THE NEW NATION by Merrill Jensen


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Professor Jensen (University of Wisconsin) has in this History of the United States during the Confederation (1781-89) reassessed the value of primary sources, and refocussed historical perspective on a period that contributed vitally to the ultimate form of the government of the United States. He examines herein the nature of the political and economic problems of this post-Revolutionary War period. He gives us the patriots-and the scoundrels- on both sides of the issue, of national or federal government. He presents the period through the eyes of the people who lived it. Against a complex background,- postwar depression, trade difficulties, wealthy creditors, debtor farmers, an unpaid dispersed army, on the one side- and exuberant optimism and abounding faith in the new nation on the other, -- the testing period of the Articles of Confederation drew to a close, the Convention met to amend them- and stayed to write a new Constitution. During these years, the new nation faced the abrupt withdrawal of the British government with all that involved. Changes came fast in law, in religion's relation to state, in attitude to the slave trade, in education, humanitarian activities. But the toughest problem lay in the matter of trade and finance- and the author's analysis of American economy and the slow unravelling of the difficulties is perhaps the most important aspect of the book. The issues of state and nation loomed large in questions of taxing and tariffs and issues of currency. But bit by bit there emerged groups transcending state barriers. In a final chapter he charts the achievements of the Confederation, and the steps taken to a stronger national government. For the historian and the student- there is fascinating material here. But the market will be largely limited to this audience.

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 1950
Publisher: Knopf