« AnteriorContinuar »
afterwards removed to Annapolis; and, as the States could not agree on a seat of government, it seemed likely to become a migratory body, with constantly diminishing numbers and influence. It had so dwindled away, that in December, 1783, on the solemn occasion when Washington came to resign his trust into the hands of the country he had saved, only seven States, represented by about twenty delegates, took part in the ceremony. And when the Treaty of Peace was finally to be ratified by the Legislature, many weeks elapsed before the attendance of the required number of nine States could be procured, and, even then, only three-and-twenty members were present at the ratification.
Such was the body-so powerless, and already grown so neglectful of its duties-that was expected to meet all the difficulties of the transition from war to peace, to maintain the faith of the country with foreign nations, to uphold its credit abroad and at home, and to preserve and perpetuate the Union. Some stood aghast at the prospect, and others attempted to avert the danger by temporary expedients. Hamilton, and Hamilton alone, saw the full extent of the peril, and was prepared to devise a remedy. He entered into a complete
examination of the principles of the existing Confederation, and condemned them as utterly impracticable, and incapable of adaptation or amendment. He held that the only course was for Congress freely and frankly to inform the country of the defects under which they laboured, and which made it impossible for them to conduct the public affairs with honour to themselves or advantage to the Union; and to recommend to the several States to appoint a Convention, with full powers to revise the Confederation, and to adopt and propose such alterations in the constitution and government as should appear necessary, to be finally approved or rejected by the respective States.
With this purpose, he drew up a set of resolutions to be submitted to Congress, which afford the most striking evidence of his far-reaching views, and contain the first germ of the future constitution of his country. In them he pointed out that the Confederation was essentially defective:
1st. In confining the Federal Government within too narrow limits; in withholding from it efficacious authority and influence in all matters of common concern; in embarrassing general provisions by unnecessary details and inconvenient exceptions,
tending to create jealousies and disputes between the Union and the particular States.
2d. In confounding legislative and executive powers in a single body, contrary to the most approved and well-founded maxims of free government, which require that the legislative, executive, and judicial authorities should be deposited in distinct and separate hands.
3d. In the want of a Federal Judicature, having cognisance of all matters of general concern in the last resort, especially those in which foreign nations and their subjects are interested; from which defect the national treaties were liable to be infringed, the national faith violated, and the public tranquillity disturbed.
4th. In vesting the United States in Congress assembled with the power of general taxation for certain purposes, and yet rendering that power nugatory, by withholding from them all control over either the imposition or collection of taxes.
5th. In fixing a rule for determining the proportion of each State towards the common charges, which, if practicable at all, must in the execution be attended with great expense, inequality, uncertainty, and difficulty.
6th. In authorizing Congress to borrow money, or emit bills, on the credit of the United States, without the power of establishing funds to secure the repayment of the money, or the redemption of the bills. And, indeed, in authorizing Congress at all to emit an unfunded paper as the sign of value-a resource indispensable in the commencement of the Revolution, but in its nature pregnant with abuses, liable to be made the engine of imposition and fraud, and pernicious to the integrity of government and to the morals of the people.
7th. In not making proper or competent provision for interior or exterior defence.
8th. In not vesting in the United States a general superintendence of trade, equally necessary in the view of revenue and regulation.
9th. In defeating essential powers by provisoes and limitations inconsistent with their nature; as the power of making treaties with foreign nations, provided that no treaty of commerce shall be made restricting the respective States from imposing duties, "or from prohibiting the importation or exportation of any species of goods or commodities whatsoever."
10th. In granting to the United States the sole
power of regulating the alloy and value of coin. struck by their own authority, or that of the respective States, without the power of regulating foreign coin in circulation.
11th. In requiring the assent of nine States to matters of principal importance, and of seven States to all others, except adjournments from day to day-a rule destructive of vigour, consistency, or expedition in affairs, and tending to subject the sense of the majority to that of the minority, by putting it in the power of a small combination to retard, and even to frustrate, the most necessary
12th. In vesting in the Federal Government the sole direction of the interests of the United States in their intercourse with foreign nations, without empowering it to pass all general laws in aid and support of the laws of nations; for the want of which authority the faith of the United States might be broken, their reputation sullied, and their peace interrupted, by the negligence or misconception of any particular State.
The resolutions then go on to declare that, whereas experience has clearly manifested that the powers reserved to the UNION are unequal to the purposes