No Affiliation Alliance

The New Republic of American States 1781-1789

Articles_of_Confederation_1977_Issue-13cThe New Republic of American States
1781 – 1789

On July 4, 1776 the “Committee of the whole” had convened to the ratification of the declaration. The copies of the finished broadside document were dispatched by riders on July 5, to all the assemblies and on August 2, 1776, fifty six members of the Second Continental Congress would mutually sign the Constitution that is on display at the National Archives.

July 12, 1776 the Committee of the Whole then formed “the committee of thirteen” consisting of one representative from each state. John Dickinson who was the only delegate who refused to sign the Declaration of Independence was appointed to lead this group to draft the articles for a confederation. The original draft written primarily by the Senator from Delaware was presented before Congress on July 22.

“I hurried to Congress, to give my little assistance to the framing a Confederacy, and a plan for a foreign alliance – both of them subjects of the utmost importance, and which, in my judgment, demand immediate dispatch. The Confederacy has engaged our close attention Samuel_Chasefor a week. Three great difficulties occur: Representation, the mode of voting, and the claims to the South-Sea. The whole might, in my opinion, be settled, if candor, justice, and the real interests of America were attended to. We do not all see the importance, nay, the necessity, of a Confederacy. We shall remain weak, distracted, and divided in our councils; our strength will decrease; we shall be open to all the arts of the insidious Court of Britain, and no foreign Court will attend to our applications for assistance before we are confederated. What contract will a foreign State make with us, when we cannot agree among ourselves?”Samuel Chase, 30 July, 1776.

John Dickinson
November 13, 1732- February 14, 1808. He was born in Talbot County, Maryland. His father Judge Samuel Dickinson was first judge to the Court of Pleas in Delaware. John studied law at the Temple in London and became a member of the Pennsylvania assembly in 1764, he was a member to the Stamp Act Congress in 1765 and drafted the Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress, He wrote the essay’s “Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer. He was appointed to the first Continental John_Dickinson_portraitCongress and wrote an Address to the Inhabitants of the Province of Quebec. In 1775, in collaboration with Jefferson, he wrote a “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms”. Dickinson opposed the colonies separation from Great Britain and abstained from signing the Declaration of Independence. He was later appointed Brigadier-General in the Continental Army. In 1779 he was elected again to the Second Continental Congress, then to the Delaware Assembly in 1780. He was elected Governor of Pennsylvania from 1782- 1785. In 1787 he attended the constitutional convention and wrote a series of nine essays under the pen name of Fabius. In 1792 he assisted in forming a new constitution for Delaware. He wrote another series of articles in 1797. He retired from public life to his home at Wilmington, where he died on the 14th of February, 1808. When John wrote the first draft of the Articles of Confederation he proposed a strong central government, with jurisdiction over the western lands, equal representation for the states, and the power to levy taxes.

From July 30, till August 1,1776, the matter regarding the method to proportioning of taxes required to finance the functions of the new central government became the main issue in the debate and in measured observations found in the diary of Thomas Jefferson 501px-Reproduction-of-the-1805-Rembrandt-Peale-painting-of-Thomas-Jefferson-New-York-Historical-Society_1a summary of the debates demonstrates the intensity among the delegates to establish this republic. The document is Para phrased here for a common understanding. To view the original transcript in its entirety go to:

” All charges of war & all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense, or general welfare, and allowed by the United States assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several colonies in proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age, sex & quality, except Indians not paying taxes, in each colony” (Art. XI, of the original draft was reassigned to become Article VIII of the final draft)

In debate Samuel Chase argued that taxes should be fixed and based upon only white inhabitants. He argued that taxes should always be proportioned to property, but insisted there was too much difficulty in this theory because of the diversity in material property (cows, horses, chicken) could not be just or equal bearing the differences in state regions. He believed that the number of persons should be used as the criteria of taxable value as property (note the argument of human property would be based upon white inhabitants only). He argued that Negroes should not be calculated into the numbers of population because they were not benefactors of profit from their own labor.

