Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The United States of America Part I by Ediwn Erle Sparks

Part 1 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Anne Soulard, Paul Wenker, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team.




The story of the United States has frequently been told. It has been
told in the spirit of boasting, as a marvel of local accomplishment.
It has been told in the spirit of reverence, as the work of a chosen
people under a special dispensation of Providence. Its glory has been
ascribed now to one political party and now to another. Its success
has been attributed to various statesmen and to different sections.

The Union has been viewed from one point as originally the creature
of the States, whose powers it afterward ungratefully usurped and whose
intent it wilfully perverted to its own aggrandisement. It has been
regarded from another viewpoint as something inherent in the soil of
a new world, manifest in various colonial functions, and brought fully
to life and supremacy at the time of separation from England. An effort
is made in this narrative to find truth in a medium ground; to trace
the gradual evolution of a confederated republic under the laws of
necessity; to acknowledge that radical departures have been made from
first ideals as a result of progress; to take into constant
consideration the underlying forces of heredity and environment. It
will be necessary to omit many of the details commonly found in a
history of the United States for the sake of considering only those
centralising or decentralising factors which have aided or hindered
the unification of the States. In brief, an attempt is made in these
two volumes to tell the story of the _United_ States; to show how the
phrase "The United States is" has been slowly and unconsciously evolved
in the process of time from the early practice of saying "The United
States are."
























Original in the Department of State.

This copy was printed in 1777.



From Morse's American Gazetteer.


The place from which the first company started for the Ohio, December 3,


Now in the archives of the Department of State.



The foot-notes show that it is an Anti-Federal print.


Preserved in the archives of the Department of State.




From the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.

From the original in the Department of State.

From a drawing made about 1800, before the site was graded.

From Hall's "Etchings in America."


A law passed at Vincennes, now Indiana, against gambling..






From Torrey's "American Slave Trader."

From the etching by Jacques Reich.

Chief Justice of the United States, 1801-1836.

Drawn with the Camera Lucida for Hairs "Etchings of the West."



When did the sovereign nation of the United States begin? From one
point of view, it was called into existence by the motion for
Independence passed by the Continental Congress on the second day of
July, 1776, when the people of the rebelling British colonies in
America, by action of their representatives, assumed a free and
independent position. But a motion is intangible. It is an act, of
which the announcement is the visible result. "A decent respect to the
opinions of mankind" prompted the Congress on July 4, 1776, to "declare
the causes" which impelled it to separation. This date is accepted in
the popular mind, as well as by official action, as the beginning of
national existence. If recognition by other powers be assumed as the
criterion, the sovereignty began in 1778, when treaties of alliance
and commerce were signed with France. But if the actions indicated
above were incidental steps to the commencement of sovereignty, if a
general recognition by nations be necessary, together with the consent
of the former owner, and a restoration of peace and order, then the
real story of the United States begins on September 3, 1783. This
conclusion is reached by considering fact as well as form.

[Illustration: SIGNATURES TO THE DEFINITIVE TREATY OF 1783. Original in
the Department of State Washington. D. Hartey was given power by the King
of England and Adams, Franklin, and Jay by the Congress of the United
States. Individual seals were used.]

A few days after that date, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John
Jay wrote from Paris to the president of the Continental Congress at

"On the 3d instant, definite treaties were concluded between all the
late belligerent powers except the Dutch, who the day before settled and
signed preliminary articles of peace with Britain. We most sincerely and
cordially congratulate Congress and our country in general on this happy
event; and we hope that the same kind Providence which has led us
through a vigorous war to an honourable peace will enable us to make a
wise and moderate use of that inestimable blessing."

Thus happily ended more than eight years of warfare and almost two
years of negotiation. The disturbed conditions of war gave way rapidly
to the normal condition of peace. The four European powers, which had
been drawn into war by the American cause, adjusted their disturbed
relations. The King of England, at the next opening of Parliament,
acknowledged the loss of a portion of his American possessions. John
Adams with his family crossed from France to England to represent the
new nation. The archives of the republic showed treaties with France,
the Netherlands, Great Britain, and Sweden, soon to be followed by
similar acknowledgments from Prussia and Morocco. A national frame of
government had been adopted by the new power. Peace prevailed throughout
the land. Local government was established in every State. In external
appearance as well as internal form the career of the independent
republic of the United States had most auspiciously begun.

But the course of events was soon to dispel the illusion; to show that
it was a union in form only and not in affection. Conversion from
provincial colonists into liberal-minded unionists was not to be so
easily effected. A feeling of true nationality must await years of
growth. Confidence in each other had not yet replaced fear and
suspicion. That the first attempt to come into a union could have been
a success, that a sacrifice to the god Provincialism could have been
avoided, seems in retrospect impossible.

This period of fear of centralisation, which began even before the
close of the Revolutionary War, a time of mutual distrust, of paramount
individualism, is little known and rarely dwelt upon at present. Perhaps
the omission is due to a happy nature, which recalls only the pleasant
events of the past. The school-texts dismiss it with a few paragraphs;
statesmen rarely turn to its valuable lessons of experience; and to
the larger number of the American people, the statement that we have
lived since our independence under a national frame of government other
than the Constitution is a matter of surprise. A writer of fiction
somewhere describes two maiden sisters, one of whom had a happy and
the other a melancholy disposition. In recalling the family history,
one could remember all the marriages and the other all the deaths. To
recall only national successes is undoubtedly most pleasant; but
posterity sitting ever at the feet of History gains a more valuable
lesson by including the failures of the past.

Criticism of the Confederation which our fathers framed to take the
place of British rule must be tempered by the reflection that the
action was taken while the land was in the chaos of war. Praise is due
their genius for organisation, inherited from the mother country they
were warring against, which enabled them to contemplate a new form of
government while engaged in dissolving the old. The Government is dead;
long live the Government. According to the intention, there was to be
no interregnum in which Anarchy might rear his ugly head, and destroy
existing forms and instincts of government. Unfortunately a genius for
undertaking a beneficent enterprise may lack opportunity of carrying
it out. The war to secure the permanence of the Government they were
trying to establish produced a delay in completing the frame, and
allowed the individual States to assume a headway and win the people
to an allegiance, which the Union has not yet fully overcome.

In the form of British colonies, the States were well-recognised units
before resistance to authority compelled the people to entrust the
common defence to an irregularly formed Continental Congress. To the
revolutionary central authority thus formed and acknowledged through
necessity, colony after colony had turned for advice as their governors
and other royal officials fled to escape popular vengeance. Over a
year before national Independence was declared, the Congress had advised
the colony of Massachusetts that she owed no fealty to a parliament
attempting to change her charter, or to a governor who would not abide
by the old compact. The people, therefore, were urged to select certain
representatives. They in turn were to choose a council to act until
a governor should be appointed by the King, who would consent to rule
justly. Similar advice given to the other colonies resulted in the
formation of State constitutions and the erection of State governments.
The States, in this peculiar manner, dated their existence from the
suggestion of the Central Government, made at a time when it itself
had not been regularly formed. In turn, the States were now to complete
the Central Government by confederating themselves under a written

Great Britain, the mother country, had never possessed a written
constitution, or frame of government; but the colonies were planted
under written charters. Perhaps this precedent has produced the American
predilection for written constitutions. Many statesmen of the colonial
days had attempted a written plan of union for the colonies. Franklin
had been one of these and, within three weeks after Washington took
command of the American Army, Franklin presented to the Congress certain
Articles of Confederation creating "The United Colonies of North
America." The federation was intended to be temporary in case the
colonial grievances were redressed, but otherwise permanent. The
proposition was unheeded at the time but was recalled nearly a year
later by one part of Richard Henry Lee's famous motion for Independence.
A committee was to be appointed "to prepare and digest the form of a
confederation to be entered into between these colonies." The importance
of the task was indicated by the fact that the committee was composed
of one member from each of the colonies represented, while the
committee, appointed at almost the same time, to draw up a declaration
concerning independency, had only five members. On July 12th, the
former committee brought in a draft of thirteen Articles of
Confederation, by common consent ascribed to John Dickinson, but
evidently based on Franklin's draft of a year before. This is indicated
by the style and form, although the details differ in many particulars.
Eighty copies of these proposed Articles were ordered printed for the
use of the members, extreme secrecy being enjoined upon all concerned.

These steps toward a national government were taken, it must be
remembered, in the midst of a war. The nascent nation had never
experienced the duties which peace places on a government; it was
familiar only with the requirements of war. The main idea running
through the Articles as reported by the committee was a "union for the
common defence." The general welfare found no place. The activities
of government were confined almost exclusively to conducting a foreign
war. The Central Government was authorised to declare war, make peace,
and send ambassadors. It had charge of appointing high officers of the
State armies, of judging prizes in war, of trials for piracy, and of
granting letters of marque. Its few peace functions embraced the postal
service between the States, regulating Indian trade, issuing bills of
credit, determining the national and State standard of coins, and
assessing quotas of expense on the States. Conversely, the States were
forbidden to perform these national acts.

Remembering that the Articles were framed to meet the exigencies of
war, and considering the condition of public sentiment at the time,
one finds it difficult to conceive how any other form of union could
have been secured. Individualism was in the saddle. Engaging in war
to resist the encroachments of a centralised government and smarting
under the actions of a body in which they were not represented, the
people would naturally resolve to retain the control which the rebellion
had thrown into their hands. Distributed power must never be centralised
again. Liberty was closely associated with individualism. A majority
was no safeguard. Reaction from a centralised monarchy had evidently
swung public sentiment to the other extreme, resulting in a
decentralised confederacy.

As implied in the name, this Continental Congress had been called
together originally as a consulting body for the thirteen distinct
colonies. When the war forced the second session into making laws, the
name should have been changed to "Parliament"; but, in the chaotic
condition of affairs and the very gradual assumption of sovereignty,
a change in name went by default. Although the Congress became a
parliament in form, its members never so regarded it. They still served
their sovereign States in a national body, consulting and providing
for the common defence. They had no desire to make a modern union at
the time they formed the Confederation. This is evidenced by the
preliminary statement of the Articles that each State retained its
sovereignty, freedom, and independence. In this view, "a firm league
of friendship," the phrase used to describe the nature of the
Confederation, is exact and appropriate. It formed a league of
individual units, such as the separate colonies had been, "binding
themselves to assist each other against all force offered to, or attacks
made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty,
trade, or any other pretence whatever."

