The adoption of the federal-wide constitution has been a landmark in the history of the United States. The constitutional deliberations that gave rise to the adoption of the Constitution of the United States in 1787 had significant implications for various aspects of the Americans, including freedom. The 1780s is widely referred to as the critical period in the history of the U.S. Various factors affecting the citizens at the time necessitated the process. This paper establishes the impact that the Constitution had on the development of American freedom by exploring the factors that led to its drafting, and the representational dimensions of the various groups.
The United States faced major challenges due to a weak federal government thanks to the Acts of Congress that preceded the Constitution drafted in 1767. Many of the challenges that faced the citizens were as a result of this weak federal government. The states operated like independent countries and Congress faced serious challenges in attempts to enforce its mandates. Consequently, economic problems such as a stunted manufacturing sector, weak foreign affairs and trade influence and limited protection of the domestic industry envisioned the need for a stronger central government. This saw many scholars debate the necessary actions to enhance the position of the United States more urgently.
Elsewhere, other contentious issues that arose from the period’s famous philosophers regarding fundamental rights of individuals came into play. Nolan observed that the prevailing understanding of freedom was of dual nature. This he explained by the fact that proponents of this views argued that natural liberty was not the only constituent of liberty. Civic liberty that was based on responsibility for the common good of society was also regarded as an important aspect of liberty. it was believed therefore that a balance between the two aspects of liberty was crucial for the desire for a democratic society.
The new Constitution had varying degrees of consideration for the poor white males, slaves, women and Native Americans. In his work, cite observed that the policy agenda at Philadelphia revolved more around the issue of slavery, political equality and representation for the states. With respect to voting, the fate of poor white males was left to the states to which they belonged as citizens. Even so, about all the states required that only white males of property were eligible to vote. A majority of the population in the United States therefore, including poor white males, women, slaves and Native Americans could not vote.
With regard to slaves, the Congress would limit future importing of slaves as per the new Constitution but slavery was not banned under the new laws. The laws were still tough on slaves because the new Constitution stipulated that any slaves who escaped to free states were to be returned to their masters. Slaves were not considered citizens since they were perceived as inferior. The basis for retaining the practice under the new Constitution was due to the possibility that some states would have even considered to retract from the U.S. Under representation, slaves were to be counted as fractions of persons. Later amendments during the twentieth century conferred citizenships to this group
Similarly, little consideration was directed to women. In a letter addressed to her wife, John Adams, a member of the delegate that wrote the Constitution, Adams wrote that the new laws would only repeal masculinity rather than bring the dimension of women on board. Women were generally considered as citizens but without the political rights of the male counterparts in the voting classes. Generally, the implication for unrepresented groups was that the new Constitution would not in the near term present a government would liberate them.
With a total of 27 amendments since its adoption, the Constitution of the U.S. has shaped both the understanding and existence of freedom significantly. American freedom has leaned much towards individual freedom at the expense of civic freedom. Changes in the culture and environment of the American people over time have resulted in a culture of liberty that is largely on an individual perspective. This can be observed from such provisions as the Bill of Rights in the First Amendment, and many other provisions relating to this bill in subsequent amendments.
Nolan, James “The Supreme Court and the Story of American Freedom,” Journal of Church and State 38, no. 1 (1996): 37
Vile, John. The Constitutional Convention of 1987: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of America’s Foundation. Santa Barbara: Library of Congress.
Edwards C. George, Wattenberg P. Martin and Lineberry L. Robert, “The Constitution” The Government in America: People, Politics, and Policy. (New York: Pearson, 2006)
Michael Parenti, “A Constitution for the Few: Looking Back to the Beginning,” The International Endowment for Democracy, http://www.iefd.org/articles/constitution_for_the_few.php
Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 14 April 1776 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/