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Formation of the Union by Albert Bushnell Hart

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was prepared for a permanent and irritating controversy, by commissioning
the naval officers stationed on the American coast as revenue officials,
with power to make seizures.

25. THE STAMP ACT (1763-1765).

[Sidenote: Plan for a stamp duty.]
[Sidenote: Questions of troops.]

The next step in colonial control met an unexpected and violent
resistance. In the winter of 1763-1764 Grenville, then English prime
minister, called together the agents of the colonies and informed them
that he proposed to lay a small tax upon the colonies, and that it would
take the form of a stamp duty, unless they suggested some other method.
Why should England tax the colonies? Because it had been determined to
place a permanent force of about ten thousand men in America. A few more
English garrisons would have been of great assistance in 1754; the Pontiac
outbreak of 1763 had been suppressed only by regular troops who happened
to be in the country; and in case of later wars the colonies were likely
to be attacked by England's enemies. On the other hand, the colonies had
asked for no troops, and desired none. They were satisfied with their own
halting and inefficient means of defence; they no longer had French
enemies in Canada, and they felt what seems an unreasonable fear that the
troops would be used to take away their liberty. From the beginning to the
end of the struggle it was never proposed that Americans should be taxed
for the support of the home government, or even for the full support of
the colonial army. It was supposed that a revenue of one hundred thousand
pounds would be raised, which would meet one-third of the necessary

[Sidenote: Stamp Act passed.]

Notwithstanding colonial objections to a standing army, garrisons would
doubtless have been received but for the accompanying proposition to tax.
On March 10, 1764, preliminary resolutions passed the House of Commons
looking towards the Stamp Act. There was no suggestion that the
proposition was illegal; the chief objection was summed up by Beckford, of
London, in a phrase: "As we are stout, I hope we shall be merciful."

The news produced instant excitement in the colonies. First was urged the
practical objection that the tax would draw from the country the little
specie which it contained. The leading argument was that taxation without
representation was illegal. The remonstrances, by an error of the agents
who had them in charge, were not presented until too late. Franklin and
others protested to the ministry, and declared the willingness of the
colonies to pay taxes assessed in a lump sum on each colony. Grenville
silenced them by asking in what way those lump sums should be apportioned.
After a short debate in Parliament the Act was passed by a vote of 205 to
49. Barré, one of the members who spoke against it, alluded to the
agitators in the colonies as "Sons of Liberty;" the phrase was taken up in
the colonies, and made a party war-cry. George the Third was at that
moment insane, and the Act was signed by a commission.

[Sidenote: Expectations of success.]

Resistance in the colonies was not expected. Franklin thought that the Act
would go into effect; even Otis said that it ought to be obeyed. It laid a
moderate stamp-duty on the papers necessary for legal and commercial
transactions. At the request of the ministry, the colonial agents
suggested as stamp collectors some of the most respected and eminent men
in each colony. Almost at the same time was passed an act somewhat
relaxing the Navigation Laws; but a Quartering Act was also passed, by
which the colonists were obliged, even in time of peace, to furnish the
troops who might be stationed among them with quarters and with certain


[Sidenote: Internal and external taxes.]

Issue was now joined on the question which eventually separated the
colonies from the mother-country. Parliament had asserted its right to lay
taxes on the colonists for imperial purposes. The colonies had up to this
time held governmental relations only with the Crown, from whom came their
charters. They had escaped taxation because they were poor, and because
hitherto they had not occasioned serious expense; but they had accepted
the small import duties. They found it hard to reconcile obedience to one
set of laws with resistance to the other; and they therefore insisted that
there was a distinction between "external taxation" and "internal
taxation," between duties levied at the ports and duties levied within the

[Sidenote: Remonstrances.]

The moment the news reached America, opposition sprang up in many
different forms. The colonial legislatures preferred dignified
remonstrance. The Virginia Assembly reached a farther point in a set of
bold resolutions, passed May 29, 1765, under the influence of a speech by
Patrick Henry. They asserted "that the General Assembly of this colony
have the only and sole exclusive right and power to lay taxes and
impositions upon the inhabitants of this colony;" and that the Stamp Act"
has a manifest tendency to destroy British as well as American freedom."
On June 8, 1765, Massachusetts suggested another means of remonstrance, by
calling upon her sister colonies to send delegates to New York "to
consider of a general and united, dutiful, loyal, and humble
representation of their condition to his Majesty and to the Parliament."

[Sidenote: Riots.]
[Sidenote: Non-Importation.]

Meanwhile opposition had broken out in open violence. In August there were
riots in Boston; the house of Oliver, appointed as collector of the stamp
taxes, was attacked, and he next day resigned his office. Hutchinson was
acting governor of the colony: his mansion was sacked; and the manuscript
of his History of Massachusetts, still preserved, carries on its edges the
mud of the Boston streets into which it was thrown. The town of Boston
declared itself "particularly alarmed and astonished at the Act called the
Stamp Act, by which we apprehend a very grievous tax is to be laid upon
the colonies." In other colonies there were similar, though less violent,
scenes. Still another form of resistance was suggested by the
organizations called "Sons of Liberty," the members of which agreed to buy
no more British goods. When the time came for putting the act into force,
every person appointed as collector had resigned.

[Sidenote: Stamp Act Congress.]

These three means of resistance--protest, riots, and non-importation--were
powerfully supplemented by the congress which assembled at New York, Oct.
1765. It included some of the ablest men from nine colonies. Such men as
James Otis, Livingston of New York, Rutledge of South Carolina, and John
Dickinson of Pennsylvania, met, exchanged views, and promised co-
operation. It was the first unmistakable evidence that the colonies would
make common cause. After a session of two weeks the congress adjourned,
having drawn up petitions to the English government, and a "Declaration of
Rights and Grievances of the Colonists in America." In this document they
declared themselves entitled to the rights of other Englishmen. They
asserted, on the one hand, that they could not be represented in the
British House of Commons, and on the other that they could not be taxed by
a body in which they had no representation. They complained of the Stamp
Act, and no less of the amendments to the Acts of Trade, which, they said,
would "render them unable to purchase the manufactures of Great Britain."
In these memorials there is no threat of resistance, but the general
attitude of the colonies showed that it was unsafe to push the matter

[Sidenote: Repeal of the Stamp Act.]

Meanwhile the Grenville ministry had given place to another Whig ministry
under Rockingham, who felt no responsibility for the Stamp Act. Pitt took
the ground that "the government of Great Britain could not lay taxes on
the colonies." Benjamin Franklin was called before a committee, and urged
the withdrawal of the act. The king, who had now recovered his health,
gave it to be understood that he was for repeal. The repeal bill was
passed by a majority of more than two to one, and the crisis was avoided.

[Sidenote: Right of taxation asserted.]

To give up the whole principle seemed to the British government
impossible; the repeal was therefore accompanied by the so-called
Dependency Act. This set forth that the colonies are "subordinate unto and
dependent upon the Imperial Crown and Parliament of Great Britain, and
that Parliament hath, and of right ought to have, full power to make laws
and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and
people of America subjects to the Crown of Great Britain in all cases
whatsoever." Apparently matters had returned to their former course. The
gratitude of the colonies was loudly expressed; but they had learned the
effect of a united protest, they had learned how to act together, and they
were irritated by the continued assertion of the power of Parliament to
tax and otherwise to govern the colonies.

27. REVENUE ACTS (1767).

[Sidenote: Townshend's plans.]
[Sidenote: Quarrel with New York.]

The repeal of the Stamp Act removed the difficulty without removing the
cause. The year 1766 was marked in English politics by the virtual
retirement of Pitt from the government. His powerful opposition to
taxation of the colonies was thus removed, and Charles Townshend became
the leading spirit in the ministry. Jan. 26, 1767, he said in the House of
Commons: "I know a mode in which a revenue may be drawn from America
without offence.... England is undone if this taxation of America is given
up." And he pledged himself to find a revenue nearly sufficient to meet
the military expenses in America. At the moment that the question of
taxation was thus revived, the New York Assembly became involved in a
dispute with the home government by declining to furnish the necessary
supplies for the troops. An Act of Parliament was therefore passed
declaring the action of the New York legislature null,--a startling
assertion of a power of disallowance by Parliament.

[Sidenote: Enforcement.]

The three parts of the general scheme for controlling the colonies were
now all taken up again. For their action against the troops the New York
Assembly was suspended,--the first instance in which Parliament had
undertaken to destroy an effective part of the colonial government. For
the execution of the Navigation Acts a board of commissioners of customs
was established, with large powers. In June, 1767, a new Taxation Act was
introduced, and rapidly passed through Parliament. In order to avoid the
objections to "internal taxes," it laid import duties on glass, and white
lead, painters' colors, paper, and tea. The proceeds of the Act, estimated
at, £40,000, were to pay governors and judges in America. Writs of
Assistance were made legal. A few months afterwards,--December, 1767,--a
colonial department was created, headed by a secretary of state. The whole
machinery of an exasperating control was thus provided.

[Sidenote: Question of right of taxation.]

Issue was once more joined both in England and America on the
constitutional power of taxation. The great principle of English law that
taxation was not a right, but a gift of the persons taxed through their
representatives, was claimed also by the colonies. Opinions had repeatedly
been given by the law officers of the Crown that a colony could be taxed
only by its own representatives. The actual amount of money called for was
too small to burden them, but it was to be applied in such a way as to
make the governors and judges independent of the assemblies. The principle
of taxation, once admitted, might be carried farther. As an English
official of the time remarked: "The Stamp Act attacked colonial ideas by
sap; the Townshend scheme was attacking them by storm every day."


[Sidenote: Colonial protest.]
[Sidenote: Massachusetts circular.]
[Sidenote: Coercive measures.]

This time the colonies avoided the error of disorderly or riotous
opposition. The leading men resolved to act together through protests by
the colonial legislatures and through non-importation agreements. Public
feeling ran high. In Pennsylvania John Dickinson in his "Letters of a
Farmer" pointed out that "English history affords examples of resistance
by force." Another non-importation scheme was suggested by Virginia, but
was on the whole unsuccessful. In February, 1768, Massachusetts sent out a
circular letter to the other colonies, inviting concerted protests, and
declaring that the new laws were unconstitutional. The protest was
moderate, its purpose legal; but the ministry attempted to destroy its
effect by three new repressive measures. The first of them, April, 1768,
directed the governors, upon any attempt to pass protesting resolutions,
to prorogue their assemblies. The second was the despatch of troops to
Boston: they arrived at the end of September, and remained until the
outbreak of the Revolution. The third coercive step was a proposition to
send American agitators to England for trial, under an obsolete statute of
Henry the Eighth.

[Sidenote: Effect of the tax.]

Meanwhile the duties had been levied. The result was the actual payment of
about sixteen thousand pounds; this sum was offset by expenses of
collection amounting to more than fifteen thousand pounds, and
extraordinary military expenditures of one hundred and seventy thousand
pounds. Once more the ministry found no financial advantage and great
practical difficulties in the way of colonial taxation. Once more they
determined to withdraw from an untenable position, and once more, under
the active influence of the king and his "friends," they resolved to
maintain the principle. In April, 1770, all the duties were repealed
except that upon tea. Either the ministry should have applied the
principle rigorously, so as to raise an adequate revenue, or they should
have given up the revenue and the principle together.


