Page:American Historical Review, Volume 12.djvu/547

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537
Sovereignty in the American Revolution

that, says Von Hoist, in destroying the bonds between the colonies and England, "threw down the walls which had hitherto prevented the political union of the thirteen colonies. They were, in fact, thrown together so as to constitute them one people."[1] But was that viewed by contemporaries as an act consolidating the several colonies, and by whose sanction did they regard it as taking effect? It was declared during the debate upon the resolution[2] "that if the delegates of any particular colony had no power to declare such colony independent, certain they were the others could not declare it for them, the colonies being as yet perfectly independent of each other". Declare independence before these delegates were authorized to that end, and the middle state delegates "must retire" and "their colonies might secede from the union".

This assertion was not disputed[3] and Congress waited until, with the exception of New York, all the delegations were instructed favorably or had large powers and were sure enough of subsequent sanction to vote for the resolution. The action of the twelve colonies did not bind New York until her own convention approved, and at least seven of the states[4] showed by their subsequent resolutions giving to the Declaration the binding force of law within their states that they did not recognize the power of Congress to legislate for them even in a matter so vital to all as the separation from Great Britain.

If there were any doubt as to what the Declaration implied when it said "that these United Colonies are . . . Free and Independent States . . ." and "they have full Power to levy War", etc., that doubt would be dispelled by reading the resolves of the state conventions or assemblies in approving the Declaration. The Pennsylvania convention passed a resolve approving, in behalf of themselves and their constituents, of Congress's resolution, declaring "this, as well as the other United States of America, free and Independent," and declared "before God and the world that we will support and maintain the freedom and independence of this and the other United

  1. Von Hoist, Constitutional History of the United States, I. 8.
  2. By Wilson, Livingston, Rutledge, or Dickinson. Journals of Congress, VI. 1088. See also Force, American Archives, fourth series, IV. 739.
  3. Indeed it was clearly affirmed in the case of Maryland. Ibid.
  4. New York, ibid., fifth series, I. 1391; Rhode Island, Colonial Records, VII. 581; Connecticut, State Records, I. 3; Pennsylvania, Force, American Archives, fifth series, II. 10; Maryland, ibid., III. 88–89; also ibid., fourth series, VI. 1507; New Jersey, ibid., 1648; Virginia, Hazelton, The Declaration of Independence, 273.