In this lecture, Professor Freeman discusses the Articles of Confederation. Although they seem hopelessly weak in the long view of history, the Articles made perfect sense as a first stab at a national government by a people who deeply distrusted centralized power - a direct product of their recent experience of the British monarchy. Among the many issues that complicated the drafting of the Articles, three central issues included: how war debts to European nations would be divided among the states; whether western territories should be sold by the national government to pay for those debts; and how large and small states would compromise on representation. When a series of events - like Shays' Rebellion - highlighted the weaknesses of the Articles, some Americans felt ready to consider a stronger national government.
Reading assignment: Brown, Major Problems in the Era of the American Revolution, pp. 341-74
The American Revolution entailed some remarkable transformations--converting British colonists into American revolutionaries, and a cluster of colonies into a confederation of states with a common cause--but it was far more complex and enduring then the fighting of a war. As John Adams put it, "The Revolution was in the Minds of the people... before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington"--and it continued long past America's victory at Yorktown. This course will examine the Revolution from this broad perspective, tracing the participants' shifting sense of themselves as British subjects, colonial settlers, revolutionaries, and Americans.
Course Structure: This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2010.