John Adams also saw that numeration of population was an index to measure wealth of a state in property, but refuted numeration to become a source to collect income tax from each 477px-US_Navy_031029-N-6236G-001_A_painting_of_President_John_Adams_(1735-1826),_2nd_president_of_the_United_States,_by_Asher_B._Durand_(1767-1845)-cropindividual. His insistence was on the matter of freeman verses slave rationalized that labor resulted in the same production of wealth for the landlord employing free laborers as slave labor did for plantation owners. He saw no difference in the value of white labor as to black laborers being calculated equally as property for the purpose of taxation. The argument of taxation in variance to property between freemen and slave was only to the fact that slaves are sold and only should have a tax applied to landlords when the number in quantity of in-habitation is increased by the importation of slaves, and that transfer of ownership within state or county boundaries were not subject to a tax because it did not increase the wealth of the state.

Benjamin Harrison assessed that freemen produced more than slave labor and suggested that the production of two slaves be equaled to that of one free laborer. The foundation in this rationalization is that a freeman has ambition to better their life through their labor and would have the incentive to produce more where a person born to bondage had no incentive and had only the ambition to escape or meet minimal production requirement to self preservation.

James Wilson objected to the amendment because the apportionment of taxes based upon population made it a benefit to own slaves was to the advantage of the southern states since JusticeJamesWilsonthe northern landlords would be paying wages to freemen that would detract from the profits of their production and southern states retained most of the profit to themselves. His argument ranged that slaves took jobs and income from free labor and that importation of slave labor must be eliminated. He feared that the use of the slave population as an index to wealth would encourage the slave industry and that the focus of taxable property should be limited to cattle, sheep, horses and other livestock throughout the colonies.

Dr. John Witherspoon suggested that the apportionment of taxes John_Witherspoon3should be founded upon the value of land and houses and was the best assessment of wealth. He insisted that the method proposed in this amendment in use of population was unequal between the states because the institution of slavery did not exist in every colony.

On August 1, 1776, the original proposed article in this debate was rejected and the method of assessing the value of wealth would be founded upon the suggested method communicated by John Witherspoon and described in the final draft submitted to congress for approval on November 15, 1777.

Ratification required unanimous approval of all 13 state countries on every issue to set the confederation into motion which did not happen until Maryland ratified on March 1, 1781. There were many disputes over western territories, and land boundaries, to include claims for the South Sea Islands. The land disputes took many years to resolve and “The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union” were signed in finality by a group of men who were not members of the original Congress when the ratification process began or were ever present together in the Congress. The original delegates such as Thomas Jefferson had resigned from Congress on October 12, 1776, to take his elected post in the newly constructed Virginia legislature. For this reason the details of debate other than what is translated above were not recorded.

Article VIII. All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several States in proportion to the value of all land within each State, granted or surveyed for any person, as such land and the buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated according to such mode as the United States in Congress assembled, shall from time to time direct and appoint.

The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and direction of the legislatures of the several States within the time agreed upon by the United States in Congress assembled. (Final draft of original proposal)

During this same session the debate over voting power focused on the proposed statement that: each colony shall have one vote.

Samuel Chase noted that larger colonies would not agree to confederate unless their vote reflected the entire population it represented and that the smaller states would not submit themselves to be the subordinates of the larger states. He argued that this difference in state populations was a matter that required a resolve to compromise since the failure to confederate would have a greater consequence to the whole of colonies that would remain to be threatened by foreign influences. He suggested that other matters relating to money should be proportioned to a colonies population.

BenFranklinDuplessisDr. Benjamin Franklin agreed to this especially that this issue should not be allowed the authority of being a deal breaker in regards to confederation and that a resolve to compromise must be found.

Dr. John Witherspoon also concurred on the importance of confederation “That the colonies should in fact be considered as individuals…That in the East India Company they voted by persons, & not by their proportion of stock. That the Belgic confederacy voted by provinces. That in questions of war the smaller states were as much interested as the larger, & therefore should vote equally” He insisted that the matter of the federal union must be constrained to matters between colonies ( interstate commerce and land disputes)and not be able to influence matters directly in regards to individual persons.

