U.S. Department of State: A Reference History

By Elmer Plischke | Go to book overview

American Government and diplomatic establishment, benefited from their experience during the Confederation years.

Critics emphasize the diplomatic problems and failures of the period, such as the overexpectations of Congress, its inability to conclude more consular conventions and treaties of amity and commerce, and the difficulty of getting the thirteen States to implement Confederation policy and commitments. However, when these are balanced by concrete achievements during the short span of only fifteen years -- involving the transition from dependent colonies to weak, sparsely populated, independent States and then to an experimental federal republic -- the progress made may be regarded as remarkable in laying the foundation for the control of external affairs and diplomacy when the Constitution went into effect in 1789 and the Federal Government was established.


NOTES
1.
There were more than fifteen such conclaves between 1643 and the first session of the Continental Congress in 1774, at least seven of which involved Indian delegates. For a list and brief description of some ten international congresses and conventions attended by American colonies, see Richard Frothingham, The Rise of the Republic of the United States ( Boston: Little, Brown, 1873), pp. 118-20, n. 1.
2.
This category of "patriot agents" was represented particularly by Arthur Lee, William Samuel Johnson, William Bollan, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Marchant, who were active during the decade prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. For additional comment on these agents, see Michael G. Kammen, A Rope of Sand: The Colonial Agents . . . , pp. 164-69. Among others, these agents of British nationality included such notables as Sir William Berkeley, William Bollan, Edmund Burke, Sir William Johnson, Roger Williams, Edward Winslow, John Winthrop, and William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. George Croghan and Sir William Johnson were born in Ireland, and Roger Williams in Wales.
3.
For a comprehensive study of American colonial agents, see Kammen, A Rope of Sand: The Colonial Agents . . . Chapter 1 deals with "Decades of Development: The Agencies, 1624-1755," and Chapter 2 constitutes "A Profile of the Agency, 1756- 1775." Kammen also discusses such matters as private agents, the political influence and collective cooperation among agents, their relations with their constituents and British administrators, their intercommunication with one another, colonial disillusionment with the agents, the petitioning process, and similar practices. A list of thirty-eight agents with their years of service is provided on pp. 20-21, and details of their service is summarized in his "Dramatis Personae, 1755-1775," pp. 323-26.
4.
The term "treaty" -- though normally denoting a written understanding negotiated by commissioned representatives of national governments that is formally signed and ratified -- was used loosely in the literature on the colonies to encompass not only written treaties but also other agreements and even contracts and similar commitments, especially in intercolonial affairs and relations with Indian tribes. In the early period they were negotiated and officially accepted and approved, though not formally ratified. Some were personal, involving English proprietors and concluded with Indian chiefs or their representatives.

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