« PreviousContinue »
mense value in future, should be finally secured by the joint exertions of all, should enure to the benefit of all. A majority of the states, however, had claims to these lands, which they deemed valid ; and no mode of settling this interesting question, and of completing the union, seemed to present, but a compromise among the states themselves.
New York led the way, in effecting this compromise. In February 1780, the legislature of that state passed an act, “ to facilitate the completion of the articles of confederation and perpetual union among the United States of America ;" with a preamble declaring that, “ whereas nothing under divine Providence can more effectually contribute to the tranquility and safety of the United States of America than a federal alliance, on such liberal principles as will give satisfaction to its respective members : and whereas the articles of confederation and perpetual union recommended by the honorable the congress of the United States of America have not proved acceptable to all the states, it having been conceived that a portion of the waste and uncultivated territory, within the limits or claims of certain states, ought to be appropriated as a common fund for the expenses of the war : and the people of the state of New York, being on all occasions disposed to manifest their regard for their sister states, and their earnest desire to promote the general interest and security; and more especially to accelerate the federal alliance, by removing, so far as it depends upon them, the before mentioned impediment to its final conclusion.” By this act the delegates of the people of New York in congress, were empowered, “ to limit and restrict the western boundaries of that state, by such line or lines, and in such manner and form, as they shall judge to be expedient, either with respect to the jurisdiction as well as the pre-emption of soil, or reserving the jurisdiction in part, or in the whole, over the lands which may be ceded or relinquished, with respect only to the right or pre-emption of the soil.” This act, also, declared, that the territory thus ceded, “ should be and enure for the use and benefit of such of the United States, as should become members of the federal alliance of the said states, and for no other use or purpose whatever." Vol. II.
This act, together with the instructions of Maryland respecting the articles of confederation, and the remonstrance of Virginia abovementioned, all of which had been laid before congress, were referred to a committee of that body, and on the 6th of September, 1780, this committee reported and declared, that “they conceived it unnecessary to examine into the merits or policy of the instructions or declaration of the general assembly of Maryland, or of the remonstrance of the general assembly of Virginia, as they involved questions, a discussion of which was declined, when the articles of confederation were debated ; nor in the opinion of the committee, can such questions be now revived with any prospect of conciliation : that it appears more advisable to press upon the states which can remove the embarrassments respecting the western country, a liberal surrender of a portion of their territorial claims, since they cannot be preserved entire without endangering the stability of the general confederacy; to remind them how indispensably necessary it is to establish the federal union on a fixed and permanent basis, and on principles acceptable to all its respective members; how essential to public credit and confidence, to the support of our army, to the vigor of our councils, and success of our measures, to our tranquility at home, our reputation abroad, to our very existence as a free, sovereign, and independent people ; that we are fully persuaded the wisdom of the respective legislatures will lead them to a full and impartial consideration of a subject so interesting to the United States, and so necessary to the happy establishment of the federal union ; that they are confirmed in these expectations by a view of the beforementioned act of the legislature of New York, submitted to their consideration ; that this act is expressly calculated to accelerate the federal alliance by removing as far as de. pends on that state, the impediments arising from the western country, and for that purpose to yield up a portion of territorial claim for the general benefit.” The committee, therefore, reported a resolution, which was adopted by congress, earnestly recommending to the several states, having claims to the western country, to pass such laws, and give their delegates such powers,
as should effectually remove the only obstacle to a final ratification of the articles of confederation ; and that Maryland be requested to accede to the union.*
To induce the states to make liberal cessions, congress, on the 10th of October following, declared, that the territory which might be thus ceded, should be disposed of for the common benefit of the union and formed into republican states, with the same rights of sovereignty, freedom and independence as the other states; to be of a suitable extent of territory, not less than one hundred, and no more than one hundred and fifty miles square; and that the expense incurred by any state, since the commencement of the war, in subduing any British posts, or in maintaining and acquiring the territory, should be reimbursed. In compliance with this recommendation, the state of Virginia, on the second of January, 1781, ceded for the benefit of the United States, all her claim to lands north west of the Ohio.
