Lossing's Field Book of the Revolution, Vol. II., Supplement III.










The declaration of the representatives of the united colonies of North America, in General Congress assembled, that "these colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states," was but the initial act in the great work of founding a free republic out of a dismembered portion of one of the mightiest empires of the earth. It was an easy matter to declare the states free, but they well knew it would be a laborious task to support that declaration, and consummate the work thus begun. Already fleets were hovering upon our coasts, and armies traversed our provinces, with the dire purpose of quelling rebellion by fire and sword, and all the vast iniquities of war. At the very time the declaration was made, a British squadron was near our coast, bearing thousands of hired mercenaries, some of them veterans from the vast armies of Frederic the Great, all eager to win the laurels of glory or the gold of plunder in the exercise of their desolating profession. Combined with these foes from without were the more dreaded foes within – those who, through principle or interest, adhered to the crown. They consisted chiefly of the timid, the time-serving, the ambitious, and the indolent, who feared British power, courted its caresses, sought the preferments it could bestow, or loved ease better than freedom. This class was neither small nor weak, and by its secret treacheries or open resistance, it weakened the bond of the American Union, and greatly strengthened the royal arm.

With such a great work before them – with such besetments in the way – such dangers surrounded – it is no wonder that great doubt, and anxiety, and dread pervaded the minds of the people, and caused American legislators to desire a more tangible bond of union than a Federal Congress and a Federal army. The various state governments were in utter confusion, and in their practical operations they harmonized in few things, except in making provisions for the army; and even this paramount claim was often so neglected by particular States as almost to paralyze the military movements. Royal governments in all the colonies had been overturned, and the people, in spontaneous assemblies, collected the best fragments together and formed provincial Congresses, in which they vested local governmental powers. But these were perceived to be but broken reeds to depend upon in the great work of the revolution yet to be performed; and the statesmen of that dark hour, feeling the necessity of a central power, regarded a confederation of the several states with a Federal Congress as a controlling head, a measure essential to the perpetuity, not only of their efforts to become free, but of their very existence.

As early as July, 1775, Doctor Franklin submitted to the consideration of Congress a sketch of articles of confederation between the colonies, limiting the duration of their vitality to the time when reconciliation with Great Britain should take place; or, in the event of the failure of that desirable result, to be perpetual. At that time, Congress seemed to have no fixed plans for the future – the teeming present, with all its vast and novel concerns, engrossed their whole attention; and Doctor Franklin’s plan seems not to have been discussed at all in the National Council. But when a declaration of independence was proposed, that idea alone suggested the necessity of a confederation of the states to carry forward the work to a successful consummation. Congress, therefore, on the eleventh of June, 1776, resolved that a committee should be appointed to prepare, and properly digest, a form of confederation to be entered into by the several states. The committee appointed under the resolution consisted of one delegate from each state. 1 John Dickenson, of Pennsylvania, was chosen chairman, and through him the committee reported a draft of articles of confederation on the twelfth of July. Almost daily debates upon the subject ensued until the twentieth of August, when the report was laid aside, and was not taken up again for consideration until the eighth of April, 1777. In the mean while, several of the states had adopted constitutions for their respective government, and Congress was practically acknowledged the supreme head in all matters appertaining to the war, public finances, &c. It emitted bills of credit, or paper money, appointed foreign ministers, and opened negotiations with foreign governments.

From the eighth of April until the fifteenth of November following, the subject was debated two or three times a week, and several amendments were made. As the confederation might be a permanent bond of union, of course local interests were considered prospectively. If the union had been designed to be temporary, to meet the exigencies arising from the state of war in which the colonies then were, local questions could hardly have had weight enough to have elicited debate; but such was not the case, and of course the sagacious men who were then in Congress looked beyond the present, and endeavored to legislate accordingly. From the seventh of October until the fifteenth of November, the debates upon it were almost daily, and the conflicting interests of the several states were strongly brought into view by the different speakers. On that day the following draft, containing all of the amendments, was laid before Congress, and after a spirited debate was adopted:

ARTICLE 1. The style of this confederacy shall be, "The United States of America."

ARTICLE 2. Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.

ARTICLE 3. The said states hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare; binding themselves to assist each other against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatsoever.

ARTICLE 4. The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different states in this Union, the free inhabitants of each of these states, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several states; and the people of each state shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other state, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce subject to the same duties, impositions, and restrictions, as the inhabitants thereof respectively, provided that such restrictions shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any state to any other state, of which the owner is an inhabitant; provided, also, that no imposition, duties, or restriction shall be laid by any state on the property of the United States or either of them.

If any person guilty of or charged with treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor, in any state, shall flee from justice, and be found in any of the United States, he shall, upon demand of the governor or executive power of the state from which he fled, be delivered up and removed to the state having jurisdiction of his offense.

Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these states to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates of every other state.

ARTICLE 5. For the more convenient management of the general interests of the United States, delegates shall be annually appointed in such manner as the Legislature of each state shall direct, to meet in Congress on the first Monday in November in every year, with a power reserved to each state to recall its delegates or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send others in their stead for the remainder of the year.

