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Forming Government by Documents: State Constitutions and the Articles of Confederation

The image is a painting of the Virginia Constitutional Convention. It shows a large room in which rows of men sit in a circle around the center. In the center is a table with four men and one man standing up as if addressing the group.Painting of the Virginia Constitutional Convention, by George Catlin circa 1830.

• MO2: Examine the debates and types of thinking during the creation of the state constitutions and Articles of Confederation. (CO1)

The founding of the new nation was accompanied by much debate about the form the new government should take, with growing division between Federalists and Anti-Federalists. For this discussion, we will be focusing on the fluidity and experimentation exhibited in the new states’ constitutions and the Articles of Confederation.

Begin reading the Module Notes Presentation (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. and reviewing pages 65-74 of Chapter 4 in Wood. Then, listen to Professor Freeman’s lectures “Confederation (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.” (Chapters 3-6) and “A Union Without Power (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.” (Chapters 4-5). Finally, read “Anti-Federalists, the Federalist Papers, and the Big Argument for Union (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.” by Akhil Reed Amar.

As you review the sources, consider all of the questions below. Then choose ONE of the bullets below (or choose a THOUGHTFUL topic of your own) to address thoroughly in an initial post of at least 250 words. You should use specific examples from the assigned readings in your post.
•The development of new state and federal governments was much more uncertain and fluid than we tend to think, today. Describe some of the suggestions and attempts made that didn’t stick and explain why you think they didn’t take hold.
•How did the new state constitutions reflect their British heritage? How did they differ?
•Why was property holding initially viewed as an important requirement for voting and holding office? In the context of eighteenth-century America, does this argument have merit?
•The Articles of Confederation evidenced a deep fear of centralized power. Now that the United States of America has existed under a government with a stronger centralized power for over two centuries, would you say that those fears were justified? Is it a necessary evil?

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