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Shays Rebellion

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Shays Rebellion was an uprising named for its leader Daniel Shay, who lead the revolt in the mid 1780's as a result of excessive land taxation, high legal costs, and economic depression following the American Revolution. The inability to suppress this type of civil disobedience showed disunity among the colonies after the Revolutionary War and was the push that led to the end of a weak Articles of Confederation and to the writing of our current Constitution. Together the Federalist Papers and the Virginia Plan provided a foundation and support for the ratification of this new Constitution. However, to implement this new document along with its plans for a centralized government, the Federalists would face resistance not only from the Anti-Federalists but also from the existing law of the land, the Articles of Confederation.

Following Shays Rebellion, the states knew they had to be more united in order to prevent such an uprising from occurring once again and also in the process establish a more efficient economic system. Initially their plan was to make changes to the Article of Confederation. However, the foundations of this document left majority of the power within the individual states and it was just not possible to make the reforms. So the Founding Fathers saw it best to create an entirely new document, which would become known as the Constitution. The contents of this document and lack thereof, faced much criticism as it initially proposed a large centralized government and not enough protection of the individual rights of citizens. It gave too much power to the government and not enough to the people , a relationship that the Anti-Federalists found reminiscent between that of England and its American colonies. Set out to defend the contents of the constitution were three Federalists: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. Under the pen name Publius these men intended to promote ratification of the Constitution through a series of articles/essays called the Federalist Papers. In Federalist 10, James Madison discusses the topic of factions within any society and their inevitability. He said, "There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests...It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires...The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed."(James Madison 1787) Madison means that there are only two ways to suppress factions and both methods are worse than the actual uprisings themselves. He then goes on to state that while factions would be numerous in a large republic they would also be much weaker than in a smaller republic. In essence he argued for a large republic because it would be better able to safeguard against domestic factions and insurrections than smaller republics - in this case the individual states.

At the Constitutional Convention, Edmund Randolph proposed what was to be known as the Virginia Plan. This plan would also help to promote a strong national government. It entailed "that it is the opinion of this Committee that a national government ought to be established consisting of a Supreme Legislative, Judiciary, and Executive... that the national Legislature ought to consist of Two Branches.... that the members of the first branch of the national Legislature ought to be elected by the People of the several States for the term of Three years... that the members of the second Branch of the national Legislature ought to be chosen by the individual Legislatures. to be of the age of thirty years at least. to hold their offices



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