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Origin of the Revolution.
§ 13. The Colonies considered themselves, not as parcel of the realm of Great Britain, but as dependencies of the British Crown, and owing allegiance thereto, the King being their supreme and sovereign lord. In virtue of this supremacy the King exercised the right of hearing appeals from the decisions of the Courts of the last resort in the Colonies; of deciding controversies between the Colonies as to their respective jurisdictions and boundaries; and of requiring each Colony to conform to the fundamental laws and constitution of its establishment.
Though the Colonies had a common right, and owed a common allegiance, and the inhabitants of all of them were British subjects, they had no direct political connexion with each other. Each was independent of the other; and there was no confederacy or alliance between them. The Legislature of one could not make laws for another, nor confer privileges to be enjoyed in another. They were also excluded from all political connexion with foreign nations; and they followed the fate and fortunes of the parent country in peace and in war. Still the Colonists were not wholly alien to each other. On the contrary, they were fellow subjects, and for many purposes one people. Every colonist had a right to inhabit, if he pleased, in any other colony ; to trade therewith; and to inherit and hold lands there.
The nature and extent of their dependency upon the parent country is not so easily stated; or, rather, it was left in mere uncertainty ; the claims on either side not being always well defined, or clearly acquiesced in. The Colonies claimed exclusive authority to legislate on all subjects of local and internal interest and policy. But they did not deny the right of Parliament to regulate their commerce, and their other ex
ternal concerns, or to legislate upon the common interests of the whole Empire. On the other hand, the Crown claimed a right to exercise many of its prerogatives in the Colonies; and Parliament, though it practically interfered little with their internal affairs, theoretically maintained the right to legislate over them in all cases whatsoever.
As soon as any systematic effort was made by the British Parliament to exert practically over the Colonies the power of internal legislation and taxation, as was attempted by the Stamp Act, it was boldly resisted ; and it brought on the memorable controversy, which terminated in their Independence, first asserted in 1776, and finally admitted by Great Britain by the Treaty of 1783. At an early period of that controversy the first Continental Congress, in 1774, drew up and unanimously adopted a declaration of the rights of the Colonies, the substance of which is as follows: (1.) That they are entitled to life, liberty, and property; and they have never ceded to any sovereign power, whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent. (2.) That our ancestors, who first settled the Colonies, were, at the time of their emigration from the mother country, entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural born subjects within the realm of England. (3.) That by such emigration they by no means forfeited, surrendered, or lost their rights; but that they were, and their descendants now are, entitled to the exercise and enjoyment of all of them. (4.) That the founda-. tion of English liberty is a right in the people to participate in their legislative councils; and as the English Colonists are not, and cannot properly be represented in the British Parliament, they are entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several provincial assemblies in all cases of taxation and internal polity, subject only to the negative of their sovereign, in such manner as has been heretofore used and accustomed. But from the necessity of the case, and a regard to the mutual interests of both countries, we cheer
fully consent to the operation of such acts of the British Par. liament, as are bonâ fide restrained to the regulation of our external commerce, excluding every action of taxation, internal or external, for raising a revenue on the subjects in America without their consent. (5.) That the respective Colonies are entitled to the common law of England, and more especially, the great and inestimable privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage, according to the course of that law, (meaning the trial by jury). (6.) That the Colonies are entitled to the benefit of such of the English Statutes, as existed at the time of their colonization, and which they have by experience respectively found applicable to their several local and other circumstances. (7.) That they are likewise entitled to all the immunities and privileges granted and confirmed to them by royal charters, or secured to them by their several codes of provincial law.
$ 17. Such were the main grounds upon which the American Revolution was founded; and the grievances, under which the Colonies labored, being persisted in by the British Government, a resort to arms became unavoidable. The result of the contest has been already stated; and it belongs to the department of history, and not of constitutional law, to enumerate the interesting events of that period.
§ 18. But it may be asked, and it properly belongs to this work to declare, what was the political organization, under which the Revolution was carried on and accomplished ? The Colonies being, as we have seen, separate and independent of each other in their original establishment, it became indispensable, in order to make their resistance to the British claims
either formidable or successful, that there should be harmony and unity of operations under some common head. Massachusetts, in 1774, recommended the assembling of a Continental Congress at Philadelphia, to be composed of delegates chosen in all the Colonies for the purpose of deliberating on the common good, and to provide a suitable scheme of future operations. Delegates were accordingly chosen in the various Colonies, some by the legislative body, some by the popular branch thereof, and some by conventions of the people, according to their several means, and local circumstances. This first great Continental Congress assembled on the 4th of Septeinber, 1774, chose their own officers, and adopted certain fundamental rules to regulate their proceedings. The most important was, that each Colony should have one vote only, whatever might be the number of its delegates ; and this became the established course through the whole Revolution. They adopted such measures as the exigency of the occasion seemed to require; and proposed another Congress, to be assembled for the like purpose in May, 1775, which was accordingly held. The delegates of this Congress were chosen in the same manner as the preceding ; but principally by conventions of the people in the several Colonies. It was this Congress, which, after voting other great measures, all leading to open war, finally made the Declaration of Independence, which was unanimously adopted by the American People. Under the recommendations of Congress, suitable arrangements were made to organize the State Governments, so as to supply the deficiencies in the former establishments; and henceforth the delegates to the Continental Congress were appointed by the State Legislatures.
$ 19. The Continental Congress, thus organized by a voluntary association of the States, and continued by the successive appointments of the State Legislatures, constituted in fact a National Government, and conducted the national affairs, until near the close of the Revolution, when, as we shall presently
see, the articles of confederation were adopted by all the States. Their powers were no where defined or limited. They assumed the power to declare war and make peace, to raise armies and equip navies, to form treaties and alliances with foreign nations, to contract public debts, and to do all other sovereign acts essential to the safety of the United Colonies. Whatever powers they assumed were deemed legitimate. They originated from necessity, and were only limited by events; or in other words, they were revolutionary. In the exercise of these powers they were supported by the people, and the exercise of them could not, therefore, be justly questioned by any inferior authority. In an exact sense, then, their powers might be said to be co-extensive with the exigencies and necessities of the public affairs; and the people, by their approbation and acquiescence, justified all their acts, having the most entire reliance on their patriotism, their integrity, and their political wisdom.
$ 20. But it was obvious upon the slightest consideration, that the union thus formed was but of a temporary nature, dependent upon the consent of all the Colonies, and capable of being dissolved by the secession of any one of them. It grew out of the exigencies and dangers of the times; and, extending only to the maintenance of the public liberties and independence of all the States during the contest with Great Britain, it would naturally terminate with the return of peace, and the accomplishment of the ends of the revolutionary contest. As little could it escape observation, how great would be the dangers of their separation into independent communities, acknowledging no common head, and acting upon no common system. Rivalries, jealousies, real or imaginary wrongs, would soon sever th ties of attachment, which bound them together, and bring on a state of hostile operations, dangerous
and subversive of their interests.
to their peace,