The United States faced a number of challenges during the Early Republican Period. Such challenges emanated from within and outside of the great nation. This write up will present three moments/times of crisis which the nation underwent during the period between 1789 and 1820. These are the crisis which resulted from the problems of slavery, the problem of constitutional crisis as well as that of the resulting debt crisis as discussed by Foner in his book Give me Liberty. The study will specifically evaluate how the founders and the early leaders responded to the identified crisis, the mistakes they could have made, as well as the lessons the nation gained from such challenges.
Foner (2012) notes that the period from the 1789 to the year1820 forms part of the American Revolution Process. The period represents a time when American was showing progress over their rival and Master, Britain, especially from 1781 after they had been joined by France leading to British acknowledging the American independence. This was officially marked by the signing of the peace treaty on the 3rd of September 1783 in Paris. However, this did not solve all the challenges the country was facing during this period as it marked the beginning of most of the internal challenges. Some of the challenges that are highlighted by Foner include; constitutional crisis, debt crisis, and the election crisis that came with the national independence.
As has been highlighted, one of the crises that hit the nation during this period came as a result of the 1800 Presidential Elections. The elections were preceded by nasty campaign attacks and counter attacks, nasty and mud-slinging politics as well as personal insults. During that time, the newspapers were outrageous and a prediction of warfare was eminent and the young nation faced a collapse. Moreover, there was a bitter partisan battle that ensued between Republican Thomas Jefferson and Federalist John Adams. The election also resulted into a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. However, Jefferson clinched the seat (Foner, 2012).
The nation’s durability went through a real test by the unfolding of this crisis. The crisis pushed partisan rivalry to extremity. This inspired a host of creative as well as far reaching electoral ploys. Foner (2012) notes that as a result of the crisis, talks of disunion and civil war characterized some quarters. In fact, some states began to ready organized militias in order to seize the government in the eventuality that Jefferson did not prevail.
After his victory, Jefferson called for the nation’s unity. He referred to America as one nation emphasizing that all the Americans are Republicans and at the same time Federalists. This crisis pushed people to change their habits in favor of the nations union as reconciliation took center stage. He also purchased Louisiana Territory together with all the present territory of U.S. to the west of Mississippi from France. This freed Americans from France. However, it was not an easy ride to have the changes effected. The change had to focus on negotiating about the people’s demands of the moment against the past standards (Foner, 2012).
The second crisis that the nation faced evidently from the year 1787 is the constitutional crisis which resulted from the fact that congress, in the union of the 13 original states, had to struggle against the high level of suspicion put against it by the public who were not for a central government which is superior to state governments. However, after a long struggle between the Republicans such as Thomas Jefferson and the Federalists, the congress managed to have the Northwest Ordinance passed. The Ordinance allowed the new states and territories to organize on the frontier. At the same time, the Article was revised by a convention in Philadelphia which saw the adoption of a new constitution which has been in operation to date. The new constitution greatly empowered the central government granting it constitutional authority over the states.
The constitution affected the freedom of the citizens in every state since, with it, came the bill of rights which provided such freedoms as were deemed fundamental to the individual citizens. These included such rights as the right of assembly and free speech and that of speedy and public trial in an impartial process by a jury. However, the new constitution failed to abolish slavery and to provide for universal suffrage. Slavery and such issues as discrimination thus remained major sources of the national crisis (Foner, 2012).
However, the continued suspicion by the citizen and the somehow limited powers enjoyed by the central government presented a third crisis; that of debt during the period which started in 1789. To avert the situation, Alexander Hamilton decided to make a bailout for 13 indebted states as part of political price for American federation constitution. This was part of the plan Hamilton had in order to convert creditors of the indebted states to be advocates of a stronger federal government. He believed that this would enable the government to have the ability to raise all required revenues. The revenues were to be used to service the huge debts that had been accumulated by the 13 states and the Continental Congress. This eased the burden that was placed on the citizens of the individual states granting them economic freedom (Foner, 2012).
To pay the debts, institutional changes had to be engineered. The crisis was posed by the fact in the Article of Confederation, the first constitution, the Continental Government’s power to tax was lacking. About a third of the total debts were owed by the states and the rest two thirds were owed by the continental government. The value of the debts was worth 40% of the gross domestic products. These debts often resulted into fiscal crises, which frequently prompted rearrangements of political institutions which were designed to sort out the old promises to be broken and the ones to be sustained. Such changes never came without opposition as rebellions such as the Whisky Rebellion made it difficult for the implementation of orders from Washington. This was experienced in 1794. However, the nation learned the need for the central government to be allowed to fund the foreign as well as the domestic debts. The states thus benefited since the national government assumed their debts (Foner, 2012).
In conclusion, it is eminent that the period between 1789 and 1820 saw the United States facing a number of challenges which presented real tests to its leadership. A part from the three problems, other issues such as the controversy surrounding slavery also presented crises. However, it is because of such crises the people of America are able to enjoy a number of freedoms currently.