Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
April 13, 1995
Volume 22 of Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789 Published by Library of Congress
The Library of Congress has just published the latest volume in its projected 25-volume series containing the complete correspondence of the 343 delegates who attended the Continental and Confederation Congresses during the American Revolution.
Volume 22 of "Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789" covers the period from November 1784 to November 1785, which began with Congress struggling to convene a quorum at Trenton. Trenton was the home of the Congress until December 24, when the delegates resolved to reconvene in January at New York City, the final seat of the Congress until its demise in 1789. The volume reveals the uncertain future of the union as Congress, continually hampered by inadequate powers, tried to sort out the complex issues confronting the nation, contended with the diversity of interests and opinions represented in the states, and augmented the meager fiscal resources available.
Although the nation was at peace, it experienced many difficulties in taking its place in the family of nations, and indeed was regarded by many observers less as a nation than a loose confederation of competing state and regional interests. Congressional diplomacy celebrated few successes during the period of this volume. Disagreements with Great Britain over the Treaty of Paris remained unresolved throughout the 1780s. British troops continued to occupy several frontier posts from which Americans suspected they encouraged the Indians to resist the advance of American settlement. Americans denounced Britain's failure to pay compensation for slaves evacuated in 1783, while Britons protested the Americans' failure to compensate loyalists for confiscated property or to honor pre-war debts as required by the peace treaty.
Other unresolved diplomatic issues with which Congress struggled included the structure of the nation's diplomatic and consular establishment, negotiation of commercial treaties with some two dozen trading nations, relations with the Barbary States which continued to prey on United States commerce in the Mediterranean, and Spain's closure of the lower Mississippi River to American navigation.
Proposals for augmenting the powers of Congress and granting it revenue authority led to new controversies rather than improved solutions, and efforts to transform the public domain into a resource for solving the nation's ills continued to founder. As Congress turned its focus westward, disagreements over land policy, conflicts with the native peoples who occupied coveted lands, and lack of control over the Mississippi River to the sea repeatedly blocked desired resolutions. Other unresolved issues were the problems raised by the settlers of the Wyoming Valley, the proponents of Franklin statehood, and the Kaskaskians petitioning for territorial government.
Much new information on these and other challenging issues fill the pages of this volume. It also includes many new documents on interstate boundary disputes, such as those between Massachusetts and New York, and Georgia and South Carolina, which occasioned invoking federal courts under the seldom-used provisions of Article IX of the Articles of Confederation.
This volume documents as well many aspects of the fiscal crisis that continued to plague Congress, its failure to agree on the location of a new capital, inability to maintain adequate delegate attendance, and frustration in gaining adequate authority to regulate trade.
The editors of the "Letters" project, Paul H. Smith an M. Gephart, have drawn upon more than 23,000 documents assembled from hundreds of institutions and private individuals from all over America and Western Europe, particularly the Library's own unrivaled collections covering the American revolutionary era. They have attempted to present all the extant documents written by the delegates during their attendance in Congress. Dozens of librarians, archivists, and private collectors assisted the editors in the project.
The publication of this material began in 1976 with a generous grant from the Ford Foundation. It supersedes the 60- year-old "Letters of Members of the Continental Congress" prepared in eight volumes by Edmund C. Burnett.
Volume 22 of "Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789" is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, New Orders, PO Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. Telephone orders may be placed by calling (202) 783-3238 to charge copies to VISA or MasterCard.
Volume 22 (773 pages) sells for $44 (cite stock number 030- 000-00262-8 when ordering by mail or by telephone). Previous volumes, at various prices, are still available from the Superintendent of Documents.
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