federal period
The revolutionary fighting ended with the surrender of Cornwallis's troops at Yorktown in October 1781. The formal treaty granting American independence was signed in Paris in 1783. Much work, however, remained to be done; if the former colonies had continued in their current status under the Articles of Confederation, the future history of the United States would certainly have been very different. The individual states saw themselves as sovereign entities, and the Confederation Congress had virtually no power whatsoever over the combined affairs of the states. Problems had existed during the war, though General Washington had persevered despite haphazard support from what was supposed to be a national government. Although in some ways less critical, the problems that existed following the war continued to point out the weaknesses of the existing arrangement. More needed to be done. Some sort of stable government structure had to be created, and the result was the Constitution. Even that monumental step, however, could not guarantee the long-term success of the enterprise. It had to be tested, and many differences existed about how the Constitution should be interpreted. The period between 1783 and 1800 was critical. I the time Thomas Jefferson and the Republicans were elected in 1800, the future course of American history was suggested. We examine that period in this section.


madisonJames Madison



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