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now united by common wrongs and common apprehensions in one cause, and obliged to provide new political institutions to meet the exigencies of their novel situation.
This subject early engaged the attention of the actors in the Revolution; and the novel spectacle was presented of a people contending for freedom and independence with a power, whose fleets and armies threatened their extermination, and occupied with arms in their hands in laying the foundations and erecting the superstructure of their political institutions. Since the time when Nehemiah rebuilt Jerusalem, there had not been seen a community, of whom it could be so emphatically said ; "every person with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon."
Although, in the first burst of resistance, the place of civil government was supplied by public sentiment, and the powers of the Provincial and Continental Congresses ; still the necessity of adopting a more regular, and better defined political system, was admitted by all. Congress, acting upon this conviction, on the 15th of May, 1776, recommended to the people of the several colonies “ to adopt such government as should in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and America in general."*
Pursuant to that recommendation, the local conventions proceeded to prepare constitutions for each of the several colonies; and their delegates in the Continental Congress endeavoured to frame an acceptable system of government for the confederacy, by which the very indefinite powers possessed by that body might be distinctly marked out, and the respective rights and obligations of the general and local governments properly defined.
The inhabitants of the old British Colonies, thus proceeded simultaneously to institute the political system, under which they were to exist as an independent community, united for some purposes, and separated for others. The local governments, being more simple in their nature, and less extensive in their operation, were more readily agreed upon, and earlier established; but the intention of forming a national government was so early and so universally adopted, that it may be safely asserted, that the American people never entertained the idea of existing in independent and separate states.
* First Journal Old Congress, 339, 345.
They meant to be one and indivisible; and the only difficulty was how to apportion the powers of government, so as to give to Congress such powers as would enable it to represent and protect the national interests, without encroaching upon the state authorities, to whom was confided the care of the local interests. Instead, therefore, of regarding the general government as formed by concessions on the part of the state governments ; it is to be considered as equally the establishment of the people, who, for the sake of convenience, after framing its constitution in a general Congress, expressed their assent to its provisions through their local assemblies, and apportioned to each its political powers, by the constitutions provided to guide those to whose hands the administration of the government was confided.
This apportionment, however, only referred to what then existed, and not to what was subsequently acquired by the thirteen states in their confederated character. For instance, if any thing had been acquired by conquest from Great Britain, as military munitions, or a province not acceding to the Union, or uncultivated and unappropriated territory, it is clear that such acquisition would have belonged to the confederacy, and not to the states separately. It would have constituted a common fund, to be appropriated for the prosecution of the war, the reimbursement of the public creditors, or in any other way for the general benefit. What belonged to the colonists, either individually or as provincial communities, was apportioned at the commencement of the Revolution among the several governments; but all acquisitions by conquest necessarily fell under the jurisdiction of the national government. As the property of the crown, it became the right of the opponent of the crown; as an acquisition in war, it was vested in that party which carried on the war. This opponent of the crown was the American people, represented in Continental Congress. The quarrel was theirs, and theirs only, and to them, in their collective capacity, belonged the acquisitions and results of that war.
It was soon, however, foreseen, that in case of success it would be difficult to define the boundary, between what was conquered from Great Britain, and what had previously belonged to the colonists as distinct communities. This question was intimately connected with another, touching the Indian title to the territory occupied by them, and the right of preemption of that title. This right of pre-emption, according to the English doctrine, belonged to the crown; excepting in the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, where it was vested in the colonists, and in Pennsylvania and Maryland, which were proprietary governments. When the authority of the crown was thrown off, it was natural and
proper that those aborigines who were surrounded by the white population, and within the actual jurisdiction of the local legislatures, should be confided to their superintendence. Without any of the attributes of independence; unable to protect themselves from their neighbours, and even from their own passions; and almost on the point of dissolution, as most of the tribes surrounded by the whites soon become, it was humane and necessary that those who were able, should assume the power and right of protecting and governing them. They could not be regarded as fit subjects for the care of a government instituted for national purposes; but formed a part of the several communities in which they resided, as the gypsies formerly made a part of many of the European states.
On the other hand, those tribes which did not come in contact with even the frontier settlements of the colonists, as naturally fell within the jurisdiction of the general government. They were independent in fact; under the government of their own chiefs and national councils ; and at the formation of our government, so far from claiming any authority over them, great solicitude was manifested, and great pains taken by the public authorities to conciliate them, and to preserve their friendship or neutrality in the impending contest.
Other tribes, almost in contact with the white settlements, without being enveloped by them, could not be so distinctly classed. They were too powerful and too well organized to be ranked with the former as under no government of their own, and still they were so connected with the colonists and the crown by treaties, as to be considered partly dependent.
The same state of things existed as to the western boundaries. With the exception of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island, the chartered limits of the provinces were very indefinite. So far as the states had any existence independent of the royal charters, they were communities confined to the eastern side of the Appalachian mountains. To the extent of their continuous settlements, and, indeed, to the utmost limits of their usual and actual jurisdiction, no doubt could be entertained as to the right of the several states. As little could exist as to the right of the confederacy to that territory, which had been placed beyond the provincial limits by the crown, and which, consequently, was an acquisition, by war, from Great Britain. It was difficult to define the extent of these respective rights; and this difficulty was increased by the conflicting claims of the different states as to their own boundaries. Another question was also presented by the nature of the Indian title, and the doctrine that notwithstanding this title, the ultimate dominion, or right of pre-emption, belonged to the crown. Within the acknowledged limits of many of the states, the Indians still claimed and occupied large tracts of territory, to which their title had not been extinguished.
Here, again, were conflicting claims. The confederacy contended, that all this was royal property, and therefore became vested in the antagonist of the crown. The states insisted that they possessed the sovereignty over the soil, and that that carried with it the property. These complicated difficulties left no other alternative, than to arrange the matters by compromise and negotiation.
Under these circumstances, the local conventions and Provincial Congresses proceeded to institute state governments, and the Continental Congress to frame articles of confederation, for the direction of the general government.
GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
The relations existing between the government of the United States and the Cherokee nation, are now rendered more worthy of examination than ever, by the late proceedings at Washing
The character of the confederacy of the United States, (which directly depends upon the proper adjustment of these relations) is a subject of great interest, both to the present generation and to posterity. It is regarded by the contending parties throughout the political world, as the great exemplar of free governments, and upon its conduct and success depends the speedy advancement, or the temporary defeat, of the liberal party. Its force is not a physical, but a moral force. It consists in a national character, unsullied by injustice and oppression. The inquirer cannot find in their annals the records of successful and unprovoked invasions-of triumphs achieved over the rights of nations and humanity. The government of the nation has, on all occasions, appealed to reason as its standard, and by that standard it will be judged. After a profession of its principles, so openly and so often reiterated, it cannot shape its course according to the dictates of a temporizing, prevaricating policy. It must act up to its principles, or it must disavow them. The path of honour and justice is open, and it may travel on alone, sustained only by the moral strength, which a strict adherence