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The Articles of Confederation and the United States of America

Last year, when the Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft the Declaration of Independence, another committee was assigned to the Articles of Confederation. The Articles are a set of rules under which the former colonies of the British Empire will join in mutual defense against Great Britain for the purposes of securing independence from the British monarchy and to make sure that no other monarchy is installed in its place. The name of this new government entity shall be the United States of America. It may seem ridiculous that the Continental Congress would wait until this year to send out the approved draft for ratification by the states. After all, the "shot heard around the world" at Concord was two years prior, but every endeavor has its process. The Articles will not be ratified until 1781 but they are the defacto rules for the government right now. It defines a very weak government so it will be replaced by the United States Constitution in 1788. [1]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
It's a good thing that the Articles went out for ratification fairly quickly since the British came through Philadelphia and chased Congress out that year. George Washington sent Lt. Colonel Alexander Hamilton to destroy the flour mills in order to deny them to the enemy. Hamilton was nearly killed and sent word to John Hancock to evacuate Philadelphia, but beyond those efforts, Washington was forced by his Fabian strategy to let the British have Philadelphia. He had more valuable things to do with his time than saving politicians who couldn't agree on how to pay his troops or feed them. The Articles of Confederation lacked the authority necessary to DEMAND payment from the states... only beg. That is why a lot of states didn't pay. (There were always good excuses.) I've come to realize that there is no constitution that one could devise that could keep the balance between the power to tax and the power to be left alone. It takes constant vigilance to maintain the balance. A single document cannot do it without the people supporting it and watching with an eagle-eye. [2] [3]

Washington Switches to a Fabien Strategy

His Excellency George Washington (that is what they call him) wants a straight up fight just like it says in the Book, but he has been losing more than winning going by the Book. Crossing the Delaware on Christmas evening 1776, to surprise the German mercenaries was a major morale-boaster, but even after the Battle of Princeton (a big win for Washington) it is clear that the Continental Army cannot hurt the British enough to force them to agree to the United States (plural) independence. George Washington has three major virtues: 1. He is fearless in battle. (No BS. No hero-worship. Just fact.) 2. He knows his failings and works to control them. (This is probably why he speaks only when he has something to say.) And 3. He listens. He doesn't always like what he hears, but he faces facts. The fact is that Congress wants glorious victories, but General Washington wants to win the war. He will engage in battle only when he has an opportunity for a decisive victory, and a way to escape if he doesn't. He is going to lead the British troops on a merry chase. Split them up. Waste their resources. This is called a Fabian strategy, a slow wearing down of an opponent, and denying him a victory. Circumstances make this the only option. A lot of his troops have smallpox, so he requires that the military get inoculated. That means downtime for his troops. Disease is still the number one killer of the military in the field due to unsanitary conditions and exposure to the elements. That fact won't change until World War 2. [4] [5]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The British were reluctant to address George Washington as "Your Excellency" because it would acknowledge Washington as a legitimate head of state. Of course, Washington's officers insisted on using the title "Your Excellency" to tweak the British but also to build an American aristocracy out of the officer corp. Obviously, it didn't work out. Regarding the troops, if Washington had a standing army to train and command, he might have tried more aggressive tactics which would have been disastrous. Luckily the whole American Revolution was initially about the British taxation of the colonies to pay for a standing army, so Washington was denied such requests because it would have started a riot. 1777 was also the year that Lafayette arrived in America over the objection of the French government. He had to pay his own way from France since the money of the Continental Congress was "not worth a Continental." The Continental dollars were not backed by anything.... not even the promise of future tax revenues. The old Continental Airline's frequent flyer miles had more substantial backing. [6] [7] [8] [9]

Turn, Turn, Turn... Spies in Review

  • There is a spy in the midst of Washington's camp. He is probably an officer.
  • People speculate that the wife of British General Gage is a spy for the Revolution. Probably not.
  • Nathan Hale was hung as a spy last year. "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." [10]
  • Benedict Arnold is not yet a spy but he is passed over for promotion and he resents it... a lot. So it begins.
  • Next year, Washington will form the Culper Ring. Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge will lead it. This year he meets a woman spy in a tavern. The British are on to them and they barely escape with their lives as he lifts her onto his horse and gallops away with her. She has nerves of steel.
During the whole ride, although there was considerable firing of pistols, and not a little wheeling and charging, she remained unmoved, and never once complained for fear after she mounted my horse. [11]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1777, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Articles of Confederation - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 2 May 2016. “Under the Articles of Confederation, the central government's power was kept quite limited. The Confederation Congress could make decisions, but lacked enforcement powers. Implementation of most decisions, including modifications to the Articles, required unanimous approval of all thirteen state legislatures.”
  2. Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance That Forged America. Sourcebooks, Inc.. “While the army was licking its wounds, Washington entrusted Hamilton with two vitally important missions. First, he ordered Hamilton and "Light-Horse Harry" Lee to take a contingent of men to burn flour mills along the Schuylkill River to deny them to the enemy. Hamilton barely escaped with his life when advance elements of the British army fired on him as he crossed the swelled river in a flatboat after completing his task.” 
  3. Alex Shrugged notes: People want to vote on something and then forget it, leaving it in the hands of trusted watchers. But who will watch the watchers?
  4. Fabian strategy - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 2 May 2016. “The Fabian strategy is a military strategy where pitched battles and frontal assaults are avoided in favor of wearing down an opponent through a war of attrition and indirection. While avoiding decisive battles, the side employing this strategy harasses its enemy through skirmishes to cause attrition, disrupt supply and affect morale. Employment of this strategy implies that the side adopting this strategy believes time is on its side, but it may also be adopted when no feasible alternative strategy can be devised.”
  5. Middlekauff, Robert. Washington's Revolution: The Making of America's First Leader. Knopf. ISBN 9781101874233. “His order in these winter months of 1777 to the commanders charged with bringing their soldiers into the larger camp always included the requirement that they make certain that all of their men be inoculated, and to bypass Philadelphia if they had not.” 
  6. Excellency - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 2 May 2016.
  7. Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 2 May 2016. “Lafayette learned that the Continental Congress did not have the money for his voyage; hence, he acquired the sailing ship La Victoire with his own funds.[22] He journeyed to Bordeaux, where La Victoire was being prepared for her trip, and sent word asking for information on his family's reaction. The response, including letters from his wife and other relatives, threw Lafayette into emotional turmoil. Soon after departure, he ordered the ship turned around and returned to Bordeaux, to the frustration of the officers traveling with him. The army commander there ordered Lafayette to report to his father-in-law's regiment in Marseilles. De Broglie, who hoped to become a military and political leader in America, met with Lafayette in Bordeaux and convinced him that the government actually wanted him to go. This was not true, though there was considerable public support for Lafayette in Paris, where the American cause was popular.”
  8. Ellis, Joseph J.. His Excellency: George Washington. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 1400040310. “It took every ounce of Washington's legendary self-control to hear and accept Greene's counsel, which ran against his grain, as well as his wounded pride at being the butt of unofficial criticism. But eventually he embraced Greene's realistic appraisal as his own. This is one of several moments in Washington's career when his decision not to act merits special recognition, since another major engagement with Howe outside Philadelphia risked the existence of the Continental army. It also marks the moment when Washington, who had been struggling with the unpalatable idea for over a year, finally and fully accepted his Fabian role, emotionally as well as rationally, along with the recognition that it would be a protracted war in which the preservation of the Continental army was the priority.” 
  9. Early American currency - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 2 May 2016. “Continental currency depreciated badly during the war, giving rise to the famous phrase 'not worth a continental'. A primary problem was that monetary policy was not coordinated between Congress and the states, which continued to issue bills of credit. 'Some think that the rebel bills depreciated because people lost confidence in them or because they were not backed by tangible assets,' writes financial historian Robert E. Wright. 'Not so. There were simply too many of them.'”
  10. Nathan Hale - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 2 May 2016. “According to the standards of the time, spies were hanged as illegal combatants. On the morning of September 22, 1776, Hale was marched along Post Road to the Park of Artillery, which was next to a public house called the Dove Tavern (at modern-day 66th Street and Third Avenue), and hanged.[11] He was 21 years old.”
  11. George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution. Sentinel. “"During the whole ride," he recorded in his memoirs, "although there was considerable firing of pistols, and not a little wheeling and charging, she remained unmoved, and never once complained for fear after she mounted my horse. I was delighted with this transaction, and received many compliments from those who became acquainted with it."” 

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