1778: Articles of Confederation
- Collections: Law
- Collections: American Revolution & Constitution
Source: James McClellan's Liberty, Order, and Justice: An Introduction to the Constitutional Principles of American Government (3rd ed.) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).
Articles of Confederation (1778)
To all to whom these Presents shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States affixed to our names send greeting. Whereas the Delegates of the United States of America in Congress assembled did on the fifteenth day of November in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy seven, and in the Second Year of the Independence of America agree to certain articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, South-Carolina, and Georgia in the Words following, viz. “Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, South-Carolina and Georgia.
Art. I. The Stile of this confederacy shall be “The United States of America.”
Art. II. 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.
Art. III. 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.
Art. IV. The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this union, the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds and fugitives from Justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States; and the people of each State shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other State, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively, provided that such restriction shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any State, to any other State of which the owner is an inhabitant; provided also that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be laid by any State, on the property of the United States, or either of them.
If any Person guilty of, or charged with treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor in any State, shall flee from Justice, and be found in any of the United States, he shall upon demand of the Governor or executive power, of the State from which he fled, be delivered up and removed to the State having jurisdiction of his offence.
Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these States to the records, acts and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates to every other State.
Art. V. For the more convenient management of the general interests of the United States, delegates shall be annually appointed in such manner as the legislature of each State shall direct, to meet in Congress on the first Monday in November, in every year, with a power reserved to each State, to recall its delegates, or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send others in their stead, for the remainder of the Year.
No State shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor by more than seven Members; and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years; nor shall any person, being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the United States, for which he, or another for his benefit receives any salary, fees or emolument of any kind.
Each State shall maintain its own delegates in a meeting of the States, and while they act as members of the committee of the States.
In determining questions in the United States, in Congress assembled, each State shall have one vote.
Freedom of speech and debate in Congress shall not be impeached or questioned in any Court, or place out of Congress, and the members of Congress shall be protected in their persons from arrests and imprisonments, during the time of their going to and from, and attendance of Congress, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace.
Art. VI. No State without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, shall send any embassy to, or receive any embassy from, or enter into any conference, agreement, or alliance or treaty with any King, Prince or State; nor shall any person holding any office of profit or trust under the United States, or any of them, accept of any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any King, Prince or foreign State; nor shall the United States in Congress assembled, or any of them, grant any title of nobility.
No two or more States shall enter into any treaty, confederation or alliance whatever between them, without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, specifying accurately the purposes for which the same is to be entered into, and how long it shall continue.
No State shall lay any imposts or duties, which may interfere with any stipulations in treaties, entered into by the United States in Congress assembled, with any King, Prince or State, in pursuance of any treaties already proposed by Congress, to the courts of France and Spain.
No vessels of war shall be kept up in time of peace by any State, except such number only, as shall be deemed necessary by the United States in Congress assembled, for the defence of such State, or its trade; nor shall any body of forces be kept up by any State in time of peace, except such number only, as in the judgment of the United States, in Congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defence of such State; but every State shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage.
No State shall engage in any war without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, unless such State be actually invaded by enemies, or shall have received certain advice of a resolution being formed by some nation of Indians to invade such State, and the danger is so imminent as not to admit of a delay, till the United States in Congress assembled can be consulted: nor shall any State grant commissions to any ships or vessels of war, nor letters of marque or reprisal, except it be after a declaration of war by the United States in Congress assembled, and then only against the kingdom or State and the subjects thereof, against which war has been so declared, and under such regulations as shall be established by the United States in Congress assembled, unless such State be infested by pirates, in which case vessels of war may be fitted out for that occasion, and kept so long as the danger shall continue, or until the United States in Congress assembled shall determine otherwise.
Art. VII. When land-forces are raised by any State for the common defence, all officers of or under the rank of colonel, shall be appointed by the legislature of each State respectively by whom such forces shall be raised, or in such manner as such State shall direct, and all vacancies shall be filled up by the State which first made the appointment.
Art. VIII. All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several States, in proportion to the value of all land within each State, granted to or surveyed for any person, as such land and the buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated according to such mode as the United States in Congress assembled, shall from time to time direct and appoint. The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and direction of the legislatures of the several States within the time agreed upon by the United States in Congress assembled.
