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sufferings, without having it in my power British parliament, without forfeiting to give them further relief than uncer. her freedom. England could not tain promises. In short, I see inevita
remedy American injustice without ble destruction in so clear a light, that
violating colonial rights. A crisis had, unless vigorous measures are taken by
in fact, occurred which rendered desthe assembly, and speedy assistance sent from below, the poor inhabitants that potism or separation inevitable. are now in forts must unavoidably fall, whilst the remainder are flying before the
“ In 1774, at the suggestion of Dr. barbarous foe. In fine, the melancholy
Franklin, a congress assembled at Phi. situation of the people, the little pros
ladelphia to resist the claims of Eng. pect of assistance, the gross and scan
land; and on the Ilth of June, 1776, dalous abuse cast upon the officers in congress undertook to digest and pregeneral, which is reflecting on me in
pare articles of confederation. But the particular, for suffering misconduct of business was attended with so much such extraordinary kind, and the dis- embarrassment and delay, and not withtant prospect, if any, of gaining honour standing these states were still surroundand reputation in the service, cause me
ed by the same imminent danger, and to lament the hour that gave me a
were contending for the same illustrious commission, and would induce me at prize, that it was not until the 15th of any other time to resign, without hesi.
November, 1777, the congress could so tating a moment, a command from which far unite the discordant interests and I neither expect to reap honour nor prejudices of thirteen distinct colonies benefit; but, on the contrary, have an as to agree to articles of confederation. almost absolute certainty of incurring
And when those articles of confederadispleasure below, whilst the murder of tion were submitted to the states legis. helpless families may be laid to my ac
latures for perusal and ratification, count here. The supplicating tears of
they were declared to be the result of the women and the moving petitions of
impending necessity, and of a disposithe men melt into me with such deadly
tion to conciliate; and that they were sorrow, that I solemnly declare, if I agreed to, not for their intrinsic exknow my own mind, I could offer myself cellence, but as the best system which a willing sacrifice to the butchering could be adapted to the circumstances enemy, provided it would contribute to of all, and, at the same time, to afford the people's ease.
any tolerable prospect of general as
sent. The trade of Britain with the co
“ These celebrated articles met with lonies being then very valuable, and
still greater obstacles in their progress
through the states. Most of the legisyielding support to many thousands in
latures ratified them with a promptitude England, it became necessary for the which showed their sense of the necesministry to make a vigorous effort
sity of the confederacy. But Delaware against the French in America ; and did not accede to them until the year the rapid conquest of Canada, by 1779, and Maryland explicitly rejected General Wolfe, demonstrated how them. The refusal of Maryland, so long feeble was the power, which for so
persisted in, gave encouragement to the long a period caused such wide-spread enemy, injured the common cause, and misery in the British settlements.
damped the hopes of the friends of
America at home and abroad. A few years after the conquest of
“ The difficulties which impeded the Canada, the cause which, in every in
framing and adopting the articles of stance, in states with independent legis- confederation, even during the presence latures united by the crown, induced of a common calamity, and which no-, despotism or separation, commenced thing, at last, but a sense of common its disastrous operation in the British danger could surmount, form a striking empire. The colonies declined or ne- example of the mighty force of local glected to protect themselves, and the interests and discordant passions, and government of England considered it to teach a monitory lesson for moderation be unreasonable that they should enjoy
in political councils. the advantages derived from her fleets
“Notwithstanding the articles of con
federation conferred upon congress, and armies, without contributing to the funds for their support.
(though in a very imperfect manner, and
America under most unskilful organization,) the could not submit to be taxed by the chief rights of political supremacy, the
* Writings of General Washington, vol. i. pp. 79, 80.
jura summa imperii, by which our exist.
