March 1, 1781 – Ratification of the Articles of Confederation
This was the first Constitution of the United States, preceding our current constitution by eight years. Provisions included:
-Unicameral legislature with only one house of the Congress.
-No system of national courts or executive branch
-One vote per state irrespective of the size of the state.
-Levying taxes in hands of the state government
-Power to coin and borrow money
-Time limits on holding public office
-No standing army or navy
-No provision for national government interference in commerce and trade – each state could impose tariffs on trade.
This last provision regarding decentralized decision-making on commerce and trade was the pretext for a gathering to “amend” the Articles. Once gathered, the delegates replaced entirely the Articles with an entirely new proposed constitution that was, in many respects, more top-down and favorable to commercial interests.
February 25, 1791 – Creation of the First Bank of the United States
The federal government issued a 20-year charter (very unusual at the time since most corporate charters, or licenses, were issued by states) to create the first national private bank. The bank was given permission to create money as debt. Its paper money was accepted for taxes. Eighty percent of its shares were privately owned, and 75% of those were foreign owned (mostly by the English and Dutch). Alexander Hamilton championed the first national private bank; Jefferson, Madison and others opposed it.
February 24, 1803 – U.S. Supreme Court establishes supreme authority of the U.S. Supreme Court
Marbury v. Madison (5 U.S. 137) established the concept of “judicial review.” The Supreme Court ruled that they were supreme, and Congress did not contest it. This gave them the power to make law. President Jefferson said: “The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”
A fine article explaining the problems of judicial review is “The Case Against Judicial Review: Building a strong basis for our legal system.”