« ForrigeFortsett »
governments, became Royal governments before the Revolution.
§ 13. In the Charter governments, the powers and rights were vested by a charter from the king in the colonists generally, and were placed upon a more free and democratic foundation. In Connecticut and Rhode Island, the governor, council, and the assembly, were chosen every year by the freemen of the colony. But by the charter granted by William and Mary, in 1691, to the colony of Massachusetts, the governor was appointed by the king, the council chosen annually by the general assembly, and the house of representatives chosen by the people, though in other respects the charter was quite liberal in its provisions.
At the Revolution, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut were the only charter governments existing.
§ 14. Notwithstanding these diversities in the form of their government, the situation and circumstances of the colonists were similar in several very important particulars. They were entitled to the rights and liberties of English subjects, and to the advantages of the laws of England. They were mostly a sober, industrious, and persevering people. They established provincial legislatures to regulate their local affairs. They did not hold their lands by any burdensome feudal tenures. The governments were administered upon popular principles, and generally marked by a liberal policy.
§ 15. Many of the settlers in the colonies emigrated from England at a time of great religious and political excitement, and were filled with the spirit of liberty, of free inquiry, and of opposition to the prerogatives of the crown and to an establishel church, which such excitement had produced. Schools and colleges were founded, and re
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 Philadel phia, 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