[Sidenote: Troops in Boston.]
[Sidenote: Collision with the mob.]

Repeal could not destroy the feeling of injury in the minds of the
colonists; and repeal did not withdraw the coercive acts nor the troops.
The garrison in Boston, sustained at the expense of the British treasury,
was almost as offensive to the colonists of Massachusetts as if they had
been taxed for its support. From the beginning the troops were looked upon
as an alien body, placed in the town to execute unpopular and even illegal
acts. There was constant friction between the officers and the town and
colonial governments, and between the populace and the troops. On the
night of March 5, 1770, an affray occurred between a mob and a squad of
soldiers. Both sides were abusive and threatening; finally the soldiers
under great provocation fired, and killed five men. The riot had no
political significance; it was caused by no invasion upon the rights of
Americans: but, in the inflamed condition of the public mind, it was
instantly taken up, and has gone down to history under the undeserved
title of the Boston Massacre. Next morning a town meeting unanimously
voted "that nothing can rationally be expected to restore the peace of the
town and prevent blood and carnage but the immediate removal of the
troops." The protest was effectual; the troops were sent to an island in
the harbor; on the other hand, the prosecution of the soldiers concerned
in the affray was allowed to slacken. For nearly two years the trouble
seemed dying down in Massachusetts.

[Sidenote: Samuel Adams.]
[Sidenote: Committee of Correspondence.]

That friendly relations between the colonies and the mother-country were
not re-established is due chiefly to Samuel Adams, a member of the
Massachusetts General Court from Boston. His strength lay in his
vehemence, his total inability to see more than one side of any question,
and still more in his subtle influence upon the Boston town meeting, upon
committees, and in private conclaves. He seems to have determined from the
beginning that independence might come, ought to come, and must come. In
November, 1772, he introduced into the Boston town meeting a modest
proposition that "a committee of correspondence be appointed ... to state
the Rights of the Colonists and of this Province in particular as Men, as
Christians, and as Subjects;--and also request of each Town a free
communication of their Sentiments on this subject." The committee blew the
coals by an enumeration of rights and grievances; but its chief service
was its unseen but efficient work of correspondence, from town to town. A
few months later the colony entered into a similar scheme for
communication with the sister colonies. These committees of correspondence
made the Revolution possible. They disseminated arguments from province to
province: they had lists of those ripe for resistance; they sounded
legislatures; they prepared the organization which was necessary for the
final rising of 1774 and 1775.

[Sidenote: "Gaspee" burned.]
[Sidenote: Tea.]
[Sidenote: Hutchinson letters.]
[Sidenote: Boston Tea-party.]

Shortly before the creation of this committee, an act of violence in Rhode
Island showed the hostility to the enforcement of the Acts of Trade. The
"Gaspee," a royal vessel of war, had interfered legally and illegally with
the smuggling trade. On June 9, 1772, while in pursuit a vessel, she ran
aground. That night the ship was attacked by armed men, who captured and
burned her. The colonial authorities were indifferent: the perpetrators
were not tried; they were not prosecuted; they were not even arrested. On
Dec. 16, 1773, a similar act of violence marked the opposition of the
colonies to the remnant of the Townshend taxation acts. The tea duty had
been purposely reduced, till the price of tea was lower than in England.
Soon after the appointment of the Committees of Correspondence public
sentiment in Massachusetts was again aroused by the publication of letters
written by Hutchinson, then governor of Massachusetts, to a private
correspondent in England. The letters were such as any governor
representing the royal authority might have written. "I wish," said
Hutchinson, "the good of the colony when I wish to see some fresh
restraint of liberty rather than the connection with the parent state
should be broken." The assembly petitioned for the removal of Hutchinson,
and this unfortunate quarrel was one of the causes of a decisive step, the
Boston Tea-party. An effort was made to import a quantity of tea, not for
the sake of the tax, but in order to relieve the East India Company from
financial difficulties. On December 16, the three tea ships in the harbor
were boarded by a body of men in Indian garb, and three hundred and forty-
two chests of tea were emptied into the sea. Next morning the shoes of at
least one reputable citizen of Massachusetts were found by his family
unaccountably full of tea. In other parts of the country, as at Edenton in
North Carolina, and at Charleston in South Carolina, there was similar


[Sidenote: Public feeling in England.]

The British government had taken a false step by its legislation of 1770,
but the colonies had now put themselves in the wrong by these repeated
acts of violence. There seemed left but two alternatives,--to withdraw the
Tea Act, and thus to remove the plea that Parliament was taxing without
representation; or to continue the execution of the Revenue Act firmly,
but by the usual course of law. It was not in the temper of the English
people, and still less like the king, to withdraw offensive acts in the
face of such daring resistance. The failure to secure the prosecution of
the destroyers of the "Gaspee" caused the British government to distrust
American courts as well as American juries. One political writer, Dean
Tucker, declared that the American colonies in their defiant state had
ceased to be of advantage to England, and that they had better be allowed
quietly to separate. Pitt denied the right to tax, but declared that if
the colonies meant to separate, he would be the first to enforce the
authority of the mother-country.

[Sidenote: Coercive statutes.]
[Sidenote: Quebec Act.]

Neither orderly enforcement, conciliation, nor peaceful separation was the
policy selected. England committed the fatal and irremediable mistake of
passing illegal statutes as a punishment for the illegal action of the
colonists. Five bills were introduced and hastily pushed through
Parliament. The first was meant as a punishment for the Tea-party. It
enacted that no further commerce was to be permitted with the port of
Boston till that town should make its submission. Burke objected to a bill
"which punishes the innocent with the guilty, and condemns without the
possibility of defence." The second act was intended to punish the whole
commonwealth of Massachusetts, by declaring void certain provisions of the
charter granted by William III. in 1692. Of all the grievances which led
to the Revolution this was the most serious, for it set up the doctrine
that charters proceeding from the Crown could be altered by statute.
Thenceforward Parliament was to be omnipotent in colonial matters. The
third act directed that "Persons questioned for any Acts in Execution of
the Law" should be sent to England for trial. It was not intended to apply
to persons guilty of acts of violence, but to officers or soldiers who, in
resisting riots, might have made themselves amenable to the civil law. The
fourth act was a new measure providing for the quartering of soldiers upon
the inhabitants, and was intended to facilitate the establishment of a
temporary military government in Massachusetts. The fifth act had no
direct reference to Massachusetts, but was later seized upon as one of the
grievances which justified the Revolution. This was the Quebec Act,
providing for the government of the region ceded by France in 1763. It
gave to the French settlers the right to have their disputes decided under
the principles of the old French civil law; it guaranteed them the right
of exercising their own religion; and it annexed to Quebec the whole
territory between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and the Great Lakes. The
purpose of this act was undoubtedly to remove the danger of disaffection
or insurrection in Canada, and at the same time to extinguish all claims
of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia to the region west of


[Sidenote: Gage's quarrel with Massachusetts.]

The news of this series of coercive measures was hardly received in
Massachusetts before General Gage appeared, bearing a commission to act as
governor of the province; and in a few weeks the Port Bill and the
modifications of the charter were put in force. If the governor supposed
that Boston stood alone, he was quickly undeceived. From the other towns
and from other colonies came supplies of food and sympathetic resolutions.
On June 17th, under the adroit management of Samuel Adams, the General
Court passed a resolution proposing a colonial congress, to begin
September 1st at Philadelphia. While the resolutions were going through,
the governor's messenger in vain knocked at the locked door, to
communicate a proclamation dissolving the assembly. The place of that body
was for a time taken by the Committee of Correspondence, in which Samuel
Adams was the leading spirit, and by local meetings and conventions. In
August, Gage came to an open breach with the people. In accordance with
the Charter Act, he proceeded to appoint the so-called "mandamus"
councillors. An irregularly elected Provincial Congress declared that it
stood by the charter of 1692, under which the councillors were elected by
the General Court. The first effect of the coercive acts was, therefore,
to show that the people of Massachusetts stood together.

[Sidenote: Delegates chosen.]
[Sidenote: The Congress.]

Another effect was to enlist the sympathy of the other colonies. The
movement for a congress plainly looked towards resistance and revolution.
In vain did the governors dissolve the assemblies that seemed disposed to
send delegates. Irregular congresses and conventions took their place, and
all the colonies but Georgia somehow chose delegates. The first
Continental Congress which assembled in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774,
was, therefore, a body without any legal status. It included, however,
some of the most influential men in America. From Massachusetts came
Samuel Adams and John Adams; from New York, John Jay; from Virginia,
Patrick Henry and George Washington. The general participation in this
congress was an assurance that all America felt the danger of
parliamentary control, and the outrage upon the rights of their New
England brethren.

[Sidenote: Declaration of Rights.]

This feeling was voiced in the action of the Congress. Early resolutions
set forth approval of the action of Massachusetts. Then came the
preparation of a "Declaration of Rights" of the colonies, and of their
grievances. They declared that they were entitled to life, liberty, and
property, and to the rights and immunities of free and natural born
subjects within the realm of England. They denied the right of the British
Parliament to legislate in cases of "taxation and internal polity," but
"cheerfully consent to the operation of such Acts of the British
Parliament as are _bona fide_ restrained to the regulation of our external
commerce." They protested against "the keeping up a standing army
in these colonies in times of peace." They enumerated a long list of
illegal Acts, including the coercive statutes and the Quebec Act.

[Sidenote: The Association.]

The only action of the First Continental Congress which had in any degree
the character of legislation was the "Association,"--the only effective
non-importation agreement in the whole struggle. The delegates united in a
pledge that they would import no goods from England or other English
colonies, and particularly no slaves or tea; and they recommended to the
colonies to pass efficient legislation for carrying it out. The
Revolutionary "congresses" and "conventions," and sometimes the
legislatures themselves, passed resolutions and laid penalties. A more
effective measure was open violence against people who persisted in
importing, selling, or using British goods or slaves.

[Sidenote: Action of the Congress.]

The First Continental Congress was simply the mouthpiece of the colonies.
It expressed in unmistakable terms a determination to resist what they
considered aggressions; and it suggested as a legal and effective means of
resistance that they should refuse to trade with the of mother-country.
Its action, however, received the approval of an assembly or other
representative body in each of the twelve colonies. Before it adjourned,
the congress prepared a series of addresses and remonstrances, and voted
that if no redress of grievances should have been obtained, a second
congress should assemble in May, 1775.


[Sidenote: Attitude of the Whigs.]
[Sidenote: Coercion]

When Parliament assembled in January, 1775, it was little disposed to make
concessions; but the greatest living Englishman now came forward as the
defender of the colonies. Pitt declared that the matter could only be
adjusted on the basis "that taxation is theirs, and commercial regulation
ours." Although he was seconded by other leading Whigs, the reply of the
Tory ministry to the remonstrance of the colonies was a new series of
acts. Massachusetts was declared in a state of rebellion; and the
recalcitrant colonies were forbidden to trade with Great Britain, Ireland,
or the West Indies, or to take part in the Newfoundland fisheries.

[Sidenote: Affairs in Massachusetts.]
[Sidenote: Lexington and Concord.]

Before these acts could be known in America, matters had already drifted
to a point where neither coercion nor conciliation could effect anything.
Through the winter 1774-1775 Gage lay for the most part in Boston, unable
to execute his commission outside of his military lines, and unwilling to
summon a legislature which was certain to oppose him. The courts were
broken up, jurors could not be obtained, the whole machinery of government
was stopped. Meanwhile, in February, 1775, the people had a second time
elected a provincial congress, which acted for the time being as their
government. This body prepared to raise a military force, and asked aid of
other New England colonies. April 19, 1775, a British expedition was sent
from Boston to Lexington and Concord to seize military stores there
assembled for the use of the provincial forces. The British were
confronted on the village green of Lexington by about one hundred
militiamen, who refused to disperse, and were fired upon by the British.
At Concord the British found and destroyed the stores, but were attacked
and obliged to retire, and finally returned to Boston with a loss of three
hundred men. The war had begun. Its issue depended upon the moral and
military support which Massachusetts might receive from the other


[Sidenote: Malcontents put down.]

The cause of Massachusetts was unhesitatingly taken up by all the
colonies, from New Hampshire to Georgia. America was united. This
unanimity proceeded, however, not from the people, but from suddenly
constituted revolutionary governments. No view of the Revolution could be
just which does not recognize the fact that in no colony was there a large
majority in favor of resistance, and in some the patriots were undoubtedly
in a minority. The movement, started by a few seceders, carried with it a
large body of men who were sincerely convinced that the British government
was tyrannical. The majorities thus formed, silenced the minority,
sometimes by mere intimidation, sometimes by ostracism, often by flagrant
violence. One kind of pressure was felt by old George Watson of Plymouth,
bending his bald head over his cane, as his neighbors one by one left the
church in which he sat, because they would not associate with a "mandamus
councillor." A different argument was employed on Judge James Smith of New
York, in his coat of tar and feathers, the central figure of a shameful

[Sidenote: Early organization.]

Another reason for the sudden strength shown by the Revolutionary movement
was that the patriots were organized and the friends of the established
government did not know their own strength. The agent of British influence
in almost every colony was the governor. In 1775 the governors were all
driven out. There was no centre of resistance about which the loyalists
could gather. The patriots had seized the reins of government before their
opponents fairly understood that they had been dropped.

[Sidenote: Feeling of common interest.]

Another influence which hastened the Revolution was a desire to supplant
the men highest in official life. There was no place in the colonial
government for a Samuel Adams or a John Adams while the Hutchinsons and
the Olivers were preferred. But no personal ambitions can account for the
agreement of thirteen colonies having so many points of dissimilarity. The
merchants of Boston and New Haven, the townsmen of Concord and Pomfret,
the farmers of the Hudson and Delaware valleys, and the aristocratic
planters of Virginia and South Carolina, deliberately went to war rather
than submit. The causes of the Revolution were general, were wide-spread,
and were keenly felt by Americans of every class.

[Sidenote: Resistance of taxation.]

The grievance most strenuously put forward was that of "taxation without
representation." On this point the colonists were supported by the
powerful authority of Pitt and other English statesmen, and by an unbroken
line of precedent. They accepted "external taxation;" at the beginning of
the struggle they professed a willingness to pay requisitions apportioned
in lump sums on the colonies; they were accustomed to heavy taxation for
local purposes; in the years immediately preceding the Revolution the
people of Massachusetts annually raised about ten shillings per head. They
sincerely objected to taxation of a new kind, for a purpose which did not
interest them, by a power which they could not control. The cry of
"Taxation without representation" had great popular effect. It was simple,
it was universal, it sounded like tyranny.

[Sidenote: Resistance of garrisons.]

A greater and more keenly felt grievance was the establishment of
garrisons. The colonies were willing to run their own risk of enemies.
They asserted that the real purpose of the troops was to overawe their
governments. The despatch of the regiments to Boston in 1768 was plainly
intended to subdue a turbulent population. The British government made a
serious mistake in insisting upon this point, whether with or without

[Sidenote: Resistance to Acts of Trade.]

By far the most effective cause of the Revolution was the English
commercial system. One reason why a tax was felt to be so great a hardship
was, that the colonies were already paying a heavy indirect tribute to the
British nation, by the limitations on their trade. The fact that French
and Spanish colonists suffered more than they did, was no argument to
Englishmen accustomed in most ways to regulate themselves. The commercial
system might have been enforced; perhaps a tax might have been laid: the
two together made a grievance which the colonies would not endure.

[Sidenote: Stand for the charters.]

The coercive acts of 1774 gave a definite object for the general
indignation. In altering the government of Massachusetts they destroyed
the security of all the colonies. The Crown was held unable to withdraw a
privilege once granted; Parliament might, however, undo to-morrow what it
had done to-day. The instinct of the Americans was for a rigid
constitution, unalterable by the ordinary forms of law. They were right in
calling the coercive acts unconstitutional. They were contrary to the
charters, they were contrary to precedent, and in the minds of the
colonists the charters and precedent, taken together, formed an
irrepealable body of law.

[Sidenote: Oppression not grievous.]
[Sidenote: Restraints on trade.]
[Sidenote: Resistance to one-man power.]

In looking back over this crisis, it is difficult to see that the
colonists had suffered grievous oppression. The taxes had not taken four
hundred thousand pounds out of their pockets in ten years. The armies had
cost them nothing, and except in Boston had not interfered with the
governments. The Acts of Trade were still systematically evaded, and the
battle of Lexington came just in time to relieve John Hancock from the
necessity of appearing before the court to answer to a charge of
smuggling. The real justification of the Revolution is not to be found in
the catalogue of grievances drawn up by the colonies. The Revolution was
right because it represented two great principles of human progress. In
the first place, as the Americans grew in importance, in numbers, and in
wealth, they felt more and more indignant that their trade should be
hampered for the benefit of men over seas. They represented the principle
of the right of an individual to the products of his own industry; and
their success has opened to profitable trade a thousand ports the world
over. In the second place the Revolution was a resistance to arbitrary
power. That arbitrary power was exercised by the Parliament of Great
Britain; but, at that moment, by a combination which threatened the
existence of popular government in England, the king was the ruling spirit
over Parliament. The colonists represented the same general principles as
the minority in England. As Sir Edward Thornton said, when minister of
Great Britain to the United States, in 1879: "Englishmen now understand
that in the American Revolution you were fighting our battles."




BIBLIOGRAPHIES.--Justin Winsor, _Narrative and Critical History_, VI.
_passim_, VII. 1-214, VIII. App.; and _Readers' Handbook of the
Revolution_; W. F. Allen, _History Topics_, 107, 108; W. E. Foster,
_References to the Constitution of the United States_, 11-14; Channing and
Hart, _Guide_, §§ 136-141.

HISTORICAL MAPS.--Nos. 2 and 3 this volume (_Epoch Maps_, Nos. 4 and
5); H. C Lodge, _Colonies_, frontispiece; Scribner, _Statistical Atlas_,
Pl. 12; Rhode, _Atlas_, No. xxviii.; Geo. Bancroft, _United States_
(original edition), V. 241; Labberton, _Atlas_, lxiv.; B. A. Hinsdale,
_Old Northwest_, I. 176, 180 (republished from T. MacCoun, _Historical
Geography_); List of contemporary maps in Winsor, _Handbook_, 302, school
histories of Channing, Johnston, Scudder, Thomas.

GENERAL ACCOUNTS.--G T. Curtis, _Constitutional History_, I. chs. i.-
iv. (History of the Constitution, I 28-123); W. E. H. Lecky, _England in
the Eighteenth Century_, IV. ch iv.; Geo. Bancroft, _United States_, VII.
chap. xxvii. (last revision, IV. Chs. ix.-xxvii, V.); R. Hildreth, _United
States_, IV. 57-373, 411-425, 440-444; Edward Channing, _United States_,
1765-1865, ch iii.; W. M. Sloane, _French War and Revolution_ chs. xviii.-
xxiv.; H. C. Lodge, _George Washington_, I. chs. v.-xi.; Abiel Holmes,
_Annals of America_, II. 199-353; Bryant and Gay, _United States_, III.
377-623, IV. 1-74; Justin Winsor, _Narrative and Critical History_, VI chs
ii.-ix., VII. chs. i., ii.; J. R. Green, _English People_, IV. 254-271;
Adolphus, _England_, II. 333-433, _passim_; Story, _Commentaries_, §§
198-217; T. Pitkin, United States, I. 282-422, II. 37-153.

SPECIAL HISTORIES.--G. W. Greene, _Historical View_; R. Frothingham,
_Rise of the Republic_, 403-568; John Fiske, _American Revolution_; J. M.
Ludlow, _War of American Independence_, chs. v.-viii.; Geo. Pellew, _John
Jay_, 59-228; E. J. Lowell, _Hessians_; Charles Borgeaud, _Rise of Modern
Democracy_; M. C. Tyler, _Literature of the Revolution_, II.; L. Sabine,
_American Loyalists_; H. B. Carrington, _Battles of the Revolution_; W. B.
Weeden, _New England_, II. chs. xx, xxi.; W. G. Sumner, _Financier and
Finances of the American Revolution_.

CONTEMPORARY ACCOUNTS.--_Journals of Congress, Secret Journals of
Congress_, works and full biographies of the Revolutionary Statesmen;
Peter Force, _American Archives_; Jared Sparks, _Correspondence of the
Revolution_; F. Wharton, _Diplomatic Correspondence_; John Adams and
Abigail Adams, _Familiar Letters_; Tom Paine, _Common Sense_; Crevecoeur,
_Letters from an American Farmer_ [1770-1781]; J. Anbury, _Travels_ [1776-
1781]; Chastellux, _Voyage de Newport_ [also in translation, 1780-1781];
W. B. Donne, _Correspondence of George III. with Lord North_ [1768-1783];
Francis Hopkins, _Essays and Writings_; Philip Freneau, _Poems_; Baroness
Riedesel, _Letters and Memoirs_.--Reprints in Niles, _Principles and Acts
of the Revolution_; D. R. Goodloe, _Birth of the Republic_, 205-353;
Mathew Carey, _Remembrancer_; Frank Moore, _Diary of the American
Revolution_, _Old South Leaflets_, _American History told by
Contemporaries_, II.


[Sidenote: Power of Great Britain.]

When we compare the population and resources of the two countries, the
defiance of the colonists seems almost foolhardy. In 1775 England,
Ireland, and Scotland together had from eight to ten million souls; while
the colonies numbered but three millions. Great Britain had a considerable
system of manufactures, and the greatest foreign commerce in the world,
and rich colonies in every quarter of the globe poured wealth into her
lap. What she lacked she could buy. In the year 1775 the home government
raised ten million pounds in taxes, and when the time came she was able to
borrow hundreds of millions in all the colonies together, two million
pounds in money was the utmost that could be raised in a single year by
any system of taxes or loans. In 1776 one hundred and thirty cruisers and
transports brought the British army to New York: the whole American navy
had not more than seventeen vessels. In moral resources Great Britain was
decidedly stronger than America. Parliament was divided, but the king was
determined. On Oct 15, 1775, he wrote: "Every means of distressing America
must meet with my concurrence." Down to 1778 the war was popular in
England, and interfered little with her prosperity.

[Sidenote: Weakness of America.]