Art. IX. The United States in Congress assembled shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, except in the cases mentioned in the sixth article—of sending and receiving ambassadors—entering into treaties and alliances, provided that no treaty of commerce shall be made whereby the legislative power of the respective States shall be restrained from imposing such imposts and duties on foreigners, as their own people are subjected to, or from prohibiting the exportation or importation of any species of goods or commodities whatsoever—of establishing rules for deciding in all cases, what captures on land or water shall be legal, and in what manner prizes taken by land or naval forces in the service of the United States shall be divided or appropriated—of granting letters of marque and reprisal in times of peace—appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas and establishing courts for receiving and determining finally appeals in all cases of captures, provided that no member of Congress shall be appointed a judge of any of the said courts.
The United States in congress assembled shall also be the last resort on appeal in all disputes and differences now subsisting or that hereafter may arise between two or more States concerning boundary, jurisdiction or any other cause whatever; which authority shall always be exercised in the manner following: Whenever the legislative or executive authority or lawful agent of any State in controversy with another shall present a petition to Congress, stating the matter in question and praying for a hearing, notice thereof shall be given by order of Congress to the legislative or executive authority of the other State in controversy, and a day assigned for the appearance of the parties by their lawful agents, who shall then be directed to appoint, by joint consent, commissioners or judges to constitute a court for hearing and determining the matter in question; but if they cannot agree, Congress shall name three persons out of each of the United States, and from the list of such persons each party shall alternately strike out one, the petitioners beginning, until the number shall be reduced to thirteen; and from that number not less than seven, nor more than nine names as Congress shall direct, shall in the presence of Congress be drawn out by lot, and the persons whose names shall be so drawn or any five of them, shall be commissioners or judges, to hear and finally determine the controversy, so always as a major part of the judges who shall hear the cause shall agree in the determination; and if either party shall neglect to attend at the day appointed, without showing reasons which Congress shall judge sufficient, or being present shall refuse to strike, the Congress shall proceed to nominate three persons out of each State, and the secretary of Congress shall strike in behalf of such party absent or refusing; and the judgment and sentence of the court to be appointed, in the manner before prescribed, shall be final and conclusive; and if any of the parties shall refuse to submit to the authority of such court, or to appear to defend their claim or cause, the court shall nevertheless proceed to pronounce sentence, or judgment, which shall in like manner be final and decisive, the judgment or sentence and other proceedings being in either case transmitted to Congress, and lodged among the Acts of Congress for the security of the parties concerned: provided that every commissioner, before he sits in judgment, shall take an oath to be administered by one of the judges of the supreme or superior court of the State, where the cause shall be tried, “well and truly to hear and determine the matter in question, according to the best of his judgment, without favor, affection or hope of reward”: provided also that no State shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States.
All controversies concerning the private right of soil claimed under different grants of two or more States, whose jurisdictions as they may respect such lands, and the States which passed such grants are adjusted, the said grants or either of them being at the same time claimed to have originated antecedent to such settlement of jurisdiction, shall on the petition of either party to the Congress of the United States, be finally determined as near as may be in the same manner as is before prescribed for deciding disputes respecting territorial jurisdiction between different States.
The United States in Congress assembled shall also have the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by their own authority, or by that of the respective States—fixing the standard of weights and measures throughout the United States.— regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians, not members of any of the States, provided that the legislative right of any State within its own limits be not infringed or violated—establishing and regulating post-offices from one State to another, throughout all the United States, and exacting such postage on the papers passing thro’ the same as may be requisite to defray the expenses of the said office— appointing all officers of the land forces, in the service of the United States, excepting regimental officers—appointing all the officers of the naval forces, and commissioning all officers whatever in the service of the United States—making rules for the government and regulation of the said land and naval forces, and directing their operations.
