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Chapter Forty-Five. Confederation: state governments and their problems

Edward Countryman

Subject History

Place Northern America » United States of America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics American War of Independence, government , state

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405116749.2003.00048.x


Between 1776 and 1787 the 14 newly independent states (including Vermont) were the scenes of exciting political innovation and of great political achievement. Yet those same states became the despair of the men whom most Americans regarded as the wisest and most experienced in the country. The states had good claim to call themselves genuinely sovereign, acknowledging no political superior. Yet they were part of a larger emerging nation, and there were points when their actions put the whole of American nationhood at risk. They made themselves the most democratic polities on earth. Yet by 1787 and 1788 enough Americans were unhappy with what they had achieved and what they stood for to accept the radically different vision of the future that the Federalists put forth. The states had won a revolutionary war but it seems that in the eyes of many of their own people they lost the peace that followed. The states were born in diversity, from passionate democratic experiment in Pennsylvania to sober institutional balance in Massachusetts. But beneath the differences among their constitutions lay a common set of developments and problems. In terms of political sociology one of the most important developments was the entry into the center of public life of men who might, at best, have watched from the periphery during the colonial era. People who had cut their political teeth in the Sons ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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