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themselves to assist each other against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever." Article II. reads: “Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.” But this by no means made the States full and absolute sovereigns; for the Articles proceeded to confirm the National Goverument in the high powers of sovereignty that it had exercised in 1775 and 1776, and had continued to exercise down to the day when they went into effect. Certain prohibitions utterly inconsistent with the idea that they were each sovereigns, either as societies or governments, were also laid upon the States. Still the Union was a confederation or Staatenbund, not a federal state or Bundesstaat.
149. The Confederate Congress.---The new government was a Congress that held annual sessions. Each State sent not less than two delegates, nor more than seven. The Legislatures elected delegates to serve one year, but could recall them at any time and send others in their places. No man could serve as a delegate more than three
six. Each State paid its own delegates. Each State had one vote, which was determined by the majority of its 'delegates present when the vote was given. If the delegates were evenly divided, the State lost its vote. No question except to adjourn could be carried without a majority of all the States, and the most important questions, enumerated in Article IX., required the vote of nine States. Congress could also appoint a Committee of the States, consisting of one from each State, to exercise such of its own powers as Congress should commit to it, in the recess of that body, which, however, must not continue beyond six months. No man could serve as president of Congress more than one year in any three.
years out of
150. Powers of the Confederation. These were all expressly delegated. The most important are these: The sole and exclusive power of determining on peace and war; sending and receiving ambassadors ; entering into treaties and alliances; establishing rules governing captures on land and water; granting letters of marque and reprisal in times of peace; appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies on the high seas; establishing courts of fiual appeal in all cases of captures; deciding, on appeal, disputes between the States concerning boundaries and jurisdiction; regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by Congress, or by the States; fixing the standards of weights and measures; regulating trade and managing all affairs with the Indians, not members of States; establishing and reg. ulating postoffices from State to State ; appointing all officers in the land forces, above regimental officers, and all naval officers in the National service, and commissioning both classes.
151. Commands to the States.-The States should send delegates to Congress and maintain them. They should contribute money to the National treasury and men to the National army, as Congress should apportion to them the one or the other according to the prescribed rules. No State, without the consent of Congress, should hold any diplomatic intercourse with foreign powers ; or enter into any alliance with any other State without such consent; or lay any impost or duty interfering with the stipulations of any treaty entered into by Congress with a foreign power; or keep vessels of war or troops in time of peace except such as Congress should approve; or engage in war unless actually invaded ; or issue letters of marque or reprisal except in case of a power against which Congress had already declared war. Every State should abide by the determinations of Congress on all delegated questions. The Articles of Confederation should be observed by every State, and the Union should be perpetual. But no alteration in the Articles should be made unless such alteration should be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the Legislatures of
152. The Continental and Confederate Govern. ments.—The powers delegated to the new Congress were much the same that the old one had exercised ; while the prohibitions on the States, and the commands to them, had already been practically fixed by common consent. The customary Constitution that controlled the Continental Congress and the Articles of Confederation were developed at the same time, and were in substance the same thing. The only practical difference between the two governments was the lack of a written constitution in the first case, and its presence in the second. It is not surprising, therefore, that some writers should consider the Articles a mere incident, and so extend the Continental period to 1789. So we may well treat the two Congresses as one government.
153. Organization.—The government was extremely simple. It was a legislature consisting of one house, but it also exercised some executive and judicial powers. The President of Congress, sometimes called simply the President, while in no sense an executive head of the government, was still an officer of much dignity; he received a compensation from the National treasury, and gave his title to the present Chief Magistrate of the Republic.
154. Executive Departments.-Congress being suddenly called upon to carry on an extensive war, was compelled to create administrative machinery. There were, for a time, many Congressional committees charged with administrative duties. There were committees to purchase clothing for the army, to promote the manufacture of muskets and bayonets, to collect salt, to collect lead, etc., as well as committees to consider the state of trade, to draft resolutions and addresses, and to report a device for a National seal. But as it became apparent that efficient administration could not be secured by this means, there began to appear the outlines of executive departments.
