Rhode Island and the Formation of the Union

By Frank Greene Bates | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
A PERIOD OF DISCORD

THROUGHOUT the struggle with England the thirteen commonwealths had acted harmoniously. While asserting repeatedly their complete independence of each other and of Britain, they had allowed the assumption by Congress of many attributes of sovereignty, made necessary by the exigencies of war. The inadequacy of the first formal statement of the relations between the states and the United States was perceived even before it was adopted. At the close of 1780, it seemed as if a crisis had arrived. With demands on the states for money availing little, and credit almost gone, Congress found itself helpless. The army was suffering to the point of mutiny, from the lack of pay, provisions, and clothing. Heroic measures were necessary. "If we mean to continue our struggle," said Washington, "we must do it upon an entirely new plan. Ample powers must be lodged in Congress, as the head of the Federal union, adequate to all the purposes of war."1 Again, "There can be no radical cure till Congress is vested by the states with full and ample powers to enact laws for general purposes."2 Only then would ruinous delays cease. As a step toward greater efficiency Congress, on the third of February, 1781, took into consideration a resolution offered by Dr. Witherspoon of New Jersey, that it was absolutely necessary that Congress have power to superintend the commercial regulations of every state, and to lay duties on all

____________________
1
Ford, Writings of Washington, ix, 13.
2
Ibid., ix, 126.

-72-

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