Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

claim to any interest in the vast and unoccupied domain to be secured as one of the results of the war, demanded that this domain should be devoted to the purpose of contributing to the general fund required for acquiring and defending the title to it. They called on the States claiming such land as being within their chartered limits, to surrender their respective claims to all unoccupied territory lying beyond a reasonable western limit for their State jurisdictions, to the United States. The failure of the States claiming the territory, to respond to this just demand, created great dissatisfaction on the part of the other States. Maryland refused to ratify the Articles of Confederation, until the claims to these lands should be ceded to the United States. She insisted that the boundaries of the respective States, and especially those claiming, under their charters, the right to extend their jurisdiction to the Mississippi river, or to the “ South Sea,” should be ascertained and restricted within reasonable limits; and that the unoccupied territory lying west of the proper limits of the States should be held, both as to property and jurisdiction, by the Congress of the United States, for the common benefit. Maryland presented these terms to Congress as the condition of her ratification of the Articles of Confederation, at the time, or soon after they were agreed to in that body. The following instructions of that State to her delegates in Congress, under date of May 21st, 1779, clearly present the views which influenced her action.

[ocr errors]

Instructions of the General Assembly of Maryland to George Plater,

William Paca, William Carmichael, John Henry, James Forbes, and Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, Esqs.

GENTLEMEN,

Having conferred upon you a trust of the highest nature, it is evident we place great confidence in your integrity, abilities, and zeal to promote the general welfare of the United States, and the particular interest of this State, where the latter is not incompatible with the former; but, to add greater weight to your proceedings in Congress, and take away all suspicion that the opinions you there deliver, and the votes you give, may be the mere opinions of individuals, and not resulting from your knowl

edge of the sense and deliberate judgment of the State you repre sent, we think it our duty to instruct as followeth on the subject of the confederation, a subject in which, unfortunately, a supposed difference of interest has produced an almost equal division of sentiments among the several States composing the Union. We say a supposed difference of interests; for if local attachments and prejudices and the avarice and ambition of individuals, would give way to the dictates of a sound policy, founded on the principles of justice (and no other policy but what is founded on those immutable principles deserves to be called sound), we flatter ourselves this apparent diversity of interests would soon vanish, and all the States would confederate on terms mutually advantageous to all ; for they would then perceive that no other confederation than one so formed can be lasting. Although the pressure of immediate calamities, the dread of their continuance from the appearance of disunion, and some other peculiar circumstances, may have induced some States to accede to the present confederation, contrary to their own interests and judgments, it requires no great share of foresight to predict, that, when those causes cease to operate, the States which have thus acceded to the confederation will consider it as no longer binding, and will eagerly embrace the first occasion of asserting their just rights, and securing their independence. Is it possible that those States who are ambitiously grasping at territories to which, in our judgment, they have not the least shadow of exclusive right, will use with greater moderation the increase of wealth and power derived from those territories when acquired, than what they have displayed in their endeavors to acquire them? We think not. We are convinced the same spirit which hath prompted them to insist on a claim so extravagant, so repugnant to every principle of justice, so incompatible with the general welfare of all the States, will urge them on to add oppression to injustice. If they should not be incited by a superiority of wealth and strength to oppress by open force their less wealthy and less powerful neighbors, yet depopulation, and consequently the impoverishment of those States, will necessarily follow, which, by an unfair construction of the confederation, may be stripped of a common interest and the common benefits derivable from the western country. Suppose, for instance, Virginia indisputably possessed of the extensive and fertile country to which she has set up a claim, what would be the probable consequences to Maryland of such an undisturbed and undisputed possession? They cannot escape the least discerning.

Virginia, by selling on the most moderate terms a small proportion of the lands in question, would draw into her treasury vast sums of money, and in proportion to the sums arising from such sales, would be enabled to lessen her taxes. Lands comparatively cheap, and taxes comparatively low with the lands and taxes of an adjacent State, would quickly drain the State thus disadvantageously circumstanced of its most useful inhabitants ; its wealth, and its consequence in the scale of the confederated States would sink of course. A claim so injurious to more than one half, if not to the whole of the United States, ought to be supported by the clearest evidence of the right. Yet what evidences of that right have been produced? What arguments alleged in support either of the evidence or the right? None that we have heard of deserving a serious refutation.