No state shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor by more than seven members and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years; nor shall any person, being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the United States, for which he, or another for his benefit, receives any salary, fees, or emoluments of any kind.

Each state shall maintain its own delegates in a meeting of the states, and while they act as members of the committee of the states.

In determining questions in the United States, in Congress assembled, each state shall have one vote.

Freedom of speech and debate in Congress shall not be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Congress, and the members of Congress shall be protected in their persona from arrests and imprisonments, during the time of their going to and from and attendance on Congress, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace.

ARTICLE 6. No state, without the consent of the United States, in Congress assembled, shall send any embassy to, or receive any embassy from, or enter into any conference, agreement, alliance, or treaty, with any king, prince, or state; nor shall any person holding any office of profit or trust under the United States, or ally of them, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state; nor shall the United States in Congress assembled, or any of them, grant any title of nobility.

No two or more states shall enter into any treaty, confederation, or alliance whatever between them, without the consent of the United States, in Congress assembled, specifying accurately the purposes for which the same is to be entered into and how long it shall continue.

No state shall lay any imposts or duties which may interfere with any stipulations in treaties entered into by the United States, in Congress assembled, with any king, prince, or state, in pursuance of any treaties already proposed by Congress to the courts of France and Spain.

No vessel of war shall he kept up in time of peace by any state, except such number only as shall be deemed necessary by the United States, in Congress assembled, for the defense of such state or its trade; nor shall any body of forces be kept up by any state in time of peace, except such number only as in the judgment of the United States, in Congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defense of such state; but every state shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and have constantly ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition, and camp equipage.

No state shall engage in any war without the consent of the United States, in Congress assembled, unless such state be actually invaded by enemies or shall have received certain advice of a resolution being formed by some nation of Indians to invade such state, and the danger is so imminent as not to admit of a delay till the United States, in Congress assembled, can be consulted; nor shall any state grant commissions to any ships or vessels of war, nor letters of marque or reprisal, except it be after a declaration of war by the United States, in Congress assembled, and then only against the kingdom or state, and the subjects thereof, against which war has been so declared, and under such regulations as shall be established by the United States, in Congress assembled, unless such state be infested by pirates, in which case vessels of war may be fitted out for that occasion, and kept so long as the danger shall continue, or until the United States, in Congress assembled, shall determine otherwise.

ARTICLE 7. When land forces are raised by any state for the common defense, all officers of or under the rank of colonel shall be appointed by the Legislature of each state respectively by whom such forces shall be raised, or in such manner as such state shall direct, and all vacancies shall be filled up by the state which first made the appointment.

ARTICLE 8. All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense or general welfare, and allowed by the United States, in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states in proportion to the value of all land within each state granted to or surveyed for any person, as such land and the buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated according to such mode as the United States, in Congress assembled, shall from time to time direct and appoint.

The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and direction of the Legislatures of the several states, within the time agreed upon by the United States, in Congress assembled.

ARTICLE 9. The United States, in Congress assembled, shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, except in the cases mentioned in the sixth article – of sending and receiving embassadors – entering into treaties and alliances; provided that no treaty of commerce shall be made whereby the legislative power of the respective states shall be restrained from imposing such imposts and duties on foreigners as their own people are subjected to, or from prohibiting exportation or importation of any species of goods or commodities whatsoever – of establishing rules for deciding in all cases what captures on land or water shall be legal, and in what manner prizes taken by land or naval forces in the service of the United States shall be divided or appropriated – of granting letters of marque and reprisal in times of peace – appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and establishing courts for receiving and determining finally appeals in all cases of captures; provided that no member of Congress shall be appointed a judge of any of the said courts.

The United States, in Congress assembled, shall also be the last resort, on appeal, in all disputes and differences now subsisting or that hereafter may arise between two or more states concerning boundary, jurisdiction, or any other cause whatever; which authority shall always be exercised in the manner following: whenever the legislative or executive authority or lawful agent of any state in controversy with another shall present a petition to Congress stating the matter in question, and praying for a hearing, notice thereof shall be given by order of Congress to the legislative or executive authority of the other state in controversy, and a day assigned for the appearance of the parties, by their lawful agents, who shall then be directed to appoint, by joint consent, commissioners or judges to constitute a court for hearing and determining the matter in question; but if they can not agree, Congress shall name three persons out of each of the United States, and from the list of such persons each party shall alternately strike out one, the petitioners beginning, until the number shall be reduced to thirteen; and from that number not less than seven nor more than nine names, as Congress shall direct, shall, in the presence of Congress, be drawn out by lot; and the persons whose names that be so drawn, or any five of them, shall be commissioners or judges, to hear and finally determine the controversy, so always as a major part of the judges, who shall hear the cause, shall agree in the determination and if either party shall neglect to attend at the day appointed, without showing reasons which Congress shall judge sufficient, or, being present, shall refuse to strike, the Congress shall proceed to nominate three persons out of each state, and the secretary of Congress shall strike in behalf of such party absent or refusing; and the judgment and sentence of the court, to be appointed in the manner before proscribed, shall be final and conclusive; and if any of the parties shall refuse to submit to the authority of such court, or to appear, or defend their claim or cause, the court shall nevertheless proceed to pronounce sentence or judgment, which shall in like manner be final and decisive, the judgment or sentence and other proceedings being in either case transmitted to Congress, and lodged among the acts of Congress for the security of the parties concerned; provided that every commissioner, before he sits in judgment, shall take an oath, to be administered by one of the judges of the Supreme or Superior Court of the state, where the cause shall be tried, "well and truly to hear and determine the matter in question; according to the best of his judgment, without favor, affection, or hope of reward:" provided, also, that no state shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States.