In 1775 three departments of Indian affairs, to be administered by commissioners appointed by Congress, were created. The same year Dr. Franklin was appointed Postmaster General. Other departments also appeared that will be mentioned in another place.
155. Defects of the Government.--These arose in part from its organization. Its legislative, executive, and judicial powers were all united in one body. But the most serious defect was the feeble powers with which Congress was clothed. It acted upon States, not upon individuals; and States it could not coerce. It could issue its requisitions for men and money in accordance with the Articles ; but if the States did not raise the men and money, the army was not recruited and the treasury was left empty. It had no power to regulate commerce with foreign nations or between the States. It could negotiate treaties, but had no power to enforce them either at home or abroad. Nine States were necessary to carry the most important measures ; and as every State was necessary to make even the slightest change in the Articles, to strengthen the government was found a practical impossibility. The war over, there began what has been appropriately called the critical period in American history.
156. The Question of 1786.--Some men regarded the failure of the impost proposed in 1785 as the collapse of the Confederation. Mr. Justice Story, describing the outlook then presented to the country, says: "The Confederation had at last totally failed as an effectual instrument of government;" " its glory was departed, and its days of labor done;" "it stood the shadow of a mighty name; “it was seen only as a decayed monument of the past, incapable of any enduring record ; the steps of its decline were numbered and finished ; ” and “it was now passing to the very door of that common sepulcher of the dead, whose inscription is Nulla vestigia retrorsum.” 1 A very plain question was now presented to the American people. This
i Commentaries on the Constitution, & 270,
was whether they would strengthen the Union, or would drift into disunion, anarchy, and war. Happily the defects of the Confederation had at last taught their lesson.
But before we take the next step forward, we may review this period more thoroughly.
157. Weakness in the War.—"Tradition has fastened upon the sufferings at Valley Forge; but the sufferings of the next two or three winters were not less, and the distress and nakedness of the Southern army up to the end of the war were shocking in every point of view. In 1780 the French were obliged to help the American army with provisions. The point of this for our present purpose, however, lies in the fact that there was plenty all about, and the people were not paying any war-taxes at all. There was no general distress or poverty. Except at the seat of war for the time being, the war did not press on the people in any way. The whole trouble lay in the lack of organization by which to bring the resources which existed in ample abundance into application to the necessities."
158. State of the Government. --When the pressure of common dangers was removed, this became humiliating in the extreme. In October and November, 1781, Congress called upon the States for $8,000,000 ; up to January, 1783, only half a million had been received. Between 1782 and 1786 it called for $6,000,000; it received only $1,000,000. At last the National income dwindled to one or two hundred thousand dollars a year, and contributions were limited to New York and Pennsylvania alone. As a consequence, Congress could neither pay the large foreign debt that it had created, principal and interest, nor the soldiers on the disbanding of the army, save in certificates of indebtedness. The Continental currency ceased to have assignable value. Congress could not compel England to observe the terms of the treaty of peace, or, what was worse, keep them itself. Hence it was not strange that it could not negotiate commercial treaties with foreign nations that would have been of the greatest benefit to the country.2
1 Sumner: Alexander Hamilton, pp. 87, 88. 2 The hopeless financial breakdown Fisher Ames once described in a sen
“The government of a great nation had barely revenue enough to buy stationery for its clerks, or to pay the salary of the door-keeper.” A contemporary writer quoted by Story, gives this fuller description : "The United States in Congress have exclusive power for the following purposes, without being able to execute one of them. They may make and conclude treaties; but can only recommend the observance of them. They may appoint ambassadors; but cannot defray even the expenses of their tables. They may borrow money in their own name on the faith of the Union; but cannot pay a dollar. They may coin money, but they cannot purchase an ounce of bullion. They may make war and determine what number of troops are necessary, but cannot raise a single soldier. In short, they may declare everything, but do nothing." Commentaries, 8 246.