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The officers of the American army formed themselves into a society, on 13th of May, 1783, and entered into the following compact.—"The officers of the army, do hereby in the most solemn manner, associate, constitute, and combine themselves into a society of friends, to endure as long as they shall endure, or any of their eldest male posterity, and in failure thereof, the collateral branches mho may be judged worthy of becoming its supporters and members." This society, thus formed, was denominated the society of Cincinnati; in honour of that illustrious Roman chief, Cincinnatus, whose virtuous valour saved his country.
CAUSES THAT LED TO THE CHANGE IN THE GOVERNMENT OF , THE UNITED STATES.
The commerce of America had languished so long through an eight years' war, that the country had become so entirely destitute of those supplies of foreign manufacture she had been accustomed to enjoy, and on which she had depended for her supplies, from her first settlement, that the extensive demands for foreign articles opened a great commercial field, both to the American and British merchants. France and Holland both put in their claim, for a share, as a matter of right, as the allies of America in time of war; but these claims were more readily acknowledged, than gratified in America, because the manufactures of Great-Britain were better adapted to the wants of America, than those of France or Holland, and the American merchants being accustomed to the commerce of Great-Britain, returned the more readily into their former channel. This gave umbrage to France, for she had been led to believe, that the commerce of America would be turned to France, from prejudice against Great-Britain, as well as from gratitude and friendship to his ally. The British merchants saw the danger, and crowded their manufactures into the American market, through their own agents, which not only lessened the profits of the American merchant through the channel of regular commerce, but over-stocked the markets, and reduced the prices, all which brought on collisions between the merchants and the government, pressing Congress to enforce such a system of commercial duties, as should not only regulate trade, but increase the national revenue; Congress made the attempt by a national impost, which
failed, and this opened the eyes of the American people to the necessity of a more efficient government.
Congress in the year 1784, passed resolutions, which recommended it to the several states, "to vest the United States, in Congress assembled, for the term of fifteen years, with power to prevent any goods, wares, or merchandise from being imported into, or exported from, any of the states, in vessels belonging to, or navigated by the subjects of any power with whom these United States shall not have formed treaties of commerce." Also prohibiting "the subjects of any foreign state, kingdom, or empire, unless authorised by treaty, from importing into the United States, any goods, wares, or merchandise, which are not the produce or manufacture of the dominions of the sovereign, whose subjects they are."
In February 1785, Congress elected John Adams, Esq. as minister plenipotentiary to the court of Great-Britain, for the express purpose of negociating a commercial treaty. Mr. Adams repaired to the court of London, and used his influence to effect the object of his mission, but failed, upon the ground that Congress possessed no powers to enforce the due observance of any such treaty. The failure of Mr. Adams shewed to America and the world, the contempt Great-Britain both felt and expressed towards the powers of Congress, when applied to commercial regulations, and opened the eyes of the nation to a true sense of their situation, and led them to see the necessity of a more efficient government. No one in America saw and felt the immediate necessity of such a government more than Gen. Washington, aud no one strove more than he did, both by his letters and conversation, to impress this upon his friends, and through them upon the public mind.
At this eventful period Gen. Washington received a long and effectionate letter from the Marquis De La Fayette.
who had then returned to France from a tour through the 'north of Europe ; who, after recapitulating the handsome compliments the old kingof Prussia had, with delight bestowed upon the hero of America,(Washi ngton,)proceeded to say, ,—" I wish I could say, that the other sentiments I have had occasion to discover, with regard to America, were equally satisfactory with those that are personal to yourself. I need not say that the spirit, the firmness with which the revolution was conducted, has excited universal admiration. That every friend to the rights of mankind is an enthusiast for the principles on which those constitutions are built; but I have often had the mortification to hear, that the want of powers in Congress; union in the states, and energy in their government would make the confederation very insignificant. By their conduct, (adds the marquis,) the citizens of America have commanded the respect of the world; but it grieves me to think, they will in a measure loose it unless they strengthen the confederation, give Congress power to regulate trade, pay off their debt, or at least the interest of it, establish a well regulated militia, and in a word, complete all those measures which you have recommended to them.''— To which Gen. Washington made the following reply.—" Unhappily for us, though the reports you mention are greatly exaggerated, our conduct has laid the foundation for them. It is one of the evils of democratic governments, that the people, not always seeing, and often misled, must often feel before they act right: but evils of this nature seldom fail to work their own cure. It is to be lamented nevertheless, that the remedies are so slow, and that those who wish to apply them seasonably, are not attended to, before they suffer in person, in reputation, and in interest. I am not without hopes, that matters will soon take a favourable turn in the Federal Constitution. The discerning part of the community have long since seen the necessity of giving adequate powers ta Vot..HT. 44
Congress, for national purposes, at;d those of a different description must yield to it ere long."
When it was known in America that the mission of Mr. Adams had failed, a spirit of discontent burst forth in Boston, and filled their gazettes with warm resolutions of the citizens of Boston, which resulted in addresses to their legislature, and a petition to Congress, and a circular letter to the merchants' of all the trading towns upon the sea coast, in the United States.
In their petition to Congress, they enumerate pointedly, all the embarrassments of trade, and then add.—"Impressed with these ideas, your petitioners beg leave to request of the very august body they now have the honor to address, that the numerous impositions of the British, on the trade, and-exports of these states, may be forthwith contravened, by similar expedients on our part, else may it please your excellency and honors, the commerce of this country, and of consequence its wealth, and perhaps the anion itself may become victims to the artifice of a nation, whose arras have been in vain exerted to accomplish the American ruin." This memorial was backed by another of similar purport, from the citizens of Philadelphia. The subject was felt throughout the nation, and the alarm became general.
Gen. Washington, whose watchful guardian care had never slumbered, nor ceased for a moment to exercise the same vigilance over the destinies of his beloved country, in time of peace, that he had manifested in time of war; in a letter to a friend,* thus expressed himself.
"The information you have given me concerning the dispositions of a certain court, (England,) coincides precisely with the sentiments I have formed of it from my own observations, on many late occurrences. With respect to ourselves, I wish I could add, that as
* Mr. Fairfax ia England.