« PředchozíPokračovat »
hostile tribes of Indians, and of a common interest from similarity of circumstances, soon induced a union or confederacy of the colonies. In 1643, the colonies of Massachussets, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, formed a league, which, by their articles of confederation was declared to be a perpetual league, offensive and defensive, under the name of the United Colonies of New England. The chief points in this confederation were :-/st. That each colony should have peculiar jurisdiction and government within its own limits. 2nd. That the quotas of men and money were to be furnished in proportion to the population, for which purpose a census was to be taken from time to time of such as were able to bear
3rd. That to manage such matters as concerned the whole confederation, a congress of two commissioners from each colony should meet annually, with power to weigh and determine all affairs of war and peace, leagues, aids, charges, and whatever else were proper concomitants of a confederation offensive and defensive; and that to determine any question, three-fourths of these cominissioners must agree, or the matter is to be referred to the general courts. 4th. That these commissioners may choose a president, but that such president has no power over the business or proceedings. 5th. That neither of the colonies should engage in any war without consent of the general commissioners. 6th. That if any of the confederates should break any of these articles, »therwise injure any of the other confederates, then such breach should be considered and ordered by the commissioners of the other colonies.
But this confederacy was, by agreement, a mere league, from motives of amity, for objects of general offence and defence. As such, it was as good a model as any which history presents us; but as a government, it was utterly inefficient, its principal defects in the last point of view were-1st. The want of an executive, without which it could never act as a whole. All the acts of the commissioners had to be enforced by each separate colony: they did not act upon individuals. 2d. The want of a General
Judiciary, by which offences arising between the several members, or against the whole confederacy, might be taken cognizance of. 3rd. The want of any general power to obtain credit or emit money. In short, this league did not pretend to be a government, and was deficient in nearly all the attributes of sovereignty. This confederacy continued forty years. In 1754, a congress of commissioners, representing the colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, was held at Albany. This convention unanimously resolved, that a union of the colonies was absolutely necessary for their preservation. They proposed a general plan of federal government, which however was not accepted by the mother country, but may serve to show what progress in ideas of government had then been made by the colonists. * It is remarkable that the scheme proposed did not purport, like the other, to be a league, or confederation, but a plan for one general government. Its principal provisions were-1. That the general government should be administered by a President-General appointed by the crown, and a grand council chosen by the representatives of the people in their general assemblies. * 2. That the council should be chosen every three years, and shall meet once each year. 3. That the assent of the president be necessary to all acts of the council, and that it is his duty to see them executed. 4. That the president and council may hold treaties, make peace, and declare war with the several Indian tribes. 5. That for these purposes they have power to levy and collect such duties, imposts and taxes, as to them shall seem just.
It will be seen that this was a much nearer approach to an organised government than the confederacy of 1643. It provided for a strong executive, but was without the sanction of a general judiciary, and made no provision for regulating the currency.
* Kent's Commentaries, p. 191, 192.
In May, 1775, the first congress of the thirteen states assembled at Philadelphia; and in July, 1776, issued the Declaration of Independence.*
We now come to the articles of confederation under which the United States successfully terminated the Revolution. During the early part of the Revolution, the powers of a general nature were executed without question or hindrance by a congress of deputies from the several states. I Patriotism and a common danger absorbed all other principles, and made ordinary ties unnecessary
A universal opinion however prevailed in favor of union, and after much deliberation, congress, in November, 1777, agreed upon the articles of confederation. They were, after various delays, ratified by the different states; the principal objection being in respect to the wild lands, which were claimed by several of the states, but which others urged should go to bear the common burthen. In the sequel, these lands were ceded by the states who held them, to the common benefit of the Union.
The Articles of Confederation provided :
1st. That the style of the Confederacy should be the “ United States of America."
2nd. That each state should retain its sovereignty, independence, and such rights as were not delegated to the general Congress.
3rd. That the object of the league was the general welfare, and the common defence against foreign agression.
4th. That the citizens of one state shall have the privileges of citizens in another, and that full faith and
* The Declaration of Independence will be found in full on page 40.
† The Revolution lasted seven years, the colonies achieving their independence from Great Britain in 1783.
| Journal of Congress, vol. 2, p. 475. § 1 Kent's Comm.. 197.
credit shall be given to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings in another state.
5th. That for the management of the general interests, delegates shall be annually appointed to meet in Congress, each state not having less than two nor more than seven; and that in determining questions in Congress, each state shall have one vote.
6th. That no state shall, without the consent of Congress, enter into any treaty or alliance with any foreign power or nation, or with any other state ; nor lay any imposts or duties interfering with any stipulations contained in any treaty made by Congress; nor keep any vessels of war or armed forces in time of peace, except such as Congress may deem necessary; nor engage in any war without the consent of Congress, unless the state be actually invaded, or the danger imminent; nor grant letters of marque, unless such state be infested with pirates.
7th. All charges for the general welfare shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be levied in proportion to the value of land within each state.
8th. The “United States in Congress assembled " shall have the exclusive right of making peace and war; entering into treaties and alliances; granting letters of marque, and establishing courts and rules for the trial of piracies and felonies, and determining questions in relation to captures; and that the Congress have the power to determine all questions and differences between two or more states, concerning any cause whatever, which authority shall be exercised by instituting a court in manner and form as provided, where judgment shall be final and decisive; and that they have power to fix the standard of weights, measures, and coin; establish Postoffices and Commission-officers; that they shall have power to appoint a committee of the states, and such other civil officers as may be necessary to manage the general affairs of the United States under their direction; to elect their President; to fix the sums of money to be raised; to borrow money and emit bills of credit; to agree on the number of forces to be raised, which are to be distributed among the states in proportion to their white inhabitants; that the “ United States” shall not exercise these powers unless nine states assent to the same, nor shall any question except that of adjournment be determined unless by the votes of a majority of the states.
9th. It is further provided, that the committee of the states, or any nine of them, shall be authorised to execute, in the recess of Congress, such of the powers of Congress as the United States, or any nine of them, shall think proper to vest them with.
10th. All debts contracted under the authority of Congress shall be deemed and considered as a charge against the United States, for which the public faith is pledged.
1lth. That every state shall abide by the determinations of Congress upon the questions submitted to it, and the union shall be perpetual.
Such is a synopsis of the articles of confederation, under which the United States terminated the war of the Revolution, and continued till the adoption of the present Constitution. It will be remarked,
1. That the states still assumed the style of a league or confederacy, and that, 2ndly, they had notwithstanding granted away many attributes of sovereignty, even greater than those proposed to be vested in the President and Council by the plan of 1754.
This Confederacy had many obvious and palpable deficiencies, as a government, principally, however, in the mode and process of its administration.
1. There was still wanting an Executive in form, though nearly all its powers were granted to Congress and the “ committee of the states."
2. No general Judiciary was provided; yet they had gone so far as to provide a Marine or Admiralty Court, and a general tribunal to settle conflicts and disputes between the several states.