All controversies concerning the private right of soil, claimed under different grants of two or more states, whose jurisdiction as they may respect such lands, and the states which passed such grants are adjusted, the said grants or either of them being at the same time claimed to have originated antecedent to such settlement of jurisdiction, shall, on the petition of either party to the Congress of the United States, be finally determined, as near as may be, in the same manner as is before prescribed for deciding disputes respecting territorial jurisdiction between different states.

The United States, in Congress assembled, shall also have the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by their own authority, or by that of the respective states – fixing the standard of weights and measures throughout the United States – regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians not members of any of the states; provided that the legislative right of any state within its own limits be not infringed or violated – establishing and regulating post-offices from one state to another throughout all the United States, and exacting such postage on the papers passing through the same as may be requisite to defray the expenses of the said office – appointing all officers of the land forces in the service of the United States excepting regimental officers – appointing all the officers of the naval forces, and commissioning all officers whatever in the service of the United States – making rules for the government and regulation of the said land and naval forces, and directing their operations.

The United States, in Congress assembled, shall have authority to appoint a committee to sit in the recess of Congress, to be denominated "a Committee of the States," and to consist of one delegate from each state; and to appoint such other committees and civil officers as may be necessary for managing the general affairs of the United States under their direction – to appoint one of their number to preside, provided that no person be allowed to serve in the office of president more than one year in any term of three years – to ascertain the necessary sums of money to be raised for the service of the United States, and to appropriate and apply the same for defraying the public expenses – to borrow money or emit bills on the credit of the United States, transmitting every half year to the respective states an account of the sums of money so borrowed or emitted – to build and equip a navy – to agree upon the number of land forces, and to make requisitions from each state for its quota, in proportion to the number of white inhabitants in such state: which requisition shall be binding, and thereupon the Legislature of each state shall appoint the regimental officers, raise the men, and clothe, arm, and equip them, in a soldier-like manner, at the expense of the United States; and the officers and men so clothed, armed, and equipped, shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the United States, in Congress assembled: but if the United States, in Congress assembled, shall, on consideration of circumstances, judge proper that any state should not raise men, or should raise a smaller number than its quota, and that any other state should raise a greater number of men than the quota thereof, such extra number shall be raised, officered, clothed, armed, and equipped, in the same manner as the quota of such state, unless the Legislature of such state shall judge that such extra number can not safely be spared out of the same; in which case they shall raise, officer, clothe, arm, and equip, as many of such extra number as they judge can be safely spared. And the officers and men so clothed, armed, and equipped shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the United States, in Congress assembled.

The United States, in Congress assembled, shall never engage in a war, nor grant letters of marque and reprisal in time of peace, nor enter into any treaties or alliances, nor coin money, nor regulate the value thereof; nor ascertain the sums and expenses necessary for the defense and welfare of the United States or any of them, nor emit bills, nor borrow money on the credit of the United States, nor appropriate money, nor agree upon the number of vessels of war to be built or purchased, or the number of land or sea forces to be raised, nor appoint a commander-in-chief of the army or navy, unless nine states assent to the same; nor shall a question on any other point, except for adjourning from day to day, be determined unless by the votes of a majority of the United States, in Congress assembled.

The Congress of the United States shall have power to adjourn to any time within the year, and to any place within the United States, so that no period of adjournment be for a longer duration than the space of six months; and shall publish the journal of their proceedings monthly, except such parts thereof relating to treaties, alliances, or military operations, as in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the delegates of each state on any question shall be entered on the journal when it is desired by any delegate; and the delegates of a state or any of them, at his or their request, shall be furnished with a transcript of the said journal, except such parts as are above excepted, to lay before the Legislatures of the several states.

ARTICLE 10. The committee of the states, or any nine of them, shall be authorized to execute, in the recess of Congress, such of the powers of Congress as the United States, in Congress assembled, by the consent of nine states, shall from time to time think expedient to vest them with; provided that no power be delegated to the said committee, for the exercise of which, by the articles of confederation, the voice of nine states in the Congress of the United States assembled is requisite.

ARTICLE 11. Canada, acceding to this confederation, and joining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into, and entitled to, all the advantages of this union; but no other colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine states.

ARTICLE 12. All bills of credit emitted, moneys borrowed, and debts contracted, by or under the authority of Congress, before the assembling of the United States, in pursuance of the present confederation, shall be deemed and considered as a charge against the United States, for payment and satisfaction whereof the said United States and the public faith are hereby solemnly pledged.

