« ForrigeFortsett »
ligion, education, and printing encouraged. The great distance of the colonies from the mother-country weakened her power over them, so that a love of freedom was gradually enabled to grow up almost unperceived by the English government.
In Pennsylvania soon after its settlement, in Maryland, and in New England, (except Rhode Island,) the English law of primogeniture (that is, the right of the eldest son and his descendants to succeed to the inheritance of the ancestor) was abolished, and the estates of a decedent were divided among all his descendants, which tended to equalize property, increase the number of landholders, and encourage habits of industry.
§ 16. The colonies, nevertheless, had no political connection with each other. They had no right to form treaties or alliances among themselves, or enter into any connection with foreign powers. The law of nations did not recognise them as sovereign states, but only as dependencies on the crown of England. They could not make treaties, declare war, or send or receive ambassadors. Each colonist, however, had the full rights of a British subject in every other colony.
THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION.
§ 17. ALTHOUGH the colonies were politically distinct, yet, in consequence of the similarity of their laws, religion, institutions, interests, and situation generally, they were frequently led to unite together for the purpose of advancing their common welfare. The New England colonies often joined to defend themselves against the hostilities of the Indian tribes.
§ 18. For instance, in 1643, the colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Plymouth, and New Haven, for the purpose of protection against the Indians and Dutch, formed an alliance by the name of the United Colonies of New England.
§ 19. So also in 1754, upon the suggestion of a branch of the British government, delegates from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, assembled to deliberate upon the best means of defending themselves in case of a war with France, which was then likely to occur.
§ 20. When England began to oppress the colonies, they were thus naturally led again to form a union for their common protection. In 1765, upon the recommendation of Massachusetts, a congress of delegates from nine colonies assembled at New York, and published a bill of rights, in which they asserted that the sole power of taxation resided in the colonies.
§ 21. The first Continental Congress, composed of dele
gates from almost all the colonies, assembled at Philadelphia, September 5, 1774, and chose Peyton Randolph president, and Charles Thomson secretary. They styled themselves "the delegates appointed by the good people of these colonies," and continued in session till October 26 of the same year. This Congress, among several other valuable state papers, published a Declaration of Rights, which is important as fully setting forth the natural and constitutional rights to which the colonists believed themselves entitled. It is, therefore, included in the Appendix.
§ 22. A second Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia May 10, 1775. This last-mentioned Congress continued its sittings during the Revolutionary war, and until the Articles of Confederation went into effect. In both Congresses the votes were taken by colonies, the delegation from each colony having one vote, which was determined by a majority of the delegates: for instance, if a colony had seven delegates in Congress, they would cast but one vote, which was determined by a majority of the seven delegates. If the delegates of a colony were equally divided, no vote could be given.
§ 23. The Declaration of Independence, passed July 4, 1776, wholly dissolved the political connection between England and the colonies, the latter being therein styled, for the first time, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, a title which was afterward retained by the Articles of Confederation, and has been since continued. It then became necessary that the States should unite for the effectual prosecution of the war and the formation of alliances with foreign countries.
§ 24. On the 11th of June, 1776, the same day on which a committee was appointed by Congress for preparing a declaration of independence, it was resolved to ap
point another committee to prepare and digest the form of a confederation to be entered into between the colonies. This committee, on the 12th of July following, reported a plan of a confederacy, consisting of twenty articles.
§ 25. This draft was considered and debated at various times; but was finally adopted by Congress, November, 15, 1777. These Articles of Confederation were ratified in July, 1778, by the delegates from all the States, except New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. But they were subsequently signed on the part of New Jersey, November 25, 1778, and were ratified on the part of Delaware, February 22, 1779. The delegates from Maryland did not sign the articles until March 1, 1781, though in the mean time she had zealously united with the other States in the prosecution of the war. The ratification of the articles was, therefore, completed March 1, 1781, and, on the second day of March, 1781, Congress assembled under the Confederation.
§ 26. These articles are printed at length in the Appendix. They formed the thirteen States, by the style of "The United States of America," into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their defence, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any pretence whatever. (Art. III.)
§ 27. Each State retained its own sovereignty, and all powers not expressly delegated to the United States in congress assembled. Delegates were to be chosen every year by each State, not less than three, nor more than seven in number, to meet in congress. Each State was to support the expenses of its own delegates. In deciding
questions, the votes were taken by States, each State hav ing a single vote.
§ 28. All the expenses of the war and for the general welfare were to be supplied by the several States, in proportion to the value of the lands and improvements thereon in each State, surveyed for or granted to any person.
§ 29. Congress was authorized to appoint a committee, consisting of one delegate from each State, to sit during the recess of Congress, called a committee of the States. The committee of the States, or any nine of its members, were authorized to execute, in the recess of Congress, such of the powers of that body, as Congress, with the consent of nine States, should think fit to invest them with; but no power was to be delegated to the committee, the exercise of which required nine States in Congress.
§ 30. Congress could not engage in war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, enter into treaties or alliances, coin money or regulate its value, determine the sums necessary for the use of the United States, emit bills of credit, borrow or appropriate money, designate the size of the army and navy, or appoint a commander-in-chief of the army or navy, without the assent of nine States; nor could a question upon any other point, except adjournment from day to day, be determined unless by the votes of the majority of the States in Congress.
§ 31. This Confederation was intended to be perpetual; nor was any alteration in the articles to be made, unless agreed to in Congress and afterward confirmed by the legislature of every State.
§ 32. Down to the time of the final ratification of the Articles of Confederation in 1781, the direction of the Revolutionary war devolved upon the Continental Congress.