Page:Nature and Character of our Federal Government.djvu/58

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46
TRUE NATURE AND CHARACTER OF

This circumstance shows that the two forms of expression were considered equipollent; and that foreign nations, in treating with the revolutionary government, considered that they treated with distinct sovereignties, through their common agent, and not with a new nation, composed of all those sovereign countries together. It is true, they treated with them jointly, and not severally; they considered them all bound to the observance of their stipulations, and they believed that the common authority, which was established between and among them, was sufficient to secure that object. The provisional articles with Great Britain, in 1782, by which our independence was acknowledged, proceed upon the same idea. The first article declares, that "His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, to wit, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free, sovereign and independent States; that he treats with them as such," &c. Thus the very act, by which their former sovereign releases them from their allegiance to him, confirms to each one by name the sovereignty within its own limits, and acknowledges it to be a "free, sovereign, and independent State;" united, indeed, with all the others, but not as forming with them any new and separate nation. The language employed is not suited to convey any other idea. If it had been in the contemplation of the parties, that the States had merged themselves into a single nation, something like the following formula would naturally have suggested itself as proper. "His Britanic Majesty acknowledges that New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, &c., former colonies of Great Britain, and now united together as one people, are a free, sovereign and independent state," &c. The difference between the two forms of expression, and the strict adaptation of each [ *47 ] *to the state of things which it contemplates, will be apparent to every reader.

It requires strong and plain proof to authorize us to say, that a nation once sovereign has ceased to be so. And yet our author requires us to believe this of the colonies, although he acknowledges that he cannot tell, with any degree of confidence