restricted access Chapter 26. Political Imbecility; Constituting a Government (1784 to 1789)
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GW_301-350.indd 313 5/2/12 7:51 AM CHAPTER 26 Political Imbecility; Constituting a Government (r784 to 1789) Differences between the United States and Great Britain.-Mr. Adams appointedMinister to GreatBritain.- Discontents excitedby the commercialregulations ofthatpower.Parties in the United States.- Convention atAnnapolis.- Virginia appoints deputies to a convention at Philadelphia.- General Washington chosen one ofthem.- Insurrection in Massachusetts.- Convention at Philadelphia.-Form ofgovernment submittedto the several states.- Ratified by eleven ofthem.- General Washington elected President.Meeting ofthefirst Congress. WHILE THE friends ofthe national government were making these unavail- 1784-85 ing efforts to invest it with a revenue which might enable it to preserve the national faith, many causes concurred to prepare the public mind for some great and radical change in the political system ofAmerica. Scarcely had the war of the revolution terminated, when the United States and Great Britain reciprocally charged each other with violations of the treaty of peace. A serious difference of opinion prevailed, on the construction ofthat part of the seventh article which stipulates against the "destruction or carrying away ofany negroes, or other propertyofthe American inhabitants." In addition to this circumstance, the troops of his Britannic majesty still retained possession of the posts on the American side of the great lakes; which gave them a decided influence over the warlike tribes of Indians in their neighborhood. On the other hand, the United States were charged with infringing the fourth, fifth, and sixth articles, which contain agreements respecting the payment of debts, the confiscation of property, and prosecution of individuals , for the part taken by them during the war. These causes of mutual complaint, being permitted to rankle for some GW_301-350.indd 314 5/2/12 7:51 AM a> time in the bosoms of both nations, produced a considerable degree of Irrltauon. But the cause of most extensive disquiet was, the vigorous commercial system 1 pursued by Great Britain. While colonists, the Americans had carried on a free and gainful trade with the British West Indies. These ports were closed against them, as citizens ofan independent state; and their accustomed intercourse with other parts of the empire, was also interrupted by the Navigation Act. To explore new channels ofcommerce, was opposed byobstacles which almost discouraged the attempt. On every side, they met with rigorous and unexpected restrictions. Their trade with the colonies of other powers, as well as with those of England, was prohibited; and they encountered regulations in all the ports of Europe, which were extremely embarrassing. From the Mediterranean, they were excluded by the Barbary powers; whose hostility they had no force to subdue, and whose friendship they had no money to purchase? With many, the desire ofcounteracting this injurious system triumphed over the attachment to state sovereignty; and the converts to the opinion that Congress ought to be empowered to regulate trade, were daily multiplied . Meanwhile, the United States were unremitting in their endeavors to form commercial treaties. Three commissioners had been deputed for that purpose; and at length, Mr. John Adams was appointed minister plenipotentiary to the Court ofSt. James.3 His endeavors were not successful. His overtures were declined, because the government of the United States was unable to secure the observance of any general commercial regulations. Many other causes contributed to diffuse such a general dissatisfaction with the existing state of things, as to prepare the way for some essential change in the American system. In the course of the long war which had r. Marshall uses "system" with a broader meaning than today's "policy"-a set ofprinciples or practices which form a particular political plan or mode of governing. 2. The Barbary states ofnorthern Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, Tripolitania) were small kingdoms nominally under the Ottoman Empire but actually autonomous; pirates actingwith the full knowledge of these governments raided shipping in the Mediterranean and nearby Adanric, and many governmems purchased protection from rhem by treaty and tribute. 3ยท A plenipotemiary minister is invested with full power to negotiate on behalfof his governmem . John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson were authorized by Congress in 1784 to negotiate commercial treaties with several European coumries, and in 1785 Adams was specifically designated to negotiate a range of issues with England. 314 GW_301-350.indd 315 5/2/12 7:51 AM ~ Constituting a Government *' been carried on in the bosom of their country, the people of the United States had been greatly impoverished. Their property had been seized for the support of both armies...


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Subject Headings

  • Washington, George, -- 1732-1799.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Biography.
  • Generals -- United States -- Biography.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1775-1783.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1783-1809.
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Campaigns.
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