Lapas attēli

zens of the union. The exclusive cognizance of our foreign relations, the rights of war and peace, and the right to make unlimited requisitions of men and money, were confided to Congress, and the exercise of them was binding upon the states. But, in imitation of all the former confederacies of independent states, either in ancient Greece or in modern Europe, the articles of confederation carried the decrees of the federal council to the states in their sovereign or collective capacity. This was the great fundamental defect in the confederation of 1781; it led to its eventual overthrow; and it has proved pernicious or destructive to all other federal governments which adopted the principle. Disobedience to the laws of the union must either be submitted to by the government to its own disgrace, or those laws must be enforced by arms. The mild influence of the civil magistrate, however strongly it may be felt and obeyed by private individuals, will not be heeded by an organized community, conscious of its strength, and swayed by its passions. The history of the federal governments of Greece, Germany, Switzerland, and Holland, afford melancholy examples of destructive civil war springing from the disobedience of the separate members. I will mention only a single instance to this effect, taken from the generally uninteresting annals of the Swiss cantons. By one of the articles of the Helvetic alliance, the cantons were bound to submit any difference which might arise between them to arbitrators. In the year 1440, a dispute arose between Zuric on the one side, and the cantons of Schweitz and Glaris on the other, respecting some territorial claims. Zuric refused to submit to a decision against her, and the contending parties took to arms. All Switzerland was of course armed against Zuric, the refractory member. She sought protection from her ancient enemy, the House of Austria, and the controversy was not terminated in favour of the federal decree, until after six years of furious and destructive war."

a Hist. de la Confed. Helv. par Watteville, liv. 5. Planta's Ilist. of Switzerland, vol. 1. last ch.


Had there been sufficient energy in the government of the United States, under the articles of confederation, to have enforced the constitutional requisitions, it might have proved fatal to public liberty; for Congress, as then constituted, was a most unfit and unsafe depository of political power, since all the authority of the nation, in one complicated mass of jurisdiction, was vested in a single body of It was, indeed, exceedingly fortunate, as the event has subsequently shown, that the state legislatures even refused to confer upon Congress the right to levy and collect a general impost, notwithstanding the refusal appeared to be extremely disastrous at the time, and was deeply regretted by the intelligent friends of the union. Had such a power been granted, the effort to amend the confederation would probably not have been made, and the people of this country might have been languishing, to this day, the miserable victims of a feeble and incompetent union.

There was no provision in the articles of confederation, enabling Congress to add a sanction to its laws. In this respect, they were more defective than some of the other federal governments which are to be met with in history. The Amphictyonic Council, in Greece, had authority to fine and punish their refractory states. Lacedemon and Phocis were both prosecuted before the Council of the Amphictyons, (which was a council of the representatives of twelve nations of Greece,) and all the Greek states were required by proclamation to enforce the decree. The Germanic Diet, as it formerly existed, could put its members under the ban of the empire, by which their property was confiscated; and it was aided in enforcing obedience to its laws by a federal judiciary, and an executive head." Congress, under the old confederation, like the States General under the Dutch confederacy,

a The Imperial Chamber had appellate jurisdiction only. Its sentences were carried into execution against refractory states, by the military force of the circles. Pfeffel, Abr. Chro. de l'Hist. d'Allemagne, tom. 2. p. 100. Putter's Const. Hist. p. 355.

were restricted from any constructive assumption of power, however essential it might have been deemed to the complete enjoyment and exercise of that which was given. No express grant conveyed any implied power; and it is easy to perceive, that a strict and rigorous adherence to the letter of the grant, without permission to give it a liberal and equitable interpretation, in furtherance of the beneficent ends of the government, must, in many cases, frustrate entirely the purposes of the power. A government too restricted for the due performance of its high trusts, will either become insignificant, or be driven to usurpation. We have examples of this in the government of the United Netherlands, before it was swept away by the violence of the French revolution. While that government moved within its constitutional limits, it was more absolutely nerveless than any other government which ever existed. The States General could neither make war or peace, or contract alliances, or raise money, without the consent of every province; nor the provincial states conclude those points, without the consent of every city having a voice in their assemblies. The consequence was, that the federal head was frequently induced, by imperious necessity, to assume power unwarranted by the fundamental charter of the union, and to dispense with the requisite unanimity. This was done in the years 1648, 1657, and 1661, as well as in another strong instance, given by Sir William Temple, and of which he was the author.a

