The American Revolution did not overturn the
social order, but it did produce substantial changes in social customs, political
institutions, and ideas about society and government. Among the changes were
the separation of church and state in some places, the abolition of slavery
in the North, written political constitutions, and a shift in political power
from the eastern seaboard toward the frontier.
The first weak national government, the Articles
of Confederation, was unable to exercise real authority, although it did successfully
deal with the western lands issue. The Confederations weaknesses in
handling foreign policy, commerce and the Shay's rebellion spurred the movement
to alter the Articles.
Instead of revising the Articles, the well-off
delegates to the Constitutional Convention created a permanent charter for
a whole new government. In a series of compromises, the convention produced
a plan that provided for a vigorous central government, a strong executive,
and protection for property, while still upholding republican principles and
states rights. The pro-Constitution Federalists, generally representing
wealthier and more commercial forces, frightened other groups who feared that
the new government would undermine their rights and their interests.
The Federalists met their strongest opposition
from Anti-Federalists in Virginia and New York, but through effective organization
and argument, as well as promises to incorporate a bill of rights into the
document, they succeeded in getting the Constitution ratified. By establishing
the new national government, the Federalists checked the Revolutionary movement,
but their conservative regime embraced the central Revolutionary values of
popular republican government and liberty.