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History of Colonial/State Unions in America

The reference is The Old Guard Volume 3 Issue 3 Mar. 1865, page 97, by Governor Horatio Seymour, of New York, [the last great American Statesman]

In Summary of the article the following short history of government Unions of English Colonies/States in America.

1. "1st Union--United Colonies of New England-- The earliest colonial Union was formed between the New England colonies, in 1643. It was called, The United Colonies of New England, and a Perpetual league of friendship and amity. It was designed as a general defense against the Indians of their own section, and the Dutch of New Amsterdam, as the New York colony was called... The Union was what its name declared, a league, a purely federative organization, in which each colony retained unimpaired its internal separateness, and independence of the rest. The Rhode Island colony was never permitted to join this New England Union. It was kept out by the influence of Massachusetts, because those people were dissenters from the Puritan religion...But under the leading spirit of Massachusetts, even these Commissioners soon began to assume powers not belonging to them by the articles of the compact; until, at last, their usurpations were so great that a majority of the colonies caused the explosion of the Union in 1673. Thus ended the first “perpetual Union”, established among the American colonies, after a short and feverish life of thirty years.

2. The next trial for a Union between the colonies was made in 1690; when Massachusetts addressed a poposition to all the colonies, as far South as Maryland, to meet in convention at New York, for the purpose of affecting some combination, or union, for the general safety and defense. No delegates, however, attended this convention, except from New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. The only progress towards a Union, was an agreement between the colonies represented to furnish each its share of troops for the invasion of Canada. Six years later, viz., in 1696, New York and Massachusetts made a more decided effort to effect some kind of Union by which all the colonies might be induced to contribute their share towards the general safety and defense. No closer Union was proposed, because it was known that it could not succee…But the prejudice against any sort of colonial Union was too strong, and nothing came of all this prolonged effort, except the establishment of Courts of Admiralty among the colonial Governments. Even this slight approximation to colonial Union was bitterly opposed by some of the colonies.

3. In 1753, when the French were making raids upon the soil of Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and all along the banks of the Ohio River, it was found necessary to devise some plan to repel the invaders. Lord Holderness addressed a letter to all the colonies, proposing a meeting at Albany of delegates from the several assemblies, for the purpose of renewing the treaty with the Indians, so as to obtain their assistance in the conflict which was too evidently approaching. The meeting took place in June, 1754, at which, however, there were no delegates except from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the four New England colonies. At this convention, after the treaty with the Six Nations had been discussed, a proposition was introduced for a Union of all the colonies for self defense. A committee of one from each colony was appointed to draft a plan for such a Union. Dr. Franklin suggested a Grand Council of forty-eight members…This Council was to have power to arrange colonial defenses, apportion between the colonies the quotas of men and money, & c., & c; the head of the Council to be appointed by the king, under the title of President-General, with a veto power. The colonial assemblies promptly rejected this plan, on the ground that it gave two much power to the crown.

4. In 1765, a convention was called at New York, for the purpose of organizing some united action against the Stamp Act. This convention did nothing but to make a Declaration of Rights and Grievances, and after a session of three weeks adjourned. Thus matters dragged on for ten years longer...

5. 2nd Union--1st Constitution- United Colonies--1775-- The colonies evincing an almost unconquerable repugnance to any sort of political Union with each other, until the increasing exactions of the crown caused a grand convention of all at Philadelphia, on the 10th of May 1775, which effected a Union of all the colonies under the following style and title: Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, entered into by the delegates of the several colonies, AC., in general congress met at Philadelphia, May 10th 1775. The first accomplished Union embracing all the American colonies. Like the perpetual Union of the New England colonies, it was of short duration, lasting only three years...

6. 3rd Union--2nd Constitution- United States--1777-- The title of the new Union, and the three first articles of the instrument of re-confederation, leave no doubts as to its objects and character: ARTICLES of CONFEDERATION AND PERPETUAL UNION BETWEEN THE STATES OF NEW HAMPSHIRE, MASSACHUSETTS BAT, RHODE ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE PLANTATIONS, CONNECTICUT, NE YORK, NEW JERSEY, PENN- SYLVANIA, DELAWARE, MARYLAND, VIRGINIA, NORTH CAROLINA, SOUTH CAROLINA AND GEORGIA. ARTICLE I. The style of this Confederacy shall be The United States of America...

... ...On the 15th of November, 1777, the Congress formed new articles of confederation; and, by adopting these new articles, the several colonies seceded from the general Government they had formed less than three years before, in the following order: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina, on July 9th, 1778; North Carolina on July 21st, Georgia on July 24th, New Jersey on November 26th, Delaware on May 5th, 1779: and Maryland on March 1st, 1781. The progress of secession from this confederation, from the time when the first State ratified the new articles of Union, until the last ratified, embraced a period of nearly three years. In the first place, eight States seceded from the old into the new compact, and left five remaining. Then one went out. Then another. In four months another. In six months another. In two years afterwards the last. That was the end of the Perpetual Union, established in 1775.

7. 4th Union--3rd Constitution-1787--The frail and tottering edifice was ready to fall upon our heads, and crush us beneath its ruins. In order to relieve the country from these difficulties Virginia proposeed a convention of all the States, to devise some plan of more effective co-operation. Such a convention was called to meet at Annapolis, September, 1786. Only five States attended. But this small number made a strong appeal for a general convention which should try to so alter and amend the articles of compact as to give the general Government the power to raise means, and to become a more efficient agent of the general good. Finally this call was responded to by all the States, except Rhode Island, and the convention met at Philadelphia, May 25th, 1787 and closed its labors by framing our present Constitution, on the l7th of September, having been in session a little less than four months. This Constitution differs from the two previous constitutions between the States only in the number and extent of powers intrusted to the Federal Goverument. The character of the powers is in no manner changed they are still delegated or granted powers. The source of sovereignty is not in the smallest particular altered, but the agency of that sovereignty is enlarged; not for the agrandizement and glory of the Fedeyal Government, but for the better security of the State soverneignties. The preamble to the Constitution states its object to be to form a more perfect union, ensure domestic tranquility, and to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. The object of this third constitution is precisely the same as the two former. The relations of the States to each other, and to the Federal Government, were exactly what they were under the constitutions of l775 and of 1777....

It is a most fortunate thing for the head of Abraham Lincoln, and his hand of conspirators, that the men of this generation are made of less resolute and virtuous stuff. Had the deeds done by this administration been committed under the administration of Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams or Jackson, the perpetrators would have expiated their crimes upon the gallows."


Between the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Unions the process was the same- The Union being perpetual- was split between old and new to finally form one Union. The process to adopt a new Constitution between 1775 and 1777 was the same as the it was between the Constitutions of 1777 and 1787. Each Colony/State decided to stay in the old union or leave to the new union on its own time.

David Upton

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