Archive for the ‘Articles of Confederation’ Category

Real World Graduation: Question 4

RealWorldGraduation_Question_4   <– PDF

Article I, Section 2 of the U. S. Constitution originally contained the following provision:

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons.”

In this passage, “representatives” refers to the number of seats in House of Representatives in Congress, “Numbers” refers to population, “several States” refers to any State that ratifies the Constitution, “those bound to service” refers to indentured servants (those who had committed to a term of voluntary servitude in compensation for repayment of the voyage to America fronted by others), “Indians not taxed” refers to Indians on reservations, “other persons” refers to slaves, and “free persons” refers to anyone not in the “other person” group, i.e. not slaves.

This passage can therefore be clarified as follows: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the States according to their respective population, which shall be determined as the sum of the number of a) all free persons, b) indentured servants, and c) three-fifths of slaves; specifically excluding Indians on reservations.” In other words, representation in Congress was apportioned to the full population of all people in the state not on reservations, except for slaves, whose apportionment was at a fraction of only 60%.  This is known as the “three-fifths” rule.  This three-fifths provision was superseded by the 14th Amendment, which was ratified 9 Jul 1868.

Why did the Founding Fathers insert the three-fifths clause regarding slaves?

  1. a) Most of the Founding Fathers were slave owners who had contempt for black people, and reduced the value of black people to 60% of a white person because it was a long-held tradition.
  2. b) Most of the Founding Fathers were slave owners who had contempt for black people, and reduced the value of a black person to 60% of a white person in an attempt to deprive the slaves of their fair share of welfare payments.
  3. c) Even the Founding Fathers who did not own slaves were racist, and reduced the apportionment of slaves to 60% of a white person to suppress the political influence of the black slaves in the Southern states.
  4. d) The members of the Democratic Party insisted on this provision before they would allow a ratification vote in the Southern states.
  5. e) Each of the Founding Fathers had different motives, but these motives were generally a combination of a), b), and c).

(The answer shown on p. 2 of the PDF.)

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A Free Reprint of The Federalist Papers

FederalistPapersReprint   <== FREE PDF reprint of The Federalist Papers

24 Nov 2011

Dear Readers:

The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 essays by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay published from the fall of 1787 to the spring of 1788.  Their purpose was to explain and defend the newly-crafted U. S. Constitution (intended to supercede the Articles of Confederation)  during the ratification debate in New York.  In the course of these essays, these three founding fathers discuss the philosophy of limited government with necessary powers, the separation of powers between the states and the federal government, and how these were implemented in the Constitution.

It is important for those who believe in limited government to read and understand the Federalist Papers.  They are as relevant today as they ever were.  Page 2 of the reprint (available in pdf only due to its length) contains a  commercial for a book that will help you understand it better; I hope you will consider that too.

The Federalist is in the public domain, and there is nothing copyrighted in this reprint.  Please distribute it as you see fit.

Thanks for reading,

Ed Duvall

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Posted in Alexander Hamilton, Articles of Confederation, Early American history, Federalist Papers, James Madison, John Jay, U. S. Constitution | No Comments »

Defects_of_the_Articles_of_Confederation_16   <== PDF version

The last issue surveyed the alteration of power at the federal level from the Articles of Confederation gave way to the Constitution.  But there were also significant alterations to the powers held by the states.  These alterations fall into three categories: a) those powers held by the states under the Articles, but were prohibited in the Constitution; b) those that were retained in the Constitution, but in a modified form; and c) those that were not addressed in the Articles and prohibited by the Constitution.  The essay closes with a list of powers that were prohibited to the states in the Articles and carried over into the Constitution.

The powers falling under the first category may be summarized as follows:

a.  The states were allowed to coin money under the Articles, but are prohibited from doing so under the Constitution.  This was to correct the paper-money problem so rampant in the states after the war, as detailed in part 10 of this series.

b.  The states were allowed to issue bills of credit on their account under the Articles, but are prohibited from doing so under the Constitution.  It is worth observing that the federal government likewise falls under the same prohibition.  This had been an enormous problem during the war, more so on the part of Congress, as it had issued the Continental bills of credit, which became worthless in a few years. This is also discussed in part 10 of this series.

c.  Under the Articles, the states could independently issue letters of marque (privateering) with the approval of Congress (which required a declaration of war); under the Constitution, only the federal government can issue them.

The power falling under the second category is the power to levy import duties.  Under the Articles, the states retained the power to levy their own import and export duties, unless they conflicted with provisions of treaties that were in negotiation withFranceandSpainat the time.  This power caused several problems after the war.  First, the states proceeded to respond toBritain’s navigation Acts by imposing tonnage duties and other duties; this was partly a consequence of Congress’ inability to negotiate commercial treaties, as detailed in part 5 of this series.  The second problem was that the states began to prey on each other in order to gain commercial advantages.  The Constitution prohibits the states from these levies, except for any necessary to cover inspection costs.  Any revenue collected that is in excess of the inspection costs are to be transferred to the federal treasury.

