Краткая история США

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Forming the New Nation

Part 1. The Making of the Constitution

Pre-reading questions

Do you think the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were written simultaneously?

Do you happen to remember when the Constitution of the United Slates was written and ratified?

Do you think the Indians and the Negroes were granted the same rights as the whites?

A Confederation or a Nation-state …

The Treaty of Paris had recognized the United States as an independent nation. But it was not one nation as it is now because the Articles of Confederation represented a treaty between sovereigns (sovereign states), not the creation of a new nation-state. So most Americans saw themselves first as Virginians or New Yorkers, etc. rather than Americans. Each individual state had its own constitution and government, made its own laws and behaved very much like an independent country. Some states set up tax barriers against others.

During the War of Independence the states had to work together. Now that the danger was past, however, disunity began to threaten to turn into disintegration. The central government was too weak, with too few powers for defence, trade and taxation. By 1786, well-informed men were discussing a probable breakup of the the confederation into three or more new groups, which could have led to wars among the American republics and individual states for new lands in the west or any other reason.

Drafting the Constitution

It was clear that for the United States to survive the Articles of Confederation would have to be changed. In 1787, therefore, 55 delegates from the states met in Philadelphia. The meeting became known as the Constitutional Convention. George Washington was chosen to lead their discussions. The original purpose of the Constitutional Convention was simply to revise the Articles. But the delegates did more than that. They started afresh and worked out a completely new document called the Constitution of the United States. Ever since they have been referred to as the Founding Fathers.

Though many people contributed to drafting the Constitution, the truly decisive intellectual work was done by James Madison who formulated the basic provisions of the Constitution. Thus, J. Madison is regarded as the Father of the Constitution.

Ratifying the Constitution

Before the new system of government could begin, the Constitution had to be approved by a majority of the citizens in at least nine of the thirteen states. People made speeches and wrote newspaper articles both for and against the Constitution. Finally, those in favour won the argument. In June 1788, the assembly of the state New Hampshire approved the Constitution. It was the ninth state to do so.

Amending the Constitution

The Constitution went into effect in March 1789. It clearly defined the rights and powers of the federal government and the state governments. But it was still not really complete. It had said nothing about the rights and freedoms of individual citizens. In 1791, under strong popular pressure, Congress had to adopt the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Together these Ten Amendments are called the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights stated what Americans considered to be fundamental rights of any citizen. Among these rights are the freedom of religion, speech, and the press, the right of peaceful assembly and the right to petition the government. Other rights guarded the citizens against unreasonable searches, arrests, and seizures of property. They also included the right to keep and carry arms, the right to a fair trial by jury.

At first glance the new republic seemed to be a model democratic society. So it was – for the whites only. Nobody cared about the rights of the 0.5 million Negro slaves who could be traded or killed. The Indians were treated no better. They were driven away from the lands that they had been using as farmland or hunting grounds for centuries, and exterminated if they tried to resist.



1. make laws

принимать законы

2. set up tax barriers

создавать тарифные барьеры, вводить тарифные ограничения

3. the Articles of Confederation

ист. Устав конфедерации от 1781 г.

4. power


have few powers for



не иметь достаточных полномочий

5. defence (AmE defense)



6. the Constitutional


ист. Конституционный конвент

7. lead discussions


8. revise the Articles

пересмотреть, переработать Устав

9. start afresh

начинать сызнова, сначала

10. draft (v)

syn. work out

draft (n)

составлять план, проект, законопроект


план, проект, черновик (документа)

11. contribute to

содействовать, участвовать, делать вклад

12. formulate the basic

формулировать основные

положения (документа)

13. the Founding Fathers

ист. отцы-основатели


14. ratify

syn. approve

ратифицировать; утверждать, одобрять

15. for and against

in favour of = for

за и против

за / в пользу кого / чего-л.

16. win the argument

взять верх в споре, выиграть


17. state assembly / legislature

законодательное собрание штата


18. amend
adopt an amendment to

улучшать, исправлять; вносить поправки

принять поправку к

(конституции и др.)

19. go into effect

syn. take effect,

become effective

вступать в силу (в действие)

20. under popular pressure

под давлением народа

21. the Bill of Rights

Билль о правах

22. state (v)

зд. сформулировать

23. (fundamental) rights and


freedom of religion

freedom of speech

freedom of the press

right of peaceful assembly

right to petition

right to petition
the government

right to keep and carry arms
right to a fair trial by jury
human rights

(основные) права и свободы
свобода вероисповедания

свобода слова

свобода печати

право на мирные собрания

право на петиции

право обращаться с петициями к


право на хранение и ношение оружия

право на справедливый суд присяжных

права человека

24. unreasonable arrests,

searches and seizures of


необоснованные аресты, обыски

и конфискация имущества

25. guard sb against sth

ограждать кого-л. от чего-л.

