the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Conversation apart from the peace negotiators in

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conversation apart from the peace negotiators in Paris, who, at least officially, took their orders from Congress. 3 A third problem that emerged early was the resolution of the western land disputes, which had been festering for several years. Although the states claiming land in the region west of the Alleghenies had been required to cede their claims to the Confederation Congress upon admission into the union, many of the landed states, most especially Virginia, insisted on their right to determine the borders of their cessions, and also on the revocation of all Indian treaties signed by land companies within the so-called domain. The question at issue was whether the states or the Congress possessed ultimate authority to resolve the disputes. 4 The clearest argument for congressional authority came from John Witherspoon. He observed that Great Britain had acquired the vast tract from the Alleghenies to the Mississippi in 1763 by winning the French and Indian War. Then the United States acquired the same territory by winning the war against Great Britain: “This controversy [the war for independence] was begun and carried on by the united and joint
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efforts of the thirteen states. By their joint exertions and not by any one State the dominion of Great Britain was broken, and consequently the rights claimed and exercised by the Crown devolved on all, and not any individual state.” This meant that the western lands were a national domain effectively held in trust by the union of states created under the Articles. 5 This argument made logical and legal sense to almost everyone except the Virginians, who were accustomed to thinking of the Old Dominion as an empire of its own, with the Ohio Valley and Kentucky as extensions of “greater Virginia.” Even James Madison, the most nonprovincial member of the Virginia delegation, felt obliged to defend his state’s claim to Kentucky’s borders, though he opposed the threat of the Virginia legislature to revoke its previous cession. (Intriguingly, he wrote to his new friend, Thomas Jefferson, that Virginia’s recalcitrance on the Kentucky question had best end soon, since he presumed that “the present Union will but little survive the present war.”) Although the western lands would eventually prove to be a treasure trove that helped to create a collective interest among the states, at the outset arguments over its management had just the opposite impact, exposing the fault lines still existing between landed and landless states, and the lack of any common history in thinking nationally rather than as sovereign states. 6 Vermont was hardly a part of the western domain, but arguments over its petition for admission as a state dominated the deliberations of Congress throughout 1781. What was originally called the New Hampshire Grants included land that three states—New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts— claimed as their jurisdiction, producing interstate bickering that the Congress could not resolve.
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