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It was not destroyed until 1686, when the charters of the New England Colonies were made void by a commission from King James II.
Notwithstanding the dissolution of this league, congresses, composed of representatives from the different colonies, continued to be held. But they were congresses chosen for some special occasion. One was held at Albany in 1722, and another in 1754. The latter was convened at the instance of the English administration, and for the purpose of concerting measures for defending the country against an impending war with France. The members of the congress had, however, other views, and of a more extended nature. They passed an unanimous resolution for a general union, embracing all the colonies. They proposed that the affairs of this union should be administered by a general council of delegates to be chosen by the provincial governments every three years, and by a president general to be appointed by the British crown.
This proposition, which was the first essay towards a general union,
was rejected not only by the British crown, but also by every provincial government. It was the policy of the British government to keep the colonies ignorant of their strength. It was the policy of the colonies to avoid such an influence as they supposed the British crown might exert upon them through such a general government and president general.
“ The great value of a federate union of the colonies had, however, sunk deep into the minds of men. The subject was familiar to our colonial ancestors. They had been in the habit, especially in seasons of danger and difficulty, of forming associations more or less extensive. The necessity of union had been felt, its advantages perceived, its principles explained, the way to it pointed out, and the people of this country were led by the force of irresistible motives to resort to the same means of defence, when they considered that their liberties were in danger, not from the vexatious warfare of the Indian tribes, but from the formidable claims, and still more formidable power of the parent state.”
In 1765 a convention consisting of delegates from nine colonies was held at New York. This convention took into consideration the relation of the colonies to Great Britain, and made a declaration in form of what they considered to be the rights of the colonies.
In 1774, the twelve colonies which were spread over the country from Nova Scotia to Georgia, sent delegates to Philadelphia, “with authority and direction to meet and consult together for the common welfare." This assembly, representing as it did, all the English colonies on this Continent, with the exception of Georgia, has been denominated the first Continental Congress. Its great object was to concert measures for resisting the claims and the oppressions of the British government.
In 1775, a congress again assembled at Philadelphia, for the same general-purpose. Georgia soon after this meeting acceded to the confederacy by which the union of the thirteen colonies was completed.
The Union thus formed assumed the tone
and character of a regular sovereignty, and on the 4th of July, 1776, about fifty-nine years ago, Congress, in session at Philadelphia, solemnly declared in that memorable instrument, the “Declaration of Independence," that the colonies were and of right ought to be free and independent states. Then our national existence, though it had in fact commenced before, was first formally declared. Our claims to be regarded as an independent sovereignty were then first set forth to the nations of the earth. The Declaration of Independence was drawn up by Thomas Jefferson, one of its signers, then a representative in Congress from Virginia, and afterwards President of the United States.
This instrument contains certain simple, elementary truths or maxims on which the whole fabric of our free governments rests. It also comprises a complete enumeration of the causes which led to our separation from Great Britain. It expresses the reasons of what is, perhaps, the most important transaction in the whole history of our country. For these considerations it is
inserted in this book. Let no one, however, while he reads the enumeration of the injuries which this country once received from the British crown, be incited to any feelings of anger or resentment towards the present government or inhabitants of that country. They are in no wise concerned in these injuries. There now exists a harmony between Great Britain and the United States, such as should exist between brethren of the same family. The wound once made is healed. Let nothing serve to open it afresh. The two countries are now united in the bonds of peace. Let those bonds be forever sacred. Never, never come the day when any hand shall sunder them. Peace between nations, especially between those of the same blood and language, is no less beautiful than peace between individuals of the same family. "How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like precious ointment, like the dew upon the mountains of Zion, where the Lord commanded the blessing, even life forevermore.”