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A CATECHISM OF THE CONSTITU
TION OF THE UNITED STATES
What is the baptismal name of our States-Union? The United States of America.
Whence came the Union and the name?
From the temporary confederation of the Colonies for self-defence within the British empire. The United Colonies led to an independent Union which was thereafter known as the United States of America.
The Colonial War was commenced, and prosecuted a year with the hope of “redressing grievances.” George Washington was commissioned commander-in-chief in the name of all the Colonies severally recited. When Congress had issued to the world the Declaration of Independence, the Colonies rose to the dignity of sovereign States. “We, therefore, the representatives of the United
States of America in General Congress assembled," are the concluding words of that creative instrument. The official oath was: “I acknowledge the thirteen United States, namely, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, to be free, sovereign and independent States."
Did a compact follow the Declaration ?
The Articles of Confederation succeeded. They bore the caption of “ Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia." Article I. declares : “The style of this Confederacy shall be the United States of America.” Article II.: “
Article II.: “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.” Article III. provides that, “The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defence, the security of
their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare,” etc.
Was this the genesis of a constitutional Union of the States? It was.
The Articles of Confederation were formulated by Congress, July 9, 1778, and ratified between the thirteen States, March 1, 1781, and the War of the Revolution was fought to the finish under them. The treaty of peace with Great Britain, as well as the treaty with France, our ally, was made with the United States as separate republics. Each State was named.
The treaty of peace with Great Britain recited that, “His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, namely, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, to be free, independent, and sovereign States." John Jay drew the treaty.
What was the policy of Congress before and after confederation ?
Congress having been the United Colonies, and afterward the thirteen United States in council, urged the ratification of the Articles. Before they were ratified Congress resolved, but never
legislated. Under them Congress enacted, not resolved. Each State had one vote, cast by delegates annually chosen by the several legislatures. Societies of men constituting a body politic voted, not men.
The word “Congress” was first suggested by Great Britain, 1695. It was proposed to unite the Colonies for general defence with a general Congress. The Colonies declined.
What is to be understood by the foregoing ?
The Colonists and the people of the thirteen States were in favor of a distribution, not a concentration, of power. New Hampshire, on the 15th of June, 1776, voted that the thirteen United Colonies ought to be declared “a free and independent State.” This consolidation movement was repudiated by the Congress on the Fourth of July following. The Declaration of Independence did not say that these Colonies are and of right ought to be a free and independent State, but “free and independent States."
Prior to that great State paper being signed, several States had withdrawn from Great Britain and become separate republics. The Colonists were, from the historic era of settlement, decentralists in opinion and in act. Such are the facts of history.
What was the next move to help along constitutional government, in 1786?
Five States met in convention at Annapolis, Md.; namely, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. An address written by Alexander Hamilton of New York was issued that "a convention of all the States should meet at Philadelphia, the second Monday of May, 1787, to consider measures to render the Constitution of the Federal government adequate to the exigencies of the Union.” Virginia, on motion of James Madison, agreed to send delegates, but with the understanding that the proposed measures should be confirmed by the several States.
Congress, in accord with Virginia and other States, declared that a convention should be held at Philadelphia, “ for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and report to that body and to the State legislatures such alterations and provisions as will make the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of the Union."
Such report was to be agreed to by Congress, and confirmed by the States.
What is a Federal Constitution?