H CS 07

Historic Documents

Some documents in American history have considerable importance for the development of the nation. Students use historical thinking to examine key documents which form the basis for the United States of America.

Content Statement

7. Problems facing the national government under the Articles of Confederation led to the drafting of the Constitution of the United States. The framers of the Constitution applied ideas of Enlightenment in conceiving the new government.

Content Elaborations

The national government, under the Articles of Confederation, faced several critical problems. Some dealt with the structure of the government itself. These problems included weak provisions for ongoing management of national affairs (a lack of a separate executive branch), a limited ability to resolve disputes arising under the Articles (a lack of a separate judicial branch) and stiff requirements for passing legislation and amending the Articles.

National issues facing the government included paying the debt from the Revolutionary War, the British refusal to evacuate forts on U.S. soil, the Spanish closure of the Mississippi River to American navigation and state disputes over land and trade.

Economic problems in the states led to Shays’ Rebellion.

The Constitution of the United States strengthened the structure of the national government. Separate executive and judicial branches were established. More practical means of passing legislation and amending the Constitution were instituted.

The new government would have the ability to address the issues facing the nation. Powers to levy taxes, raise armies and regulate commerce were given to Congress. The principle of federalism delineated the distribution of powers between the national government and the states.

The Constitution of the United States was drafted using Enlightenment ideas to create a workable form of government. The Preamble and the creation of a representative government reflect the idea of the social contract. Articles I – III provide for a separation of powers in government. Article I also provides some limited protection of rights.

Expectations for Learning

Develop an argument that a particular provision of the Constitution of the United States would help address a problem facing the United States in the 1780s.

Explain a provision of the Constitution of the United States in terms of how it reflects Enlightenment thinking.