ARTICLE 13. Every state shall abide by the decision of the United States, in Congress assembled, on all questions which, by this confederation, are submitted to them. And the articles of this confederation shall be inviolably observed by every state, and the union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them, unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterward confirmed by the Legislature of every state.

Congress directed these articles to be submitted to the Legislatures of the several states, and, if approved of by them, they were advised to authorize their delegates to ratify the same in Congress, by affixing their names thereto.

After the Articles of Confederation were adopted by Congress, that body directed a copy of them to be sent to the speakers of the various State Legislatures, to be laid before them for action. They were accompanied by a communication, requesting the several Legislatures, in case they approved of them, to instruct their delegates in Congress to vote for a ratification of them, which last act should be final and conclusive. On the twenty-ninth of November, a committee of three (Duer, Lovell, and Francis Lightfoot Lee) was appointed to procure the translation of the Articles of Confederation into the French language; and also to prepare and report an address to the people of Canada, urging them to become a portion of the confederacy.

The letter which accompanied the Articles of Confederation when they were sent to the several State Legislatures, was in the form of an urgent appeal for immediate and united action. A direful necessity called for some strong bond of union, for the clangor of arms was heard on every side. Foes without and traitors within were every where sowing the seeds of jealousy between the states, and using every effort to sunder the ligaments of a common interest and repress a common aspiration which united them, it was easily foreseen that the conflicting interests of thirteen distinct states would necessarily clash, and that the idea of sovereignty which each possessed would interpose many objections to a general confederation, such as was proposed. Therefore, the letter was an argumentative one, and endeavored to show them that the plan proposed was the best which could be adapted to the circumstances of all.

Notwithstanding there was a general feeling that something must be speedily done, the State Legislatures were slow to adopt the articles. In the first place, they did not seem to accord with the prevailing sentiments of the people, as set forth in the Declaration of Independence; and in many things that Declaration and the Articles of Confederation were manifestly at variance. The former was based upon declared right; the foundation of the latter was asserted power. The former was based upon a superintending Providence, and the inalienable rights of man; the latter rested upon the "sovereignty of declared power – one ascending for the foundation of human government, to the laws of nature and of nature’s God, written upon the heart of man – the other resting upon the basis of human institutions, and prescriptive law, and colonial charters." 2 Again, the system of representation proposed was highly objectionable, because each state was entitled to the same voice in Congress, whatever might be the difference in population. But the most objectionable feature of all was, that the question of the limits of the several states, and also in whom was vested the control or possession of the crown-lands, was not only unadjusted, but wholly unnoticed. These and other defects caused most of the states to hesitate, at first, to adopt the articles, and several of them for a long time utterly refused to accept them.

On the twenty-second of June, 1778, Congress proceeded to consider the objections of the states to the Articles of Confederation, and on the twenty-seventh of the same month, a form of ratification was adopted and ordered to be engrossed upon parchment, with a view that the same should be signed by such delegates as were instructed so to do by their respective Legislatures.

On the ninth of July, the delegates of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and South Carolina signed the articles. The delegates from New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland were not yet empowered to ratify and sign. Georgia and North Carolina were not represented, and the ratification of New York was conditional that all the other states should ratify. The delegates from North Carolina signed the articles on the twenty-first of July; those of Georgia, on the twenty-fourth of the same month; those of New Jersey, on the twenty-sixth of November; and those of Delaware, on the twenty-second of February, and fifth of May, 1779. Maryland still firmly refused to ratify, until the question of the conflicting claims of the Union and of the separate states to the crown-lands should be fully adjusted. This point was finally settled by cessions of the claiming states to the United States, of all the unsettled and unappropriated lands for the benefit of the whole Union. This cession of the crown-lands to the Union originated the Territorial System, and the erection of the Northwestern Territory into a distinct government similar to the existing states, having a local Legislature of its own. The insuperable objection of Maryland having been removed by the settlement of this question, her delegates signed the Articles of Confederation on the first day of March, 1781, four years and four months after they were adopted by Congress. 3 By this act of Maryland, they became the organic law of the union, and on the second of March, Congress assembled under the new powers.

A few weeks previous to the final ratification of the Articles of Confederation, Congress made a new arrangement in the machinery of its civil government, A foreign bureau was established, equivalent in its functions to our present Department of State, the head of which was styled Secretary of Foreign Affairs. A financial bureau was also established, and a Secretary of the Treasury, called Superintendent of Finance, was appointed. Secretaries of War and Marine were also appointed, and, under, the power of the Confederation, new energy was manifested in the management of affairs.

Robert R. Livingston, 4 of New York, was appointed the first Foreign Secretary and Robert Morris, of Philadelphia, Superintendent of Finance. 5 Livingston had two under secretaries (Louis R. Morris, and Peter S. Duponceau), and two clerks (John Stone, afterward governor of Maryland, and Henry Remsen, of New York), to assist him. Reverend Mr. Tetard, of Philadelphia, was the translator. The office for the transaction of business was a building on the eastern side of South Sixth Street (No. 13), three stories in height, with only twelve feet front. From that humble edifice went forth instructions which arrested the attention of European diplomatists and turned their minds with astonishment to the rising nation in the West.