The powers falling under the third category (not addressed in the Articles, prohibited to the states under the Constitution) include: a) prohibited from passing bills of attainder; b) prohibited from passing ex-post facto laws; c) prohibited from passing laws that inhibit the execution of contracts; d) prohibited from passing a legal tender law, except for gold and silver; and d) prohibited from laying a tonnage duty.

Last, there are powers which were prohibited to the states under the Articles, and were likewise carried over to the Constitution.  These prohibitions include: a) creation of titles of nobility; b) establishing treaties with foreign nations; c) forming alliances with foreign nations; d) forming alliances or confederations among any number of states; e) keeping a military navy in peacetime; f) maintaining an army in peacetime except as allowed by Congress; and g) engaging in war without concurrence of Congress, except for emergency situations.

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The Defects of the Articles of Confederation, Part 15

Defects_of_the_Articles_of_Confederation_15   <== PDF version

The first fourteen essays in this series covered in detail some of the most serious problems encountered under the Articles of Confederation.  Most of them arose because Congress did not have sufficient power under that agreement to perform necessary duties.  It is important to remember that the U. S. Constitution, as a successor to the Articles, represented in some ways, a transfer of power from the several states to a new federal government.  There was not much question that a change was necessary — the nation was beginning to fall apart owing partly to the weakness of Congress and partly to the jealousies of the states.

A formal transfer of power is not to be taken lightly.  The people of that era knew full well that if the states agreed to give up powers to the federal government, those powers would never return to the states.  It is a testament to the wisdom of those who wrote the Constitution as well as those that urged its ratification on the state level, that the founding generation got the division of power between states and the federal government about right.  The system worked well from 1788 to about the time of World War I, when the federal government began in earnest to assert undue powers.  That is of course a very big subject for a later time.  For now, the following is a summary of the powers that were not granted to Congress under the Articles of Confederation, but were granted to some portion of the federal government in the U. S. Constitution.

1.  The creation of an Executive Department per Article 2, to: a) enforce the laws, b) control foreign policy, c) to be Commander-in-Chief of the military, d) make treaties, subject to ratification by the Senate; e) nominate federal officials, including Supreme Court justices, f) is charged with ensuring that the laws are executed faithfully; and g) has power to commission all officers of the U. S.  See parts 3, 4, 5, and 14 of this series.

2.  The creation of a judicial system per Article 3, to: a) hear all cases, in law and equity, arising under the Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties; b) those affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls; c) of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; d) those in which the United States is a party; e) between two or more states; and f) certain types of cases involving citizens and states.  The Supreme Court also has appellate power in both law and fact except as Congress may determine.  See part 14 of this series.

3.  The power to obtain direct revenue for the federal government through the “power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”  See part 9 of this series.

4.  The power to call out the militia to: a) execute the laws; and b) respond to invasions and revolts.  Congress also is granted the power to organize, arm, and determine the actions of the militia when called out to service under the United States.  See parts 2 and 8 of this series.

5.   The power to determine regulations for the regular armed forces, transferring the power to provide for the regular army from levies on the states to a central federal power.  See part 2 of this series.

6.  The power to guarantee a republican government in every state in order to ensure that the states would be immune from political revolutions.  See part 8 of this series.

7.  The power to: a) administrate territories; and b) admit new states.  These were necessary in order to regularize the large western area that was rapidly being populated until such time as they qualified for statehood.  See part 6 of this series.

8.  The power to regulate: a) foreign commerce; and b) commerce between the states.  These powers were necessary to respond to the acts of foreign nations affecting the economy of the U. S and also to control the predatory activities of some states upon the others.  See parts 3 and 5 of this series.

9.  The exclusive power to: a) coin money; b) regulate its value; c) regulate the value of foreign money; and d) define and punish counterfeiting of the coin and securities of the U. S.  These powers were necessary to end the abuses of paper currency issued by the states and confusion caused by the different values of state issues.  See part 10 of this series.

10.  The power to impose taxes and duties in order to affect the slave trade; see part 11 of this series.

11.  The power to punish offenses against the law of nations.

12.  The power to establish uniform rules on bankruptcy.

13.  The power to create post-roads.

14.   The power to grant patents and copyrights.

15.  The power to establish a new class of federal property, such as docks, arsenals, forts, etc.

The next edition will review the powers that were originally granted to Congress under the Articles of Confederation, but were modified or clarified in the Constitution.


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