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After the Articles of Confederation were adopted by Congress, that body directed a copy of them to be sent to the speakers of the various state legislatures to be laid before them for action. They were accompanied by a communication, requesting the several legislatures, in case they approved of them, to instruct their delegates in Congress to vote for a ratification of them, which last act should be final and conclusive. On the twenty-ninth of November, a committee of three was appointed to procure the translation of the Articles of Confederation into the French language ; and also to prepare and report an address to the people of Canada, urging them to become a portion of the confederacy.
The letter which accompanied the Articles of Confederation when they were sent to the several state legislatures, was in the form of an urgent appeal for immediate and united action. A direful necessity called for some strong bond of union, for the clangor of arms was heard on every side. Foes without, and traitors within, were everywhere sowing the seeds of jealousy between the states, and using every effort to sunder the ligaments of a common interest and repress a common aspiration which united them. It was easily foreseen that the conflicting interests of thirteen distinct states would necessarily clash, and that the idea of sovereignty which each possessed would interpose many objections to a general confederation, such as was proposed. Therefore, the letter was an argumentative one, and endeavored to show them that the plan proposed was the best which could be adapted to the circumstances of all. It concluded with the following impressive admonition :
“We have reason to regret the time which has elapsed in preparing this plan for consideration. With additional solicitude, we look forward to that which must be necessarily spent before it can be ratified. Every motive
loudly calls upon us to hasten its conclusion. More than any other consideration it will confound our foreign enemies, defeat the flagitious practices of the disaffected, strengthen and confirm our friends, support our public credit, restore the value of our money, enable us to maintain our fleets and armies, and add weight and respect to our councils at home, and to our treaties abroad. In short, this salutary measure can no longer be deferred. It seems essential to our very existence as a free people; and without it, we may soon be constrained to bid adieu to independence, to liberty, and to safety — blessings which from the justice of our cause, and the favor of our Almighty Creator visibly manifested in our protection, we have reason to expect, if in an humble dependence on his divine providence, we strenuously exert the means which are placed in our power."
Notwithstanding this pathetic appeal, and the general feeling that something must be speedily done, the state legislatures were slow to adopt the Articles. In the first place, they did not seem to accord with the prevailing sentiment of the people, as set forth in the Declaration of Independence; and in many things that Declaration and the Articles of Confederation were manifestly antipodent. The former was based upon declared right; the foundation of the latter was asserted power. The former was based upon a superintending Providence, and the inalienable rights of man ; the latter rested upon
the “sovereignty of declared power-one ascending for the foundation of human government, to the laws of nature and of nature's God, written upon the heart of man—the other resting upon the basis of human institutions, and prescriptive law, and colonial charters.'* Again, the system of representation proposed, was highly objectionable,
* John Quincy Adams' Jubilee Discourse, 1839.
because each state was entitled to the same voice in Congress, whatever might be the difference in population. But the most objectionable feature of all was, that the question of the limits of the several states, and also in whom was vested the control or possession of the Crownlands, was not only unadjusted, but wholly unnoticed. These and other defects, caused most of the states to -hesitate at first, to adopt the Articles, and several of them for a long time utterly refused to accept them.
On the twenty-second of June, 1778, Congress proceeded to consider the objections of the states to the Articles of Confederation, and on the twenty-seventh of the same month, a form of ratification was adopted and ordered to be engrossed upon parchment, with a view that the same should be signed by such delegates as were instructed so to do by their respective legislatures.
On the ninth of July, the delegates of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina, signed the Articles. The delegates from New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland were not yet empowered to ratify and sign. Georgia and North Carolina were not represented, and the ratification of New York was conditional that all the other states should ratify. The delegates from North Carolina signed the articles on the twenty-first of July, those of Georgia on the twenty-fourth of the same month, those of New Jersey on the twenty-sixth of November, and those of Delaware on the twenty-second of February and fifth of May, 1779. Maryland still firmly refused to ratify, until the question of the conflicting claims of the Union and of the separate states to the Crown-lands, should be fully adjusted. This point was finally settled by cessions of the claiming states to the United States, of all the unsettled and unappropriated lands for the benefit of the whole Union. This cession of the Crown-lands
to the Union, originated the Territorial System, and the erection of the North Western Territory into a distinct government similar to the existing states, having a local legislature of its own. The insuperable objection of Maryland having been removed by the settlement of this question, her delegates signed the Articles of Confederation on the first day of March, 1781, four years and four months after they were adopted by Congress. By this act of Maryland, they became the organic law of the Union, and on the second of March, Congress assembled under the new powers.
THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION.
It was early perceived that the Articles of Confederation conferred powers upon Congress quite inadequate to the objects of an effective National Government. That body, according to the terms of those Articles, possessed no power to liquidate debts incurred during the war,* it had the privilege only of recommending to the several States, the payment thereof. This recommendation was tardily complied with,t and Congress possessed no power to compel the States to obey its mandates. To a great extent, the people lost all regard for the authority of Congress, and the commercial affairs of the country became wretchedly deranged. In truth, everything seemed to be tending toward utter chaos soon after peace in 1783, and the leading minds of the Revolution, in view of increasing and magnified evils, and the glaring defects of the Articles of Confederation, were turned to a consideration of a plan for a closer union of the states, and for a general government founded on the principles of the Declaration of Independence, from which the Confederation in question widely departed.
The sagacious mind of Washington perceived with intense anxiety the tendency toward ruin of that fair fabric which his prowess had helped to rear, and he took the initial step toward the adoption of measures which
* The general government at the close of the Revolution, was burdened with a foreign debt of eight millions of dollars, and a domestic debt of about thirty millions, due to the army and to other American citizens.
† During fourteen months, only $482,890 were paid into the public treasury ; and the foreign interest was paid by a fresh loan from Holland.