On the twentieth of June, 1782, the device for the present great Seal of the United States was adopted, as follows: Arms – Paleways of thirteen pieces, argent and gules; a chief azure; the escutcheon on the breast of the American eagle displayed proper, holding in his dexter talon an olive branch, and in his sinister a bundle of thirteen arrows, all proper, and in his beak a scroll, inscribed with this motto. "E pluribus Unum." For the Crest – Over the head of the eagle, which appears above the escutcheon, a glory, or breaking through a cloud, proper, and surrounding thirteen stars forming a constellation, argent, on an azure field, Reverse – A pyramid, unfinished. In the zenith, an eye in a triangle, surrounded with a glory, proper. Over the eye these words, "Annuit Cœptis." On the base of the pyramid the numerical letters MDCCLXXVI., and underneath the following motto, "Novus Ordo Seclorum." 7



It was early perceived that the Articles of Confederation conferred powers upon Congress quite inadequate to the objects of an effective national government. That body, according to the terms of those articles, possessed no power to liquidate debts incurred during the war; 8 it had the privilege only of recommending to the several states the payment thereof. This recommendation was tardily complied with, 9 and Congress possessed no power to compel the states to obey its mandates. To a great extent, the people lost all regard for the authority of Congress, and the commercial affairs of the country became wretchedly deranged. In truth, every thing seemed to be tending toward utter chaos soon after peace in 1783, and the leading minds of the Revolution, in view of increasing and magnified evils, and the glaring defects of the Articles of Confederation, were turned to a consideration of a plan for a closer union of the states, and for a general government founded on the principles of the Declaration of Independence, from which the confederation in question widely departed.

The sagacious mind of Washington perceived with intense anxiety the tendency toward ruin of that fair fabric which his prowess had helped to rear, and he took the initial step toward the adoption of measures which finally resulted in the formation of the present Constitution of the United States. Washington had contemplated a scheme for uniting the Potomac with the Ohio, and through his influence the Legislatures of Virginia and Maryland were induced to send commissioners to Alexandria, in March, 1785, to deliberate upon the subject. During their stay at Mount Vernon they devised another commission to establish a general tariff on imports, and to mature other commercial regulations. This convention was held at Annapolis, in September, 1786, but only five states were represented – Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, 10 The chief object of the convention was to consult on the best means of remedying the defects of the Federal government. The delegates met on the eleventh, and by a unanimous vote chose John Dickinson chairman. After a full interchange of sentiments, they agreed that a committee should be appointed to prepare a draft of a report to be made to the Legislatures of the several states then represented.

The committee reported on the fourteenth, that in consequence of the absence of delegates from a majority of states, it was thought advisable to postpone further action; and they recommended the appointment of deputies by the several states, to meet in convention, at Philadelphia, on the second Monday in May following.

This report was adopted, and transmitted to Congress. On the twenty-first of February, the committee of that body, consisting of Messrs. Dana, Varnum, S. M. Mitchell, Smith, Cadwallader, Irvine, N. Mitchell, Forrest, Grayson, Blount, Bull, and Few, to whom the report of the commissioners was referred, reported thereon, and offered the following for consideration:

"Congress having had under consideration the letter of John Dickinson, Esq., chairman of the commissioners who assembled at Annapolis during the last year; also the proceedings of the said commissioners, and entirely coinciding with them as to the inefficiency of the Federal government, and the necessity of devising such further provisions as shall render the same adequate to the exigences of the Union, do strongly recommend to the different Legislatures to send forward delegates, to meet the proposed convention, on the second Monday in May next, at the city of Philadelphia."

The delegates for the State of New York thereupon laid before Congress instructions which they had received from their constituents, and, in pursuance of the said instructions, moved to postpone the further consideration of the report, in order to take up the following proposition, viz.:

"That it be recommended to the states composing the Union, that a convention of representatives from the said states respectively be held at ----------, on ----------, for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and perpetual union between the United States of America, and reporting to the United States, in Congress assembled, and to the states respectively, such alterations and amendments of the said Articles of Confederation as the representatives, met in such convention, shall judge proper and necessary, to render them adequate to the preservation and support of the Union."

On taking the question, only three states voted in the affirmative, and the resolution was negatived.

A motion was then made by the delegates for Massachusetts to postpone the further consideration of the report, in order to take into consideration a motion which they read in their place; this being agreed to, the motion of the delegates for Massachusetts was taken up, and, being amended, was agreed to, as follows:

"Whereas, there is provision in the Articles of Confederation and perpetual union for making alterations therein, by the assent of a Congress of the United States, and of the Legislatures of the several states; and whereas, experience hath evinced that there are defects in the present Confederation, as a mean to remedy which, several of the states, and particularly the State of New York, by express instructions to their delegates in Congress, have suggested a convention for the purposes expressed in the following resolution; and such convention appearing to be the most probable means of establishing in these states a firm national government:

"Resolved, That, in the opinion of Congress, it is expedient that on the second Monday in May next, a convention of delegates, who shall have been appointed by the several states, be held at Philadelphia, for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several Legislatures such alteration, and provisions therein as shall, when agreed to in Congress, and confirmed by the states, render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigences of the government, and the preservation of the Union."

