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Constitutional Government

An Overview to a Constitutional Government

An Overview to a Constitutional Government


The Treaty of Paris (1783)

The Treaty of Paris signifies the first official doctrine regarding foreign policy and diplomacy between the newly-formed United States of America and all other foreign nations. As a result of treatment of the Colonists under the British monarchy, treatment which the authors of the Treaty of Paris regarded as both unfair and unjust, the Treaty of Paris was penned in the hopes of establishing a forum to conduct a just system fueled by democratic and humane diplomacy.

The Treaty of Paris sought to address potentially harmful situations in which international turmoil might occur. With that in mind, the Treaty of Paris establishes solidified borders and boundaries, which delineated the property of the United States of America from that of other nations. In addition, the British loyalists who remained on American soil and had been bullied in the wake of the Revolutionary War, both those taken prisoners, as well as those unjustly stripped of their property, were returned their respective property and freedom. 

The Northwest Ordinance

As a result of the Articles of Confederation’s movement away from a strong gubernatorial presence, the Northwest Ordinance was one of the few legislative aspects over which the central Government was allowed control. After defeating the British in the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress – as well such political figureheads such as Thomas Jefferson – were anxious to expand the borders of the newly-formed United States of America. As a result, Thomas Jefferson penned the Northwest Ordinance in July of 1787.

The focal point of the doctrine was to not only ensure that settlers participating in the westward expansion would be entitled to the same rights and liberties as those residing in the 13 states, but was also to allow room for new states to enter the Union. Contrasting the American citizens’ sentiment of abandonment at the hands of the British monarchy under Kind George II, the Northwest Ordinance ensured that settlers would be protected while colonizing the western frontier. 

Articles of Confederation

On June 12th, 1776, the Articles of Confederation was assigned to be drafted by a committee put together by the Second Continental Congress. John Dickinson, the appointed head of this drafting committee, had already gained some notoriety as a result of his initial public refusal to sign the Declaration of Independence. Dickinson had concluded that the Declaration of Independence removed too much power from the Government.

Though Dickinson drafted an initial version of the Articles of Confederation which ensured the existence of a strong central government, as well as equal representations amongst the states, the remainder of the committee modified the Articles of Confederation prior to sending it to the individual states for ratification. In that final version, the central Government was disallowed any jurisdiction over any statewide legislation. The central Government was permitted to regulate currency, appoint both a military and postal service, and manage affairs with the Native Americans. However, the flawed legislative structure established in the Articles of Confederation quickly lead to both financial disarray, as well as an evident disharmony between the states of the Union.

Shay's Rebellion

Daniel Shay was a working-class farmer residing in Massachusetts who led a rebellion against a sovereign Massachusetts State Government between 1786 and 1787. Due to the central Government's inability to levy taxes – a precept outlined in the Articles of Confederation – the sovereign states could only be requested to make financial contributions to the central Government. This quickly devastated the central Government’s finances.

Foreign landowners and investors with property in Massachusetts demanded a prompt repayment of all debts. Due to the depletion of their State funds as a result of the inflation spawned by the central Government, the Massachusetts State Government was forced to employ exorbitant tariffs on interstate commerce. Because farmers and merchants relied on the commercial market as their sustenance, they were quickly subject to imprisonment and foreclosure.

Shays declared these State-imposed tariffs to be both unjust and undemocratic and, in turn, refused payment. He and his fellow merchant-farmers rebelled against the Massachusetts State Government, and by doing so he was considered to bring the innate inefficiency of the Articles of Confederation to light.


Constitutional Government

Constitutional GovernmentShortly after the establishment of the Articles of Confederation, a variance in sentiment in regards to varying the legislative model set forth in its contents. Both citizens of the United States of America, as well as various political figureheads, began to develop their own personal ideology in the spectrum of the gubernatorial model that was put in place.

On one hand, many of the smaller states of the Union enjoyed their respective sovereign existence to which they felt they were entitled. Regardless of their size and population, they were able to maintain an equal amount of legislative power as their larger counterparts. In contrast to the prior monarchical model under which the colonists lived, many citizens of the United States felt that a central government that was subservient to the individual states was preferable to even the mere possibility of the existence of a totalitarian government. Furthermore, the freedom to exist without taxation allowed them to begin to cultivate themselves on a grander level; unaffected by any perceived whim or matter that existed beyond their respective borders.

On the other hand, political groups such as the Federalists vehemently opposed the role, and respective legislative power, allowed to the central Government. They maintained that the lack of governmental jurisdiction coupled with an inaccessibility to successfully pass legislation on a national level rendered an abuse of power on the part of the individual states, who at the time were acting as sovereign entities.

In addition, the central government’s inability to enforce taxation – albeit a presumably just and fair taxation process – was propelling the financial state of the United States of America into insolvency. Due in part to the disallowing enforcement of taxation imparted on the central Government, which existed in tandem with a myriad of expenses incurred from national programs such as the upkeep of a military and a postal service, the central Government was forced to print money devoid of substantial financial backing in order to satisfy its debts.

As the central Government began to print money wildly, the value of currency recessed, which prompted monetary inflation on a national scale. Larger states, which oftentimes were comprised of larger populations, were not entitled to additional funding towards the maintenance within their respective State borders. The State of New York was only allowed the precise amount of funding that was allowed to the State of Rhode Island. This occurred isolated of the fact that not only the population of the State of New York, but also its land area, dwarfed that of Rhode Island.

The existence of the United States of America was quickly reaching a critical mass. The onset of financial insolvency had spawned various citizen-led rebellions, in addition to a refusal on the part of foreign nations to engage in trade relations with the thirteen states of the Union. Although a novel endeavor upon its inception, a majority of people maintained that the Articles of Confederation and its proposed system of government had proven to be unstable and dysfunctional, which unavoidably thrust the citizens of the United States of America towards a Constitutional governmental model.

Understanding the Treaty of Paris

Understanding the Treaty of Paris

The Treaty of Paris was a doctrine signed by both British and American representatives on September 3rd, 1783, which officially, diplomatically, and politically solidified the independence of the United States of America from the British monarchy. Though the Revolutionary War had ended in 1776 – unofficially establishing the United States of America as a sovereign nation – the Treaty of Paris formulated diplomatic parameters by which both the British and American nations were required to abide.

Once the British monarchy, now under the rule of King George III, recognized the United States of America as an independent, sovereign nation, other European powers such as the French, Spanish, and Dutch were inclined to follow suit. As a result, a framework of guidelines was established in the Treaty of Paris in order to ensure respectful diplomacy between the newly-borne United States of America and its European counterparts.

Authorship of the Treaty of Paris is credited to Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay. The fundamentals expressed within the text of the Treaty of Paris address various contingencies and situations, ranging from diplomacy, commerce, and the specification of borders. In addition, so as to not repeat the perceived tyranny of the British monarchy under King George II, the authors included clauses within the Treaty of Paris that ensured fair and just dealings with the British Loyalists – both freed, as well as those in captivity – who still remained in the United States of America. The Treaty of Paris is considered to be the United States of America’s first dogmatic doctrine establishing foreign policy.

Many American political figureheads, as well as early settlers, were adamant about westward expansion. However, the authors of the Treaty of Paris were wary of conducting tyrannical diplomatic dealings and, as a result, they were meticulous in their establishment of borders prior to allowing settlers to colonize the Western frontier. Settlers who wished to participate in the westward expansion were permitted to colonize what we now know as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and some of Minnesota. By regulating westward expansion, diplomatic relations could be maintained as a result of preventing the encroachment onto territory that belonged to other European nations.

The Treaty of Paris demanded that specified unclaimed lands be shared by multiple nations. For instance, both British and American merchants were permitted to cultivate the land and sea on eastern-coastal Canadian provinces, such as Nova Scotia.

The Revolutionary War granted the United States of America independence from British rule, and after their defeat, a majority of British citizens returned to England. However, the Loyalists who remained willingly, and even those who were in captivity, found themselves to be a minority amongst the newly-established United States citizens; a dynamic that created opportunities for the exploitation of the remaining British loyalists.

British loyalists, both freed, as well as in captivity, were robbed of their lands and possessions, many times without reason or sound justification. The authors of the Treaty of Paris delineated their democratic principles from the pre-existing behaviors of the British Monarchy and, as a result, all land unlawfully seized from British Loyalists was ordered to be returned. In addition, all prisoners (both British and American) were ordered to be set free and allowed safe return to their respective homelands.

Finally, the Treaty of Paris instructed that all lawful debt be collected in a fair and just manner, regardless of the nationality of the debt holder. Both British and American citizens were treated equally.

The Treaty of Paris represents the United States of America’s first diplomatic endeavor. As a result of their unjust treatment by the British monarchy, the authors of the Treaty of Paris wished to portray a more humane and just method of diplomatic dealings.