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Formation of America. THE CRITICAL PERIOD. ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS The Critical Period. What were the Articles of Confederation? Why were the 1780s a critical period in United States history? What did America do to create a stronger government in the 1780s?.

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Formation of America


essential questions the critical period
  • What were the Articles of Confederation?
  • Why were the 1780s a critical period in United States history?
  • What did America do to create a stronger government in the 1780s?
The Articles of Confederation established “a firm league of friendship” among the States.


Congress was given the power to declare war, deal with national finance issues, and settle disputes among the States.


The States promised to obey Congress, and to respect the laws of the other States. Most other powers were retained by each State.

strengths of the articles of confederation
Strengths of the Articles of Confederation
  • The Treaty of Paris 1783 was signed
  • The Northwest Ordinance was past
  • Had the power to declare war and peace, print money, make treaties and settle state disputes
strengths of the articles of confederation settling western lands
Strengths of the Articles of Confederation: Settling Western Lands
  • The Land Ordinance of 1785, stated that land in the west was to be surveyed using a grid system to establish 6 mile blocks
  • The Northwest Ordinance assisted in the orderly expansion of the United States, it outlined a plan for applying for statehood to western territories
    • 5,000 free males who own 50 acres can start govt
    • Population of 60,000 could become a state
a call for a stronger government
A Call for a Stronger Government
  • Representatives from Maryland and Virginia met at Mount Vernon, Virginia, in 1785 to discuss trade issues.
  • The meeting was so successful that the Virginia General Assembly requested a meeting of all thirteen States, which eventually became the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
essential questions creating the constitution
ESSENTIAL QUESTIONSCreating the Constitution
  • Who were the Framers of the Constitution?
  • What were the differences between the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan?
  • What were some of the compromises on which the Constitutional Convention agreed?
  • What sources did the delegates draw on and how did they react when they completed the Constitution?
different constitutional plans
The Virginia Plan

Three branches of government

Bicameral legislature

“National Executive” and “National Judiciary”

Representation in Congress based on the population of the states

Favored by the states with large populations

The New Jersey Plan

Unicameral Congress

Equal representation for States of different sizes

More than one federal executive

Preferred by the smaller states

Different Constitutional Plans
constitutional compromises
Constitutional Compromises
  • The Connecticut Compromise
    • Delegates agreed on a bicameral Congress, one segment with equal representation for States, and the other with representation proportionate to the States’ populations.
  • The Three-fifths Compromise
    • The Framers decided to count a slave as three-fifths of a person when determining the population of a State.
  • The Commerce and Slave Trade Compromise
    • Congress was forbidden from taxing exported goods, and was not allowed to act on the slave trade for 20 years.
influences on and reactions to the new constitution
Influences on and Reactions to the New Constitution
  • Reactions
  • When the Constitution was complete, the Framers’ opinions of their work varied. Some were disappointed, like George Mason of Virginia, who opposed the Constitution until his death in 1792.
  • Most agreed with Ben Franklin’s thoughts when he said,
  • “From such an assembly [of fallible men] can a perfect production be expected? It…astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does…”


  • The Framers were familiar with the political writings of their time, such as works by Jean Jacques Rousseau and John Locke.
  • They also were seasoned, variously, by the Second Continental Congress, the Articles of Confederation and experiences with their own State governments.
essential questions ratifying the constitution
ESSENTIAL QUESTIONSRatifying the Constitution
  • Who were the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists?
  • How long did the ratification of the Constitution take?
  • What happened after its ratification?
the federalists and anti federalists
The Federalists and Anti-Federalists

The Constitution was very controversial at first, with some groups supporting it, and others attacking it.

