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[Detail] George Washington. Portrait by Gilbert Stuart c1929.

Historical Analysis and Interpretation

Historical analysis builds on the skills of historical comprehension and compels students to assess evidence and differentiate between ungrounded expressions of opinion from those grounded in historical evidence. The letterbooks offer students a variety opportunities to analyze documents.

Search on Articles of Confederation to find Washington's letter to John Jay, May 18, 1786, in which he expresses his views regarding the call for a convention to amend the Articles of Confederation:

. . . [T]here are errors in our national Government which call for correction, loudly I would add; but I shall find myself happily mistaken if the remedies are at hand. We are certainly in a delicate situation, but my fear is that the people are not yet sufficiently misled to retract from error. . . . I scarcely know what opinion to entertain of a general convention. That it is necessary to revise and amend the articles of confederation, I entertain no doubt; but what may be the consequences of such an attempt is doubtful. Yet something must be done, or the fabrick must fall, for it certainly is tottering.

Letter from George Washington to John Jay, May 18, 1786 [Transcription]

Nearly a year later, shortly after the Continental Congress called for a Federal Convention to amend the Articles of Confederation, Washington wrote to James Madison:

. . . [M]y wish is, that the Convention may adopt no temporizing expedient, but probe the defects of the Constitution to the bottom, and provide radical cures; whether they are agreed to or not; a conduct like this, will stamp wisdom and dignity on the proceedings, and be looked to as a luminary, which sooner or later will shed its influence.

Letter from George Washington to James Madison, March 31, 1787 [Transcription]