THE PERIOD BETWEEN THE REVOLUTION AND THE CLOSE OF THE CENTURY  Part 1
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THE PERIOD BETWEEN THE REVOLUTION AND THE CLOSE OF THE CENTURY  Part 1

THE PERIOD BETWEEN THE REVOLUTION AND THE CLOSE OF THE CENTURY  Part 1




      

THE PERIOD BETWEEN THE REVOLUTION AND THE CLOSE OF THE CENTURY Part 1


When the Revolution was over Thomas Paine voiced the belief of the American people in his statement, "The times which tried men's souls are over." It was entirely a mistake, for everywhere, without and within, trouble beset the republic. In addition to the political and economical fomentations caused by experimental and inadequate government, the hostility of the Indians culminated in a war in the "Ohio country" which dragged along for four years. The early attempts to suppress it with militia were utter failures, and success came only through the energy and ability of General Anthony Wayne and the fighting skill of his backwoods riflemen. England, France, and Spain imposed upon the thirteen pitiful republics bound together "with a rope of sand," and Hamilton said, "There is scarcely anything which can wound the pride or degrade the character of an independent nation which we do not experience."

There were two silver linings to the dark cloud. One was the thriving condition of American commerce. The other was the might which weapons give. The westward movement into Indian country, the hostile foreign attitude, the need of the dwellers on the outskirts to supply their families with food by means of firearms, the necessity for a quantity of arms on every ship that put to sea, these and other causes made the firearms industry of prime importance, and besides the busy shops of the large towns there was almost literally a gunsmith shop at every cross roads. In the course of only one generation the internal chaos was replaced with order; the foreign attitude ceased to be menacing; and the republic stood on a firm and lasting base. The causes of healthy growth were honest purpose and endeavor, statesmanship, increasing wealth, and American arms.

It was in this period that state armories and the two national armories at Springfield and Harper's Ferry were established. Of the state armories the only enduring one was the Virginia Manufactory established at Richmond by act of the legislature of 1797, which continued to make and repair muskets, rifles, and pistols until 1865.

The Springfield Armory was of gradual growth. During the Revolution the town of Springfield was used as a recruiting post, depot for the storage of military supplies, and place for the repairing of arms. The gunsmiths there at that time seem to have been working each for himself and in scattered houses and shops, at whatever jobs, state or congressional, they could get. Gradually the gunsmiths drew together upon the hill and formed a settlement by themselves. The magazine of government supplies remained below. The scattered and fragmentary evidence obtainable indicates that between 1781 and 1794 Springfield shops were employed in combination as a Massachusetts state armory. Military pistols were made there in 1787 muskets may have been and probably were.

In 1792 Congress resolved that "the President of the United States be authorized to direct two arsenals and two magazines with necessary buildings to be erected in proper places, one to be situated to accommodate the Southern States." An arsenal was a storage place for arms, not a place of manufacture, which was an armory. In April, 1794, Congress enacted that the President was empowered to establish one or more places for the manufacture of arms. Washington chose Springfield, which he had visited, as the site of an armory, and Harper's Ferry, Virginia, as the best location for another, to accommodate the Southern States. Congress thereupon set aside $340,000 to be applied, under direction of the President, in the purchase of stores and arms (April 2, 1794). A part of this money was used for the purchase of muskets from private gun makers. From the remainder a beginning was made in the matter of land, buildings, and equipment. One hundred and twenty-five acres of land were purchased that year from the heirs of Robert Harper, and three hundred and ten acres from Mr. Rutherford soon after, and the erection of the Harper's Ferry buildings begun. In 1796 the manufacture of arms began under Mr. Perkins, superintendent. The Springfield Armory had already begun, in 1795, to manufacture under David Ames, superintendent. This quick start was due to the utilization of government buildings already standing convenient to water power. So far as is now known, muskets only were made at both places previous to 1800, and of them but few because of the small number of workmen; Congress had enacted that the total number of workmen which could be employed in government armories should not exceed one hundred. Owing to a muddle of some kind the two new armories began operations with a majority of workmen who were not gunsmiths, and who knew little or nothing about the business. Both factories endeavored to produce exact copies of the French infantry musket of 1763 model; neither factory was equipped with adequate machinery, or even with machines for making small parts alike, but was obliged to depend upon hand labor.

Sawyer, Charles. Firearms in American History. Boston: The Author,

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