2 - Read and take notes on this excerpt about the Treaty of Versailles:
TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Germany as the chief instigator of the conflict, the European Allied
Powers decided to impose particularly stringent treaty obligations upon
the defeated Germany. The Treaty of Versailles, presented for German
leaders to sign on May 7, 1919, forced Germany to concede territories to
Belgium (Eupen-Malmédy), Czechoslovakia (the Hultschin district), and
Poland (Poznan [German: Posen], West Prussia and Upper Silesia). The
Germans returned Alsace and Lorraine, annexed in 1871 after the
Franco-Prussian War, to France. All German overseas colonies became
League of Nation Mandates, and the city of Danzig (today: Gdansk), with
its large ethnically German population, became a Free City. The treaty
demanded demilitarization and occupation of the Rhineland, and special
status for the Saarland under French control. Plebiscites were to
determine the future of areas in northern Schleswig on the Danish-German
frontier and parts of Upper Silesia on the border with Poland.
the most humiliating portion of the treaty for defeated Germany was
Article 231, commonly known as the "War Guilt Clause," which forced the
German nation to accept complete responsibility for initiating World War
I. As such Germany was liable for all material damages, and France's
premier Georges Clemenceau particularly insisted on imposing enormous
reparation payments. Aware that Germany would probably not be able to
pay such a towering debt, Clemenceau and the French nevertheless greatly
feared rapid German recovery and the initiation of a new war against
France. Hence, the French sought in the postwar treaty to limit
Germany's potential to regain its economic superiority and to rearm. The
German army was to be limited to 100,000 men, and conscription
proscribed; the treaty restricted the Navy to vessels under 100,000
tons, with a ban on the acquisition or maintenance of a submarine fleet.
Germany was forbidden to maintain an air force. Finally, Germany was
required to conduct war crimes proceedings against the Kaiser and other
leaders for waging aggressive war. The subsequent Leipzig Trials,
without the Kaiser or other significant national leaders in the dock,
resulted largely in acquittals and were widely perceived as a sham, even
The newly formed German democratic government saw
the Versailles Treaty as a “dictated peace” (Diktat). Although France,
which had suffered more materially than the other parties in the “Big
Four,” had insisted upon harsh terms, the peace treaty did not
ultimately help to settle the international disputes which had initiated
World War I. On the contrary, it tended to hinder inter-European
cooperation and make more fractious the underlying issues which had
caused the war in the first place. The dreadful sacrifices of war and
tremendous loss of life, suffered on all sides, weighed heavily not only
upon the losers of the conflict, but also upon those combatants on the
winning side, like Italy, whose postwar spoils seemed incommensurate
with the terrible price each nation had paid in blood and material
For the populations of the defeated powers -- Germany,
Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria -- the respective peace treaties appeared
an unfair punishment, and their governments, whether democratic as in
Germany or Austria, or authoritarian, in the case of Hungary and
Bulgaria, quickly resorted to violating the military and financial terms
of the accords. Efforts to revise and defy the more burdensome
provisions of the peace became a key element in their respective foreign
policies and proved a destabilizing factor in international politics.
war guilt clause, its incumbent reparation payments, and the
limitations on the German military were particularly onerous in the
minds of most Germans, and revision of the Versailles Treaty represented
one of the platforms that gave radical right wing parties in Germany,
including Hitler's Nazi Party, such credibility to mainstream voters in
the 1920s and early 1930s. Promises to rearm, to reclaim German
territory, particularly in the East, to remilitarize the Rhineland, and
to regain prominence again among the European and world powers after
such a humiliating defeat and peace, stoked ultranationalist sentiment
and helped average voters to overlook the more radical tenets of Nazi
The burdensome reparations, coupled with a general
inflationary period in Europe in the 1920s, caused spiraling
hyperinflation of the German Reichsmark by 1923. This hyperinflationary
period combined with the effects of the Great Depression (beginning in
1929) seriously to undermine the stability of the German economy, wiping
out the personal savings of the middle class and spurring massive
unemployment. Such economic chaos did much to increase social unrest,
destabilizing the fragile Weimar Republic.
Finally, the efforts
of the Western European powers to marginalize Germany through the
Versailles Treaty undermined and isolated German democratic leaders.
Particularly deleterious in connection with the harsh provisions of
Versailles was the rampant conviction among many in the general
population that Germany had been “stabbed in the back” by the “November
criminals” -- those who had helped to form the new Weimar government and
broker the peace which Germans had so desperately wanted, but which
ended so disastrously in Versailles. Many Germans forgot that they had
applauded the fall of the Kaiser, had initially welcomed parliamentary
democratic reform, and had rejoiced at the armistice. They recalled only
that the German Left -- Socialists, Communists and Jews, in common
imagination -- had surrendered German honor to an ignominious peace when
no foreign armies had even set foot on German soil.
Dolchstosslegende (stab-in-the-back legend) helped further to discredit
German socialist and liberal circles who felt most committed to maintain
Germany's fragile democratic experiment. The difficulties imposed by
social and economic unrest in the wake of World War I and its onerous
peace terms worked in tandem to undermine pluralistic democratic
solutions in Weimar Germany and to increase public longing for more
authoritarian direction, a kind of leadership which German voters
ultimately and unfortunately found in Adolf Hitler and his National
1 - Write a sentence for each. Words w asterisks do not require a sentence.
unscrupulous: adjective; having or showing no moral principles; not honest or fair.
indelible: adjective; that cannot be removed, washed away, or erased
encumbered: verb; restrict or burden (someone or something) in such a way that free action or movement is difficult.
etiolating: to make pale; to deprive of natural vigor, make feeble
megalomania: noun; a psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence.
in posse*: in potential but not in actuality.
in esse*: actually existing
cohere: verb; be united; form a whole.
remuneration: noun; money paid for work or a service
locution: noun; a word or phrase, esp. with regard to style or idiom.
arbiter: noun; one chosen or appointed to judge or decide a disputed issue; an arbitrator.
ambivalence: noun; the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone.
venery*: sexual indulgence
peripatetic: adj; traveling from place to place, esp. working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
consanguinity: noun; a close relation or connection
bemuse: verb; puzzle, confuse, or bewilder (someone).
at par: at the original price; neither at a discount nor at a premium; - used especially of financial instruments, such as bonds.
platonic*: adj; of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex
the act of murdering one's father (patricide), mother (matricide) or
other close relative, but usually not children (infanticide).
the act of murdering a person (such as the ruler of one's country) who stands in a relationship resembling that of a father
a person who commits such an act
mortify: verb; to cause to experience shame, humiliation, or wounded pride; humiliate.
apostate: noun; a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle
vex; verb; make (someone) feel annoyed, frustrated, or worried, esp. with trivial matters.
dexterity: noun; skill in performing tasks, esp. with the hands.
amoral: adj; lacking a moral sense; unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something.
concomitant: adj; existing or occurring with something else, often in a lesser way; accompanying; concurrent: an event and its concomitant circumstances.
votary: noun; a person, such as a monk or nun, who has made vows of dedication to religious service.
mendacity: noun; untruthfulness
phalanx*: noun; a body of heavily armed infantry in ancient Greece formed in close deep ranks and files; broadly: a body of troops in close array
usurp: verb; to take and keep (something, such as power) in a forceful or violent way and especially without the right to do so.
approbation: noun; praise or approval
machination: noun; crafty scheme or cunning design for the accomplishment of a sinister end.
pseudonym: noun; candor a name that someone (such as a writer) uses instead of his or her real name.
epitaph: noun; something written or said in memory of a dead person; especially : words written on a gravestone.
candor: noun; the quality of being open and honest in expression; frankness.
obstinate: adj; stubbornly refusing to change one's opinion or chosen course of action, despite attempts to persuade one to do so.
ardent: adj; enthusiastic or passionate
nimbus*: noun; b a radiant light that appears usually in the form of a circle or halo
about or over the head in the representation of a god, demigod, saint,
or sacred person such as a king or an emperor.
adroit: noun; clever or skillful in using the hands or mind.
cherub: noun; a type of angel that is usually shown in art as a beautiful young child with small wings and a round face and body
pagan: noun; one who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods : an irreligious or hedonistic person
belligerent: adj; hostile and aggressive
jingo: noun; one who vociferously supports one's country, especially one who supports a belligerent foreign policy; a chauvinistic patriot.
prescience: noun; the fact of knowing something before it takes place; foreknowledge.
antipathy: noun; a deep-seated feeling of dislike; aversion.
unilateral: adj: performed by or affecting only one person, group, or country
involved in a particular situation, without the agreement of another or
felicity: adj; the quality or state of being happy; especially: great happiness
querulous: adj; complaining in a petulant or whining manner.
2) Read Vidal, chap 4, pgs 65-80, take notes:
Create a character chart for each:
Remember to consider what the character thinks, says, does, believes, how he is see by others, how he is seen by Vidal.
When you are finished consider what you've read in this chapter that
will help support you during your essay. Write a one paragraph reflection.
3) Discuss the conflict between Adams and Hamilton as members of Washington's cabinet.
Discuss Adams's role as president of the Senate (use his speech to the Senate on page 69)
Discuss Hamilton's role in the new government. How does Vidal characterize this role?
Discuss the developing political factions as noticed by Adams.
Discuss Washington's first interaction with the Senate. How does it illustrate the concept of checks and balances?
Read and take notes: You are expected to analyze and
interpret this as a primary source document. What are the text's
central ideas? Who is the intended audience? In what ways is Wilson
attempting to persuade his audience or multiple audiences? How could
you quote this document to meet the primary source requirements for your
Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points Speech (January 8, 1918) "It
will be our wish and purpose that the processes of peace, when they are
begun, shall be absolutely open and that they shall involve and permit
henceforth no secret understandings of any kind. The day of conquest and
aggrandizement is gone by; so is also the day of secret covenants
entered into in the interest of particular governments and likely at
some unlooked-for moment to upset the peace of the world. It is this
happy fact, now clear to the view of every public man whose thoughts do
not still linger in an age that is dead and gone, which makes it
possible for every nation whose purposes are consistent with justice and
the peace of the world to avow nor or at any other time the objects it
has in view.
We entered this war because violations of right had
occurred which touched us to the quick and made the life of our own
people impossible unless they were corrected and the world secure once
for all against their recurrence. What we demand in this war, therefore,
is nothing peculiar to ourselves. It is that the world be made fit and
safe to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every
peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life,
determine its own institutions, be assured of justice and fair dealing
by the other peoples of the world as against force and selfish
aggression. All the peoples of the world are in effect partners in this
interest, and for our own part we see very clearly that unless justice
be done to others it will not be done to us. The program of the world's
peace, therefore, is our program; and that program, the only possible
program, as we see it, is this:
I. Open covenants of peace,
openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international
understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly
and in the public view.
II. Absolute freedom of navigation upon
the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except
as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action
for the enforcement of international covenants.
III. The removal,
so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of
an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the
peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.
Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be
reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial
claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in
determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the
populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims
of the government whose title is to be determined.
evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all
questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest
cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an
unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent
determination of her own political development and national policy and
assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under
institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance
also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The
treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come
will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her
needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their
intelligent and unselfish sympathy.
VII. Belgium, the whole world
will agree, must be evacuated and restored, without any attempt to
limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all other free
nations. No other single act will serve as this will serve to restore
confidence among the nations in the laws which they have themselves set
and determined for the government of their relations with one another.
Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of
international law is forever impaired.
VIII. All French territory
should be freed and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done
to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has
unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be
righted, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the
interest of all.
IX. A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.
The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish
to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest
opportunity to autonomous development.