This individualistic tendency was manifest in the workings of the
Articles. Franklin's plan provided for an executive council of twelve,
appointed by Congress from its own numbers. Instead of this arrangement,
the Articles allowed the consulting Congress to retain all the executive
powers which it had gradually assumed. Fear of delegating authority
to any kind of executive, lest the action might lead eventually to
another king, was responsible for this mistake. Retaining also the
legislative powers, which it had assumed, and such judicial powers as
had arisen from the adjudication of prizes appeals, the Congress would
monopolise all the functions of the National Government. It would
probably continue to consult and recommend, and do nothing more. It
had a president, chosen by itself from its own number; but he was
simply an officer to preside over the sessions.

In voting in Congress, each State was given one vote, being considered
a unit. In declaring assessments, Congress dealt with the individual
States and not the people. Congress was authorised to make an estimate
of the value of land and improvements in each State for proportioning
expenses; but the matter was left to the States and never done. In an
elaborate plan for adjudication between States in the numerous boundary
disputes, Congress again dealt with the States as units. The central
authority would nowhere come into contact with citizens of the States.
It had no way of gaining their respect, their gratitude, or their
allegiance. It apparently dealt with them in the provision guaranteeing
citizens of each State all their rights in the several States; but if
a State transgressed on the rights of citizens of another State, the
Confederation could only complain and protest. It had no power of
punishment or coercion.

One of the chief disagreements over the Articles, as they were
considered by Congress, arose from the conflicting claims to the land
lying between the Alleghany Mountains and the Mississippi. The claims
put forth by Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, the Carolinas, and
Georgia, that their charters extended interminably into the land, were
resisted by New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and
Maryland, whose western boundaries were distinctly defined. New York
put forth a claim for the Ohio valley, based on an Indian treaty. It
lay athwart the claims of some of the other States.

Virginia's assertion that the "South Sea" mentioned in her charter as
her western limits entitled her to the land as far west as the Pacific,
if British authority should ever extend so far, was declared
preposterous by delegates from other States who looked upon the land
between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi as a valuable common asset,
if the war should terminate favourably to their cause.

"Every gentleman," said Wilson, of Pennsylvania, in debate, "has heard
much of the claims to the South Sea. They are extravagant. The grants
were made upon mistake. They were ignorant of geography. They thought
the South Sea within one hundred miles of the Atlantic Ocean. It was not
conceived they extended three thousand miles. Lord Camden considers the
claims to the South Sea as what can never be reduced to practice.
Pennsylvania has no right to interfere in these claims, but she has a
right to say that she will not confederate unless those claims were cut

On the other hand, Virginia and the States having these western claims
had sufficient influence in the Congress to strike out every proposed
clause attempting to restrict the western limits; but they could not
prevent the regulation of trade with the Indians not inhabiting a State
being handed over to the proposed Confederation. This was the initial
step in national regulation of western affairs.

Since the Congress in this new form was to be the sole visible agency
of the National Government, possessing the legislative, the executive,
and even such judicial powers as the Confederation possessed,
representation in it had to be most carefully considered. The committee
had provided that in determining questions the present method should
be continued which allowed each State to have one vote; and in vain
did the advocates of representation according to population plead
against it. Franklin pointed to the effects of unequal representation
in England and begged that the new Government might be started aright.
"Let the smaller colonies give equal money and men," said he, "and
then have an equal vote." His fellow-delegate from Pennsylvania, Dr.
Rush, added the voice of prophecy when he declared that the States
ought to represent the whole people; and that each State retaining one
vote would tend to keep up colonial distinctions.

"We are now a new nation," said he. "Our trade, language, customs,
manners, don't differ more than they do in Great Britain. The more a man
aims at serving America, the more he serves his colony. We have been too
free with the word independence; we are dependent on each other, not
independent States. I would not have it understood that I am pleading
the cause of Pennsylvania. When I entered that door I considered myself
a citizen of America."

Truly here was the voice of unionism crying in the wilderness of
individualism. It is the sentiment of a century later.

The advocates of equal State representation had the advantage of
precedent and of present practice. The large States had won in retaining
their claims to the western lands. It was now the turn of the small
States. In the final vote on representation, the four large States of
Virginia, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, containing over
one-half the entire population of the thirteen States, were outvoted
by the five small States of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey,
Delaware, and Georgia. The State and not individual voting was to
continue in Congress. The medium-sized States of Connecticut, New York,
and the two Carolinas, showed a "disinterested coolness" in the matter.
Few took so gloomy a view of such an arrangement as did John Adams,
who predicted that within ten years the Articles would be found as
weak as a rope of sand in holding the people together.

Being one of the chief causes of the Revolution, the power of direct
taxation was a very sensitive point. To avoid this, the pernicious
system of assessing quotas on the several States was continued. It was
derived from the colonial custom, and might be expected to produce as
little revenue and as much discord as it had done in those days. The
Articles as adopted by the Congress were an improvement upon any effort
of the kind previously attempted; but the results likely to follow the
withdrawal of the pressure of war and the return of decentralising
peace might easily be predicted.

Having at length been agreed to in the Congress, the Articles were
sent to the several State Legislatures to be accepted or rejected.
Although popular conventions had come into use in forming the various
State Constitutions, the Congress maintained its early diplomatic and
consulting nature by dealing with the State Legislatures instead of
popular conventions. The members of Congress were too well aware of
the many defects in the new frame to hope that it would be speedily
adopted. In the official letter which accompanied it to the State
Legislatures, they confessed that the business of coming into the
national agreement had been attended with uncommon embarrassment and

"To form a permanent union," said the address, "accommodated to the
opinion and wishes of the delegates of so many states, differing in
habits, produce, commerce, and internal police, was found to be a work
which nothing but time and reflection, conspiring with a disposition to
conciliate, could mature and accomplish. Hardly is it to be expected
that any plan, in the variety of provisions essential to our union,
should exactly correspond with the maxims and political views of every
particular State."

As rapidly as the State Legislatures adopted the proposed plan, they
were to notify their delegates in Congress to sign the document, thus
formally entering the Confederation. It was provided in the Articles
that they should not go into effect until signed by every State. Neither
could they be amended without unanimous consent. These unfortunate
provisions were due to the tender regard which prevailed at the time
for the rights of the individual. "Government proceeds from the consent
of the governed" was interpreted by many enthusiasts to mean the consent
of every individual and not simply the majority. These Article days
mark not only the ultimate point of the fear of centralisation, but
also the greatest solicitude for the individual. Even in Congress,
where delay in legislation might be hazardous, no important action
could be taken by a majority, but the consent of nine States must be

The required unanimity of ratification kept the Articles for nearly
three years awaiting action by all the State Legislatures, while the
people gradually lapsed into that lawlessness which a civil war always
brings in its train. The war itself contributed in no small degree to
the delay. When a State was invaded by the enemy, help was needed, and
the confederation feeling ran high; but the civic machinery, disturbed
by war, could not be made to serve the purpose of ratification. When
the tide of war swept on, and the State was relieved from immediate
danger, the old feeling of local importance returned, individualism
revived, and the union feeling waned.

The Legislatures of seven States in ratifying thought they could improve
the Articles in certain particulars. Some wanted a test oath applied
to all national officers; others would have wealth as a basis of
apportionment simply a trial arrangement; and still others would remove
the requirement that nine States be represented in Congress for the
consideration of certain matters. New Jersey had the clearest vision
of all.

"We are of the opinion," said her Legislature, "that the sole and
exclusive power of regulating the trade of the United States with
foreign nations ought to be clearly vested in the Congress, and that the
revenue arising from all duties and customs imposed thereon ought to be
appropriated to the building, equipping, and manning a navy, for the
protection of the trade and defence of the coasts, and to such other
public and general purposes as to the Congress shall seem proper and for
the common benefit of the states."

Neither this nor any of the forty-six amendments thus proposed by the
States was adopted by the Congress. The Articles stood as first adopted
until their overthrow.

Maryland, for reasons to be given hereafter, was the last State to
consent to the Articles. On March 2, 1781, the legal government of the
Articles of Confederation took the place of the illegal revolutionary
government, which had existed by common consent since 1776. A few guns
were fired, and flags displayed, but there was nothing to show the
change. The United States Congress, as it came to be called, was the
chief evidence of the Federation. Its actions were now justified by
a written agreement among the States and its powers definitely
prescribed. Otherwise affairs continued as before. The war was still
the engrossing business.

The Articles were in reality only a general treaty between thirteen
sovereign States occupying contiguous territory and pledging themselves
mutually to resist any attacks made upon them. Such a plan might have
been practicable, if the States had occupied thirteen islands, each
using a different language, and each producing sufficient to satisfy
its inhabitants, so that trade and communication need never have become
necessary. As it was, the framers failed to appreciate the force of
geographic contiguity. They believed that they could create and maintain
a kind of central clearing-house for national needs, giving to it only
the duties of declaring war and peace, managing ambassadors, making
treaties, establishing prize courts, managing the post-office, and
commanding such land and naval forces as might at any time be necessary.
Regardless of the expanding laws of growth, they thought the central
authority could be confined to these stated activities.

This copy was printed in 1777, the year the articles were proposed by
the Continental Congress to the several States to be ratified.]

Compared with the present National Government, which a different plan
and a liberal interpretation for a century have conspired to bring
about, the Articles of Confederation presented some strange anomalies
of administration. The Federal Government could declare war, but could
not enlist soldiers. It could only call upon each State to furnish its
proportion. If, as was likely to happen, any particular portion of the
country was threatened by an enemy, Congress might call for an extra
number of soldiers; but the State Legislature might judge how many
could safely be spared from the service of the State. The National
Government could not even appoint its own officers below the rank of
colonel. It could make peace, but, in order to secure a successful end
to a war, it could not collect a dollar for expense, except as each
State graciously consented to pay its share. It could make a treaty
with another sovereign, but could not compel its own subjects to obey
the terms of the treaty. It could send an ambassador to a foreign
Court, but had to turn to the States for money to pay his salary. It
could regulate prizes and subdue piracies on the high seas, but had
no control over goods entering its own ports. At the close of the war,
it could gratefully vote a monument to General Washington to be erected
at the seat of government, but could not secure enough money to erect

The National Government under the Articles of Confederation could
destroy the commerce of an enemy, but could not retaliate upon the
products of an unfriendly rival in time of peace. It could regulate
the alloy and value of coins, but could not keep a State from issuing
waggon-loads of paper money, destined to depreciate and to disturb its
own finances. It could make laws within certain limits but could not
enforce the least of its decrees. It pledged its faith to discharge
all debts contracted by the Continental Congress, but it could not
collect a sixpence with which to do it. The States entering the
agreement promised to refrain from inter-alliances and foreign treaties,
from making war except against Indians or pirates, and from keeping
standing armies or vessels of war; yet if a State broke one of these
stipulations, no provision was made for punishing it. Although any
State could levy impost duties on goods coming into it from another
State the same as from a foreign country, thereby engendering endless
dispute, the Central Government had no court or other means of settling
such contentions or of getting redress for individuals.

