shipowners who suffered from tariff wars among the states and from injurious British laws. Other men, who had lent money to the government during the war or just after it, felt a stronger government would be more likely to repay them. Perhaps the most important group was made up of well-to-do men who owned mortgages and notes. They feared that state legislatures controlled by poor debtors would issue huge sums of worthless paper money or would protect debtors who refused to pay their debts. They wanted a strong national government to take
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complete control of the currency and to prevent any state laws impairing the obligation of contracts. In 1786 the
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3a - Civil Rights - US Constitution - From...

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