logy for those of another. The idea ence as an independent people was bound of supplying the pecuniary, exigencies up together, and known and acknow- of the nation from requisitions on the ledged by the nations of the world; yet, states was soon found to be altogether in fact, they were but a digest, and even delusive. The national engagements a limitation, in the shape of a written seem to have been entirely abandoned. compact, of those undefined and dis- Even contributions for the ordinary cretionary sovereign powers, which were
expenses of government fell almost endelegated by the people of the colonies tirely upon the two states that had to congress in 1775, and which had been
most domestic resources. Attempts freely exercised and implicitly obeyed. were very early made by congress, and A remarkable instance of the exercise remonstrances the most manly and perof this original, dormant, and vague dis- suasive to obtain from the several cretion, appears on the journals of con- states the right of levying, for a time, gress, the latter end of the year 1776. a general impost, for the exclusive purThe progress of British arms had at pose of providing for the discharge of that period excited the most alarming the national debt. It was found imapprehensions for our safety, and con- practicable to unite them in any progress transferred to the commander-in. vision for the national safety or honour. chief, for the term of six months, com- Interfering regulations of trade, interplete dictatorial power over the liberty fering claims of territory, were dissolyand property of the citizens of the ing the friendly attachments, and the United States, in like manner as the sense of common interest, which had Roman senate in the critical times of the cemented and sustained the union during republic, was wont to have recourse to the arduous struggle of the revolution. a dictator, ne quid respublica detrimenti
Symptoms of distress, and marks of capiat. Such loose and undetermined humiliation were rapidly accumulating. power as the congress originally pos. It was with difficulty that the attention sessed, was absolutely incompatible with of the states could be sufficiently exerted any notion of liberty. Though it was to induce them to keep up a sufficient exercised, in the instance we have re- representation in congress to form a ferred to, and in other strong cases, quorum for business. The finances of with the best intentions, and under the the nation were annibilated.* The whole impulse of irresistible necessity, yet army of the United States was reduced such an irregular sovereignty can never to eighty persons, and the states were be durable. It will either dwindle into urged to provide some militia to garri. insignificance, or degenerate into des- son the western posts. In short, to use potism.
the language of the author of Federa. “ Almost as soon as it was ratified, lism,' each state, yielding to the voice of the states began to fail in a prompt and immediate interest or convenience, suc. faithful obedience to its laws; as dan. cessively withdrew its support from the ger receded, instances of neglect became confederation, till the frail and tottering more frequent, and before the peace of edifice was ready to fall on our heads, 1783, the inherent imbecility of the and to crush us beneath its ruins.”+ government had displayed itself with alarming rapidity. The delinquencies
Yet this scheme of government, comof one state became the pretext or apo
posed of independent parliaments and
The evil effects which had sprung from local prejudices are strongly described in a letter from the greatest financier in the states, to General Washington. “It is useless," says Mr. Morris, " at this period to examine into the causes of our present unhappy situation, unless that examination would be productive of cure for the evils which surround us. In fact, these causes have long been known to such as would open their eyes. The very consequences of them were foretold, and the measures execrated by some of the best friends of America ; but in vain ; an obstinate partiality for the habits and customs of one part of the continent, has predominated in the public councils, and too little attention has been paid to others. To criminate the authors of our errors would not avail ; but we cannot see ruin staring us in the face, without thinking of them. It has been my fate to make ineffectual opposition to all short enlistments, to colonial appointments of officers, and to many other measures I thought pregnant with mischiel, but these things either suited with the genius and habits, or squared with the interest of some states that had sufficient interest to prevail, and nothing is now left but to extricate ourselves the best way we can."-Writings of Washington, vol. iv. p. 237.
† The passages above are quoted verbatim from Chancellor Kent's Commentaries on American Law, vol. i. pp. 210, 211, 212, and 216, A book of the same autho. rity in America as Blackstone's in England.
common executive, “for the congress executive and judicial authorities should was not a legislative assembly, nor a
be fully and effectually rested in the representative assembly, but only a general government of the union ; but diplomatic assembly," it is proposed,
the impropriety of delegating such exin the event of the repeal of the union,
tensive trusts to one body of men is
evident. Hence results the necessity of to introduce into the British Islands.
different organizations. A form of government which produced " It is obviously impracticable, in the despotism in war and anarchy in peace, federal government of these states, to which caused national perfidy and secure all the rights of independent individual guilt, “by which mutual sovereignty to each, and yet provide for confidence received a deadly wound,
the interest and safety of all. Indi. and the morals of the people were
viduals entering into society, must give severely impaired." +
up a share of liberty to preserve the The effects of separate and inde.
rest ; the magnitude of ihe sacrifice
must depend as well on the situation pendent legislatures, and a common
and circumstances, as on the object to executive having been exhibited in
be attained. It is at all times difficult anarchy, bankruptcy, and rehellion.
to draw with precision the line between At the suggestion of Colonel Hamilton those rights that must be surrendered a convention was held to remedy the and those which may be reserved ; and evils of their existing institutions, and on the present occasion this difficulty the present constitution of America was occasioned by a difference among was the result of their labour. General
the several states as to their extent, situaWashington, as president of the con
tion, habits, and particular interests. vention, thus reported to the president ject, we kept steadily in our view that
“ In all our deliberations on this subof congress :
which appears to us the greatest in
terest of every true American, the con. " In Convention, September 17th, 1787.