This preamble and resolution were immediately transmitted to the several speakers of state legislative assemblies, and they were laid before the representatives of the people in all the states of the confederacy. While a feeling prevailed generally that something must be done to avert the threatened anarchy, toward which governmental operations were tending, great caution was observed in the delegation of powers and in instruction to those who should be appointed members of the proposed convention. However, in compliance with the recommendation of Congress, delegates were chosen in the several states for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and assembled in Philadelphia on the second Monday in May, 1787. All the states were represented except Rhode Island. 11 Washington, who was a delegate from Virginia, was chosen president of the convention. Able statesmen were his associates, and they entered earnestly upon their duties. They had not proceeded far, however, before they perceived that the Articles of Confederation were so radically defective, and their powers so inadequate to the wants of the country, that, instead of trying to amend the code of the old Confederation, they went diligently at work to form a new Constitution. Edmund Randolph submitted a series of resolutions on the twenty-ninth of May, which embodied the plan of a new Constitution. It was proposed to form a general government consisting of a Legislature, executive, and judiciary; and a revenue, army and navy independent of the control of the several states. It was to have power to conduct war, establish peace, make treaties; to have the exclusive privilege of coining money, and the supervision of all national transactions. Upon general principles this plan was highly approved, but in that convention there were many ardent and pure patriots, who looked upon the preservation of state sovereignty as essential, and regarded this proposed form of government as a radical infringement upon those rights. They therefore violently opposed it.

Another plan was proposed by Mr. Paterson, a delegate from New Jersey. It enlarged the power of Congress, but left its resources and supplies to be found through the medium of the state governments. This plan had that serious defect of the Articles of Confederation – a dependence of the general government upon the several states for its vitality. On the twelfth of September, the committee to "revise the Articles" submitted the following resolution to Congress, which was adopted:

"Resolved unanimously, That the said report, with the resolutions and letters accompanying the same, be transmitted to the several Legislatures, in order to be submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each state by the people thereof, in conformity to the resolves of the convention, made and provided in that case."

Such, in brief outline, is the history of the Confederation, and of our Federal Constitution as it came from the skillful pen of Gouverneur Morris, 12 a member of the convention. Sufficient as it has proved for the nation in its wonderful growth, it met with a host of opposers when it was submitted to the people for their action. State rights, sectional interests, radical democracy, all had numerous friends, and those formed the phalanx of opposition; and all the persuasive eloquence of its advocates, with pen and speech, was needed to convince the people of its superiority to the Articles of Confederation, and the necessity for its ratification.

Among its ablest advocates was Alexander Hamilton, 13 whose pen and sword had been identified with Washington during almost the whole war. He gave to its advocacy the whole weight of his character and power of his genius, and, aided by Jay and Madison, he scattered broadcast among the people those able papers called The Federalist. These, like Paine’s Crisis, stirred the masses, and soon eleven states, in conventions assembled, gave it their support. It thus became the organic law of the nation, and under its provisions George Washington, by an unanimous vote, was elected the first chief magistrate of the nation, with John Adams as Vice-president. Washington was certified of his election on the fourteenth of April, 1789, at Mount Vernon, and two days afterward he was on his way toward New York, the chosen seat of the Federal government. We have already had occasion to notice the honor which attended him in his journey from Mount Vernon to New York. It was like a triumphal procession.


He arrived there on the twenty-third of April [1788.], and on the thirtieth of the same month the oath of office was administered to him by Chancellor Livingston, 15 upon the balcony of the old Federal Hall, in the presence of a vast concourse of gratified citizens. That was the crowning act of the Revolution – then constitutional republicanism, pure, vigorous, and abiding, was first inaugurated upon earth.



1 See Journals, ii., 197. The committee consisted of Messrs. Bartlett, S. Adams, Hopkins, Sherman, R. R. Livingston, Dickenson, M‘Kean, Stone Nelson, Hewes, E. Rutledge, and Gwinnett.

2 John Quincy Adams’ Jubilee Discourse, 1839.

3 The following are the names of the delegates from the several states appended to the Articles of Confederation:

New Hampshire, Josiah Bartlett, John Wentworth, Jr.

Massachusetts Bay, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Elbridge Gerry, Francis Dana, James Lovell, Samuel Holten.

Rhode Island, William Ellery, Henry Marchant, John Collins.

Connecticut, Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, Oliver Wolcott, Titus Hosmer, Andrew Adams.

New York, James Duane, Francis Lewis, William Duer, Gouverneur Morris.

New Jersey, John Witherspoon, Nathaniel Scudder.

Pennsylvania, Robert Morris, Daniel Roberdeau, Jonathan Bayard Smith, William Clingan, Joseph Reed.

Delaware, Thomas M‘Kean, John Dickinson, Nicholas Van Dyke.