XI. Rumania, Serbia, and
Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia
accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the relations of the
several Balkan states to one another determined by friendly counsel
along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and
international guarantees of the political and economic independence and
territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be entered
XII. The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire
should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities
which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security
of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous
development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free
passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international
XIII. An independent Polish state should be erected
which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish
populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the
sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial
integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.
general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants
for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence
and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.
regard to these essential rectifications of wrong and assertions of
right we feel ourselves to be intimate partners of all the governments
and peoples associated together against the Imperialists. We cannot be
separated in interest or divided in purpose. We stand together until the
end. For such arrangements and covenants we are willing to fight and to
continue to fight until they are achieved; but only because we wish the
right to prevail and desire a just and stable peace such as can be
secured only by removing the chief provocations to war, which this
program does remove. We have no jealousy of German greatness, and there
is nothing in this program that impairs it. We grudge her no achievement
or distinction of learning or of pacific enterprise such as have made
her record very bright and very enviable. We do not wish to injure her
or to block in any way her legitimate influence or power. We do not wish
to fight her either with arms or with hostile arrangements of trade if
she is willing to associate herself with us and the other peace- loving
nations of the world in covenants of justice and law and fair dealing.
We wish her only to accept a place of equality among the peoples of the
world, -- the new world in which we now live, -- instead of a place of
Neither do we presume to suggest to her any alteration
or modification of her institutions. But it is necessary, we must
frankly say, and necessary as a preliminary to any intelligent dealings
with her on our part, that we should know whom her spokesmen speak for
when they speak to us, whether for the Reichstag majority or for the
military party and the men whose creed is imperial domination.
have spoken now, surely, in terms too concrete to admit of any further
doubt or question. An evident principle runs through the whole program I
have outlined. It is the principle of justice to all peoples and
nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and
safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak.
this principle be made its foundation no part of the structure of
international justice can stand. The people of the United States could
act upon no other principle; and to the vindication of this principle
they are ready to devote their lives, their honor, and everything they
possess. The moral climax of this the culminating and final war for
human liberty has come, and they are ready to put their own strength,
their own highest purpose, their own integrity and devotion to the
rationale: 1. the fundamental reason or reasons serving to account for something. 2. a statement of reasons.
I realize this is a lot of work folks. I can give you until Wed, but please make sure you begin this work over the weekend. You will be lost on Tuesday if you don't begin this work. 1 - Define the following. For each, list part of speech and write sentences. Words with asterisks do not require sentences. Several words are already defined, but you must still write sentences. A few of these may be repeats so you may write your own definition, provided you're certain of its meaning. You must still use in a sentence.
exuberant: (adj) killed with or characterized by a lively energy and excitement
*brood: (n) a number of young produced or hatched at one time; a family of offspring or young.
*brood: (v) to sit upon (eggs) to hatch, as a bird; incubate. electorate
brood: (v) to think or worry persistently or moodily about; ponder: He brooded the problem.
*fin de siecle: "end of the century"
*Anglophone: (adj/n) the English speaking world, person, group pr locality
emolument: (n) salary, wages and benefits paid for employment or an office held.
subsist: (v) to continue in existence
nemesis: (n) a source of harm or ruin
venality: (n) susceptible to bribery or corruption
fret: (v) to feel or express worry, annoyance, discontent, or the like
*lapidary: (n) a cutter, polisher, or engraver of precious stones usually other than diamonds
*Arcadia: A region of ancient Greece in the Peloponnesus. Its inhabitants, relatively isolated from the rest of the known civilized world, proverbially lived a simple, pastoral life
stratagem: (n) a plan or strategy used to trick an enemy
decimate: (v) kill, destroy, or remove a large percentage of
*littoral: (adj) of or pertaining to the shore of a lake, sea, or ocean.
*panegyric: (n) a public speech or published text in praise of someone or something.
*eponymous: (adj) of, relating to, or being the person or thing for whom or which something is named
*antediluvian: (adj) "before the deluge" – is the period referred to in the Bible between the Creation of the Earth and the Deluge (flood) 2 - Read Vidal chapter 2, and take notes. Notes will be checked and graded on a 4 pt scale. Be prepared to discuss with a partner Tuesday.