With such false conceptions of the relations between individualism and
unionism, with a national frame foredoomed to failure, with the
distracting situations of the war still upon them, the people of the
United States attempted in 1783 to take that stand among the nations
which they declared God had given them. At once they came into contact
with the habits and precedents of old and well-established governments.
Diplomacy is not a game for amateurs. Fortunately a decade was to
elapse before a European crisis would call attention to the new-comer
as a possible pawn in the game. Their first introduction in the
character of solicitors for aid had not been auspicious. The process
of securing this aid had gained for them a treaty with France and
indirectly with Holland; but Spain, more suspicious of the new nation
because of the proximity of her Floridas and Louisiana to them, still
dallied with their advances. England, compelled to make a treaty to
close the war, refused to do more. Sweden, Prussia, and Morocco were
of insufficient maritime importance to make the treaties with them a
cause for rejoicing.

Admission to full membership and to an equal share in trade did not
follow necessarily from these first greetings. They could be gained
only by proof of fitness and even compulsion. The applicant must make
a place for himself. Sentiment plays no part in the rivalry of nations.
Self-preservation is the prime law.

John Adams, conscious of his prominent part in the rebellion, militant
in his ideas of republicanism, elbowed his way into the Court of St.
James as the first representative of the former British possessions.
He was distressed, as he wrote to Livingston, Secretary of Foreign
Affairs, at being obliged to consume the labour of his fellow-citizens
upon the foolish ostentation of a Court presentation. Anxious concerning
the reception which he would meet from representatives of other nations,
he was relieved to find that custom required them to call first upon
a new-comer. "We shall now see," he wrote, "who will and who will not."

As a whole, his reception by both Court and diplomatic corps was
satisfactory, especially the courtesies shown him by the King. But he
was chagrined to find what a small impression the birth of his country
had made on British memory and British policy. Political independence
had been allowed, but commercial independence was denied. No treaty
of commerce could he add to the existing treaty of peace. The West
India ports remained closed to American trade. Pitt's bill to annul
the Navigation Acts so far as they concerned the United States was
dropped in Parliament. It was feared to put the Americans on the same
footing as European nations, lest they might be able to retain the
trade which they had enjoyed as British colonists. Certain additional
restrictive measures were put into force. "Our trade was never more
completely monopolised by Great Britain when it was under the direction
of the British Parliament," Madison complained to Monroe.

Neither would Britain grant the new sovereign power the courtesy of
sending a Minister in return for Adams.

"At present," Lord Sheffield advised in his book on _Observations on the
Commerce of the American States_, which passed through several editions,
"the only part Britain should take is most simple and perfectly sure. If
the American States choose to send consuls, receive them, and send a
consul to _each State_. Each State will soon enter into all the necessary
regulations with the consul and this is the whole that is necessary."

This gentle insinuation that the Confederation had no force and the
suggestion of uncertainty whether the new nation consisted of one or
thirteen powers contained too much truth to be pleasant to the

Mrs. John Adams, exchanging the social station accorded her in
Braintree, Massachusetts, for the diplomatic colony at London, found
herself of little service in aiding her husband's social standing. She
shared his Americanism. She wrote home that she had never seen an
assembly room in America which did not exceed that at St. James in
point of elegance and decoration, and that the women of the Court, in
all their blaze of diamonds set off with Parisian rouge, could not
match the blooming health, the sparkling eye, and modest deportment
of the dear girls of her native land. When presented to the King, she
declared that her reception stung her like an adder, although His
Majesty was kind enough to salute her cheek. She thought Queen Charlotte
rather embarrassed and Mrs. Adams confessed to a disagreeable feeling.
Yet the Queen simply inquired whether Mrs. Adams had gotten into her
new house and how she liked it. Years after, Mrs. Adams confessed that
the humiliation of Queen Charlotte was no sorrow for her. Three years
of neglect could not be readily forgotten or forgiven.

"Nothing but retaliation, reciprocal prohibitions, and imposts, and
putting ourselves in a posture of defence," the American Minister
informed his Government, could make an impression on England. National
action along any of these lines was impossible, because each State had
control of its own commerce. Individual retaliation was a burlesque.
Virginia at one time placed a tonnage duty on British vessels four
times that charged French and Dutch traders with whom the United States
had treaty arrangements. British vessels simply avoided Virginia ports
and sailed freely into those of other States. "When Massachusetts set
on foot a retaliation of the policy of Great Britain," wrote Madison,
sending the news to Jefferson in France, "Connecticut declared her
ports free. New Jersey served New York the same way. And Delaware, I
am told, has lately followed the example, in opposition to the
commercial plans of Pennsylvania." Many similar cases might be cited.
Some wag likened such efforts to a man who plugged up most carefully
the worm-holes in one end of a cask and knocked the whole head out at
the other end.

Fully three-fourths of all shipping to be seen in American ports flew
the British flag; yet American vessels could bring only American goods
into British ports. American ships were positively forbidden to trade
in the British West Indies, and American vessels sold in England could
not be used in British colonial trade. Under these circumstances, John
Adams became convinced that nothing but a complete change in the form
of the American National Government, giving over the control of commerce
into the hands of the Confederation, would be of avail in bringing
Britain to terms. As the end of her husband's mission drew nigh, Mrs.
Adams declared that she would quit Europe with more pleasure than she
came to it, and uncontaminated, she hoped, with its manners and its
vices. She attributed the ill success of her husband's efforts to the
lack of concord at home; to the debts which her countrymen had
contracted in Europe and were unable to pay; to the expectation in
England that prohibitory acts and heavy duties would bring the Americans
back to British allegiance; and to the calumnies circulated by the
Tory refugees in England. Their departure was marked, in the opinion
of John Adams, by a dry decency and a cold civility, which made him
feel, in breathing the air of his own country again, as if he had just
escaped from prison.



The ease with which the American domain had been permitted to extend
to the Mississippi in the peace negotiations with Great Britain did
not mean a freedom from future anxiety concerning the "back lands,"
lying to the west of the thirteen States. The entire domain contained
about 827,000 square miles, inhabited by about three million people,
very unequally distributed. Population was most dense near the coast
and gradually shaded off toward the interior. The front wave of
civilisation may be located by an irregular line passing through central
New Hampshire, skirting Lake Champlain, narrowing down to the Mohawk
valley, and across north-western New Jersey, whence it turned due west
across the mountains in a long arm reaching to Pittsburg. Retreating
to the Shenandoah valley, it descended to central Georgia and thence
to the sea. An "island" of people was to be found in central Kentucky
and another in north-central Tennessee. A great tract of vacant but
desirable land, comprising probably three-fourths of the domain,
stretched from within two hundred miles of the seacoast to the distant
Mississippi River. Barring a few French villagers, it was inhabited
only by savage men and beasts.

The lack of co-operation among the colonies in managing the Indians
had made a lasting impression. During the Revolutionary War, the
Congress gradually assumed the management of the savages to keep them
from serving the British forces. This was especially true of the tribes
dwelling beyond the recognised limits of the thirteen States. The State
Governments readily consented to allow the central body a large control
in this matter, because it meant so much for the common defence. The
British method of Indian agents and commissioners for different
geographical departments was adopted by the Congress, the whole being
placed under control of the Department of War. The National Government
thus came into control of the savages who inhabited the vast
trans-Alleghany region. The thought naturally followed that it should
be given control of the land itself, if it were to manage the savages

Following the war, commissioners and agents complained that they could
not get the confidence and trade of the Indians of the North-west,
because of the influence of the British troops remaining in the forts,
in that quarter. According to the stipulations of the treaty of peace,
the forts located on the American side of the boundary line were to
be evacuated. There were some half-dozen of these posts, ranging along
the international line from Michilimackinac at the head of Lake Huron,
to Dutchman's Point, near Lake Champlain. The number of troops in each
was not sufficient to cause any fear of invasion; but their presence
produced an uncertainty in the Indian mind whether the control was
still with the British or had passed to the United States. The fur
trade, which should have passed through the States, was diverted to
Canada along the old lines.

Instead of vacating, the troops went out from some of the forts and
built additional new posts on American soil. "The Great Father across
the Waters," said a chief, when returning an unsigned treaty to Col.
Harmar, "has not given this country over to the Thirteen Fires." Knowing
the former predilection of the Indians for the French, the services
of Lafayette were enlisted, prior to his return to France, in addressing
a council on the frontier of New York to enlighten the natives
concerning their new allegiance. It was felt that all efforts would
be of no avail until the British were removed. To all American protests,
the British Government replied that the posts would not be evacuated
until the Americans had fulfilled their part of the treaty concerning
the debts owed to British merchants.


At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, large sums had been due
British exporters and factors by American planters and traders, because
of the commercial system in vogue at that time. The war gave excuse
to unscrupulous debtors to withhold payment. Associations were formed
in many communities to adopt this form of retaliation, although
discountenanced by the better classes. At the close of the war, it was
said that there was not sufficient money in circulation to discharge
these long-due obligations. Jefferson estimated the debts due British
merchants in Virginia alone at thirty times the amount of money in
circulation in the State. Many States had passed stay laws against
executions to recover such debts and had thrown other legal obstructions
in the way of the British creditors. Claim was made not only for the
original amount of the debts, but for back interest as well. The
American merchants rejoined that they could pay neither principal nor
interest until they had been compensated for their slaves carried away
by the British Army and the Tories at the end of the war and contrary
to the terms of the treaty of peace. The labour of these slaves, they
said, would enable them to pay the debts.

Undoubtedly American statesmen wished to sustain inviolate the
provisions of the treaty, not only by preventing the States from
interfering with the collection of valid debts, but also by protecting
the Loyalists or Tories, as the treaty demanded. The English
negotiators, having small experience with a Confederation, supposed
that the clause in the treaty binding Congress to recommend actions
to the several State Legislatures was equivalent to a warrant. It was
agreed that the privilege should be granted to any person to go into
and remain twelve months in any part of the United States to regain
his property by law. The treaty provided further that Congress would
recommend to the States the restoration of all property to former
owners upon payment of the bona fide price which the present possessors
paid for it after confiscation. The treaty also implicitly promised
that there should be no more confiscations or prosecutions. The several
provisions for the alleviation of these Loyalists indicate slightly
the misfortunes into which their action brought them. Their treatment
both officially and by the mob has been described by some foreign
writers as the darkest page in American history. But they had choice
of sides in the issue. Granted that they supposed they were right in
upholding government against rebellion; yet the law of consequences
accepts no excuse for over-conservatism. He who fails to keep step
with the march of events falls behind and suffers the consequences.
The Loyalists were on the losing side and suffered the common fate of
the conquered.

