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In solving this problem the United States was at once aided and hindered by its geographical make-up and its history. Geographically separated from Europe by thousands of miles of space and many weeks of time, the Americans felt isolated from the rest of the world, and must perforce have been impressed with the thought of a common destiny; but separated as the states were from one another, when the people were thinking of themselves and not of Europe, they must have felt their differences more keenly than their similarities. South Carolina was so remote from Virginia that we might almost think of her as belonging to the WestIndian group of colonies rather than to the continental. The Declaration of Independence was known in Paris almost as soon as in Charleston. The hardy Yankee seamen who buffeted the winds off stormy Hatteras must have felt far from home when they sailed into the harbor of Wilmington or Savannah. A Georgian knew little of New York or Massachusetts. Life on the plantations of Virginia was far different from life in the little settlements of New England. When John Adams, leaving his fireside in Braintree, went to Philadelphia as a delegate in Congress, the letters which he sent home were welcomed as tidings from a “far country.” “Of affairs of Georg[i]a," wrote Madison to Jefferson in 1786, “I know as little as of those of Kamskatska." 1 When we add to all this the fact that the colonies were established at different times and from different motives, and that climate, soil, and industrial life varied greatly from Maine to Georgia, we are so impressed by the diversity that union seems almost beyond the verge of possibility. And yet political unity was a necessity; any form of political order not expressing the fact of real interdependence and essential oneness of purpose was insufficient if America was to organize her empire.
1 Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), II., 261.
Without modern means of communication, without railroads or telegraphs, the states were also without good highways of any kind. The road between Boston and New York was not very bad, but in the most favorable weather the traveller making the trip must spend four days in a clumsy, uncomfortable coach, giving up more time and much more comfort than he would now expend in passing across the continent. The highways of Pennsylvania were often almost impassable, and travel on them was little less than misery. South of the Potomac the roads were still worse; there even bridges were a luxury. Even on the muchtravelled route between the north and the south the mails were infrequent. Thțee times a week throughout the summer they passed between Portland, Maine, and Suffolk, Virginia, but from Suffolk southward only twice a week in the summer and once a week in winter. Inhabitants of towns out of the main course of travel were more isolated than are now secluded hamlets in the heart of the Rockies. Into the great west beyond the Appalachian range a few courageous men had gone and established their homes; but this vast region was a wild and almost trackless forest. A man in the little village of Louisville was often ignorant for months at a time of what was going on at New York or Boston, knowing no more of the internal affairs of the sea-coast towns than “what our friends are about in the other world." 1
1 Brissot de Warville, Travels in America, I., 97; Quincy, Life of Fosiah Quincy, 37.
2 "Letters of Phineas Bond,” in Am. Hist. Assoc., Report, 1896, p. 522; Pa. Archives, ist series, X., 129.
To such a people, then, thus distracted and thus divided, came the problem of imperial organization. One fact aided them materially: the states were alike in structure; they had the same political inheritance; the fundamental ideas of English liberty and law, taking root in congenial soil, had grown strong in every section; men in all the states thought in the same terms and used the same phrases. Even their Revolutionary philosophy with its notion of absolute rights was a product of English history. Moreover, events, relentless facts, were showing the way to sound union; there could be no real peace and prosperity till political organization was in harmony with industrial and social needs. If the people were reluctant, union on a proper basis was to be established by “grinding necessity."
IN. Y. Hist. Soc., Collections, 1878, p. 233.
The important process of making state constitutions was pretty well completed four years after the Declaration of Independence, but the formation of a national system was not so simple. For some years after the Declaration the affairs of the Union were conducted by a Congress of delegates on whose discretion or authority there were no constitutional restraints; hence Congress did, not what was needed to be done, but what it was able to do or thought it wise to attempt, at times showing energy and intelligence, again sinking into sloth and incompetence. During these years America was acting under an unwritten constitution, and, in spite of the inability of Congress, establishing precedents of some weight and importance.
On March 1, 1781, Maryland, the last of the thirteen states, signed by its delegates the Articles of Confederation, and henceforward the powers of Congress were clearly outlined. The first form of imperial organization was that of a "perpetual Union,” a “league of friendship" between states. To care for the interests of the Confederation, a Congress was provided, to be made up of delegates annually chosen in the states. Each delegation was entitled to one vote; Rhode Island had as much influence in the affairs of America as Massachusetts or Virginia. Congress had authority to decide on peace and war, to carry on hostilities, to manage all diplomatic matters, to build and equip a navy, to borrow money and emit bills of credit, to make requisitions on the states for men and money, to appoint naval officers and superior military officers, to establish and regulate post-offices, to determine the alloy and value of coin, and to perform some other duties supposed to be of general interest. This was a generous allotment of authority, but its exercise was carefully guarded, since no vote, except to adjourn from day to day, could be carried except by a majority of all the states, while the consent of nine states was required to carry any measure of special importance. Unless nine states agreed, Congress could not engage in war or enter into treaties or alliances, or coin money or borrow money, or make appropriations, or appoint a commander-in-chief, or, indeed, even determine on the sums of money for which it would ask the states.
1 For the process of forming the Articles of Confederation, see Van Tyne, American Revolution, chap. xi.
The better to secure mutual friendship and intercourse, it was especially provided that the free inhabitants of each state should be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states. Sundry restraints were placed upon the states; they were not to enter into treaties, confederations or alliances, interfere in foreign affairs, or engage in war without the consent of Congress, unless actually invaded.
These and similar prohibitions marked with some clearness the line of demarcation between the reserved power of the states and the authority granted to Congress. Congress was the