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   Chapter 54 1788). No.54

Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 3557

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

[Sidenote: State financial legislation.]

The finances of the States were little better than those of the Union. The States controlled all the resources of the country; they could and did raise taxes, but they appropriated the proceeds to their own pressing necessities; and the meagre sums paid to Congress represented a genuine sacrifice on the part of many States, particularly Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Unfortunately the States exercised unlimited powers over their own currency and commercial relations. Times were hard, debts had accumulated, property had been destroyed by the war. State after State passed stay laws delaying the collection of debts; or "tender laws" were enacted, by which property at an appraised value was made a legal tender, Cattle, merchandise, and unimproved real estate were the usual currency thus forced upon creditors. After peace was declared, a second era of State paper-money issues came on, and but four of the thirteen States escaped the craze.

[Sidenote: Weakness of the States.]

[Sidenote: Proposed new states.]

[Sidenote: Insurrections.]

These remedies bore hard on the creditors in other States, created a feeling of insecurity among business men, and gave no permanent relief. The discontented, therefore, sought a remedy for themselves. The Revolutionary War had left behind it an eddy of lawlessness and disregard of human life. The support of the government was a heavy load upon the people. The States were physically weak, and the State legislatures habitually timid. In several States there were organized attempts to set off outlying portions as independent governments. Vermont had set the example by withdrawing from New York in 1777, and throughout the Confederation remained without representation eith

er in the New York legislature or in Congress. In 1782 the western counties of Pennsylvania and Virginia threatened to break off and form a new State. From 1785 to 1786 the so-called State of "Franklin," within the territory of what is now eastern Tennessee, had a constitution and legislature and governor, and carried on a mild border warfare with the government of North Carolina, to which its people owed allegiance. The people of Kentucky and of Maine held conventions looking toward separation. The year 1786 was marked by great uneasiness in what had been supposed to be the steadiest States in the union. In New Hampshire the opposition was directed against the legislature; but General Sullivan, by his courage, succeeded in quelling the threatened insurrection without bloodshed. In Massachusetts in the fall of 1786 concerted violence prevented the courts from sitting; and an organized force of insurgents under Captain Shays threatened to destroy the State government. As a speaker in the Massachusetts convention of 1788 said, "People took up arms; and then if you went to speak to them you had the musket of death presented to your breast. They would rob you of your property, threaten to burn your houses; obliged you to be on your guard night and day…. How terrible, how distressing was this!… Had any one that was able to protect us come and set up his standard, we should all have flocked to it, even though it had been a monarch." The arsenal at Springfield was attacked. The State forces were met in the open field by armed insurgents. Had they been successful, the Union was not worth one of its own repudiated notes. The Massachusetts authorities were barely able to restore order, and Congress went beyond its constitutional powers in an effort to assist.

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