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“2d. They may appoint ambassadors, but can not defray even the expenses
of their tables. “ 3d. They may
in their own name on the faith of the Union, but can not pay a dollar. “4th. They may
money, but they can not purchase an ounce of bullion.
“ 5th. They may make war, and determine what number of troops -re necessary, but can not raise a single soldier.
“6th. In short, they may declare every thing, but do nothing."
LEADING DEFECTS OF THE CONFEDERATION.
The following is a summary of the leading defects of the Articles of Confederation, as a Constitution for a nation made up
of a large number of States, as given by an eminent jurist of a later day :
§ 1. There was an utter want of all coercive authority in the Continental Congress to carry into effect any of their constitutional
$ 2. There was no power in the Continental Congress to punish individuals for
breach of their enactments. Their laws must be wholly without penal sanction.
§ 3. They had no power to lay taxes, or to collect revenue for the public service. The power over taxes was expressly and exclusively reserved to the States.
§ 4. They had no power to regulate commerce, either with foreign nations, or among the several States. It was left, with respect to both, exclusively to the management of each particular State, thus being at the mercy of private interests or local prejudices.
$ 5. As might be expected, "the most opposite regulations existed in different States; and there was a constant resort to retaliatory legislation from their jealousies and rivalries in commerce, in agriculture, or in manufactures Foreign nations did not fail to
avail themselves of all the advantages accruing from this suicidal policy, tending to the common ruin.
§ 6. “For want of some singleness of power, -a power to act with uniformity, and one to which all interests could be reconciled,
foreign commerce was sadly crippled, and nearly destroyed.”
§ 7. The country was deeply in debt, without a dollar to pay, or the means even to draw a dollar into the public treasury; and what money there was in the country was rapidly making its way abroad.
§ 8. Great as these embarrassments were, the States, full of jealousy, were tenaciously opposed to making the necessary concessions to remedy the great and growing evil. All became impressed with the fear, that, unless a much stronger national government could be instituted, all that had been gained by the Revolutionary struggle would soon be lost.
§ 9. Many of the more prominent patriots and statesmen of the day had made the effort to obtain an enlargement of the powers of Congress, but without success. It became evident, that, whatever else might be done, the Confederacy, as such, must crumble into ruins.
ORIGIN OF THE PRESENT CONSTITUTION.
$ 1. To the State of Virginia belongs the immortal honor of taking the first step that led to the formation and adoption of our present Constitution ; and to the illustrious James Madison, more than to any other man, must be awarded the distinction of making the first effective move in that direction.
§ 2. On the 21st of January, 1786, the legislature of Virginia passed the following resolution :
“Resolved, That Edmund Randolph, James Madison, jun., Wa!ter Jones, St. George Tucker, and Meriweather Smith, Esqs., be appointed Commissioners, who, or any three of whom, shall meet such commissioners as may be appointed in the other States of the
Union, at a time and place to be agreed on, to take into consideration the trade of the United States ;
To examine the relative situations and trade of said States ;
“ To consider how far a uniform system in their commercial regulations
“ And to report to the several States such act relative to this great object, as, when unanimously ratified by them, will enable the United States in Congress effectually to provide for the same.
$ 3. Just previous to this, in 1785, Commissioners had been appointed by Virginia and Maryland for the accomplishment of a more limited object, and which more exclusively concerned those two States.
$ 4. Maryland deemed the concurrence of her neighbors, Delaware and Pennsylvania, indispensable in the matter ; although it related only to settling the jurisdiction on waters dividing the two States of Virginia and Maryland. The same reasons that rendered it necessary that Maryland should consult her neighbors seemed to render it equally necessary that those neighbors should consult their neighbors.
$ 5. It was thus demonstrated, that, whatever action might be taken on any subject of general concern, it would extend itself or its influences all over the Union. This illustration of the necessity of uniformity in matters of public interest had its influence in impressing all minds with a sense of the importance of such a general Convention as was now recommended in the resolution of the Virginia Legislature.
$ 6. The time and place of the proposed Convention being left to the Virginia Commissioners, they named for the time the first Monday in September, 1786; and the place, Annapolis, Md. The Commissioners who attended from Virginia were Messrs. Randolph, Madison, and Tucker.
$ 7. Although there was a strong popular feeling in favor of the proposed Convention, when the time came for its meeting, only five States were represented. Several States had not even appointed Commissioners, and some Commissioners who were appointed
failed to attend. But it had become evident, that although this Convention, as such, was a failure, public opinion was advancing in the right direction.
$ 8. The New Jersey deputation bad a commission extending its object to a general provision for the “exigencies of the Union.” Acting on this suggestion, a recommendation for this enlarged purpose was reported by a committee to whom the subject had been referred.
$ 9. That report was written by Alexander Hamilton of New York, and addressed to the legislatures of the States represented in the Convention ; viz., New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey.
Commissioners appointed from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and North Carolina, failed to report themselves to the Convention.
The States of Maryland, Connecticut, South Carolina, and Georgia, did not appoint Commissioners.
§ 10. This report was an able, lucid, and elaborate document, recommending another convention of deputies from all the States, to meet on the second Monday of May following, 1787, in the city of Philadelphia. A copy of the report was also sent to Congress.
$ 11. Virginia again took the lead, and was the first to act favorably on the recommendation to appoint deputies to the proposed Philadelphia Convention. The legislature of that State were unanimous, or very nearly so, in their response to the call of the report. “ As a proof of the magnitude and solemnity attached to it, they placed Gen. Washington at the head of the deputation from that State ; and, as a proof of the deep interest he felt in the case, he overstepped the obstacles to his acceptance of the appointment.”
§ 12. Congress took no action on the recommendation of the report, until the legislature of New York instructed its delegation in tbat body
"to move a resolution, recommending to the several States to appoint deputies to meet in Convention for the purpose of revising and proposing amendments to the Federal Constitution,"
§ 13. Feb. 21, 1787, a resolution was moved and carried in Congress, recommending a Convention to meet in Philadelphia at
the time suggested in the report, " for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several State legislatures such alterations and provisions therein, as shall, when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States, render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union.”
$ 14. Public opinion was on the rapid march. Many events had transpired, even after the appointment of commissioners to meet at Annapolis, and before that Convention assembled, which matured the popular judgment in favor of the proposition for a general Convention for the purposes set forth in the report.
§ 15. Still other events took place immediately after the Hamilton report was published, which still further demonstrated the necessity of such a Convention as was proposed therein. All were now satisfied that the Union was in extreme danger. No calm, dispassionate observer could ignore it.
$ 16. “ Among the ripening incidents," says a prominent statesman of that day, was the insurrection of Shays in Massachusetts against her government, which was with difficulty suppressed, notwithstanding the influence on the insurgents of an apprehended interposition of the Federal troops."
§ 17. The insurrection above alluded to was led by one Daniel Shays, who was followed by about two thousand insurgents, having for their object the open defiance and resistance of the laws under which the taxes were to be collected and private obligations and contracts to be enforced. It spread over several of the counties of that State; and so formidable was it, that United States troops were called for to suppress it. But, by vigorous measures on the part of the State, it was overcome. Several of the leaders were condemned to death ; but, on account of the popular sentiment in their favor, it was deemed unwise to execute them.
§ 18. The public debt, most of which had been contracted in the sacred cause of liberty in the struggle for independence, remained unpaid. Congress had made repeated calls on the States for payment: but these calls were either partially or wholly unheeded; one State expressly and openly refusing to take any step tending to its