War is abnormal. It undermines ideas of justice prevalent in time of
peace. Thus it came about that the treatment of the Loyalists reacted
unfortunately on the patriots. They had harried the royal sympathisers
out of the land. They had grown accustomed to using force and could
not readily return to law-abiding methods. They would not obey even
the provisions of a national treaty. The Articles of Confederation,
under which they were attempting to live in concord, kept a State from
laying a duty which would interfere with the proposed treaties with
France and Spain. Otherwise there was no compulsion aside from the
moral obligation attached to a treaty. However, John Jay, Secretary
of Foreign Affairs, acting in the capacity of an Attorney-General,
rendered an opinion that no State according to the Articles could
disobey or even interpret the provisions of a national treaty. Congress
adopted resolutions to the same effect. But without coercive power,
resolutions of Congress were idle as the wind. Jay confessed to
Jefferson in France, his fears that "some of the States had gone so
far in their deviations from the treaty that I fear they will not
easily be persuaded to tread back their steps." He also stated his
conviction after investigation that there had not been a single day
since the treaty had been signed in which it had not been broken by
some State. Washington also testified to the helplessness of Congress
by saying, "If you tell the Legislatures that they have violated the
treaty of peace, and invaded the prerogatives of the Confederacy, they
will laugh in your face." In this manner, a series of unfortunate
diplomatic complications turned upon the British possession of the
American forts along the frontier.

Nor was the impotence of the new nation exhibited toward England only
in the western country. Because it drained almost the whole of the
great inland valley, forming with its tributaries a network of
ready-made highways, the Mississippi River assumed an importance to
the trans-Alleghanian settlers which is lost in these days of
artificial means of transportation. As Madison once said, "It is the
Hudson, the Delaware, the Potomac, and all the navigable waters of the
Atlantic States formed into one stream." It is true that the freedom
of navigating the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence was secured to these
western people by the Treaty of 1783, but these ways to the sea were
closed by ice during a portion of the year and were impeded by falls.
The lower Mississippi, on the other hand, had neither of these
obstructions to navigation. Near its mouth was the city of New Orleans,
where ocean vessels lay ready to receive western products. The current
made easy the voyage thither. For twenty years the traditionally
easy-going Spaniard had held the mouth of the river, placing severe
restrictions upon foreign traders, but too indolent to enforce them.

Great Britain and the United States had ignored Spain when they declared
in the treaty of peace that the Mississippi, from its source to the
Gulf, should remain for ever free and open to citizens of both
countries. Perhaps because she was disappointed in not getting a portion
of the middle valley away from the Americans in the course of the peace
negotiations, Spain soon began to show that she was at least mistress
of the lower part of the river. Just where her dominion began was
uncertain. During the war, a Virginia captain raised his colours on
the Mississippi a few miles above Natchez. A Spanish commandant buried
a box near the same spot with the colours of his sovereign as a token
of possession. After 1783, the flatboatmen, who adventured down the
river with loads of tobacco, flour, or planks, seeking a market at New
Orleans or adjacent settlements, found at the Walnut Bluffs, about ten
miles below the mouth of the Yazoo River, a post of Spanish customs
guards. These bade them lower their flag and put themselves under the
protection of the governor of Natchez before proceeding. If the goods
escaped paying a duty at this place, they were examined a second time
when they reached the group of about one hundred houses, crowning the
bluff, which constituted the city of Natchez. On a prominent point,
commanding a view of the river for many miles, stood the governor's
palace and the fort, at which were usually stationed about a score of
Spanish troops.

The hardy frontiersmen, who escaped the perils of navigating the river
as far as Natchez, bore the inspection and frequent seizure of their
goods as a great hardship and unwarrantable action. Scarcely had trade
opened after the war before Congress received a complaint from one
Fowler that his flatboat loaded with produce for the New Orleans market
had been seized for refusal to pay duties at Natchez. A few months
later, Thomas Amis, a North Carolina trader, reported the seizure of
his stock at the same point, consisting of 142 Dutch ovens, 53 pots
and kettles, 34 skillets, 33 cast boxes, 3 pairs dog irons, a pair of
flat irons, a spice mortar, a plough mould, and 50 barrels of flour.

Complaints of some of these seizures officially reached Congress.
Countless tales of other infringements upon American rights on the
lower Mississippi were told among the settlers along the western slope
of the Alleghanies, arousing them to the conviction that they were
being sacrificed by the commercial interests of the Atlantic plain who
wished to preserve a profitable trade with Spain. Gardoqui had arrived
at the seat of government in 1785 as the first representative of the
Spanish King. He was determined, as he said, to make the lower
Mississippi a "bone of contention" in negotiating the long-delayed
treaty with the United States. Not much agitation on his part was
necessary. The western people were wrought up to the determination to
take matters into their own hands, if necessary, to procure an outlet
to Europe for their goods. The rumour that Jay, Secretary of Foreign
Affairs, had approved to Congress the suggestion of Gardoqui, that the
river be closed for ten years as the price of a commercial treaty,
drove them to the point of forcible resistance. The Spanish also
continued to occupy posts on the American side of the Florida boundary
line, but this was a grievance only as they were accused of arousing
the Indians to hostility against American settlers. In truth, these
western pioneers formed a long arm of people thrust out between Indians
under British dominance on the north and Indians under Spanish control
on the south.

Believing themselves outside the pale of eastern protection, the western
people entertained various projects for self-preservation. George
Rogers Clark, whose daring Virginia expedition into the Illinois country
had gained him fame in the Revolutionary days, placed himself at the
head of a volunteer company which called itself the "Wabash regiment,"
and had been recruited in Kentucky for an expedition against the Shawnee
Indians. Clark had degenerated through intemperance into a kind of
border freebooter. Turning his troops from the original purpose, he
seized the goods of the Spanish traders at Post Vincennes as a
retaliation upon the Spanish, and prepared to descend upon New Orleans.
Congress was compelled to take strong measures for disbanding his
followers and making amends to Spain. A short time after, another
Kentuckian was at Vincennes organising men to drive out the Spanish
and make a settlement at Natchez, presumably inside the limits of
Georgia. "Ireland is a free country to what this will be when its
navigation is entirely shut," he wrote to the governor of Georgia in
unfolding his scheme. An emissary was sent through the Illinois French
settlements to describe the Spanish outrages on the lower Mississippi.
Seditious papers were circulating in Kentucky and in the revolutionary
State of Franklin. "In case we are not countenanced," said one of these
documents, "and succoured by the United States, our allegiance will
be thrown off and some other power applied to. Great Britain stands
ready with open arms to receive and support us." One adventurer assured
Gardoqui that fifty thousand men would be in arms in the western country
to get their commercial rights.

Even a more efficient government than a Confederation would have
experienced difficulty in overcoming these decentralising effects of
the Alleghany Mountains, before improved methods of transportation had
annihilated the barrier. The people along the Atlantic Ocean and those
in the Mississippi valley lived really in two parallel north and south
plains, having easier outlets through foreign countries and therefore
more points of contact with them than with each other. Although obscured
by the later north and south sectionalism, this east and west difference
for many years caused a fear in the older portion that the newer or
valley part would secede from it. This fear began with the troubles
over the navigation of the Mississippi, it was renewed by Genet's
intrigues, it reached its climax in Burr's expedition, and it subsided
only when railways and canal transportation had levelled the mountains
and thereby lessened the importance of waterways.

European strategists made ready use of the isolated condition of the
western people, not always with the object of absorbing them, but
rather of using them in the great game of territorial acquisition
played so many times on the American board. For instance, in 1787, the
French Minister to the United States forwarded to his Government a
document presented to him, evidently by a native of France residing
in America, which described the extent of the Mississippi valley and
the dissatisfaction of its inhabitants. The paper asserted that the
people beyond the mountains

"seek for a new support and offer to the power which will welcome them
advantages which will before long effect those which America, as it now
is, could promise.... It requires a protector; the first who will stretch
out his arms to it will have made the greatest acquisition that could be
desired in this new world. Fortunate my country if she does not let this
moment escape, one of those not presented twice."

A year or two later, the British consul at Philadelphia was suggesting
to his Government the use of the western settlements of the United
States in an expedition to be made against Spanish New Orleans. These
frontiersmen would co-operate, he thought, in any measure that might
tend to secure them a free trade which the uninterrupted passage of
the Mississippi would effectually establish. He pronounced them a hardy
race, adventurers by profession, and ready to seize every opportunity
of profit or employment. They were described in a project for using
them presented at another time to the French Government as "hardy,
enterprising, good marksmen, lovers of liberty, and always armed."

The extent to which the western people were prepared to go in the
Confederation days was a matter of much dispute, and was aired fully
in the course of time by controversies in Kentucky politics. But their
hardihood and capacity for achievement have never been questioned.
They were qualified by nature to insist upon their rights even if such
insistence embarrassed the foreign negotiations of the home Government.
Bred in the rural districts of Virginia and the Carolinas, accustomed
to solitude and privations, depending upon their rifles for food and
largely for dress, they felt no ties binding them to home and the old
life when once they had crossed the mountains. They were self-dependent
in nearly every particular except arms and ammunition. Carrying the
organising instinct of their English forefathers, they set up local
government as rapidly as their numbers warranted. To be held as
colonists by the States to the eastward of the mountains was contrary
to that spirit of inherited freedom which had already made those States
out of colonies. Just at the dawn of the Revolution the colonisation
of the far-famed "blue grass" region of Kentucky had begun, when Daniel
Boone led the Transylvania Company from North Carolina to found
Boonesboro. Although the independent government which this company
erected was suppressed by the governors of Virginia and North Carolina,
the movement could not be stayed. A few years later, these Kentuckians,
increased in numbers by the enormous migration thither, were holding
secession conventions which Virginia thought wise not to resist. North
Carolina repressed with some effort the independent State of Franklin,
or "Frankland," the land of the free Franks, as it was first called,
which John Sevier and other hardy spirits set up in what is now eastern

While these attempts to create independent States in the remote regions
are now praised as evidences of the organising instinct of the American
people, it must not be forgotten that at the time they were formed
within the legitimate bounds of regular States and seriously threatened
to impair their domains. The domain of a State is regarded as one of
the most inviolable attributes of its sovereignty. The third Article
of the Confederation bound the States to assist any of their number
against attacks made upon its sovereignty. Not only were the States
of Virginia and Kentucky threatened with the loss of territory through
insurrection. The "Green Mountain boys," headed by Ethan Allen, had
succeeded in setting up an independent State, with a popular innkeeper
as governor, upon land claimed by New York. Against these infringements
upon the integrity of the States, the Congress could do nothing more
than draw up resolutions expressing "the highest disapprobation" of
those who participated.

