Page images
PDF
EPUB

in its very first sentence and through the whole document.

"When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for ONE PEOPLE to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with ANOTHER, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

66

'We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America,

solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, Free and Independent States; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent States, they have full powers to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do. And for the support of this declaration,

*

we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour."

Almost simultaneously with the appointment of a committee to prepare this declaration, a second committee was formed for the purpose of preparing and digesting the form of a Confederation. Congress agreed upon the celebrated "Articles of Confederation" in 1777, but they were not adopted by all the States until 1781.

It is important, however, to observe, that prior to these articles, and in the same document that severed their individual connection with the mother country, the Colonies declared that already they were "the United States of America," and to that union had pledged each other.1

1 "The separate independence and individual sovereignty of the several States were never thought of by the enlightened band of patriots who framed the Declaration of Independence. The several States are not even mentioned by name in any part of it, as if it was intended to impress this maxim on America, that our freedom and independence arose from our union,

and that without it we could neither be free nor 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, and may bring on

us

the most serious distresses." CHARLES COTESWORTH PINKNEY, quoted by MR. EVERETT.

Accordingly, the first article declares that "the style of this Confederacy shall be the United States of America."

But it was no part of their intention to create a central government for the internal regulation of each State; hence the second article asserts" that each State retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled."

No two or more States could enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation whatever, between themselves, make war, or send or receive embassies. All powers granted to the General Congress were limited and checked in various ways. Thus, the assent of nine States was essential to the exercise of most of them, although every State was bound by the decision of Congress; the "Articles" were to be inviolably observed; no alteration was to be made therein but by unanimous consent, and the Union was to be perpetual. These Articles, in 1781, had been ratified by the delegates from all the States, upon the in

structions of the separate Legislatures. Looking at them as a Constitution intended to bind together communities for general welfare, each of them claiming to be sovereign and independent, we are at no loss to perceive why they should have failed in their object of perpetuity. The powers they conferred were neutralized by the restrictions they imposed. Congress, organized for national objects, was thus made a subordinate body -subordinate, not to any individual State, but to the united approval of at least nine States; and when such approval was given, the means of carrying out the object were left to the States themselves. In case of war (then the immediate duty of the Congress), each separate Legislature was to raise, officer, clothe, and equip its own quota towards the general army. Its quota was fixed by Congress, but the taxes for paying that proportion were to be levied by the sole authority and direction of the State; nor did there exist any national Court where obedience, if refused, could be exacted. Looking back over the history of the struggle for independence,

we only wonder how, under such arrangements, it was ever crowned with success.

The Confederation had, in fact, but "a delusive and empty sovereignty." Its main defect. was that it had never obtained the consent of the people. In the language of one of the papers in the Federalist attributed to Mr. Hamilton, "It has not a little contributed to the infirmities of the existing Federal system, that it never had a ratification by THE PEOPLE. Resting on no better foundation than the consent of the several legislatures, it has been exposed to frequent and intricate questions concerning the validity of its powers; and has in some instances given birth to the enormous doctrine of the right of legislative repeal. Owing its ratification to the law of a State, it has been contended that the same authority might repeal the law by which it was ratified. However gross a heresy it may be to maintain that a party to a compact has a right to revoke that compact, the doctrine itself has had respectable advocates. The possibility of a question of this nature proves the necessity of laying the foundations of our national Go

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »