POLS 15 The Road to the Constitution
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POLS 15 The Road to the Constitution

[music] In order to understand why the
Constitution was written as it was, we need to understand what was going on
in the United States in 1787 when it was written. America had always had colonial governments, but there had never really been a need
for a national government until we had begun taking steps to declare independence from England. After America gained its independence, it adopted something known as
the Articles of Confederation, which was a constitution establishing
a federal government. The Articles of Confederation created a federal government very different from the one we know today. For example, one of the most major differences is there was no president. There was also no federal court system, meaning Congress was the
only branch of government. Even Congress itself was very different, because it was a unicameral
or one-house legislature. And in that legislature, each state, no matter how big or how small, got one vote. The Articles of Confederation took effect in 1781, but they only lasted for
a few years because very quickly, they created a series of problems
throughout the nation. And all of those problems had one source, and that is the Articles of Confederation created a federal government that was very, very weak. In fact, too weak to govern effectively. For example, under
the Articles of Confederation, the federal government only had power
over foreign affairs. It had no power over domestic politics. And even in the area of foreign affairs, it was very difficult for the
federal government to do anything because it required nine of the
thirteen states to pass any laws. Many of the problems that arose under
the Articles of Confederation had to do with the economy and money. One of the most significant problems with
the Articles of Confederation was that the federal government
had no power to impose taxes,
and it had to rely on voluntary contributions from the states. This meant the federal government
had very little money to pay for an army or a navy, which is very dangerous for national security. Another issue was that under
the Articles of Confederation, the federal government
could not coin money, but the states could. This led to two significant economic problems. One problem was that some states began to print lots and lots of money,
which leads to significant inflation. In addition, because each state
could make their own money, it was difficult to tell
how much each one was worth, and there are costs associated with
changing from one currency to another. In addition, although the federal government did not have the power to tax,
the states did and in fact, they had the power to
tax goods from other states, which drove up the cost
of those goods further. The weakness of the federal government
under the Articles of Confederation also led to some non-economic problems. The boundaries between states
were sometimes not clearly defined, which sometimes led to
border disputes between states. In addition, states were permitted to
enter into treaties with foreign nations, which led to the potential
for conflicting alliances. These problems quickly
became apparent, and there were several attempts to
amend the Articles of Confederation, but they all failed because
the Articles required the unanimous consent of all 13 states,
which they were never able to achieve. And therefore, only six years
after the Articles were adopted, a group of men met in
Philadelphia in 1787 with the purpose of drawing up a
brand new constitution. [music]

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