Page:American Historical Review, Volume 12.djvu/554

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
544
C. H. Van Tyne

fore a state administrative officer would obey.[1] Finally, it is significant that confidence in state issues of money exceeded that in the Continental bills, indicating a firmer belief in the perpetuity of the states than in the Congress.

Up to this point we have been studying historically the ideas which men had during the American Revolution as to the nature of Congress, the state governments, and the powers of each. If the ideas and wishes of men were what the submitted facts and arguments seem to show, there could have been no common will demanding the creation of a national state. But this is the assertion made by the exponents of the sovereign Congress. A consciousness of nationality no doubt there was, because geographical position, laws, manners, history, and prevailing language[2] all combined to that end, but it is a mistake to confuse the idea of nationality with that of the state. National consciousness may exist, as it did in the minds of the people of Germany and Italy, before a national state was created. The people dwelling in the loosely confederated states of Germany before 1866 were people of the same race;[3] their economic interests were quite as unified as were those of America in 1776, and their several governments were alike in character, but Germany had no central government endowed with sovereign powers, and there was no common will demanding the creation of a national state. This I conceive to have been the condition in America until the trying experiences of the period of the Confederation[4] taught a majority of Americans, what a few had long seen, that the whole logic of the situation demanded the creation of a national state. Even then it was only with a grudging hand that the essentials of sovereignty were granted to the government created by the Federal Constitution, and in so dubious a manner, that men have disputed ever since as to whether a national state actually did then come into existence.

After all has been said for the view here maintained, there still remain some vexing facts, and some utterances of contemporaries hard to reconcile.[5] Most of these will be explained, however, if we

  1. Provincial Papers of New Hampshire. VII. 512. Journals of Congress, IV. 285–286.
  2. Giddings, Descriptive and Historical Sociology, 295.
  3. Their race elements were more unified than those of America.
  4. Added of course to the lessons in unity learned in the Revolutionary army, and the fact that America's isolation from the rest of the world must have given citizens of the several states thoughts of a common destiny.
  5. Wilson, in Journals of Congress, VI. 1105. Rush, ibid., 1081. It is to be noted that the large-state men urged the new idea of a national state most strongly, because it was an argument in favor of proportional representation.