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could only ascertain the sums necessary to be raised for the service of the United States, and call on the several states for their respective proportions thereof. Whether the several states would respond to this call at all, or at what time, or in what manner, depended wholly upon themselves.
13. Another great defect in the Articles of Confederation was the want of any power in Congress to regulate foreign and domestic commerce. This led to conflicting and irritating regulations on the part of the several states, and threatened the most serious consequences.
Result of the Confederation.
14. In short, the government of the Confederation possessed in reality only a power of recommendation, and hence the efficacy of its measures depended upon their being in harmony with the views, interests, and convenience of the several states.
15. The result was natural: the measures of the Congress were not executed. That body was unsupplied with the means to pay the public debt, and possessed neither respect abroad, nor credit and confidence at home. “In a word,” said Washington, “ the Confederation appears to me to be little more than a shadow without the substance; and Congress a nugatory body, their ordinances being little attended to.”
Origin of the Convention which framed the
16. In this emergency, a Convention which had assembled at Annapolis in the autumn of 1786, to devise a uniform system of commercial regulations, in consequence of imperfect powers, and an inadequate representation, forbore to consider that subject, but instead thereof recommended the appointment of commissioners from all the states, to devise such additional provisions as should appear to them necessary to render the Constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union.
17. This action of the Annapolis Convention met with a favorable response. On the 21st of the following February, Congress formally recommended a convention of delegates, to be appointed by the several states, for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein, as should, when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the states under the Federal Constitution, seem adequate to the exigencies of the government and the preservation of the Union. 1. The Meeting and Result of the Convention.
18. Delegates were accordingly appointed by the several state legislatures, except the legislature of Rhode Island, who assembled in convention at Philadelphia, in May, 1787. This Convention, which was composed of the most distinguished abilities of the country, continued in session nearly four months.
19. The Constitution, or plan of government, which they framed, was finally adopted on the 17th of September, 1787. It was then laid before the Congress of the Confederation, together with the opinion of the Convention that it should be submitted to a convention of delegates, chosen in each state by the people thereof, under the recommendation of its legislature, for their assent and ratification. This mode of proceeding was adopted, and the Constitution was thus submitted to the people of the several states. They acted upon it, through delegates assembled in convention within their respective states. From these conventions the Constitution derives its whole authority. By their assent and ratification it became of complete obligation, and bound the state sovereignties.
Organization of the Government.
20. Eleven of the states, that is, all but North Carolina and Rhode Island, having notified Congress of their ratification of the Constitution, that body, on the 13th of September, 1788, passed a resolution appointing the first Wednesday in January following, for the choice of Electors of President; the first Wednesday in February following, for the assembling of the Electors to vote for a President; and the first Wednesday in March following, for the government, under the Constitution, to go into operation.
21. Electors were accordingly chosen in the several states, who met at the designated time and voted for President and Vice-President. George Washington, as afterwards appeared upon opening and counting the votes, was unanimously elected President, and John Adams was elected Vice-President. Senators and Representatives were also duly chosen in the several states, and the First Congress assembled at New York, then the seat of government, on the 4th of March, 1789, when the Constitution went into legal operation.
22. A quorum of the House of Representatives, however, was not formed until the first of April, nor of the Senate until the 6th. Several months, too, elapsed before Congress could pass the necessary laws for organizing the judiciary and the several executive departments. But, in the course of a year, the machinery, so to speak, of the new government was adjusted and put in harmonious operation. In November, 1789, North Carolina, through her convention, ratified the Constitution, and Rhode Island followed her example in May, 1790. And thus the original circle of thirteen states was completed.