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did not speak of union or independence; perhaps it was not thought wise by the leaders to announce any distinctly revolutionary purpose, even if they entertained it. The Massachusetts instructions authorized the delegates to consult upon the state of the colonies, and to deliberate and determine upon wise and proper measures to be recommended for the recovery and establishment of their just rights and liberties and the restoration of harmony between Great Britain and the colonies. Indeed, most of the instructions indicated a desire to see good feeling restored; and those of South Carolina only authorized the delegates to take “legal” measures to obtain the repeal of the obnoxious laws. The tone of the colonists was determined, however, and North Carolina instructed her representatives to “take such measures as they may deem prudent to effect the purpose of describing American rights with certainty and guarding them from any future violation."
As the whole procedure, strictly speaking, could not have been regarded as legal at all, the limitations imposed on the delegates could not have had anything more than moral force. The bodies that chose them were not independent and sovereign states with law-making powers, but groups of discontented subjects of Great Britain seeking a redress of grievances. In accordance with the letter of the instructions, the Congress contented itself with remonstrating against British policy, recommending the colonists to join in the non-importation of British goods, and adopting other measures calculated to bring the British government to terms.
This boycott of British goods and the provisions for enforcing it had a marked effect on the course of events. It was agreed by the Congress that a committee should be chosen in every county, city, and town "by those who are qualified to vote for representatives in the legislature, whose business it shall be attentively to observe the conduct of all persons touching this association.", These local committees were instructed to publish the names of all citizens who violated the terms of the boycott, to the end that all such foes to American rights might be publicly known and universally contemned. Thus a clear-cut test of allegiance to the revolutionary political system was provided, and tribunals competent to deal with refractory citizens were authorized to
apply the test.' The Revolutionists, consciously or not, were burning their bridges behind them.
The first Congress, furthermore, recommended the call of a second Congress for the purpose of continuing the work thus begun; and, acting on this suggestion, the revolutionary bodies in the colonies, organized in the form of the old assemblies, or conventions, or committees, selected the delegates to a new Congress. This time the instructions were a little more determined in tone, and there was less talk about reconciliation and legal measures. The Massachusetts and New York instructions spoke of the restoration of harmony, but likewise of the firm and secure establishment of American rights and privileges; New Hampshire gave “full and ample power in behalf of this province to consent and agree to all measures which shall be deemed necessary to obtain redress of American grievances"; and the Connecticut instructions authorized them “to join, consult, and advise with other delegates on proper measures for advancing the best good of the colonies."
When this second Congress met in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775, the cause of Revolution had advanced beyond the stage of mere negotiation. Within two months, Ethan Allen's troops took Fort Ticonderoga “in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress,” the battle of Bunker Hill was fought, and Washington was called to the command of the American troops. In the midst of the crisis, Congress seized and exercised sovereign powers; it assumed the direction of the war; entered into diplomatic negotiations with other countries; declared independence, regulated common concerns; raised funds; and finally designed a firmer national union in the form of the Articles of Confederation. It was not an assembly of delegates formally chosen and instructed by legally constituted states; it was the central organ, not of colonies or of states, but of that portion of the American population that was committed to the cause of Revolution.
On the political significance of the first Continental Congress, see C. L. Becker, History of Political Parties in the Province of New York, 1760-76, University of Wisconsin Publications, 1909.
* For the Declaration of Independence, see Readings, p. 21.
Union under the Articles of Confederation
The work of the second Congress had scarcely opened before the boldest of the leaders began to urge that independence was inevitable, and that it should be accompanied by confederation and negotiations with foreign powers. As early as July 21, 1775, the Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole to take into consideration the state of America, and Dr. Franklin submitted a draft of a plan for confederation. Under the stress of the conflict without, Congress was compelled to postpone the immediate discussion and completion of the union, and it was not until the summer of the following year, June 11, 1776, that a committee was appointed to prepare articles of confederation. The report of this committee made about one month later was then the subject of intermittent and lengthy debates.