solidation of our union, in which is in“ Sir-We have now the honour to volved our prosperity, felicity, safety, submit to the consideration of the United and perhaps our national existence. States in congress assembled, that con- This important consideration, seriously stitution which appears to us most de- and deeply impressed on our minds, led sirable. The friends of our country each state in convention, to be less rigid have long seen and desired that the on points of inferior magnitude, than power of making war, peace, and trea- might have been otherwise expected; ties, that of levying money and regulat- and thus the constitution which we ing commerce, and the correspondent now present is the result of a spirit of
* Adams' Defence of the constitution of the United States, p. 263. London : 1786.
+ Grimshaw's History of the United States, p. 198. Philadelphia : 1822. How with such a government were the states of America able to achieve their independence? By the infatuation of England.
“ Had we formed," wrote General Washington to the president of the congress, “a permanent army in the beginning, which, by a continuation of the same men in the service, had been capable of discipline, we never should have to retreat across the Delaware in 1776, trembling for the fate of America, which nothing but the infatuation of the enemy could have saved. We should not have remained all the succeeding winter at their mercy, with sometimes scarcely a sufficient body of men to mount the ordinary guards, liable every moment to be dissipated, if they had only thought proper to march against us. We should not have been under the necessity of fighting at Brandywine with an unequal number of raw troops, and afterwards of seeing Philadelphia fall a prey to a victorious army. We should not have been at Valleyforge with
less than half the force of the enemy, destitute of everything, in a situation neither to resist nor retire. We should not have seen New York left with a handful of men, yet an overmatch for the main army of these states. We should not have found ourselves this spring so weak as to be insulted by five thousand men, unable to protect our baggage and magazines, their security depending on a good countenance and a want of enterprise in the enemy; indebted for our safety to their inactivity, enduring frequently the mortification of seeing inviting opportunities to ruin them pass unimproved for want of a force the country was completely able to afford, and of seeing the country ravaged, our towns burned, the inhabitants plundered, abused, murdered with impunity for the same cause. Writings of Washington, vol. vii. pp. 162, 163.
| The rebellion in Massachusets, headed by Daniel Shay, broke out in 1786.
amity and that mutual deference and who had been the most violent sup. concession, which the peculiarity of porters of the war, in consequence of our political situation rendered indis
the direct or excise taxes, that govern: pensably necessary.
ment was obliged to do something « That it will merit the full and entire approbation of every state is perhaps indicating a disposition to recede from
the inveterate system of hostility they not to be expected; but each will doubtless consider that had her interest been
had hitherto pursued. In the end of alone consulted, the consequences might
March, a message from the president have been particularly disagreeable or to congress recommended the reinjurious to others; that it is liable to as peal of the non-importation act, and, few exceptions as could reasonably have in pursuance of the recommendation, been expected, we hope and believe;
a bill soon after passed both houses by that it may promote the lasting welfare
a large majority, repealing both the of that country which is so dear to us
embargo and the non-importation act. all, and secure her freedom and happi
This decisive approach to pacific ness, is our most ardent wish. “ With great respect we have the
measures awakened sanguine hopes, honour to be, sir, your excellency's most
through the union, of reviving trade obedient and humble servants,
and a speedy termination of hostilities ; “ GEORGE WASHINGTON,
but they were soon undeceived by a
proclamation of the British govern* By the unanimous order of the Conventiou. ment, which declared the ports of "To his Excellency the President of Congress." New York as well as those of the
southward in a state of blockade. Of this convention every charac- But the discontent of the northern ter distinguished in the revolutionary states had now risen to such a height struggle was a member, with the ex- as seriously threatened the dissolution ception of Jefferson, who was then am- of the Union. The two states of bassador at Paris ; and even he, not- Massachusets and New England conwithstanding his anti-social principles, tinued to refuse to send their continwas coerced to adınit the necessity of gents to the army, and the governor the measures it adopted. How far the of the former, thus addressed the state constitution answered to the anticipa- legislature in the beginning of the year. tions of its founders may be inferred “ If our conduct to both belligerents had from two events, one in war, and been equally impartial, all the calami, another during a time of profound ties of war might have been avoided. peace ; each of which nearly shat- We had assumed the character of a tered the union into fragments. It is neutral state ; but had we not violated true, a narrative of these incidents is the duties imposed by that character ? beyond the legitimate scope of this Had not every subject of complaint article ; but if the federal constitution against one belligerent been amply dishas not succeeded—if, even at present, played ; and those against the other it indicates the impracticability of work- palliated or concealed.” At a subseing, the instant the motion of its quent period of the same year, the same machinery is increased, an argument state of Massachusets took a still more inay be deduced from it against a form decisive measure. Openly asserting of government, in which its peculiar their inherent right to frame a new evils would be aggravated ; for we constitution, they resolve to appoint may infer the centrifugal force of delegates to confer with the delegates nations united by an executive, when of New England, on the subject of we know how feeble is the centripetal their grievances and common concerns. power of federal states with a supreme Peace in 1814 preserved the inte, legislature.