How was it in America? Canada, the Floridas, the West Indies, and Nova
Scotia held off. Of the three millions of population, five hundred
thousand were negro slaves, carried no muskets, and caused constant fear
of revolt. John Adams has said that more than a third part of the
principal men in America were throughout opposed to the Revolution; and of
those who agreed with the principles of the Revolution, thousands thought
them not worth fighting for. There were rivalries and jealousies between
American public men and between the sections. The troops of one New
England State refused to serve under officers from another State. The
whole power of England could be concentrated upon the struggle, and the
Revolution would have been crushed in a single year if the eyes of the
English had not been so blinded to the real seriousness of the crisis that
they sent small forces and inefficient commanders. England was at peace
with all the world, and might naturally expect to prevent the active
assistance of the colonies by any other power.

[Sidenote: The two armies.]
[Sidenote: Hessians.]
[Sidenote: Indians.]
[Sidenote: Discipline.]

When the armies are compared, the number and enthusiasm of the Americans
by no means made up for the difference of population. On the average,
33,000 men were under the American colors each year; but the army
sometimes fell, as at the battle of Princeton, Jan. 2, 1777, to but 5,000.
The English had an average of 40,000 troops in the colonies, of whom from
20,000 to 25,000 might have been utilized in a single military operation;
and in the crisis of the general European war, about 1780, Great Britain
placed 314,000 troops under arms in different parts of the world. The
efficiency of the American army was very much diminished by the fact that
two kinds of troops were in service,--the Continentals, enlisted by
Congress; and the militia, raised by each colony separately. Of these
militia, New England, with one fourth of the population of the country,
furnished as many as the other colonies put together. The British were
able to draw garrisons from other parts of the world, and to fill up gaps
with Germans hired like horses; yet, although sold by their sovereign at
the contract price of thirty-six dollars per head, and often abused in
service, these Hessians made good soldiers, and sometimes saved British
armies in critical moments. Another sort of aliens were brought into the
contest, first by the Americans, later by the English. These were the
Indians. They were intractable in the service of both sides, and
determined no important contest; but since the British were the invaders,
their use of the Indians combined with that of the Hessians to exasperate
the Americans, although they had the same kind of savage allies, and
eventually called in foreigners also. In discipline the Americans were far
inferior to the English. General Montgomery wrote: "The privates are all
generals, but not soldiers;" and Baron Steuben wrote to a Prussian officer
a little later: "You say to your soldier, 'Do this,' and he doeth it; but
I am obliged to say to mine, 'This is the reason why you ought to do
that,' and then he does it." The British officers were often incapable,
but they had a military training, and were accustomed to require and to
observe discipline. The American officers came in most cases from civil
life, had no social superiority over their men, and were so unruly that
John Adams wrote in 1777: "They quarrel like cats and dogs. They worry one
another like mastiffs, scrambling for rank and pay like apes for nuts."

[Sidenote: Commanders.]

The success of the Revolution was, nevertheless, due to the personal
qualities of these officers and their troops, when directed by able
commanders. In the early stages of the war the British generals were slow,
timid, unready, and inefficient. Putnam, Wayne, Greene, and other American
generals were natural soldiers; and in Washington we have the one man who
never made a serious blunder, who was never frightened, who never
despaired, and whose unflinching confidence was the rallying point of the
military forces of the nation.

[Sidenote: Plans of campaign.]

The theatre of the war was more favorable to the British than to the
Americans. There were no fortresses, and the coast was everywhere open to
the landing of expeditions. The simplest military principle demanded the
isolation of New England, the source and centre of the Revolution, from
the rest of the colonies. From 1776 the British occupied the town of New
York, and they held Canada. A combined military operation from both South
and North would give them the valley of the Hudson. The failure of
Burgoyne's expedition in 1777 prevented the success of this manoeuvre. The
war was then transferred to the Southern colonies, with the intention to
roll up the line of defence, as the French line had been rolled up in
1758; but whenever the British attempted to penetrate far into the country
from the sea-coast, they were eventually worsted and driven back.


[Sidenote: Conception of a "Congress."]

Before the war could be fought, some kind of civil organization had to be
formed. On May 10, 1775, three weeks after the battle of Lexington, the
second Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia, and continued, with
occasional adjournments, till May 1, 1781. To the minds of the men of that
day a congress was not a legislature, but a diplomatic assembly, a meeting
of delegates for conference, and for suggestions to their principals. To
be sure, this Congress represented the people, acting through popular
conventions, and not the old colonial assemblies; yet those conventions
assumed to exercise the powers of government in the colonies, and expected
the delegates to report back to them, and to ask for instructions.
Nevertheless, the delegates at once began to pass resolutions which were
to have effect without any ratification by the legislatures. Of the nine
colonies which gave formal instructions to their representatives, all but
one directed them to "order" something, or to "determine" something, or to
pass "binding" Acts.

[Sidenote: Advisory action.]

Thus Congress began rather as the adviser than as the director of the
colonies; but it advised strong measures. On May 30, 1775, a plan of
conciliation suggested by Lord North was pronounced "unreasonable and
insidious." On the request of the provincial congress of Massachusetts
Bay, it recommended that body to "form a temporary colonial government
until a governor of his Majesty's appointment will consent to govern the
colony according to its charter." June 12, Congress issued a proclamation
recommending "a day of public humiliation, fasting, and prayer." Like the
First Continental Congress, it framed several petitions and addresses to
the British people and to the king of Great Britain. During the first six
weeks of its existence, therefore, the Second Continental Congress acted
chiefly as the centre for common consultation, and as the agent for joint


[Sidenote: War in Massachusetts.]
[Sidenote: National military measures.]

The situation rapidly passed beyond the stage of advice. The people of
Massachusetts and the neighboring colonies, on their own motion, had shut
up the governor of the colony and his troops in the town of Boston, and
were formally besieging him. On June 17 the British made their last
sortie, and attacked and defeated the besieging forces at Bunker Hill.
Neither the country nor Congress could long stand still. Precisely a week
after assembling, Congress voted that certain commerce "must immediately
cease." A week later, May 26, they "Resolved, unanimously, that the
militia of New York be armed and trained ... to prevent any attempt that
may be made to gain possession of the town;" and on June 14 the momentous
resolution was reached that "an American continental army should be
raised." On the following day George Washington, Esq., of Virginia, "was
unanimously selected to command all the continental forces raised or to be
raised for the defence of American liberty." In October the fitting out of
a little navy and the commissioning of privateers were authorized.

These acts were acts of war such as up to this time had been undertaken
only by individual colonies or by the home government. They were, further,
acts of united resistance, and in form they pledged the whole country to
the establishment of a military force, and the maintenance of hostilities
until some accommodation could be reached.

[Sidenote: National diplomacy.]
[Sidenote: Other national powers.]

In other directions the Continental Congress showed similar energy.
November 29, 1775, "a Committee of Correspondence with our friends abroad"
was ordered, and thus began, the foreign relations of the United States of
America. National ambassadors were eventually sent out; no colony presumed
to send its own representative across the sea; foreign affairs from this
time on were considered solely a matter for the Continental Congress. In
like manner, Congress quietly took up most of the other matters which had
been acknowledged up to this time to belong to the home government.
Congress assumed the control of the frontier Indians, till this time the
wards of England. The post-national office had been directed by English
authority; Congress took it over. The boundaries and other relations of
the colonies had been strictly regulated by the home government; Congress
undertook to mediate in boundary disputes. Parliament had controlled
trade; Congress threw open American ports to all foreign nations, and
prohibited the slave-trade. In financial matters Congress went far beyond
any powers ever exercised by England. June 22 it ordered an issue of two
million dollars in continental paper currency, and subscriptions to
national loans were opened both at home and abroad.

[Sidenote: Basis of national authority.]

This assumption of powers is the more remarkable since their exercise by
England had caused the Revolution. The right to raise money by national
authority, the right to maintain troops without the consent of the
colonies, and the right to enforce regulations on trade,--these were the
three disputed points in the English policy of control. They were all
exercised by the Continental Congress, and accepted by the colonies. In a
word, the Continental Congress constituted a government exercising great
sovereign powers. It began with no such authority; it never received such
authority until 1781. The war must be fought, the forces of the people
must be organized; there was no other source of united power and
authority; without formally agreeing to its supremacy, the colonies and
the people at large acquiesced, and accepted it as a government.

[Sidenote: Organization of the government.]

For the carrying out of great purposes Congress was singularly
inefficient. The whole national government was composed of a shifting body
of representatives elected from time to time by the colonial or State
legislatures. It early adopted the system of forming executive committees
out of its own number: of these the most important was the Board of War,
of which John Adams was the most active member. Later on, it appointed
executive boards, of which some or all the members were not in Congress:
the most notable example was the Treasury Office of Accounts. Difficult
questions of prize and maritime law arose; and Congress established a
court, which was only a committee of its own members. In all cases the
committees, boards, or officials were created, and could be removed, by
Congress. The final authority on all questions of national government in
all its forms was simply a majority of colonies or States in the
Continental Congress.


[Sidenote: Tendency towards independence.]

Under the direction of Congress and the command of General Washington the
siege of Boston was successfully pushed forward during the winter of 1775-
76. From the beginning of the struggle to this time two political currents
had been running side by side,--the one towards a union of the colonies,
the other towards independence. Of these the current of union had run a
little faster. Notwithstanding the authority which they had set over
themselves, the colonies still professed to be loyal members of the
British empire. To be sure, there is a strong smack of insincerity in the
protestations poured forth by the assemblies and the second Continental
Congress. But John Adams says: "That there existed a general desire of
independence of the Crown in any part of America before the Revolution, is
as far from the truth as the zenith is from the nadir." Yet Patrick Henry
declared as early as September, 1774. that "Government is dissolved.
Fleets and armies and the present state of things show that government is
dissolved. We are in a state of nature, sir.... All America is thrown into
one mass."

[Sidenote: Hesitation.]
[Sidenote: Suggestion of independence.]

From the moment that the Second Continental Congress had ordered the
colonies to be put in a state of defence, either independence must come,
or thee colonies must submit. No far-seeing man could expect that England
would make the concessions which the colonies declared indispensable. Yet
for more than a year Congress hesitated to declare publicly that the
Americans would not return to obedience. As forgiving and loyal subjects
of a king misled by wicked advisers, they still seemed supported by
precedent and acting on the rights of Englishmen. Suggestions were made
throughout 1775 looking towards independence Thus the New Hampshire
Revolutionary Convention declared that "the voice of God and of nature
demand of the colonies to look to their own political affairs." In May,
1775, came the resolutions of a committee of Mecklenburg County, North
Carolina. In declaring that the government of the colonies had ceased to
exist, they were probably not different in spirit from many other
resolutions passed by like bodies. On July 8, 1775, Congress sent its last
formal petition to the Crown. In it "Your Majesty's faithful subjects" set
forth "the impossibility of reconciling the usual appearance of respect
with a just Attention to our own preservation against those artful and
cruel Enemies who abuse your royal Confidence and Authority for the
Purpose of effecting our destruction." Congress was determined to wait
until the petition had been received. On the day when it was to have been
handed to the king, appeared a royal proclamation announcing that open and
armed rebellion was going on in America.

[Sidenote: Congress determined.]

