The Founders

How Did The United States Go From Articles Of Confederation To Constitution?

todaySeptember 17, 2013 3 1

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Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – Well, the Articles of Confederation was most certainly and positively just that.  It was a compact.  By definition and description it was a confederation, meaning it was a federation of states or political entities that decided, for some express purposes, they needed to confederate together in order to have a better life and existence here after the Revolutionary War.  Check out today’s transcript for the rest…


Begin Mike Church Show Transcript

Mike:  John, how you doing?

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Caller John:  Good morning.  I’ve got a question about the Articles of Confederation, since I’ve never read them, don’t know the first thing about them.  My question is, how long did they operate under those?  And do you think that the amendments that were brought to the convention, where would it all have gone?  Can you do a quick contrast of the most significant difference between them and the Constitution?

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Mike:  Well, the Articles of Confederation was most certainly and positively just that.  It was a compact.  By definition and description it was a confederation, meaning it was a federation of states or political entities that decided, for some express purposes, they needed to confederate together in order to have a better life and existence here after the Revolutionary War.  Just a little bit of the history of the AOC, Articles of Confederation, it was Ben Franklin’s idea.  Franklin presented the AOC in August of 1776, shortly after the Declaration of Independence.  They said: We can’t just operate willy-nilly.  We have to have something that we can call a plan of government.  Ben Franklin said: Well, I just happen to have this little Article of Confederation here.  Let me pull it out.

A very vigorous debate ensued because there were those that were in the Second Continental Congress that were representatives of smaller colonies like Maryland and Kent on Sussex, which would become Delaware, which was actually part of Pennsylvania.  New Jersey was a small colony at that time, as was Connecticut and Rhode Island.  They were mortified of attaching their political future to a confederation where the larger states would basically be able to crush or swallow up the little states.  It took almost four and a half years for little Jimmy Madison to come along in the Fourth Continental Congress and propose what ultimately becomes known as the Northwest Ordinance, or the Maryland-Virginia Compromise where the Virginians promised that they’re  not going to gobble up all of the Ohio River Valley.  This is what finally allows the AOC to go into effect.

The Articles of Confederation don’t actually go into effect until 1781.  For those of you people that think the founding fathers agreed on everything and with lightning speed they arrived at their decisions, the AOC laid dormant and not in use and not enforced for almost four solid years, this while a war was going on.  When they finally go into effect, the principle problem that was experienced and what drove many of the men to say that we need a stronger confederation was that when Congress sent requisitions to the states saying: We ran up $8 million in debt fighting this war to free you from King George III.  Your share of it is $600,000.  You can pay by credit card, check, we’ll take a moneygram, whatever you got, horses, chickens.  The states, for the most part, took their time in paying that debt because there was no compulsion in the Articles of Confederation to make them do so.

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One of the things they went to Philadelphia to try to talk about fixing was, if there was another war, and if Congress had to run up debt and field an army to do so, how could they pay it back?  How could they make sure that every state, which would remain free as a result of winning the war, would pay its fair share?  The other thing that was on the table and needed to be discussed — I’ve talked about this before when it comes to Fame of Our Fathers, one of my documentaries I wrote about this era in American history.  You have to remember, at this time you only have 13 states.  It’s just the Eastern seaboard.  There is no Kansas, no Nebraska.  It’s there but it’s not a state.  The only settlers that are there are probably French.  There are a lot of Native Americans there.  Very few Englishmen other than Lewis and Clark.

article-v-pamphlet-adOne of the things that had to be dealt with was: If the population expands and we start going west, what are we going to do about the Mississippi River?  What are we going to do about conquering or dividing up new territories?  How can you admit new states?  Can we form new states ourselves?  You’ve got to remember that the 13 colonies were formed basically by acts of the parliament and of the king.  Why do you think the colonies are mostly named after royalty?  Virginia for Virginia, Carolina for Caroline, Georgia for George, Maryland for Mary.  Then the other issue there with expanding westward and with the states interacting with the rest of the world was: How do we deal with commerce?  Can the State of New York tax or put a tariff on some kind of a good coming in from Connecticut in order to protect their own merchants?  Can one state drop its tariffs on French imported wine so that it can gain an advantage of importing that product over another state that needs the revenue?

