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IV-THE UNION AND THE GROWTH OF A NATIONAL
The colonies that settled along the eastern shore of North America were at first united to their mother countries by various ties. Nearly all English, they clung to British laws and institutions. The Dutch in New York, the Swedes in Delaware, and the French of Canada, yielded to the invading progress of the Anglo-Saxon race; while the vigorous life of British institutions over-shadowed and absorbed whatever belonged to other European lands.
With the growth of the colonies new interests sprung up. American commerce, wearied of being a a child to be tutored by English laws, the old right of local self-government was infringed and numerous wrongs aroused the spirit of independence.
The Indians, who harrassed the growing colonies, were a common enemy to be met and conquered by colonial troops, while the enmities of England and France made the West a prey to European faction. Accustomed to local self-government, each colony for itself had struggled against the hardships of an unbroken wilderness, a savage enemy, a jealous mother country, and rivals on all sides, by sea and by land.Thus, upon the Atlantic's western shore, grew up a hardy race, schooled in the principles of glish
liberty, proud of the vast domain within its possession, confident of the grandeur of its future, and not a class of men to submit to foreign oppression; hence came the Revolution of 1776.
For common defence, a union of the colonies was necessary, but it was at first a union of necessity, and not of choice. Local jealousy, colonial pride, selfish independence crippled and weakened the Revolutionary army and prolonged the struggle for independence
A scheme of union had been formed in 1643 by four colonies ; in 1754, by seven; in 1765, by nine ; in 1774, by twelve; in 1775, by the thirteen colonies, and in 1781 the union had assumed the name of a Confederation, but they had been reluctant unions.
The Continental Congress represented the broken disjointed parts of what was destined to be one nation. It was an assembly of ambassadors from the States which obeyed its requisitions on account of the common danger from the invading enemy.
The war, by the aid of France, successfully ended, then the necessity for union was not so imperative, and discord and disunion prevailed.
As early as 1781 the Articles of Confederation were adopted, forming "a perpetual union” of the States, but giving to the general government only power to make requsitions on the States for the money
needed to carry on the government.
The Confederation was not a union of “the people," but of the colonies, the States. The people of the colonial corporations, or thirteen original States, grew up with a love for their own local laws and institutions, and a jealousy of all foreign dominion. The hostility toward Britain was changed to dread of Federal rule, and every power given to the general government was delegated as a necessity for common defence and general welfare.
The States struggled to withhold power both from the general government and from each other. For seven years the Confederation survived, but proved weak and inefficient.
Commercial discord had arisen among the States, armed rebellion had appeared in Massachusetts, foreign creditors had become urgent, paper money carried havoc among the nation's finances, treaties had been violated, and good men feared that independence would prove a curse instead of a blessing.
The suffering of the commercial interests of the country demanded reform, more power for the general government, and a more perfect union of the States.
The present Constitution superseded the Articles of Confederation, but its adoption was secured only by a hard struggle against the jealous independence of the States. It took the entreaties of Washington, the logic of * Hamilton, Madison and Jay, the eloquent words of many a noble soul, and the indulgent yieldings of many a firm patriot to procure the adoption of the Constitution of 1787.
The States loved to cling to what power they possessed, were jealous of its abuse in other hands than their own, feared for their rights, if united with others whose interests and laws were different. It was hard to get the States to delegate to the Confederation even
* See the “Federalist."
its slender powers, harder to prevail upon the conventions of the people to adopt the present Constitution.
The debates * in the Federal Convention of 1787, which formed the Constitution, and in the State Conventions, which adopted it, show how the friends of local self-government strove to withhold power from the general government.
The Federalists, as a party, embracing many of the truest men who ever served their country, desired a strong national government; the Democracy trembled at every power given to the general government or every prohibition placed upon the States.
“The Constitution,” said Washington, “is the result of a spirit of amity, of deference, of mutual concessions that our situation imperatively demanded."
It is the merit of the Constitution, † says Laboucrucefsion laye, that it was made by mutual sacrifices. No per
son said it was I who made it, each said I have carried
The Constitution formed and half accepted by Congress, thirteen different States had yet to accept it. It had to be discussed and dissected thirteen times in thirteen States, having different ideas, interests and jeal
* Elliott's Debates, five vols. † Historie des Etats Unis, vol. iii.