Imagens das páginas





History of the Colonies

$ 1. BEFORE entering upon the more immediate obo ject of this work, which is, to present to the general reader a familiar exposition of the nature and objects of the different provisions of the Constitution of the United States, it seems proper to take a brief review of the origin and settlement of the various States, originally composing the Union, and their political relations to each other at the time of its adoption. This will naturally conduct us back to the American Revolution, and to the formation of the Confederation of the States, consequent thereon. But if we stop here, we shall still be surrounded by difficulties, unless we understand the political organization of the various colonies during their common dependence upon the sovereignty of Great Britain, and we are in some degree made acquainted with the domestic institutions, policy, and legislation, which impressed upon each of them some peculiar habits, interests, opinions, attacliments, and even prejudices, which may still be traced in the actual jurisprudence of each State, and are openly or silently referred to in some of the provisions of the Constitution of Government, by which they are now united. This review will, however, contain but a rapid glance at these various important topics, and the reader must be left to satisfy his further inquiries by the study of works of a more large and comprehensive char acter.

§ 2. The Thirteen American Colonies whichi, on the fourth day of July, 1776, declared themselves frete and independent States, were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersev, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. All these colonies were originally settled by British subjects, under the express or implied authority of the government of Great Britain, except New York, which was originally settled by emigrants from Holland, and Delaware, which, although at one time an appendage to the Government of New York, was at first principally inhabited by the Dutch and Swedes. The British government, however, claimed the territory of all these colonies by the right of original discovery, and at all times resisted the claim of the Dutch to make any settlement in America. The Colony of New York became, at an early period, subject to British authority by conquest from the Dutch. Delaware was soon separated from New York, and was afterwards connected with, and, a dependency upon, the proprietary government of Pennsylvania. The other States, now belonging to the Union, had no existence at the time of the Declaration of Independence; but have since been established within the territory, which was ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Peace with Great Britain in 1783, or within the territory, which has been since acquired by the United States, by purchase from other nations.

$ 3. At the time of the discovery of America, towards the close of the fifteenth century, (1492, the various Indian tribes, which then inhabited it, maintained a claini to the exclusive possession and occupancy of the territory within their respective limits, as sovereign proprietors of the soil. They acknowledged no obedience, nor allegiance, nor subordination to any foreign nation whatso

ever ; and, as far as they have possessed the means,
they have ever since constantly asserted this full right of
dominion, and have yielded it up only, when it has been
purchased from them by treaty, or obtained by force of
arms and conquest. In short, like all the civilized na
tions of the earth, the Indian tribes deemed themselves
rightfully possessed, as sovereigns, of all the territories,
within which they were accustomed to hunt, or to exer-
cise other acts of ownership, upon the common principle,
that the exclusive use gave them an exclusive right to
the soil, whether it was cultivated or not.

§ 4. It is difficult to perceive, why their title was not,
in this respect, as well founded as the title of any other
nation, to the soil within its own boundaries. How,
then, it may be asked, did the European nations acquire
the general title, which they have always asserted to the
whole soil of America, even to that in the occupancy of
the Indian tribes? The only answer, which can be
given, is, their own assertion, that they acquired a gen- X
eral title thereto in virtue of their being the first discover-
ers thereof, or, in other words, that their title was founded
upon the right of discovery. They established the doc
trine, (whether satisfactorily or not is quite a different
question,) that discovery is a sufficient foundation for the
right to territory. As between themselves, with a view
to prevent contests, where the same land had been visit-
ed by the subjects of different European nations, each of
which might claim it as its own, there was no inconve,
nience in allowing the first discoverer to have the priority
of right, where the territory was at the time desert and un-
inhabited. But as to nations, which had not acceded to
the doctrine, and especially as to countries in the posses-
sion of native inhabitants and tribes at the time of the
discovery, it seems difficult to perceive, what ground of
right any discovery could confer. It would seem strange
to us, if, in the present times, the natives of the South
Sea Islands, or of Cochin China, should, by making a
voyage to, and a discovery of, the United States, on that
account set up a right to the soil within our boundaries.

$ 5 The truth is, that the European nations paid not
x Laboulay nects story. Cams than Calement

tree of Spanit endund, sit over timela - 3 clams, discovers, ex loration, ARTE

« AnteriorContinuar »