When Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, that officially ended the war, but the hostilities continued until word made its way to all those still engaged in combat. Yet as soon as word reached Philadelphia, the Congress realized that they would need to choose delegates to negotiate a treaty of peace between themselves and the Crown. They chose John Adams, Henry Laurens, Benjamin Franklin, David Hartley, Richard Oswald and John Jay to represent them in the negotiations.
You have to remember one thing, back then they couldn’t just hop on a plane and be there in 10-12 hours; they had to board a wooden ship and travel across the Atlantic; a journey that could take from six to eight weeks, depending upon weather conditions on the open seas.
It was then, in April of 1782 that the delegations arrived in Paris and began their discussions; which lasted more than a year. One thing people need to remember, or learn if they didn’t know, is that the War for America’s independence was not only a war fought between the Colonies and England; it had spread into a global conflict involving both Spain and France as well. So the terms of peace were not limited to solving the dispute between the new independent Colonies and the Crown, it was settling disputes between all warring factions.
All parties were tired of the war and wanted peace, except for Spain that wished to continue until it gained control of the island of Gibraltar. In September French Foreign Minister Vergennes offered a means for Spain to accept peace without the British giving up Gibraltar; they would establish a Spanish held territory in the south of the colonies; in what we now call Florida.
The delegates from the Colonies were not content with the French proposal and sought to shut them out of the discussions entirely by dealing directly with the British. Hoping to get a better deal directly out of London, John Jay told the British that the U.S. was willing to negotiate directly with them. Prime Minister Shelburne agreed as he saw this as an opportunity to give the Americans more of what they wanted in return for them breaking free from a permanent alliance with France. This would create a powerful trading partner for England in the newly independent American Colonies.
From a purely political point of view it was a shrewd move by the American delegates, as they got a much better deal from the English. But if you look at it from a moral viewpoint, it was a stab in the back to the French; for had they not entered the war on our side it was very likely we would have lost and remained English colonies. Nonetheless, a year later, after the French had been cut out of negotiations, a treaty was signed by the representatives of the Crown and those representing the Colonies.
Much of the treaty of 1783 deals with navigation rights to the Mississippi, the borders of the newly established United States of America, fishing rights, and trade agreements; however it is the very first article of the treaty that I wish to focus your attention upon. The first article of the Paris Peace Treaty of 1783 declares, “His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and Independent States; that he treats with them as such, and for himself his Heirs & Successors…“
If you’ll notice, the King, in whose name the British negotiated the treaty for, recognizes each State to be free and independent from the others. That is a crucial point one has to understand if we are to continue; each State was, for all intents and purposes, a nation unto itself. Each State had written a constitution for itself, establishing a government to handle all the needs of those living within the independent States. In the America of 1783 the States were no different than Germany, Italy, Spain, and France, today; independent nations joined together in a confederation.
Prior to the negotiations for the peace treaty began, the then Colonies had finally ratified the Articles of Confederation; formally joining together for their mutual benefit and protection. The full title of the document establishing this first centralized government is, The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Although the title may sound like it created a consolidated union of the States, the text of the document itself proves that was anything but the case.
Article II of the Articles of Confederation states, “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”
And Article III of that document declares, “The said states hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defence, the security of their Liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretence whatever.”
Although it was not written into any man made law, it was widely accepted by the citizens of each Colony that political power and authority flowed upwards from the people; that is each citizen was sovereign unto themselves and that the only authority others might exercise over them must be delegated authority; otherwise the exercise of undelegated power became tyranny.
This was one of the key principles upon which our Founders based their decision to sever the political ties which bound them to England; that they were not represented in the British government, and that they no longer consented to the authority of a government that had sought to subjugate them and suppress their rights.
By ratifying the Articles of Confederation they were delegating certain powers to a unicameral legislative body, a Congress, to act on behalf of them all. Yet for any law passed by Congress to be binding upon them, it must first be agreed to by the State legislatures of all 13 States; which is found in Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation, “Every State shall abide by the determinations of the united states, in congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this confederation shall be inviolably observed by every state, and the union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them, unless such alteration be agreed to in a congress of the united states, and be afterwards con-firmed by the legislatures of every state.”
One final point I would like to bring to your attention before I pause before the next segment; in Article XIII you’ll notice that they refer to the united states using lowercase letters, not like we do today with the first letter of each word being capitalized; United States. If you’ll also note, in Article II they do refer to the United States as we are familiar with; being capitalized.
Why the difference? The use of capitalization back then was important, as it referred to a pronoun describing the item being discussed. The title of these States united was to be the United States; hence the capitalization. However, in Article XIII they use the lowercase, denoting that the States were united together for the common causes found within the Articles of Confederation.
Remember now, all political power is delegated, and since the people are the original source of all political power, they may delegate it to certain bodies, then those bodies may, by the consent of the people from whom their authority originates, delegate certain powers to a higher body. But never can those who are the holders of delegated power delegate MORE power than they themselves have been granted.
Think of it this way; if you hire a contractor to make repairs to your kitchen, and he needs to hire subcontractors to perform a portion of the work, that subcontractor cannot be given the authority to make repairs to your bathroom as well. So, if the people of the States had delegated certain powers to their State governments, then those State governments could not delegate more power to a central government than they themselves held.
Another way of looking at it is this; if you take a pyramid and divide it into segments, the wider portion at the bottom is the power held by the people. The next higher up level might be the local governments; mayors or commissioners voted for directly by the people. The next level up may be the State governments, and finally, above that, any central government. Each level up decreases in size and scope of their powers and authority. That is the true nature of political power and authority. The perversion of that principle is to invert the pyramid with the point at the bottom and say that is the amount of power held by the people, with each level up increasing in the amount of power it exercises upon those below it.
These are all important principles you must understand before I move on to the first step towards our future enslavement, the drafting of and ratification of our Constitution. Until then, ponder the things I have discussed in this segment.
~ The Author ~
Neal Ross, Student of history, politics, patriot and staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment. Send all comments to: email@example.com.
If you liked Neal’s latest column, maybe you’ll like his latest booklet: The Civil War: (The Truth You Have Not Been Told) AND don’t forget to pick up your copy of ROSS: Unmasked – An Angry American Speaks Out – and stay tuned – Neal has a new, greatly expanded book coming soon dealing with the harsh truths about the so-called American Civil War of 1861-1865. Life continues to expand for this prolific writer and guardian of TRUE American history.