The former confederation of this country was defective, also, in not giving complete authority to Congress to interfere in contests between the several states, and to protect each state from internal violence and rebellion. In many respects our confederation was superior to those of Germany, Holland, or Switzerland, and particularly in the absolute prohibition to the several states, from any interference or

a Temple's Works, vol. 1. 115. 128. 337.

concern in foreign or domestic alliances, or from the maintenance of land or naval forces in time of peace. But in the leading features which I have suggested, and in others of inferior importance, it was a most unskilful fabric, and totally incompetent to fulfil the ends for which it was erected. Almost as soon as it was ratified, the states began to fail in a prompt and faithful obedience to its laws. As danger receded, instances of neglect became more frequent, and before the peace of 1783, the inherent imbecility of the government had displayed itself with alarming rapidity. The delinquencies of one state became a pretext or apology for those of another. The idea of supplying the pecuniary exigencies of the nation, from requisitions on the states, was soon found to be altogether delusive. The national engagements seem to have been entirely abandoned. Even the contributions for the ordinary expenses of the government, fell almost entirely upon the two states which had the most domestic resources. Attempts were very early made by Congress, and in remonstrances the most manly and persuasive, to obtain from the several states the right of levying, for a limited time, a general impost, for the exclu

a The efforts of Robert Morris, the superintendant of finance, in the years 1781 and 1782, to infuse some portion of life and energy into the languishing powers of the confederation, were incessant, devoted, and masterly; and his appeals to the interests and honour of the states, were most eloquent, but utterly unavailing. See, among others, his Circular Letters to the Governors of the States, of the date of January 3d, February 15th, May 16th, and October 21st, 1782, and his Letters to Congress of February 11th, and May 17th, 1782, and March 17th, 1783. Diplomatic Correspondence, edited by J. Sparks, vol. 12. Here we may say, if ever it might be truly said, Si Pergama dextra

Defendi possent, etiam hac defensa fuissent;

and the perusal of the original correspondence of Mr. Morris, while at the head of the financial department of the United States, cannot but awaken in the breasts of the present generation, in respect to the talents and services of that accomplished statesman, the most lively sentiments of admiration and gratitude.

sive purpose of providing for the discharge of the national debt. It was found impracticable to unite the states in any provision for the national safety and honour. Interfering regulations of trade, and interfering claims of territory, were dissolving the friendly attachments, and the sense of common interest, which had cemented and sustained the Union during the arduous struggles of the revolution. Symptoms of distress, and marks of humiliation, were rapidly accumulating. It was with difficulty that the attention of the states could be sufficiently exerted to induce them to keep up a sufficient representation in Congress to form a quorum for business. The finances of the nation were annihilated. The whole army of the United States was reduced, in 1784, to 60 persons, and the states were urged to provide some of the militia to garrison the western posts. In short, to use the language of the authors of the Federalist, "each state, yielding to the voice of immediate interest or convenience, successively withdrew its support from the confederation, till the frail and tottering edifice was ready to fall upon our heads, and to crush us beneath its ruins."


Most of the federal constitutions in the world have degenerated or perished in the same way, and by the same They are to be classed among the most defective political institutions which have been erected by mankind for their security. The great and incurable defect of all former federal governments, such as the Amphictyonic, the Achæan, and Lycian confederacies, in ancient Greece; and the Germanic, the Helvetic, the Hanseatic, and the Dutch republics, in modern history, is, that they were sovereignties over sovereigns, and legislations, not for private individuals, but for communities in their political capacity. The only coercion for disobedience was physical force, instead of the decree and the pacific arm of the civil magistrate. The inevitable consequence, in every case in which a member of such a confederacy chooses to be disobedient, is either a civil war, or an annihilation of national authority.



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