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History Corner







American Continental Congress: 1774-1787


Robert G. Ferris and James H. Charleton, The Signers of the Constitution (Arlington: Interpretive Publications, Inc.; 1986),

pp. 15-17. [American spellings retained.]



‘Crippled by its military and diplomatic shortcomings, the Continental Congress was unable to stop Indian raids along the frontier.

The Spaniards held sway over the natives in the old Southwest, machinated along the border, and threatened to close the Mississippi River to American trade.
The British intrigued in the old Northwest and dominated the Indians there.

All these conditions irritated western settlers, landowners, and speculators and threatened to lead them into alliances with foreign powers that would offer protection and create a climate hospitable to settlement. In response to these provocations, Congress could do little to reassure westerners, whose secession seemed possible.


As Washington wrote, the West was “on a pivot” ready at the “touch of a feather” to turn to the nation that offered the most secure future.


‘Complicating the problems of the Confederation while at the same time revealing its impotence was the deplorable state of the economy. It was rocked not only by a postwar depression but also by rampant inflation, heavy British imports, and the loss of markets in Britain and the British West Indies.


A logical move to counter the unfavorable balance of trade would have been imposition of a tariff to restrict imports or force Britain to make concessions in the West Indies, but the Confederation lacked authority to enact or apply such a measure. British merchants easily circumvented trade barriers erected by individual States by shipping their goods in through others.

Another diverse factor was the great popularity of British products among consumers.’