Page:American Historical Review, Volume 12.djvu/541

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Sovereignty in the American Revolution

act than did the colonies which sent delegates to the Albany Congress or the Stamp Act Congress.

But let us give those who argue along this line the benefit of a doubt, and assume that it was the Second Continental Congress which in their opinion exercised de facto and de jure a sovereign authority.

Before coming to any conclusion as to the right or wrong of this view we must examine in a historical spirit the question what powers the constituents of the delegations meant to give them, what the Continental Congress thought of its own powers at any time during its existence, what the people of the colonies thought, and to what extent they recognized by their actions the sovereign authority attributed to Congress by Story and others.

Three of the delegations to the Second Congress were chosen by the regular legislatures,[1] three by the lower houses of the legislatures,[2] and seven by provincial congresses or conventions of town or county delegates.[3] Of these delegations three were merely to represent, or attend, meet, and report,[4] two to join, consult, and advise,[5] six to concert and agree or determine upon,[6] while Georgia's delegates were "To do, transact, join and concur with the several Delegates".[7] Maryland and North Carolina, from the first, and Georgia and New Jersey[8] later, bound the state and people to abide by the resolutions of Congress,[9] though doubtless all felt more or less this obligation.

The delegates were to exercise these powers for the purpose of "restoring harmony" or "accommodating the unhappy differences" with Great Britain,[10] to obtain a "redress of American grievances," a "re-establishment of American rights," or "a repeal of offensive acts".[11] Some delegations were "to preserve and defend our Rights

  1. Delaware, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. See ibid., II., Instructions to Delegates.
  2. South Carolina. New Jersey, and Connecticut.
  3. Georgia was not represented at first, but later a provincial congress sent delegates.
  4. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
  5. Connecticut and Rhode Island.
  6. Massachusetts, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Maryland, Delaware (also "to report"), and New York. See also Force, American Archives, fourth series, II. 379.
  7. Not sent until September 13, 1775; see Journals of Congress.
  8. February 14, 1776.
  9. For all the above facts see Journals of Congress, II., Instructions to Delegates.
  10. So in the cases of South Carolina, New York, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Georgia.
  11. Rhode Island, South Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.