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The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781 Paperback – June 15, 1959


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The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781 + What the Anti-Federalists Were For: The Political Thought of the Opponents of the Constitution
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (June 15, 1959)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299002047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299002046
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #425,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Here is a book which deals with clashes between economic and political factors in the American Revolution as realistically as if its author were dealing with a presidential election.”—Social Studies

 “An admirable analysis.  It presents, in succinct form, the results of a generation of study of this chapter of our history and summarizes fairly the conclusions of that study.”—Henry Steele Commager, New York Times Book Review

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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Russell E. Saltzman on July 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
I don't suppose one in ten Americans realize there was a first constitution of the United States before there was "the" Constitution of the United States. Merrill Jensen is the definitive historian of that period - up to 1789 when the present Constitution took effect - and this book is one of several of his covering the topic. Reading of this period would do much to remind Americans that the debate over the nature of American government has been going on since 1776. The debate concerns "weak" central government (the Articles of Confederation) vs. "strong" central government (the Constitution). The Federalists (favoring the Constitution) won politically, but their victory did not settle the argument. Any American presidential or congressional election campaign brings out the same themes sounded 200 years ago as the Constitution faced ratification. In any event, Jensen does much to rehabilitate the history of the Confederation, clarify the agruments, and takes care to note the remarkable accomplishments of the Confederation congress. His writing style is very accessible and the book is a quick read.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By G. F Gori on July 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
Merrill Jensen's "The Articles of Confederation" is a great review of a truly neglected form of government. Jensen shatters the Federalists myths of "national government" and the Continental Congress inheriting the powers of the British Parliament.
Jensen details the beginnings of the federal union in 1774 with the collapse of the colonial governments and the meeting of the First Continental Congress in September 1774. It is shown how conservatives, primarily merchants, land speculators, and admirers of the British government, fought independence up until the very signing of the Declaration of Independence. Although they supported the colonial cause many were frightened by "republicans" and "democracy". Due to these fears they supported a strong central government similar to Britian.
The radicals, Richard Henry Lee, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson,
Thomas Burke, and John Adams were avid supporters of Independence. The radicals also supported a weak central government dependent on the states for support and were unwilling to embrace a new national government. With some exceptions, most radicals were localist and democrats because they believed that through their state governments self government would function best. The conservatives were fearful of local government and it's democratic tendencies. Many were also immersed in land speculation and did not like the participation of the "rabble" in politics.
Jensen takes the Articles from the debate in 1776 through ratification in 1781. One interesting aspect is how the eastern delegates,NY, Maryland,, Pennylvania, etc, were willing to cede the western land to Spain just to keep their region powerful at the expense of the farmers and artisans of the west. Men like Daniel St.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Larry L. Burton on March 31, 2008
Format: Paperback
It is true. Not too many Americans are aware that the Founding Fathers called the Articles of Confederation of 1781 our, "first Federal Consti-
tution." Mr. Jensen points out that they were the written expression of the political philosophy of the Declaration of Independence. If one understands the concept of local state sovereignty (or independence) as expressed in the Articles, then they will have a much better understanding of the argument between the Federal Government and the Confederate Government (1861-1865)which was only a continuation of the long argument over the nature of the Union of American States. (And, as one reviewer points out, it is an on going argument until this day.) All in all, it is an excellent read; and very pertinent information.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. Benjamin on May 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
First off, let me say that it is almost impossible for anyone to have a bias-free position on most subjects. The history of colonial America and the leading influences on early American government would certainly be hard to argue without revealing a bias. This can certainly be said of author Merrill Jensen in his book "The Articles of Confederation." This is an interesting book to read, certainly, and it has had a significant impact in the field of colonial American history. Jensen argues from the point of social history, making an almost Marxian argument and claiming that the argument over the Articles of Confederation and, later, the Constitution, was really a social conflict between the "landless masses," or radicals, and the landed conservatives (i.e. Federalists). Jensen spends much of this book arguing that point, in addition to a fine survey of the writing, ratification, and implementation of the Articles as this nation's first constitutional government. It is an interesting perspective, but I feel that Mr. Jensen does not adequately support his argument. He paints everything in social terms without addressing other key factors, as befits a social history. Also, I find his description of the controversy surrounding the Articles as a conflict between low-class, landless masses against conservative property-owners to be incorrect. The fact of the matter is that in America, land was one of the few things to be had in abundance, to the point that quite often people were paid in land instead of money or goods. There were not really any landless masses. However, this book does have some valid points, and it has been influential in shaping the way that we look at our early history as a nation. So, if you are looking for this book for its influence on history, go ahead and get a copy to read. If you're just looking for a history of the Articles of Confederation, however, I would suggest that you either look elsewhere or good into the book aware of the author's bias.
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