Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XXII
Inflation and Its Consequences

AMERICANS distrusted all government but, above all, they feared centralized government. They established weak and inefficient state governments, yet they could with difficulty bring themselves to tolerate any national government whatever. It was from necessity rather than from choice that they consented to a central government; for the most part, their affections remained with their states.

The union under which Americans fought the Revolutionary War was created largely by British "tyranny." Before the British government undertook, with fatal results, to remodel the empire, the colonies were, in Thomas Paine's words, "a mere chaos of uncemented colonies." As recently as 1754 they had rejected a plan of union drawn up by Benjamin Franklin, designed to pool their strength and resources against the French and Indians. There was little thought, in the colonies, of forming an enduring union until they were brought together in 1765 under the slogan "No taxation without representation."

Americans' experience as British colonists had instilled in them a deep prejudice toward centralized government, and their attainment of independence did not weaken this antipathy. They exalted local liberty: the necessity of an efficient central government had to be learned through experience. The memory of their struggle with the British King and Parliament remained fresh in their minds. "Confidence should not wantonly be placed any where," it was said. ". . . It is but the other day, that we thought our liberties secure in the care of Britain." And so they snuffed the breeze from Philadelphia as suspiciously as they had tested the wind from Great Britain, resolved to swing into action at the first whiff of tyranny.

The problem of reconciling local liberty with centralized government

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