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the more recent editions of his works, with an explanation of the motives which guided him in forming it. The Confederacy was to embrace all the colonies, and the right of peace and war with the Indian nations was to be vested in the general council of the confederates, subject to the negative of the President-General, and the ultimate approval of the crown. It was to possess the further power 5 to raise troops, and build forts, for the defence of the colonies, and to equip vessels of war, to guard the coast and protect commerce;" and for these purposes the general council was to have power to levy such general imposts and taxes as should seem just and equal. This plan, it is worthy of remark, was adopted on the 4th of July, and Lieutenant-Governor De Lancey, who presided, was the only person who opposed it. It was rejected by the British Government, because it would give too much power to the people of the colonies, and unfolded the secret of their strength; it was rejected by the colonial legislatures, as giving too much power to the
Some Americans have thought that Franklin's name would have been handed down to posterity as an enemy to the liberties of his country, instead of an active friend, if this project had succeeded; but it is probable that the sagacious Franklin saw, in this union of American power and interests, the germ of future independence. De Lancey may have seen it in the same light, and, therefore, opposed it.* The country was not yet ripe for so great a change. It is evidently not the plan of a league, but of a general government, and is a great stride in advance of the New England league. It provided for a strong executive, but made no provision for a general judiciary, nor any for regulating the currency. It was, however, the prelude to a complete independent government. In 1765, in consequence of the obnoxious Stamp Act, the colony of Rhode Island proposed to the provincial assemblies to collect the sense of the colonies, and to unite in a common petition to the king and Parliament. A congress of deputies from nine of the colonies met in New York in October. The Stamp Act was to come into operation in November. Lieutenant-Governor Colden pronounced the congress "unconstitutional, unprecedented, and unlawful,” and would give it no countenance. The congress, however, drew up a bill of rights on the subject of tax
• Dunlap's History of New York, vol. i., ch. 23.
ation, and adopted an address to the king. After various remonstrances and constitutional acts of resistance on the part of the colonies, and retaliatory acts of violence on the part of the crown, the committees of correspondence, appointed in the several colonies, fixed the 10th of September, 1774, for the first meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, and an association of eleven States was then and there formed. This is the date of the American Union. The Congress applauded the course of Massachusetts, in offering resistance to the “ wicked ministers," issued a declaration of rights, recommended a suspension of commercial intercourse with Great Britain, voted an address to the king, and to the people of Great Britain, and another to the inhabitants of Canada. This union was continued by successive elections of delegates to the general Congress, and maintained through every period of the Revolution which immediately ensued, and every change in our Federal and State governments, and is revered and cherished, by every true American, as the source of our national prosperity, and the only solid foundation of our national independence.*
In the month of May, 1775, a new congress, consisting of delegates from twelve colonies, and clothed with ample discretionary powers, met at Philadelphia, and, soon after it assembled, the accession of Georgia completed the confederation of the Thirteen Colonies of North America. They issued, on the 4th of July, the celebrated Declaration of Independence, the rough draft of which was made by Jefferson. This was the consummation of the Revolution, and the congress gradually assumed all the powers of national sovereignty. But, as the independence of the colonies was not yet achieved by arms, it was still only a revolutionary congress, as far as the mother country was concerned. To the colonies, it was a provisional government. Previous to the Declaration of Independence, congress recommended the different colonies to adopt new constitutions, and thereby declare themselves independent States. Henceforth, they were not the United Colonies, but United States. In order to secure and perpetuate these Statę institutions, it was deemed
expedient to explain, by a formal instrument, the nature of the federative compact, and to define both the powers vested in the General Government and those retained by the
• Duer's Constitutional Jurisprudence. VOL. IV.NO. VIII.