The news of the fate of the petition reached Philadelphia on October 31.
The hesitation of Congress was at an end. Three days later it resolved to
recommend the people of New Hampshire to establish their own government.
The next day similar advice was given to South Carolina, with the promise
of continental troops to defend the colony. Here for the first time was an
official recognition of the fact that the colonies stood no longer under
English control. It was an assertion that independence existed, and the
steps towards a formal declaration were rapid.

[Sidenote: Independence decided on.]
[Sidenote: Declaration of Independence.]
[Sidenote: Rights of man.]

In this as in other similar crises Congress waited to find out the wish of
the colonial legislatures. By May 15, 1776, the opinion of so many
colonies had been received in favor of a declaration of independence that
Congress voted, "That it is necessary that the exercise of every kind of
authority under the Crown of Great Britain should be totally suppressed."
Congress was now committed; and during the next few weeks the form of the
declaration was the important question for discussion. Throughout the
country, resolutions in favor of independence were passed by legislatures,
conventions, and public meetings. On July 4, 1776, Congress adopted a
solemn Declaration of Independence. Like the statement of grievances of
1765 and the declaration of 1774, this great state paper, drawn by the
nervous pen of Thomas Jefferson, set forth the causes of ill-feeling
toward Great Britain. First comes a statement of certain self-evident
truths, a reiteration of those rights of man upon which Otis had dwelt in
his speech of 1761. Then follows an enumeration of grievances put forward
in this crisis as their justification in the face of the world; yet of the
twenty-nine specifications of oppressive acts, not more than five were
manifestly illegal according to the prevailing system of English law. So
far as the Declaration of Independence shows, liberality and concession on
the part of England might even then have caused the Revolution to halt.

[Sidenote: Assertion of independence.]

Another part of the Declaration is a statement that "These United Colonies
are free and independent states, dissolved from all allegiance to Great
Britain, and have the powers of sovereign states." In form and spirit this
clause does not create independent states, but declares that they are
already independent. Independence in no wise changed the status or
character of the Continental Congress: it continued to direct military
operations and foreign negotiations, to deal with the Indians, and to
regulate national finances. The immediate effect of the Declaration of
Independence was that it obliged every American to take sides for or
against the Revolution. No one could any longer entertain the delusion
that he could remain loyal to Great Britain while making war upon her. It
was, therefore, a great encouragement to the patriots, who speedily
succeeded, in most colonies, in driving out or silencing the loyalists.
There is a tradition that another member of Congress said to Franklin at
this time, "We must all hang together." "Yes," replied Franklin, "we must
all hang together, or we shall all hang separately."


[Sidenote: Is the Union older than the States?]
[Sidenote: Revolutionary governments.]

A practical result of the Declaration of Independence was that from that
day each colony assumed the name of State; and the union changed its name
of "The United Colonies" to the proud title of "The United States of
America." Were the new States essentially different from the colonies?
This is one of the insoluble questions connected with the formation of the
Union. Calhoun later declared that the Declaration of Independence changed
the colonies from provinces subject to Great Britain to States subject to
nobody. Lincoln in his message of July 4, 1861, said that "The Union gave
each of them whatever of independence and liberty it has. The Union is
older than any of the States, and in fact it created them as States." That
the States did not regard independence as freeing them from their relation
to Congress may be seen from the fact that their new governments were
formed under the direction or with the permission of Congress. The
outbreak of the Revolution in 1775 had suddenly destroyed the
constitutional governments with which the colonies were familiar.
Everywhere courts were prevented from sitting, and governors were impeded
or driven out. In order to organize resistance and also to carry out the
ordinary purposes of government, in each colony there arose a
revolutionary and unauthorized body, known as the Provincial Convention,
or Provincial Congress, which took upon itself all the powers of
government. The new arrangement was unsatisfactory to a people accustomed
to orderly government and to stable administrations. They turned to
Congress for advice. At first Congress suggested only temporary
arrangements. In November, 1775, it encouraged the colonies to form
permanent organizations, and on May 10, 1776, it advised them all to
"adopt such governments as shall ... best conduce to the happiness and
safety of their constituents in particular, and America in general."

[Sidenote: State constitutions.]

Acting under these suggestions, the colonies had already begun before July
4, 1776, to draw up written instruments of government. In two States,
Connecticut and Rhode Island, the old charters were so democratic that
with a few slight changes of phraseology they were sufficient for the new
conditions. In all other colonies the opportunity was taken to alter the
familiar machinery. The Provincial Conventions, or, in one case, a special
Constitutional Convention, drew up a constitution and put it into force.
Since the governor had been unpopular, in several cases his place was
supplied by an executive council. The courts were reorganized on the old
basis, and the judges were left appointive. The first constitution to be
formed was that of New Hampshire. January 5, 1776, the Provincial Congress
voted "to take up civil government as follows." By 1777, nine other new
constitutions had thus been provided. They mark an epoch in the
constitutional history of the world. The great English charters and the
Act of Settlement were constitutional documents; but they covered only a
small part of the field of government. Almost for the first time in
history, representatives of the people were assembled to draw up
systematic and complete constitutions, based on the consent of the

[Sidenote: Constitution of Massachusetts.]

Singularly enough, the last State to form a definite constitution was
Massachusetts. Till 1776, that colony claimed to be acting under a charter
which England was ignoring. The General Court then chose councillors of
its own to act as an executive. Dissensions broke out, and a considerable
body of the people of Berkshire County repudiated this government and
demanded a new constitution. In 1780 a constitution was drafted by a
convention assembled solely for that purpose, and, for the first time in
the history of America, the work of a convention was submitted for
ratification by a popular vote.

40. THE FIRST PERIOD OF THE WAR (1775-1778).

[Sidenote: British military policy.]

Two policies presented themselves to the British government at the
beginning of the war. They might have used their great naval strength
alone, blockading the coast and sealing every harbor; thus the colonies
would be cut off from the rest of the world, and allowed to enjoy their
independence until they were ready to return to their allegiance. The
alternative of invasion was chosen; but it was useless, with the forces
available, to occupy any considerable part of the interior. By threatening
various parts of the coast, the Americans could be obliged to make many
detachments of their few troops. By occupying the principal towns, such as
Newport, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, and Savannah, the centres of
resistance could be broken up, the loyalists encouraged, and bases
established, from which the main American armies were to be reached and
destroyed. On the sea the navy was to be used to ruin American commerce
and to prevent the importation of supplies.

[Sidenote: American military policy.]

The policy of the Americans was, not to attempt to defend the whole coast,
but to keep as large a number of troops as they could raise together in
one body, as a substantial army; to defend their land communication from
New England to the South; and by standing ready for operations in the
field, to prevent the British from making any large detachments. They must
hold as much of their territory as possible, in order to prevent
defections; and they must take every advantage of their defensive
position, in order at length to hem in and capture the opposing armies on
the coast, as they did finally at Yorktown. The open gate through the
Hudson they strove to close early in the war by invasion of Canada. On the
sea all they could do was to capture supplies and destroy commerce, and by
the ravages of their privateers to inspire the enemy with respect.

[Sidenote: Plans frustrated.]

Neither party was able to carry out its plans. The British took all the
principal seaports, but were able to hold none, except New York, to the
end of the war. First Burgoyne and later Cornwallis made a determined
attempt to penetrate far into the interior, and both were captured. On the
other hand, the Americans could not shake off the main central army, and
there was danger to the very last that the British would beat them in one
pitched battle which would decide the war.

[Sidenote: Campaign of 1776.]
[Sidenote: Princeton and Trenton.]

Military operations began with several surprises to the advantage of the
colonists. They took Ticonderoga and invested Boston before the British
government believed that a fight was impending. An expedition to Canada
failed in 1775-76, but Boston fell. Down to the day of the Declaration of
Independence the advantage was clearly with the colonists. The hard, stern
struggle of the war began in August, 1776, with the arrival of the British
in the harbor of New York. The Americans were attacked on Long Island, and
obliged to retreat across the river; when the militia were attacked on
that side Washington says: "They ran away in the greatest confusion,
without firing a shot." Eye-witnesses relate that "His Excellency was left
on the ground within eighty yards of the enemy, so vexed with the infamous
conduct of the troops that he sought death rather than life." The American
army with difficulty escaped northward, and Washington was obliged to
abandon the important line of the Hudson, and to retreat before the
British towards Philadelphia. The campaign of 1776 had gone against the
Americans. Suddenly out of the gloom and despair came two brilliant little
victories. Crossing the Delaware on Christmas night, 1776, Washington
struck and beat parts of the British forces at Trenton and Princeton. They
retired, and the patriots held Philadelphia during the winter.

[Sidenote: Campaign of 1777.]
[Sidenote: Steadfastness of the American army.]

In the spring of 1777 Howe transferred his troops by sea to the
Chesapeake, beat the Americans, occupied Philadelphia, and lay in that
city till the next year. It was a dear success. While the main British
force was thus withdrawn from New York, an attempt was made to pierce the
colonies from the northward. Burgoyne slowly descended during the summer
of 1777; but, unsupported by Howe, on October 17 he was obliged to
surrender his whole army at Saratoga. This victory roused the spirit and
courage of the new nation, and strengthened the hands of the envoys who
were begging for French alliance. It enabled Washington to maintain a
small army in winter quarters at Valley Forge, twenty miles from
Philadelphia. Whatever the early faults of American troops and officers,
they had learned to obey and to suffer as soldiers, patriots, and heroes.
At one time barely five thousand men were fit for duty. "Naked and
starving as they are." wrote Washington, "we cannot sufficiently admire
the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiers." With the first
days of the year 1778 came the darkest hour of the Revolution. The little
army, the indispensable hope, was beginning to thin out; the finances of
the country were desperate; nine hundred American vessels had been
captured; an apathy had fallen upon the country. Yet light was beginning
to dawn: Steuben, the German, had begun to introduce the discipline which
was to make the American army a new and powerful instrument; Lafayette had
brought the sympathy of France and his own substantial services; more than
all, during these dark days the American envoys were concluding the treaty
with France which was to save the Union.

41. FOREIGN RELATIONS (1776-1780).

[Sidenote: Interest of France.]
[Sidenote: English plan of reconciliation.]

From the beginning of the American struggle the French government had
looked on with interest and pleasure. The arrogance of England during the
previous war and during the negotiations of 1763 had excited a general
dislike throughout Europe. When, in June, 1776, Silas Deane appeared at
Paris as the American envoy, he found, not recognition, but at least
sympathy and assistance. Beaumarchais, a play-writer and adventurer, was
made an unofficial agent of France; and through him arms and supplies from
royal arsenals came into the hands of the Americans. More to the purpose,
money was placed at the disposal of the envoys. In 1776 a million francs
were thus secured; in 1777 two millions. The arrival of Franklin in Paris
in December, 1776, increased the American influence, and negotiations were
entered upon for a treaty. The English cabinet, understanding the danger
of a double war, made a last effort at reconciliation with the colonies.
In 1778 Lord North brought forward an act declaring that Parliament "will
not impose any duty, taxes, or assessment whatever ... in North America or
the West Indies, except only such duties as it may be expedient to impose
for the regulation of commerce, the net produce of such duties to be
always paid and applied to and for the use of the colony in which the same
shall be levied." The principle which had been so strenuously asserted by
the home government from 1765 to 1774 was now abandoned; it might
reasonably be expected that the violent acts of Massachusetts directed
against taxation would be forgiven. Commissioners were sent to America
with almost unlimited powers to remove the grievances of the colonies, and
to restore peace and concord.

