The New Nation: A History of the United States during the Confederation, 1781-1789

By Merrill Jensen | Go to book overview
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3
The Politics of Demobilization

The Nationalists, Congress, and the Army, 1781-3

IN 1781 the nationalist group bid for power within the frame
work of the Articles of Confederation. It is significant that
talk of revolutionary action died down as they gained control of
Congress. "The day is at length arrived," wrote James Duane to
Washington, "when dangers and distresses have opened the eyes
of the people and they perceive the want of a common head to
draw forth in some just proportion the resources of the several
branches of the federal union. They perceive that the deliberate
power exercised by states individually over the acts of Congress
must terminate in the common ruin; and the legislature, however
reluctantly, must resign a portion of their authority to the na
tional representative, or cease to be legislatures."1GeneralSullivan was more precise when he declared that "Congress and as
semblies begin to rouse from their slumber and individuals are
now alarmed for the public safety who have for years past been
employed in amassing wealth."2 And John Mathews, who had
wanted to make Washington dictator in the fall of 1780, now
wanted Congress to be given dictatorial powers by the states.3

Their program was stated clearly by James Duane. "There are," he wrote Washington, "some political regulations . . . I have exceedingly at heart and which are now drawn near to a

____________________
1
29 Jan. 1781, Burnett, V, 551.
2
To Washington, 29 Jan. 1781, ibid., V, 548.
3
To Nathanael Greene, 20 May 1781, ibid., VI, 93-4.

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