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Franklin's plan of confederation between the colonies — Debates upon it in Congress — Need of confederation

evident- Articles finally adopted for recommendation to States — Circular letter of Congress — Its adoption by the States - Loans authorized Depreciation of currency — Attempt to regulate prices — Loyalists' property sold — Returns meagre — Cause of high prices. — Appendix to Chapter XX — Articles of Confederation.

Meanwhile Congress had taken a was to last until Great Britain should step of the highest importance. It cease to oppress, and make restituhad long since become plainly evident tion for past injuries; failing which, that some form of confederation be. it should endure forever. This Plan tween the States was necessary; and of Union, it appears, was referred to immediately after declaring inde- a Committee, and it may have been pendence, Congress took the matter discussed by the House. It was not under consideration. As early as acted upon; the. time was not ripe July 12, 1775, Franklin had intro- for it, and the conservative members duced in Congress a sketch of some were aware that the very idea of a articles of confederation between the union of the colonies was, of all colonies which he thought ought to be things, the most abominable in the adopted. “ His plan was perfectly eyes of George III., whom the House simple; it proposed little more than had just humbly petitioned."* On to make the existing state of things June 7, 1776, a committee consisting perpetual; each colony to retain its of one member from each colony was internal independence, but to confide appointed to prepare a plan of conto a Congress, annually elected, its federation and report it to Congress. external affairs, particularly the On July 12, eight days after the Decmeasures of resistance to ministerial laration of Independence, this comoppression. The supreme executive mittee reported, and the scheme they authority of the confederacy, he pro- proposed was debated in Committee posed, should be vested in a council

of the Whole almost daily until Auof twelve, elected by the Congress. gust 20, when a new draft was reAll the British colonies, including ported. Nothing was done at this Ireland, Canada, the West Indies,

* Parton, Life of Franklin, vol. ii., p. 86. Bermuda, Nova Scotia, Florida, and † See the Secret Journals of Congress, vol. i., pp. the thirteen already represented,

290–315; Jefferson's Works, vol. i., pp. 26–35;

John Adams, Works, vol. ii., pp. 492-502, vol. iii., should be invited to join. The Union

p. 61 et seq.; Curtis, Constitutional History, vol. ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION ADOPTED.


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time, however, and the entire matter the various provisions of the Articles was dropped, not being taken up had been scrutinized and discussed again until April of the following from every viewpoint, they were year (1777). To agree upon any set adopted for recommendation to the form by which the colonies could States,* and the following circular operate together was difficult, chiefly letter was sent out, urging that the because of the variety of interests in- various legislatures adopt them: volved and the tenacious regard for “In Congress, Yorktown, November 17th, 1777. State rights and State sovereignty

Congress having agreed upon a plan of con

federacy for securing the freedom, sovereignty, entertained by the various colonies.*

and independence of the United States, authentic Nevertheless, it was plain that some- copies are now transmitted for the consideration

of the respective legislatures. thing must be done, for under the

“ The business, equally intricate and important, present conditions Congress had no has in its progress been attended with uncommon

embarrassments and delay, which the most anxious powers or rights for carrying out its

solicitude and persevering diligence could not preresolves, except in so far as the

vent. To form a permanent union, accommodated States themselves chose to recognize to the opinion and wishes of the delegates of so them. Congress could not efficiently

many states differing in habits, produce, com:

merce, and internal police, was found to be a work discharge the duties expected of it, which nothing but time and reflection, conspiring and interest in its affairs was gradu

with a disposition to conciliate, could mature and

accomplish. ally declining, so that if something

“Hardly is it to be expected that any plan, were not done immediately, it would in the variety of provisions essential to our union,

should exactly correspond with the maxims and soon become a negligible quantity in

political views of every particular state. Let it the affairs of the country.

be remarked that, after the most careful inquiry

and the fullest information, this is proposed as Consequently, in October, 1777,

the best which could be adapted to the circum. after Congress had been compelled to stances of all, and as that alone which affords any retire to Yorktown, the Articles of

tolorable prospect of general satisfaction.

“ Permit us, then, earnestly to recommend these Federation were taken under consid

articles to the immediate and dispassionate atten. eration and debated day after day tion of the legislatures of the respective states.

