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An important event happened in July of this year. A second French fleet, under the Count de Rochambeau, arrived at Newport, R. I., bringing 6,000 trained soldiers. In September, Washington went to Hartford to devise a plan of operations with the French Commander. It was at this period that the treason of Benedict Arnold was discovered. He had agreed to deliver the fortress of West Point to the British General at New York.
At the close of this year England declared war against Holland, which was negotiating a Treaty of Alliance with the United States.
The chief military operations of 1781 were still at the South. Various conflicts occurred in both the Carolinas, in which the Americans had the advantage.
The grand event of this campaign, however, was the siege of Yorktown. The American army of the North under Washington, and the French army under Count de Rochambeau, had agreed on a junction ostensibly to attack the British in New York, but instead, the Allies, about 12,000 strong, made their way to Virginia, and besieged Lord Cornwallis in Yorktown. The attack began September 28th, and on October 19th, Cornwallis capitulated with all his force, some 7,000
This was the crowning victory, for its effect in England forced Lord North, the tool of the King, to retire from the Government; and the new Cabinet, of which Fox was the leading Minister, ordered hostilities against the United States to cease, April, 1782. Congress then appointed Commissioners to negotiate for peace, and in November, 1782, a Preliminary Treaty was signed in Paris, and in September, 1783, a Definitive Treaty fol
lowed in which Great Britain acknowledged the United States to be Free, Sovereign, and Independent.
In November, 1783, New York, the last stronghold of the British, was evacuated.
The younger Pitt spoke of this war as a detested and impious quarrel, conceived in injustice, and nurtured in folly, and whose footsteps were marked with slaughter and devastation."
In the six years of active warfare, from the conflict at Lexington to the surrender at Yorktown, Great Britain sent to America 112,000 soldiers and some 22,000 seamen. The troops raised by the United States during the same period consisted of 230,000 continental soldiers, and 56,000 militia.*
In November, 1783, Washington issued a Farewell Address to the army of the United States, and in December resigned his Commission.
* These figures are copied from an able and comprehensive article on the United States in the "New American Encyclopedia," Vol. XV.
FAILURE OF THE CONFEDERATION.
THE state of things which followed the peace by no means responded to the expectations of the leaders of the Revolution, or the hopes of the people. The States were overwhelmed with debts contracted in the Old World and the New. The taxes which were to meet these liabilities had not been levied by the States. The only circulating medium was a depreciated papercurrency. Gold and silver were scarcely known. Some of the States passed laws which conflicted with those of other States; some levied Duties detrimental to their neighbours; and adjacent ports in different States competed with each other by lowering the rate of imposts. The various States yielded more and more to animosities, mistrust, and selfish views. Congress under the "Articles of Confederation" was powerless, as it had no right to legislate for the whole country, to reconcile discordant interests, or mitigate the dissensions of the jealous States.
A continuance of these evils involved civil war and ultimate anarchy. In Massachusetts an Insurrection known as "Shay's Rebellion" broke out against the State Government. When this news reached Washington, he exclaimed :—“What, gracious God, is man, that there should be such inconsistency and perfidiousness in his conduct! It was but the other day that we were shedding our blood to obtain the Constitutions under which
we live; Constitutions of our own choice and making; and now we are unsheathing the sword to overturn them." Deep discontent was universal. Manufactures drooped; agriculture declined; trade decayed. Europe the reputation of the United States was rapidly sinking. It was doubted if the United States as a Nation would ever exist at all. "I think often of our situation," wrote Washington, "and view it with alarm. From the high ground we stood upon, from the plain path which invited our footsteps, to be so fallen, so lost, is really mortifying. I feel infinitely more than I can express the disorders which have arisen in these States. Good God, who besides a Tory could have foreseen, or a Briton have predicted them?"
It was plain to all that unless some strong and better organization than the "Articles of Confederation could be found; unless some Central Power, some General Government could be devised that would superintend the interests of all the States, and legislate for their mutual benefit; then, all hope of these clashing States being moulded into a great and prosperous Nation must be abandoned. "We have probably had," declared Washington, "too good an opinion of human nature in forming our Confederation. Experience has taught us that men will not adopt, and carry into execution, measures the best calculated for their own good, without the intervention of a coercive power. I do not conceive we can long exist as a Nation without having lodged somewhere a power which will pervade the whole Union in as energetic a manner as the authority of the State Governments extends over the several States."
Amid all his anxiety and alarm Washington seemed
never to despair. "I do not believe," he wrote to Lafayette in 1788, "that Providence has done so much for nothing. It has always been my creed that we should not be left as a monument to prove that mankind, under the most favorable circumstances for civil liberty and happiness, are unequal to the task of governing themselves, and therefore made for a master." Again he wrote:-"No country upon earth ever had it more in its power than United America to establish good order and government, and to render the nation happy at home, and respectable abroad. Wondrously strange and sad would it be were we to neglect the means, and depart from the road which Providence has pointed out to us so plainly. I cannot believe it will ever come to pass. The Great Governor of the Universe has led us too long and too far on the road of happiness and glory to forsake us in the midst of it.”
Finally, the exhortations of Washington, the influence of the leading public men, love of country, dread of the pity or the derision of Europe, the necessity of order, the salvation of their interests-all contributed to induce and compel the people of the States to abandon their abortive Confederation, and establish a new bond of union in the shape of a Federal Government with the necessary vitality to remedy past evils and provide against future dangers.
It was under this pressure that a Convention of Delegates from all the States met in Philadelphia, May, 1787, and began their constitutional alchemy. Their task was indeed a solemn one. If the new political structure were no better than the last, then the Thirteen Independent States would surely live to regret the loss of the Mother-Government.