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clared the several instances in which those rights had been violated. For the redress of their wrongs they entered into a non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation agreement. They prepared an address to the people of Great Britain, a memorial to the inhabitants of British America, and a petition to the king.
5. If these measures should prove unsuccessful, and their grievances remain unredressed, they recommended that another Congress should be held on the 10th of the following May. The British government still persisting in their system, a second Congress, composed of delegates from twelve colonies, accord. ingly assembled at Philadelphia in May, 1775. In the course of the year Georgia united with her sister colonies, and sent delegates to the Congress.
Powers exercised by the Congress. 6. The second Continental Congress exercised for nearly six years, that is, from their meeting until the final ratification of the Articles of Confederation on the 1st of March, 1781, the powers of a supreme, controlling national council. They declared the colonies free and independent states, raised armies, made treaties, and performed the highest acts of sovereign authority. They did all this, without any express delegation of power, but with the implied sanction of their constituents, who acquiesced in, and approved their proceedings.
The Articles of Confederation. 7. The powers of Congress remained undefined until the adoption of the Articles of Confederation, which then became the rule of government. These Articles were laid before Congress by a committee of their body on the 12th of July, 1776; and after being debated and amended from time to time, they were finally agreed to on the 17th of November, 1777, and submitted to the legislatures of the states for their ratification.
8. The state legislatures, at successive dates, authorized their delegates in Congress to ratify them; but the ratifications were not completed until the 1st of March, 1781. Congress assembled under their authority on the following day; but it was soon discovered that the powers which they now possessed were totally inadequate to the purposes of an efficient government.
Powers confided to the Confederation. 9. Each state retained every power, right, and jurisdiction not expressly delegated to Congress. And the powers actually delegated were restricted in their exercise. Thus Congress could never engage
in war, nor grant letters of marque and reprisal in time of peace, nor enter into any treaties or alliances, nor coin money, nor regulate the value thereof, nor ascertain the sums and expenses necessary for the defence and welfare of the United States or any of them, nor emit bills, nor borrow money on the credit of the United States, nor appropriate money, nor agree upon the number of vessels of war to be built or purchased, or the number of land or sea forces to be raised, nor appoint a commander-in-chief of the army or navy, without the assent of nine states, each state having one vote.
10. But even after the assent of the requisite number of states, Congress, having no coercive authority, could not execute its most important
The concurrence of thirteen distinct sovereignties was necessary in order to give them effect.
11. Congress, for example, could declare war, but it depended upon the states whether they should have an army and navy; they could make treaties, but it equally depended upon the states whether they should be observed; they could contract debts, and again it depended upon the states whether they should be paid.
12. They could lay and collect no taxes, the states reserving this power to themselves.
could only ascertain the sums necessary to be raised for the service of the United States, and call on the several states for their respective proportions thereof. Whether the several states would respond to this call at all, or at what time, or in what' manner, depended wholly upon themselves.
13. Another great defect in the Articles of Confederation was the want of any power in Congress to regulate foreign and domestic commerce. This led to conflicting and irritating regulations on the part of the several states, and threatened the most serious consequences.
Result of the Confederation, 14. In short, the government of the Confederation possessed in reality only a power of recommendation, and hence the efficacy of its measures depended upon their being in harmony with the views, interests, and convenience of the several states.
15. The result was natural: the measures of the Congress were not executed. That body was unsupplied with the means to pay the public debt, and possessed neither respect abroad, nor credit and confidence at home. « In a word,” said Washington, “the Confederation appears to me to be little more than a shadow without the substance; and Congress à nugatory body, their ordinances being little attended to."
Origin of the Convention which framed the
Constitution. 16. In this emergency, a Convention which had assembled at Annapolis in the autumn of 1786, to devise a uniform system of commercial regulations, in consequence of imperfect powers, and an inadequate representation, forbore to consider that subject, but instead thereof recommended the appointment of commissioners from all the states, to devise such additional provisions as should appear to them necessary to render the Constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union.
17. This action of the Annapolis Convention met with a favorable response. On the 21st of the following February, Congress formally recommended a convention of delegates, to be appointed by the several states, for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein, as should, when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the states under the Federal Constitution, seem adequate to the exigencies of the government and the preservation of the Union.