Let them be candidly reviewed under a sense of until the middle of November. After

the difficulty of combining in one general system

the various sentiments and interests of a continent i., pp. 36–37; Ford's ed. of Jefferson's Writings, divided into so many sovereign and independent vol. i., p. 38 et seq.

communities, under a conviction of the absolute * Bancroft, vol. v., pp. 10–15. See also Thorpe, necessity of uniting all our counsels and all our The Story of the Constitution, p. 75 et seq.

strength to maintain and defend our common lib† On the debates, the duties and work of Con- erties; let them be examined with a liberality gress, and State sovereignty in general, see the becoming brethren and fellow-citizens surrounded illuminating chapter on “State Sovereignty and by the same imminent dangers, contending for the Confederation” in Van Tyne, American Revolu- same illustrious prize, and deeply interested in tion, pp. 175–202. See also Morse, John Adams; A. W. Small, The Beginning of American Nation- History, vol. i., pp. 78–79. See also Justice Story, ality, in J. A. U. Studies, 8th series, nos. i.-ii. ; Commentaries on the Constitution, vol. i., p.

162 the Journals of Congress, John Adams, Familiar et seq. (5th ed., 1891). Letters; Harley, Life of Charles Thomson ; Ban- * See Appendix at the end of the present croft, vol. v., pp. 199–208; Curtis, Constitutional chapter.



being forever bound and connected together by ties Rhode Island,* Delaware, Maryland, the most intimate and indissoluble; and, finally, let them be adjusted with the temper and mag.

and New Jersey, hesitated to adopt nanimity of wise and patriotic legislators, who, them, principally because the queswhile they are concerned for the prosperity of

tion as to whom the western territory their more immediate circle, and capable of rising superior to local attachments when they may be

of the United States belonged was not incompatible with the safety, happiness, and glory yet settled. Finally, however, this of the general confederacy. “We have reason to regret the time which has

question was settled to the satisfacelapsed in preparing this plan for consideration; tion of all concerned as will be exwith additional solicitude, we look forward to that

plained later, chiefly through the which must be necessarily spent before it can be ratified. Every motive loudly calls upon us to

obstinate course of Maryland, which hasten its conclusion.

State refused to ratify the Articles “More than any other consideration, it will con.

until the western claims had been found our foreign enemies, defeat the flagitious practices of the disaffected, strengthen and con

ceded to the Confederation. All the firm our friends, support our public credit, re

States had ratified the Articles by store the value of our money, enable us to maintain our fleets and armies, and add weight and

March 1, 1781. respect to our counsels at home and to our treaties The condition of the finances at this abroad. “In short, this salutary measure can no longer

time was a subject for most earnest be deferred. It seems essential to our very

deliberation. Early in the year, existence as a free people, and without it, we may $10,000,000 of new .bills had been ausoon be constrained to bid adieu to independence, to liberty, and to safety - blessings which, from

thorized and $2,000,000 were added in the justice of our cause, and the favor of our August. Anxious to maintain a surAlmighty Creator visibly manifested in our protection, we have reason to expect, if, in an humble

plus in the treasury without further dependence on his divine providence, we strenu issues, Congress had pressed the subously exert the means which are placed in our

ject of loans, and in order to induce power. “ To conclude, if the legislature of any state

lenders to bring forth money, had shall not be assembled, Congress recommend to offered to pay the interest on all the executive authority to convene it without delay; and to each respective legislature, it is recom

money advanced before March, 1778, mended to invest its delegates with competent laws

in bills drawn on their commissioners ultimately, in the name and behalf of the state,

in France. This inducement, howto subscribe Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union of the United States; and to attend

ever, availed little, and in November, Congress for that purpose on or before the tenth 1777, it became necessary to authorday of March next [1778]." *

ize $1,000,000 in Continental bills, and The Articles were then adopted by in December $1,000,000 more, thus the various State legislatures. For making the total amount issued up to

the end of the year $34,000,000. some time the smaller States, such as

. Meanwhile the depreciation had be

come alarming, the bills which in the Curtis, Constitutional History, vol. i., pp. 699700. For the articles themselves see pp. 713-719.

early part of the year had been See also for text of articles MacDonald, Select Documents, pp. 6-15; Thorpe, Federal and State See Bates, Rhode Island in the Formation of Constitutions, vol. i., pp. 9–17.

the Union, pp. 67-71.



nearly at par, now sinking to three next year three committees should or four for one.* Congress therefore meet (one for the eight northern looked abroad for aid, instructing States, another for Maryland, Virtheir commissioners in France and ginia, and North Carolina, and the Spain to exert their utmost endeav- third for South Carolina and ors to obtain loans.t

