For most of the Revolutionary era the individual states remained as much the primary stage for political and social activity as their predecessors the colonies had been before 1775. Many of the ideological principles so eloquently articulated in the Declaration of Independence could be implemented only within their domain for they, not Congress, retained responsibility for most of the duties of government. Congress directed the war but initially possessed little further authority. Each state determinedly defended its sovereignty and controlled its own finances, trade and economic policy; it also dealt individually with a host of political and social issues. In spite of the calls of national politics, many able men served as state governors or legislators, among them James Bowdoin and John Hancock in Massachusetts, Jonathan Trumbull in Connecticut, George Clinton in New York, John Dickinson in Pennsylvania and Delaware, Charles Carroll of Carrollton in Maryland, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and James Madison in Virginia, and John Rutledge in South Carolina. Under the particular circumstances of founding a nation they were obliged to be more activist than colonial administrations had been, even though the state constitutions proclaimed the merits of limited government. Their actions were central to the Revolution, and their record of effective administration far better than contemporary and later critics have allowed.
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