It is September 30, 1777
and the 13 original colonies can’t agree...
They differ over religion, culture, customs, borders and territory. They argue over who could vote, immigrants, slavery, commerce, taxation and states’ rights vs. strong federal powers. They are deeply suspicious of each other’s motives. A few days before, Congressional delegates had to flee Philadelphia and now they are stuck in York Town, where more people speak German than English. And the war isn’t going well.
They need a win. They need serious help and serious money to support the colonies’ armies and fleet. And they knew that foreign powers would not give aid to 13 individual colonies “who can’t even agree among ourselves.” The Continental Congress must prove to French, Spanish and Dutch financiers that the colonies are united and will be able to repay borrowed funds.
Their hopes lie in adoption of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Fifteen months before, Congress had named two committees, one to write a Declaration of Independence, and one to develop Articles of Confederation. It took just a month to finish the Declaration, but so far only a few Articles have been approved.
Now convened in York Town, farther away from battle, delegates know they must finish the critically-important document. Perhaps buoyed by General Gates’ victory at Saratoga, the delegates work feverishly to settle outstanding issues and to edit the Articles so that the individual states will find them acceptable.
Amazingly, after negotiations in York, PA
in the fall of 1777...Congress agreed to agree
After six weeks of negotiating and editing, delegates finally agreed to agree. The Articles were adopted in York Town on November 15th and sent off to the 13 states for ratification. Final approval came in 1781, when the last hold-out, Maryland, voted to ratify. For about ten years, the Articles held the states together, loosely and imperfectly, until the Articles were replaced by the U.S. Constitution, which survives to the present day.
Researchers for the Hard Bargains installation unearth an original hand-edited draft of the Articles of Confederation, a document that shines new light on what was actually happening in the York County Court House in the Fall of 1777. Excerpts from this document, never before seen in York, will be among the features of the Hard Bargains sculpture.