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When the charters were granted by
England, the western boundaries of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland were defined, and
consequently they could not ask for an extension of them. New York
insisted that she had no western boundary. The remaining six States had
their western boundaries named as the Pacific Ocean, which was at a
distance that no one dreamed of at the time. They asserted that the
transfer of Louisiana to Spain fixed the Mississippi River as the limit
in that direction.

Among these claims none was so remarkable as that of Virginia. The most
that her sister States asked was that their northern and southern
boundaries should run parallel to the westward, but Virginia insisted
that her northern boundary extended northwest, which, if allowed, would
have given her all of the present States of Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana,
Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Her claim was crossed by those of
Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The States whose western boundaries had been settled were indignant over
the injustice of the claims of the others, for, since the whole thirteen
assisted in wresting the territory from Great Britain, they asserted
that all should share it. Some of the States sold lands in the west,
whose ownership was disputed by other States, and Maryland, as
intimated, refused her assent to the Articles of Confederation until
assured that these western claims would be abandoned.


HOW THE DISPUTE WAS SETTLED.

It was evident that the only way out of the confusion was by the
surrender of these claims, and New York set the example in 1780. In
response to the earnest request of Congress, Virginia did the same in
1784, Massachusetts in 1785, Connecticut in 1786, South Carolina in
1787, North Carolina in 1790, and Georgia in 1802. The result was that
the western boundaries of the States named were fixed as they are
to-day, and the United States came into the possession of a large
territory. Connecticut held fast to a large strip of land in
northeastern Ohio, which is still known as the Western Reserve. The same
State, which had settled Wyoming in Pennsylvania, claimed it for a time,
but finally gave it up.

It took but a short time to demonstrate the utter worthlessness of the
Articles of Confederation. Congress, the central governing power, had no
authority to lay taxes, punish crimes, or regulate foreign or domestic
commerce. Its whole function was to give advice to the respective
States, which, as might be supposed, paid little or no heed to it.
Furthermore, the stronger States made laws inimical to the smaller ones,
and Congress was powerless to remedy it. Naturally Great Britain
oppressed American commerce, and there was no way of checking it.

The prosperity which most of the people expected to follow peace did not
appear. The Continental currency was not worth the paper it was printed
on. Even at this late day, when a man uses the expression that an
article is "not worth a Continental," it is understood to mean that it
has no value at all.


WASHINGTON'S PATRIOTISM.

The condition of no one was more pitiful than that of the heroes who had
fought through the Revolution and won our independence. They went to
their poverty-smitten homes in rags. While Washington was at his
headquarters at Newburgh, in 1783, an anonymous paper was distributed
among the troops calling upon them to overthrow the civil governments
and obtain their rights by force. They even dared to ask Washington to
become their king, but that great man spurned the offer in a manner that
prevented it ever being repeated. But his sympathy was aroused, and he
finally secured five years' full pay for the officers, and thus averted
the danger.

At that time the Northern and Middle States contained about a million
and a half of people and the Southern a million. Virginia had 400,000
inhabitants, and was the most populous, with Pennsylvania and
Massachusetts next, each having 350,000. The present Empire State of New
York was one of the weak States, the city containing about 14,000,
Boston 20,000, and Philadelphia 40,000. It was estimated that the debt
of the respective States was $20,000,000 and of the country $42,000,000.


SHAYS' INSURRECTION.

Rioting and disorder are always sure to follow so deplorable a condition
of affairs. Daniel Shays, formerly a captain in the Continental army,
headed a mob of 2,000 men in Massachusetts, who demanded the stoppage of
the collection of taxes and the issuance of a large amount of paper
money for general use. When they had dispersed the Supreme Court,
sitting at Springfield, General Lincoln was sent with 4,000 troops to
put down the rebellion. Lincoln placed the judges in their seats, and
then, when the rioters were about to attack him, he gave them a volley.
The rioters scattered and the rebellion ended. Fourteen of the
ringleaders were afterward sentenced to death, but were reprieved and
finally pardoned.