[Sidenote: Alliance with France.]

Before they were appointed, a treaty of alliance had been made, Feb. 6,
1778, between the United States and France. With it went a treaty of
commerce, insuring reciprocal trade with France. The colonies, which in
1758 had been fiercely fighting the French as their hereditary enemies,
were now delighted at the prospect of their support. The peace commission
remained in America from June to October; but though they offered every
concession short of absolute independence, the Americans remained firm,
and entered with confidence on the campaign of 1778.

42. THE WAR ENDED (1778-1782).

[Sidenote: Stubbornness of George III.]
[Sidenote: Campaign of 1778.]

The European crisis was favorable to the Americans; the British government
had hitherto been unable to reduce them; the Germans would furnish no more
mercenaries; a strong minority in Parliament opposed the American war;
France had declared war in March, 1778, and Spain was about to follow.
Proper reinforcements could not be sent to America. The country cried out
for Pitt, who had declared himself positively against American
independence. The king resolutely refused. "No advantage to this country,
no personal danger to myself," said he, "can ever make me address myself
to Lord Chatham or to any other branch of the opposition." Pitt died on
May 11, and the chance of a statesmanlike policy disappeared. When the
French fleet, with four thousand troops, appeared in American waters in
July, 1778, Washington formed the hopeful plan of driving the British out
of the country. Philadelphia had been abandoned by Clinton, acting under
orders of the British government. Only two places were left in the
possession of the British,--New York city and Newport, Rhode Island. The
combined American and French expedition against Newport was a failure,
although, as Washington said, "it would have given the finishing blow to
British pretensions of sovereignty over this country."

[Sidenote: The war continued.]

Meanwhile, in England the king was imposing his relentless will upon a
ministry tired of the war, and upon the English people. It was the climax
of George the Third's effort to escape from the principle of Parliamentary
responsibility. "This country," he said, "will never regain a proper tone
unless ministers, as in the reign of King William, will not mind now and
then being in a minority." In April, 1779, Spain allied herself with
France, and the combined fleets of those two powers obtained the mastery
of the seas. Paul Jones, with a little fleet under an American commission,
captured two British men-of-war, almost in sight of the English coast.

[Sidenote: Southern campaign.]

A new plan was formed for an American campaign in 1779. Forces were
directed against Georgia and South Carolina,--States in which there were
many loyalists. Savannah was taken, Charleston was assailed, and the
expedition under Cornwallis penetrated far into North Carolina. Yet at the
end of 1780 the British held, besides New York, only the provinces of
South Carolina and Georgia. In September, 1780, Benedict Arnold all but
delivered to the hands of the enemy the important fortress of West Point.
He was weary of the struggle, and anxious to secure his own safety.

[Sidenote: Surrender of Yorktown.]

With renewed spirit the Americans in 1781 took the offensive in the
Carolinas under Greene. Cornwallis moved northward to the peninsula of
Yorktown. The moment had come. By a rapid movement of Washington's army
and the effective cooperation of the French fleet, Cornwallis was trapped
at Yorktown; and on Oct. 19, 1781, he surrendered, with eight thousand
men. It was the first decided victory which Washington had himself gained.
It made evident to England the hopelessness of continuing the contest; and
in November, 1782, peace was made.

[Sidenote: Reasons for American success.]

The Revolutionary war was successful because the English underestimated
the strength of the movement at the beginning, because the English
commanders were incapable, and because in the later period, when the
British were aroused, their strength was diverted by the dangerous
European war. It was gained finally by the firmness and resolution of the
people, and that resolution is typified in Washington. His patience and
endurance, his ability to hold in check large forces with small armies
imperfectly equipped, his power to keep the country up to the support of
the war, mark him as one of the world's great military commanders.


[Sidenote: Resources.]

The successful termination of the war is the more remarkable because it
was fought by a government almost without means, and finally without
credit. The saddest part of the suffering at Valley Forge is that it was
unnecessary. There was always food and clothing in the country, but
Congress had no money to buy it. Congress had no power to lay taxes, and
the colonies, most of which were spending large sums on their own militia,
were not disposed to supply the general treasury. The pay of the
Continental troops and of the general officers, the furnishing of
equipments and stores, the support of foreign embassies, were burdens that
must be borne, and Congress must find the means.

[Sidenote: Continental currency.]

The most successful and the most disastrous resource was the issue of
paper-money. When, in June, 1775, it was proposed to meet the general
expenses by putting forth two millions in Continental notes, there was but
feeble objection. It was the only way of raising money which seemed to
cost nobody anything. In the course of a year four millions more followed.
Congress, with commendable foresight, called upon each colony to pay in a
sum sufficient to retire its proportion of the issue. Nothing was paid,
and the printing-press was again put in motion, until in January, 1779,
fifty millions were issued at a time. In November, 1779, the limit of two
hundred millions was reached. In order to float these notes the States
passed acts making them a legal tender; but at the same time they were
themselves issuing large sums in a similar currency. Counterfeits
abounded, but it soon became a matter of little difference whether a bill
was good or bad, since the best was worth so little. From the time of the
capture of New York by the British in 1776 the notes began to fall. In
1778 the news of the French alliance caused a little rise; but in 1781 the
bills fell to a point where a thousand dollars exchanged for one dollar in
specie, and a Philadelphia wag made out of the notes a blanket for his
dog. The Continental currency was never redeemed, and was consequently a
forced tax on those who were least able to pay, since every holder lost by
its depreciation while in his hands.

[Sidenote: Loans.]

The absolutely necessary expenditures, without which no army could make
head against the British, were from twenty to twenty-five million specie
dollars each year. Of this the Continental bills furnished on an average
some eight or ten millions. Another method of raising money was that of
borrowing on funded loans. Great schemes were put forth. The United States
were to borrow at four per cent; they were to borrow two millions; they
were to borrow ten millions; they were to borrow twenty millions. The
result was that in three years $181,000 was thus loaned, and up to the end
of the war but $1,600,000,--hardly a hundredth part of the necessary
means. Failing to raise money directly, recourse was bad to the so-called
loan-office certificates. These were issued to creditors of the
government, and bore interest. The greater part of the military supplies
were paid for in this extravagant and demoralizing fashion, and in 1789
they had to be settled, with accumulated interest amounting to nearly
fifty per cent. Better success was had in Europe. No private banker would
lend money to a set of rebels not recognized by any government as
independent, but the French and Spanish governments were willing to
advance both money and stores. In this way the United States received
about three million dollars.

[Sidenote: Requisitions.]

When it was evident that the domestic loan had failed, Congress called
upon the States to furnish five millions of dollars, apportioned among
them according to their importance. These requisitions were repeated at
intervals during the Revolution, but always with the same effect. Not a
fourth part of the sums asked for was paid by the States. A system of
"specific supplies" was adopted in 1778, by which the States were allowed
to pay their quotas in kind. It added a new source of confusion, and
brought no more revenue.

[Sidenote: Miscellaneous resources.]

Every device that the government could put into operation for raising
money was eventually tried. A lottery brought considerable sums into the
treasury, the supplies for the army were seized at Valley Forge and
elsewhere, and paid for in certificates. Bills were drawn on foreign
ministers for funds which it was hoped they might have in hand by the time
the bills reached them, and the government bought, and sent abroad to meet
its indebtedness, cargoes of tobacco and other products.

[Sidenote: Speculation.]

The financial burdens of the government were increased by a spirit of
extravagance, speculation, and even of corruption. Washington wrote,
"Unless extortion, forestalling, and other practices which have ... become
exceedingly prevalent can meet with proper checks, we must inevitably sink
under such a load of accumulated oppressions." The whole cost of the war
is estimated at one hundred and thirty-five millions. Of this about one
hundred millions had been raised through the Continental bills and other
devices. About thirty-five millions remained as a national debt.


[Sidenote: Weakness of Congress.]

That Congress was able to make no better provision for the finances was
due to a decline in its prestige rather than to a lack of interest in the
war. Some of the ablest members were drawn into military service, or sent
on foreign missions. The committee system made it inefficient, and it was
difficult to bring it to a decision upon the most important matters. In
vain did Washington storm, and implore it to act quickly and intelligently
on military matters of great moment. Its relations with the States changed
as the war advanced. Dec. 7, 1776; Congress made Washington for a time
almost a dictator. In 1779 the Virginia legislature formally denied that
it was "answerable to Congress for not agreeing with any of its

[Sidenote: The loyalists.]

To the frequent unfriendly relations with the States was added the
constant conflict with the loyalists. Throughout the colonies the
adherents to England or the sympathizers with the English government were
under grave suspicion. Many of them left the country; some enlisted with
the British, and returned to fight against their own land. A body of
loyalists led the hostile Indians into the Wyoming valley to torture and
to murder. The loyalists who remained at home were often the medium of
communication with the British lines. Some of them, like Dr. Mather Byles
of Boston, and George Watson of Plymouth, were allowed to remain on
condition that they held their tongues. Washington was so exasperated with
them that he termed them "execrable parricides." In every State the
loyalists were feared and hated. When the British invaded the country, the
loyalists joined them; when the British were repulsed, thousands of them
were obliged to abandon their homes.

[Sidenote: Dissensions in States.]

The finances of the States were as much disturbed as those of the Union.
Their paper-money issues shared the same fate. Their debts, funded and
unfunded, increased. They were harassed by internal divisions, even among
the patriots. In Massachusetts, Berkshire County remained until 1780
practically independent, and the county convention did not scruple to
declare to the General Court that there were "other States which will, we
doubt not, as bad as we are, gladly receive us."


[Sidenote: Preliminaries of a constitution.]
[Sidenote: Articles submitted.]

One cause of the weakness of Congress and the disorders in the States was
the want of a settled national government. The Continental Congress
understood that it was but a makeshift, and on the day when a committee
was formed to frame a Declaration of Independence, another committee was
appointed to draw up Articles of Confederation. It reported July 12, 1776;
but the moment discussion began, it was seen that there were almost
insuperable difficulties. The first was the question whether each State
should have one vote, as in the existing government, or whether each
should cast a number of votes in proportion to its population; the second
question was how revenue should be raised and assessed; the third was how
the western country should be held; the fourth was what powers should be
given to the general government, and what retained by the States; the
fifth, how disputes within the Union should be settled. When, on Nov. 15,
1777, Congress had finally adopted a draft of Articles of Confederation,
the decline of its power and influence was reflected in the proposed
instrument of government. On the question of representation, the rule of
vote by States was continued. The only taxation was a formal system of
requisitions on the States. Here the question of slavery was unexpectedly
brought in: the Northern States desired to apportion the taxes according
to total population, including slaves. "Our slaves are our property" said
Lynch, of South Carolina; "If that is debated, there is an end of the
Confederation. Being our property, why should they be taxed more than
sheep?" A compromise was reached, by which requisitions were to be
assessed in proportion to the value of lands in the several States. The
question of control of territory was not distinctly settled by the
articles. The powers to be conferred upon the Confederation were
practically limited to war, peace, and foreign affairs. A cumbrous system
of arbitration courts was established for disputes between States, but
there was no machinery for settling quarrels between States and the
national government.