Georgia) for the purpose of fixing a In addition, the scheme for regu- new scale of prices, which would be lating prices by law also proved a enforced by the several State legisfailure, and a convention of delegates latures, the Continental commissaries from New England and New York, being allowed to seize goods at those which had met at Springfield in July prices when those who held superto adopt measures for the defence of fluous stocks refused to sell them.* Rhode Island and for an attack on Congress further recommended Newport, recommended that the acts that all property belonging to perregulating prices be repealed. It was sons “ who had forfeited the right to urged that laws be enacted as sub- the protection of their several stitutes prohibiting the accumulation states " be sold and that the proceeds of stocks in the hands of merchants be invested in loan-office certificates. and speculators. The convention sug

Several of the States followed this gested also the redemption of all State advice, but the financial returns were issues, and the levying of taxes for meagre and the loans operated chiefly the support of the war. Upon receiv- to enrich speculators and to allow ing the proceedings of this conven- some to gratify their desire for pertion, Congress acknowledged that the

sonal vengeance. issues of paper were excessive and The condition of the army also urged the several States to raise compelled Congress to recommend $5,000,000 by taxation for the use of

that acts be passed authorizing the the Continental treasury during the

seizure of all woolens, blankets, stockensuing year. I Congress recom

ings, shoes, hats, and all stock and mended also that the States refrain provisions that were for sale, for from issuing more bills of credit; that

which receipts were to be given, and

to inflict penalties upon all persons they redeem those already issued; and

who refused to allow such seizure. that in future the State expenses be

In order to prevent any from procurmet by taxes levied within the year. ing" enormous gains,” it was recomIt was proposed, too, that early in the

mended that the number of retail

traders be limited and that these be * Early in 1777, Pennsylvania by law recognized the depreciation to the extent of 3342 per cent.

bonded for the proper observance of Phillips, American Paper Currency, vol. i., p. 33. † Hildreth, vol. iii., p. 227.

Hildreth, vol. iii., pp. 227–228; Bancroft, vol. | Bancroft, vol. v., p. 291.

V., p. 291.



the laws made for their regulation. paper money, and the scarcity of Congress was conscious of the arbi- manufactured goods, particularly trary harshness of these measures, blankets and clothing, due to the but recently it had been ascertained interruption of commerce and the that some traders were reaping enor- non-arrival of expected goods from mous profits from their sales to the France. The Continental treasury hard pressed and needy government, had been depleted by the sum of and Congress felt that “ laws un- about $25,000,000, in specie value, worthy the character of infant repub- which was larger by $5,000,000 than lics are become necessary to supply the total for the two preceding years. the defects of public virtue, and to The States had made large advances correct the vices of some of her in paper money, and otherwise, which sons.

more than balanced the outgo from Probably the chief causes of the the Continental treasury, but these high prices were the increased ex- advances burdened the States with penditures of the government, the heavy debts, and they were unable to great depreciation in the value of continue them.

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To all whom these presents shall come, we, the undersigned, delegates of the states affixed to our names

send greeting. WHEREAS, the delegates of the United States tion and perpetual Union between the States of of America in Congress assembled, did, on the New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Isfifteenth day of November, in the year of our land and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, Lord' one thousand seven hundred and seventy- New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, seven, and in the second year of the independence Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Caroof America, agree to certain Articles of Confedera- lina, and Georgia, in the words following, viz. :

Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay,

Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

ARTICLE 1. The style of this confederacy shall other, for their common defence, the security of be, “ The United States of America."

their liberties, and their mutual and general wel. ARTICLE 2. Each state retains its sovereignty, fare; binding themselves to assist each other freedom, and independence, and every power,

against all force offered to, or attacks made upon jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Con- them, or any of them, on account of religion, federation expressly delegated to the United sovereignty, trade, or any other pretence whatStates in Congress assembled.

ever. ARTICLE 3. The said states hereby severally en.

ARTICLE 4. The better to secure and perpetuate ter into a firm league of friendship with each mutual friendship, and intercourse among the peo

ple of the different states in this Union, the free Hildreth, vol. iii., pp. 229-230. See also Ober- inhabitants of each of these states, paupers, vaga. holtzer, Life of Morris, pp. 48–51.

bonds, and fugitives from justice, excepted, shall

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