The report of the committee to the effect that, in determining all questions, each colony should have one vote, gave rise to a spirited discussion. Dr. Franklin urged that if the smaller colonies gave equal money and men they should have equal votes, and advocated that votes should be in proportion to numbers. Franklin was supported by Dr. Rush, who represented the strong nationalist feeling, and made a national plea against the doctrine that the states were equal. “It will tend,” he said, "to keep up colonial distinctions. We are now a new nation. Our trade, language, customs, manners don't differ more than they do in Great Britain. The more a man aims at serving America, the more he serves his colony. It will promote factions in Congress and in the States; it will prevent the growth of freedom in America; we shall be loth to admit new colonies into the confederation. If we vote by numbers, liberty will be always safe. ... We are dependent on each other, not totally independent States. ... When I entered that door, I considered myself a citizen of America." 2
The view of Franklin and Rush was not shared by the majority of the Congress, however. Mr. Sherman urged that they were representatives of states, not of individuals, though he was willing to see devised a system by which the states and
1 John Adams, Works, Vol. II, pp. 503-510.
individuals should both be represented. The Congress at last decided that each state retained "its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right” not expressly granted to the United States in Congress assembled, and provided that in Congress each state, regardless of its area, population, and wealth, should have one vote.
Other questions, notably taxation,' were thoroughly considered and the final draft approved in November, 1777. On the day that the agreement was reached, the Articles, accompanied by a long and eloquent letter urging ratification, were submitted to the legislatures of the states. The framers pointed out the difficulty involved in the formation of a permanent union accommodated to the opinions and wishes of the delegates of so many states differing in habits, produce, commerce, and internal police; and recommended that the state legislatures review their work under a sense of the difficulty of combining in one general system the various sentiments and interests of a continent divided into so many sovereign and independent communities, under a conviction of the absolute necessity of uniting all our councils and all our strength to maintain and defend our common liberties.”
Notwithstanding the discouragements of the war then in progress and the imperative need for a closer coöperation to secure the independence declared in 1776, the states were slow in ratifying the Articles. It is true, eleven states accepted the plan of union within a year, but of these New York added a proviso that its acceptance should not be binding until the others had agreed, and some proposed alterations in the draft submitted. It was not until the opening of 1781 that Maryland, which had so long abstained from ratification on account of the western land question, finally accepted the Articles of Confederation. At noon on March 1 of that year the roar of cannon from the ships of war in the Delaware announced to the world that the Union “begun by necessity” had been “indissolubly cemented.”
The government provided by the Articles of Confederation, as we shall see, became more famous for its weakness and short
comings than for its positive achievements. The management of the general interests of the United States was vested under the Articles in a Congress composed of not less than two nor more than seven delegates from each state, appointed as the state legislatures should direct, serving subject to recall at any time, and meeting annually. In this Congress, each state was given one vote and had to assume the expense of maintaining its delegates. No president or permanent executive was provided, but Congress was authorized to appoint a committee to serve during its recesses and discharge such duties as might be intrusted to it. No confederate court was erected, but Congress was authorized to act as a court of appeal in cases of disputes between states, or provide for the creation of a special committee to try such causes on request. With this government, limited in its taxing and commercial powers, the states attempted to conduct their common business for a period of eight years with results that made inevitable a constitutional revolution.
Formation of State Governments During the revolutionary conflict the colonial governments, regularly established under the authority of the British crown, broke down or passed into the possession of the popular party. From the royal province, the governor fled before the uprising of the people, and with his departure the executive and judicial branches in their higher ranges went to pieces. The New Hampshire constitution of 1776, for example, complained of "the sudden and abrupt departure of his Excellency John Wentworth, Esq., our late governor, and several of the council, leaving us destitute of legislation and no executive courts being open to punish criminal offenders; whereby the lives and property of the honest people of this colony are liable to the machinations and evil designs of wicked men.” The New Hampshire assembly or lower house thereupon called a new congress, which was duly elected and assumed the powers of the government which had been thus abandoned. In Massachusetts, the royal governor summarily dissolved the assembly, and finding a new election, in September, 1774, resulting in the return of even
See Readings, pp. 25-34, for the Articles of Confederation. * See Readings, p. 38, and below, chap. iii.