During the Revolutionary War, the thirteen colonies that made up America did not have a central government and were only just forming independent state government. Through the first and second Constitutional Congress’, America united in its resistance against Great Britain and adopted policies to abolish English authority over the colonies. This Continental Congress called for the colonies to form their own independent governments and they appointed five men to a committee to draft the declaration of independence. On July 4, 1776 the Constitutional Congress adopted the declaration of Independence which proclaimed the independence of America from the crown. However, now that the United States was a free nation, how should the new government be set up?
This 18th century conflict separated the nation into two distinct groups: the Federalists and the Anti-federalists. The Federalists, who were led by Alexander Hamilton, were those in favor of a stronger federal government and advocated for the ratification of the constitution, a system of checks and balances, a strong executive branch of government, and saw no need for a bill of rights. This group was made up of wealthy businessmen from the North who supported the commerce and industry of America. However, on the other side were the Anti-federalists, led by Thomas Jefferson, who favored the idea of a stronger state government with the Legislative Branch holding more power than the Executive Branch. Jefferson was in support of a decentralized agrarian republic that included efficient organization. While Hamilton feared anarchy and stressed the importance of order of society, Jefferson feared tyranny and stressed the importance of freedom.
With the draft of the constitution, the Federalists felt that it was structured well enough to prevent tyranny of the Executive Branch and thus no Bill of Rights was needed. This group claimed that the separation of the governmental powers into three independent branches of the government would protect the rights of the people in the nation. Because each branch represented a different aspect of society and since all of these branches are equal, no one group in the United States could gain control over any other group. In addition, the Federalists felt that a formal Bill of Rights listing specific rights guaranteed to all Americans was a dangerous thing. It would be impossible to list all of the rights on a document so that the federal government wouldn’t violate any, so instead of only drafting a partial listing, there should be no list at all. The Federalists published these viewpoints and arguments to the Anti-federalist’s concerns in The Federalist Papers.
The Anti-Federalists were against the ratification of the Constitution because they believed that if gave the federal government too much power. This group was made up of farmers, debtors, and other lower class people of the rural and southern areas of the nation whom were loyal to their state governments. They argued that the Constitution gave an excess amount of power to the national government at the cost of the state governments. They felt that both the executive branch and the congress held too much power. The Anti-Federalists believed that as Americans, they had just gained a myriad of rights now that they were free from England and a Bill of Rights was necessary for the new national government to be stopped from taking these rights away.
Thanks to the Federalist Papers, the Federalists were able to break down some resistance from the Anti-Federalists and win enough support from their opponents so as to win ratification of the Constitution. The first states to ratify this document, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, ratified it in 1787 and in June 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution which met the requirements for the United States to adopt the Constitution so it would go into effect. However, some states, especially New York, was deeply against the ratification of the Constitution for fear that it would transfer civil liberties away from the people and instead to an authoritarian government. In return for their support, the Federalists promised that a document outlining civil liberties would be added to the Constitution by the Congress, the Bill of Rights. With the convening of the new Congress, guided by James Madison, a Bill of Rights was carefully drafted with amendments addressing specific individual freedoms that were written specifically to appeal to the House and Senate so as to win approval. Some of the rights included: freedom of religion, press, speech, and assembly, the right to bear arms, the right to trial by jury and due process, protection against cruel and unusual punishment etc. These issues and several others were covered in the first ten amendments now known as the Bill of Rights. Finally, in December of 1791, the Bill of Rights was approved and went into effect thus assuring liberties for all free white men in the country.
During the industrialization of the United States, culminating during the period of 1870 to 1900, urban governments faced unprecedented issues that cities had never faced before. Due to both migration and immigration that created an urban population that was both ethnically and racially stratified, cities had begun the process of rapid industrialization, commercial expansion, and technological changes that redefined the social structure and economic relationships of the United States. The cities faced problems such as overcrowding, ill health, poverty, and crime due to the cities having to too rapidly expand to accommodate all of the newcomers into the urban setting. The existing government of the United States and municipal governments of the cities that had evolved in the urbanization of the early nineteen century did not have a remedy for these problems and instead seemed to “generate political chaos”. Before 1850, most mayors could only exert a limited amount of control over municipal policy however this was soon to change as the urban cities began to dominate America.