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tives, to resort to the same means of defence and security, when they considered that their liberties were in danger, not from the vexatious and irregular warfare of the Indian tribes, but from the formidable claims, and still more formidable power, of the parent state. The assertion by the British parliament of an unqualified right of binding the colonies in all cases whatsoever, and specifically of the right of taxing them without their consent, and the denial by the colonies of the right of taxation without representation, and the attempt of the king and parliament to enforce it by the power of the sword, were the immediate causes of the American revolution. Soon after the first unfriendly attempt upon our chartered privileges, by the statute for raising a revenue in the colonies by means of a stamp duty, a congress of delegates from nine colonies was assembled at New-York in October, 1765, at the recommendation of Massachusetts, and they digested a bill of rights, in which the sole power of taxation was declared to reside in their own colonial legislatures. This

was preparatory to a more extensive and general associaCongress ortion of the colonies, which took place in September, 1774,

and laid the foundations of our independence and permanent glory. The more serious claims of the British parliament, and the impending oppressions of the British crown, at this last critical period, induced the twelve colonies, which

1774.

a 2 Belknap's N. H. 326. Journals of the Assembly of the Colony of N. Y., October, 1765. Marshall's Life of Washington, vol. 2. app. No. 5. Pitkin's Political and Civil History of the U. States, vol. 1. 178–186. app. No. 7, 8,9. The 6th and 7th chapters of the first volume of Mr. Pilkin's History, contain a clear, authentic, and very interesting detail of the resolutions and acts of the British parliament, relating to America, subsequently to the peace of 1763; of the proceedings of the British government to enforce them; and of the spirit of opposition and resistance which they met with on the part of the colonies. The resistance kept pace with the parliamentary impositions, and was constantly growing in strength, activity, and determined purpose, until it was consummated by the permanent union of the colonies in 1774.

were spread over this vast continent from Nova Scotia to Georgia, to an interchange of opinions and views, and to unite in sending delegates to Philadelphia, “with authority and direction to meet and consult together for the common welfare.” In pursuance of their authority, this first continental congress, whose names and proceedings are still familiar to the present age, and will live in the gratitude of a distant posterity, took into consideration the afflicted state of their country; asserted, by a number of declaratory resolutions, what they deemed to be the unalienable rights of English freemen ; pointed out tu their constituents the system of violence which was preparing against those rights; and bound them by the most sacred of all ties, the ties of honour and of their country, to renounce commerce with Great Britain, as being the most salutary means to avert the one, and to secure the blessings of the other.

These reso

a The most material of these declaratory resolutions was the one wbich stated, that, as the colonists were not, and could not properly be, represented in the British parliament, they were entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several provincial legislatures, in all cases of taxation and internal polity, subject only to the negative of their sovereign.” The colonies, from the earliest periods of the settlement of the country, with the exception of Pennsylvania, whose charter recognised the force of such laws, had generally claimed under their charters an exemption from the operation of the British navigation acts, and of their system of commercial monopoly; and they had by all indirect means, short of open resistance, evaded the force of those laws, and assumed the right to a free trade. (1 Hutch. Hist. 322.) But the congress of 1774, in the spirit of conciliation, renounced every such pretension, and declared that “from the necessity of the case, and in regard to the mutual interests of both countries, they cheerfully consented to the operation of such acts of the British parliament us were, bona fide, restrained to the regulation of their external commerce, for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members : excluding every idea of taxation, internal or external, for raising a revenue on the subjects in America without their consent.Journals of Congress, vol.l.

lutions received prompt and universal obedience, and the Union being thus auspiciously formed, it was continued by a succession of delegates in congress; and through every period of the war, and through every revolution of our government, this union has been revered and cherished, as the guardian of our peace, and the only solid foundation of national independence.

In May, 1775, a congress again assembled at Philadelphia, and was clothed with ample discretionary powers. The delegates were instructed to “ concert, agree upon, direct, order, and prosecute," such measures as they should deem most fit and proper, to obtain redress of American grievances, or, in more general terms, they were to take care of the liberties of the country."

