History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 4

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I.
HOW THE LAND RECEIVED THE LEGACY OF WASHINGTON.
JUNE-DECEMBER 1783.

ALL movements conspired to form for the thirteen states a constitution, sooner than they dared to hope and “better than they knew.” “The love of union and the resistance to the claims of Great Britain were the inseparable inmates of the same bosom. Brave men from different states, risking life and everything valuable in a common cause, believed by all to be most precious, were confirmed in the habit of considering America as their country and congrese as their govemment.”* Acting as one, they had attained independence. Moreover, it was their fixed belief that they had waged battle not for themselves alone, but for the hopes and the rights of mankind; and this faith overleapt the limits of separate commonwealths with the force of a religious conviction. For eighteen years the states had watched together over their liberties; for eight they had borne arms together to preserve them; for more than two they had been confederates under a compact to remain united forever.

The federation excelled every one that had preceded it. Inter-citizenship and mutual equality of rights between all its members gave to it a new character and an enduring unity. The Hebrew commonwealth was intensely exclusive, both by descent and from religion; every Greek republic grew out of famibes and tribes; the word nation originally implied a common ancestry. All mediæval republics, like the Roman municipales, rested on privilege. The principle of inter-citi

* Marshall in Van Santvoord’s Chief Justices of the United States, 314, 316.

-89-

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