The Critical Period of American History, 1783-1789

By John Fiske | Go to book overview

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION

THIS book contains the substance of the course of lectures given in the Old South Meeting-House in Boston in December, 1884, at the Washington University in St. Louis in May, 1885, and in the theatre of the University Club in New York in March, 1886. In its present shape it may serve as a sketch of the political history of the United States from the end of the Revolutionary War to the adoption of the Federal Constitution. It makes no pretensions to completeness, either as a summary of the events of that period or as a discussion of the political questions involved in them. I have aimed especially at grouping facts in such a way as to bring out and emphasize their causal sequence, and it is accordingly hoped that the book may prove useful to the student of American history.

My title was suggested by the fact of Thomas Paine's stopping the publication of the "Crisis," on hearing the news of the treaty of 1783, with the remark, "The times that tried men's souls are over." Commenting upon this, on page 55 of the present work, I observed that so far from the crisis being over in 1783, the next five years were to be the most critical time of all. I had not then seen Mr. Trescot's "Diplomatic History of the Administrations of Washington and Adams," on page 9 of which he uses almost the same words: "It must not be supposed that the treaty of peace secured the national life. Indeed, it would be more correct to say that the most critical period of the country's history embraced the time between 1783 and the adoption of the Constitution in 1788."

That period was preëminently the turning-point in the

-viii-

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The Critical Period of American History, 1783-1789
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Preface to the First Edition viii
  • Contents xi
  • Notes on the Illustrations. xxi
  • Chapter I Results of Yorktown 1
  • Chapter II - The Thirteen Commonwealths 50
  • Chapter III - The League of Friendship 92
  • Chapter IV - Drifting Toward Anarchy 139
  • Chapter V - Germs of National Sovereignty 203
  • Chapter VI - The Federal Convention 249
  • Chapter VII - Crowning the Work 327
  • Bibliographical Note 377
  • Members of the Federal Convention 383
  • Presidents of the Continental Congress 386
  • Index 387
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