  • Federaliststhought that the Articles of Confederation were weak, and argued for the ratification of the Constitution.
  • Anti-Federalists objected to the Constitution for many reasons, including the strong central government and the lack of a bill of rights.
the constitution is ratified
The Constitution is Ratified
  • Nine States ratified the Constitution by June 21, 1788, but the new government needed the ratification of the large States of New York and Virginia.
  • Great debates were held in both States, with Virginia ratifying the Constitution June 25, 1788.
  • New York’s ratification was hard fought. Supporters of the Constitution published a series of essays known as The Federalist.
inaugurating the government
Inaugurating the Government
  • The new Congress met for the first time on March 4, 1789.
  • Congress finally attained a quorum (majority) on April 6 and counted the electoral votes. Congress found that George Washington had been unanimously elected President. He was inaugurated on April 30.
essential questions the six basic principles
  • What are the important elements of the Constitution?
  • What are the six basic principles of the Constitution?
an outline of the constitution
An Outline of the Constitution
  • The Constitution sets out the basic principles upon which government in the United States was built.
  • The Constitution is a fairly brief document.
  • The Constitution is organized into eight sections: the Preamble and seven articles. The original document is followed by 27 amendments.
three of the basic principles
Three of the Basic Principles
  • The principle of popular sovereignty asserts that the people are the source of any and all government power, and government can exist only with the consent of the governed.
  • The principle of limited government states that government is restricted in what it may do, and each individual has rights that government cannot take away.
  • Separation of powers is the principle in which the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government are three independent and coequal branches of government.
more of the basic principles
More of the Basic Principles
  • Checks and balances is the system that allows the legislative, executive, and judicial branches to check, or restrain, the actions of one another.
  • The principle of judicial review consists of the power of a court to determine the constitutionality of a governmental action.
  • Federalism is a system of government in which the powers of government are divided between a central government and several local governments.
essential questions formal amendment
  • What are the different ways to formally amend, or change the wording of, the Constitution?
  • How many times has the Constitution been amended?
  • What is the Bill of Rights?
amending the constitution
Amending the Constitution
  • The Constitution provides for its own amendment—that is, for changes in its written words.
  • Article V sets out two methods for the proposal and two methods for the ratification of constitutional amendments, creating four possible methods of formal amendment.
formal amendment process
Formal Amendment Process

The four different ways by which amendments may be added to the Constitution are shown here:

amendments to the constitution
Amendments to the Constitution

Collectively, the first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.They set out many of our basic freedoms.

essential questions informal amendment
  • How has basic legislation changed the Constitution over time?
  • What powers do the executive branch and the courts have to amend the Constitution?
  • What role do party politics and custom have in shaping the Federal Government?
informal amendment processes
Informal Amendment Processes

Informal amendment is the process by which over time many changes have been made in the Constitution which have not involved any changes in its written word.

The informal amendment process can take place by:

(1) the passage of basic legislation by Congress;

(2) actions taken by the President;

(3) key decisions of the Supreme Court;

(4) the activities of political parties; and

(5) custom.

executive action and court decisions
Executive Action

Presidential actions have produced a number of important informal amendments, such as the use of the military under the power of commander in chief.

An executive agreement is a pact made by the President directly with the head of a foreign state.

Court Decisions

The nation’s courts, most importantly the United States Supreme Court, interpret and apply the Constitution in many cases they hear.

Executive Action and Court Decisions



essential questions federalism the division of power
ESSENTIAL QUESTIONSFederalism: The Division of Power
  • What is federalism, and why was it chosen by the Framers?
  • What powers are delegated to and denied to the National Government, and what powers are reserved for and denied to the States?
  • What exclusive powers does the National Government have, and what concurrent powers does it share with the States?
  • What place do local governments have in the federal system?
  • How does the Constitution function as “the supreme Law of the Land?”

The Framers were dedicated to the concept of limited government. They were convinced

  • (1) that governmental power poses a threat to individual liberty,
  • (2) that therefore the exercise of governmental power must be restrained, and
  • (3) that to divide governmental power, as federalism does, is to curb it and so prevent its abuse.
Federalism is a system of government in which a written constitution divides the powers of government on a territorial basis between a central, or national, government and several regional governments, usually called states or provinces.

The Constitution provides for a division of powers, assigning certain powers to the National Government and certain powers to the States.

powers of the national government
Powers of the National Government
  • The National Government is a government of delegated powers, meaning that it only has those powers delegated (granted) to it in the Constitution. There are three types of delegated powers:
  • The expressed powers are those found directly within the Constitution.
  • The implied powers are not expressly stated in the Constitution, but are reasonably suggested, or implied by, the expressed powers.
  • The inherent powers belong to the National Government because it is the government of a sovereign state within the world community. There are few inherent powers, with an example being the National Government’s ability to regulate immigration.
powers denied to the national government
Powers Denied to the National Government
  • Powers are denied to the National Government in three distinct ways:
the states
Powers Reserved to the States

The 10th Amendment declares that the States are governments of reserved powers.

The reserved powers are those powers that the Constitution does not grant to the National Government and does not, at the same time, deny to the States.

Powers Denied to the States

Just as the Constitution denies many powers the National Government, it also denies many powers to the States.

Powers denied to the States are denied in much the same way that powers are denied to the National Government; both expressly and inherently.