Maryland, John Hansen, Daniel Carroll.

Virginia, Richard Henry Lee, John Banister, Thomas Adams, John Harvie, Francis Lightfoot Lee.

North Carolina, John Penn, Cornelius Harnett, John Williams.

South Carolina, Henry Laurens, William Henry Drayton, Jonathan Matthews, Richard Hutson, Thomas Heyward, Jun.

Georgia, John Walton, Edward Telfair, Edward Langworthy.

4 From an address delivered on the anniversary of one of the literary societies of Colombia College in 1831, by John W. Francis, M. D., of New York, I have gleaned the materials of the following brief notice of the public life of Mr. Livingston:

Robert R. Livingston, great-grandson of the first lord of the manor of Livingston, was born in the city of New York in 1747. He was educated at King’s (Columbia) College, where he graduated in 1764. He studied law under William Smith, the historian of New York, and became eminent in that profession. He was an early opponent of British oppression, and took an active part in politics in his native city. His sister was married to the brave Montgomery, who fell at Quebec, and this circumstance fired the zeal of young Livingston. He was a member of the Congress of 1776, and was one of the committee appointed to prepare the Declaration of Independence. Called home to attend to duties in the Provincial Congress of his state, he was not present when that instrument was adopted, nor when it was signed. He filled the responsible station of Secretary for Foreign Affairs, from January, 1781, until 1783, when, having been appointed Chancellor of the State of New York, he resigned, and was succeeded by Mr. Jay. He was a warm supporter of the Federal Constitution in the convention of New York, assembled at Poughkeepsie in 1788, and the next year he administered the oath of office to George Washington as the first President of the United States, under the new charter. Mr. Jefferson appointed him minister to the court of France, then represented by the youthful Napoleon, the first consul of the French Republic. He performed his duties with signal ability, and accomplished the purchase of Louisiana from the French. By his enlightened patronage of Robert Fulton in his experiments in navigation by steam, he conferred an inestimable benefit upon mankind. He died at Clermont, in Columbia county, on the twenty-sixth of February, 1813, in the sixty-sixth year of his age. "His person," says Dr. Francis, who knew him intimately, "was tall and commanding, and of patrician dignity. Gentle and courteous in his manners, pure and upright in his morals. His benefactions to the poor were numerous and unostentatious. In his life without reproach, victorious in death over its terrors."

5 In May, 1781, Mr. Morris submitted to Congress a plan for a National Bank, with a capital of four hundred thousand dollars. Congress approved of the plan, offered to incorporate the subscribers by the name of the President and Directors of the Bank of North America, and decreed that the bills should be receivable in payment of all taxes, duties, and debts due the United States. This bank, the first in the United States, went into successful operation in December, 1781. It greatly assisted in the restoration of the credit of the government, and was of efficient service in the financial affairs of the country during the remainder of the war.

6 This is from a sketch in Watson’s Annals of Philadelphia. Mr. Duponceau informed Mr. Watson that Mr. Livingston occupied the front room in the second story, and his two under secretaries an adjoining back room. The two clerks and the translator occupied the only lower room.

7 See Journals of Congress, vii., 301. In a manuscript letter before me, written in 1818, by Thomas Barritt, Esq., an eminent antiquary of Manchester, England, addressed to his son in this country, is the following statement. "My friend, Sir John Prestwich, Bart., told me he was the person who suggested the idea of a coat of arms for the American States to an embassador [John Adams] from thence, which they have seen fit to put upon some of their moneys. It is this he told me – party per pale of thirteen stripes, white and red; the chief of the escutcheon blue, signifying the protection of Heaven over the states, He says it was soon afterward adopted as the arms of the states, and, to give it more consequence, it was placed upon the breast of a displayed eagle."

8 The general government, at the chose of the Revolution, was burdened with a foreign debt of eight millions of dollars, and a domestic debt of about thirty millions due to the army and to other American citizens.

9 During fourteen months, only four hundred and eighty-two thousand eight hundred and ninety dollars were paid into the public treasury; and the foreign interest was paid by a fresh loan from Holland.

10 The names of the members of this convention were as follows: New York, Alexander Hamilton, Egbert Benson; New Jersey, Abraham Clark, William C. Houston. James Schureman; Pennsylvania, Tench Coxe; Delaware, George Read, John Dickinson, Richard Basset; Virginia, Edmund Randolph, James Madison, Jun., St. George Tucker.

11 The following are the names of the delegates:

New Hampshire, John Langdon, John Pickering, Nicholas Gilman, and Benjamin West.

Massachusetts, Francis Dana, Elbridge Gerry, Nathaniel Gorham, Rufus King, and Caleb Strong.

Connecticut, William Samuel Johnson, Roger Sherman, and Oliver Ellsworth.

New York, Robert Yates, John Lansing. Jun., and Alexander Hamilton.

New Jersey, David Brearley, William Churchill Houston, William Paterson, John Neilson, William Livingston, Abraham Clark, and Jonathan Dayton.

Pennsylvania, Thomas Mifflin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, Jared Ingersoll, Thomas Fitzsimons, James Wilson, Gouverneur Morris, and Benjamin Franklin.