The United States in Congress assembled shall have authority to appoint a committee, to sit in the recess of Congress, to be denominated “A Committee of the States,” and to consist of one delegate from each State; and to appoint such other committees and civil officers as may be necessary for managing the general affairs of the United States under their direction—to appoint one of their number to preside, provided that no person be allowed to serve in the office of president more than one year in any term of three years; to ascertain the necessary sums of money to be raised for the service of the United States, and to appropriate and apply the same for defraying the public expenses—to borrow money, or emit bills on the credit of the United States, transmitting every half year to the respective States an account of the sums of money so borrowed or emitted—to build and equip a navy—to agree upon the number of land forces, and to make requisitions from each State for its quota, in proportion to the number of white inhabitants in such State; which requisition shall be binding, and thereupon the legislature of each State shall appoint the regimental officers, raise the men and cloath, arm and equip them in a soldier like manner, at the expense of the United States, and the officers and men so cloathed, armed and equipped shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the United States in Congress assembled. But if the United States in Congress assembled shall, on consideration of circumstances, judge proper that any State should not raise men, or should raise a smaller number than its quota, and that any other State should raise a greater number of men than the quota thereof, such extra number shall be raised, officered, cloathed, armed and equipped in the same manner as the quota of such State, unless the legislature of such State shall judge that such extra number cannot be safely spared out of the same, in which case they shall raise officers, cloath, arm and equip as many of such extra number as they judge can be safely spared. And the officers and men so cloathed, armed and equipped, shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the United States in Congress assembled.
The United States in Congress assembled shall never engage in a war, nor grant letters of marque and reprisal in time of peace, nor enter into any treaties or alliances, nor coin money, nor regulate the value thereof, nor ascertain the sums and expenses necessary for the defence and welfare of the United States, or any of them, nor emit bills, nor borrow money on the credit of the United States, nor appropriate money, nor agree upon the number of vessels of war, to be built or purchased, or the number of land or sea forces to be raised, nor appoint a commander in chief of the army or navy, unless nine States assent to the same; nor shall a question on any other point, except for adjourning from day to day be determined, unless by the votes of a majority of the United States in Congress assembled.
The Congress of the United States shall have power to adjourn to any time within the year, and to any place within the United States, so that no period of adjournment be for a longer duration than the space of six months, and shall publish the Journal of their proceedings monthly, except such parts thereof relating to treaties, alliances or military operations as in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the delegates of each State on any question shall be entered on the Journal, when it is desired by any delegate; and the delegates of a State, or any of them, at his or their request shall be furnished with a transcript of the said Journal, except such parts as are above excepted, to lay before the legislatures of the several States.
Art. X. The Committee of the States, or any nine of them, shall be authorized to execute, in the recess of Congress, such of the powers of Congress as the United States in Congress assembled, by the consent of nine States, shall from time to time think expedient to vest them with; provided that no power be delegated to the said committee, for the exercises of which, by the articles of confederation, the voice of nine States in the Congress of the United States assembled is requisite.
Art. XI. Canada acceding to this confederation, and joining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into, and entitled to all the advantages of this union; but no other colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine States.
Art. XII. All bills of credit emitted, monies borrowed and debts contracted by, or under the authority of Congress, before the assembling of the United States, in pursuance of the present confederation, shall be deemed and considered as a charge against the United States, for payment and satisfaction whereof the said United States, and the public faith are hereby solemnly pledged.
Art. XIII. 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 confirmed by the legislatures of every State.
and whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said articles of confederation and perpetual union. know ye that we the undersigned delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to us given for that purpose, do by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said articles of confederation and perpetual union, and all and singular the matters and things therein contained. And we do further solemnly plight and engage the faith of our respective constituents, that they shall abide by the determinations of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions, which by the said confederation are submitted to them. And that the articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the States we respectively represent, and that the union shall be perpetual. In Witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands in Congress. Done at Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania the ninth Day of July in the Year of our Lord one Thousand seven Hundred and Seventy-eight, and in the third year of the independence of America.
It was a provision in the charters of the Virginia settlers granted by James I in 1606 and 1609, and in the charter to the colonists of Massachusetts in 1629; of the Province of Maine in 1639; of Connecticut in 1662; of Rhode Island in 1663; of Maryland in 1632; of Carolina in 1663; and of Georgia in 1732; that they and their posterity should enjoy the same rights and liberties which Englishmen were entitled to at home. Such privileges were implied by the law, without any express reservation.