It has been said, that some of the delegates of a neighboring State have declared their opinion of the impracticability of governing the extensive dominion claimed by that State. Hence also the necessity was admitted of dividing its territory, and erecting a new State, under the auspices and direction of the elder, from whom, no doubt, it would receive its form of government, to whom it would be bound by some alliance or confederacy, and by whose councils it would be influenced. Such a measure, if ever attempted, would certainly be opposed by the other States as inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the proposed confederation. Should it take place by establishing a sub-confederacy, imperium in imperio, the State possessed of this extensive dominion must then either submit to all the inconveniences of an overgrown and unwieldy government, or suffer the authority of Congress to interpose, at a future time, and to lop off a part of its territory, to be erected into a new and free State, and admitted into a confederation on such conditions as shall be settled by nine States. If it is necessary, for the happiness and tranquillity of a State thus over

grown, that Congress should hereafter interfere and divide its territory, why is the claim to that territory now made, and so pertinaciously insisted on? We can suggest to ourselves but two motives : either the declaration of relinquishing, at some future period, a proportion of the country now contended for, was made to lull suspicion asleep, and to cover the designs of a secret ambition, or, if the thought was seriously entertained, the lands are now claimed to reap an immediate profit from the sale. We are convinced, policy and justice require that a country unsettled at the commencement of this war, claimed by the British crown, and ceded to it by the treaty of Paris, if wrested from the common enemy by the blood and treasure of the thirteen States, should be considered as a common property, subject to be parcelled out by Congress into free, convenient, and independent governments, in such manner and at such times as the wisdom of that assembly shall hereafter direct.

Thus convinced, we should betray the trust reposed in us by our constituents, were we to authorize you to ratify on their behalf the confederation, unless it be further explained. We have coolly and dispassionately considered the subject; we have weighed probable inconveniences and hardships, against the sacrifice of just and essential rights; and do instruct you not to agree to the confederation, unless an article or articles be added thereto in conformity with our declaration. Should we succeed in obtaining such article or articles, then you are hereby fully empowered to accede to the confederation.

That these our sentiments respecting our confederation may be more publicly known, and more explicitly and concisely declared, we have drawn up the annexed declaration, which we instruct you to lay before Congress, to have it printed, and to deliver to each of the delegates of the other States in Congress assembled, copies thereof, signed by yourselves, or by such of you as may be present at the time of delivery ; to the intent and purpose that the copies aforesaid may be communicated to our brethren of the United States, and the contents of the said declaration taken into their serious and candid consideration.

Also we desire and instruct you to move, at a proper time, that these instructions be read to Congress by their secretary, and entered on the journals of Congress.

We have spoken with freedom, as becomes freemen; and we sincerely wish that these our representations may make such an impression on that assembly as to induce them to make such addition to the Articles of Confederation as may bring about a permanent union.

New Jersey withheld her ratification to the articles until near the close of 1778, on the same grounds, but finally yielded “in the firm reliance that the candor and justice of the several States will, in due time, remove as far as possible, the inequality which now subsists."

The State of Delaware, in connection with her ratification of the Articles of Confederation in 1779, directed her delegates to present to Congress the following resolutions of the legislature of that State:

Resolved, That this State thinks it necessary, for the peace and safety of the States to be included in the Union, that a moderate extent of limits should be assigned for such of those States as claim to the Mississippi or South Sea; and that the United States in Congress assembled, should, and ought to have the power of fixing their western limits.

Resolved, That this state consider themselves justly entitled to a right, in common with the members of the Union, to that extensive tract of country which lies westward of the frontiers of the United States, the property of which was not vested in, or granted to, individuals at the commencement of the present war: That the same hath been, or may be gained from Great Britain or the native Indians, by the blood and treasure of all, and ought therefore to be a common estate, to be granted out on terms beneficial to the United States."

The increasing dissatisfaction which continued to manifest itself in the other States at the apparent design of a portion of the confederacy to endeavor to set up and maintain a claim to the western territory, for their own exclusive benefit, to the exclusion of those

« ForrigeFortsett »