The Constitution as a Controversial Document


In 1776, Scottish political economist Adam Smith discussed “Mercantilism” in his book called “The Wealth of Nations.” Here he argues that Mercantilism represents a theory standing for a nation to gain economic power; the state needs to export more than it imports. When Stuarts came to rule, the new age of English colonization started (Horrocks, 2017). The Stuart system of economic control aimed at “subordinating the interests of the colonies to those of the mother country” (Horrocks, 2017, p. 53). Therefore, for England (with scarce sources) to increase its economic strength and raise the rates of exports, it required colonies to be encouraged in the chain of import and export products.

In 1651 The Navigation Acts were taken, which started to regulate shipping, trade, and commerce between England and other states and its colonies. Therefore, the mercantilist system worked until 1849, providing England with significant benefits from its colonial states. First of all, England benefited from its colonies importing English goods. The King monopolized salt production; that is why Ireland became dependent on England: Ireland was not allowed to import salt from other states (Horrocks, 2017). The crucial aim of the mercantilist system was to make colonial markets supply English products.

Moreover, colonies were obliged to export the most wanted products to England. It is argued that “the export of specified colonial commodities most wanted in England was forbidden, except to England, the trade of the colonies with Europe was severely restricted and controlled” (Horrocks, 2017, p. 67). Thus, England benefited from products produced in its colonial nations because they were of good quality, and not every state has them as much as they wanted. Therefore, this mercantilist system aimed at encouraging the manufacture of such products that did not compete with English ones.

The Constitution as a Controversial Document

The Constitution of the United States, which is the supreme law of the USA, came into force in 1787. This document was very controversial before any alterations and amendments. For instance, slaves and women were not mentioned in any part of the Constitution, which means that their rights were not discussed and protected (Lewis, 2017). Moreover, both groups went together in the discussion and were the mere ways of representing or not representing free men.

To begin with, the Founders avoided using the word “slave,” alluding to the enslaved in the Three Fifths Clause, writing instead “all other persons” (Lewis, 2017, p. 1). No part of the Convention was devoted to women’s rights. One of the essential purposes of the Constitution was to form and frame the government, and founders decided not to include all the broad audience in this. Scholars argue that the representation of citizens in the Three-Fifths Clause of the 1787 Constitution “was fundamentally undemocratic, but masked by the language of equality” (Lewis, 2017, p. 11). This fact proves the controversial nature of this foundational document of the USA.

Moreover, the Constitution did not decide who has the right to vote. Lewis (2017) provides the citation from the Constitution: “The right of choosing the allotted number [of Representatives] in each State is to be exercised by such part of the inhabitants, as the State may itself designate” (p. 6). In other words, it was the State that was choosing what social groups and in what number were allowed to vote during elections. At the beginning of the United States of America, most states were permitted to vote only for white males who owned properties.

Protestant Christianity and Protestant Women as Forces for Social Change

The Protestant Reformation (or Revolution) is a series of events that took place in Europe in the 16th century. It is thought that the revolution started with the Ninety-Fifth Thesis written by Martin Luther King and is considered as the beginning of the church’s split into Protestantism as a form of Christianity and the Catholic Church. Protestants emphasize justification by faith and not good actions made to ensure living belief.

Protestant Christians emerged as a force of social change, particularly an industrial one, because of their ethics. According to Max Weber, this branch of Christianity boosted capitalism and the Industrial Revolution because, for protestant Christians, responsibility and discipline were the main characteristics of their moral code (Kersting, Wohnsiedler & Wolf, 2020). Therefore, it is thought that laborers who professed Protestantism became more responsible for their work, which can be considered as a cause of social change.

Experiencing love, true faith, and trust in God, female protestants changed their lives by improving literacy rates. In order for women in times of Reformation to interpret God’s Word and enter the public debates, they needed to improve their literacy level and gain more education – this tendency encouraged particular social change. Moreover, the role of women in society has also been changed: the roles of mother and wife are essential in Biblia for Protestant women. Therefore, all females tried to follow this ideal image of themselves, altering nun’s lives and social structure.

The Second Party System and the Republican Victory in the 1860 Election

The Whigs party was divided into Southern and Nothern Whigs after the US House of Representatives approved the Nebraska Bill. This bill stood for the creation of territories of Nebraska and Kansas, the middle states, separating south and northern parts, which wanted to establish control over new areas. Nebraska Bill destroyed the party of Whigs as members could not come to unity in the question of slavery in new Nebraska and Kansas (Browning, McConnell & Walsh-Atkins, 2019). Therefore, the Whigs party split into two: Southern joined the American Party, as they all agreed on the slavery permission in new territories, and Nothern joined the new Republican party and even became its leaders (Browning et al., 2019, p. 26). The number of the Republican party increased after reunion with the Norther Whigs; therefore, there can be a relationship between the collapse of the two-party system and the victory of the Republicans.

The Republican Party had a moderate look at the slavery issue, which helped Abraham Lincoln to win the 1860 elections. Browning et al. (2019) draw the statement that the new Republican Party represented those “who are opposed to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise; to the policy of the present Administration; to the extension of Slavery into Free Territory; in favour of the admission of Kansas as Free State” (p. 26). Therefore, Abraham Lincoln was considered by voters as a man of honor who tries to stop slavery extension.

Moreover, the Democratic party was also divided (as Whigs); thus, it was hard for them to win the elections. Browning et al. (2019) write: “A party so deeply divided that it put up two candidates is unlikely to succeed in a contest as it divided its own support among voters into two” (p. 34). The primary opponent to Lincoln in the 1860 elections was Stephen Douglas from the Democratic Party, which was too weak to win.


Browning, P., McConnell, T., & Walsh-Atkins, P. (2019). The History of the USA, 1820-1941. Cambridge University Press.

Horrocks, J. W. (2017). A short history of mercantilism. Routledge.

Kersting, F., Wohnsiedler, I., & Wolf, N. (2020). Weber revisited: the protestant ethic and the spirit of nationalism. The Journal of Economic History, 80(3), 710-745.

Lewis, J. E. (2017). What Happened to the Three-Fifths Clause: The Relationship between Women and Slaves in Constitutional Thought, 1787–1866. Journal of the Early Republic, 37(1), 1-46.

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