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previously formed incipient governments for themselves; but it was done in compliance with the recommendations of Congress. Virginia, on the 29th of June, 1776, by a convention of delegates, declared “the government of this country, as formerly exercised under the crown of Great Britain, totally dissolved,” and proceeded to form a new constitution of government. New Hampshire also formed a government, in December, 1775, which was manifestly intended to be temporary, “during (as they said) the unhappy and unnatural contest with Great Britain.” New Jersey, too, established a frame of goverument, on the 2d of July, 1776; but it was expressly declared that it should be void upon a reconciliation with Great Britain. And South Carolina, in March, 1776, adopted a constitution of government; but this was, in like manner, “established until an accommodation between Great Britain and America could be obtained.” But the declaration of the independence of all the colonies was the united act of all. It was “a declaration by the representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled ; " " by the delegates appointed by the good people of the colonies," as in a prior declaration of rights they were called. It was not an act done by the state governments then organized; nor by persons chosen by them. It was emphatically the act of the whole people of the United Colonies, by the instrumentality of their representatives, chosen for that among other purposes. It was an act not competent to the state governments, or any of them, as organized under their charters, to adopt. Those charters neither contemplated the case, nor provided for it. It was an act of original, inherent sovereignty by the people themselves, resulting from their right to change the form of government, and to institute a new government, whenever necessary for their safety and happiness. So the Declaration of Independence treats it. No state had presumed of itself to form a new government, or to provide for the exigencies of the times, without consulting Congress on the subject; and when they acted, it was in pursuance of the recommendation of Congress. It was, therefore, the achievement of the whole for the benefit of the whole. The people of the United Colonies made the United Colonies free and independent states, and absolved them from allegiance to the British crown. The Declaration of Independence has accordingly always been treated as an act of paramount and sovereign authority, complete and perfect per se, and ipso facto working an entire dissolution of all political connection with, and alle
nce to, Great Britain; and this, not merely as a practical fact, but in a legal and constitutional view of the matter by courts of justice.
In the debates in the South Carolina legislature, in January, 1788, respecting the propriety of calling a convention of the people to ratify or reject the Constitution, a distinguished statesman used the following language: “This admirable manifesto (i. e. the Declaration of Independence) sufficiently refutes the doctrine of the individual sovereignty and independence of the several states. In that Declaration the several states are not even enumerated ; but after reciting, in nervous language, and with convincing arguments, our right to independence, and the tyranny which compelled us to assert it, the Declaration is made in the following words: We, therefore, the representatives of the United States, &c., do, in the name, &c., of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish, &c., that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.' The separate independence and individual sovereignty of the several states were never thought of by the enlightened band of
patriots who framed this Declaration. The several states are not ever! mentioned by name in any part, as if it was intended to impress the maxim on America, that our freedom and independence arose from our union, and that without it we could never be free or independent. Let us then consider all attempts to weaken this union, by maintaining that each state is separately and individually independent, as a species of political heresy, which can never benefit us, but may bring on us the most serious distresses."
OCCURRENCES INCIDENT TO ACT OF CONFEDERATION.
During the time that the Declaration of Independence was under consideration, Congress took the necessary measures for the formation of a constitutional plan of union. On the 11th of June, 1776, it was resolved, that a committee should be appointed to prepare and digest the form of a confederation to be entered into between the colonies; and on the day following, after it had been determined that the committee should consist of a member from each colony, the following persons were appointed to perform that duty, to wit: Mr. Bartlett, Mr. S. Adams, Mr. Hopkins, Nr. Sherman, Mr. R. R. Livingston, Mr. Dickinson, Mr. M'Kean, Mr. Stone, Mr. Nelson, Mr. Hewes, Mr. E. Rutledge, and Mr. Gwinnett. Upon the report of this committee, the subject was from time to time debated, until the 15th of November, 1777, when a copy of the Confederation being made out, and sundry amendments made in the diction, without altering the sense, the same was finally agreed to. Congress, at the same time, directed that the Articles should be proposed to the legislatures of all the United States, to be considered ; and, if approved of by them, they were advised to authorize their delegates to ratify the same in the Congress of the United States; which being done, the same should become conclusive. Three hundred copies of the Articles of Confederation were ordered to be printed for the use of Congress; and on the 17th of November, the form of a circular letter, to accompany them, was brought in by a committee appointed to prepare it, and, being agreed to, thirteen copies of it were ordered to be made out, to be signed by the president, and forwarded to the several states, with copies of the Confederation. On the 29th of November ensuing, a committee of three was appointed, to procure a translation of the Articles to be made into the French language, and to report an address to the inhabitants of Canada, &c.
