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as to what it was proper to do under the circumstances, he replied with promptitude and decision, “If you would allay the rage of the people, burn the vessel together with its contents.” It was not many hours afterwards when a great concourse of people assembled upon the water front saw the bright light of a conflagration, which burned the vessel to the water's edge, and there went up a great shout of patriotic satisfaction.
In 1776 CHARLES CARROLL was appointed a commissioner, with Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Chase, and John Carroll, to induce the inhabitants of Canada to join with the thirteen colonies in their antagonism to British tyranny. This mission was unsuccessful. Influences which it would be futile to mention in the present caused the Canadians to refrain from uniting with the American revolutionists in their great struggle for liberty.
On his return to Philadelphia, CARROLL found that the Continental Congress was engaged in debate and discussion upon the proposition that not only should there be resistance to the unjust taxation of the British Parliament, but that the colonists had now reached a vantage ground upon which they should assert their independence of English rule. CARROLL found that Chase and his colleagues, who had been chosen to represent Maryland, would be unable to vote for this Declara- . tion, by reason of instructions which had been placed as a restriction upon them by the assembly which gave them their credentials.
In a moment his mind, which was quick of perception, saw the danger of this opposition, for the action of the Maryland delegates in refusing to sign the instrument might have a fatal effect upon its intent and frustrate its purpose. The national sentiment had reached its height. The moment for decisive action had arrived. In order to make the action of the Congress effective it must be unanimous, and therefore CARROLL, with a celerity in those days unprecedented, journeyed to
Annapolis. In haste he proceeded to the convention, and with resolute demeanor, while it was yet in session, entered the chamber, procured recognition, and at once began the delivery of an address which seems an inspiration; so forceful in its nature was it that he procured a repeal of the instructions, and on that day, the 28th of June, prevailed upon the convention to send new instructions to the delegates at Philadelphia, abrogating those formerly issued and directing them to vote for the Declaration.
In the first days of July he was appointed a Delegate to Congress, and notwithstanding his strenuous effort to reach Philadelphia in time for the passage of the Declaration, he was too late to cast his vote in its favor; but when the Delegates were called upon to sign their names to the immortal document John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress, asked him if he would sign it. “Most willingly,” rang out the clear voice of CARROLL, and he stepped forward and affixed his name; but as he did so some one suggested that it was an act for which possibly His Majesty the King of England might at some future time urgently require his presence, and that there were other Carrolls in Maryland. Therefore he again took the pen and added, “of Carrollton.” “That the British King might know where to find him to answer for his treason." Thus we find that while CHARLES CARROLL was not of the committee which drew that great state paper, while he could not claim authorship or inspiration as did Jefferson and Franklin, yet upon his action depended its acceptance and success.
During the great struggle which followed, which, indeed, had already begun, until its final consummation, CHARLES CARROLL labored without ceasing. The friend and confidential adviser of Washington, serving in many capacities; in Congress, in the State legislature, ever faithful and loyal, ready and willing to give freely of his services and his means, that the Declaration for which he had pledged “his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor” should triumph.
The Declaration of Independence is, in my humble opinion, the most important act of the American people. Its adoption was hailed with patriotic exultation by the colonists. Amid the peals of old Liberty Bell from the tower of the hall in which Congress deliberated freedom was proclaimed. It was the beginning of a new era in government. It not only gave notice to the world that the American colonies were, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, but it went further and beyond that. It declared that all men were born free and equal, and endowed with certain inalienable rights, among which should be mentioned “ life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Aye, it went beyond that, and it laid down resolutely and firmly the doctrine that all just government must derive its authority from the governed. The world was astonished; Britain was stunned by the blow; Metternich, the statesman of the old school, who was guiding the fortunes and diplomacy of continental Europe, laughed and said that “a government so founded must be ephemeral in its nature and would soon pass away by reason of internal dissensions." But his prophecy was vain; his judgment was clouded; for upon that Declaration was founded a new nation, conceived and born in liberty, fraternity, and equality, and it was the intention of the fathers, the framers, the patriots; it was the intention of CHARLES CARROLL and John HANSON, as evidenced in many of their utterances, that America should not only have freedom for herself, but should inculcate liberty and advance, protect, and defend freedom for all the nations and peoples of the earth.
The Declaration of Independence is the grandest exposition of the noble heritage which of right belongs to a patriotic, liberty-loving people that has ever been penned, spoken, proclaimed, or sung by man. It is splendid in conception, magnificent in its dignified statement, majestic in its ever-increasing power, as it names, condemns, lifts up to scorn the encroachments, oppressions, and tyrannies of the English Government,
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and becomes sublime as it hurls its maledictions upon wrong, breaks the bonds that bound the colonists, and proclaims liberty to the world. It is not organic law, it has not the force of the Constitution in courts of law, but, sir, in the day the Declaration of Independence is not the supreme law in the hearts and minds of the American people, the Constitution will be no longer respected and the national life will be endangered. Therefore it should stand first, sacred, inviolate.
During the same time that the Continental Congress was employed in fashioning and adopting the Declaration of Independence there was also appointed a committee to formulate a plan of government for the union of the thirteen colonies into a league for the mutual protection and defense, that they might in union wage war upon Britain and achieve a common independence. These articles do not evidence the same high spirit that was manifested in the Declaration. Rival interests, sectional differences, various contentions which had been forgotten in the lofty and noble patriotic enthusiasm of the Declaration were plainly seen in the twenty articles which were reported to the convention. After the adoption of the Declaration a long struggle took place upon these Articles of Confederation. They were finally adopted by the convention on the 15th day of November, 1777.
The Declaration had dealt with the people of the United States. The Articles of Confederation dealt with sovereign Commonwealths, and here we find the beginning of the two ideas which fought for supremacy from the first hour of our appearance in the arena of nations until the end of the great civil war—the one for Federal supremacy, the other for State sovereignty.
These Articles of Confederation were ratified in July, 1778, by delegates from all the States in the Union save three. They were subsequently signed by New Jersey on November 25, 1778, by Delaware February 22, 1779, and Maryland March 1, 1781. It will be seen that the State of Maryland was the last to give adhesion to the plan of the Confederacy. The reason for her long and strenuous opposition was that JOHN HANSON and Daniel Carroll, of her Delegates in Congress, assumed a position upon the question of the Western domain which was at length successful and which time has demonstrated to have been supremely wise.
Beyond the confines of the original States lay the great “Northwest Territory.” Several of the Commonwealths claimed extravagant area because of the ill, or rather undefined, boundary. Maryland refused to ratify unless these claims were surrendered, for she contended that the vast tracts of land rescued from the common enemy by mutual effort should be common property and inure to the benefit of the National Government. This position was maintained for five years. HANSON and CARROLL labored assiduously to remove the impediments existing, and at length succeeded in arousing the other States to a sense of the importance of the question and effected a compromise. Thereupon they were empowered to sign the ratification for Maryland.
After these years of struggle we find Maryland, though the last of the States to accede to the proposition, gave her assent to the ratification of the Articles of Confederation graciously and gladly on March 1, 1781, and made plain the way for the beginning of government under the Confederacy. The Revolutionary or Provisional Congress passed away. In its stead the new Congress, under the government of the Confederacy, was convened on March 2, 1781, under the title of “United States of America."
Under this plan of government there is what may appear to us now a strange condition. There is absent every particle of executive power in this Confederacy; the Congress is the legislative power, and in truth the only governing power recognized in the Republic. The reason for this is to the student of history very plain. The patriots of the Revolution had so long suffered from executive power as imposed by Parliament