Ratification of the Articles of Confederation



At the middle of January, a part of the New Jersey line followed the example of the Pennsylvanians. Washington, perceiving the danger of allowing troops to obtain even their just rights by mutinous ways, promptly put down this second revolt by force of arms, and hanged two of the ring-leaders. These measures of justice and harshness had a salutary effect. The Congress and the people saw the necessity for more efficient measures for the support of the army, and the former sent young Colonel John Laurens abroad to negotiate loans from France. Laurens bore a letter from Washington to Vergennes, setting for the absolute need of aid at that time, and another from the chief to Franklin, written in a similar strain. Lafayette also sent by the same hand an urgent memorial to Vergennes. When the special ambassador one day stood before that minister, and in eloquent words in the French language pressed his errand, Vergennes said coldly, that the king had "every reason to favor the United States." These words and the manner of the minister kindled the indignation of the young diplomatist, and he replied, with emphasis: "Favor, Sir! The respect which I owe to my country will not admit the term. Say that the obligation was mutual, and I will acknowledge the obligation. But, as the last argument, I shall offer to your excellency this: The sword which I now wear in defense of France as well as of my own country, unless the succor I solicit is immediately accorded, I may be compelled, within a short time, to draw against France, as a British subject." This assertion had the intended effect. Nothing was more dreaded by France at that moment than a reconciliation between Great Britain and her colonies, and a cessation of the war for independence. A subsidy of one million two hundred thousand dollars, and a further sum as a loan, were granted. At the same time the necessity for a closer union was generally felt by the Americans, and the imperfect plan for a national government known as the Articles of Confederation, already described, was ratified by the requisite number of States, on the 1st of March, 1781. In May following an amendment was offered by Mr. Madison, for establishing a stronger central government. The same month Pelatiah Webster published a pamphlet in which he recommended a convention to revise the Articles.

The ratification of the defective constitution was also followed in May (1781) by the submission of a financial plan by Robert Morris for raising money for the support of the army, which seemed ready to be disbanded by their own act. It was perceived that the Congress had no power to enforce taxation. Morris proposed the establishment of a bank at Philadelphia with a capital of four hundred thousand dollars, the promissory notes of which should be a legal-tender currency to be received in payment of all taxes, duties and debts, due the United States. The plan was approved by the Congress, and that financial agent of the government was chartered with the title of The President and Directors of the Bank of North America. With the able guidance of Mr. Morris, who was the Secretary of the Treasury, that corporation furnished adequate means for saving the Continental army from disbanding. He collected the taxes, and he used his private fortune freely for the public welfare.





Return to Our Country, Vol II