4 - clearly shows connections to Essential Question: Did the Constitution's framers intend to create a revolutionary and democratic government? - discusses Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, King George III, Paine - discusses key/important events - clearly demonstrates understanding of all the text's central ideas - provides evidence/quotes to support your claims/arguments; evidence includes numeric data, relevant people and events - notes are neat and organized; contain headings that show general ideas; contain bullets, numbers, letters or other symbols to distinguish supporting ideas and evidence
3 - shows connections to Essential Question: Did the Constitution's framers intend to create a revolutionary and democratic government? - discusses Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, King George III, Paine - discusses key/important events - demonstrates understanding of most of the text's central ideas - provides evidence/quotes to support your claims/arguments; evidence includes numeric data, relevant people and events - notes are neat and organized; contain headings that show general ideas; contain bullets, numbers, letters or other symbols to distinguish supporting ideas and evidence
2 - shows connections - discusses several but not all of the following: Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, King George III, Paine - demonstrates understanding two or less of the text's central ideas - little evidence/quotes to support your claims/arguments; little or no numeric data; little mention of major events or people - notes are sloppy and unorganized; no headings to distinguish general ideas; doesn't contain bullets, numbers, letters or other symbols to distinguish supporting ideas and evidence
avert exultation abyss salient idle mutiny consent abridge financier paradox ingenuity supplant stringent confer plunder deliberate proclaim emancipate sedition c) watch the following two clips and take notes; angle your notes toward the essential question; notes will be graded for credit:
Notes should: - clearly demonstrates understanding of all the article's central ideas - provide evidence/quotes to support your claims/arguments; evidence includes numeric data, relevant people and events - be neat and organized; contain headings that show general ideas; contain bullets, numbers, letters or other symbols to distinguish supporting ideas and evidence d) Read Zinn "War is the Health of the State" pages 359-365
Answer the following questions. Support your answers with quotes from the text
Why did Sean Wadsworth propose a draft?
How/why do you think British military requirements changed over time?
How did industrialization impact the nature of war?
What was “no man’s land?”
Discuss the impact of media coverage.
Why did Wilson enter the war?
Discuss the William Jennings Bryant quote: “…opened the doors of all weaker countries to an invasion of American capital and enterprise. How does this quote connect to the concept of imperialism?
Why did W. E. B. DuBois call the war a "Battle for Africa"?
Compare the Committee on Public Information, the Socialists, and the Alliance for Labor and Democracy's stances on the War.
The Four Causes of WWI
nationalism, militarism, secret alliances, imperialism
nationalism: when an ethnic, religious or cultural group feels entitled to its own state.
militarism: when a country's economy and culture is based on the military.
secret alliances: agreements between two or more countries to support each other during war, unbeknownst to other nations.
imperialism: when a country dominates another economically, politically and culturally.
Two sides of WWI
Allies/Triple Entente (Britain, France, Russia, USA)
Central Powers/Triple Alliance (Germany, Ottoman Empire, Austria Hungary)
2) Read/Take Notes:
Summary of Events The Start of the War
War I began on July 28, 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on
Serbia. This seemingly small conflict between two countries spread
rapidly: soon, Germany, Russia, Great Britain, and France were all drawn
into the war, largely because they were involved in treaties that
obligated them to defend certain other nations. Western and eastern
fronts quickly opened along the borders of Germany and Austria-Hungary.
The Western and Eastern Fronts
first month of combat consisted of bold attacks and rapid troop
movements on both fronts. In the west, Germany attacked first Belgium
and then France. In the east, Russia attacked both Germany and
Austria-Hungary. In the south, Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia.
Following the Battle of the Marne (September 5–9, 1914), the western
front became entrenched in central France and remained that way for the
rest of the war. The fronts in the east also gradually locked into
The Ottoman Empire
in 1914, the Ottoman Empire was brought into the fray as well, after
Germany tricked Russia into thinking that Turkey had attacked it. As a
result, much of 1915 was dominated by Allied actions against the
Ottomans in the Mediterranean. First, Britain and France launched a
failed attack on the Dardanelles. This campaign was followed by the
British invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Britain also launched a
separate campaign against the Turks in Mesopotamia. Although the British
had some successes in Mesopotamia, the Gallipoli campaign and the
attacks on the Dardanelles resulted in British defeats.