[Sidenote: The Western lands.]
[Sidenote: Maryland will not ratify.]
[Sidenote: Articles in force.]

Congress had spent a year and a half in forming the Articles of
Confederation. The States took three and a half years in ratifying them.
Ten States early signified their willingness to adopt them. Three others
stood out because the Western lands were left in dispute. In 1776 when the
British authority had been declared no longer existent in the colonies,
each of the new States considered itself possessed of all the British
lands which at any time had been included within its boundary; and in 1778
Virginia had captured the few British posts northwest of the Ohio, and had
shortly after created that immense region, now the seat of five powerful
States, into the "County of Illinois." On the other hand, it was strongly
urged that the Western territory had been secured through a war undertaken
by all the colonies for the whole country, and that the lands ought to be
reserved to reward the continental soldiers, and to secure the debt of the
United States. For the sake of union, two of the three dissatisfied
commonwealths agreed to the Articles of Confederation. One State alone
stood firm: Maryland, whose boundaries could not be so construed as to
include any part of the lands, refused to ratify unless the claims of
Virginia were disallowed; Virginia and Connecticut proposed to close the
Union without Maryland; Virginia even opened a land office for the sale of
a part of the territory in dispute; but threats had no effect. New York,
which had less to gain from the Western territory than the other
claimants, now came forward with the cession of her claims to the United
States; and Virginia, on Jan. 2, 1781, agreed to do the like. On March 1,
1781, it was announced that Maryland had ratified the Articles of
Confederation, and they were duly put into force. From that date the
Congress, though little changed in personnel or in powers, was acting
under a written constitution, and the States had bound themselves to abide
by it.

46. PEACE NEGOTIATED (1779-1782).

[Sidenote: Instructions of 1779.]
[Sidenote: Instructions of 1781.]

Thus the settlement of the final terms of peace fell to the new
government, but rather as a heritage than as a new task. Instructions
issued by Congress in 1779 had insisted, as a first essential, on an
acknowledgment by Great Britain of the independence of the United States.
Next, adequate boundaries were to be provided; the United States must
extend as far west as the Mississippi, as far south as the thirty-first
parallel, and as far north as Lake Nipissing. The third desideratum was
undisturbed fishery rights on the banks of Newfoundland. Finally, it was
expected that a treaty of commerce would be yielded by Great Britain after
the peace was made. In 1781 Virginia, alarmed by Cornwallis's invasion,
succeeded in carrying a very different set of instructions. The only
essential was to be the substantial admission that America was
independent; in all else the treaty was to be made in a manner
satisfactory to the French minister of foreign affairs.

[Sidenote: The king consents to peace.]
[Sidenote: Independence.]
[Sidenote: Boundary.]
[Sidenote: Instructions ignored.]

Before peace could be reached it was necessary to break down the iron
opposition of the king. On Feb. 28, 1781 Conway's motion, looking to the
cessation of the war, was adopted by Parliament. "The fatal day has come,"
said the king. It was not merely his American policy which had failed; the
party of the "King's Friends" was beaten; North resigned; and after twelve
years of strenuous opposition, the king was obliged to accept a Whig
ministry, which he detested, and to let it negotiate for peace. A part of
the ministry still cherished the delusion that the Americans would accept
terms which did not leave them independent. The firmness of the American
envoys was effectual; a royal commission was at last addressed to Oswald,
authorizing him to treat with "the commissioners of the United States of
America" in Paris. Then came the important question of boundary. Without
the thirteen colonies the possession of the Floridas was of little value
to England, and they had been reduced by a Spanish expedition in 1781;
they were therefore returned to Spain. For a long time the English
insisted that a neutral belt of Indian territory should be created west of
the mountains. That point was finally waived; the Americans withdrew their
pretensions to the territory north of Lake Erie; and the St. Lawrence
River system, from the western end of Lake Superior to the forty-fifth
parallel, was made the boundary. From the forty-fifth parallel to the sea,
the boundary was described as following the "highlands which divide those
rivers that empty themselves into the St. Lawrence from those which fall
into the Atlantic Ocean." The country was little known; the commissioners
were probably confused; and the ground was thus prepared for a dispute
which lasted fifty-nine years. In the course of the negotiations the
American ambassadors, Jay, Adams, Franklin, and Laurens, became suspicious
of the French court. There is now some reason for believing that
Vergennes, the French minister, had dealt honorably with the American
interests, and could have secured excellent terms. "Would you break your
instructions?" asked one of the fellow-commissioners of Jay. "I would," he
replied, "as I would break this pipe." Thenceforward the Americans dealt
directly and solely with the English envoys.

[Sidenote: The Mississippi.]
[Sidenote: The fisheries.]

The next question to be settled was the claim of the English to the
navigation of the Mississippi, which was supposed to reach northward into
British territory. It was yielded; the Americans, however, received no
corresponding right of navigation through Spanish territory to the sea.
Next came the fisheries. As colonists the New Englanders had always
enjoyed the right to fish upon the Newfoundland banks, and to land at
convenient spots to cure their fish. Adams, representing New England,
insisted that "the right of fishing" should be distinctly stated; he
carried his point.

[Sidenote: Loyalists.]
[Sidenote: Debts.]
[Sidenote: Slaves.]
[Sidenote: Treaty signed.]

The main difficulties disposed of, three troublesome minor points had to
be adjusted. The first was the question of loyalists. They had suffered
from their attachment to the British government; they had been exiled;
their estates had been confiscated, their names made a by-word. The
British government first insisted, and then pleaded, that the treaty
should protect these persons if they chose to return to their former
homes. The Americans would agree only that Congress should "earnestly
recommend" to the thirteen legislatures to pass Relief Acts. Then came the
question of private debts due to the British merchants at the outbreak of
the Revolution, and still unpaid. Some of the American envoys objected to
reviving these obligations; but Adams, when he arrived, set the matter at
rest by declaring that he had "no notion of cheating anybody." Finally
came the question of the treatment of the slaves who had taken refuge with
the British armies; and the English commissioners agreed that the British
troops should withdraw "without causing any destruction or the carrying
away any negroes or other property of the American inhabitants." On Nov.
30, 1782, a provisional treaty was signed; but it was not until Sept. 3,
1783 after the peace between France and England had been adjusted, that
the definitive treaty was signed, in precisely the same terms.

With great difficulty a quorum was assembled, and on Jan. 14, 1784, it was
duly ratified by Congress. The treaty was a triumph for American
diplomacy. "It is impossible," says Lecky, the ablest historian of this
period, "not to be struck with the skill, hardihood, and good fortune that
marked the American negotiations. Everything the United States could with
any show of plausibility demand from England, they obtained."


[Sidenote: American union.]

Thus in seven years America had advanced from the condition of a body of
subordinate colonies to that of a nation. Furthermore, the people, who at
the beginning of the struggle were scattered and separated, and who
scarcely knew each other, were now united under a government; the
Confederation, however weak, was the strongest federation then in
existence. The people had learned the lesson of acting together in a great
national crisis, and of accepting the limitations upon their governments
made necessary by the central power.

[Sidenote: Union not perfected.]

The spirit of the new nation was now to be subjected to a test more severe
than that of the Revolution. Danger banded the colonies together during
the war. Would they remain together during peace? Sectional jealousies had
broken out in Congress and in camp; and in the crisis of 1777 an effort
had been made to displace Washington. There had been repeated instances of
treachery among military officers and among foreign envoys. The States
were undoubtedly much nearer together than the colonies had been; they had
accepted a degree of control from the general government which they had
refused from England; but they were not used to accept the resolutions of
Congress as self-operative. Their conception of national government was
still that national legislation filtrated from Congress to the State
legislatures, and through that medium to the people.

[Sidenote: Frontier difficulties.]

The interior of the country was in a confused and alarming state. The
territorial settlement with the States had only begun, and was to be the
work of years. The Indians were a stumbling-block which must be removed
from the path of the settlers. Within the States there were poverty,
taxation, and disorder, and a serious discontent.

[Sidenote: Common institutions.]

Nevertheless, the system of the colonies was a system of union. The State
governments all rested on the same basis of revolution and defiance of
former established law; but when they separated from England they
preserved those notions of English private and public law which had
distinguished the colonies. The laws and the governments of the States
were everywhere similar. The States were one in language, in religion, in
traditions, in the memories of a common struggle, and in political and
economic interests.

[Sidenote: Trade hampered.]

Commercially, however, the situation of the country was worse than it had
been in three quarters of a century. Though the fisheries had been saved
by the efforts of Adams, the market for the surplus fish was taken away.
As colonies they had enjoyed the right to trade with other British
colonies; as an independent nation they had only those rights which
England chose to give. For a time the ministry seemed disposed to make a
favorable commercial treaty; but in 1783 an Order in Council was issued
cutting off the Americans from the West Indian trade; and it was not until
1818 that they recovered it.

[Sidenote: Republican government encouraged.] A great political principle
had been strengthened by the success of the Revolution: republican
government had been revived in a fashion unknown since ancient times. The
territory claimed by Virginia was larger than the island of Great Britain.
The federal republic included an area nearly four times as large as that
of France. In 1782 Frederick of Prussia told the English ambassador that
the United States could not endure, "since a republican government had
never been known to exist for any length of time where the territory was
not limited and concentred." The problem was a new one; but in communities
without a titled aristocracy, which had set themselves against the power
of a monarch, and which had long been accustomed to self-government, the
problem was successfully worked out. The suffrage was still limited to the
holders of land; but the spirit of the Revolution looked towards
abolishing all legal distinctions between man and man; and the foundation
of later democracy, with its universal suffrage, was thus already laid.

[Sidenote: Influence of rights of man.]

The influence of the republican spirit upon the rest of the world was not
yet discerned; but the United States had established for themselves two
principles which seriously affected other nations. If English colonies
could by revolution relieve themselves from the colonial system of
England, the French and Spanish colonies might follow that example; and
forty years later not one of the Spanish continental colonies acknowledged
the authority of the home government. The other principle was that of the
rights of man. The Declaration of Independence contained a list of rights
such as were familiar to the colonists of England, but were only theories
elsewhere. The success of the Revolution was, therefore, a shock to the
system of privilege and of class exemptions from the common burdens, which
had lasted since feudal times. The French Revolution of 1789 was an
attempt to apply upon alien ground the principles of the American




BIBLIOGRAPHIES.--Justin Winsor, _Narrative and Critical History_, VI.
745, VII. 199-236, 527-543, VIII. 491;, notes to Curtis, Bancroft,
McMaster, and Pitkin; W. F. Foster, _References to the Constitution_,
12-14; J. J. Lalor, _Cyclopedia_, I. 577; Channing and Hart, _Guide_, §§
142, 149-153.

HISTORICAL MAPS.--Nos. 1, 3, this volume ( _Epoch Maps_, Nos. 6, 7);
Labberton, _Atlas_, lxvi.; Rhode, _Atlas_, No. xxviii.; Johnston, _History
of the United States for Schools_, 133; Gordon _American Revolution_, I.
frontispiece; B. A. Hinsdale, _Old Northwest_, I. 188, 201 (reprinted from
MacCoun's _Historical Geography_), also I. frontispiece, and II. 393;
Justin Winsor, _Narrative and Critical History_, VII. 140; school
histories of Channing, Johnston, Scudder Thomas.