The States
the exclusive and concurrent powers
Exclusive Powers

Powers that can be exercised by the National Government alone are known as the exclusive powers.

Examples of the exclusive powers are the National treaties with foreign states, and to lay duties (taxes) on imports.

Concurrent Powers

The concurrent powers are those powers that both the National Government and the States possess and exercise.

Some of the concurrent powers include the power to levy and collect taxes, to define crimes and set punishments for them, and to claim private property for public use.

The Exclusive and Concurrent Powers
the federal system and local governments
The Federal System and Local Governments
  • There are more than 87,000 units of local government in the United States today.
  • Each of these local units is located within one of the 50 States. Each State has created these units through its constitution and laws.
  • Local governments, since they are created by States, are exercising State law through their own means.
the division of powers
The Division of Powers
  • The federal system determines the way that powers are divided and shared between the National and State governments.
the supreme law of the land
The Supreme Law of the Land
  • The Supremacy Clause in the Constitution establishes the Constitution and United States laws as the “supreme Law of the Land.”



essential questions the national government and the 50 states
ESSENTIAL QUESTIONSThe National Government and the 50 States
  • What obligations does the Constitution place on the nation for the welfare of the States?
  • How are new States admitted to the Union?
  • What are the many and growing areas of cooperative federalism?
the nation s obligations to the states
The Nation’s Obligations to the States

Republican Form of Government

  • The Constitution requires the National Government to “guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”

Invasion and Internal Disorder

  • The National Government is also required to provide defense of the States from foreign invasion, and aid in protecting against “domestic Violence” in the States.

Respect for Territorial Integrity

  • The National Government is constitutionally bound to respect the territorial integrity of each of the States.
admitting new states
Admitting New States
  • Only Congress has the power to admit new States to the Union.
  • Congress first passes an enabling act, an act directing the people of the territory to frame a proposed State constitution.
  • If Congress agrees to Statehood after reviewing the submitted State constitution, it passes an act of admission, an act creating the new State.
cooperative federalism
Federal Grants-in-Aid

Grants-in-aid programs are grants of federal money or other resources to the States and/or their cities, counties, and other local units.

Revenue Sharing

Revenue sharing, used between 1972 and 1987, gave an annual share of federal tax revenues to the States and their local governments.

Cooperative Federalism
  • Even though the basis of federalism is the division of powers between levels of government, there is still much cooperation between them.
federal grants
Categorical Grants

Categorical grants are made for some specific, closely defined purpose, such as school lunch programs or the construction of airports or water treatment plants. There are usually conditions, or “strings,” attached to regulate the use of these funds.

Project Grants

Project grants are provided to States, localities, and sometimes private agencies that apply for them. They are used for a variety of purposes ranging from medical research to job training and employment programs.

Federal Grants
  • Congress appropriates money for three types of grants-in-aid:
  • Block Grants
  • Block grants are portions of money allocated to States to use for broader purposes, such as health care, social services, or welfare. Block grants often are granted with fewer strings attached.
essential questions interstate relations
  • Why do States make interstate compacts?
  • What is the purpose of the Full Faith and Credit Clause?
  • What is extradition, and what is its purpose?
  • What is the purpose of the Privileges and Immunities Clause?
interstate compacts
Interstate Compacts

No State may enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation.

However, the States may, with the consent of Congress, enter into interstate compacts—agreements among themselves and with foreign states.

More than 200 compacts are now in force, and range in a variety of uses from sharing law-enforcement data to resource development and conservation.

full faith and credit
The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution ensures that States recognize the laws and, documents, and court proceedings of the other States.

There are two exceptions to the clause though:

One State cannot enforce another State’s criminal laws.

Full faith and credit need not be given to certain divorces granted by one State to residents of another State.

Full Faith and Credit
Extradition is the legal process by which a fugitive from justice in one State is returned to that State.

Extradition is upheld through Article IV, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution.

Governors are the State executives that handle the extradition process.

If a governor is unwilling to return a fugitive to a State, federal courts can intervene and order that governor to do so.

privileges and immunities
Privileges and Immunities
  • The Privileges and Immunities Clause provides that no State can draw unreasonable distinctions between its own residents and those persons who happen to live in other States.
  • States cannot, for example, pay lower welfare benefits to newly arrived residents than it does to its long-term residents, Saens v. Roe, 1999.
  • However, States can draw reasonable distinctions between its own residents and those of other space, such as charging out-of-State residents higher tuition for State universities than in-State residents.