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"To form a permanent union, accommodated to the opinion and wishes of the delegates of so many states, differing in habits, produce, commerce, and internal police, was found to be a work which nothing but time and reflection, conspiring with a disposition to conciliate, could mature and accomplish. Hardly is it to be expected that any plan, in the variety of provisions essential to our union, should exactly correspond with the maxims and political views of every particular state. Let it be remarked, that after the most careful inquiry, and the fullest information, this is proposed as the best which could be adapted to the circumstances of all, and as that alone which affords any tolerable prospect of general ratification. Permit us then earnestly to recommend these articles to the immediate and dispassionate attention of the legislatures of the respective states. Let them be candidly reviewed 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. Let them be examined with a liberality becoming brethren and fellow citizens surrounded by the same imminent dangers, contending for the same illustrious prize, and deeply interested in being forever bound and connected together by ties the most intimate and indissoluble.
"And finally, let them be adjusted with the temper and magnanimity of wise and patriotic legislators, who, while they are concerned for the prosperity of their own more immediate circle, are capable of rising superior to local attachments when they may be incompatible with the safety, happiness and glory of the general confederacy.
"We have reason to regret the time which has elapsed in preparing this plan for consideration. With additional solicitude we look forward to that which must be necessarily spent before it can be ratified. Every motive loudly calls upon us to hasten its conclusion.
"More than any other consideration, it will confound our foreign enemies, defeat the flagitious practices of the disaffected, strengthen and confirm our friends, support our public credit, restore the value of our money, enable us to maintain our fleets and armies, and add weight and respect to our councils at home, and to our treaties abroad.
“In short, this salutary measure can no longer be deferred. It seems essential to our very existence as a free people; and without it, we may soon be constrained to bid adieu to independence, to liberty, and safety; blessings which, from the justice of our cause and the favor of our Almighty Creator, visibly manifested in our protection, we have reason to expect, if, in an humble dependence on his divine providence, we strenuously exert the means which are placed in our power. To conclude, if the legislature of any state shall not be assembled, congress recommend to the executive authority to convene it without delay; and to each respective legislature, it is recommended to invest its delegates with competent powers ultimately, in the name and behalf of the state, to subscribe articles of confederation and perpetual union of the United States, and to attend congress for that purpose, on or before the 10th day of March, 1778."
The plan was considered by the legislatures of the several states, in the winter of 1778, and by some was adopted without amendments, by others, various amendments were proposed.
In June 1778, the delegates from the several states, in congress, were called upon for their instructions, on this important subject. New Hampshire, New York, Virginia and North Carolina, had adopted the plan, without amendments; but some material alterations were proposed by the others; all the states however, except New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, had instructed their delegates to ratify the articles, even if the amendments proposed by them, should be rejected by congress.
These various amendments shew the views of the states, at that period, on the new and important subject of a confederacy.
One of the principal objections of Maryland, as well as some of the other states, was, that the western lands were not secured
for the benefit of the union. In pursuance of their instructions, the 'Maryland delegates proposed an amendment, vesting congress with power "to appoint commissioners, who should be fully authorized and empowered to ascertain and restrict the boundaries of such of the confederated states which claim to extend to the river Mississippi or south sea.”
On this interesting question the states were almost equally divided; Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, were in favor of the amendment, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia against it, and New York divided, the delegates from North Carolina not being present.
Massachusetts proposed that the rule for settling the proportion of taxes to be paid by each state, should be reconsidered, "so that the rule of apportionment might be varied from time to time, by congress, until experience shall have shown what rule of apportionment shall be most equal, and consequently most just."
This state also, recommended the reconsideration of the rule of apportioning the number of forces to be raised by each state on the requisition of congress.
These amendments were negatived; two states only voting for the first, and three for the second.
Rhode Island felt a strong interest in having a share in the western lands; she therefore proposed an amendment, providing "that all lands within those states, the property of which, before the present war, was vested in the crown of Great Britain, or out of which revenues from quit-rents arise payable to the said crown, shall be deemed, taken, and considered, as the property of these United States, and be disposed of and appropriated by congress, for the benefit of the whole confederacy, reserving, however, to the states within whose limits such crown lands may be, the entire and complete jurisdiction thereof."
Connecticut not only recommended that the taxes to be paid by each state, should be in proportion to its number of inhabitants, instead of the value of its lands, but also the following limitation of the powers of the general government, in relation to a stand
ing army: "Provided that no land army shall be kept up by the United States in time of peace, nor any officers or pensioners kept in pay by them, who are not in actual service, except such as are, or may be rendered unable to support themselves by wounds received in battle in the service of the said states, agreeably to the provisions already made by a resolution of congress."
The most material amendment suggested by Pennsylvania, was, that the number of land forces to be furnished by each state, should be according to the whole number of inhabitants of every description, instead of the white inhabitants as provided in the articles.
South Carolina was jealous of the power conferred upon the general government, in relation to a military force. She proposed that "the troops to be raised should be deemed the troops of that state by which they are raised. The congress or grand council of the states may, when they think proper, make requisition of any state for two thirds of the troops to be raised, which requisition shall be binding upon the said states respectively ; but the remaining third shall not be liable to be drawn out of the state, in which they are raised, without the consent of the executive authority of the same. When any forces are raised, they shall be under the command of the executive authority of the state in which they are so raised, unless they be joined by troops from any other state, in which case the congress or grand council of the states may appoint a general officer to take the command of the whole; and until the same can be done, the command shall be in the senior officer present, who shall be amenable for his conduct to the executive authority of the state in which the troops are, and shall be liable to be suspended thereby. The expenses of the troops so to be raised shall be defrayed by the state to which they belong; but when called into service by the United States, they shall be fed and paid at the expense of the United States."
South Carolina also suggested, that the lands and improvements thereon, should be valued by persons to be appointed by the legislatures of the respective states, at least once in ten years,
and oftener, if required by congress; and that future alterations in the articles might be made, if agreed to by eleven states in congress, and afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of eleven
Georgia was desirous that the colonies of East and West Florida, as well as Canada, should have the privilege of acceding to the confederacy, and proposed an amendment to that effect. The delegates from New Jersey, presented a representation on the subject of the union, from the legislature of that state, addressed to congress. This representation contained more just and enlightened views in relation to a federal compact, particularly as to the powers of congress, in regard to the trade of the United States, than generally prevailed at that period.
One of the objections made by this state was, that the general government was not vested with the sole and exclusive power of regulating commerce with foreign nations.
The remarks in this representation, concerning several of the articles, contain much sound political wisdom, and cannot fail to gratify the reader.
"1. In the fifth article," they say, "where, among other things, the qualifications of the delegates from the several states are described, there is no mention of any oath, test, or declaration, to be taken or made by them previous to their admission to seats in congress. It is indeed to be presumed the respective states will be careful that the delegates they send to assist in managing the the general interest of the union, take the oaths to the government from which they derive their authority, but as the United States, collectively considered, have interests, as well as each particular state, we are of opinion that some test or obligation binding upon each delegate while he continues in the trust, to consult and pursue the former as well as the latter, and particularly to assent to no vote or proceeding which may violate the general confederation, is necessary. The laws and usages of all civilized nations evince the propriety of an oath on such occasions; and the more solemn and important the deposit, the more strong and explicit ought the obligation to be.