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

By Merrill Jensen | Go to book overview

17
The States and Their Neighbors

THE STORY of major emotional and economic crises in the states, such as the return of the Loyalists and the campaign for paper money, does not end the account of political strife. Personalities in politics continued to play an enormous role. John Hancock, George Clinton, and Patrick Henry wielded much power in their states, partly as a result of their personal qualities. In the annual elections of every state there were controversies that can be described in many ways: struggles between ins and outs, democratic and anti-democratic forces, farmers and merchants, debtors and creditors, easterners and westerners, speculators and taxpayers, townspeople and countrymen, religious and irreligious. Lines formed and re-formed with changing issues and the passage of time. Certain issues, however, had a broader significance, as we have seen in the accounts of economic policies to be adopted by state governments. Of equal importance were the problems arising from the rapid expansion of the states and from the relations of the states with one another.

The rapid expansion outward to the frontiers had long been a source of conflict in colonial society. During the Confederation that conflict took two forms. Men in older settled areas of the frontier demanded that state capitals be moved away from the coast, while continued expansion resulted in a demand for the creation of new states within the boundaries of old ones.

The back-country citizens in virtually all the states east of the Alleghenies had long wanted the seats of government located nearer themselves, and this demand increased as the center of population shifted westward from the seacoast. It was a long and

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