InstructorsStudentsReviewersAuthorsBooksellers Contact Us
Textbook Site for:
The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, Thirteenth Edition
David M. Kennedy, Stanford University
Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard University
Thomas A. Bailey
Chapter Summary
Chapter 9: The Confederation and the Constitution, 1776 - 1790

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.