Saturday, October 15, 2011

Education Committee Offers First Presentation

The Education Committee presented, at the DCRCC meeting of October 13, a sample of  the content that the committee would like to explore. 

This short essay was written to give the membership a feel for what the colonists faced after the defeat of the British in 1781.  What was their mindset with the release from the strain of war.

After Yorktown

Imagine, if you will, standing on the highlands overlooking the city of Yorktown where the York River bends to the northeast before flowing into the Chesapeake Bay.  There the French fleet stands ready to block the retreat of the English general Cornwallis as well as any attempt to reinforce his beleaguered forces.

The fledgling confederation has waited a long time for the French to come around to support the colonists' efforts to attain independence. With the colonist artillery pounding English positions on both sides of the river and with broadsides from the French fleet, the English situation is untenable.  Along with the acrid smell of burnt powder, the air has the sweet aroma of victory and the promise of freedom and liberty. The date is October 17, 1781.

Two days later, as their band plays the tune, "The World Turned Upside Down," the British army marches out in formation and surrenders. 

It has been over six years since Lexington and Concord and now they can be free and live in unity with their brothers in arms, or so they hope.

But all is not well in post war America.  The high ideals expressed by the patriots have faded with the passing of time.  The individual colonies, established as free states, now face the problems of the associated obligations incurred during the period of the revolution such as debt owed to countries that financially supported them.  The debt is overwhelming with no visible way of repaying it.  And that is just one of the issues  the newly formed country faced.

The United States, a title which did not really describe the condition at the time, was now organized under a loosely organized form of government called the Articles of Confederation.

Under this confederation, each colony exercised total independence, much as a country, but pledged themselves only to mutual defense.

There were no agreements between these country- states regarding commercial trade.  Immediately after the departure of the redcoats, each of them rushed to enact onerous tariffs on trade between themselves and their neighbors.

Even the most dedicated merchants found interstate commerce a nightmare.  Each border crossed demanded some sort of tax or tariff.  Some duties were so steep that is was rumored that Connecticut and New Jersey were considering a joint attack on New York.

Some states having natural access via ports, exercised heavy duties at each of their borders.  Merchants had not only to pay the duties on exit, but also on entry to the next state.

And to make matters worse, each state coined its own money, making free trade between states daunting at best.

Interstate commerce was in a shambles with no solution in sight.

All of this contention was caused by the main premise of the Articles of Confederation - a firm league of friendship with no central authority.  After all, the revolution was fought against the tyranny of a centralized power and the colonists had no wish to encourage yet another.

So, there they were, not long after the surrender of the British with no central organizing document, no central leader, no currency, no regulation of commerce, a crippling debt equal to 2,600,000 British Pounds, and countrymen willing to pledge allegiance only to their state and not to the country.  What could possibly unite these disparate people under these daunting conditions, another rebellion? 

Perhaps! Perhaps!

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