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CHAPTER III

THE FORMATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF THE UNITED

STATES GOVERNMENT

1. The First Continental Congress. The Continental Congress, which met in Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia, September 4, 1774, may be said to have laid the corner stone for the structure of the United States Government. That Congress spoke in the name of “the good people of these colonies”—the first assertion of national unity made in the United States. It was revolutionary, because the delegates were chosen as a rule without legal authority — the governors dissolving the legislatures whenever these made a move to elect delegates. It exercised diplomatic and executive powers in the petitions and addresses drawn up. The only legislative act were the Articles of Association-a pledge not to import goods from England or her colonies—and the recommendation to the colonies that they pass laws to carry out the pledge.

2. The Second Continental Congress.-The first Continental Congress had passed a resolution that if no redress of grievances should be obtained a second' congress should meet in May, 1775. Accordingly the second Continental Congress met in the State House, Philadelphia, on the 10th of that month. The Revolution having now become a fact steps were taken to carry on the war. An army and a navy were organized for

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united resistance; foreign relations and Indian affairs were assumed; colonial ports were thrown open to all nations; a Continental loan and currency were authorized; and other sovereign powers were exercised that formerly belonged to the mother country alone.

3. The Declaration of Independence.So strong was the attachment for the mother country that what had been done by the “United Colonies” up to that time would have been undone, had Great Britain redressed their grievances. All the sovereign powers already assumed would have INDEPENDENCE HALL, PHILADELPHIA been laid at her feet. There was no general desire for independence before the King, in October, 1775, issued a proclamation denouncing the colonists as rebels, instead of giving ear to their second and last petition, as they had hoped he would do. All hesitation about independence was now at an end. Recommendations were made by Congress for the formation of State governments. On May 15,

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1776, Congress voted “That it is necessary that the exercise of every kind of authority under the Crown of Great Britain should be totally suppressed.” The colonies one after another then instructed their delegates to vote for independence. On June 7th Richard Henry Lee offered the resolution "That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States,” etc. This resolution was before Congress until July 2d, when it was adopted. Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, in which are set forth the reasons for Lee's resolution, was passed on the 4th of July, which day, and not the 2d, was destined to become “the most memorable epoch in the history of America."

4. The United States Under the Continental Congress. — At the same time that Jefferson's committee was appointed to draw up the Declaration of Independence another one was appointed to prepare a form of government. On the 12th of July, 1776, this committee, through its chairman, John Dickison, of Pennsylvania, reported the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The confederacy was styled “The United States of America.” In framing the articles for a “Perpetual Union ” all the previous experiments, from the New England Confederacy down to the Continental Congress, were studied. The colonial governments, the government of Great Britain, and the ancient and modern confederacies, likewise served as examples to imitate and avoid. A year and five months were spent before Congress finally adopted a draft of the Articles, November 15, 1777; and nearly three years and a half more elapsed before Maryland, the last State, ratified the instrument of government March 1, 1781.

In the meantime the government of the United States was vested in the Continental Congress and carried on in accordance with the plan of its organization, which in many respects was like the government outlined in the Articles of Confederation.

5. The United States Under the Articles of Confedera1 tion. The Congress of the Confederation, like the Continental Congress, consisted of but one house, whose president was simply the presiding officer. The members—not less than two, nor more than seven from each State-were elected by the legislatures for a year, but could be recalled at any time to give place to others; and no member could serve more.than three

rve more.than three years in any term of six years. The voting was by States. Measures of great importance required the consent of all the States those of less importance, of seven States. Amendments, after passing the Congress, had to be ratified by the legislatures of all the States.

Congress had power to declare war, make peace, issue bills of credit, borrow money, maintain an army and a navy, make treaties, coin money, and fix the standard of weights and measures. But it could not lay and collect taxes, raise troops, or carry out a single act that it might pass. It had no executive power to enforce its laws or judiciary to interpret them. It had but two judicial powers——to settle territorial disputes between States (exercised on one occasion between Pennsylvania and Connecticut) and to hear appeals in prize cases. The Congress acted on States and not on individuals. The laws of the confederacy were not commands, but recommendations.

6. The United States Independent.—By the treaty of

peace made by France, England, and the United States, in 1783, the independence of the United States was acknowledged. The government evolved in the course of the Revolution was now established; for it was no longer in danger of being overthrown by failure of the

war.

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