An Impotent Congress
Chapter 5 and the corresponding Ch. 10 in Part Three of the book provide background accounts of political development in the USA from the American War of Independence to the Philadelphia Convention, and establish that, by 1787, Congress was marked by military weakness and financial insolvency. Here, the background is given to the conflict between the Federalists and the Antifederalists over the military clauses of the US Constitution, a conflict that is analyzed in Chs 6–8 (the debate over the fiscal clauses is analyzed in Part Three of the book). It is argued that two principles frustrated the ability of the Confederation Congress to provide the union with the military capacity it needed to function: first, the sovereignty of the states; and, second, the strong aversion in the American political tradition to a peacetime standing army. In the end, these principles led Congress to become passive in foreign affairs. Ends with an attempt to locate the Federalist demand for an improved military capacity of the national state not in the context of militarism, but in the context of the promotion of commerce.
Keywords: American political tradition, Antifederalism, Confederation Congress, debate, Federalism, foreign affairs, military powers, political development, state military capacity, state sovereignty, US Congress, US Constitution, USA
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