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revolution. Magna Charta and the English common law are still the fundamental law in every State within the territory originally belonging to the thirteen States. State constitutions are in fact only express applications of the principles of Magna Charta and the common law to novel circumstances.
Did they abrogate the wise provisions of these fundamental laws they would be null and void, or at best revolutionary; for they would be subversive of the vested rights of individuals wrung from and conceded by our ancient sovereigns in England, and maintained here by a war of years.
The colonies, then, possessed from the moment of their independence governments of law. It is to be further observed that these were independent of each other. Between them there was no connection whatsoever. Each had been immediately connected with the mother country, from which it received its charter and the constitution of its separate provincial government, and such intercolonial connections as existed were entirely voluntary, conveying to none a right of governing or controlling another. The colonies had been separately organized; they became separately independent, enjoying separate sovereignty over separate territories; the new fact of separation from England made no change in their relations to cach other ; consequently they were still as independent of each other as they had been hitherto.
Yet in every step towards independence of the mother country they had been united. The first assembly of delegates " chosen and appointed by the several colonies and provinces in North America to take into consideration the actual situation of the same, and the differences subsisting between them and Great Britain," was immediately known as the congress of delegates of the United Colonies. The Declaration of Independence professed to emanate from "the representatives of the United States of America ; " and it affirmed aud published to the world that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.". And the first article of the subsequent confederation was in these words: " Article I. The style of this confederacy shall be The Unitei States of America."" From the first cooperation of the colonies in an attempt to settle their difficulty with the British Government
to the present day, their combination has been known as The Union.” Originally a mere combination for mutual advice on an occasion of peculiar perplexity, it became successively a defensive alliance, a confederation of independent powers, and a federal republic; but in every instance it was called in popular speech “The Union.” This is a circumstance of no small value in correcting the impression--unfortunately too common—that the notion of union necessarily includes that of consolidation. The Union of England and Scotland is a consolidated union, merging as it does two separate kingdoms into one united or consolidated kingdom. Even this union, according to Blackstone, is not indissoluble; but would be resolved into its original elements or at least greatly endangered by any act which should abrogate or disregard the original conditions under which it was constituted, without “the mutual consent of both.” Whence it appears that even a consolidated union does not in any true sense destroy the individuality of the parties to it; and that the surrender of particular functions of individuality is dependent as to its perpetuity on an observance between the parties “of those points which, when they were separate and independent nations, it was mutually stipulated should be fundamental and essential conditions of the union.'" (BLACKSTONE, Com. i. 97.) But the notion of consolidation has no place in the American Union. Nothing of the sort was dreamed of when the first congress of delegates assembled to take common counsel in Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia. At that time the colonies were still British dependencies; they had formed no bond of union with each other; they were united only by the influence of common dangers, sympathies, and resolutions; it was this influence alone that made their “Union;” but it was a true union for all that. There has never been a truer union than when the delegates of the United Colonies in Philadelphia “locked the doors, enjoining by word of honor secrecy on the members; and all the while the people from New Hampshire to Georgia waited quietly, willingly, resolutely prepared to do, not the bidding of that congress, but to accept its conclusions as the voice of thirteen nations." Nor was there any thought of consolidation in the Declaration of Independence, which affirmed tha: in the r individual capacities as " free and independent States”—not as a free and independent state, or a free and independent people--they had "full power to levy war, conclude peace, and contract alliances.” It was as individual States and at different times that they authorized this declaration to be made; and it was in right of their individual power 66 to contract alliances” that they coöperated in the war of independence, and adopted, while the war was being waged, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Yet, without one thought of consolidation, was there ever a more perfect union than existed when the colonies, conscious of their mutual independence, “appealed to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of their intentions," and "for the support of their declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors "? It is true that an attempt was made by Mr. Adams and others, as we have already seen, to effect a consolidation of the States into one state. “It has been said," he remarked, “that we are independent individuals making a bargain with each other. The question is not what we are now, but what we ought to be when our bargain shall be made. The confederacy is to make us one indi. vidual only; it is to form us, like separate pieces of metal, into
We shall no longer retain our separate indi. viduality, but become a single individual," &c. Mr. Adams was mistaken. The States, under the confederation, did not "beconie a single individual; on the contrary, they did “retain their separate individuality;" and the very article--the most important in the draft of confederation—which he was so energetically opposing, was triumphantly upheld. The truth is, that the Union was never weaker or more in danger of dissolution than under its first formal bond of confederation. The first Congress assembled under its provisions in 1781. In 1784, one year after peace was proclaimed between England and the United States, the army of the latter was reduced to eighty men; and there was no means of providing for their support. "Each State,” says Madison, “yielding to the voice of immediate interest or convenience, withdrew its support from the confederation, till the frail and tottering edifice was ready to fall upon our heads, and crush us beneath its ruins."