John Adams argues that voting should be proportioned to the population. “Reason, justice, & equity never had weight enough on the face of the earth to govern the councils of men. It is interest alone which does it, and it is interest alone which can be trusted…The question is not what we are now, but what we ought to be when our bargain shall be made. The confederacy is to make us one individual only…”

Dr. Benjamin Rush “Were it possible to collect the whole body of the people together, they would determine the questions submitted to 517px-Benjamin_Rush_Painting_by_Pealethem by their majority. Why should not the same majority decide when voting here by their representatives? ….The voting by the number of free inhabitants will have one excellent effect, that of inducing the colonies to discourage slavery & to encourage the increase of their free inhabitants.”

Stephen Hopkins argued that the larger states would dominate the smaller states and vote based upon population would make equal representation impossible.

James Wilson believed that taxation should be proportioned to wealth, and representation should reflect the number of freemen per state. His debate pointed that the government is a collection in the result of will by the many and that to place the decision to the rule of an individual state equal to not vote is not within reason to assume. One state having ten million inhabitants and another 20 million inhabitants cannot be expressed by the diversity of the many different regions within the state let alone the differences of cultures region to region.

These debates lasted for a year delayed by the failure to convene a regular quorum of delegates to debate further issues over borders and other land claims. On June 27, 1778 the final draft of the articles was approved and under a cover letter signed by Congressional President Henry Laurens and Secretary to Congress Charles Thomson the prepared copy was dated to be signed on July 9, 1778, Notification was sent out to the states with copies for their assemblies to confer with the instructions to notify their delegation when ratification was complete.

“Permit us, then, earnestly to recommend these articles to the immediate and dispassionate attention of the legislatures of the respective states. Let them be candidly reviewed under a sense of the difficulty of combining in one general system the various sentiments and interests of a continent divided into so many sovereign and independent communities, under a conviction of the absolute necessity of uniting all our councils and all our strength, to maintain and defend our common liberties.

By 1781 officials were elected at varying intervals by either the method of popular vote, or by appointment by officials elected by popular vote. Establishing the discretionary option of states to choose which system it would use to elect officials.

The Congress of the new Confederation although was ineffective but did manage to develop the Land Ordinance of 1785, which established land surveying practices and protocol used in the near future to admit new states to the Confederacy, and the Northwest Ordinance established later in 1787 finalized the agreement between the original states to forfeit claims of lands to the west, placing the former unsettled territories of the crown under the authority of the central government, and to abolish slavery in these new territories.

The leading weakness in the demise of the central government under the Articles of Confederation is linked to the documents lack in authority over the states to regulate trade, levy taxes, or to enforce the terms of the Treaty of Paris negotiated with Brittan at the end of the Revolution in 1783. Some states began to negotiate treaties of commerce with foreign countries, and in result of a lack of cooperation between the states to contribute the necessary funds to support an army were unable to defend its borders from British and Spanish encroachment.

From 1781 till 1787 the derogation of commitment between the states resulted in tariff wars between states and had the central government in bankruptcy, even George Washington was on the verge of abandoning the ideal of a republic and became convinced that the only possible redemption would be through the establishment of a stronger central government.

The Second Continental Congress, now the Congress of the Confederation was the nucleus of government administration consisting of the executive and judicial as well as retaining legislative powers. The Congress tried to delegate authorities to subordinate committees, but this system proved ineffective because of rapid turnover of membership, lack of expertise, political infighting, and other problems. The Confederation represented, in fact, a league of thirteen sovereign states rather than a single nation. Congress needed a large voting majority to enact measures of any importance and many good laws fell into obscurity.

A second system was established where non-members of Congress and Congress (military leaders and judges), interacted in committee, but this system also failed for much of the same reason giving a clear indication to the eventual failure in this first attempt in establishing a republic.

In 1781 both the executive (President of Congress), and judicial agencies were established, but were not separate branches as they are in our current federal system. The Continental Congress, had promised soldiers a pension of half pay for life, but had no power to compel the states to fund this obligation. Once the war had been won, the Continental army was largely disbanded into a small national force to man the frontier forts for protection against native attacks during the westward expansion. States maintained their own militia, and 11 of them had their own Navies. The wartime promises of bounties and land grants to be paid for service were not being met which led to the Newburgh conspiracy in 1783 where troops frustrated by not being paid threatened to revolt or disperse which at this time British troops were still occupying New York City as the treaty of Paris was still in negotiation, this created a threat that if the British learned of this turmoil in the Continental army they would take the opportunity to launch an attack and regain the control over the colonies placing the entire efforts of the revolution in peril.

