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Creating a More Perfect Union

A Nation in Crisis

This first agreement between the states preserved the autonomy of the individual states and established a small central government that was unable to raise money to pay for debts incurred during the Revolutionary War and not able to form an army to defend the new nation. During the mid-1780s individual states put up trade protection barriers against neighboring states and some states violated the 1783 Treaty of Paris by prosecuting Tory loyalists and redistributing their land to soldiers as a way of paying the soldiers for their service during the war.

By the summer of 1786 the state of Connecticut refused to pay assessment (tax) to the Federal Government, residents of Massachusetts were revolting because of the state's debt crisis (Shay's Rebellion) and rumors were flying that the Spanish were providing aid to Creek Indians raids in Georgia and that a group of New York legislators were in communication with the Viceroy of Canada. The Congress of Confederation, the first Congress, was paralyzed and the fate of the new republic was in question.

On February 21, 1787 Congress of Confederation resolved that a convention of state delegates be called for "the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress, and the several legislatures, such alterations and provisions as shall render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the Union."2