Wednesday, August 3, 2011

In The Good Old Colony Days

by Elena Santangelo

Between the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution eleven years later, the United States had no federal government and no federal taxes.  A Tea Partyers dream.

Only a loose Confederation held the states together.  Each state had its own laws, ways of raising revenue, and even its own paper currency.  Then again, not many folks wanted the bills anyway. The only money worth anything was gold and silver coins, and they were hard won. In those years, after fighting an expensive war, the country was broke and in its first economic depression.

Many of the soldiers who fought in the Continental Army weren't given their back pay or pensions. The states had their own militias to worry about. Greedy men took advantage of the situation, like the Morrises, who held a monopoly in trade agreements for tobacco.

Here's an old 17th century song that resurged in popularity during that decade:

In the Good Old Colony Days
When we lived under the king,
Lived a miller and a weaver and a little tailor--
Three jolly rogues of Lynn.

The first line says it all. In the 1780s, lots of folks lamented the "good old colony days" before the Revolution. The song goes on to tell how the miller stole corn, the weaver stole yarn, and "the little tailor, he stole broadcloth for to keep the three rogues warm."  The poor and working classes in America could more than identify with the rogues' need to provide themselves with food and clothing.

However, all sinners must be punished so

The miller drowned in his dam,
And the weaver hung in his yarn,
And the Devil laid his Claw on the little tailor
With the broadcloth under his arm.

Eventually, though, the Constitution provided for a strong and flexible Federal government and decent trade with Europe was established, bringing Americans fancy French imports like flannel, denin and corduroy (giving little tailors a wider choice of fabrics).

Still, while the America of the 1780s wasn't the government-less Utopia some citizens envision today, there was no Capitol Hill, and no Congress as we now know it. So how bad could it have been?

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