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OF THE GOVERNMENTS OF THE UNION.
$ 1. New England confederacy. § 2. Articles of confederation. § 3. Disso.
lution $ 4. Albany plan of union. § 5. Causes of its failure. $ 6. Congress of 1765. $ 7. Congress of 1774. $ 8. Mode of election. $ 9. Powers of delegates. $ 10. Their transactions. § 11. Congress of 1775. § 12. Articles of confederation. § 13. Treaty of peace. § 14. Inefficacy of the articles of confederation. § 15. Convention at Annapolis. § 16. Convention at Philadelphia. § 17. Formation of the federal constitution.
1. The first attempt at union among the English colonies, was made in New England, in 1643, a time when a general combination of the neighbouring Indians against the English settlements was apprehended, and symptoms of hostility betrayed by the Dutch at Manhadoes. A sense of impending danger suggested the policy of union, and after mature deliberation articles of confederation were digested and agreed upon, and in May, 1643, conclusively adopted, by the colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven. The preamble to these articles is strikingly characteristic both of the times and the place where it was written.
§ 2. “Whereas wee all came into these parts of America with one and the same end and ayme namely to advaunce the kingdome of our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties the Gospell in puritie with peace. And whereas in our settleinge (by a wise Providence of God) we are further dispersed upon the Sea Coasts and Riuers then was at first intended, so that we cannot according to our desire with convenience communicate in one Government and Juriddiccon: And whereas wee live encompassed with people of seuerall Nations and strang languages which hereafter may proue injurious to vs or our posteritie. And forasmuch as the natiues have formerly committed sondry insolences and outrages vpon seueral Plantacons of the English, and have of late combined themselues against vs.
And seing by reason of those sad Distraccons in England which they have heard of, and by which they know wee are hindred from that humble way of seekinge advise, or reapeing those comfortable fruits of protection which at other tymes wee might well expect. Wee therefore doé conceiue it our boun. den Dutye without delay to enter into a present Consotiation amongst our selues for mutuall help and strength in all our future concernments. That as in Nation and Religion so in other respects wee bee and continue one according to the tenor and true meaneing of the ensuing articles: Wherefore it is fully agreed and concluded by and betweene the parties or Juridiccons aboue named and they joyntly and seuerally doe by these presents agree and conclude 'That they all bee and henceforth bee called by the name of The United Colonies of New-England.”
This confederation entered into a perpetual league of offence and defence, mutual advice and succour, upon all just occasions, both for preserving and propagating the truth and liberties of the gospel, and for their mutual safety.
Two commissioners from each of the four colonies were chosen annually, for the regulation of such affairs as concerned the union generally, while each retained its full sovereignty in other respects. No two colonies could join in one jurisdiction, without the consent of the whole ; and no other colony could be received into the confederacy, without the like consent.
The charge of all wars was to be bɔrne by the colonies respectively, in proportion to the male inhabitants of each between 16 and 60 years of age; each colony raising their quota as they pleased. On notice of an invasion by three magistrates of
any colony, the confederates were immediately to furnish their respective quotas of men "without further meeting or expostulation." At the next meeting of the commissioners, however, the cause of such invasion was to be considered, and if it should appear that the fault lay in the invaded colony, such colony was to make just satisfaction to the invaders, and bear all the charges of the war.
No colony was permitted, without the general consent, to engage
in war, except in sudden and inevitable cases. Three-fourths of the commissioners (six) possessed the power of binding the whole. Any measure approved of by a smaller majority was to be referred to the legislature of each colony, and only to be adopted if agreed to by all. If on any extraordinary meeting, their whole number should not assemble, aby four who should meet were empowered to determine on a war, and to call for the respective quotas of the several colonies; but not less than six could determine the justice of the war, or settle the expenses, or levy money for its support.
Rhode Island, at the instance of Massachusetts, was excluded from this union. Afterwards, in 1648, on her petitioning to be received as a member, her request was refused, unless she would consent to be incorporated with Plymouth, and thereby lose her separate existence. This condition being deemed inadmissible, she never was taken into the confederacy. The vigorous and prudent measures pursued by the United Colonies entirely disconcerted the plans of the Indians, and preserved a general peace*
| 3. This union remained in force upwards of 30 years, when a dissolution of the charters, and a new arrangement of the boundaries of the colonies took place.
$ 4. No other attempt at union was made by the colonies, until the commencement of the troubles in America, previous to the breaking out of the French war of 1755. In the year 1754, the earl of Holdernesse, the British secretary of state, wrote a circular to the governors of the respective colonies, ordering them to repel by force the French encroachments on the Ohio, and recommending to them union for their mutual protection and defence.
To digest a plan for this purpose, a general meeting of the governors, and most influential members of the provincial assemblies, was held at Albany. The commissioners at this congress were unanimously of opinion that a union of the colonies was necessary, and they proposed a plan to the following effect: That a grand council should be formed of members to be chosen by the provincial assemblies, which council together with a president-general to be appointed by the crown, should be authorized to make general laws, and also to raise money from all the colonies for the general defence.
