“If we are afraid to trust one another under qualified powers there is an end to the Union.” —excerpt from Washington letter
Forging a Union
This letter reflects George Washington’s frustration over the thirteen states’ unwillingness to yield power to a stronger central government. As commander of the Continental army during the Revolutionary War (1775–83), he had seen a weak Congress, barely able to recruit, pay, clothe, and feed its soldiers. Now, in the mid-1780s, Washington hoped the states would give Congress authority to regulate foreign and interstate trade. He believed that only a powerful central government could protect Americans’ liberty, security, and welfare. Washington used his considerable influence during this period of “retirement” to promote such a government.