grity of the Union.* The approach of the tern.ination of The fabric, which courage and love the European contest left the war, of liberty had founded, and wisdom on the part of the Americans, equally bad reared, seemed now about to be without an object as without hope. shattered to pieces. A fiscal quarrel To such a height did discontent rise, gave birth to the United States, a fisa even among the democratic party, cal quarrel was on the point of resolving
Alison's History of Europe, vol. x. pp. 710, 711.
them into their primitive elements, to be refused. The convention, which and, perhaps, of sowing among them consisted of nearly two hundred memthe seeds of irreconcilable hatred. The bers, met on the 19th November, 1832, heavy duties which, partly to encou- and sat daily, till the 24th, when it adrage domestic production, but much journed. more to retaliate upon England for The convention acted with a promptithe exclusion of American grain, had tude and boldness which demonstrated of late years been imposed upon that those who created it were reBritish manufactures, were the cause solved to run all risks rather than of the dissension. Possessed, as Ame- submit. It passed, by one hundred rica is, of boundless tracts of fertile and thirty six votes against twenty-nine, uncultivated land, the policy of her “ An ordinance to nullify certain acts seeking to become a manufacturing of the congress of the United States, power may be doubted. The conse- purporting to be laws laying duties and quences which her tariff laws produced imposts on the importation of foreign were near proving fatal to her strength commodities.” “ The tariff laws," said and happiness. The northern states this ordinance, “are unauthorized by received from them a problematical the constitution of the United States, benefit; but to the southern states and violate the true meaning and intent they were a severe evil, unmitigated by thereof, and are null, void, and no a single advantage. To the latter law, nor binding on this state, its states they doubled the price of articles officers, or citizens; and all promises, of the first necessity; while, at the contracts, and obligations, made or same time, they depreciated the value entered into, with the purpose to secure of southern produce. This situation of the duties imposed by said acts, and all things could not exist without giving judicial proceedings which shall here. rise to complaints, and, ultimately, to after be had in affirmance thereof, are, resistance. In Virginia, Georgia, the and shall be held utterly null and Carolinas, Alabama, and other parts void." The constituted authorities to the southward of the Chesapeake, re- were strictly prohibited from enforcing monstrances against the tariff, couched the payment of duties, and the state in the strongest language, were re- legislature was called upon to pass such peatedly voted in the houses of assembly acts as were required to give full effect and great public meetings, and were to this ordinance. Appeals to the suaddressed to Congress. The anger of preme court of the United States were the remonstrators was further excited forbidden ; all persons holding office by counter-resolutions from the north- were to take an oath to obey and exeern states, calling for additional re- cute the ordinance; and lastly, it was strictions. Still, especially, as the declared, that, in the case of the gene. president was known to be unfriendly ral government committing any act of to heavy protecting duties, it was hostility against South Carolina, or hoped that some change would be harassing its commerce, " the people made, which would remove or lighten of this state will thenceforth hold the oppressive weight under which themselves absolved from all further the southern states were suffering. obligation to maintain or preserve This hope, however, was destroyed by their political connexion with the peothe tariff of 1832, for though the law ple of the other states, and will forthenacting the tariff introduced some with proceed to organize a separate trifling modifications, it left unaltered government, and do all other acts and all that was objectionable to the people things which sovereign and indepenof the south.
dent states may of right do." South Carolina did not vent its The legislature of South Carolina anger in words alone. It proceeded
manifested equal vigour. to take steps, which showed how much entire sanction to the ordinance, and it was in earnest. In October its legis. passed a variety of laws for putting it lature passed an act for the calling a into effectual operation, and punishing convention of the people of the state, all who dared to contravene it. In to take into consideration the tariff case of hostility arising from these laws, and the system it would be proper measures it authorized the governor to adopt on this momentous occasion. to call on the whole military force of The payment of taxes already began the state, to raise volunteers and to