the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

A majority of candidates elected to serve in the

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a majority of candidates elected to serve in the Congress had declined, or just failed to show up, and on fourteen occasions no business could be conducted for lack of a quorum. More dispiriting than any clash of opinions was the pervasive indifference that rendered argument itself impossible. There was not even a quorum available to ratify the definitive version of the Treaty of Paris or to accept Washington’s highly symbolic resignation as commander in chief at Annapolis. The delegates were essentially asking Jay to do for American foreign policy what they had asked Robert Morris to do for fiscal policy. Morris’s heroic efforts, as we have seen, eventually fell victim to the political provincialism they were intended to correct. But there was some reason to believe that the Jay appointment would not meet the same fate, for while the states could and did remain sovereign when it came to taxes, they could not plausibly claim to exercise the same control over foreign policy, which almost by definition needed to speak with one voice. (Abigail Adams, writing from London, somewhat caustically observed that British diplomats loved to ridicule her husband for allegedly representing a government that in fact did not exist.) Jay was being asked to convert the American cacophony on foreign policy into a chorus. It is a measure of Jay’s prestige, and also of the delegates’ desperation, that all the conditions he proposed were found acceptable. He could appoint his own staff, presume to speak as a representative of the confederation as a collective, and—this was a rather audacious demand—the Congress would move from its current location in Trenton to New York in order to facilitate his family obligations. With Morris now retired, Jay became the most powerful person in the Confederation Congress. All thinking about development of the western domain had been delayed until agreement was reached on Virginia’s cession of its claims to the Ohio Country. Congress never agreed to all the terms Virginia insisted upon, chiefly the voiding of all treaties between Indian tribes and land speculators. But in an act of uncharacteristic generosity, Virginia went ahead with the cession in February 1784, albeit under pressure from other states to end the impasse in order to start earning revenue from land sales. “It is said by good judges that the tract acquired comprehends five hundred thousand square miles,” one delegate observed, “and some men who are acquainted with that country assert that the value of it is sufficient to discharge the public debt.” David Howell of Rhode Island, who had been the most outspoken opponent of the impost, took great satisfaction in calculating that the sale of 320 million acres at a dollar an acre would easily retire the national debt without recourse to an impost. Most of the initial thinking about what to do with the domain, then, focused less on its boundless borders than on its equally
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boundless prospects as a providential solution to America’s debt crisis.
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