Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

which he has stated the historical facts. Apart from all other sources of information, his book affords to every reader abundant materials for the formation of his own opinion, and for enabling him to decide satisfactorily whether the author's inferences from the facts, which he himself has stated, be warranted by them, Or not. *In the execution of the second division of his plan, *19 Very little was required of the author, either as a his- [*19 | torian or as a commentator. Accordingly, he has alluded but slightly to the condition of the colonies during the existence of the revolutionary government, and has sketched with great rapidity, yet sufficiently in detail, the rise, decline and fall of the Confederation. Even here, however, he has fallen into some errors, and has ventured to express decisive and important opinions, without due warrant. The desire to make “the people of the United States” one consolidated nation is so strong and predominant, that it breaks forth, often uncalled for, in every part of his work. He tells us that the first congress of the revolution was “a general or national government;” that it “was organized under the auspices and with the consent of the people, acting directly in their primary, sovereign capacity, and without the intervention of the functionaries to whom the ordinary powers of government were delegated in the colonies. He acknowledges that the powers of this congress were but ill-defined; that many of them were exercised by mere usurpation, and were acquiesced in by the people, only from the confidence reposed in the wisdom and patriotism of its members, and because there was no proper opportunity, during the pressure of the war, to raise nice questions of the powers of government. And yet he infers, from the exercise of powers thus ill-defined, and, in great part, usurped, that “from the moment of the declaration of independence, if not for most purposes at an antecedent period, the united colonies must be considered as being a nation de facto,” &c. A very slight attention to the history of the times will place this subject in its true light. The colonies complained of oppressions from the mother country, and were anxious to devise some means by which their grievances might be redressed. These grievances were common to all of them; for England made no discrimination between them, in the general course of ther colonial policy. Their rights, as British subjects, had never been well defined; and some of the most important of those rights, as asserted by themselves, had been denied by the British crown. As early as 1765 a majority of the colonies had met together in congress, or convention, in New York, for the purpose of deliberating on these grave matters of common concern; and they then made a formal declaration of what they considered their rights, as colonists and British subjects. This measure, however, led to no redress of their grievances. On the contrary, the subsequent measures of the British government gave new and just causes of complaint; so that, in 1774, [*20 | it was deemed necessary that *the colonies should again * I meet together, in order to consult upon their general condition, and provide for the safety of their common rights. Hence the congress which met at Carpenters' Hall, in Philadelphia, on the 5th of September, 1774. It consisted of delegates from New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, from the city and county of New York, and other counties in the province of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Newcastle, Kent and Sussea, in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina. North Carolina was not represented until the 14th September, and Georgia not at all. It is also apparent, that New York was not represented as a colony, but only through certain portions of her people;” in like manner, Lyman Hall was admitted to

* The historical fact here stated, is perfectly authenticated, and has never been disputed; nevertheless, the following extracts from the Journals of Congress, may not be out of place. “Wednesday, September 14, 1774. Henry Wisner, a delegate from the county of Orange, in the colony of New York, appeared at congress, and produced a certificate of his election by the said county, which being read and approved, he took his seat in congress as a deputy from the colony of New York.” “Monday, September 26, 1774. John Hening, Esq., a deputy from Orange county, in the colony of New York, appeared this morning, and took his seat as a deputy from that colony.” “Saturday, October 1, 1774. Simon Bocrum, Esq., appeared in congress as a deputy from King's county, in the colony of New York, and produced the credentials of his election, which being read and approved, he took his seat as a delegate from that colony.” It is evident from these extracts, that although the delegates from certain

his seat, in the succeeding congress, as a delegate from the parish of St. Johns, in Georgia, although he declined to vote on any question requiring a majority of the colonies to carry it, because he was not the representative of a colony. This congress passed a variety of important resolutions, between September, 1774, and the 22d October, in the same year; during all which time Georgia was not represented at all; for even the parish of St. John's did not appoint a representative till May, 1775. In point of fact, the congress was a deliberative and advisory body, and nothing more; and, for this reason, it was not deemed important, or, at least, not indispensable, that all the colonies should be represented, since the resolutions of congress had no obligatory force “whatever. It was appointed for the r. 21 sole purpose of taking into consideration the general [ | condition of the colonies, and of devising and recommending proper measures, for the security of their rights and interests. For these objects no precise powers and instructions were necessary, and beyond them none were given. Neither does it appear that any precise time was assigned for the duration of congress. The duty with which it was charged was extremely simple; and it was taken for granted that it would dissolve itself as soon as that duty should be performed.* portions of the people of New York were admitted to seats in congress as delegates from the colony, yet, in point of fact, they were not elected as such, neither were they ever recognized as such, by New York herself. The truth is, as will presently appear, the majority of her people were not ripe for the measures pursued by congress, and would not have agreed to appoint delegates for the whole colony. a * A reference to the credentials of the congress of 1774 will show, beyond all doubt, the true character of that assembly. The following are extracts from them. New Hampshire. “To devise, consult and adopt such measures as may have the most likely tendency to extricate the colonies from their present difficulties; to secure and perpetuate their rights, liberties and privileges, and to restore that peace, harmony and mutual confidence, which once happily subsisted between the parent country and her colonies.” Massachusetts. “To consult on the present state of the colonies, and the miseries to which they are, and must be reduced, by the operation of certain acts of parliament respecting America; and to deliberate and determine upon wise and proper measures to be by them recommended to all the colonies, for the recovery and establishment of their just rights and liberties, civil and religious, [*22] It is perfectly apparent that the mere *appointment of this congress did not make the people of all the colo

and the restoration of union and harmony between Great Britain and the colonies, most ardently desired by all good men.”

