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tinued with proper organization through all the period of the revolution-war.
The members, who first assembled, appeared under the authority of new elections. They were deputed by colonial legislatures, where that was practicable, and by assemblies which had superseded the legislature, or by the vote of the people, according to the circumstances under which the local power in the colonies was exercised.
In the commission given to the delegates, there was a marked difference between the language now used, and that of the former occasion. Massachusetts authorized her representatives “to agree upon, direct and order such further measures as should to them appear best calculated for the recovery and establishment of American rights ;'> and with characteristic republican jealousy limited their commission to the then current year. The same phraseology was used in the commission to the delegates from South Carolina, a coincidence which is certainly the evidence of a previous concert. Equivalent alterations enlarging the powers of congress, are to be found in the resolutions of several other colonies, all of which imply the higher expectation formed of the duties assigned to this assembly.
The general outline of the authority, thus given to congress, is marked in the language of the commission to the members, but by common consent it was understood they were not merely to deliberate, but to act; not to counsel others only, but execute for themselves. The provincial legislatures retained their exclusive authority over merely local concerns; but the general affairs of the continent, and especially its foreign relations, devolved on the congress at Philadelphia; and without any specific arrangement this central power gradually marked out for its own circle of operations very much the same course, which became afterwards better defined and established in the constitution of the United States.
The continental congress assumed many of the attributes, and exercised much of the power of sovereign authority. They raised an army and appointed the commander in chief and other subordinate officers; they equipped a navy; they incurred debts and pledged the nation for payment; they severed the ties which bound them to a foreign empire, and assumed for their constituents “ the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitled them ;' they formed alliances; they sent and received public ministers; they waged war and they concluded peace. They did every thing appertaining to political power but levy taxes. These great prerogatives were exercised according to the expectation of the people, with so much prudence and moderation, with so much energy and firmness, with such wisdom, integrity and honour, that the illustrious citizens who composed the congress of the revolution have
inscribed their own imperishable glory on the splendid temple they erected for the liberties of
It is probable the congress found itself urged by irresistible circumstances to the exercise of greater powers than were contemplated, when that assembly was first proposed ; and doubts on their part, and on the part of their constituents, as to the precise limits of their authority, were among the difficulties that surrounded them.
The subject early claimed their attention. Articles of confederation better defining the powers of congress, and regulating the duties of the states, were submitted by congress to the several members of the confederacy on the 15th November, 1777, and being ratified on 9th July following, became the charter of government until the adoption of the constitution of the United States.
The government, which began almost from necessity, was continued, matured and perfected in many of its details, during the most embarrassing period of the war. In many of the states too, the old governments having expired, new ones were formed, by the recommendation and with the sanction of congress, under the very cannon of the enemy, and amid all the dangers of military operation. The people in these acts, which display their orderly and intelligent character, share with their leaders the glory of those interesting times. Their readiness to throw off the shackles of the royal government can no longer be imputed to a factious or radical spirit of insubordination, when their earnestness is found to be as great and as well directed to establish a government on the principles of freedom, as to destroy that which was founded on tyranny and oppression.
Member of the Committee of the Treasury..... State of the Finan
ces........Paper Money........Loan Offices ........Lottery........Foreign Loans........ Regulating Acts.
The reputation which Mr. Gerry had acquired in his native province preceded his arrival at Philadelphia. He had scarcely taken his seat in the continental congress, when he was placed on important committees; and on the 17th February 1776, was appointed with Mr. Duane, of NewYork, Mr. Nelson, of Virginia, Mr. Smith and Mr. Willing, of Pennsylvania, to compose a standing committee of five for superintending the treasury. And it was " resolved that it be the business of this committee to examine the accounts of the treasurers, and from time to time to report to congress the state of the treasury.
“ To consider the ways and means for supplying gold and silver for the support of the army in Canada.
“ To employ and instruct proper persons for liquidating the public accounts, with the different paymasters and commissaries in the continental service; and the conventions, committees of safety and others, who have been or shall be intrusted with the public money, and from time to time to report the state of such accounts to congress.