A.P. Civics Notes: Chapter 2
I. The Problem of Liberty
1. In the decade that preceded the Revolutionary War, most American colonists believed that they could obtain certain liberties and still be a part of the British Empire, liberties such as:
i. The right to bring cases to truly independent judges that weren’t subordinate to the king.
ii. The right to NOT have British troops quartered in private houses.
iii. The right to NOT have to pay taxes without direct Parliamentary representation.
2. However, by the time war broke out, many colonists had lost faith in the [unwritten] British constitution, one that allowed liberties to be violated and abuse of political power to flourish.
3. Colonists believed that English politicians tended to be corrupt, since they naturally desired power, and that was their explanation of why the British constitution was insufficient for their American liberties.
i. The colonists desired protected liberties based not on the king but on a “higher law” that embodied “natural rights,” such as those of life, liberty, and property, that were given by God.
ii. These rights could not be taken away from anyone by anyone, theoretically.
iii. By property, the revolutionaries did not be money, land, or economics; they meant the idea of being able to move up in life, of being capable of improving.
4. The Declaration of Independence listed man’s “natural rights,” but it also displayed 27 complaints against the British king.
5. The “real revolution” was not just the fighting and combat that went on during the war, but the actual “radical change in the principles, opinions, and sentiments of the people.”
i. Such revolutionary ideas included: (1) Human liberty exists before government organization, and is the number ONE priority; (2) The legislative branch of the government represents the people and should be more powerful than the executive branch; (3) Only a written constitution could allow political power to be recognized.
6. In 1776, eight states adopted written constitutions, and within a few years, all states except Connecticut and Rhode Island (who relied on colonial charters) had constitutions of their own.
7. The 11 years between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were tumultuous; George Washington had to run an army without a strong, supportive national government, many parts of the nation were in shambles, and even after their loss, the British continued to hold posts in Canada and the western territories of the U.S.; also, Spain held territory in Florida and the Mississippi River.
8. In 1781, the Articles of Confederation went into effect, creating a confederation, NOT a country.
i. Each state retained its sovereignty and independence and had one vote in Congress.
ii. Nine votes out of thirteen were needed to pass ANY measure while amendments had to be unanimously approved, and the vote-casting delegates were chosen by state legislatures.
iii. Congress could make piece, coin money, ...