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

By Merrill Jensen | Go to book overview

PART FOUR
The Struggle for Power in the States

THE DISLOCATIONS and shifts in emphasis in American econ
omy after the winning of independence meant inevitably a
struggle for the control of state governments, for they alone, under
the Articles of Confederation, had the power to pass laws affecting
the individual citizens of the United States. American merchants,
farmers, and artisan manufacturers all had needs, both fancied
and real, and they appealed to the state governments to satisfy
them. The merchants wanted legislation favoring their ships as
opposed to foreign ships. As creditors of individuals, they de
manded stringent debt collection by the state courts. As creditors
of governments, they demanded payment of interest and capital.
The interests of the artisans were opposed to those of the ship
owners who imported foreign manufactures. The artisans wanted
protective tariffs to keep those goods out of the country. The
farmers, however much they might differ in the amount they pro
duced and the saleability of their crops, had common problems
all the way from New Hampshire to Georgia. They needed some
form of money with which to pay private debts and public taxes.
As they moved away from the coast their need for better roads and
bridges grew ever more urgent. The problem of land titles faced
all of them, for more often than not the speculator arrived in ad
vance of the actual settler. On the cutting edge of the frontier the
problem of defence against the Indians was a reality that only the
people along the coast could view with objectivity.

None of these problems was new, for all of them had existed long before the Revolution. The new fact was that for the first time in over a century and a half the local governments could do as they pleased without the restraining hand of external and

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