Page:American Historical Review, Volume 12.djvu/542

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C. H. Van Tyne

and liberties"[1] or "for advancing the best Good of the Colonies,"[2] and three were instructed to no definite purpose.[3] Although eight of these colonies sent new instructions before January, 1776[4] (and this date is important, as will be presently shown), yet only two changed the character of their instructions, Maryland leaving out the binding clause,[5] and Connecticut making the object sought, defense, security, and the preservation of rights. It is absurd to say that all these legislatures and conventions were hypocritical, saying what they did not mean, and if we seek honestly to know the wishes of the majorities in each representative body we shall examine these instructions, remembering, moreover, that these bodies were for the most part representative not of all the people,[6] but of the most radical, those who would be the first to think of independence and the formation of a new state.

Remembering these instructions and the length of time they remained unchanged, let us examine the next point made by Justice Story and others in his wake. He says:[7] "The Congress of 1775 accordingly assumed at once the exercise of some of the highest functions of sovereignty. They took measures for national defence and resistance", raised an army and navy, established a post-office, raised money, emitted bills of credit, and "contracted debts upon national account," authorized captures and condemnation of prizes. Let us see what Congress thought and what men of that time thought of the nature of these acts, for this idea in men's minds is of importance.

If the instructions to Congress meant anything, the delegates came together unauthorized by the people to act as a national government. They were to keep the councils of the colonies united while the English government was being forced to yield what men thought their rights.[8] In attempting to accomplish this end open war developed,[9] and the Congress gradually did assume all these

  1. Georgia, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.
  2. Connecticut.
  3. Virginia, North Carolina, and New Jersey.
  4. Delaware, October 21, 1775; Maryland, December 9, 1775; New Hampshire, August 23, 1775; North Carolina, September 8, 1775: Massachusetts, November 10, 1775; Connecticut, October, 1775; Pennsylvania, November 3, 1775.
  5. Journals of Congress, III. 441; IV. 58.
  6. All of their acts were repudiated by the Loyalists, who were no insignificant part of the population.
  7. Story, Commentaries, fourth ed., I. 151–152.
  8. Journals of Congress, IV. 136, last paragraph.
  9. It must be remembered, however, that it was the New England colonies that began the war, and that the other colonies assembled in Congress were most reluctantly dragged into the struggle.