Rhode Island. “To consult on proper measures to obtain a repeal of the several acts of the British parliament for levying taxes on his majesty's subjects in America without their consent, and upon proper measures to establish the rights and liberties of the colonies upon a just and solid foundation, agreeably to instructions given by the general assembly.” Connecticut. “To consult and advise on proper measures for advancing the best good of the colonies, and such conferences to report from time to time to the colonial house of representatives.” New York. Only a few of her counties were represented, some by deputies authorized to “represent,” and some by deputies authorized to “attend congress.” New Jersey. “To represent the colony in the general congress.” Pennsylvania. “To form and adopt a plan for the purposes of obtaining redress of American grievances, ascertaining American rights upon the most solid and constitutional principles, and for establishing that union and harmony between Great Britain and the colonies which is indispensably necessary to the welfare and happiness of both.” Delaware. “To consult and advise with the deputies from the other colonies, to determine upon all such prudent and lawful measures as may be judged most expedient for the colonies immediately and unitedly to adopt, in order to obtain relief for an oppressed people,(a) and the redress of our general grievances.” Maryland. “To attend a general congress, to effect one general plan of conduct operating on the commercial connexion of the colonies with the mother country, for the relief of Boston and the preservation of American liberty.” Virginia. “To consider of the most proper and effectual manner of so operating on the commercial connexion of the colonies with the mother country, as to procure redress for the much injured province of Massachusetts Bay, to secure British America from the ravage and ruin of arbitrary taxes, and speedily to procure the return of that harmony and union, so beneficial to the whole empire, and so ardently desired by all British America.” North Carolina. “To take such measures as they may deem prudent to effect the purpose of describing with certainty the rights of Americans, repairing the breach made in those rights, and for guarding them for the future from any such violations done under the sanction of public authority.” For these purposes the delegates are “invested with such powers as may make any acts done by them obligatory in honor, on every inhabitant hereof, who is not an alien to his country's good, and an apostate to the liberties of America.” South Carolina. “To consider the acts lately passed, and bills depending in parliament with regard to the port of Boston, and Colony of Massachusetts Bay; which acts and bills, in the precedent and consequences, affect the whole continent of America. Also the grievances under which America labours, by reason of the several acts of parliament that impose taxes or duties for raising

(a) Massachusetts, the particular wrongs of which are just before recited at large.

nies “one people,” nor a “nation *de facto.” All the [*23] colonies did not unite in the appointment, neither as

colonies nor by any portion of their people acting in their primary assemblies, as has already been shown. The colonies were not independent, and had not even resolved to declare themselves so at any future time. On the contrary, they were extremely desirous to preserve and continue their connexion with the parent country, and congress was charged with the duty of devising such measures as would enable them to do so, without involving a surrender of their rights as British subjects. It is equally clear that the powers, with which congress was clothed, did not flow from, nor constitute “one people,” or “na

a revenue, and lay unnecessary restraints and burdens on trade; and of the statutes, parliamentary acts and royal instructions, which make an invidious distinction between his majesty's subjects in Great Britain and America, with full power and authority to concert, agree to and prosecute such legal measures, as in the opinion of the said deputies, so to be assembled, shall be most likely to obtain a repeal of the said acts, and a redress of those grievances. [The above extracts are made from the credentials of the deputies of the several colonies, as spread upon the journal of congress, according to a copy of that journal bound (as appears by a gilt label on the back thereof) for the use of the president of congress—now in possession of B. Tucker, Esq.] It is perfectly clear from these extracts, 1. That the colonies did not consider themselves as “one people,” and that they were therefore bound to consider the quarrel of Boston as their own; but that they made common cause with Massachusetts, only because the principles asserted in regard to her, equally affected the other colonies; 2. That each colony appointed its own delegates, giving them precisely such power and authority as suited its own views; 3. That no colony gave any power or authority, except for advisement only. 4. That so far from designing to establish “a general or national government,” and to form themselves into “a nation de facto,” their great purpose was to bring about a reconciliation and harmony with the mother country. This is still farther apparent from the tone of the public addresses of congress. 5. That this congress was not “organized under the auspices and with the consent of the people, acting directly in their primary, sovereign capacity, and without the intervention of the functionaries to whom the ordinary powers of government were delegated in the colonies,” but, on the contrary, that it was organized by the colonies as such, and generally through their ordinary legislatures; and always with careful regard to their separate and independent rights and powers. If the congress of 1774 was “a general or national government,” neither New York nor Georgia was a party to it; for neither of them was represented in that congress. It is also worthy of remark that the congress of 1774 had no agents of its own in foreign countries, but employed those of the several colonies. See the resolution for delivering the address to the king, passed October 25, 1774, and the letter to the agents, approved on the following day.

« ZurückWeiter »