middle part of the war, 1916 and 1917, was dominated by continued
trench warfare in both the east and the west. Soldiers fought from
dug-in positions, striking at each other with machine guns, heavy
artillery, and chemical weapons. Though soldiers died by the millions in
brutal conditions, neither side had any substantive success or gained
The United States’ Entrance and Russia’s Exit
the stalemate on both fronts in Europe, two important developments in
the war occurred in 1917. In early April, the United States, angered by
attacks upon its ships in the Atlantic, declared war on Germany. Then,
in November, the Bolshevik Revolution prompted Russia to pull out of the
The End of the War and Armistice
both sides launched renewed offensives in 1918 in an all-or-nothing
effort to win the war, both efforts failed. The fighting between
exhausted, demoralized troops continued to plod along until the Germans
lost a number of individual battles and very gradually began to fall
back. A deadly outbreak of influenza, meanwhile, took heavy tolls on
soldiers of both sides. Eventually, the governments of both Germany and
Austria-Hungary began to lose control as both countries experienced
multiple mutinies from within their military structures.
ended in the late fall of 1918, after the member countries of the
Central Powers signed armistice agreements one by one. Germany was the
last, signing its armistice on November 11, 1918. As a result of these
agreements, Austria-Hungary was broken up into several smaller
countries. Germany, under the Treaty of Versailles, was severely
punished with hefty economic reparations, territorial losses, and strict
limits on its rights to develop militarily.
Germany After the War
historians, in hindsight, believe that the Allies were excessive in
their punishment of Germany and that the harsh Treaty of Versailles
actually planted the seeds of World War II, rather than foster peace.
The treaty’s declaration that Germany was entirely to blame for the war
was a blatant untruth that humiliated the German people. Furthermore,
the treaty imposed steep war reparations payments on Germany, meant to
force the country to bear the financial burden of the war. Although
Germany ended up paying only a small percentage of the reparations it
was supposed to make, it was already stretched financially thin by the
war, and the additional economic burden caused enormous resentment.
Ultimately, extremist groups, such as the Nazi Party, were able to
exploit this humiliation and resentment and take political control of
the country in the decades following.
Read, annotate and take notes on the "Ordinary Americans and the Constitution" article.
Ordinary Americans and the Constitution
by Gary B. Nash
Detail from the Preamble of the US Constitution printed in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)
Constitution is so honored today, at home and abroad, that it may seem
irreverent to suggest that for a great many ordinary Americans, it was
not what they wished as a capstone of their revolutionary experience.
This is not to say that they opposed the Constitution from beginning to
end. Far from it. Rather, they were alarmed at important omissions in
the Constitution, particularly a Bill of Rights. Many believed that the
Constitution was the work of men of wealth and prestige who meant to
submerge the most democratic features of the American Revolution. This
is why historians are generally agreed that if the Constitution had been
put before the electorate for an up-and-down vote—a plebescite, in
effect—it would not have been ratified. Considering that the suffrage
was limited to about half of the adult white men (others were not
qualified for lack of property), this would have been a thumping
rejection of what was seen by ordinary people as a conservative,
With this in mind, let’s consider how three large groups—African
Americans, artisans, and small farmers—viewed the Constitution, and
examine why these groups had deep reservations about its ability to
steer the nation forward without compromising the founding principles of
the American Revolution.
Not until 1845, after Madison’s long-hidden notes on the debates of
the Constitutional Convention were published, would William Lloyd
Garrison, a fervent abolitionist, call the Constitution a “covenant with
death” and “an agreement with hell” because of the several pro-slavery
clauses embodied in the document and how the delegates to the convention
put them there. Enslaved African Americans—about one-sixth of the
nation’s population in 1790—knew that well enough, for the Constitution
that began with the lofty words “To create a more perfect union” did
nothing to release them and their children from slavery.
This was obvious as well to free African Americans, though their
fragile position in the northern and Chesapeake states made it difficult
for them to criticize the Constitution once it was ratified. And it was
well known that among the Antifederalists opposing ratification of the
Constitution, some were disturbed at the pro-slavery character of the
document. One such person was Luther Martin, attorney general of
Maryland, who railed against delaying the end of the slave trade for
twenty years and lamented that the Constitution did not include a clause
“to authorize the general government from time to time, to make such
regulations as should be thought most advantageous for the gradual
abolition of slavery, and the emancipation of the slaves.” In protesting
the fugitive slave clause (Article IV, Section 2) shortly after
ratification, black Americans again signified their understanding that
northern delegates to the Constitutional Convention had bowed to
southern slave owners.
It would take a half century before Frederick Douglass expressed what
many of his black predecessors latently believed about the
Constitution, and this feeling grew as the number of slaves increased
rapidly in the first half of the nineteenth century. “The Constitution
of the United States—What is it?” asked Douglass. “Who made it? For whom
and for what was it made?” His answer was disquieting for whites but
empowering for blacks: “Liberty and Slavery—opposite as Heaven and
Hell—are both in the Constitution; and the oath to support the latter is
an oath to perform that which God has made impossible. . . . If we
adopt the preamble, with Liberty and Justice, we must repudiate the
enacting clauses, with Kidnapping and Slave holding.”
Representing perhaps one-tenth of the population, craftsmen ranged
across a great many trades, and they were far from unified in their
political views. Nonetheless, most supported the Constitution. They knew
that the Articles of Confederation left the Continental Congress with
no taxing power, with no “energy,” with no authority to raise an army to
suppress insurrections, either by black slaves or white farmers’
desperate at post-1783 demands for taxes and debt payments that they
could not meet in the midst of a postwar depression. Also, they favored a
shift of power from state legislatures to a federal government because
it promised federal protection for the American-made goods that they
produced in competition with British artisans. Tariff protection,
mandated by a stronger central government, fit their needs for the
public to “buy American.”
Yet a great many artisans had concerns about the Constitution.
Particularly, they feared that it would usher in an era where the
democratic promise of the Revolution—both in economic and political
terms—would wither away.
The artisans’ economic concerns centered on equal access to capital,
land, and education and the chance to achieve what they called a “decent
competency.” Believing in the virtuousness of productive labor and the
indispensability of laboring people to the community, many artisans
deplored what they saw as a growing tendency of the rich to feed off the
poor, while casting aspersions on “the sheeplike masses” and “the
vulgar herd.” If the Constitution facilitated the rise of a
super-wealthy commercial elite, the day was not far off before the small
producers’ dream of social justice and a rough economic equality would
be shattered. George Bryan, writing as “Centinel,” put it plainly. He
opposed the Constitution because it played into the hands of the
“aristocratic juntos of the well-born few, who had been zealously
endeavoring since the establishment of their [colonial] constitutions,
to humble that offensive upstart—equal liberty.”
Liberty also meant political rights. The artisans had found their
voice during the Revolution, throwing off deference to wealthy leaders,
and coming to play important positions on seaport committees charged
with enforcing boycotts against British products. They had insisted that
they were a part of the body politic—to be enfranchised, allowed to run
for office, and given respect for their service to the community. At
the time of Constitution-making, they were beginning to form mechanic
organizations, which would soon become nodes of political consciousness.
All of this seemed at risk as the ratification debates engaged the
In some towns, especially in the interior, artisans and small
shopkeepers fiercely opposed ratification of the Constitution. In
Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for example, reported William Petrikin, an
ordinary man, “almost every day some new society [was] being formed” to
block “this detestable federal conspiracy.” A volunteer militia company
that he led even pledged “to oppose the establishment of the new
Constitution at the risque of our life and fortunes.” Crowd action
occurred only rarely during the ratification process, but sentiments ran
strong against what thousands of ordinary citizens saw as a retreat
from the liberties they had gained during the Revolution.
By the late eighteenth century, most artisans had drifted away from
the Federalist Party into the Jefferson-led Democratic-Republican Party
because some of the features of the Constitution that worried them at
the time of its creation came to the fore under the first several
Congresses and the presidencies of Washington and Adams. As one New York
City sailmaker declaimed at a Fourth of July celebration in 1797,
“Wherever the wealthy by the influence of riches are enabled to direct
the choice of public officers, there the downfall of liberty cannot be
very remote.” Proud to live “by the sweat of their brows,” the artisans
passed down their fears of concentrated economic and political power—the
enemy of a society of equal opportunity and social justice—to
industrial laborers who by the 1820s were confronting capital in its
expansive, freewheeling form.
