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FORMATION OF THE CONFEDERACY.
ADOPTION OF STATE CONSTITUTIONS.- ARTICLES OF
CONFEDERATION.-LIMITS OF STATES.
AFTER the conclusion of the war of 1763, the British ministers seem to have adopted a more rigorous and uniform system of government for the North American Colonies than they had before been subjected to. As this ministerial project was regarded by the Americans, (to use the words of the eloquent Burke,) as a system of perfect uncompensated slavery, in which the restraints of an universal internal and external monopoly were joined with an universal internal and external taxation;" they prepared to resist the designs of the mother country with the spirit of freemen. This determination was not a transient feeling ; but a deep, enduring sentiment, pervading the whole mass of society ; supplying the place of laws and government, and inducing the colonists to place their persons and fortunes upon
the hazard of successful resistance. In order to concentrate their forces, and to act in their common cause as one people, the leaders of the opposition were invested with power, by the primary assemblies, to represent the different provinces in a Continental Congress, and to act in their behalf, for the purpose of procuring a remedy for the evils with which they were threatened.
The first meeting of this body was held September 5, 1774 ; and in that body twelve of the colonies were represented by
the consent of the people. In this Congress it was determined to adopt such measures of resistance to the designs of Great Britain as did not necessarily imply a hostile disposition. An agreement neither to import nor consume British goods, nor to export produce to Great Britain, was entered into by the delegates for themselves and their constituents, and remonstrance and petition employed to avert the crisis which was manifestly approaching. In these acts, and the pledges which were mutually given, both by the delegates of the several colonies, and by the people in their primary assemblies, is to be seen the germ of the American Republic.
The next year, on the ever memorable 19th of April, the inhabitants of Lexington and Concord, in accordance with public sentiment, and it may be said) the tacit general understanding of the colonists, in resisting the British troops, commenced hostilities, and thus put the respective rights and claims of the two countries upon the arbitration of war.
On the 10th of May, the delegates of the same provinces. met again in Congress, and formally made the cause of the provincial troops round Boston, the cause of the colonies. They acknowledged it to be their own, and prepared to prosecute it with the same spirit with which it had been commenced. Steps were taken to place the colonies in a state of defence ; rules and regulations framed for the government of the troops ; measures adopted to expel the enemy from the continent; a large force assigned for the siege of Boston ; bills of credit, to the amount of $2,000,000, issued, and the faith of the twelve colonies pledged for their redemption; negotiations commenced with the Indians, to engage their friendship and neutrality; and a resolution passed,“ prohibiting all intercourse with Georgia, except St. John's Parish, (which had then renounced all connection with the rest of the province, Canada, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, the island of St. John, and East and West Florida, as dependencies of the common enemy, until the further order of Congress.”
In short, Congress assumed, in behalf of the country, the character of an independent nation, to effect certain specified
objects; and the colonists ratified their proceedings, and conferred upon that body, by the resolutions passed in their primary assemblies, the powers of national government, so far as they should be required for the accomplishment of the objects proposed. These were, by negotiation or force, to bring the mother country to a sense of what was due to the colonies, and to settle the existing difficulties upon a permanent and equitable footing.
About three months after the commencement of hostilities, Georgia acceded to the confederation, and, of course, made herself a party to the proceedings, views and responsibilities of the other provinces.
In the course of the contest its character changed. The more full developement of the ultimate designs of the British government had convinced the colonists that there could be no safety in any connection with England, and they resolved upon separation. On the Fourth of July, 1776, by an unanimous vote of the Continental Congress, “ these United Colonies were declared to be free and independent states," and all political connection between them and Great Britain to be totally dissolved. This declaration was only a public acknowledgment and justification of the resolution, which had been previously adopted. Nearly two months previous to that period they had manifested their determination, by recommending to the several provinces to form new civil governments. It would be difficult, among the many acts of resistance to the royal authority, to point out in the proceedings of the leaders of the Revolution, the first act by which they first indicated their determination to be a separate nation; but this manifesto gave the most satisfactory evidence of their resolution, and pledged all the colonies to its execution.
By this instrument, and the subsequent proceedings thereon, the American people declared themselves to be an independent nation, then at war with Great Britain ; but as such, the whole were responsible to all the world, for the acts of the citizens of each and every of the colonies. They were free and independent, not as isolated states, but as the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ; and as such only could they be regarded by mankind, As between themselves, they were bound together by their acts and declarations; although the terms and conditions of their union were not properly defined. They comprehended, however, all that was necessary to prosecute the war to a successful result. To this they had pledged themselves; and, however Congress might have been disposed to conciliate and to persuade the several states, instead of resorting to coercive measures, no doubt can be entertained, that a refusal to comply with its requisitions upon any of the states for the public service, was a violation of faith, and that a withdrawal from the confederacy by one of its members, would have been a good cause of war, and have justified the invasion and conquest of that state by the rest of the union. The force of circumstances had formed them into a nation, one and indivisible, and instituted a general government, long before the state constitutions, or the articles of confederation, were framed. As such they were regarded by other civilized nations; and in that character, anterior to the adoption of any federal constitution, or articles of confederation, they had entered into a treaty of commerce and an offensive and defensive alliance with France; and bad undertaken, in conjunction with that kingdom, important enterprises, which pre-supposed the existence of a national government, and that that government possessed certain extensive powers over the people of the United States.
With Great Britain, they were in a state of war, striving to expel her troops from the continent, and to appropriate for themselves as much of it as they could gain by force. With this view, expeditions were undertaken against the several British posts within the thirteen states, in Canada, the NorthWest Territory, and St. Augustine, in Florida.
As to the other European powers, they were but one people, and known either as the United States of America, or as the insurgent colonies of Great Britain. While among themselves they were communities formerly distinct for all the purposes of local legislation; though subject in some matters, and especially in all matters relating to Indian tribes and their territory, to the legislation of the mother country and the royal authority; but