Unlike any other Government #3

The First governments of the United States

The Articles of Confederation

During the early days of the War for Independence from British Tyranny, the colonists realized the need for a common entity; a consolidation of the colonial effort was necessary. Each state, large and small in both area and population, had to find an expedient means that allowed them to, jealously, protect their newfound "state" governments. The result, hastily prepared and entered into, was the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union (March 1, 1781). Though the term "united States of America" had been used in previous documents, the first document to create such an entity was the Articles of Confederation.

 Each state, regardless of size or population, was given one vote in the Congress of the Confederation. States were not allowed to raise their own standing armies (though militias were allowed). The Articles also provided that it was created , " ... for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them..."

The problem with the Articles

The Articles provided that the debt incurred for the War would be acknowledged, and would be the obligation of the United States of America, though there was no provision that could force compliance of the states to contribute their share for the payment of such debt. Similarly, there were no means to force any state to contribute funds necessary for the obligations of government, or of manpower to continue the War.

After the War was concluded, a dilemma was created by the inability of the Congress to obtain sufficient support for other purposes of government. The government was foundering; unable to pay its debts; unable to sustain order within it realm; and, a multitude of other obstacles which kept it from performing its intended function. It was in a crisis.

The Articles, when formed, were done so hastily. It was an experiment that had no models, only theory, to follow. Through its first six years, the problems became apparent -- to a point that amendment was necessary, if the United States of America were to survive. It was with this in mind that the states came together with the intention of making amendments to address the problems that had been exposed by practice

The Constitution

As with almost any creative enterprise, or product, there is seldom success with the first venture. One of the major disparities in the Articles was that of representation. The states with larger populations felt that each man should have his vote. This idea found support in those colonies that were not so established, but had land areas sufficient to allow substantial growth to their respective populations. On the other side, smaller states, very dense in population, argued that since the government was a Union, each state should to be equally heard in Congress. After all, this was what composed the existing government -- created by the Articles, with equal representation to each state. The final solution was attendant to both arguments. The House of Representatives would be based upon the number of people within a state; this was the Republican form of government. The Senate would give each state equal say in the operations of that body; this was the democratic form of government. However, within each state a subsequent article in the Constitution guaranteed the Republican form of government

Next came the Executive. Many proposals were set forth, and finally a single executive, with the authority to carry out the will of the Congress, and to make recommendations to that Congress in an annual State of the Union address.

The judiciary was intended to remain impartial by not making the judges subject to changes in compensation, during their tenure.

The extent of the authority of the federal government was limited. Article I, Section 8 laid out the limits of authority granted by the people, for the government.

When the details had been ironed out, the Constitution was sent to each state for ratification, or rejection. A few states refused to ratify unless a Bill of Rights were adopted as a part of the Constitution. Eventually, the required nine states ratified the Constitution (June 21, 1788).

The Bill of Rights was submitted to the states for ratification, and was ratified on December 15, 1791.

The new government of the United States, which evolved from the Articles of Confederation was now the law of the land.

Though a brief explanation is provided, above, it is necessary to understand that a Preamble in a document is as much a part of the document as the text. The Preamble to the Constitution reads:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The purpose is clearly laid out, and is consistent with what was discussed, earlier, that the purpose of government is to protect Life, Property, and Liberty. Justice serves to that end; domestic Tranquility also serves to that end; providing for the common defense, serves that purpose no less; and, Promoting (not providing) the general Welfare is the final purpose, toward that same end.

Further, it should be noted that, for the first time in the history of the world, the People, even though done through representation at Constitutional ratification conventions, were the authority that created this new government. It was not created by the Articles of Confederation, nor was it based upon the descendancy from Adam, or a grant from God. It was the sovereign authority of the People (which was considered a grant from God) which created this government and to soon be a great nation, as described above.

 Seldom acknowledged is that the Bill of Rights was also ratified with a Preamble. The Preamble anticipated that some of the concerns not addressed in the Constitution should be addressed to assure that the proper role of government be observed. It read:

The conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added.

There can be little doubt, especially upon reading this Preamble (purpose) of the Bill of Rights, and Articles in Amendment number 9 and 10 that the authority of government is limited only to those powers enumerated therein.

Article 9

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Article 10

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

These two articles are instrumental in tying the Constitution to the Declaration of Independence.


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