When Amos Singletary, the rough-hewn farmer from Worcester County,
Massachusetts, rose before the state’s elected convention gathered in
1788 to decide on whether to ratify the Constitution, he spoke without
benefit of any schooling. But standing behind the plow, he had developed
a wealth of feelings and political instincts. Singletary may have
appreciated that a written constitution was in itself a landmark event
in the Western world, and he may have celebrated the fact that
conventions of delegates elected by their constituents were charged with
deciding on the wisdom of the document. These, after all, were
breathtaking innovations in putting the power in the people—or, as was
the case in Massachusetts, to give a say in political matters to about
half the white adult males who qualified through property ownership.
But gnawing at Singletary’s innards was something born of his
lifelong experience with the men of wealth in western Massachusetts. He,
like most debt-ridden farmers tilling marginal lands in New England,
had just left behind a wrenching, blood-filled civil insurrection born
out of desperation. “These lawyers, and men of learning, and moneyed
men, that talk so finely, and gloss over matters so smoothly, to make us
poor illiterate people swallow down the pill,” he sputtered, “expect to
get into congress themselves; they expect to be managers of the
Constitution and get all the power and all the money into their own
hands, and then they will swallow up all of us little folks, like the
great Leviathan. Mr. President; yes just as the whale swallowed up
Jonah. This is what I am afraid of.”
Singletary did not speak for all farmers and probably not for most of
the commercially successful men of the plow. But he spoke for the
hardscrabble families who eked out a living far from commercial markets.
Such men toiled on the frontiers of the new nation, especially in the
Appalachian hill country from Maine to Georgia. As small agricultural
producers, they feared and hated what they regarded as moneyed,
parasitical men who did not live by their own labor but handled money,
speculated in land, bore hard on debtors to whom they made loans, and
paid low taxes in relation to their wealth.
Many ordinary farmers did support the Constitution because they
accepted the Federalists’ arguments that the nation was languishing
under a government with insufficient power to levy taxes for national
defense, conduct a muscular foreign policy, and devise national
solutions to other national problems. The promise of the addition of a
Bill of Rights, the lack of which was a bone in the throat of a majority
of people, set at ease many who feared the aristocratic tendencies of
the Constitution and the transfer of power from state legislatures to a
federal Congress. But decade after decade, usually in times of economic
stress, agrarian radicals would step forward in every part of the
expanding nation to seek redress for grievances that were rooted, in
their view, from a narrow, aggrandizing minority of wealthy Americans
who benefited the most from the Constitution. Gary B. Nash is professor emeritus of history at the University of California, Los Angeles. His books include The Urban Crucible: Social Change, Political Consciousness and the Origins of the American Revolution (1979), The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America (2005), and The Forgotten Fifth: African Americans in the Age of Revolution (2006).
Take notes in notebook, or type
and tape in notebook. Notes will be checked and graded on a 4 pt scale.
Be prepared to discuss with a partner tomorrow.
4 - clearly
shows connections to Essential Question: Did the Constitution's framers
intend to create a revolutionary and democratic government? - discusses Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington, Smith and Clinton - clearly demonstrates understanding of all the text's central ideas - provides evidence/quotes to support your claims/arguments; evidence includes numeric data, relevant people and events -
notes are neat and organized; contain headings that show general ideas;
contain bullets, numbers, letters or other symbols to distinguish
supporting ideas and evidence
3 - shows connections to
Essential Question: Did the Constitution's framers intend to create a
revolutionary and democratic government? - discusses Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington, Smith and Clinton - demonstrates understanding of most of the text's central ideas - provides evidence/quotes to support your claims/arguments; evidence includes numeric data, relevant people and events -
notes are neat and organized; contain headings that show general ideas;
contain bullets, numbers, letters or other symbols to distinguish
supporting ideas and evidence
2 - shows connections - discusses several but not all of the following: Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington, Smith and Clinton - demonstrates understanding two or less of the texts's central ideas - little evidence/quotes to support your claims/arguments; little or no numeric data; little mention of major events or people -
notes are sloppy and unorganized; no headings to distinguish general
ideas; doesn't contain bullets, numbers, letters or other symbols to
distinguish supporting ideas and evidence