The experience of the National Government under the Articles of
Confederation with the settlers on the frontier beyond the recognised
limits of the thirteen States, although alarming at the time, was
invaluable as a lesson. It taught thinking men not only that the Central
Government must be given more power to protect the States themselves,
but that these remote districts could be best governed by the central
authorities. Every argument of this kind was timely since it might
induce the States still holding out to yield their back lands as a
common property. The beginning of ceding the western lands to the
common stock is important as a precedent since it created ultimately
the profit-sharing principle of the public domain. Mention has been
made of the failure in Congress to place western bounds on certain
States. When the Articles were sent to all the States for ratification
before going into effect, individual State Legislatures had opportunity
of making such boundary restriction the price of a national agreement.
Individualism in this instance proved a blessing. It is important to
an appreciation of the times to note that the State whose persistence
won the victory was not one of the largest or most influential. Maryland
was the eighth in rank of territory and probably the sixth in number
of population. Her powerful neighbour and ancient enemy, Virginia,
upon assuming statehood, had reiterated her charter claims to full
one-half the territory of British North America, magnanimously "ceding"
to the States of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the two Carolinas the
land of which they were already possessed.

As Virginia admitted, the British Government had always assumed that the
Atlantic coast-plain was the seat of its thirteen American colonies, and
had refused to acknowledge openly their claims much beyond the crest of
the Alleghanies. The ownership of the vacant lands between the mountains
and the Mississippi River was vested in the King under the name of "Crown
lands." But no sooner had the struggle for independence begun than the
colonies determined in case of success to claim the entire British
possessions in those parts; that is, to the Mississippi. As early as 1776,
Silas Deane, the commercial agent of the United States in Paris, suggested
to Congress the sale of the vacant lands to French colonists as a means of
paying the expenses of the war. The rich valley, when fully regarded as a
possible spoil of war, became a golden apple of discord. It had been won,
small States argued, "by the blood and treasure of all, and ought,
therefore, to be a common estate."

Led more by the necessity for some kind of a national government to
replace the rule of Britain thrown off in 1776 than by such appeals, the
Legislature of New York in 1781 authorised her delegates in Congress to
quitclaim all lands lying outside her present boundaries to the General
Government for the benefit of present and future States of the Union.
Although the claim of New York, based upon a treaty with the Indians, had
been regarded as shadowy by other States, yet her greatly lauded action
led in the same year to propositions from Virginia and, a few years later,
to advances from Massachusetts and Connecticut resulting eventually in
their giving up all territory north of the Ohio and west of Pennsylvania
and New York. Persuaded by these favourable indications, Maryland signed
the Articles, as heretofore described.

Whether the persistence of Maryland was due to her desire for the
national good, to selfishness in wishing a share of the national spoils
of war, or to animosity toward Virginia dating from their ancient
boundary dispute, the result may well be pronounced the most important
step toward union since the appointment of Washington to the head of
a national army. The public domain was the first inheritance the needy
National Government ever received aside from debts and disputes. Not
that the pecuniary return from the sale of the public lands proved as
large as at first imagined; but that this tangible asset gave some
dignity to the intangible Union. The disposal of the land, as a
profit-sharing enterprise, formed a business undertaking which concerned
all the States. It could be managed only by the combined powers.



Having been entrusted with the responsibility of administering the
back lands, Congress immediately entered upon the work of arranging
a method for their survey and sale, and of devising a feasible
government to be extended over them. The pressing need of securing a
revenue from them, together with a realisation that prospective
purchasers would require protection both from each other and from the
savages, impelled the members to immediate action. Against the many
failures with which the old Congress stands charged during the eight
years of its national control, the ordinances for the disposition and
government of the western lands form a most pleasant and redeeming
contrast. The Congress faced an absolutely new task. There were many
precedents in history for colonial holding, varying from the policy
of Greece, which allowed complete severance of home ties, to that of
Spain, which regarded colonies as existing solely for the benefit of
the mother country. By adopting the one, the United States must have
left the western emigrants to perish. The other was repugnant to a
people who had just rebelled against even the moderate colonial system
of Great Britain. Equality is the only standard for a republic. Congress
had resolved in 1780 that the lands ceded to its jurisdiction should
be "disposed of for the common benefit and be settled and formed into
distinct republican States which shall become members of the Federal
Union and have the same rights of sovereignty, freedom, and independence
as the other States." Here was an action almost unprecedented. Instead
of holding the outlying region as a colonial possession for the benefit
of the older portion, or making it into an Indian hunting-ground as
Britain had tried to do, the Confederation of States had voluntarily
agreed to erect it into independent States upon perfect equality with
themselves. It was a practical application of the principles of the
Declaration of Independence, of no taxation without representation,
and of the real equality of all portions of the domain. The action was
taken for the very practical purpose of assuring the States that if
they surrendered their claims to the western lands, their citizens who
migrated thither would not lose their rights by changing from State
to national sovereignty.

Jefferson is presumed to be the father of the ordinance which first
collected these promises into a working model; but not even Jefferson,
rejoicing in laying out imaginary states from the new national
possession and giving classic names to them, could foresee that there
was being called into existence a factor most dangerous to his beloved
individualism. The people who would remove from the States and settle
upon lands purchased from the National Government, would be under
national protection, subject to national legislation, and eventually
be admitted by the national power to national statehood. Their affection
would be gradually won away from their native States to be centred on
the Union. Yet the States had not been able to hold the lands
individually. Thus was necessity silently making the Union.

The provisions of the Jefferson Ordinance of 1784 for the temporary
government of the western territory have been almost lost sight of
because, after it had been in operation for three years and little had
been accomplished through difficulty of dealing with the Indians in
possession of the land, circumstances arose which brought about a new
ordinance superseding the old and changing it in its working details.
Yet the first ordinance embodied the main principles in creating States
which have since been followed. The number of people in any given
portion of the public lands was to be the determining factor.
Jefferson's ordinance would allow these settlers to establish a
temporary government, to adopt the constitution of any one of the
thirteen States, and to elect a legislature. When their number should
reach twenty thousand, they would be allowed to call a convention and
establish a permanent constitution and government. Upon attaining a
population of free inhabitants equal to that of the least numerous of
the thirteen original States (at this time probably Georgia, whose
population was estimated at twenty-five thousand) they would be admitted
on equal footing with the other States. Between the establishment of
the temporary government and admission to statehood, the prospective
state should be allowed a representative in Congress with a right of
debating but not of voting. The well-known Ordinance of 1787, which
replaced that of 1784, substituted for the temporary government to be
erected by the settlers a ready-made administration of governor,
secretary, and territorial judges, to be sent out by the National
Government, and to continue until the free male population should
number five thousand, when they were to be allowed to exercise home
rule in setting up a territorial government. The standard for statehood
was fixed definitely in the later ordinance at sixty thousand free

Jefferson, notwithstanding the supposedly aristocratic training of a
Virginia environment, placed no qualification for suffrage or office
in his ordinance. The Ordinance of 1787, presumably drafted under
democratic New England ideas, placed a qualification of ownership of
two hundred acres of land upon a representative in the territorial
legislature and of fifty acres upon an elector for a representative.
Here was an illustration of that revertive tendency in the sections
which has maintained the national equilibrium. Accumulated wealth in
the North was beginning to overcome the levelling creed of the Puritan,
while the economic loss resulting from slave labour in the South was
reducing the colonial Cavalier class in the planter States. The
exceedingly profitable cotton culture had not yet developed in the
Gulf States to create the ante-bellum aristocracy of the lower South,
nor had the stream of European immigration set in to the Northern
States to restore the levelling tendency there.

The two ordinances were alike in precluding the separation of any part
of the territory from the United States, requiring the inhabitants to
pay a portion of the national debt, and forbidding new States, to
interfere with the sale of or to tax the national public lands within
their limits.

Two provisions in Jefferson's first draft of the Ordinance of 1784
were struck out by the Congress before adoption. One, which forbade
granting of titles of nobility, was eliminated because, as Jefferson
wrote to Madison, "it was thought an improper place to encounter them."
The contest against the introduction of aristocracy was unlikely to
be precipitated in the backwoods bordering the Ohio River. Yet the
provision would have been in keeping with the spirit of the times.
Congress had recently rejected a proposition made to Washington by the
Polish Order of Knights of Divine Providence that their order should
be officially extended to the United States. The other eliminated
provision, forbidding slavery and involuntary servitude in the territory
after the year 1800 except as a punishment for crime, is important not
only as the first attempted restriction of the slavery system by the
National Government, but also as furnishing an interesting comparison
with the later sentiment on this unfortunate controversy which affected
every phase of United States history for a century.

When he incorporated this provision in his draft of the ordinance,
Jefferson was but little in advance of the opinion of the day on the
effects of employing slave labour. Never until its death was the system
so near dissolution as in the organising days between the birth of the
republic and the invention of the cotton-gin. State after State in
forming its constitution, or by special enactment, arranged for
immediate abolition or gradual emancipation. Even in slaveholding
Virginia and North Carolina, few could be found to defend the system
from an economic standpoint, although they had to admit the necessity
of its use in the rice swamps of South Carolina and Georgia.

Lafayette was urging Washington to employ his recently acquired leisure
in transforming slaves into free tenants. "Such an example as yours,"
he wrote from Cadiz, "might render it a general practice."

"Would to God a like spirit might diffuse itself generally into the minds
of the people of this country," replied the Virginia farmer, "but I
despair of seeing it. To set the slaves afloat at once would, I really
believe, be productive of much inconvenience and mischief, but by degrees
it certainly might and assuredly ought to be effected; and that too by
legislative authority."

At the same time he put himself on record as determined never to add
another to the number of his slaves by purchase. A petition for
emancipation had just been introduced into the Virginia House of
Delegates and was "rejected without dissent; but not without an avowed
patronage of its principles by sundry respectable members," as Madison
informed Washington. "A motion was made to throw it under the table,
which was treated with as much indignation on one side as the petition
itself was on the other."

Jefferson had been disappointed at an earlier time because no
emancipation provision had been incorporated in the Constitution of

"What a stupendous, what an incomprehensible machine is man!" he wrote in
this connection, "who can endure toil, famine, stripes, imprisonment, and
death itself in vindication of his own liberty and the next moment be deaf
to all those motives whose power supported him thro' his trial and inflict
on his fellow men a bondage, one hour of which is fraught with more misery
than ages of that which he rose in rebellion to oppose."

An interesting commentary on the industrial progress of the country
is afforded by comparing these early views of Southern statesmen upon
the slavery system with those held by a later generation.

