20 August 2012

Economic Conditions Post Revolutionary War

Shay’s Rebellion and the Constitution by Mary Hull, 2000, Excerpts

Adopted by the states in 1781, the Articles of Confederation created a loose alliance of states, each governed by its own constitution, viewed as the fulfillment of the goals of the revolution. The Treaty of Paris, signed in 1783, officially ended the hostilities with Great Britain.

Victory had come at a price. The war had been a long and expensive undertaking, and the whole country faced serious war debt. Unable to pay Revolutionary War veterans, the Continental Congress had issued the veterans paper notes known as Continental Securities. The states promised to redeem these notes in the future.

American soldiers who had survived the Revolutionary War returned to find their homes and land in disarray, their fields overgrown, their families suffering from lack of food, their debts and taxes had gone unpaid, and creditors harassed debtors. Because veterans needed cash to pay their taxes and debts, they were forced to sell their notes to others for much less than they were worth. “Not worth a Continental,” a phrase referring to the devaluation of paper currency, became a popular saying of the day.

This was the climate of confusion and poverty to which soldiers returned home. Massachusetts yeomen had believed that their lives would improve after the revolution, which they had fought at the expense of their own lives. Now that the war had been won, they were worse off than ever before, facing debt, high taxes, and the potential loss of their land.

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