Maryland, though she had refused formally to join the confederacy, had never relaxed in her exertions against the common enemy, but had cordially united with the other states, in supporting the war. Yielding, however, at last, to the earnest entreaties of congress, she authorized her delegates, in a formal manner to ratify the federal compact. This, however, was not done, without declaring in the preamble of the act giving this authority, that “Whereas it hath been said that the common enemy is encouraged, by this state not acceding to the confederation, to hope that the union of the sister states may be dissolved, and therefore prosecute the war in expectation of an event so disgraceful to America : And our friends and illustrious ally are impressed with an idea, that the common cause would be promoted by our formally acceding to the confederation; this general assembly, conscious that this state hath from the commencement of the war strenuously exerted herself in the common cause, and fully satisfied that if no formal confederation was to take place, it is the fixed determination of this state to continue her exertions to the utmost, agreeable to the faith pledged in the union, from
* Secret Journals of Congress, vol. 1, pp. 443, 444.
an earnest desire to conciliate the affection of the sister states, to convince the world of our unalterable resolution to support the independence of the United States, and the alliance with his most christian majesty ; and to destroy forever any apprehensions of our friends, or hopes in our enemies, of this state being again united to Great Britain," &c. And declaring at the same time, that by acceding to the confederation, she did not relinquish or intend to relinquish, any right or interest she had with the other confederated states to the western territory ; but claimed the same as fully as was done by the legislature of that state ; relying on the future justice of the several states relative to her claim. On the first of March, 1781, the delegates of Delaware, in behalf of that state signed the articles, and thereby completed the union.
This important event was, on the same day publicly announced at the seat of government, and immediately communicated to the executives of the several states, to the Amercan ministers in Europe, to the minister plenipotentiary of France, and to the commander in chief, to be announced to the army under his command.
British Ministry call upon the people of Great Britain for voluntary contributions
Parliament meet January 20th, 1778—Ministers propose a plan of reconciliation on the 17th of February—this plan contained in three bills--purport of the bills-sent to America before they had passed-Governor Tryon, to whom they are entrusted, sends them to general Washington and to the governors of some of the states-General Washington transmits them to congress-Are referred to a committee-Report made against them—Answer of governor Trumbull to the letter of Tryon—Treaties with France arrive in May, 1778–Are immediately ratified and published-Congress prepare an address to the people of the United States—British commissioners arrive in America to offer terms of reconciliation-Dr. Franklin secretly consulted as to terms, before the commissioners left England-David Hartley and others go to France to sound him on the subject of terms of reconciliation--Propose that America should yield certain advantages in trade, on condition of peace--British commissioners arrive in America—Propose to congress certain conciliatory propositions -Congress refuse to listen to any terms short of independence and the withdrawing of the fleets and armies--Reply of the British commissioners—Governor Johnston, one of the commissioners, sends letters to several members of congress, and through a lady makes certain offers to Mr. Reed-Congress declare this an attempt to bribe one of their body and refuse all further intercourse with him—British commissioners present an address or manifesto to the people of the states making the same offers they had sent to congress-The people refuse the offers-Congress issue a counter manifesto.
It is now time to recur to the proceedingsin Great Britain with respect to America, in the winter of 1778. Parliament again met, on the 20th of January, the time to which they had adjourned. During the recess, the ministry were engaged in devising means to supply the loss of the army under general Burgoyne. For this purpose, they appealed to the patriotism and loyalty of the people in every part of Great Britain ; nor did they appeal in vain. Large subscriptions in money were obtained from individuals, and some of the wealthy cities furnished a regiment of men, at their own expense.
The ministry, at the same time, were preparing a plan of reconciliation and concession to be proposed to the people of the United States, agreeably to the declaration of lord North, at the time of adjournment.