10 Significant Events Following the American Patriots' Victory at Yorktown
10 Significant Events Following the American Patriots’ Victory at Yorktown

10 Significant Events Following the American Patriots’ Victory at Yorktown

Khalid Elhassan - July 25, 2018

10 Significant Events Following the American Patriots’ Victory at Yorktown
‘Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States’, by Howard Chandler Christy, 1939. Pintrest

The United States Were Solidified by a New Constitution

After the Treaty of Paris recognized the independence of the United States, the national government continued to operate under the wartime Articles of Confederation agreed to by the thirteen colonies at the start of the revolution. The Articles had served to help the Patriots muddle through the war, when they were united by their dislike of Britain and the desire for independence. However, they proved inadequate for a stable and viable national government after war’s end.

A major factor behind the new United States’ instability was the national debt. The national government was practically broke, and under the Articles of Confederation, it had no independent means of raising enough money to make itself solvent. It could neither pay the massive war debts owed to European nations or private banks, nor pay the millions in promissory notes given to Americans for supplies and services during the war. That made the United States too fragile to handle an international war, or even internal disturbances such as Shays’ Rebellion.

Concerned nationalists such as George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, calling themselves “Federalists”, lobbied Congress and convinced it to call the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. There, from May 25th to September 17th of 1787, delegates from the various states met in the old Pennsylvania State House, later renamed Independence Hall because it had also been where Independence was declared in 1776. The conferees ostensibly sought to fix what ailed the government of the Articles of Confederation. In reality, however, prominent delegates such as Alexander Hamilton and James Madison were determined from the outset to come up with an entirely new system of government, rather than fix the existing one.

George Washington was elected president of the Convention, and in the ensuing months, the delegates hammered out today’s US Constitution, minus its subsequent amendments. They created a compromise document that left none of the delegates entirely happy, but left most of them satisfied that it was the best that could be done in their generation, given the competing interests and constraints within which they operated.

Contentious issues that could not be resolved at the time, such as slavery, were kicked like a can down the road for future generations to deal with. In the meantime, a basic governmental framework was established, featuring an independent judiciary, a powerful executive, and a bicameral legislature collectively more powerful than both. A web of checks and balances was built into the system to keep any single branch from growing too mighty and eclipsing the others.

From the outset, a prerequisite for the new system’s survival was an involved and intelligent citizenry keeping itself well informed of its government’s activities, and keeping a close eye on its elected officials’ actions. At the close of the Convention, Benjamin Franklin was queried by a lady as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberations: “Well, doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” He replied: “A republic, if you can keep it“.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources & Further Reading

Alpha History – Loyalists

Carolana – The American Revolution in South Carolina: The Evacuation of Charleston

Encyclopedia Britannica – Shays’s Rebellion

History of Parliament Online – Lord North

Library of Congress – Primary Documents in American History: Treaty of Paris

New York Times, June 4th, 2006 – Sunday Book Review: Give Us Liberty

New York Times, November 25th, 2008 – Celebrating 225 Years Since the British Left Town

NPR, July 3rd, 2015 – What Happened to British Loyalists After the Revolutionary War?

Ranker – What Happened Directly After the American Revolution Ended

Schama, Simon – Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution (2006)

United States House of Representatives, History, Art, & Archives – Historical Highlights: General George Washington Resigned His Commission in Annapolis, Maryland

U.S. History Org – Shays’ Rebellion

Wikipedia – Georgia in the American Revolution

Wikipedia – South Carolina in the American Revolution

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