My Civics series of ‘Where It All Began…..
“In The Beginning…..” that is how all great myths begin.
And so it was with these United States…..in the beginning was our Confederation period…that was the period after the War and before the Constitution was finalized and ratified…..
The year is 1777……
Americans had a myriad of concerns in the years following the end of the War for Independence. Many of those issues centered on the Articles of Confederation and the powers delegated to Congress. Previous attempts to amend the Articles of Confederation inside and outside of Congress proved unsuccessful. All proposals to give Congress powers to tax and regulate commerce failed to get the approval of all thirteen state legislatures which was required by Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation. Among the many considerations that Americans faced during the “critical period,” the items below certainly paint a somber backdrop to the decade following the Revolutionary War.
There were several attempts to change the Articles of Confederation as the laws of the land…..
Throughout the 1780s Congress attempted to amend the Articles of Confederation. Some of these efforts tried to empower Congress by temporary grants of power to tax or to regulate commerce. This approach appeased those who were fearful of an over-powering, consolidated government. However, even these failed to gain the necessary approval of all thirteen state legislatures. The documents below illustrate attempts to revise the Articles of Confederation. Many of these same issues would resurface later in the Constitutional Convention.
These were some of those attempts….
- Grant of Power to Collect Import Duties, 3 February 1781
- Amendment to Give Congress Coercive Powers Over the States and Their Citizens, 16 March 1781
- Committee Report on Carrying the Confederation Into Effect and on Additional Powers Needed by Congress, 22 August 1781
- Grant of Temporary Power to Collect Import Duties and Request for Supplementary Funds, 18 April 1783
- Amendment to Share Federal Expenses According to Population, 18 April 1783
- Grant of Temporary Power to Regulate Commerce, 30 April 1784
- Amendment to Grant Commercial Powers to Congress, 28 March 1785
- Amendments to the Articles of Confederation Proposed by a Grand Committee of Congress, 7 August 1786
Did you know that there were those that thought this country should be divided into 3 or 4 separate confederacies…..
The prevailing wisdom of the late 18th century was that republics could not succeed over large territories. The French theorist Montesquieu wrote, “it is natural for a republic to have only a small territory; otherwise it cannot long subsist,” as the interests of its citizens become too diverse and extensive to be represented. The size of the United States raised doubts of its viability as a republic because of the differences in culture, economy, and climate among the thirteen states. To remedy this, sporadic proposals surfaced calling for the division of the United States into three, four, or over thirteen separate confederacies. During the Revolutionary War, this idea had less traction because of the necessity of united action against the British. Once hostilities ended, however, the idea became increasingly part of political discussions.
During the ratification debate, Federalists criticized Antifederalists for supporting separate confederacies. John Jay addressed the issue repeatedly in Federalist 2–5. Although Antifederalists never supported the creation of separate confederacies, Federalists themselves suggested that separate confederacies might be an alternative if attempts to strengthen the central government failed.
For an extended discussion of this topic, see The Idea of Separate Confederacies in Volume XIII of The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution.
Of course this idea was squashed by the introduction of the idea of the Constitutional Convention……read on…… The Idea of Separate Confederacies
Sadly it is looking like the anti-Federalist idea of separate confederacies is becoming more attractive these days as the country is dividing along silly lines.
An interesting part of our history that gets overlooked in the day to day teaching of our history.
I Read, I Write, You Know
“lego ergo scribo”