Page images
[blocks in formation]

Rich'd. Stockton,

Jno. Witherspoon,

Fran's. Hopkinson,
John Hart,
Abra. Clark.


Rob't. Morris,
Benjamin Rush,

Benja. Franklin,
John Morton,
Geo. Clymer,

Jas. Smith,

Geo. Taylor,

James Wilson,

Geo. Ross,


Cæsar Rodney,
Geo. Read,

Thos. M:Kean.


Samuel Chase,

Wm. Paca,

Thos. Stone,

Charles Carroll, of Carrollton.


George Wythe,
Richard Henry Lee,
Th. Jefferson,

Benja. Harrison,
Thos. Nelson, jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee,
Carter Braxton.

North Carolina.

Wm. Hooper,

Joseph Hewes,

John Penn.

South Carolina.

Edward Rutledge,

Thos. Heyward, Jun'r.
Thomas Lynch, Jun'r.
Arthur Middleton.

Button Gwinnett,
Lyman Hall,
Geo. Walton.

Although the thirteen colonies all united in sending delegates to Congress, and in publishing to the world the declaration that they were free and independent states, there was as yet no definite, regularly formed union between them. There was no written instrument defining the powers and objects of a united government, and pledging the faith of the states for its maintenance.

On the 11th of June, previous to the declaration, Congress undertook to prepare such an instrument. It was completed and approved by them on the 15th of November, 1777. It was then sent to the legislatures of the states for their ratification. Some of them promptly gave it their assent. Others withheld theirs for some. time. On the first of March, 1781, by the assent of Maryland, it was finally ratified by all the thirteen states.

The interests of thirteen states whose particular circumstances must all be regarded, it was no easy matter to reconcile. Thus it will be observed that Congress was more than a year in agreeing upon the ar



ticles of union, and that it was more than three years before they received the sanction of all the states. Probably, nothing but a sense of common and impending danger would have been sufficient to induce the states to agree to a union. This it was which persuaded them to sacrifice local and selfish interests and to unite themselves together for the general good. By observing the great difficulties attending the formation of our union, the citizens of all the different states ought to learn a lesson of conciliation and friendship, and to make a sacrifice of private interests to the great object of promoting the common welfare that what has cost so much in arriving at the perfection which it now possesses, may never be destroyed.

The instrument above alluded to, was termed, Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The government of the United States, if government, that can be called which depended on the will of thirteen independent, distinct state governments, was administered under the authority granted by these articles for the pe

riod of six years. These articles are inserted in the next chapter, that the reader and the student may perceive by what progressive steps, wisdom and experience have brought us to our present inestimable constitution.

Every American who loves his country, and every youth who is growing up to succeed to the precious inheritance of his fathers, will learn to love that country more, and better to prize that inheritance by tracing the rugged way which has been passed over in arriving at a free and united and at the same time efficient government.

Questions on Chapter II. with Explanations.

What is stated in the Declaration of Independence as the reason for declaring the causes of our separation from Great Britain? Relate the truths which this declaration affirms to be self-evident. What is meant by all men being created equal? Ans. Not that they are created equal in mental or personal endowments, but that they are politically equal, that is, the mere circumstance of birth makes no difference in their rights. Birth confers no

rights on one which are not possessed by all. The sons of the rich and of the poor, of the high and the low are all equally capable of aspiring to the highest offices of the government and all have an equal right to protection. This declaration seems to have been intended as a blow at the notion of men being born rulers and with hereditary privileges. What are unalienable rights? Ans. Rights of which the possessor can by no means be divested; he can neither strip himself of them, nor be stripped by others. This declaration is, however, to be understood with some limitation. It does not intend that a man may not by crime forfeit these rights. He may by crime, render it necessary to the well-being of society, that he should by law be deprived of them. What is said to be the object for which human governments are instituted? Whence, is it said, human governments derive their just powers?

This declaration too, seems to be directed against the notion of forms of government, and rulers imposed upon the people by a few against the will of the many. It is a de. claration that the people have a right to form or to alter their governments, and to choose their rulers; indeed, this is expressly declared

« PreviousContinue »