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CHAP. VI. These great principles formed the common 1776. basis of the American republics. There were,
however, some exceptions to them. In some of the states, the legislature consisted of a single branch, and in some of them, the tenure of judicial office was for a term of years; and in Connecticut, and Rhode Island, where the ancient institutions were preserved, they continued to be elected by the people annually, and formed one branch of the legislature.
Various too were the qualifications required to confer the privilege of an elector, or of being elected; and the second branch of the legislature was variously constructed. In some states, a greater, and in others, a less effort was discernible, to make it an effectual check on the more popular branch; either by pro. longing the time for which its members were elected, or requiring different qualifications from those who should elect, and, in some in. stances, by even permitting them to fill up by their own act, vacancies created in their body, during the time for which it had been consti. tuted.
In constructing the executive too, great varieties appeared. In some instances, the governor was elected, and was eligible for a longer, in others, for a shorter term: in some states, he was invested with a negative on the laws, which in others was refused him, and with power to make appointments, which, more
generally, was exercised by the legislature. CHAP. VI. In some instances, he acted according to his 1776. own judgment, and in others was divested of all responsibility, by being placed under the absolute control of an executive council.
In general, however, the ancient institutions, were preserved, so far as was compatible with the abolition of regal authority.
The provincial assemblies, under the influence of congress, took up the question of independence; and, in some instances, authorized their representatives in the great national council, to enter into foreign alliances. Except Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York, they were in favour of a total and immediate separation from Great Britain; and gave instructions to their representatives conforming to this opinion. Measures had been taken to ascertain the sense of the people respecting it, which was expressed in instructions to their represen. tatives in the colonial assemblies, and was generally in favour of it. “The time was,” said the people of the town of Malden,in Massachussetts, “when we loved the king, and the people of Great Britain with an affection truly filial; we felt ourselves interested in their glory; we shared in their joys and sorrows; we cheerfully poured the fruit of all our labours into the lap of our mother country, and
CHAP. VI. without reluctance expended our blood and 1776. our treasure in her cause.
“These were our sentiments towards Great Britain while she continued to act the part of a parent state; we felt ourselves happy in our .connexion with her, nor wished it to be dissolved. But our sentiments are altered. It is now the ardent wish of our souls that America may become a free and independent state."
The inhabitants of Boston, ever forward and zealous in the contest, concluded, in their instructions, a recapitulation of the existing causes of durable animosity, and of the hazards of restoring the past connexion, with saying, “ we therefore think it almost impracticable for these colonies to be ever again subject to, or dependent upon Great Britain, without endangering the very existence of the state. Placing, however, unbounded confidence in the supreme councils of the congress, we are determined to wait, most patiently to wait, until their wisdom shall dictate the necessity of making a declara. tion of independence. Nor should we have ventured to express our sentiments upon the subject, but from the presumption that con. gress would choose to feel themselves supported by the people of each colony, before they adopt a resolution so interesting to the whole. The inhabitants of this town, therefore, unanimously instruct and direct you, that, at the approaching session of the general assembly, you use your
endeavours that the delegates of this colony in CHAP. VI. congress be advised, that in case the congress 1776. shall think it necessary for the safety of the United Colonies, to declare them independent of Great Britain, the inhabitants of this colony, with their lives, and the remnant of their for. tunes, will most cheerfully support them in that measure.»h
The people of the other parts of the same province, and in the other colonies generally, manifested the same spirit, and expressed the same sentiments. In South Carolina, they were particularly ardent; and in Virginia, the public sense was so decisive on the subject, that the convention not only instructed their representatives to move the resolution in the grand council of the continent, but declared that colony an independent state before the measure was sanctioned by congress.
The public opinion having manifested itself in favour of independence, the great and deci. sive step was determined on, and the following resolution was moved by Richard Henry Lee, and seconded by John Adams, “ resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; and that all political connexion between them and the state June 7. of Great Britain is, and ought to be totally dissolved.”
CHAP. VI. This resolution was referred to a committee 1776. of the whole congress, where it was daily
debated. All the colonies, except Pennsyl. vania, and Maryland, had expressed their approbation of the measure, and no doubt, was entertained of its adoption; but it was thought prudent to suspend a decision on it until the acquiescence of those colonies in the measure should render its adoption unanimous. * Great exertions were made in both, by the strong friends of this resolution, who availed them. selves of the apprehension, that those who did not join in this last and greatest step would be excluded from the union; and, at length,
instructions were received from the conventions June 28. of those provinces also directing their repre.
sentatives to assent to it, July 2. The resolution was now unanimously agreed Independence to, and the declaration, which had been already
prepared by a committee appointed for that
purpose, was taken into consideration, and Fourth. after several amendments, received the sanction
of the whole congress.
* While this vote was depending, resolutions were entered into by congress, declaring, that all persons residing within, or passing through, any one of the United Colonies, owed allegiance to the government thereof; and that any such person, who should levy war against any of the United Colonies, or adhere to the king of Great Britain, or other enemies of the said colonies, or any of them, should be guilty of treason; and it was recommended to the several legislatures to pass laws for their punishment.