Page:American Historical Review, Volume 12.djvu/552

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
542
C. H. Van Tyne

only taxes, keeping social order, protecting property, and administering justice.

No one was more conscious of this jealous retention of state sovereignty than the members of Congress themselves.[1] In matters where the interests of an individual state were seriously involved the opposition of the delegates of that single state was enough to cause Congress to refrain from passing a recommendation.[2] If Congress desired in the interest of all to pry closely into the affairs of a state, an apology was sure to accompany the resolution.[3] On committees to consider any important measures Congress thought it necessary to have one member from each colony.[4] Even in the case of recalcitrant members of its own body, Congress was never forgetful that the member was there in the capacity of a diplomat from a sovereign state.[5] Limitations upon a delegate's instructions were also duly regarded[6] and no delegate dared make any important proposition in Congress without first being requested to do so by his state, in the form of a proposition by one sovereign state to the other sovereign states assembled by their delegates in Congress.[7]

These are only a few of the many facts, which go to show the truth of Randolph's assertion as to Congress: "They have therefore no will of their own, they are a mere diplomatic body, and are always obsequious to the views of the states".[8] John Adams, too, described them as "not a legislative assembly, nor a representative assembly, but only a diplomatic assembly."[9] Only in that view was it reasonable for each state to have but one vote in Congress.[10] Because of the same idea in men's minds, the delegates from all the states except New Hampshire and Georgia were elected by the state legislatures,

  1. Notice their attitude in regard to raising Continental troops. Journals of Congress, V. 470, 521.
  2. Ibid., IV. 279; II. 125; V. 481. Sometimes the resolution was passed in the form of a harmless hint which the state could carry out or not. Ibid., 463; South Carolina delegates to Rutledge.
  3. Ibid., IV. 167. Sometimes it resisted appeals to interfere. Ibid., 185.
  4. Ibid., III. 262, 488; IV. 76.
  5. Ibid., III. 357; and Secret Journals, April 10 and 11, 1778.
  6. Journals, VI. 1074.
  7. See suggestion of army, navy, independence, etc.
  8. Madison, Writings, ed. Hunt, III. 181. Mason had a like view. "Under the existing Confederacy, Congress represents the states", etc. Ibid., 101. It was this fact and the rise and fall of enthusiasm for the union which handicapped the work of Congress, and explains much of its so-called sloth and incompetence.
  9. A Defence of the Constitutions of the United States (1787).
  10. Madison thought this reasonable only while "the Union was a federal one among sovereign states." Madison, Writings, ed. Hunt, III. 44. The idea was that "a little Colony has its all at stake as well as a great one." J. Adams, Works, II. 366.