GENERAL ACCOUNTS.--Joseph Story, _Commentaries_, §§ 218-271; R. Hildreth,
_United States_, III, 374-481; T. Pitkin, II. 9-36, 154-218; H. Von Hoist,
_United States_, I. 1-46; Geo. Tucker, _United States_, I. 291-347; Justin
Winsor, _Narrative and Critical History_, VII. ch. iii.; J. T. Morse,
_Franklin_, 216-420; Abiel Holmes, _Annals of America_, II. 353-371; J.
Schouler, _United States_, I. 1-30; Bryant and Gay, _Popular History_, IV.
79-99; F. A. Walker _Making of a Nation_, ch. 1; Edward Channing, _United
States 1761-1865_. ch. iv.

SPECIAL HISTORIES.--G. T. Curtis _Constitutional History_, chs. v.-xiv.
(_History of the Constitution_ I. 214-347); George Bancroft, _United
States_ (last revision), VI. 5-194, _History of the Constitution_, I. 1-
266; John Fiske, _Critical Period_, 1-186; J. B. McMaster, _United
States_, I. 103-416; J. F. Jameson _Essays on the Constitution_; T.
Pitkin, _United States_, I. 283-422, II. 223; William B. Weeden, _New
England_, II. chs. xxii., xxiii.; W. G. Sumner, _Financier and Finances_,
II. chs. xvi.-xxvii.; B. A. Hinsdale, _Old Northwest_, chs. ix.-xvi.; H.
B. Adams, _Maryland's Influence_; W. Hill, _First Stages of the Tariff
Policy_; S. Sato, _Public Land Question_; Theodore Roosevelt. _Winning of
the West_, III.

CONTEMPORARY ACCOUNTS.--_Journals of Congress_; _Secret Journals_;
Madison's notes in H. D. Gilpin, _Papers of James Madison_, and in
_Elliot's Debates_, V.; letters of Washington, Madison, John Jay,
Hamilton, and Franklin, in their works; Thomas Paine, _Public Good_; Noah
Webster, _Sketches of American Policy_; Pelatiah Webster, _Dissertation on
the Political Union_; Brissot de Warville's _Examen Critique_ [1784], and
_Nouveau Voyage_ [1788], (also in translation); Thomas Jefferson, _Notes
on Virginia_.--Reprints in _American History told by Contemporaries_,
II., _American History Leaflets_, Nos. 20, 22, 28.


[Sidenote: Army.]
[Sidenote: Territory.]

The task thrown upon Congress in 1781 would have tried the strongest
government in existence. An army of more than ten thousand men was under
arms, and must be kept up until peace was formally declared, and then must
be paid off. The territorial claims of the States and of the Union were
still in confusion. Virginia roused the suspicion of the small States by
making the promised cession in terms which Congress could not accept, and
the other States had made no motion towards yielding their claims.
Relations with the Indians were still confused. Superintendents of Indian
affairs had been appointed, and in 1778 a treaty was negotiated with the
Creeks; but the States, particularly Pennsylvania and Georgia, continued
to make their own arrangements with Indian tribes.

[Sidenote: Finances.]
[Sidenote: Commerce.]
[Sidenote: General weakness.]

The finances of the country seemed to have reached their lowest ebb. An
attempt was made to float a new issue of continental money at one dollar
for forty of the old bills The new obligations speedily sank to the level
of the old, and the country was practically bankrupt. The aid of the
French was all that kept the government afloat (§ 43). The return of peace
was expected to restore American commerce to its old prosperity; but
having gone to war principally because colonial commerce with other
countries was restricted, the Americans found themselves deprived of their
old freedom of trade with England. They were subject to discriminating
duties in English ports, and were excluded from the direct trade with the
English West Indies, which had been the chief resource the colonial ship-
owners. The State governments were in debt, embarrassed, and beset with
the social difficulties which come in the train of war. The disbanded
troops were not accustomed to regular employment or to a quiet life; taxes
were heavy and odious; the far Western settlements clamored to be set free
from the States to which they belonged. Above all, the national government
was weak, inefficient, and little respected by the army or the people at

60. FORM OF THE GOVERNMENT (1781-1788.)

[Sidenote: Congress.]

The first and fundamental defect of the government was in the organization
of Congress. The Continental Congress had been a head without a body;
under the Articles of Confederation, Congress was a body without a head. A
single assembly continued to be the source of all national legislative,
executive, and judicial power (§ 37). As though to prevent the country
from getting the benefit of experience, no man could remain a member of
Congress for more than three years in succession. The delegates of each
State continued to cast jointly one vote; if only one member were present,
the vote of a State was not counted; if but two were present, they might
produce a tie. On important questions the approval of nine States was
necessary, and often less than that number had voting representatives on
the floor. Amendment was impossible, except by consent of all the State
legislatures. Although Congress had to deal with difficult questions of
peace, its principal power was that of carrying on war. Congress might
make treaties, but it could pass no act in defence of American commerce.

[Sidenote: Executive departments.]

A great effort was made to improve the executive system. By resolutions
passed early in 1781, secretaries were appointed for the three departments
of Foreign Affairs, War, and Finance; the board system, championed by
Samuel Adams and others, was to be abandoned. The importance of the War
Department diminished after 1782. "The Secretary of the United States for
the Department of Foreign Affairs" was quartered in two little rooms, and
furnished with two clerks. The post was filled first by Robert R.
Livingston, and from 1784 by John Jay. The office of Superintendent of
Finance was bestowed upon Robert Morris of Pennsylvania.

[Sidenote: Courts.]

The Articles of Confederation provided for a special tribunal to settle
territorial disputes between the States. The system was invoked in 1782,
and a verdict was rendered in favor of Pennsylvania and against
Connecticut in their rival claims to the Wyoming region. A second set of
federal courts was constituted by designating certain State courts to try
piracies and felonies committed on the high seas. A third and the only
important federal tribunal was the Court of Appeals in prize cases, which
began to sit in January, 1780, and before which were sued sixty-five
cases. All the courts, like all the executive departments, were created
by Congress, alterable by Congress, and subject to the control of
Congress. In 1784 the Court of Appeals was allowed to lapse, by the
refusal of Congress to pay the salaries of the judges.


To follow the history of the Confederation from year to year would be
unprofitable. It was a confused period, with no recognized national
leaders, no parties, no great crises. We shall therefore take up one after
another the important questions which arose, and follow each to the end of
the Confederation.

[Sidenote: Half-pay question.]
[Sidenote: Protests.]

The first duty of Congress after peace was declared was to cut off the
military expenditures (§ 42). The food, clothing, and pay of the army
amounted to about $400,000 a month. Provision had been made for bounty
lands for the soldiers; the officers expected some more definite reward.
On April 26, 1778, Congress, by a majority of one State, had voted half
pay for life to the officers, as an essential measure for keeping the army
together. In the four years following, five different votes had been
passed, each annulling the previous one. Another proposition, in November,
1782, was to remit the whole matter to the States. On March 10, 1783,
appeared the so-called "Newburgh addresses,"--an anonymous plea to the
army, urging the officers not to separate until Congress had done justice
in this respect. A crisis was threatened. Washington himself attended the
meeting of the officers, and counselled moderation. He used his utmost
influence with Congress, and on the 22d of March secured a vote of full
pay for five years. As the treasury was empty, the only payment to the
officers was in certificates of indebtedness, upon which interest
accumulated during the next seven years. Massachusetts protested,
declaring the grant to be "more than an adequate reward for their
services, and inconsistent with that equality which ought to subsist among
citizens of free and republican states." In June, 1783, three hundred
mutineers surrounded the place of meeting of Congress, and demanded a
settlement of their back pay; and the executive council of Pennsylvania
declined to interfere. The result was that Congress changed its place of
meeting, and ever after retained a lively resentment against the city of


[Sidenote: The Western claims.]
[Sidenote: Northwest cessions.]

Although Congress had no power, under the Articles of Confederation, to
regulate territory, it earnestly urged the States to cede their claims.
The Ohio River divided the Western country into two regions, each having a
separate territorial history. The northern part was claimed by Virginia,
Massachusetts, and Connecticut, on the ground that their old charters,
extending to the Pacific, were revived (§ 45). The United States, as
representing the landless States, claimed the whole region as territory
won by the common effort and sacrifice of the Revolutionary War. On March
1, 1784, Virginia ceded all her claims north of the Ohio River, except a
reservation for bounty lands. Massachusetts followed in 1785; the
commonwealth had large tracts of unoccupied land in Maine and in New York.
Connecticut had no such resources, and in 1786 ceded only the western part
of her claim, retaining till 1800, as a "Western Reserve," a strip,
extending along Lake Erie, one hundred and twenty miles west from

[Sidenote: Territorial organization.]

The claims to the region north of the Ohio having thus been extinguished,
the government began to make plans for the administration of its domain.
On Oct. 10, 1780, the Continental Congress had promised that the lands
ceded by the States should be "disposed of for the common benefit of the
United States," and "be settled and formed into distinct republican States
which shall become members of the federal union." These two principles are
the foundation both of the territorial and the public land systems of the
United States.

On April 23, 1784, an ordinance reported by Jefferson was passed,
providing for representative legislatures as fast as the West grew
sufficiently populous to maintain them. It is hardly a misfortune that the
map was not encumbered with the names suggested by Jefferson for the new
States,--Cherronesus, Metropotamia, Assenisippia, Polypotamia, and
Pelisipia; but another clause was voted down which would have prohibited
slavery in the Territories after 1800.

[Sidenote: Northwest Ordinance.]

June 13, 1787, a second ordinance passed Congress, which was inferior in
importance only to the Federal Constitution. It provided minutely for a
preliminary territorial government, in which laws were to be made by
appointive judges, and for a later representative government. The
conception was that the Territories were to occupy the position formerly
claimed by the colonies; they were to be subject to no general taxation,
but placed under a governor appointed by the general government; their
laws were to be subject to his veto, and to later revision by the central
authority. A new principle was the preparation of the Territories for
statehood: the ordinance laid down a series of "Articles of Compact" to
govern them after they were admitted into the Union. Religious liberty and
personal rights were to be secured; general morality and education to be
encouraged; and finally it was provided that "there shall be neither
slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said Territory, otherwise than in
the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly
convicted." The introduction of this clause is due to New England men, who
were anxious to form a colony on the Ohio, and who desired to secure the
freedom with which they were familiar. The clause had no effect upon
slaves held in the Territory at the time of the passage of the ordinance,
but it distinctly expresses the dissatisfaction of the country with the
system of human slavery. As soon as the Northwest Territory was organized,
the sale of lands began; but nothing was received in cash till long after
the Confederation had expired.

[Sidenote: Southern cessions.]

In the southern block of States the territorial settlement proceeded more
slowly, and was in every way less satisfactory. Virginia retained both
jurisdiction and land in Kentucky. North Carolina in 1790 granted the
jurisdiction in what is now Tennessee, but every acre of the land had
already been granted by the State. South Carolina had almost nothing to
cede, and yielded it in 1787. Georgia stood out on the claim to the whole
territory between her present boundary and the Mississippi, and would not
yield until 1802. Slavery was not prohibited.

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