5. The delegates from Connecticut alone dissented from this plan. Their sole objection to it was founded on the powers of the president-general, who, being an officer appointed by the crown, was deemed by that cautious people to be invested by the articles of the union with an authority dangerous to their welfare. The plan, for a very different reason, was not acceptable to the English ministry, who, in lieu thereof, proposed, that the governors of all the colonies, attended by one or two members of their respective councils, should from time to time concert measures for the whole colonies, erect forts, and raise troops, with a power to draw
the British treasury in the first instance, the sums drawn to be ultimately reimbursed by a tax to be laid on the colonies by act of parliament. This plan was as much disrelished in America as the former had been in England, and the union in consequence fell to the groundt.
* The whole of the proceedings of this first congress may be found in Hazard's State Papers, vol. 2.
t “The ministerial plan laid down above was transmitted to Gov. Shirley, and by him communicated to Dr. Franklin, and his opinion thereon requested. That sagacious patriot sent to the governor an answer in writing, with re
06. No further steps were taken towards a union of the colonies until the year 1765, when a universal alarm was excited throughout the country by the passage of the stamp act by the British parliament. Resolutions were passed by several of the legislatures, asserting their exclusive right to tax their constituents. The legislature of Massachusetts, contemplating a still more solemn and effectual expression of the general sentiment, recommended that a congress of delegates from all the colonial assemblies should meet at New York on the first Tuesday in October, and addressed circular letters to the different colonial assemblies to that effect.
At the appointed time and place commissioners met from the legislatures of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the three lower counties on the Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina.
The measures adopted by this congress were, a declaration of the rights and grievances of the colonists; and a petition to the king, together with a memorial to each house of parliament. They likewise recommended that the several colonies should appoint special agents, who should unite their utmost endeavours to obtain a redress of grievances. This done, they adjourned. : 97. On the passage of the Boston port bill, in 1774, resolutions were passed by the legislatures of Virginia and Massachusetts, and by town-meetings in New York and Boston, recommending that a congress should meet annually, to deliberate on those general measures which the united interests of America should from time to time render necessary. This measure was adopted by all the colonies excepting that of Georgia. The committees of correspondence selected Philadelphia for the place of meeting, and agreed that it should take place in the beginning of September.
The delegates accordingly met at Philadelphia, on the 4th of September, 1774, and the next day they convened at the Carpenter's Hall, when Peyton Randolph, late speaker of the house of burgesses of Virginia, was unanimously chosen president.
9 8. The members of this congress were generally elected by the colonial legislatures; but in some instances a different sys. tem was pursued. In New Jersey and Maryland the elections were made by committees chosen in the several counties for that particular purpose; and in New York, where the royal party was very strong, the people themselves assembled in those
marks on the proposed plan, in which, by his strong reasoning powers, on the first view of the new subject, he anticipated the substance of a controversy which for twenty years employed the tongues, pens, and swords of both coun. tries.”
Ramsay's History of the American Revolution. VOL. I.
places where the spirit of opposition to the claims of parliament prevailed, and elected delegates, who were very readily received into congress.
99. The powers with which the delegates were invested were of various extent. Most generally they were authorized to consult and advise on the means most proper to secure the liberties of the colonies, and to restore the harmony formerly subsisting between them and the mother country. In some instances the powers given appeared to contemplate only such measures as would operate on the commercial connexion between the two countries; in others the discretion of the delegates was unlimited.
$ 10. After considerable discussion, it being found impossible to fix the comparative weight of each province, from the want of proper materials, it was agreed that each colony should have only one vote, whatever should be the number of its delegates. It was also agreed that their proceedings, except such as they might determine to publish, should be kept inviolably secret.
The most important business transacted this session was the passing a declaration of rights, a petition to the king, an address to the people of Great Britain, and an address to the other colonies, inviting them to unite with their brethren in the common
Having completed the business before them, and recommended that another congress should be held in Philadelphia, on the 10th day of the succeeding May, the house dissolved itself.
9 11. Delegates for a new congress being chosen pursuant to the recommendation of the last, they met at the time appointed, the 10th of May, at Philadelphia. Among their first measures was a resolution for raising an army. Totally devoid of money and revenue, congress were forced to adopt a hazardous expedient, the only one, however, in their power, for supporting an army, the emission of paper money.
A resolution was passed for emitting a sum not exceeding two millions of Spanish milled dollars in bills of credit, and the colonies were pledged for their redemption.
$ 12. The following year, 1776, is a memorable era in the history of America. On the 4th of July, independence was declared, a measure which rendered necessary the formation of new forms of government, for the union as well as for the respective states. A committee of congress had been appointed for digesting articles of confederation between the united colonies, some weeks previous to the adoption of the declaration of independence. Many difficult questions occurred in settling