Soon after this meeting, Georgia acceded to, and completed the confederacy of the thirteen colonies. Hostilities had already commenced in the province of Massachusetts, and the claim of the British parliament to an unconditional and unlimited sovereignty over the colonies, was to be asserted by an appeal to arms. The continental congress, charged with the protection of the rights and interests of the United Colonies, and intrusted with the power, and sustained by the zeal and confidence of their constituents, prepared for resistance. They published a declaration of the causes and necessity of taking up arms, and proceeded immediately to levy and organize an army, to prescribe rules for the government of their land and naval forces, to contract debts, and emit a paper currency, upon the faith of the Union; and gradually assuming all the powers of sovereignty, they, at last, on the 4th day of July, 1776, took a separate and equal station among the nations of the earth, by declaring the United Colonies to be free and independent states.

This memorable declaration, in imitation of that publishcenicodepened by the United Netherlands on a similar occasion, recapitulated the oppressions of the British king, asserted it to be the natural right of every people to withdraw from tyranny, and with the dignity and the fortitude of conscious rectitude, it contained a solemn appeal to mankind, in vindication of the necessity of the measure. By this declaration, made in the name, and by the authority of the people, the colonies were absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and all political connexion between them and Great Britain was totally dissolved. The principle of self-preservation, and the right of every community to freedom and happiness, gave a sanction to this separation. When the government established over any people becomes incompetent to fulfil its purpose, or destructive to the essential ends for which it was instituted, it is the right of that people, founded on the law of nature and the reason of mankind, and supported by the soundest authority, and some very illustrious precedents, to throw off such government, and provide new guards for their future security. This right is the more apparent, and the duty of exercising it becomes the more clear and unequivocal, in the case of colonies which are situated at a great distance from the mother country, and which cannot be governed by it without vexatious and continually increasing inconvenience; and when they have arrived at maturity in strength and resources, or, in the language of Montesquieu, which he applied to our very case, “when they have grown great nations in the forests they were sent to inhabit.” If, in addition to these intrinsic causes, gradually and powerfully tending to a separation, the parent state should think fit, in the arrogance of power and superiority, to deny to her colonies the equal blessings of her own free government, and should put forth a claim to an unlimited control, in her own discretion, over all their rights, and the whole administration of their affairs, the consequence would then be almost inevitable, that the colonists would rise, and repel the claim; and more certainly would this be the case, if VOL. I.

Declaration

a Journals of Congress, vol. 1. p. 74.

27

Articles of conf oration.

they were a spirited and intelligent race of men, true to themselves, and just to their posterity.

The general opinion in favour of the importance and value of the Union, appears evident in all the proceedings of Congress; and as early as the declaration of independence, it was thought expedient, for its security and duration, to define with precision, and by a formal instrument, the nature of our compact, the powers of Congress, and the residuary sovereignty of the states. On the 11th of June, 1776, Congress undertook to digest and prepare articles of confederation. But the business was attended with much embarrassment and delay, and, notwithstanding these states were then surrounded by the same imminent dangers, and were contending for the same illustrious prize, it was not until the 15th of November, 1777, that Congress could so far unite the discordant interests and prejudices of thirteen distinct communities, as to agree to the articles of confederation. And when those articles were submitted to the state legislatures for their perusal and ratification, they were declared to be the result of impending necessity, and of a disposition for conciliation, and that they were agreed to, not for their intrinsic excellence, but as the best system which could be adapted to the circumstances of all, and, at the same time, afford any tolerable prospect of general assent." These celebrated articles met with still

greater obstacles in their progress through the states. Most of the legislatures ratified them with a promptitude which showed their sense of the necessity of the confederacy, and of the indulgence of a liberal spirit of accommodation. But Delaware did not accede to them until the year 1779, and Maryland explicitly rejected them. She instructed her delegates to withhold their assent to the articles, until there was an amendment, or additional agreement, to appropriate the new lands in the western parts of the Union, as a common

a Journals of Cong. vol. 3.

6 lbid. vol. 7.

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