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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 attention 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-Hampshire, 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 Massachusetts, 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.
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 of tion 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
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. Pitkin'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 to 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 which 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 as 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. 1.