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The first instance of the association of colonies in America for mutual defence and protection, while they owed allegiance to the British Crown, was in 1643. In that year, the colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven, apprehending danger from the surrounding Indians, entered into a league, offensive and defensive, firm and perpetual, under the name of the United Colonies of New England. The authority to regulate the general concerns, to levy war and make requisitions of men and money upon the several members of the Union, was vested in an annual congress of commissioners, delegated from each colony. This Confederacy subsisted for upwards of forty years, and was dissolved, under James II., in the year 1686.

It is generally considered that the association was the foundation of subsequent efforts for a more extensive union of the North American Colonies. Various efforts were made for this purpose, and, in the year 1754, a congress was held at Albany, New York, which consisted of commissioners from the colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. This congress was called, at the instance of the British Government, to devise the best means of defending America in an apprehended war with France. But the commissioners, among whom was Dr. Franklin, had ulterior views, and asserted and promulgated some principles which prepared the way for future independence and union. The commissioners unanimously resolved that a union of the colonies was necessary for their preservation, and adopted a plan of federal government, drawn up by Dr. Franklin, consisting of a General Council of Delegates, to be chosen by the Provincial Assemblies, and a President- General, to be appointed by the Crown. Many of the rights of war and peace, and the right to lay and levy imposts and taxes, were to be vested in the Council, subject to the negative of the President, and the union was to embrace all the colonies from New Hampshire to Georgia. The project was emphatically rejected, not only by the King, but by every Provincial Assembly. The colonies were so alien from each other by policy, interest, prejudice and manners, and so exasperated in their disputes about boundaries, that Dr. Franklin, in 1761, observed that a union of the colonies was absolutely impossible; or, at least, without being forced by the most grievous tyranny and oppression.

The first attempt made upon American liberties by the British Government, in 1765, by the passage of the stamp act led to a congress of derogates from nine colonies, which assembled in New York in October of that year, at the instance and recommendation of Massachusetts. The colonies of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and South Carolina, were represented in that congress. This body adopted a declaration of rights, in which the sole power of taxation was asserted to reside in the colonial legislatures. An address to the King and a petition to each House of Parliament were adopted.

This congress was only a preparatory step to that which took place in September, 1774, at Philadelphia. In the congress at Philadelphia, all the colonies were represented except Georgia. A revolutionary government was there organized, which terminated only when it was regularly suspended by the confederated government, under articles finally ratified in 1781.

The history of that confederation is familiar to the reader. It was succeeded by the Constitution of the United States, which was the work of a convention of delegates in Philadelphia, 1787, afterwards ratified by the various States.--The exigencies of the occasion seemed to be met by the convention of 1787, which, however, failed to provide for the possible contingency of one or more sovereign States setting up against the General Government. Various propositions to vest the latter with the power of coercion were made, but voted down by overwhelming majorities, and the convention seems to have concluded to run the risk of a possible danger rather than to hazard the defeat of the Constitution and the anticipated advantages by the bestowal of a power which would have led the States to reject the whole plan of union.

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