On the 26th of June, 1778, the form of a ratification of the Articles of Confederation was adopted; and it was ordered that the whole should be engrossed on parchment, with a view that the same should be signed by the delegates, in virtue of the powers furnished by the several states. On the 20th of June, 1778, Congress resolved, that the delegates of the states, beginning with New Hampshire, should be called upon for the report of their constituents upon the Confederation, and the powers committed to them, and that no amendments should be proposed but such as came from a state. Upon subsequent examination, it appeared that New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, and North Carolina, accepted the Articles as they stood, with a proviso, on the part of New York, that the same should not
be binding on the state until all the other states in the Union should ratify the same. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and South Carolina, proposed alterations, additions, or amendments, which, upon their being considered by the Congress, were all rejected. The delegate from Georgia, when called on, stated, that he had not received any instructions from his constituents respecting the Articles of Confederation ; but that, bis state having shown so much readiness to ratify them, even in an imperfect form, and it being so much for their interest that the Confederation should be ratified, he had no doubt of their agreeing to the Articles as they stood. Delaware and North Carolina having no delegates present in Congress, no report was received from them; but North Carolina had signified her unanimous accession, by a letter from Governor Caswell, of the 26th of April, 1778. On the 9th of July of that year, the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, having been engrossed on a roll of parchment, was examined, the blanks filled up, and it was signed, on the part and in behalf of their respective states, by the delegates of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and South Carolina, agreeably to the powers vested in them. The delegates of the states of New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, informed Congress that they had not yet received powers to ratify and sign. North Carolina and Georgia were not at that time represented in Congress. A committee was appointed to prepare a circular letter to such states as had not authorized their delegates to ratify the Confederation, which was brought in and adopted, as follows:
Sir: Congress, intent upon the present and future security of these United States, nas never ceased to consider a confederacy as the great principle of union, which can alone establish the liberty of America, and exclude forever the hopes of its enemies. Influenced by considerations so powerful, and duly weighing the difficulties which oppose the expectation of any plan being formed that can exactly meet the wishes and obtain the approbation of so many states, differing essentially in various points, Congress have, after mature deliberation, agreed to adopt, without amendments, the Confederation transmitted to the several states for their approbation. The states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Con. necticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, have ratified the same, and it remains only for your state, with those of conclude the glorious compact, which, by uniting the wealth, strength, and councils of the whole, may bid defiance to external violence and internal dissensions, whilst it secures the public credit both at home and abroad. Congress is willing to hope that the patriotism and good sense of your state will be influenced by motives so impor. tant; and they request, sir, that you will be pleased to lay this letter before the legislature of in order that, if they judge it proper, their delegates may be instructed to ratify the Confederation with all convenient despatch; trusting to future deliberations to make such alterations and amendments as experience may show to be expedient and just.