Public sentiment in Virginia was not ready to follow the champions of
individual freedom to the emancipation point, and it refused as
strenuously to be coerced as it did in later years. When the Quakers
of Philadelphia attempted to secure by law the freedom of a body-servant
whom a neighbour of Washington had taken with him on a visit to that
city, the General wrote to his friend, Robert Morris, the wealthy
merchant of Philadelphia, "If the practice of this society, of which
Mr. Dalby speaks, is not discountenanced, none of those whose
_misfortune_ it is to have slaves as attendants, will visit the city
if they can possibly avoid it."

However, the clause which was struck from the Ordinance of 1784 was
not intended to abolish slavery where it already existed, but to prevent
the extension of the system to new territory. It was the forerunner
of a similar controversy which attended every addition to the national
territory as the people spread westwardly, and which eventually became
a strong factor in precipitating the Civil War. The motion to cast out
was made by Spaight, of North Carolina, but Williamson, his colleague,
voted to retain the clause and thus divided the State. Jefferson was
outvoted by his two colleagues who favoured no restriction on the
people desiring to migrate to the new lands. Maryland and South Carolina
were the only Southern States unanimously against the clause. Six
States north of the Mason and Dixon line voted to retain the clause.
Jefferson took the defeat sorely.

"Seven States being requisite to decide the proposition affirmatively," he
said, "it was lost. The voice of a single individual of the State which
was divided or of one of those which were of the negative, would have
prevented this abominable crime from spreading itself over the new

To Madison he reported, "South Carolina, Maryland, and! Virginia! voted
against it. N. Carolina was divided as would have been Virginia had
not one of its delegates been sick in bed." The absent member was young
James Monroe, serving his first term in Congress.

The close vote, of which Jefferson complains, well illustrates the
evils of voting by States in Congress. Seven affirmative State votes
were necessary to retain the anti-slavery clause. Only eleven States
were represented. One of these had but one delegate and his vote was
cast out by the rule requiring a State to be represented by at least
two delegates to participate in a vote. Of the ten States remaining,
seven must have at least two delegates of an affirmative mind from
each to retain the clause. Six of these States voted solidly to keep
the restriction, but the seventh State could not be secured, as
Jefferson stated. Considered by our present method of voting, sixteen
of the twenty-three delegates present voted affirmatively and seven
negatively; yet the motion was lost and the clause struck out. Rarely
has the power of a minority been so great. The individual may be allowed
to hide the mass by being held too close to the vision.

However, the defeat of Jefferson's plan of excluding slavery from the
territory after the year 1800 must be considered fortunate by all in
sympathy with the general purpose. By it, slavery would have been
permitted in the western country for sixteen years. The large influx
of migration into the territory within that period, especially from
the Southern States, would have established the system too thoroughly
to be eradicated. The difficulty with which slavery was permanently
kept out, although expressly prohibited by the Ordinance of 1787, is
a proof of this assertion. The clearing of the way for the later
prohibitive action by striking out the clause tended to the ultimate
good. On the other hand, it is pointed out that the Jefferson ordinance
provided only for "a temporary government of the western territory"
and covered "so much of the territory ceded or to be ceded by the
individual States to the United States as is already purchased or shall
be purchased of the Indian inhabitants and offered for sale by
Congress." Eulogists of Jefferson argue, consequently, that if his
restricting clause had been allowed to remain it would have prohibited
slavery in all the land west of the thirteen States, both north and
south, after the year 1800, and thus the entire slavery system would
have died through non-extension. But it must be remembered that the
only land thus far ceded lay north of the Ohio and immediately west
of the free States. It is not conceivable that such a restriction would
have been permitted to hold south of the Ohio and west of the
slaveholding States, directly in the line of migration. Indeed, when
the time did arrive to create a government south of the Ohio,
interference with slavery was distinctly prohibited. It is true, also,
that Jefferson's ordinance as adopted solemnly declared its articles
a charter of compact to stand as unalterable constitutions both before
and after the sale of any part of the vacant land; but that a new
ordinance should supersede it after three years, simply because a
proposed purchaser demanded some additional guarantees, is a proof
that none of its provisions could have withstood the pressure of slave
territorial expansion.

However, at the time, there seemed small prospect that the National
Government would ever be required to make regulations for any territory
south of the Ohio. Congress had sent out appeal after appeal to North
Carolina, citing the action of the other States, and begging her to
yield her claim to what is now the State of Tennessee. But she resisted
until 1790. South Carolina retained control of a long, narrow strip,
south of the present Tennessee and extending to the Mississippi, until
1787. Georgia, claiming almost the whole of the present States of
Alabama and Mississippi, remained deaf likewise to the entreaties of
Congress until 1802. Virginia, having yielded so much of her original
claim as lay north of the Ohio, was disposed to retain her claim to
the Kentucky country. Jefferson wished to yield all lying west of the
mouth of the Kanawha. Washington approved of this limit, seeing, as
he said, "the impolicy of this State's grasping at more territory than
they are competent to the government of." This liberal sentiment was
never sufficiently general to be effective. Thus it came about that
the Southwestern territory, which Congress ultimately created from all
land ceded south of the Ohio, was never more than a temporary and
passing arrangement compared with the North-west territory.

"American Gazetteer". The five States here outlined in the North-west
Territory, with slightly changed boundaries, are to be found on the
map at present.]

After much study, Congress drew up the Ordinance of 1785 for the survey
and sale of such land as might be given to its care. The details of
this important arrangement in the story of the American people
illustrate the advantages arising from instituting new governments at
a stroke. The rectangular system of land surveys, like the decimal
system of money, was devised and not inherited. Each has proved a
blessing in its simplicity. The divisions of the land upon an
even-number basis, the progressive numbering of the divisions, the
elasticity of the system, and the subdivisions arranged to accommodate
small purchasers, have conduced by their simplicity and adaptability
to speedy disposition and settlement of the national domain and have
minimised later litigation and discord. Since the history of the
American people has been influenced so extensively and persistently
by the disposal and peopling of the public lands, the simple survey
system may be counted among the valuable parts of the national

Surveys were to be made by the "geographer" of the United States,
assisted by a surveyor from each of the States. One-seventh of all
lands surveyed was to be reserved for the land bounties promised to
those who had served in the Continental army. An old handbill,
frequently reproduced, shows that among the inducements to enlistment
held out during the darkest period of the war were "Ease, affluence,
and a good farm." The certificates issued to the soldiers at the close
of the war in lieu of money were made receivable in payment for public
land. A share in all gold, silver, lead, and copper mines was retained
by the National Government. Lot number sixteen in every township was
reserved for the maintenance of public schools. A provision for setting
aside the section adjoining it for the support of religion was struck
out, nor could a motion prevail to preserve it for "charitable uses."
The votes on this question seemed to be governed purely by individual
opinion. The delegates from Virginia, whose Legislature had just dealt
the Established Church in that State its death-blow, voted to retain
the reservation of land for religious purposes, much like the old
church glebe lands. But the separation of Church and State had become
too complete to enter upon a scheme so suggestive of establishment.

For three years the Ordinance of 1784 awaited the migration of settlers
to the territory who would be protected by it, and, at the same time,
put it into effect. Thomas Hutchins, the national "geographer," and
his assistants from the several States, laid off seven ranges of
townships, in the eastern part of the present State of Ohio, according
to the land Ordinance of 1785, before rumours of hostile Indians drove
them back. The Secretary of War was instructed to draw by lot enough
of the surveyed land to satisfy such bounty land certificates as might
be presented and to advertise the remainder for sale. United States
troops were employed to drive out the "squatters" on the public lands,
to burn their cabins, and destroy their crops. But not an acre was
sold in those three years, not a certificate of national indebtedness
redeemed, and not a shilling received from the land sales for the needy

The Jefferson ordinance had been intended for such western lands as
might from time to time be given to the National Government. But no
land south of the Ohio was surrendered. Congress, therefore, determined
to cast aside the old ordinance, and to form the portion yielded into
a specific territory, with a new ordinance which would allow more
leeway in forming the States and give Congress more control over the
domain from its incipience. Accordingly, Johnson, of Maryland, offered
a new ordinance in the spring of 1786, which passed to a second reading.
With the exception of the reforms noted above, it closely resembled
the old ordinance. But in July following, after an interregnum of no
quorum, the Congress passed, by an almost unanimous vote and after a
consideration of only a few days, an entirely new law governing the
territory north-west of the Ohio. It was the famous Ordinance of 1787.
Its sudden transformation, inexplicable to early investigators and
solved only by later research, was the result of a business transaction
connected with the bounty certificates given to the Revolutionary

During the progress of the war, it had been necessary to secure enlistment
by offering bounty lands. The desire to realise on these promises was
shared by officers and privates alike. Doubtless around many a camp-fire,
as the war drew to a close, the value of these land certificates was
discussed, and plans made for "associating" to form colonies in the "back
lands" to which the soldiers were winning both right and title. The
danger-line in the future would be along the frontier, where the newly
won empire must be guarded from invasion both from British Canada and the
Spanish Floridas, and where the advancing line of pioneers must be
protected from hostile Indians. Bands of these "associators" were
organised to obtain their allotments in the new country and to settle upon
them. They would "plant a brave, a hardy, and respectable race of people
as our advanced post," wrote Washington in presenting the project to
Congress. "A settlement formed by such men would give security to our
frontiers; the very name of it would awe the Indians."

One body of men, styling themselves "The Ohio Company of Associators,"
composed of ex-Revolutionary officers and privates residing in and
about Boston, sent a botanist-parson, the Reverend Manasseh Cutler,
to the Congress in the summer of 1787, to urge a proposition they had
advanced for the purchase of a large tract on the Ohio River. These
"adventurers," as they styled themselves, were desirous of driving a
good bargain in a low price for the land and also of gaining certain
guarantees from Congress which would give them as much personal liberty
and protection in the new home and under the National Government as
they enjoyed in their present residences under their State Governments.
Cutler, provided with forty-two letters of introduction to members of
Congress and prominent citizens of New York city, reached the seat of
government in due time. "At 11 o'clock," he wrote in his private
journal, "I was introduced to a number of members on the floor of
Congress Chamber, in the City Hall, by Colonel Carrington, member from
Virginia. Delivered my petition for purchasing lands for the Ohio
Company, and proposed terms and conditions of purchase." Fortunately
there was a quorum in Congress, the first in nearly two months. A few
days later, Cutler was sent a copy of the Johnson ordinance then
pending. To this he proposed "several amendments." Three days afterward,
the celebrated Ordinance of 1787, for the government of that portion
of the territory north-west of the Ohio, was completed and adopted to
Cutler's satisfaction. "It is in a degree remodelled," he wrote in his
journal. "The amendments I proposed have all been made except one, and
that is better qualified."

