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“Resolved, N. C. D. 2. That our ancestors, who first settled these 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.” “Resolved, N. C. D. 3. That by such emigration they by no means forfeited, or surrendered, or lost any of these rights; but that they were, and their dependents now are, entitled to the exercise and enjoyment of all such of them, as their local and other circumstances enable them to exercise and enjoy.” “Resolved, N. C. D. 4. That the foundation of English liberty, and of all free government, is a right in the people to participate in their legislative council; and as the English colonies are not represented, and from their local and other circumstances cannot properly be represented in the British parliament, they are entitled to a free and eaclusive power of legislation in their several provincial legislatures, where their right of representation can alone be preserved, 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 interest of both countries, we cheerfully consent to the operation of such acts of the British parliament, as are bona fide restrained to the regulation of our eacternal commerce; for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members, excluding every idea of taxation, internal or external, for raising a revenue on the subjects in America without their consent.” “Resolved, N. C. D. 7. That these his majesty’s colonies are likewise entitled to all the immunities and privileges granted and confirmed to them by royal charters, or secured by their several codes of provincial laws.” “..All and each of which the aforesaid deputies, in behalf of themselves and their constituents, do claim, demand, and insist on, as their indubitable rights and liberties; which cannot be legally taken from them, altered or abridged, by any power whatever, without their own consent, by their representatives in their several provincial legislatures.” I Journ. Cong. 28, 9. .An association was formed and signed by the members from the different colonies, beginning, “We, his majesty’s most loyal subjects, the delegates of the several colonies of New Hampshire,” &c. &c. “And therefore we do, for ourselves and the inhabitants of the several colonies whom we represent, firmly agree and associate under the sacred ties of virtue, honour, and love of country, as follows.” 1 Journ. 32. The letter to the people of Great Britain was headed in the same manner, and signed by the delegates of the several colonies. 1 Journ. 36. So were their other letters and addresses at that time, 62. These proceedings cannot be mistaken in the distinct assertion, that all the powers of government were vested in the several provincial legislatures, subject only to the restraints mentioned in the fourth resolution. There was no state or nation, to which the several colonies stood in the same relation, as the counties and towns of England did; they had no separate powers of government within a county, &c.; the aggregate population composed the state or nation, so did the population of a colony, so now does that of a state. The counties, cities, and townships thereof, exist only for local purposes, have nothing to do in matters of government, except to elect representatives to the legislature of the state or colony, to whose laws they are subject. Hence there can be no analogy between the people of the different districts of a colony, who are the people of the colony, and the colonies themselves in their political capacity, and the people thereof separated from all others by territorial boundaries. To unite them as one, is to erase the line of separation, and make one colony and one legislative body out of thirteen, acting by the power of one people, inhabiting the former divisions, and the separate colonies, as merely the counties of the one. Let us suppose, that in the congress of 1774, an additional resolution had been offered to this effect. “Resolved, N. C. D. That these thirteen colonies are one nation, the people thereof one people, and that this congress is a national government, as the representatives of the one people, having the power of enacting laws to bind the said thirteen colonies and the people thereof, without their separate consent:” it need not be asked what would have been the result.
THE ACTs of THE congBESS, THE STATES AND PEOPLE, IN 1775, AND 1776. The spirit and principles of this declaration were adopted by the colonies and congress. In October, 1775, congress, on the application of the provincial convention of New Hampshire, recommended them to call a full and free representation of the people, to establish such government as they thought proper, to continue during the dispute with Great Britain. I Journ. 206, 15. This was done in a convention of the people in January, 1776, by a constitution which remained in force till 1784; declaring the dissolution of all connection with the British government, and “assuming that equal rank among the powers of the earth, for which nature had destined us, and to which the voice of reason and providence loudly called us.” Wide 2 Belk. Hist. N. H. 303, 5, 9, 335. The royal government had ceased in South Carolina in September, 1775, under the recommendation of congress in November: 1 Journ. 219; the people of that state formed a constitution in March, 1776, which all officers were sworn to support, “till an accommodation with Great Britain, or they should be released from its obligation by the legislative authority of the colony.” 2 Drayton’s Mem. 171, 186, 196. In April, 1776, congress resolved, “that trade was subject to such duties and impositions as by any of the colonies, and such regulations as may be imposed by the respective legislatures,” &c., which resolution congress directed to be communicated to foreign nations. 2 Journ. 117, 25. In May they resolved, “that every kind of authority under the crown should be totally suppressed, and all the powers of government under the authority of the people of these colonies should be exerted. That it be recommended to the respective assemblies and conventions of the united colonies, where no government sufficient to the exigency of their affairs hath been hitherto established, to adopt such a government, as shall, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and America in general.” 2 Journ. 158, 66. On the 24th of June they declared, by their resolutions, “that allegiance was due to the several colonies, that adherence to the king was treason against the colony within which the act was committed;” and recommended that laws should be passed for punishing treason, and counterfeiting the continental bills of credit. 2 Journ. 217, 18. In June, the people of Virginia, in full convention, adopted a constitution; declaring that all power is vested in and derived from the people, who have an indefeasible right to institute, reform, alter, or abolish government; that none separate from, or independent of that of Virginia, ought to be erected or established within the limits thereof; and that the government, under the British crown, is totally dissolved. 