26. a model society

образцовое общество

27. exterminate



1. Read the text. Look up new words in the vocabulary.

2. Read these phrases aloud. Find the sentences with these phrases in the text. Translate them into Russian.

a) A confederation of states; to see oneself as a Virginian rather than an American; to behave like an independent country; to set up tax barriers against other states; the Articles of Confederation; few powers for defence, trade and taxation.

b) To change (to revise) the Articles; delegates from the states; chosen to lead the discussions; the original purpose of the convention; to work out a completely new document; the Founding Fathers of the United States; to contribute to drafting the Constitution; to do the truly decisive intellectual work; to formulate the basic provisions of the Constitution.

c) To be approved by a majority of the citizens; to make speeches for and against the Constitution; those in favour of the Constitution ( in support of).

d) The rights and freedoms of individual citizens; under strong popular pressure; the first ten amendments to the Constitution; fundamental rights of any citizen; to guard the citizens against unreasonable arrests; to care about the rights of Negroes; to exterminate Indians.

3. Comprehension check: Answer these questions. Check your answers with the text.

a) Was the United States really one nation after winning independence? Why (not)?

What was the name of the document that joined the states together?

Was it effective enough? Why (not)?

b) What was the purpose of the meeting of the delegates from the states?

What kind of document did the Convention produce?

What do Americans call the delegates of the Constitutional Convention? Why?

Who played the most important part in drafting the Constitution?

c) Was there any nation-wide discussion of the draft constitution?

What was the ratification procedure?

When did the Constitution go into effect?

d) Why was the Constitution not really complete?

How did Congress ‘improve’ the Constitution?

What is the name of the first Ten Amendments?

What rights did Americans consider fundamental?
4. Put a preposition into each gap. Underline the prepositions in your notebooks.

a) The United States had been recognized __ an independent nation. But most colonists regarded themselves ___ Pennsylvanians or Virginians rather _____ Americans. Each state behaved _____ an independent country. Some states established tax barriers _____ others. They had formed a central government _____ the Articles ___ Confederation, but it had few powers ___ defence and taxation.

b) Delegates _____ the states met ___ Philadelphia to revise the Articles, but they did more _____ that. They worked out the Constitution ___ the United States and are referred ___ ___ the Founding Fathers. Many people contributed ___ drafting the Constitution but the decisive work was done ___ James Madison who is regarded ___ the Father ___ the Constitution.

c) _____ going _____ effect, the Constitution had to be approved ___ ___ least nine ___ the thirteen states. People made speeches ____ and ______ it. Those ___ favour ___ the Constitution won the argument. The assembly ___ the ninth state (New Hampshire) ratified it ___ June 1788.

d) The Constitution had said nothing ______ the rights ___ citizens. _____ the pressure ___ the public, Congress adopted the ten amendments ___ the Constitution, known ___ the Bill ___ Rights. _____ the fundamental rights __ a citizen are the freedom ___ speech and religion, the right ___ peaceful assembly, the right ___ a fair trial ___ jury, and others.
5. Put the verbs in brackets in the correct tense and voice. Underline the verb forms in your notebooks.

a) Although Britain (to recognize) her former colonies as an independent nation, they (to be) not one nation actually. The central government which the States (to form) during the Revolutionary War (not, to be) strong enough because it (to give) too few powers. Many people (to realize) that if the states (to continue) to behave like independent countries the new nation (to collapse). If the government (to remain) so weak, the US (not, to win) the respect of foreign countries. King George III (not, to doubt) that the Americans soon (to rejoin) the British Empire.

b) Most of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention (to believe) that they (to need) a stronger government because a weak one (not, to be) able to protect their business interests. The delegates (to work) hard for four months before they (to produce) a completely new document. James Madison (to call) the Father of the Constitution because he (to play) a decisive role in drafting it.

c) Before the Constitution (to ratify), there (to be) a nation-wide discussion. People who (to be) in favour of the Constitution (to win) the argument. It (to go) into effect after nine of the thirteen states (to approve) it.

d) The Constitution (not, to be) really complete as it (to say) nothing about the citizens’ rights and freedoms. Congress (to adopt) the Bill of Rights after the Constitution (to be) in force for over two years. It (to happen) four years after the Founding Fathers (to work out) the document. The Bill of Rights (to state) what Americans (to think) (to be) the fundamental rights. Since then Congress (to add) sixteen other amendments to the Constitution. But the basic document itself (not, to change), it (to be) still in force.
6. Change the following sentences to passive. Underline the verb forms in your notebooks.

a) Britain recognized the United States as an independent nation. During the Revolutionary War the states formed a central government but they did not give it enough powers.

b) It became clear that they would have to change the Articles of Confederation. At the Constitutional Convention the delegates worked out a new document which they called the Constitution of the United States. Three men – G. Washington, J. Madison and A. Hamilton – played the leading role in drafting the Constitution. Madison formulated the basic provisions of this document.