I have the honor to be, &c. On the 21st of July, 1778, the delegates of North Carolina, being then empowered, signed the ratification; those of Georgia, being also authorized, signed it on the 24th of the same month. The delegates of New Jersey, in virtue of full powers, affixed their signatures on the 26th of November following. On the 5th of May, 1779, Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Vandyke signed the Articles of Confederation in behalf of the state of Delaware, Mr. M'Kean having previously signed them in February, at which time he produced a power to that effect. Maryland did not ratify until the year 1781. She had instructed her delegates, on the 15th of December, 1778, not to agree to the Confederation, until matters respecting the western lands should be settled on principles of equity and sound
policy; but, on the 30th of January, 1781, finding that the enemies of the country took advantage of the circumstance to disseminate opinions of an ultimate dissolution of the Union, the legislature of the state passed an act to empower their delegates to subscribe and ratify the Articles, which was accordingly done by Mr. Hanson and Mr. Carroll
, on the 1st of March of that year, which completed the ratifications of the act; and Congress assembled on the 2d of March under the new powers.
OFFICIAL LETTER ACCOMPANYING ACT OF CONFED
In Congress, Yorktown, November 17, 1777. CONGRESS having agreed upon a plan of confederacy for securing the freedom, sovereignty, and independence of the United States, authentic copies are now transmitted for the consideration of the respective legislatures.
This business, equally intricate and important, has, in its progress, been attended with uncommon embarrassment and delay, which the most anxious solicitude and persevering diligence could not prevent. To form a permanent union, accommodated to the opinion and wishes of the delegates of so many states, differing in habits, produce, commerce, and internal police, was found to be a work which nothing but time and reflection, conspiring with a disposition to conciliate, could mature and accomplish.
Hardly is it to be expected that any plan, in the variety of provisions essential to our union, should exactly correspond with the maxims and political views of every particular state. Let it be remarked, that, after ihe most careful inquiry, and the fullest information, this is proposed as the best which could be adapted to the circumstances of all, and as that alone which affords any tolerable prospect of general ratification.
Permit us, then, earnestly to recommend these Articles to the immediate and dispassionate attention of the legislatures of the respective states. Let them be candidly reviewed under a sense of the difficulty of combining in one general system the various sentiments and interests of a continent divided into so many sovereign and independent communities; under a conviction of the absolute necessity of uniting all our councils, and all our strength, to maintain and defend our common liberties ; let them be examined with a liberality becoming brethren and fellow-citizens surrounded by the same imminent dangers, contending for the same illustrious prize, and deeply interested in being forever bound and connected together by ties the most intimate and indissoluble; and, finally, let them be adjusted with the temper and magnanimity of wise and patriotic legislators, who, while they are concerned for the prosperity of their own more immediate circle, are capable of rising superior to local attachments, when they may be incompatible with the safety, happiness, and glory, of the general confederacy.
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 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.
To conclude: If the legislature of any state shall not be assembled, Congress recommend to the executive authority to convene it without delay; and to each respective legislature it is recommended to invest its delegates with competent powers, ultimately, in the name and behalf of the state, to subscribe Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union of the United States, and to attend Congress for that purpose on or before the 10th day of March next.
JEFFERSON'S NOTES OF DEBATE ON CONFEDERATION.
On Friday, July 12, the committee appointed to draw the Articles of Confederation reported them, and on the 22d the house resolved themselves into a committee to take them into consideration. On the 30th and 31st of that month, and 1st of the ensuing, those articles were debated which determined the proportion, or quota, of money which each state should furnish to the common treasury, and the manner of voting in Congress. The first of these articles was expressed, in the original draft, in these words :
“ Art. XI. All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence, or general welfare, and allowed by the United States assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several colonies in proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age, sex, and quality, except Indians not paying taxes, in each colony, - a true account of which, distinguishing the white inhabitants, shall be triennially taken, and transmitted to the Assembly of the United States."
Mr. CHASE moved that the quotas should be fixed, not by the number of inhabitants of every condition, but by that of the " white inhabitants." He admitted that taxation should be always in proportion to property; that this was, in theory, the true rule ; but that, from a variety of difficulties, it was a rule which could never be adopted in practice. The value of the property in every state could never be es