Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

unfair construction of the confederation, may be stripped of a common interest, and the common benefits desirable from the western country. Suppose, for instance, Virginia indisputably possessed of the extensive and fertile country to which she has set up a claim, what would be the probable consequences to Maryland of such an undisturbed and undisputed possession ? They cannot escape the least discerning.

“ Virginia, by selling on the most moderate terms a small proportion of the lands in question, would draw into her treasury vast sums of money; and in proportion to the sums arising from such sales, would be enabled to lessen her taxes.

Lands comparatively cheap, and taxes comparatively low, with the lands and taxes of an adjacent state, would quickly drain the state thus disadvantageously circumstanced of its most useful inhabitants ; its wealth and its consequence in the scale of the confederated states would sink of course. A claim so injurious to more than one half, if not to the whole of the United States, ought to be supported by the clearest evidence of the right. Yet what evidences of that right have been produced? What arguments alleged in support either of the evidence or the right ? None that we have heard of deserving a serious refutation.

" It has been said, that some of the delegates of a neighboring state have declared their opinion of the impracticability of governing the extensive dominion claimed by that state. Hence also the necessity was admitted of dividing its territory, and erecting a new state under the auspices and direction of the elder, from whom no doubt it would receive its form of government, to whom it would be bound by some alliance or confederacy, and by whose councils it would be influenced. Such a measure, if ever attempted, would certainly be opposed by the other states as inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the proposed confederation. Should it take place by establishing a sub-confederacy, imperium in imperio, the state possessed of this extensive dominion must then either submit to all the inconveniences of an overgrown and unwieldly government, or suffer the authority of congress to interpose at a future time, and to lop off a part of its ter

ritory to be erected into a new and free state, and admitted into a confederation on such conditions as shall be settled by nine -states. If it is necessary for the happiness and tranquility of a state thus overgrown, that congress should hereafter interfere and divide its territory, why is the claim to that territory now made, and so pertinaciously insisted on? We can suggest to ourselves but two motives ; either the declaration of relinquishing at some future period a proportion of the country now contended for, was made to lull suspicion asleep, and to cover the designs of a secret ambition, or, if the thought was seriously entertained, the lands are now claimed to reap an immediate profit from the sale. We are convinced, policy and justice require, that a country unsettled at the commencement of this war, claimed by the British crown ; and ceded to it by the treaty of Paris, if wrested from the common enemy by the blood and treasure of the thirteen states, should be considered as a common property, subject to be parcelled out by congress into free, convenient and independent governments, in such manner and at such times as the wisdom of that assembly shall hereafter direct.

“ Thus convinced, we should betray the trust reposed in us by our constituents, were we to authorize you to ratify on their behalf the confederation, unless it be farther explained. We have coolly and dispassionately considered the subject; we have weighed probable inconveniences and hardships against the sacrifice of just and essential rights; and do instruct you not to agree to the confederation, unless an article or articles be added thereto in conformity with our declaration. Should we succeed in obtaining such article or articles, then you are hereby fully empowered to accede to the confederation.

“That these our sentiments respecting our confederation may be more publicly known, and more explicitly and concisely declared, we have drawn up the annexed declaration, which we instruct you to lay before congress, to have it printed, and to deliver to each of the delegates of the other states in congress assembled, eopies thereof signed by yourselves, or by such of you as may be present at the time of delivery ; to the intent and purpose that,

[ocr errors]

the copies aforesaid may be communicated to our brethren of the United States, and the contents of the said declaration taken into their serious and candid consideration.

“Also we desire and instruct you to move, at a proper time, that these instructions be read to congress by their secretary, and entered on the journals of congress.

“We have spoken with freedom, as become free men; and we sincerely wish that these our representations may make such an impression on that assembly as to induce them to make such addition to the articles of confederation as may bring about a permanent union.'

Maryland was particularly opposed to the extensive territorial claim of Virginia ; and the declarations of the former on this subject, drew from the latter, a strong remonstrance and vindication of her claim.

The legislature of Virginia, in December 1778, empowered their delegates in congress, to ratify the plan of union, with such other states, as would unite with them; and declared that the same should be binding, without the assent of Maryland and Delaware, allowing these states, however, either a given or an indefinite time, to join the confederacy. The state of Connecticut, also, in April 1779, authorized their delegates, to complete the confederacy exclusive of Maryland.

In May 1779, the delegates from Virginia, in pursuance of their instructions, presented to congress a paper signed by them, declaring they were ready "to ratify the confederation with one or more states named therein, so that the same shall be forever binding upon the state of Virginia." The other states, however, were unwilling to consent to a partial union, and some of them, though they had joined the confederacy, were still dissatisfied, on the subject of the western lands.

The states who claimed these lands, under special grants from the crown, considered their titles valid ; and as between them and the crown, there could perhaps be little doubt of their validity. Yet policy, and even justice seemed to demand, that, in case these extensive tracts of wild lands, promising to be of im

mense value in future, should be finally secured by the joint exertions of all, should enure to the benefit of all. A majority of the states, however, had claims to these lands, which they deemed valid; and no mode of settling this interesting question, and of completing the union, seemed to present, but a compromise among the states themselves.

New York led the way, in effecting this compromise. In February 1780, the legislature of that state passed an act, “ to facilitate the completion of the articles of confederation and perpetual union among the United States of America ;" with a preamble declaring that," whereas nothing under divine Providence can more effectually contribute to the tranquility and safety of the United States of America than a federal alliance, on such liberal principles as will give satisfaction to its respective members : and whereas the articles of confederation and perpetual union recommended by the honorable the congress of the United States of America have not proved acceptable to all the states, it having been conceived that a portion of the waste and uncultivated territory, within the limits or claims of certain states, ought to be appropriated as a common fund for the expenses of the war : and the people of the state of New York, being on all occasions disposed to manifest their regard for their sister states, and their earnest desire to promote the general interest and security; and more especially to accelerate the federal alliance, by removing, so far as it depends upon them, the before mentioned impediment to its final conclusion.” By this act the delegates of the people of New York in congress, were empowered, “ to limit and restrict the western boundaries of that state, by such line or lines, and in such manner and form, as they shall judge to be expedient, either with respect to the jurisdiction as well as the pre-emption of soil, or reserving the jurisdiction in part, or in the whole, over the lands which may be ceded or relinquished, with respect only to the right or pre-emption of the soil.” This act, also, declared, that the territory thus ceded, “ should be and enure for the use and benefit of such of the United States, as should become members of the federal alliance of the said states, and for no other use or purpose whatever." VOL. II.

5

an earnest desire to conciliate the affection of the sister states, to convince the world of our unalterable resolution to support the independence of the United States, and the alliance with his most christian majesty ; and to destroy forever any apprehensions of our friends, or hopes in our enemies, of this state being again united to Great Britain," &c. And declaring at the same time, that by acceding to the confederation, she did not relinquish or intend to relinquish, any right or interest she had with the other confederated states to the western territory ; but claimed the same as fully as was done by the legislature of that state; relying on the future justice of the several states relative to her claim. On the first of March, 1781, the delegates of Delaware, in behalf of that state signed the articles, and thereby completed the union.

This important event was, on the same day publicly announced at the seat of government, and immediately communicated to the executives of the several states, to the Amercan ministers in Europe, to the minister plenipotentiary of France, and to the commander in chief, to be announced to the army under his command.

« ZurückWeiter »