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Paris, and a letter from Lafayette, who had returned to his native country, first brought the tidings of the event to America. The vessel, which carried the letter, reached Philadelphia on the 23d of March, 1783.
The people of the United States have never stood so high in the estimation of mankind as they did at this moment. The internal dissensions which had begun to darken the face of their triumph were not perceptible abroad, their financial difficulties were rightly ascribed to the inevitable results of war, and whatever weakness might be inherent in their Confederacy was unknown or disregarded. It was only remembered that they had ventured all in defence of those liberties which they claimed as their birthright; that, through eight long years, they had maintained the struggle with singular courage, perseverance, and sagacity ; that they had raised armies, organized a government, contracted foreign alliances, and finally succeeded in establishing their independence, and taking their place amongst the recognized powers of the world ; and that all this had been done with means apparently inadequate, and had not been accompanied with the excesses of revolutionary violence. No wonder that the philan
thropists of all countries hailed their success a great step in the progress of humanity, and looked to their future as full of hope and promise. It seemed as if the problem of centuries was about to be solved by the young Republic of the West, and that the nations were at length to behold the spectacle of a people entirely self-governed, with wisdom and virtue enough to unite all the conditions of order, security, and freedom. It remains to be seen how far the hope has been realized, and the brilliant promise fulfilled.
THE CONFEDERACY IN DANGER.
CARCELY was the termination of the war
known in America, when Hamilton thus wrote to Washington :-“Your Excellency will, before this reaches you, have received a letter from the Marquis de Lafayette, informing you that the preliminaries of peace, between all the belligerent powers, have been concluded. I congratulate your Excellency on this happy conclusion of your labours. It now only remains to make solid establishments within, to perpetuate our Union, to prevent our being a ball in the hands of European powers, bandied against each other at their pleasure; in fine, to make our independence truly a blessing. This, it is to be lamented, will be an arduous work; for, to borrow a figure from mechanics, the centrifugal is much stronger than the centripetal force in these States. The seeds of disunion are much more numerous than those of union. I will add, that your Excel. lency's exertions are as essential to accomplish this end, as they have been to establish independence.”
A few days after, Washington replied in these terms :“I rejoice most exceedingly there is an end to our warfare, and that such a field is open to our view, as will, with wisdom to direct the cultivation of it, make us a great, a respectable,
a and a happy people; but it must be improved by other means than state politics and unreasonable jealousies and prejudices, or it requires not the second-sight to see that we shall be instruments in the hands of our enemies. My wish to see the Union of these States established upon liberal and permanent principles, and inclination to contribute my mite in pointing out the defects of the present constitution, are equally great. private letters have teemed with these sentiments, and, wherever this topic has been the subject of conversation, I have endeavoured to diffuse and enforce them; but how far any further essay by me might be productive of the wished-for end, or appear to arrogate more than belongs to me, depends so much upon popular opinion, and the temper and disposition of people, that it is not
easy to decide. I shall be obliged to you, however, for the thoughts you have promised me on this subject, and as soon as you can make it convenient. No man in the United States is or can be more deeply impressed with the necessity of a reform in our present Confederation than myself. No man, perhaps, has felt the bad effects of it more sensibly; for to the defects thereof, and want of powers in Congress, may justly be ascribed the prolongation of the war, and, consequently, the expenses occasioned by it. More than half of the perplexities I have experienced in the course of my command, and almost the whole of the difficulties and distress of the army, have their origin here; but still, the prejudices of some, the designs of others, and the mere machinery of the majority, make address and management necessary to give weight to opinions, which are to combat the doctrines of these different classes of men in the field of politics.”
The general and his former aide-de-camp were thus fully agreed in the necessity of a change in the constitution, and, indeed, the defects of the Confederacy soon forced themselves on the attention of all sober and thoughtful minds. It had originated in a league