Nevertheless it took a week more of haggling and lobbying before
acceptable terms of sale could be agreed upon. Another company composed
of "principal characters" in the city had to be taken into the deal
in a "profound secret." Arthur St. Clair, the president of the Congress,
had to be accepted by the Associators as the governor of the territory,
in order to gain his support. Cutler had to finesse by threatening to
buy from some of the States which had land for sale within their
borders. It is unfortunate for those who believe that our fathers were
actuated entirely by disinterested motives and utterly devoid of
political guile that the parson lobbyist kept such a candid diary. Day
by day the business proceeded, Cutler even making a side visit to
Philadelphia while his leaven was working. At last even "that stubborn
mule of a Kearney," as the disgusted agent called him, was "left alone,"
a sufficient number of votes was secured, and Cutler was receiving
congratulations on the prospects of the Ohio Company.

"By this Ordinance," he wrote, "we obtained the grant of near 5,000,000
of acres of land, amounting to three millions and a half of dollars; one
million and a half of acres for the Ohio Company and the remainder for a
private speculation in which many of the principal characters in America
are concerned."

The importance of this transaction lies not only in the fact that it
was the first sale of public lands in the United States, but that the
government established for the territory formed many precedents for
later Territories and States. Some of its provisions deserve a close
examination. The changes made in the Johnson ordinance to satisfy the
Ohio Company are found chiefly in the appended six articles of the
Ordinance of 1787. These formed a guarantee that citizens in the
territory deprived of the protection of their States would have the
same personal rights which they enjoyed before leaving the States. The
United States, later destined to become a protector, was feared lest
it might be an oppressor. Such individual rights as _habeas corpus_,
trial by jury, freedom of conscience, possession of property, and
similar birthrights of Englishmen, had been secured in the States by
incorporating them in the various State Constitutions under the general
name of "declaration of rights" or "bill of rights." Without such
specific title, they were placed in the Ordinance of 1787. The sixth
article, no doubt also demanded by Cutler, incorporated the very wording
of Jefferson's rejected anti-slavery clause of three years before,
except making it immediate instead of after 1800. The New England
Associators were unwilling to offer their free labour in competition
with slave labour in their new home. The idea was general. "The total
exclusion of slavery from the State" had been a prominent provision
in a transitory association in Connecticut four years before.

ORDINANCE OF 1787. The authorship of this article of the Ordinance has
been in much dispute. Benton attributed it to a similar provision,
drafted by Jefferson, which was struck out of the Ordinance of 1784.
Northern men gave the credit to Nathan Dane, a Massachusetts jurist,
who was in Congress in 1787. During the sectional feeling aroused over
the admission of Missouri in 1820, a dispute arose in Congress over
the respective claims of Jefferson and of Dane. Of this, Dane himself
said: "In April, 1820, search was made for the original manuscript of
the Ordinance of 1787. Daniel Bent's answer was 'that no written draft
could be found'; but there was found attached to the printed Ordinance
in my handwriting the sixth article, as it now is, that is, the slave
article." The original is now in the Library of Congress, Manuscript
Division. The signature of Chas. Thomson, Jr., calls attention to the
faithful secretary of the Continental Congress during its entire

The century contest over slavery in the United States made that factor
so prominent in national history that it overshadows matters of equal
importance in many transactions. The anti-slavery provision of the
Ordinance of 1787 has been extravagantly praised ever since the oratory
of Daniel Webster first called general attention to it. Sectional
partisans have exhausted logic in trying to trace the authorship to
Jefferson, a Southern man, or to Dane, a Northern man. The North has
credited it to the persistence of New England; the South, pointing to
the five Southern affirmative votes out of the eight, has attributed
it to the indulgence of their section. In recognising this first
anti-slavery action of the National Government, Northern orators have
overlooked an attendant clause, the first national fugitive slave law.
It paved the way for a similar provision in the Constitution and led
to the obnoxious slave rendition laws of later years. In praising the
indulgence of the South, the eulogists of that section have failed to
consider the price the New England Associators paid in this first
slavery compromise of the nation.

When the blinding passion of the slavery question is eliminated from
a consideration of this ordinance some other beneficent provisions,
added through the desire to satisfy the New England purchasers, begin
to appear. They are taken largely from the "bill of rights" placed in
the first constitution of the State of Virginia by George Mason, and
copied in many of the later constitutions, including that of the United
States. They seek to guarantee the rights of the individual against
the encroachments of the Government; to embody the principles which
the English barons secured at Runnymede; to secure the inheritances
left to the English-speaking people by Hampden and Pym. Although many
of the early State Constitutions contained a guarantee of religious
freedom, _habeas corpus_, trial by jury, rights to property, and regard
for contracts, as has just been stated, these principles had not been
expressed in the Articles of Confederation and the General Government
was not bound in any manner to grant them in the western territory.
But their incorporation in the ordinance gave assurance that their
benefits were not to be confined to the original States.

Equally important is the clause providing for equal division of the
property of people dying intestate. This first legislation of the
National Government on the subject of real property dealt a death-blow
to primogeniture, and to the last of the inherited feudal customs of
the Middle Ages. It prevented the accumulation of large estates, and
insured the individual ownership of thousands of homes. No system of
foreign landlordism was possible under it. The people were to become
their own lords paramount of all socage lands. Quit-rents were to be
converted into bank accounts. The individual title derived from the
National Government involves all the elements necessary for a transfer
of the soil. Indeed, this principle of the Ordinance of 1787 not only
became a pattern for future State Constitutions, but reacted in similar
provisions for those already created.

Another clause of the ordinance has often been the subject of eulogy.
"Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government
and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall
for ever be encouraged." Yet this is simply the statement of a principle
and precisely such a principle as would be held by the New England
Associators where learning had been almost a fetich and where education
at the public expense had its inception in the guise of charity schools.
The principle only is expressed here, since the land ordinance of two
years before promised an endowment for public education as long as
enough land remained to lay out a county. The Associators carried out
this principle in their own tract by donating lands for a university
and for the support of the gospel.

Immediately following the bargain of Dr. Cutler with Congress, the
Associators prepared to migrate _en masse_ to their purchase. What the
hardy spirits among the country people of the South Atlantic States
had been able to accomplish by individual initiative and sheer
endurance, the town-dwellers of the North Atlantic States did more
systematically and rapidly by concerted action. Organisation and
government protection saved the Ohio Associators from such experiments
of colonisation as had frequently led to Indian captivities and
abandoned settlements in Tennessee and Kentucky. The project of a line
of forts along the frontier settlements, conceived during the Indian
and Revolutionary wars, assumed shape after the first sale of public
lands had really been consummated. Forts McIntosh, Steuben, Washington,
Harmar, Vincennes and Massac, were speedily erected or garrisoned,
thus guarding the length of the Ohio River, the pathway to the
North-west. By subsequent Indian treaties, additional reservations
were secured and forts scattered throughout the territory at portages
and along the river highways. Under this protection, the Ohio Company
sent out its band of artificers to erect dwellings and a stockade for
the first settlement. Scarcely a year was allowed to elapse after the
purchase until Marietta was founded on the Ohio at the mouth of the
Muskingum by the veterans of the Revolutionary War and their friends.
It was 170 miles down the Ohio beyond the outpost of civilisation at
Pittsburg. Similar settlements were speedily founded on other purchases
and on the military lands.

The rendezvous from which the first company started for the Ohio, December
3, 1787.]

The national governor and judges for the Northwest territory in due
time created a set of laws, established courts, and erected local
governments. The latter was effected by applying the county system,
familiar to the people of the Central and Southern States, to the land
survey county, and by giving to the township, a unit in the survey
system, some of the functions of the New England town. By this happy
combination, settlers from any part of the old States would find a
local government with whose forms they were to some extent familiar.
The Symmes purchase on the Ohio below the Ohio Company's grant was
opened to settlement, as was the Virginia Military tract lying between
the two. Through Pittsburg, "the gateway of the west," came a throng
of pioneers to float down the Ohio to the land of promise. The United
States forts protected them on the northern or "Indian side" of the
river. In 1786, no less than 117 boats were counted passing Fort Harmar.

So rapidly did the people take possession of this heritage of the
Revolutionary struggle that within fifteen years the eastern part was
ready to claim the promise of statehood. Eight years later, this new
State, Ohio, had passed in rank of population the older
trans-Alleghanian States of Kentucky and Tennessee. Blessed with
contiguous waterways lying in the line of travel, forming the gateway
into the West by the down-thrusting arm of Canada, the first State to
be created out of the public domain, with definite land surveys instead
of tomahawk marks, with an endowed system of public schools, Ohio
gained a political pre-eminence among the newer States and a national
prestige which has scarcely yet been rivalled.

The solution of the problem of the frontier was thus so easily and
permanently solved by the Central Government in its home-making policy
that one scarcely appreciates the fear of Washington and others
interested in the back country lest it become a refuge for outlaws and
banditti. Mingling with the savages, it was feared that these outcasts
would create a constant menace to the advance of civilisation. Colonial
governors had much difficulty in controlling the "lawless banditti of
the borders." The first settlers across the mountains were considered
in England as "uncultivated banditti" and as "fanatical and hungry
republicans" and the "overplus of Ireland's population." So late as
1835, De Tocqueville, the French commentator on America, declared that
Americans who quit the posts of the Atlantic to plunge into the western
wilderness were adventurers, impatient of restraint, greedy of wealth,
and frequently men expelled from the State in which they were born.
But he had no doubt that in time society would assume as much stability
and regularity in the remote West as it had done upon the coast of the
Atlantic ocean.

At the time, the action of Congress called fresh attention to the
attractiveness of the back country and the possibilities there when
population should warrant the erection of States. Stanzas of Philip
Freneau represent the feeling of the day:

"What wonders there shall Freedom show,
What mighty _States_ successive grow.
What charming scenes attract the eye
On wild Ohio's savage stream.
Here Nature reigns, whose works outvie
The boldest pattern art can frame.
The _East_ is half to slaves consigned,
And half to slavery more refined."



Scarcely a failure of the Confederation Government can be found which
does not lead in the last analysis to the financial situation both
during and following the war. Suddenly plunged into the Revolutionary
War, drained of ready money by the colonial system, possessed of no
mines, mints, nor any resource for securing a medium of exchange except
an undependable paper promise to pay, the people of the United States
emerged from the war broken in purse and overwhelmed with debt.
According to Jefferson's estimate made at the time, they owed at least
sixty-eight millions of dollars. To this fruit of the war he added the
four hundred millions of paper money issued by the Federal and State
Governments, estimated, in its depreciated condition, at about
seventy-two millions more of debt. The ragged Continental soldiers,
frequently reduced to seven-tenths of a pound rations, their arrearages
of wages paid in Continental currency worth four pence on the dollar,
were now about to be discharged to return to their needy families
carrying only paper promises of the United States to pay. These
certificates could be disposed of only to brokers and that at ruinous
rates. What was to become of a veteran who was disabled? Congress had
already authorised the several States to look up needy soldiers of the
Continental service and pay them five dollars a month, such sums to
be deducted from the quotas assessed on the several States to meet the
general expenses. Seven States only had complied, and in these the
lists of needy ex-soldiers had been incompletely compiled.