THE MEETING AT ANNAPOLIS.

Shays' rebellion was one of the best things that could have happened,
for it showed the country more clearly than before that it was on the
verge of anarchy, and that the remedy must not be delayed. Long before
this, Washington comprehended the serious peril of the country, and he
was in continual consultation with men whose worth and counsel he
valued. The result was that a meeting of commissioners from Maryland,
Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York met at Annapolis in
September, 1786. They held an earnest discussion, but as only a minority
of the States were represented, nothing positive could be done, and an
adjournment was had with a recommendation that each State should send
delegates to meet in Philadelphia in May, 1787. The prestige of
Washington's name gave so much weight to the recommendation that at the
appointed date all the States were represented except Rhode Island.

The wisdom of Washington was again manifest in a letter which he wrote
some months before the meeting of the Constitutional Convention, and
which contained the following:

"We have errors to correct. We have probably had too good an opinion of
human nature in forming our confederation. Experience has taught us that
without the intervention of a coercive power, men will not adopt and
carry into execution measures best calculated for their own good. I do
not conceive we can exist long as a nation without having lodged
somewhere a power that will pervade the whole Union in as energetic a
manner as the authority of the State governments extend over the several
States.... I am told that even respectable characters speak of a
monarchical form of government without horror. From thinking proceeds
speaking; thence acting is but a single step. But how irrevocable and
tremendous! What a triumph for our enemies to verify their predictions!
What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are
incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis
of equal liberty are merely ideal and fallacious!"

When the news reached Washington of the disorders in New England, he was
greatly troubled. "What stronger evidence can be given," he asked, "of
the want of energy in our government than these disorders? If there is
not a power in it to check them, what security has a man for his life,
liberty, or property? The consequences of a bad or inefficient
government are too obvious to be dwelt upon. Thirteen sovereigns pulling
against one another, and all tugging at the federal head, will soon
bring ruin on the whole; whereas, a liberal and energetic constitution,
well checked and well watched to prevent encroachments, might restore
us to that degree of respectability and consequence to which we had the
fairest prospect of attaining."


THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1787.

Washington was placed at the head of the delegation from Virginia.
Although he hoped that he would be permitted to spend the rest of his
days in the domestic quiet of Mount Vernon, his patriotism would not
permit him to decline, even though he saw the certainty that the action
would bring him forward once more into public affairs. Only a part of
the delegates met in Philadelphia, May 14, 1787, and an adjournment was
had from day to day until the 25th, when, a majority being present, the
convention organized and unanimously chose Washington as chairman. For
four months it sat with closed doors, meeting in the same room in
Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and
where the chair is still preserved in which Washington sat.

[Illustration: SENATE CHAMBER.]

What an assemblage of great and noble men, all of whose names have
become historical! With the peerless Washington at the head, there were
James Madison, afterward President of the United States; Benjamin
Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin West, Edmund Randolph, Robert
Morris, Gouverneur Morris, Sherman, Clymer, Read, and Dickinson. It may
well be imagined that among those men the discussions, which were
continued several hours daily, were of the most interesting nature.
Inevitably there was a diversity of views, and the arguments at times
grew warm, but with such an aggregation of statesmanship and wisdom, the
best results were certain. Steadily the wonderful Constitution was
moulded into shape, and on the 17th of September was signed by all the
delegates except Randolph and Mason, of Virginia, and Gerry, of
Massachusetts. It was then submitted to Congress, which forwarded it to
the respective States for acceptance or rejection--the assent of nine
being necessary to make it operative.

So important a document was sure to elicit earnest discussion and many
able men opposed its adoption. At that early day appeared the germs of
the present political parties. The problem was as to the right division
of power between the national or central government and the respective
States. Those who favored the widest latitude to the States were called
Republicans, while their opponents were given the name of Federalists.
The views of the latter predominated in the main, though the
Constitution was really a compromise between its supporters and
opponents.

The beneficent features of the instrument were so manifest that its
adoption soon followed.



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