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England and the United Provinces in 1652, the Federal Commissioners determined to carry it on in America; but the Massachusetts General Court steadily refused to be bound by the decision of the six Commissioners from the other Colonies. Their action was no doubt right upon the merits; none the less it was a direct defiance of the federal authority. The contention of Massachusetts was that the Commissioners had not power to determine the justice of an offensive war, so as to oblige the several Colonies to act accordingly; and, whatever be thought of their interpretation of the actual language, the fact that the Commissioners could not execute their own orders or provide the necessary revenue made the consent of Massachusetts a practical necessity. Although Massachusetts succeeded in her object, she afterwards admitted that her interpretation of the article could not be sustained. In 1667, however, a new clause was introduced providing that the power of determining the question of an offensive war should rest with the several General Courts, and not with the Commissioners, without special instructions from their respective General Courts. A more serious blow, however, and one from which it never really recovered, was given to the Confederation when, in cynical disregard of the express terms of one of its articles, Connecticut obtained the inclusion of New Haven in its charter signed in 1662. New Haven resented bitterly the action of Connecticut; and only yielded in 1664, when the prospect of a still worse fate, that of becoming absorbed in the new province of the Duke of York, loomed on the horizon. In any case, with the fate of New Haven present before men's eyes, the year of New England federation had lost, if it ever possessed, its spring. A feeble protest was made by the Commissioners in September, 1663; but they were powerless against accomplished facts. It was no wonder that in 1665 Plymouth proposed the dissolution of the confederacy.
Annual sessions, which had hitherto been held regularly, ceased after 1664. The disappearance of New Haven was followed by an order declaring that the Commissioners would only meet triennially; and, in 1670, certain alterations were proposed in the articles, which were ratified in 1672. In the articles as proposed in 1670, the quotas to be furnished by Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Connecticut were respectively 100, 45, and 90. As finally settled, they were 100, 30, and 60. After the outbreak of Philip's War in 1675, several meetings were held and forces raised by the Commissioners, but after the Indians had been finally subdued their period of activity came to an end; and, with the revocation of the Massachusetts charter in 1684, the New England Confederation became a thing of the past.
But, though the Confederation of the United Colonies never played a conspicuous part in the political field, owing partly to its inherent weakness, partly to the overwhelming superiority of Massachusetts and the general prevalence of particularist tendencies, still in more modest ways it accomplished good work. The Commissioners busied themselves on behalf of education and of missionary enterprise. It was owing to their action that special efforts were made on behalf of Harvard College, 'that school of the prophets,' by the Massachusetts and Connecticut General Courts; and the Commissioners seem to have been generally regarded as the natural pillars of New England orthodoxy. When, in 1649, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was set on foot in England, the Commissioners of the United Colonies were made the conduit pipe by which the funds should be administered. It is noteworthy that although, so far as the English Government was concerned, the establishment of the Confederation had been a wholly unauthorized proceeding, yet after the Stuart restoration no change was made in this respect. The joint efforts of the Society in England and of the Commissioners in New
England in the work of converting and civilizing the Indians continued, until they were brought to a sudden end by the catastrophe of Philip's War.
We have seen that the New England Confederation was a purely American affair, resolved upon and carried through without any consultation of the Home Government. But, as the English authorities, upon the whole, strengthened their hold upon the Colonies, and as the danger of French aggression in America grew year by year greater, it became the rôle of the Home Government to urge some form of union, and that of the jealous and short-sighted Colonies, each developing in its own way a separate provincial life to brush aside such advice with suspicion and distrust. The way out of the difficulty attempted by James II need not detain us. To add government to government, and lump the whole under a single autocrat, was one method of union; but it was a method deeply repugnant to all that was best in the temper of Englishmen, whether at home or abroad, and one not at all suited to American soil. None the less the mischief against which James's brutal statesmanship was directed was a real one, and it is interesting to observe that two of the ablest men who were connected with the American Colonies put forward plans for meeting the mischief. That of Penn, inasmuch as it remained without any consequences, need not detain us. It was, from his own point of view, no doubt a purely opportunist proposal. The system attempted by the Board of Trade of settling the quotas of men to be furnished for purposes of defence by the various Colonies had broken down in
1 A scheme very similar to Penn's was suggested in the Introduction to Daniel Coxe's Description of Carolana, 1722. Coxe was an indefatigable but unlucky empire builder, on paper, whose claims bulk large in the State Papers of the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries.
practice; and a shrewd courtier Quaker, like Penn, might well recognize that the stolid resistance of the colonists to any kind of mutual assistance might in the end lead to some invasion of colonial liberties. As proprietor of his thriving province, he was in a continual dilemma, between the Scylla of the colonists' aversion to the payment of their just dues and the Charybdis of the distrust of him felt at the Court of William III. His plan of a federal union is a rudimentary scheme enough, lacking any explanation of the means by which the decisions of the deputies at the General Assembly were to be enforced. Still it is of interest as a recognition of the evil; the final outcome of which was to be George Grenville's Stamp Act and the American Revolution.
FRANKLIN'S SCHEME OF FEDERATION.
As time went on, the mischief against which union was necessary grew in size and gravity, whilst the Colonies became more selfishly absorbed, each in its own private concerns, and less and less inclined to follow the leading of the English governors. Especially in dealings with the Indians did the evils of a division of governments and of policies come to the fore. A meeting of Commissioners from the various Colonies was held in July, 1754, according to the instructions of the Board of Trade. The idea of union was in the air, and Franklin took advantage of this meeting to put forward the proposals for a more general union of the Colonies which are here set out. The scheme was adopted by the Commissioners; but it was in fact far ahead of the public opinion of the time, and was met with a chorus of disapproval by the various Assemblies. Upon the other hand, the Home Government might naturally be suspicious of Franklin's plan, as involving too great an invasion of the prerogative. The Board of Trade itself, in the same year, suggested a more limited kind of union confined to the subject of military defence. In submitting its plan the Board
pointed out that, in case one or more of the Colonies refused to enter into the union, either by failing to send representatives or by refusing to raise the required money, no other method of persuasion would be possible, except 'an application for the interposition of the authority of Parliament'. It is thus clear that the contemptuous rejection of the Albany plan of union by the colonial Assemblies cleared the way for the imposition of Parliamentary taxation. But it is possible that, had the Home Government ignored the opposition of the Assemblies, and legislated in the direction of the Albany plan, the Colonies might at the time have acquiesced in their decision. Still, it is unfair to suggest, as was suggested by Franklin, that part of the blame for the rejection of his plan rested on the shoulders of the Home Government. The Board of Trade contented itself with pointing out that whilst the Commissioners had considered the questions of the management and direction of Indian affairs, the strengthening of the frontiers, and the providing for these services by a general plan of union, they had refrained from making suggestions with regard to the two first, before the establishment of the union. With respect to the plan itself the Board of Trade dryly reported: The Commissioners having agreed upon a plan of union, which, as far as their sense and opinion of it goes, is complete in itself, we shall not presume to make any observations upon it, but transmit it simply for your Majesty's consideration.' In fact, the general situation in America soon became far too serious to admit of leisure for the elaboration of new Constitutions.
Meanwhile, it should be noted that Franklin's plan was a great improvement over previous proposals, because his Grand Council would have power to make laws and levy general duties and taxes. It would thus have come into direct contact with the individual taxpayer and have possessed power as well as authority. The difficulty of reconciling the rival principles of provincial equality and