James Kent, Commentaries on American Law (1826)
Formal declarations of rights, drawn from the common law, were incorporated in the earliest colonial legislation. Plymouth Colony, in the first of these, enumerated, among other privileges, that justice should be impartially and promptly administered, with trial by jury, and that no person should suffer in life, limb, liberty, good name, or estate, but by due process of law. Connecticut, in 1639, adopted an act closely similar. New York enacted, in 1691, that no freeman should be deprived of any rights, or liberties, or condemned, save by the judgment of his peers or the law of the land; that no tax should be levied except by act of the legislature in which the colonists were represented. … Massachusetts, in 1641, promulgated a Body of Liberties. … In like manner, declaration of rights was made by the legislature of Virginia in 1624 and 1676; by the legislature of Pennsylvania in 1682; of Maryland in 1639 and 1650; and of Rhode Island in 1663; and also by the proprietaries of Carolina in 1667, and of New Jersey in 1664, 1683, and at other dates. The assembly of Maryland of 1638–1639 declared Magna Carta to be the measure of their liberties.
Ellis Stevens, Sources of the Constitution of the United States (1927)
Key Documents of Liberty
- -1750: The Code of Hammurabi (Johns translation)
- -1750: The Code of Hammurabi (King translation)
- 1117: Articles of the Communal Charter of Amiens
- 1215: Magna Carta
- 1215: Magna Carta (Latin and English)
- 1602: Coke, Preface to the 2nd Part of the Reports (Pamphlet)
- 1619: Laws enacted by the First General Assembly of Virginia
- 1620: The Mayflower Compact
- 1621: Constitution for the Council and Assembly in Virginia
- 1628: Petition of Right
- 1629: Agreement of the Massachusetts Bay Company
- 1637: Providence Agreement
- 1638: Act for Church Liberties (Maryland)
- 1638: Act for the Liberties of the People (Maryland)
- 1639: Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
- 1640/1: The Triennial Act
- 1641: Massachusetts Body of Liberties
- 1641: The Act for the Abolition of the Court of Star Chamber
- 1641: The Act for the Abolition of the Court of High Commission
- 1641: The Tonnage and Poundage Act
- 1642: Organization of the Government of Rhode Island
- 1642: Propositions made by Parliament and Charles I’s Answer
- 1644: Williams, Bloody Tenet, of Persecution (Letter)
- 1647: Acts and Orders (Rhode Island)
- 1647: Laws and Liberties of Massachusetts
- 1647: The Agreement of the People, as presented to the Council of the Army
- 1647: The Putney Debates
- 1648/9: The Agreement of the People
- 1649: A Declaration of Parliament
- 1649: Ball, Rule of a Free-Born People (Pamphlet)
- 1649: Maryland Toleration Act
- 1649: Rous, Lawfulness of Obeying the Present Government (Pamphlet)
- 1658: Coke, Prohibitions del Roy (Pamphlet)
- 1660: Milton, A Free Commonwealth (Pamphlet)
- 1661: Act of the General Court (of Mass.)
- 1675: Shaftesbury, Letter from a Person of Quality (Pamphlet)
- 1675: Shaftesbury, Speech in Parliament (Pamphlet)
- 1679: Habeas Corpus Act
- 1682: Act for Freedom of Conscience (Penn.)
- 1682: Charter of the Liberties and Frame of Government of Pennsylvania
- 1683: Charter of Liberties and Privileges (New York)
- 1689: English Bill of Rights
- 1692: Shower, Reasons for a New Bill of Rights (Pamphlet)
- 1701: Pennsylvania Charter of Liberties
- 1736: Brief Narrative of the Trial of Peter Zenger
- 1744: Williams, Rights and Liberties of Protestants (Sermon)
- 1763: Otis, Rights of British Colonies Asserted (Pamphlet)
- 1765: Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress
- 1766: Mayhew, The Snare Broken (Sermon)
- 1774: Declaration and Resolves of the 1st Continental Congress
- 1776: Declaration of Independence (various drafts)
- 1776: Hutchinson, Strictures upon the Declaration of Independence
- 1776: Paine, Common Sense (Pamphlet)
- 1776: Virginia Declaration of Rights
- 1776: Witherspoon, Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men (Sermon)
- 1778: Articles of Confederation
- 1785: Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments
- 1786: Jefferson, Virginia Bill Establishing Religious Freedom
- 1787: Brutus, Essay II (Pamphlet)
- 1787: Brutus, Essay V (Pamphlet)
- 1787: Brutus, Letter I (Pamphlet)
- 1787: Centinel, Letter I (Pamphlet)
- 1787: Jay, