In 1781, several years before Congress took possession of the western lands, the states had all signed “Articles of Confederation,” a system of federal government proposed in 1776. But as this system did not give Congress power to impose taxes, make trade laws, secure money enough to pay government expenses, or make people obey the laws, it did not work well. For several years, therefore, different experiments were tried, but in spite of all efforts things went on from bad to worse.
Congress had promised at the treaty of Paris that all debts should be paid, and–that all the Tories, or friends of the king, in America should be protected. But the British soon complained that they could not collect their money, and it was plain that the Tories were badly treated, for in two years more than a hundred thousand left our country to settle in Canada, Florida, or Bermuda.
The British, who had left New York two months after the treaty was signed, kept possession of Oswego, Detroit, and Mackinaw in the Northwest until the promises made should be kept. Their presence there made the people restless and unhappy, for they secretly urged the Indians to rise up against the Americans. Besides, there were money troubles everywhere, for the states were so deeply in debt that they were obliged to lay heavy taxes on the people. These taxes were such a burden that in some places the people actually rebelled and made riots.