Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

alarmed. Here they felt its pulse; and as they found that beat, they thought themselves sick or sound.”

121. English and American Liberty.—The connection of the two countries was closer than has yet appeared. While nearly all Evglishmen held that Parliament was supreme over the Colonies, and so had the power of taxation, many, as the more liberal and progressive Whigs, doubted or denied the wisdom of its exercise. These men conducted a steady but ineffectual resistance to the American policy of the King and ministry. They sometimes called Washington's army

our army,” and spoke of the American cause as “the cause of liberty.” The names of the two English political parties also became the names of the two divisions into which the American people were divided, Whigs and Tories. While the war was going on, the King was also seeking to carry out his ideas of prerogative in England. The men who opposed his American policy also opposed his Home policy. For a time, these men were in a feeble minority, and the King had his way; but the day of their triumph and of the King's defeat came with the success of the American

Not only was America free, but the failure of arbitrary government in America involved its failure in England. At the close of the war, forces began to act that, after still further delays, reformed the House of Commons and enlarged its powers, and limited still more the power of the King and the House of Lords. Thus English liberty, long arrested in its course, once more moved onward. Sa Mr. Fiske: “The system which George III. had sought to fasten upon America, in order that he might fasten it upon England, was shaken off by the good people of both countries at almost the same moment of time."

arms.

CHAPTER IV.

THE FORMATION OF THE UNION.

REFERENCES.

I. HISTORIES OF THE UNITED STATES.—Bancroft, Vol. IV., (The American Revolution in Five Epochs, Epoch 3); Hildreth, Vol. III.; Winsor, Vol. VI., Chap. III.; Pitkin, Chaps. VIII.-X.; Johnston, The U. S., III., IV.; Hart., Chaps. III., IV.

II. SPECIAL WORKS, ARTICLES, ETC. Goodloe, Johnston, Story, and Wilson, Last References ; Curtis, Book I., Chaps. II.-VI.; Frothingham, Chaps. IX., XI.; Bryce, Part I., Chaps. I., II.; Small, Beginnings of American Nationality, (J. H. V. Studies, Eighth Series, I., II.).

122. Relations of the Colonies.—At first the Colonies were wholly separate and distinet settlements, or groups of settlements, on the edge of a vast continent, often widely separated. But some bonds of union existed from the beginning. The Colonists were mainly of English blood; they had the same national history, the same political and civil institutions, the same general customs, the same language and literature. They had a common citizenship, since the inhabitants of any one Colony enjoyed all the rights and privileges of the inhabitants of any other. They had common enemies and friends, common dangers, objects, and hopes. There was more or less emigration from one Colony to another, which time and social and business connections multiplied. The name they bore marked them off from all the world as one society or people. The Declaration of Independence spoke of their constitution. So, while their only governmental bond was their common dependence upon England, they still formed a moral and social unity that continued to strengthen until events created a political unity.

2.

123. The United States.—The Declaration of Independence must be considered under two aspects.

1. It changed the Colonies into States - by severing the bonds that bound them to England. On the one side of July 4, 1776, they are British Colonies; on the other, free and independent American States.

It created the political unity, or the State, since known as the United States of America. While severing their connectious with the other parts of the British Empire, this act materially strengthened those connections that constituted the Colonies one people. American independence was a concerted movement. The States used the Continental Congress to effect this purpose, not their local assemblies or congresses. There was one Declaration of Independence, not thirteen declarations. They did not act singly, but together. They did not become the nations of Massachusetts, Virginia, etc., but the United States of America. In this capacity they adopted the army at Boston, appointed Washington Commander-in-chief, waged war, renounced their allegiance to England, and took their separate station among the nations of the earth.

Thus, the States as free commonwealths and the Union originated in the same act. Independence did not destroy dual government. Each State continued a society in itself, and also a part of a larger society. The American Union had come in the room of the King and Parliament. But the States were necessarily reorganized and adjusted to the new order of things.

124. The Colonies Reorganized as States.-Independence destroyed the old legal foundation of the States, and made it necessary to provide a new one. A people so tenacious of political habits as the Americans of that day, and so committed to government by law, could not rest until they had adjusted their State governments to the new state of affairs. In fact, they did not wait for the formal declaration of independence before acting. As early as May, 1775, Colonies began to apply to Congress for advice to guide them in the emergency that had arisen. Besides earlier and partial replies, Congress adopted, May 10, 1776, the following resolution, with an appropriate preamble:

“Resolved, that it be recommended to the respective assemblies and conventions of the United Colonies, where no government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs has been hitherto established, to adopt such government as shall, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular and America in general.”

All the Colonies but two acted in conformity with this recommendation. Their action took the form of State constitutions, adopted and put in force in the years 1776–

[ocr errors]

1780.

125. The First Constitutions.—These constitutions were the first instruments of the kind ever made. Some of them, framed in haste, were very brief and imperfect, and were soon laid aside ; others were well matured, and that of Massachusetts, variously amended, is still in force. The first constitutions were drawn up by State conventions or congresses, some of which were composed of members of the Assemblies, and some especially constituted for that purpose. The General Court of Connecticut formally declared, in 1776, that the charter granted by King Charles II. in 1662 should be and remain the civil constitution of the State. Rhode Island also continued her charter, but without any formal declaration to that effect. Connecticut adopted her first constitution in 1818, and Rhode Island hers in 1842.

126. Source of the New Constitutions.—This was the popular will. From that day to this, supreme political power in the United States, both as a theory and a fact, has resided in the people. Only the Constitution of Massachusetts, of those first formed, was submitted to the popular vote for ratification ; but the assemblies, conventions, and congresses that ordained the others did so as the representatives of the people. The Virginia preamble ran : “We, the delegates and representatives of the good people of Virginia, do," etc. That of Massachusetts: “We, the people of Massachusetts," etc.

127. Models of the New Constitutions.-But where did the States find their models? The State constitutions, as documents, were no doubt immediately suggested by the Colonial charters. In important respects they differed from the charters : the charters emanated from the king, the constitutions from the people; the charters were grants of rights and powers to the people, the constitutions were acts of the people organizing government. Both the constitutions and charters had a certain likeness to the old English charters, as Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights, while the constitutions made or proposed for England in the time of the Commonwealth may have been in the minds of the statesmen of 1776-1787. Mention may be made of the Instrument of Government that created the Protectorate in 1653."

128. The Transition from Colony to State.-The Colonial governments were not destroyed, but were rested on a new foundation, adjusted to a new political system, and in all essential features continued under a new name. The division into three branches, the bicameral legislature, the common parliamentary law, the former local institutions, and all the old safeguards of civil liberty were duly perpetuated. As one has said: “The revolution was not a war against these things; it was a war for

1 Commenting on the similarity of the frame of government in the republics that make up the United States,

-"a similarity which appears the more remarkable when we remember that each of the republics is independent and self-determined as respects its frame of government,”—Mr. Bryce observes that it “ is due to the common source whence the governments flow. They are all copies, some immediate, some mediate, of ancient English institutions, viz., chartered self-governing corporations, which, under the influence of English habits, ard with the precedent of the English parliamentary system before their eyes, developed into governments resembling that of England in the eighteenth century. Each of the thirteen Colonies had up to 1776 been regulated by a charter from the British Crown, which, according to the best and oldest of all English traditions, allowed it the practical management of its own affairs. The charter contained a sort of skeleton constitution, which usage had clothed with nerves, muscles, and sinews, till it became a complete and symmetrical working system of free government." The American Commonwealth, Vol. I., p. 458. (1888.)

« AnteriorContinuar »