States. But the accomplishment of this in a satisfactory manner, owing to local prejudices and discordant interests, was attended with so much difficulty, that it was not till the following autumn they could be induced to agree to it. In November, 1777, Congress adopted the “ Articles of Confederation,” under which the United States successfully ter minated the Revolution. Some of the States had withheld their assent, the principal objection being in respect to the wild lands, which were claimed by several States, while others urged they should go to bear the common burthen ; but on the 1st of March, 1781, by the accession of Maryland, the articles of union received the unanimous approbation of the States. This was the first formation of a regular general government of all the States, and continued till the Constitution came into operation, in 1788. The articles provided that the style of the confederacy should be “ The United States of America;" that each State should retain its sovereignty and independence; that the object of the league was, the general welfare and the common defence against foreign aggression; that, for the management of the general interests, delegates shall be annually appointed by the State legislatures to meet in congress, each State having not less than two, nor more than seven ; and that, in determining questions in congress, each State shall have one vote; that no State shall engage in war, nor make treaties, without the consent of congress, nor lay any imposts or duties interfering with the treaties made by congress ; that the “United States, in congress assembled,” shall have the exclusive right of making peace and war; entering into treaties and alliances ; establishing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies, and courts of admiralty ; that congress shall have the power to determine all questions and differences between two or more States, which authority shall be exercised by instituting a court, whose judgment shall be final and decisive; that they shall have the power to regulate the standard of weights, measures, and coin ; establish post-offices; borrow money and emit bills of credit; that they may appoint a committee of the States and civil officers to manage the general affairs of the United States, under the direction of congress; and that said Committee, in the recess of congress, may exercise such powers as congress shall vest them with ; that all charges for the general welfare be paid out of a common treasury, and levied in
proportion to the value of the land within each State ; and
that every State shall abide by the determination of congress upon the questions submitted to it, and the Union shall be perpetual.
It will be observed that the States, notwithstanding their jealousy of the Federal government, and their declaration that they retained their sovereignty and independence, yet granted away many attributes of sovereignty greater than those proposed to be vested in the President and Council by the plan of 1754. The new plan of government had many deficiencies, though more in the mode than in the principle. There was still wanting an executive head; there was the danger of having executive and legislative powers combined in the same body; there was no general judiciary provided, and the greatest deficiency of all was, that the Articles of Confederation did not act upon individuals, but upon the States, and that the States only in their corporate capacity, and not the people of the States, were represented in congress; that to raise men and money, it was necessary to act through the medium of many distinct overnments, and, if a State refused or neglected to comply, there was no remedy but war. Yet by a comparison of the Articles of Confederation with the first league of 1643, and the plan of 1754, it will be seen that the tendency was from the notion of separàte sovereignties to that of general and united government, and that each change, founded on experience, had given additional strength to the Confederacy. The association of 1643 was only held together by an alliance. The plan of 1754, though not adopted, was that of a general government and had a strong executive. The Articles of Confederation, though returning to the form of a confederacy, still established a general government, with greatly increased powers in theory, though defective in practice. To the powers of the former congresses was superadded the right to emit bills of credit, establish marine courts and judge between the States. It is worthy of note, as bearing upon the secession heresy, that the doctrine of that day was that “ the Union shall be perpetual,"* and that every State shall abide by the determinations of the representatives of the other States in all controversies. Thus the idea of a union of the Colonies originated in the earliest stage of their existence,
* Article XIII. The very title of the instrument is, “The Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States,” &c.
the object being the general welfare ; and, for this purpose, from time to time leagues and confederacies were formed, and these associations were always made closer and stronger in the progress of time and experience. But " a more pefect Union was yet to come.”
The Articles of the Confederation were drawn up in haste, amidst the excitement and exigencies of war, the rights of political supremacy were conferred in an insufficient manner, and under an imperfect organization. In imitation of all former confederacies of independent sovereignties, the decrees of the federal council affected the States only in their corporate capacity; and this was considered by the ablest statesmen of the time as the radical defect.* Even during the war, the States began to fail in fulfilling the provisions of the federal compact; and " by the time peace was concluded, the disease of the government had displayed itself with alarming rapidity.”+ The inequality of the principle, by which the contributions of the States were made to the common treasury, caused delinquencies in several of the States, and the delinquencies of one were the pretext for those of another, till the idea of supplying the ways and means, by requisitions upon the individual States, was found to be delusive. The want of power, in congress, to regulate commerce, was another defect, and each State established its separate system on narrow and selfish principles. The mutual harmony was impaired, if not destroyed.
• Each State,” says Hamilton, 6
Hamilton, - yielding to the voice of immediate interest or convenience, successively withdrew its support from the confederation, until the frail and tottering edifice was ready to fall on the heads of the people, and crush them beneath its ruins."! The ablest heads and the purest hearts in the nation now exercised their faculties in devising a new and better form of government. General Washington, in June, 1783, addressed a letter to the governors of the several States, in which he says:
“There are four things which I humbly conceive are essential to the well-being, I may even venture to say, to the existence of the United States as an independent power: 1. An indissoluble union of the States under one federal head. 2. A regard to public justice. 3. The adoption of a proper peace establishment. 4. The prevalence of that pacific and friendly disposition among the people of the United States, which will induce them to forget their local politics and prejudices."
* Duer's Constitutional Jurisprudence. † Chancellor Kent.
† Federalist, No. 15.