the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Draft on the question of state versus federal

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Draft on the question of state versus federal sovereignty was clarified in an amendment by Thomas Burke of South Carolina: “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.” 17 The final draft of the Articles of Confederation that was sent to the states in November 1777, then, had been cleansed of any language that envisioned the existence of an American nation-state after the war. To be sure, the Dickinson Draft had always been a tortured document that leaned toward a state-based confederation. And it was always clear that the vast majority of Americans did not regard the war for independence as a movement for American nationhood, to the extent they gave the matter any thought at all. The final draft of the Articles of Confederation, then, merely confirmed and institutionalized that conviction. When the Articles were sent to the states, the letter accompanying the document urged ratification more as a wartime measure than as any commitment to a future American union. Failure to ratify, the letter warned, would send a signal of weakness to the British government, which would then redouble its military effort, thereby forcing America “to bid adieu to independence, to liberty, to safety.” Even the states that swiftly ratified submitted amendments, nearly a hundred, most designed to protect local and state interests from federal encroachment. The Congress simply ignored them, but they constituted another sign that whatever pretensions for a national union might have existed in the early months of the war had wholly evaporated as the conflict drew to a close. 18 Then there was the matter of the army , along with the Continental Congress the other institutional projection of collective commitment with national implications. As the war dragged on, the same centrifugal forces that moved political power from the Congress to the states also undermined popular support for the Continental Army. Over two hundred years later, when paintings, films, and histories remind us of the deplorable conditions endured by ordinary men to win American independence —and most of the images and words are utterly accurate—it is difficult to recover the combination of abuse and neglect directed at the Continental Army by most of the American citizenry at the time. 19 There are two enormous and overlapping ironies at work here, which taken together represent a central paradox of the American Revolution: namely, the two institutions that made victory in the war for independence possible, the Continental Congress and the Continental Army, represented a consolidated kind of political and military power that defied the republican principles on which the American Revolution was purportedly founded. If we wished to push this line of argument to its logical limit, we would say that the ideological and emotional hostility to any conspicuous and centralized expression of
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