Delaware, George Reed, Gunning Bedford, Jun., John Dickinson, Richard Bassett, and Jacob Broom.

Maryland, James M‘Henry, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, Daniel Carroll, John Francis Mercer, and Luther Martin.

Virginia, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Edmund Randolph, John Blair, James Madison, Jun., George Mason, and George Wythe. Patrick Henry having declined his appointment as deputy, James M‘Clure was nominated to supply his place.

North Carolina, Richard Caswell, Alexander Martin, William Richardson Davie, Richard Dobbs Spaight, and Willie Jones. Richard Caswell having resigned, William Blount was appointed a deputy in his place. Willie Jones having also declined his appointment, was supplied by Hugh Williamson.

South Carolina, John Rutledge, Charles Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and Pierce Butler.

Georgia, William Few, Abraham Baldwin, William Pierce, George Walton, William Houston, and Nathaniel Pendleton.

12 Gouverneur Morris was born at Morrisania, near Harlem, New York, on the thirty-first of January, 1755. Very little in known of his early years. He graduated at King’s College in 1768, and in 1771 was licensed to practice law. In 1775, he was a member of the Provincial Congress of New York, and was one of the committee appointed to draft the Constitution of the State of New York. He was chosen a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1777, where he was very active. In 1781 he was made assistant superintendent of finance with Robert Morris. In 1787 he was a member of the convention which framed the Constitution of the United States. He was chosen by his colleagues to arrange the amendments and other heterogeneous material into the present perfect instrument of government. In 1792 he was appointed minister to France, where he remained two years. He was elected United States Senator in 1800, where his abilities and political sagacity made him one of its most useful members. He died in 1816, at the age of sixty-four years. Gouverneur Morris was a vigorous political writer. He had attentively studied the antecedents of the American Revolution, and fully comprehended the great springs of democratic action which produced its wonderful results. He regarded the trial and acquittal of John Peter Zenger (see page 580) as one of the most important of those antecedents, and expressed the unqualified opinion that that trial was "the germ of American freedom – the morning-star of that liberty which subsequently revolutionized America." – See Address of J. W. Francis, M. D., on the fortieth Anniversary of the New York Historical Society.

13 Alexander Hamilton was born on the island of Nevis, British West Indies, on the eleventh of January, 1757. He was of Scottish descent by his father; French by his mother. He received a fair education, and in 1769 became a clerk to Nicholas Cruger, a merchant of St. Croix. He devoted all his leisure moments to study, and a production of his pen procured the co-operation of his friends in sending him to New York to be thoroughly educated. He was placed in a grammar school in New Jersey, under the tuition of Francis Barber, who afterward become a distinguished officer of the Revolution. He entered King’s (Columbia) College in 1773, and at the age of seventeen appeared as a speaker at public meetings. He wrote political pamphlets in 1774 and 1775, which gave him great reputation. The Revolution now broke out, and he entered the military field as an artillery captain. In that capacity he fought at White Plains, was with his company at Trenton and Princeton, and remained in the field until the first of March, 1777, when Washington appointed him his aid-de-camp, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was Washington’s chief secretary and confidential aid until 1781, when, with the same rank, he obtained the command of a light corps. With these he fought bravely at Yorktown, under La Fayette. He left the army, and in 1782 was admitted to practice at the bar of the Supreme Court of New York, and became a member of Congress. His pen was always busy upon national subjects, and by it he did much, with others (see page 384, volume i.), in preparing the people in favor of the Federal Constitution. His great financial knowledge caused Washington to choose him for his first Secretary of the Treasury, and he was very useful to the president during his whole administration. In the winter of 1804 he became involved in a political dispute with Colonel Aaron Burr, by whom he was challenged to mortal combat. They fought on the twelfth of July, at Weehawken, on the west bank of the Hudson, and Hamilton was mortally wounded. He was taken across the river to the house of Mr. Bayard, near Greenwich Village, where he expired soon after the arrival of his wife and children. That widow of forty-eight lived until the 9th day of November, 1854, an honored denizen of the Federal metropolis. The American republic never had a truer friend nor abler supporter than Alexander Hamilton. His country residence, called The Grange, after the seat of his paternal grandfather in Scotland, is yet standing on the bank of the Harlem River, near Fort Washington. On the lawn in front of it is a group of thrifty elms, consisting of thirteen, which he planted by his own hand, and named them after the several original thirteen states. All are straight and comely but one; that one is very crooked.

14 This is a view of the old Federal Hall, which stood on the site of the present Custom House in Wall Street, at the head of Broad Street. The view is from Wall Street, looking toward Broadway. Upon the balcony seen in front, the oath of office was administered to Washington. It was erected at the beginning of the last century. Its upper part projected over the side walk, and formed an open arcade. Apartments in it were used as jails, until the erection of the "new jail," the provost prison of the Revolution.

15 The Bible upon which Washington laid his hand when this oath was administered was then, and is now, the property of St. John’s Lodge of Free masons. It is preserved as a most precious memento.



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