Some soldiers held certificates entitling them to bounty lands in the
back country under the acts of 1776 and 1780, but had no means of
journeying thither. Small wonder that mutiny threatened.

"Can you consent to be the only sufferers by this revolution," asked the
insurrectionary Newburg addresses, the work of those unwilling to see
the army disbanded before being assured of receiving justice, "and,
retiring from the field, grow old in poverty, wretchedness, and contempt?
If you can--go--and carry with you the jest of Tories and the scorn of
Whigs--the ridicule and, what is worse, the pity of the world. Go--starve
--and be forgotten."

Eulogy has exhausted itself in praise of these Revolutionary veterans,
who eventually permitted their ranks to be disbanded, instead of joining
themselves together illegally to obtain justice, or subsisting
themselves upon the country at large. Praise has not been withheld
from their general, the Virginia soldier-farmer, who, instead of taking
advantage of the dissatisfaction to put himself at the head of an
insurrectionary force, chose rather to quiet rebellion and to inspire
confidence by his hopefulness.

No sooner had the war ceased and the army melted away, than it was
found that peace had its dangers no less than war. Released from the
menace of war, the States felt no necessity for paying their respective
quotas of expenses to the Central Government, as they had done in
varying degrees since the beginning of hostilities. The year following
the peace, they paid less than a million and a half of the eleven
million asked in previous assessments. Three States, it was claimed,
had paid comparatively nothing. Rhode Island and New Jersey, as if to
add insult to injury, attempted to pay their quotas in their paper
money, which was not received at par outside the States. Congress had
no power of coercion. According to the second of the Articles, each
State in the Confederation retained its sovereignty, freedom, and
independence. Congress could only make impotent appeals. Governor
Randolph, of Virginia, pictured the Congress as saying to his State:
"May it please your high mightinesses of Virginia to pay your just
proportionate quota of the national debt; we humbly supplicate that
it may please you to comply with your federal duties. We implore, we
beg your obedience."

[Illustration: A PETITION FROM CONGRESS TO THE STATES. Many such appeals
were issued at different times, begging the States in the Confederation
to give more power to the Central Government.]

The financial confusion was increased because of the lack of a
circulating medium. A mongrel collection of coins could be found,
passing at varying rates in the different States--English pounds,
shillings and pence, Spanish dollars, joes, half-joes, pistoles and
moidores, French guineas, carolins and chequins--but no United States
coins. Even this money was soon drawn off to Europe, because British
exporters demanded cash until the Revolutionary debts had been settled.
That this cash would return to the States was unlikely if one judged
from the first year of the peace, during which the United States
purchased 1,700,000 pounds worth of goods in England and sent in return
only 700,000 worth. In order to secure some kind of money to conduct
business, seven of the States began to issue paper money. The troubles
arising from a depreciated paper during the Revolution were neither
ignored nor forgotten; but no other method presented itself. Congress
had power to issue only "bills on the credit of the United States,"
which were not likely to be more acceptable than other kinds of paper.

The hopelessness of managing a bankrupt nation, no doubt, was largely
responsible for the deterioration which the membership of Congress
suffered. Names prominent at the inception of the rebellion had
disappeared from the rolls, and mediocrity ruled. The members personally
experienced the financial stringency in the failure of their State
Legislatures to pay their salaries. Many were dependent upon the
patriotic purse of Haym Salomon, "a Jew broker of Philadelphia," as
Madison termed him. There should have been a higher standard of
membership in the Confederation Congress than in later times, because
it comprised not only the usual legislative functions of the nation,
but the executive and judicial as well. The machinery itself was largely
to blame. Like many of the devices, that governing the Congress was
too strongly set against centralisation to allow free play of the
parts. No delegate, for instance, was allowed to serve more than three
years out of any six lest his influence grow too great or he become
unduly attached to the central power. It frequently happened that good
men were thus cast out of service just when their experience made them
valuable. Certain States forbade a man to serve two consecutive terms
in Congress. Madison was debarred by such a provision in 1784.

Delegates were appointed by the State Legislatures usually for a term of
one year to begin with the session on the first Monday of the following
November. The term would frequently expire when the State Legislature was
not in session, and the State would thus go unrepresented for some time.
If a delegate pleaded the emergency of the case and asked that the rule be
waived, as those from Rhode Island did at one time, Congress refused to
sanction such a palpable infraction of the Articles. Cases actually
occurred where delegates elect did not arrive at the seat of Government
until after the expiration of their term of appointment.

Absenteeism was the drag paramount upon Congressional action. No State
could be represented by less than two members and retain its power of
voting. If only one representative were present, he had no vote. If
only two were present, they might differ, in which case the State was
counted as "divided," and the vote was lost. Congress once sent a plea
to the States urging the necessity of having more than two delegates
present. It showed that if each State had only two representatives in
Congress, five out of the twenty-six delegates, being only one-fifth,
could negative any vote requiring the consent of nine States. Eleven
States were represented at the time, nine by two delegates only, and
thus it was possible, continued the report, for three men out of the
twenty-five, being only one-eighth, to block all action. If three
attended from each State, it would require ten, or one-third of the
whole, to have as much power.

The derelictness in attendance on some occasions was humiliating and
even alarming. When Washington appeared at Annapolis to resign his
commission as commander-in-chief, only seven States were represented
by the least required number. He faced twenty-one delegates instead
of the ninety-one from the thirteen States, who should have graced
this memorable occasion. The definitive treaty of peace lay on the
table at the time. Nine States were required by the Articles to be
present when a treaty was ratified. Unless ratified within six months
after it had been signed in Paris, it would be null and void. More
than half the precious time had already elapsed. With the greatest
difficulty, the required number was secured. Four years later, there
was no quorum for a period of three months, the representation at times
falling to two States. During the first eleven months of the year 1788,
a quorum was present only 129 days. Much of this delinquency was due
to the expense of maintaining the delegates which fell upon the
individual States. To make the burden as light as possible, two
delegates only were commonly sent. They were likely to disagree.
Manifestly the State in which the Congress sat avoided this difficulty,
because it could maintain a larger number of delegates at less expense.
To avoid this draft upon the needy treasuries, some of the States
adopted the expedient of choosing as representative a resident of the
city wherein was located for the moment the seat of government, or
some man who had the means and the willingness to serve without pay.
During quite a long period, Delaware was represented by three delegates,
only one of whom was a resident of the State. This was in accord with
the custom of British representation. It is interesting to imagine the
results if it had ever become fixed in the United States.

It may be truly said that the framers of the Articles could not have
expected a successful continuous sitting of so large a body of men.
They had not so planned it. The Articles provided that a Committee of
States could be appointed at any time, whenever the Congress as a whole
might wish to adjourn, by the delegates from each State naming one of
their number to serve in this capacity. This was the method of forming
a "grand committee" on any important business in Congress. The attempt
to give over national affairs to a Committee of States was made in the
spring of 1784, after the peace. One trial of the expedient was
sufficient. Only eleven States were represented at the time. From
these, eleven delegates were selected. According to Monroe, "their
powers are confined so that no injury can be effected." He referred
to the manner in which the Articles restricted the Committee. The
eleven celebrated the beginning of their administration by adjourning
for three weeks, "for the benefit of the health of the members." At
the end of this vacation, nearly two weeks were consumed in getting
nine of the Committee together. A month of regular sessions followed,
when suddenly the ever-present dissension concerning the place of
meeting broke out. The Southern members of the committee wished to
remain at Annapolis. The Northern members wished to adjourn to the
cooler climate of New Jersey.

The strife increased until, at the end of two months, the members from
New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New Jersey withdrew. Being left
without a quorum, the remaining members signed a manifesto, placing
the blame on the seceders and departed for their several homes. Franklin
compared the action of the Committee to two lighthouse keepers who
quarrelled about the task of filling the lamp until the light went
out. "There will be an entire interregnum of the federal government
for some time against the intention of Congress, I apprehend, as well
as against every rule of decorum," wrote the indignant Madison. During
this interregnum, a chief clerk was acting as Secretary of Foreign
Affairs and General Knox was serving as Secretary of War. They were
the only visible parts of the National Government. Madison at first
thought that the Committee of States should be censured when Congress
reassembled, but, recognising discretion as the better part, suggested
that "we had also better keep this affair out of sight." It was so
done. The complete failure of this Committee of States scheme as an
executive makeshift was in the end fortunate since it demonstrated
clearly the need of a trustworthy and permanent head to the General
Government. If it had been even a partial success, it might have been
tried again and correction thereby delayed.

The provincialism of the day was well illustrated in the strife of the
Committee over the place of sitting. A similar controversy characterised
well-nigh the entire life of the Congress. Never a session could close
or an adjournment be had without this Banquo's ghost appearing. It was
feared that the State in which Congress met would in some way get an
undue influence and ascendency. At one time, to satisfy sectional
jealousy, it was compelled to provide two places of meeting, Annapolis
and Philadelphia, by turns. Cities were even projected in the country far
removed from State capital influence. In this unsettled condition, the
Congress wandered from place to place with insufficient accommodation. Van
Berckel, arriving as minister from Holland, could find no house for rent
at Princeton and was obliged to live at a tavern in Philadelphia. He
contrasted his reception with that given by his Government to John Adams a
few years previously. He reported that he hoped in time to locate the new
Government and present his credentials. "Vagabondising from one paltry
village to another," as Reed, one of their number, put it, the members
became a legitimate prey of boarding-house keepers and stablemen. Small
wonder that service in the State Governments was considered not only more
dignified, but more agreeable in these days of paramount State rights.


That the capital of the United States to-day occupies a territory
independent of a State is the result of sad experience in these early
days. When Congress, in 1783, was driven from Philadelphia by some
rebellious State troops, who threatened force unless they received
their back pay, the village of Princeton was the refuge to which the
members fled. Some faithful Continental troops stationed there would
protect them. The citizens of the village, grateful for this gift of
the gods, prepared a list of families and the number of guests each
could accommodate. They also adopted a long set of resolutions,
deprecating the "gross indignities" offered to the Congress at
Philadelphia, and pledging with the utmost cheerfulness their lives

Book of the day: