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the years from 1783 to 1789, Fiske has given the name of “The Critical Period of American History”; yet it seems doubtful whether it was really a time of such danger of national dissolution as people then and since have supposed. Certainly the trend of this volume is to show a more orderly, logical, and inevitable march of events than has commonly been described. The volume articulates very closely with Van Tyne's American Revolution (vol. IX.), taking as a starting - point the defeat of the king's friends in Parliament in the spring of 1782; at the other end the volume leaves for Bassett's Federalist System (vol. XI.), the statutes and precedents by which the Constitution was set in motion.
The volume naturally falls into four parts: organization; the government of the Confederation; the constitutional convention; and ratification. In chapters i. and ii., the peace negotiations are described in some detail. Chapter iii., on Imperial Organization, is a luminous discussion of the possibilities of national government in view of the character and political aptitude of the people; it is logically the culmination of the discussions of the
two previous volumes, and the starting-point for the author's later deductions.
In chapter iv. begins the second part of the volume, the governmental experience of the Confederation, financial, commercial, diplomatic, paper money, culminating (chap. x.), in Shays's rebellion of 1786–1787. Chapters vii. and viii. are given to an account of the West, continuing the subject treated by Howard's Preliminaries of the Revolution (chap. xiii.), and Van Tyne's American Revolution (chap. xv.), and emphasizing it as a part of the new national organization.
Chapters xi. to xvi. describe the movement for a convention, its culmination, and the work of preparing the Constitution and fitting its parts together. The process of ratification is described in chapters xvii. and xviii. The Critical Essay deals in great measure with sources and monographic material.
The special service of this volume is to bring out the relation of earlier experiences and forms of government to the final work of the convention. The Confederation is a preparatory stage, which, in the author's judgment, was more creditable to the men of that time than posterity has been willing to allow. It had viability in itself, and from its mistakes the framers of the Constitution learned wisdom. Throughout the book attention is paid to the capacity and accomplishment of the American people, and to their working out of tried and familiar principles into a new and more effective combination.
final defeat of Cornwallis to the establishment of the Federal Constitution. In the space allotted me there was no room for the discussion of the episodical or the picturesque, or for the treatment in detail of many topics that might deserve consideration. Everything, or nearly everything, had to be subordinated to the main theme, in order that the story of political achievement might stand out with distinctness; for no history of the American nation would be satisfactory which left in dim obscurity the tale of how the people in the years after the war-when beset with difficulties and troubled by a political order which was unsuited to their needs-proceeded “deliberately and peaceably, without fraud or surprise," to establish a national union and to adjust political powers in a complicated and elaborate system of government. The years under consideration in this volume allowed, if they did not demand, this method of treatment; and I have felt fully justified, therefore, in considering even such themes as the diplomatic relations, or the western movement of population, in connection with the constitutional history of the United States.
I cannot refrain from saying that the centre of my treatment is marked out in the third chapter, which I have called "The Problem of Imperial Organization”; surely the period is seen in its ampler aspects, if the task of forming a substantial union and of solving an intricate political problem is not treated in isolation, but discussed as part of the great question that confronted the English statesmen in 1765 and largely occupied the attention of a generation. The third chapter, therefore, with the chapter on “Proposals to Alter the Articles of Confederation," and the one entitled “The Law of the Land," are, as I have conceived the book, the most important. Though necessarily separated, they should logically supplement one another.
Perhaps I should say, also, that I have taken seriously the wish of the editor that the volumes should be based on original materials. Though I have been helped by many secondary writers, almost nothing is taken from them without verification in the sources; and in many cases the secondary writers are referred to because they contain the original material desired.
I wish to express my appreciation of the scholarly care with which the editor has examined my manuscript and proof. Professor O. G. Libby kindly granted permission to reproduce two maps, first