They went to Philadelphia to address these economic, territorial, and revenue issues.  That’s what they went there to address.  I am not aware that anyone actually went with amendments in hand.  To comment on whether or not those amendments would have worked and whether the AOC could have worked, I can’t answer that.  I don’t think anyone actually went with amendments.  James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, who conspired to call this convention to start with, certainly didn’t go there with any amendments because Hamilton knew about Madison’s plan, and Madison certainly had the intention of introducing it.  Madison also knew, that sneaky little bastard, that if he didn’t get Washington to go along with this scheme, it would never fly.  That’s why Edmund Randolph, the governor of Virginia — this is all in Fame of Our Fathers, by the way.  It’s available on CD or digital download at in the Founders Tradin’ Post.

This is why the governor of Virginia, Edmund Randolph, kept pestering Washington all throughout the fall and winter of 1786 and 1787: Dude, you have to go to this.  Washington kept saying: No, I’m not going anywhere.  I am a farmer.  Leave me alone.  It wasn’t until one of Washington’s former colonels came to him or wrote him a letter and told him of the state of affairs that many of his officers existed under.  They were poor.  Their war bonds were worthless.  Many of them had what we would call PTSD today.  They were depressed and they didn’t feel like the nation was very thankful or the new country was very thankful for what had been done.  This is probably what inspired Washington to finally go.  Outside of that, that’s all I can tell you about what might have happened.

Caller John:  That’s all good stuff.  I didn’t know any of it.  How much different was the final product of the Constitution from what was laid on them from the very beginning?

america-secede-or-die-t-shirtMike:  You can read the Virginia Plan.  It’s online.  Just Google “James Madison, Virginia Plan” and you can find it.  Madison wanted the Senate to be apportioned, in other words Delaware would probably only get one senator and Virginia would get ten.  Madison wanted an executive that would serve for life.  He wanted the new general government to have a supreme power to veto all the laws of the states that the imperial congress deemed were injurious to liberty or were not to their liking.  He wanted a national legislature basically, and he didn’t get it.  He was basically shut down in the federal convention to the point where — today, September the 17th, we celebrate, or at least I’m celebrating the breaking of the Federal Convention.  It’s shortly after that that Madison goes to New York to attend meetings of the Continental Congress.  He writes a despondent letter to Thomas Jefferson, enclosing a copy of the Constitution, which he is not very confident, even if it is ratified, that it’s going to work.  He didn’t get the things he wanted in it.  There’s a lot to this story that is seldom told or discussed.  Are you getting that?

Caller John:  It sounds amazing.  If they only, in four months’ time, came together on it, it sounds like it should have taken a whole lot longer than that.

Mike:  If Elbridge Gerry, a delegate from Massachusetts, does not proffer the compromise and change his vote — first he votes against the slave compromise.  South Carolina is not going to go along with this scheme of government unless slavery is guaranteed.  There were other men of good conscience, like John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, going: Huh-uh, no way, that cannot be in there.  I’m not going to sign it either.  The great compromise is that Congress won’t make any law about the importation of new persons for 20 years.  We’ll give you guys 20 years to figure out your little peculiar institution slavery problem out.  That was the compromise.

road-to-independence-BH-RTIDE2-detailIf Elbridge Gerry holds his ground and says no and does not agree to the 20-year compromise, the convention is over; it ends right there on that day.  It ends there.  On that day, it ends, it’s over.  There is no Constitution, no amendments, the convention goes home, and we don’t know what would have happened after that.  That’s another one of those stories you probably won’t hear in your history classes unless you’re learning history at Western Connecticut State University from Professor Gutzman or taking one of Tom Woods’ classes, or maybe you’re listening to a radio show on Sirius XM Patriot Channel.   Have I answered all your intriguing questions, John?

Caller John:  Yes, sir.  That will do it for today.  I love it.  I appreciate it.  I sure hope that your truth about history, I look forward to all that.  I think it’s very needed.

Mike:  Try to make it to the website tonight for the video portion of this.

End Mike Church Show Transcript


Articles of Confederation

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I hold myself responsible for not studying harder in school about the Articles of Confederation because I never heard of them until I started listening to you Mike. This is not a response on whether or not the War of Northern Aggression was won by the North or South. Being from South Texas I used to always think we should have won that war but, I guess you grow up the older you get. I am especially glad to have found your show because this is history that should be told that is not. Some people I talk to just give me this “Yeah I know about the AOC’s” but, who cares it was just something that gave the South a leg up on the North. Now that sounds a little childish would you not agree? I guess people just want their heads in the sand because it does not affect me! You keep up the work and we will keep listening.

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