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THE government of the United States was erected by the free voice and joint will of the people of America, for their common defence and general welfare. Its powers apply to those great interests which relate to this country in its national capacity, and which depend for their stability and protection on the consolidation of the Union. It is clothed with the principal attributes of political sovereignty, and it is justly deemed the guardian of our best rights, the source of our highest civil and political duties, and the sure means of national greatness. The constitution and jurisprudence of the United States deserve the most accurate examination; and an historical view of the rise and progress of the Union, and of the establishment of the present constitution, as the necessary fruit of it, will tend to show the genius and value of the government, and prepare the mind of the student for an investigation of its powers.

The association of the American people into one body politic, took place while they were colonies of the British empire, and owed allegiance to the British crown. That VOL. I.



the union of this country was essential to its safety, its prosperity and its greatness, had been generally known, and

frequently avowed, long before the late revolution, or the Conf-derney claims of the British parliament which produced it. The England Co people of the New-England colonies were very early in the

habit of confederating together for their common defence.
As their origin and their interests were the same, and their
manners, their religion, their laws, and their civil institu-
tions, exceedingly similar, they were naturally led to a very
intimate connexion, and were governed by the same wants
and wishes, the same sympathies and spirit. The colonies
of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New-Haven,
as early as 1643, under the impression of danger from the
surrounding tribes of Indians, and for protection against the
claims and encroachments of their Dutch neighbours, enter-
ed into a league offensive and defensive, which they declared
should be firm and perpetual, and be distinguished by the
name of the United Colonies of New-England. By their
articles of confederation, each colony was to bave exclusive
jurisdiction within its own territory; and in every war, of-
fensive and defensive, each of the confederates was to
furnish its quota of men and money, in a ratio to its popu-
lation ; and a congress of two commissioners, delegated
from each colony, was to be held annually, with power to
deliberate and decide on all affairs of war and peace, and on
all points of common concern; and every determination, in
which three fourths in number of the assembly concurred,
was to be binding upon the whole confederacy.
This association


be considered as the foundation of a series of efforts for a more extensive and more perfect union of the colonies. It contained some provident and

q Hazard's State Papers, 496. 583. 390. Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts, vol. 1. 124. 126. Robertson's Posthumous History of America, b. 10. p. 191, 192, Winthrop's Hist. of New-England, by Savage, vol. 2. 101, Baylies' Historical Memoir, vol. 2. 118. Trumbull's Hist. of Connecticut, vol. 1, 124,

jealous provisions, calculated to give security and stability to the whole. It provided that no two colonies were to join in jurisdiction, without the consent of all; and it required the like unanimous consent, to admit any other colony into the confederacy; and if any one member violated any article of it, or any way injured another colony, the commissioners of the other colonies were to take cognizance of the matter, and determine upon it. Though in this transaction, and under the authority of this union, the New-England colonies acted in fact as independent states, and free from the control of any superior power, yet the civil war in which England was then involved, occupied the whole atten tion of the mother country, and this first step towards a future independence was suffered to pass without much notice, and without any animadversion. The confederacy subsisted, with some alterations, for upwards of forty years, and for part of that time with the countenance of the government in England. It was not dissolved until the year 1686, when the charters of the New-England colonies were in effect vacated by a commission from King James II.

The people of this country, after the dissolution of this Congress of earliest league, continued to afford other instructive precedents of association for their safety. A congress of governors and commissioners from other colonies, as well as from New-England, was occasionally held, to make arrangements for the more effectual protection of our interior frontier, and we have an instance of one of these assemblies at Albany in 1722. But a much more interesting congress was held there in the year 1754, and it consisted of commissioners from New-Ilampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, and it was called at the instance of the lords commissioners for trade and the plantations, to take into consideration the best means of defending America, in case of a war with France, which was then impending. The object of the En


a Smith’s History of New York, vol. 1. p. 171.

glish administration in calling this convention, was merely in reference to treaties of friendship with the Indian tribes; but the colonies had more enlarged views; and the commissioners which met in congress, and who enrolled among their number some of the most distinguished names in our colonial history, asserted and promulgated several invaluable truths, the proper reception of which in the minds of their countrymen, prepared the way for their future independence and our present greatness. Two of the colonies expressly instructed their delegates to enter into articles of union and confederation with the other colonies, for their general security in peace as well as in war. The convention unanimously resolved, that a union of the colonies was absolutely necessary for their preservation. They rejected all proposals for a division of the colonies into separate confederacies, and proposed a plan of federal government, consisting of a general council of delegates, to be triennially chosen by the provincial assemblies, and a president general, to be appointed by the crown. In this council was vested, subject to the immediate negative of the president, and the eventual negative of the king in council, the rights of war and peace, in respect to the Indian nations; and the confederacy was to embrace all the then existing colonies, from New-Hampshire to Georgia. The council were to have authority to make laws for the government of new settlements, upon territories to be purchased from the Indians, and to raise troops and build forts, and even to equip vessels of force, to guard the coasts and protect trade, as well on the ocean as upon the lakes and rivers. They were likewise to make laws, and lay and levy general duties, imposts, and taxes, for those necessary purposes. But the times were

a Minol's History of Massachuselts, vol. 1. ch.9. Franklin's Works, p. 85. London ed. 1779. Belknap's New Hampshire, vol. 2. 285. Smith's History of New-York, vol. 2, p. 219. Marshall's Life of Washington, vol. 1. note 8. Massachusetts Historical Collections, vol. 7. 203-214.

not yet ripe, nor the minds of men sufficiently enlarged, for such a comprehensive proposition ; and this bold project of a continental union had the singular fate of being rejected, not only on the part of the crown, but by every provincial assembly. It was probably supposed, on the one hand, that the operation of the union would teach the colonies the secret of their own strength, and the proper means to give it activity and direction; while, on the other part, the colonies were jealous of the preponderating influence of the royal prerogative. We were destined to remain, for some years longer, separate, and, in a considerable degree, alien commonwealths, emulous of each other in obedience to the parent state, and in devotion to her interests ; but jealous of each other's prosperity, and divided by policy, institutions, prejudice, and manners. So strong was the force of these considerations, and so exasperated were the people of the colonies in their disputes with each other concerning boundaries and charter claims, that Doctor Franklin (who was one of the commissioners to the congress that formed the plan of union in 1754) observed, in the year 1761, that a union of the colonies was absolutely impossible, or at least without being forced by the most grievous tyranny and oppression."

The great value of a federate union of the colonies had, Congress of however, sunk deep into the minds of men. The subject was familiar to our colonial ancestors. They had been in the habit, especially in seasons of danger and difficulty, of forming associations, more or less extensive. The necessity of union had been felt, its advantages perceived, its principles explained, the way to it pointed out, and the people of this country were led by the force of irresistible mo


a Franklin's Works, p. 152. 192. Governor Pownal, in his work on The Administration of the Colonies, (the 4th edition of which appeared in 1768,) declared that the colonies had no one principle of association amongst them, and that their manner of settlement, diversity of charters, conflicting interests, and mutual rivalship and jealousies, would render a union impracticable ! p. 35, 36. 93.

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