Page images



T was resolved by congress on June 11, 1776, 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 thiscommittee should consist of one member from each colony, the following persons were chosen: Josiah Bartlett, Samuel Adams, Mr. Hopkins, Mr. Sherman, Mr. R. R. Livingston, Mr. Dickinson, Mr. McKean, 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 November 15, 1777, when a copy of the Articles of Confederation being made, it was finally agreed to. Congress, at the same time, directed that the articles should be proposed to the legislatures of all the states, to be considered, and if approved 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 be conclusive. Three hundred copies of these Articles of Confederation were ordered to be printed for the use of cougress, and on the seventeenth 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 twenty-ninth of the ensuing November a committee of three was appointed to procure a translation of the articles into French and to report an address to the people of Canada. On June 26, 1788, the form of a ratification of the Articles of Confederation was adopted, and, having been engrossed on parchment, was signed on July 9, on the part and in behalf of their several states, by the representatives of New Hamp

shire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Providence plantations, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina. The delegates of North Carolina signed on the twenty-first of July, those of Georgia on the twenty-fourth of July and those of New Jersey on the twenty-sixth of the November following. On the fifth of May, 1779, Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Van Dyke signed in behalf of the state of Delaware, Mr. McKean having previously signed 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 fifteenth 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 thirtieth 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 first of March of that year, which completed the ratifications of the act. and congress assembled on the second of March, under the new powers. This form of government did not meet all the requirements of the situation, and, as will be shown, soon gave way to that under the Constitution.

[ocr errors]


N May, 1785, a committee of congress made a report recommend

was taken on it, and it was left to the state legislatures to proceed in the matter. In January, 1786, the legislature of Virginia passed a resolution providing for the appointment of five commissioners, who, or any three of them, should meet such commissioners as might be appointed in the other states of the Union, at a time and place to be agreed upon, to take into consideration the trade of the United States; to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial regulations inay be necessary to their common interest and their permanent harmony, and to report to the several states such an act relative to this great object as, when ratified by them, will enable the United States in congress effectually to provide for the same. The Virginia commissioner, after some correspondence, fixed the first Mon:lay in September as the time, and the city of Annapolis as the place for the meeting, but only four other states were represented, viz., Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; the con missioners appointed by Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Rhode Island failed to attend. Under the circumstances of so partial a representation the commissioners agreed upon a report, drawn by Alexander Hamilton of New York, expressing the'r unanimous conviction that it might essentially tend to advance the interests of the Union if the states, by which they were respectively delegated, would concur and use their endeavors to procure the concurrence of other states in the appointment of commissioners to meet at Philadelphia on the second Monday of May following, to take into consideration the situation of the United States; to devise such further provisions as should appear to them necessary to render

the Constitution of the Federal government adequate to the exigencies of the Union; and to report such an act for that purpose to the United States in congress assembled, as, when agreed to by them and afterwards confirmed by the legislature of every state, would effectually provide for the same.

Congress, on the twenty-first of February, 1787, adopted a resolution in favor of a convention, and the legislatures of those states which had not already done so (with the exception of Rhode Island) promptly appointed delegates. On the twenty-fifth of May, seven states having convened, George Washington of Virginia was unanimously elected President, and the consideration of the proposed Constitution was commenced. On the seventeenth of September, 1787, the Constitution, as engrossed and agreed upon, was signed by all the members present, except Mr. Gerry of Massachusetts and Messrs. Mason and Randolph of Virginia. The president of the convention transmitted it to congress, with a resolution stating how the proposed Federal government should be put in operation, and an explanatory letter. Congress, on the twenty-eighth of September, 1787, directed the Constitution so framed, with the resolutions and letter concerning the same, to "be transmitted to the several legislatures, in order to be submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each state by the people thereof, in conformity of the resolves of the convention.”

On the fourth of March, 1789, the day which had been fixed for commencing the operations of government under the new Constitution, it had been ratified by the conventions chosen in each state to consider it, as follows: Delaware, December 7, 1787; Pennsylvania, December 12, 1787; New Jersey, December 18, 1787; Georgia, January 2, 1788; Connecticut, January 9, 1788; Massachusetts, February 6, 1788; Maryland, April 28, 1788; South Carolina, May 23, 1788; New Hampshire, June 21, 1788; Virginia, June 26, 1788; New York, July 26, 1788.

The President informed congress on the twenty-eighth of January, 1790, that South Carolina had ratified the Constitution November 21, 1789; and he informed congress on the first of June, 1790, that Rhode Island had done the same on May 29, 1789. Vermont, in convention, ratified it January 19, 1789, and was, by an act of congress, approved February 19, 1791, "received and admitted into this Union as a new and entire member of the United States." The Constitution commenced to operate on the first Wednesday in March, 1789.

Naturally the convention that framed this great instrument was

divided by many conflicting opinions, as might also be said of the reople after it was presented for their consideration. It was opposed warmly by the extreme state supremacy, or states rights men; and of all those who signed the document there was probably not one who approved it in every part. When Alexander Hamilton, one of its most earnest advocates, was urging others to sign it, he made use of these words: “No man's ideas are more remote from the plan than my own; but is it possible to deliberate between anarchy and confusion on the one hand, and the chance of good on the other?” When it was at last submitted to the people, Hamilton, Madison and Jay wrote a series of powerful papers in its support, which, in collected form, is called “The Federalist.' It was at last adopted and set in operation, although a number of changes were found to be necessary at an early day. The document as originally adopted is as follows:


We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect

Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

[blocks in formation]

SECTION 1. All legislative power herein granted shall be vested in a congress of the United States, which shall consist of a senate and house of representatives.

SECTION 2 1. The house of representatives shall be composed of members cnosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.

2. No person shall be a representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty-five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.

3. Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »