Transition to Self-Rule

While still in the midst of the Revolutionary War, it became obvious that--even with General Washington leading the young nation's military forces--a national government was needed to coordinate the war effort. The Continental Congress which had declared the nation's independence and propelled it into war against Britain did not have the ability to unify and lead the nation. Acting to create a government which allowed the thirteen states to work together well enough to win the war, the Congress passed the Articles of Confederation in 1777. It was not until 1781, however, that it was adopted by all 13 colonies.

The Declaration of Independence and the severing of ties with the British crown pushed the new nation perilously close to a return to the "state of nature." While there were established governments in the several states, there was no governmental entity capable of uniting the states. While liberty was the aim of the Revolution, some semblance of order was needed to win the war. While the Articles were sufficient to guide the new nation through its war for independence, as soon as the war was concluded, indications that it would not serve the new nation in peacetime appeared almost immediately. After the fighting had ceased, General Washington had to convince several high ranking officers not to rebel against the Confederal Congress because of its failures to keep promises to the Revolutionary Army. While Washington's intervention probably saved the new nation from plummeting into chaos, it only postponed the larger question of how the nation would govern itself after the war.

Historical Documents

Articles of Confederation

Federalist Papers
No. 6 - Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States
No. 7 - The Same Subject Continued: Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States
No. 8 - The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States
No. 15 - The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union
No. 16, No. 17, No. 18, No. 19, and No. 20 - The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union
No. 21 - Other Defects of the Present Confederation
No. 22 - The Same Subject Continued: Other Defects of the Present Confederation

AntiFederalist Papers
No. 6 - The Hobgoblins of Anarchy and Dissensions Among the States

Reasearch and Study Helps

Why is George Washington considered the Father of this nation?