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northern States the principle was recognised to a certain extent, by assigning a double portion in case of intestacy to the eldest son. To this there was but one exception, that of the small State of Maryland. The long existence, and the general predominance throughout the Union, at the time of the Revolution, of political and social institutions such as these, are facts which should not be forgotten, inasmuch as they account for the very English tone of mind (if I may be allowed the expression) of most of the leading American statesmen of that day, which resulted also in part from an education and training, in most respects, entirely English. They account also for the elaborate system of checks against the encroachments of ultra-democracy introduced into the Constitution with so much care and caution by those who drew it up, and for the existence in it of such strong and carefullyguarded conservative elements, which appear to be commonly overlooked by modern politicians of the extreme school. They afford an explanation also of the phenomenon which strikes a stranger in the United States even at this day, namely, that of the strongly aristocratic organisation and feeling of social life in that country; wherein are seen ancient sympathies, strong and irrepressible associations, instincts of cultivation and of nature, asserting their empire, and rising above the level attempted to be maintained by forced habits and a specious but unphilosophical theory
THE REVOLUTIONARY GOVERNMENT.—THE CONFE
BEFORE examining the details of the Constitution, it is necessary to advert briefly to the course of events that immediately preceded it.
All attempts at reconciliation having failed on both sides, the legislatures of some of the States, and conventions of the people in others, proceeded to appoint delegates, who assembled on the 4th September, 1774, and formed the first general and national Government, commonly known, from its origin, as “the Revolutionary Government."
Having adopted a Declaration of Rights, passed Acts forbidding all commercial relations between themselves and Great Britain, authorised the raising of troops, and appointed General Washington as their commander-inchief, they embarked upon the great struggle, and finally, on the celebrated 4th of July, 1776, published the Declaration of Independence.
The powers of the Revolutionary Government being vague and doubtful, discussions arose and were continued during the next few years among the several States, and it was not until the 1st of March, 1781, that the whole of the States assented to the “ Articles of Confederation,” prepared and digested by a Committee of Congress. On that date the final ratification took place, and the Government of the Confederation was announced and recognised.
Still, however, the defects in the political arrangements then agreed to were many and patent. “ To form a permanent union,” remarked the Committee above referred to, “accommodated to the opinions and wishes of the delegates of so many States, differing in habits, produce, commerce, and internal police, was found to be a work which nothing but time
and reflection, conspiring with a disposition to conciliate, could mature and accomplish.” It was not a matter capable of being “struck out at a heat,” and required the patience and the wisdom of men accustomed to look at all the sides of great and complicated questions, and the experience of years to enable them to gather new counsel from novel circumstances.
Although,” says one of the able men who took a leading part in those proceedings, Dr. Rush, “we understood perfectly the principles of liberty, yet most of us were ignorant of the forms and combinations of republics. It need not, therefore, be a matter of surprise that inexperience on the one hand, and the jealousies of individual States on the other, should have combined to render the powers entrusted to the Confederation imperfect, and to hamper its action to so great a degree, as to cause it to be little more than a government in name only. It had no authority to levy taxes, no power to enforce obedience, no means of regulating foreign or domestic com
* Story, § 244, note.