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The Fires of Liberty

(1776-1783)

In This Chapter

Articles of confederation

Early Patriot triumphs and losses

Victory at Saratoga

Surrender of Cornwallis


Great though it is, the Declaration of Independence, a human document, is imperfect. It failed to deal with the issue of slavery (Jeffersons fellow southerners. struck the references he had included), and it failed to specify just how the separate colonies, each with its own government and identity, could unite in a single government. Throughout the early years of the Revolution, the Continental Congress struggled with this issue and finally produced, in November 1777, the Articles of Confederation.

A timid document, the Articles gave the individual statesnot the federal governmentmost of the power, including the authority to levy taxes; after all, taxation without representation had triggered the rupture with England. Eventually, the Articles would be scrapped in favor of a brand-new, much bolder Constitution. But the earlier document, the product of agonizing debate, would hold the nation together through a Revolutionary War that, like most wars, went on much longer than either side had any reason to expect.


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