Constitution It was Constitution

October 09, 2003


It was Constitution day. We opened with housekeeping - returning the papers, talking about Tuesday's midterm, then dove into Constitution.

I need to revise the first section of this outline; it did not flow well. I started with the Articles and the problems of the Articles. I emphasized the Newburgh conspiracy, Rhode Island inflation, inability to fulfill the Treaty of Paris, British forts on the frontiers, internal trade barriers, and an unwillingness to pay their debts. I placed the whole thing in the context of 18th-century states as institutions devoted to collecting taxes, borrowing money, and paying soldiers, and argued that because the US under the Articles was unable to collect taxes or pay its debts that it was not taken seriously as an 18th century state.

I then did the short version of Shays's rebellion - map of MA on the board, laid out merchants, eastern regions, western farmers. I ran through western grievances and made it clear, by using revolutionary language to describe the dispute, that the western farmers were using the rhetoric and ideals of the Am Rev against the eastern leaders who were trying to perpetuate and continue the Am Rev. I did not do the roleplay exercise, it takes too much time.

From there I broke, and this was a break in the rhythm of the class. I turned to religion, quickly summarized what the continental congress had done, then ran over MA tightening its establishment while loosening test acts, the middle states loosening both establishments (weak to begin with) and test acts, and Virginia doing Jefferson's statute. Note - assign the Jefferson statute, Madison's memorial and remonstrance, or both next time.

The religion mini-lecture broke the buildup to Philadelphia. It should have come first, or in another class. I probably should have cut it and used the time to talk about this week's homework question: "Was the US Constitution a continuation or a repudiation of Revolutionary ideals?" We are long on lecture, short on discussion.

Finally, we got to Philadelphia. I introduce Madison, gave them the VA and NJ plans, ran through the great compromise, and briefly explained split sovereignty. I compared it to the drawings I did earlier on colonial v British notions of the imperial constitution - sort of a Jack Greene light. I took the last couple of minutes to cover constitution and slavery - import restrictions and the 3/5 clause.

Tuesday is the midterm, next week we get to play with Ratification and the First Congress. Reminder - keep ratifications short short short.

Posted by Red Ted at October 9, 2003 10:43 AM | TrackBack