one common mass.
The chief difficulty experienced by Congress and the confedereration was that they had received no powers to regulate com
The States had consequently retained the right to impose such duties on exports and imports as their several legislatures might think proper. From this a twofold embarrassment resulted. Congress had no means of sustaining the public credit by levying duties for the liquidation of the public debt, or defraying the public expenses. They could only apportion the quota to be paid by each State; and the States failing in their duty of replenishing the treasury, there was no way of compelling them. Coercion of States, however justifiable in the case of a repudiation of pecuniary obligations voluntarily entered into, was not within the powers of Congress. On the other hand, a serious embarrassment was felt by Congress in making commercial treaties with foreign states; for unless the States of the Union chose severally through their legislatures to ratify the acts of Congress in this regard, by adopting such commercial regulations in their ports as mighi be necessary, treaties made by Congress might be utterly inoperative; and in practice it was found that, with the best intention on the part of the States to carry out the recommendations of Congress, certain inconvenient irregularities, inseparable from the distinct action of thirteen different bodies, interfered with the efficiency of government and prevented its consistent action. In 1785 this important matter was under the consideration of Congress, and it was proposed that the first paragraph of the ninth of the Articles of Confederation should be altered so as to read thus :
“ The United States in Congress assembled shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, except in the cases mentioned in the sixth article of sending and receiving ambassadors—entering into treaties and alliances-of regulating the trade of the States, as well with foreign nations as each other, and of laying such imposts and duties, upon imports and exports, as may be necessary for the purpose; provided, that the citizens of the States shall, in no instance, be subjected to pay higher imposts and duties than those imposed on the subjects of foreign powers; provided, also, that the legislative power of the several States shall not be restrained from prohibiting the importation or exportation of any species of goods or commodities whatever; provided, also, that all such duties as may be imposed shall be collected under the authority and accrue to the use of the State in which the same shall be payable; and provided, lastly, that every act of Congress, for the above purpose, shall have the assent of nine States in Congress assembled—of establishing rules for deciding, in all cases, what captures on land or water shall be legal, and in what manner prizes taken by land or naval forces in the service of the United States shall be divided or appropriated—of granting letters of marque and reprisal in time of peace-appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and establishing courts for receiving and determining finally appeals in all cases of capture; provided, that no member of Congress shall be appointed judge of any of the said courts."
A letter was also prepared to be sent to the States, setting forth the advantages to be expected from committing these powers to Congress. It was felt, however, that any proposition for amending the act of confederation ought to emanate from the State legislatures rather than from Congress; and so the matter dropped in Congress.
After various movements in the same direction, the State of Virginia appointed a commission to "meet such commissioners as might be appointed by the other States in the Union, at a time and place to be agreed on, to take into consideration the trade of the United States; to examine the relative situation and trade of the said States; to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial regulations may be necessary to their common interest and their permanent harmony; and to report to the several States such an act relative to this great object as, when unanimously ratified by them, will enable the United States in Congress assembled eftectually to provide for the same.” The commissiouers were also directed to transmit to the several States copies of the resolution under which their appointment had been made, with a circular requesting their concurrence, and proposing a time and place for the meeting
Only four States, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, at first supported the proposal of Virginia. Commis