On March 15, 1783, in Newburgh New York General George Washington entered a barracks where a meeting gathered among his officers to inspire a conspiracy in revolt against Congress for broken promises and no pay. His entrance was met with surprise. This meeting called by Horatio Gates was supported by a nationalist group within congress that threatened COUPS D’ETAT against the central government, and upon learning of this event Washington circulated a letter imploring for his officers to gather and speak freely as he would not attend. Horatio took this opportunity to send a second letter to all officers using Washington’s letter to suggest the commanding general’s approval of the conspiracy. The unexpected entrance of Washington was a tactical ploy and his request for Gates permission to speak, and in his own calm manner defused the attempt and saved the revolution from financial failure in its final days.

A petition had been sent to Congress by Generals Henry Knox and Alexander McDougall stating as matter of fact. “We have borne all that men can bear-our property is expended-our private resources are at an end…any further experiments on our patience may have fatal effects.” Their demands included that half pay pensions be commuted to five years full pay in restitution.

George Washington
Born February 22, 1732, Died December 14, 1799 He was born to Augustine and Mary (Ball) Washington at Wakefield Farm, Westmoreland County, Virginia. This same year the Julian calendar was replaced by the Gregorian calendar and was officially adopted by British colonies in 1752 adding 11 days to the year and beginning the year in January instead of March making Washington’s true birth date February 11. In 1752 he inherits Mount Vernon Plantation when his brother Lawrence dies. In 1753 he leads a Virginia expedition to challenge French claims to the Allegheny River Valley. He fought in the French and Indian War (1754 – 63). He marries Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759. He served in the House of Burgesses (1758-1759). From 1760 to 1774 he served as a justice of Fairfax County. In July 1774 Washington presided at the county meeting and helped write the Fairfax Resolves. He served in the Continental Congress (1774 – 75). He was a farmer, surveyor, and was appointed commander of the Continental Army in 1775 -1781. In June 1783 He authored “Circular to the States” on the need for a firmer union, and his “Sentiments on a Peace Establishment,” that contributed to the debate on national defense in the Constitutional Convention. He was a delegate to and presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention (1787) he became the first president of the United States in 1789 – 1796, He was commissioned Commander in Chief of the Army from 1798 till his death in 1799. He is universally regarded as one of the greatest figures in U.S. history and referred to as the “greatest man to have ever lived” by King George III for his refusal to be crowned a King, and voluntary cession to power as he declined to run a third term to president.

“Parliament hath no more right to put their hands into my pocket, without my consent, than I have to put my hands into yours for money.” George Washington in opposition of the stamp act of 1765
In 1786 a convention was called in Annapolis to petition Congress to call a constitutional convention to meet in Philadelphia in consideration of modifying the dysfunctional confederation.

On February 21, 1787, Congress called for a Constitutional Convention to be held in May to revise the Articles of Confederation, Alexander Hamilton was appointed to head a committee of peers to write and publish papers to inform the public of the idea of federal government. Hamilton’s papers won the favor of Federalist with Washington’s endorsement. His first essay was published on October 27, 1787 and titled “General introduction”. He coordinated the series to include essays by John Adams, and James Madison which all were written under the pen name of Publius.
Beginning in 1776 the colonies began to draft state constitutions which now became the blue print for the federal system that now incorporated to its design a judiciary and executive branch. The skepticism of the founders to create a national government encouraged them to limit the federal government to the administration of the common union organization of trade and commerce.

This separation of jurisdictions was finalized in 1791 with the introduction of the Bill of Rights of the United States which reserved the jurisdictions of first ten amendments to the authority of the states or to people who are named the sovereign over government.

The American brand of republic depends on the separations of powers to resist the natural enlargement of bureaucracy that had proven to become devastating over generations to every government system to that date. It was called “the experiment” because there had never been a system of government of self-rule by its people. This was a new concept and had the eyes of the world upon it.


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