The struggle with England had done much to change colonial atti- tudes . Local assemblies had rejected the Albany Plan of Union in 1754, re- fusing to surrender even the smallest part of their autonomy to any other body, even one they themselves had elected . But in the course of the Rev- olution, mutual aid had proved ef- fective, and the fear of relinquishing individual authority had lessened to a large degree .

John Dickinson produced the “Articles of Confederation and Per- petual Union” in 1776 . The Conti- nental Congress adopted them in November 1777, and they went into effect in 1781, having been ratified by all the states . Reflecting the fragil- ity of a nascent sense of nationhood, the Articles provided only for a very loose union . The national govern- ment lacked the authority to set up tariffs, to regulate commerce, and to levy taxes . It possessed scant control of international relations: A number of states had begun their own nego- tiations with foreign countries . Nine states had their own armies, several their own navies . In the absence of a sound common currency, the new nation conducted its commerce with a curious hodgepodge of coins and a bewildering variety of state and na- tional paper bills, all fast depreciat- ing in value .


Economic difficulties after the war prompted calls for change . The end of the war had a severe effect on merchants who supplied the armies of both sides and who had lost the advantages deriving from participa- tion in the British mercantile system . The states gave preference to Ameri- can goods in their tariff policies, but these were inconsistent, leading to the demand for a stronger central government to implement a uniform policy .

Farmers probably suffered the most from economic difficulties following the Revolution . The supply of farm produce exceeded demand; unrest centered chiefly among farmer-debtors who wanted strong remedies to avoid foreclosure on their property and imprison- ment for debt . Courts were clogged with suits for payment filed by their creditors . All through the summer of 1786, popular conventions and informal gatherings in several states demanded reform in the state administrations .

That autumn, mobs of farmers in Massachusetts under the leadership of a former army captain, Daniel Shays, began forcibly to prevent the county courts from sitting and passing further judgments for debt, pending the next state election . In January 1787 a ragtag army of 1,200 farmers moved toward the federal arsenal at Springfield . The rebels, armed chiefly with staves and pitchforks, were repulsed by a small state militia force; General Benjamin Lincoln then arrived with

reinforcements from Boston and routed the remaining Shaysites, whose leader escaped to Vermont . The government captured 14 rebels and sentenced them to death, but ul- timately pardoned some and let the others off with short prison terms . After the defeat of the rebellion, a newly elected legislature, whose majority sympathized with the reb- els, met some of their demands for debt relief .

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