c) For a few months the whole nation discussed the Constitution. People made speeches and wrote newspaper articles both for and against it. Then the state assemblies ratified the Constitution. The majority of the citizens approved it.

d) The Constitution did not satisfy many people because it had said nothing about the rights of individual citizens. In 1791, Congress adopted the first ten amendments which they called the Bill of Rights. It gave the citizens what Americans considered as fundamental rights. But it promised no rights to the Native Americans or the African slaves.
7. Write questions to these answers.

a) 1. Like independent countries. 2. Because it had too few powers. 3. No, it was a loose confederation.

b) 1. Fifty-five. 2. G. Washington. 3. To revise the Articles of Confederation. 4. It took them four months to draft the Constitution. 5. It was done by James Madison. 6. No, he was the fourth president.

c) 1. No, there wasn’t. But there was a nation-wide discussion of the Constitution. 2. Those who were in favour of the Constitution. 3. No, it was approved by the state assemblies. There was no national parliament yet.

d) 1. Because it said nothing about the citizens’ rights. 2. In 1791. 3. The Bill of Rights. 4. No, it was done under strong pressure from the public. 5. No rights at all.
8. Give the English equivalents to these phrases.

a) Признать независимым государством; быть единой нацией; отдельные штаты; иметь собственное правительство; издавать собственные законы; вести себя как независимая страна; не иметь достаточно полномочий.

b) Выжить или развалиться; пересмотреть и изменить Устав конфедерации; руководить ходом обсуждения (дискуссии); первоначальная задача Конвента; выработать новый документ; составить проект конституции; именовать их «отцами-основателями»; участвовать в разработке проекта документа; сформулировать основные положения.

c) Одобрить; большинство граждан; выступать с речами; писать газетные статьи; проводить общенациональное обсуждение; выиграть в споре.

d) Вступить в действие; права и свободы отдельных граждан; под давлением общественности; принять поправку к конституции; Билль о правах; основные права любого гражданина; среди этих прав; демократическое общество для белых; заботиться о правах коренных жителей.
9. True or false? Give an adequate response to each statement. Do not content yourselves with saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

a) After winning independence each state behaved very much like an independent country.

The Articles of Confederation gave the country a strong central government.

b) The delegates to the Constitutional Convention agreed to improve the Articles and did it very well.

G. Washington and J. Madison played a very important part in drafting the Constitution.

c) The Constitution went into effect after it had been approved by all the thirteen states.

d) The Constitution was quite good, but some Native Americans were not satisfied with it.

The American public insisted that citizens must be given fundamental rights, and they succeeded.

The Bill of Rights is the name of the first amendment to the Constitution.

The Constitution has been changed 26 times over the past 220 years.

The Indians and Negroes were given fewer rights than the whites.
10. Points for discussion. (Summarize the text according to the following suggestions).

1. The situation in the United States after the Revolution.

2. A revision of the Articles was necessary.

3. The Constitutional Convention.

4. The ratification procedure.

5. The first amendments to the Constitution.

6. The fundamental rights.

7. The ‘whites-only’ democracy.
11. Translate into English.

1. Во время войны за независимость лидеры штатов знали, что им необходимо сотрудничать, чтобы добиться победы. Был сформирован Континентальный Конгресс: а также принят Устав конфедерации. Он работал довольно хорошо, пока шла война. Но когда опасность миновала (be past), штаты начали вести себя как независимые государства, а правительство не могло навести порядок, так как не имело необходимых полномочий и средств. Оно было не в состоянии проводить эффективную внутреннюю и внешнюю политику и не пользовалось уважением за рубежом. Многие политики понимали, что если не будет пересмотрен Устав Конфедерации, новая нация, за которую американцы так долго сражались, развалится. Вот почему в 1787 г. собрался Конституционный конвент. Там было много споров о том, в каких изменениях нуждался Устав. Взяли верх те, кто был за сильное центральное правительство. Делегатам понадобилось четыре месяца, чтобы составить проект совершенно новой Конституции. После общенационального обсуждения, она была одобрена собраниями штатов и вступила в силу.

2. Тесное сотрудничество бывших колоний помогло им завоевать независимость. После победы, однако, каждый штат начал чувствовать себя независимым от центрального правительства. Когда, например, ему понадобились деньги, чтобы заплатить долги Франции, некоторые штаты отказались платить. Из-за слабости правительства американцам было трудно завоевать уважение и добиться помощи иностранных государств. Даже Франция, которая была союзницей Соединенных Штатов в недавней войне, отказалась признавать Конгресс подлинным правительством. Делегаты от штатов, собравшиеся в Филадельфии, понимали все это. Большинство из них хотели (иметь) более сильное правительство, которое сможет защитить как национальные интересы, так и их собственные деловые интересы. Делегаты Конвента сделали больше, чем ожидалось. Они выработали новую Конституцию, которую одобрилo большинство населения страны, а также законодательные собрания штатов. Через два года были приняты первые поправки, но текст Конституции никогда не изменялся.
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