1 Rev. Code Va. 1, 7. This constitution remained unaltered till 1830. Wide 1 Journ. Cong. 260. On the 2d of July, 1776, the people of New Jersey, in convention, declared the authority of the crown to be at an end; the royal government dissolved in all the colonies; and adopted a constitution, to become void on a reconciliation with Great Britain, Patt. Laws. App. 5; Book of Con. 154, 5, which is yet unchanged. In June 19th, deputies from the cities and counties of Pennsylvania, approved the resolutions of congress passed in May; resolved that a convention be called to form a government on the authority of the people only; and declared, on the 24th, their willingness to concur in a vote of the congress, declaring the united colonies free and independent states: provided, the forming the government, and regulating the internal police of the colony, be always reserved to the people of the colony. Con. of Penn. 35, 39, 43. The convention assembled on the 15th of July the constitution was adopted in September, 1776, and continued in force till 1790. As there never was any other political connection between the colonies, than such as resulted from their common origin, by separate charters from the crown, in virtue of the royal prerogative, and the general supremacy of parliament, which extended to all the dominions of Great Britain; it was a necessary consequence of the extinction of both the prerogative and legislative powers of the mother country, that there could remain no restraint on the legislation of the colonies, save what the people thereof should impose. No extraneous power could act, within their respective limits, without their consent: from the moment that the authority of Great Britain ceased to operate, that of each colony became absolute and sovereign; and no government could exist thereout, which could prescribe laws. within it. Such was the unanimous expression of the universal sense of the people, in primary assemblies, in conventions of counties and states, legislatures and congress, from 1774: four colonies had become states by the adoption of constitutions of government by the inherent power of the people; the formation of a fifth was in progress on the same principles, which were solemnly promulgated by the original declaration of the rights of the several colonies, and the people thereof. In June, 1776, there was not a colony in which any authority under Great Britain was exercised, except in warfare: and when congress resolved that allegiance was due to the several colonies; that treason was punishable in the colony wherein the act was committed; and that the regulation of trade was subject to the laws of the respective legislatures; it was tantamount to a declaration, that they were then independent, and had, in fact, “assumed their equal station among the powers of the earth.” Congress had recommended that all the colonies should do so, by the establishment of a government on the authority of the people only; four states had exercised, a fifth had entered upon the exercise of this authority; and a convention of the people thereof was assembled, before the declaration of independence, by congress, was engrossed or signed by any member. Vide 1 Dall. Laws, App. 54.
THE POLITICAL SITUATION OF THE COLONIES AND STATES BEFORE THE FourTH of JULY, 1776.
From these proceedings, the political results were plain and selfevident; each colony, by the uncontrollable exercise of all the powers of self-government, had in fact become an independent state; five were so, by their declarations of independence in the most solemn manner. No sovereignty did, or could exist over them, unless that of Great Britain should be restored by a reconciliation; which not happening, their declaration of independence, in their separate conventions, became absolute; and these states were independent according to the universal opinion of the country, which is most clearly expressed in the language of this Court. 4 Cr. 212, M*Ilvaine v. Cox. “This opinion is predicated upon a principle, which is believed to be undeniable, that the several states which composed this Union, so far at least as regarded their municipal regulations, became entitled, from the time when they declared themselves independent, to all the rights and powers of sovereign states, and that they did not derive them from concessions by the British king. The treaty of peace contains a recognition of their independence, not a grant of it. From hence it results, that the laws of the several state governments were the laws of sovereign states; and as such were obligatory upon the people of such states, from the time they were enacted. We do not mean to intimate an opinion, that even a law of a state, whose form of government had been organized prior to the 4th of July, 1776,
and which passed prior to that period, would not have been obligatory. The present case renders it unnecessary to be more precise in stating the principle, for although the constitution of New Jersey was formed previous to the general declaration of independence, the laws passed, on the subject now under consideration, were posterior to it.” (They were for the punishment of treason against the state.)
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
Such being the political condition of the colonies and states, it becomes a question of easy solution whether congress intended to make a solemn promulgation of these principles to the world, by declaring the great result of the revolution to have been, or to be, the establishment and continued existence of thirteen independent nations and states, with the powers of government separate and sovereign in each; or of one nation, one state, with one national government. Whether this great and crowning act of the revolution was intended to perpetuate, or prostrate, the rights and powers of the colonies, the states, and the people thereof, and to substitute one government, in place of thirteen then in existence. To absolve the people of those states not only from their allegiance to the British crown, but from that allegiance which congress, ten days before, had resolved the people owed to the several colonies; to abolish as well the royal, as the colonial and state governments, within the boundaries of the United States; to suppress alike the British constitution, and those state constitutions, which, two months before, they had recommended to be formed, by the authority of the people of the several colonies alone; to proclaim to foreign nations in April, that the power to impose duties, impositions, and regulations on trade, was in the respective legislatures of the colonies; yet, in July, to declare to the world that the power “to establish commerce,” &c. existed in one state, in one government, acting over all the states in their unity of political power, as the representatives of one people, of the one state. Taken in this sense, there must have been two American revolutions; one to Suppress the government of Great Britain, the other to suppress the governments of the states, each of which was by the right of revolution; for there is no more pretence of any authority by the people of the states, or in the credentials of the members of congress, who were appointed by colonial or state legislatures, to abolish state governments, and constitute a national one, invested with supreme legislative powers over all the states, than there was by the king and parliament to abolish their supreme legislative, or prerogative powers, by any act of the several colonies or states, or when they were assembled in congress by their deputies. The states, by their several representatives, effected the first revolution in an assembly of the states; the congress effected the second, by imposing on the states— people, a new sovereign—themselves. Taken in the other sense, the declaration of congress, on the 4th July, 1776, announced one great revolution; on the great principles solemnly declared in 1774, and reiterated in every political movement by the people, whenever