Government A Reaction To Excesses Following The Revolution Essay, Research Paper
The nationalist movement for a stronger government was not a reaction to excesses following the revolution, rather, it was a reaction to inadequacies. The Articles of Confederation gave the United States Congress almost no power in making decisions that would determine the laws of the country and taxation. The nationalist movement led to the constitutional convention that founded the United States Constitution that ultimately replaced the Articles of Confederation.
Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress was denied the right to tax the citizens it represented. During peace time this may have been a minor issue but when it came time to fight a war or or pay off the Revolutionary War debts, Congress found themselves begging states for financial aid. States rarely cooperated with Congress by giving them the money they asked for and Congress was powerless about this. It needed more power and authority. If Congress wanted to add or change a national law, every state had to agree by ratifying it; otherwise it failed, rather than the now, more appropriate, two thirds of the representatives. Congress was expected to handle the nation s business, such as military issues, state to state disputes, foreign relations, and Native American affairs under such limitations.
The Articles of Confederation united the weak national government of the United States by only two things: one was the United States Congress; the other was an acknowledgement of the fact that the states were physically close together. Congress united the states by attempting to make laws and set guidelines. The states were acting as though they were each independent countries, not one unified republic.
After the war, but before England had even officially signed a treaty, merchant ships from Europe surged into American ports and offered consumer items. People who had put off buying things during the war because of the British blockade or because of personal hardship now jumped at the chance to buy goods from Europe. A sudden revival of trade put the American economy through tough times. When the hard currency of gold and silver left America, the American economy suffered an almost fatal blow. When merchant houses called in their debts, many American consumers found themselves nearly bankrupt.
In 1783, officers of the Continental Army stationed in Newburgh, New York thought that Congress would disband them without funding their pensions. They began to lobby for relief. In March, meetings were scheduled to protest the Congress weaknesses and duplicities. Alexander Hamilton hoped that the army had exerted enough pressure on the government that Americans would amend the Articles. George Washington would not tolerate a government run by the military no matter how badly he wanted a strong central government. At Newburgh Washington went in front of his officers intending to read a prepared statement. While fumbling with his glasses before his men he commented, Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind. The vulnerability of General George Washington sent the troops to tears, and the rebellion was broken that instant.
In 1786, a veteran of the battle of Bunker Hill, Daniel Shays and his armed neighbors closed a county courthouse in Massachusetts where creditors were suing to foreclose farm mortgages. They even threatened to seize the federal arsenal at Springfield. Congress didn t have money to put down the rebellion but many wealthy Bostonians did. The arsenal would have fallen if it hadn t been for the the army of four thousand troops raised by the Bostonians to put down the insurrection. Even though the rebellion failed, in the next general election Massachusetts’ voters selected representatives that were sympathetic to Shays demands. When news of this unrest in Massachusetts spread throughout the country, many delegates were persuaded to attend the Philadelphia meeting to draft a new constitution.
These events helped the nationalists change people s minds; they could not blame the Confederation but they thought stronger central government could have brought more stability to the country. Contrary to being a reaction to excesses, it was a last ditch attempt to salvage the United States of America.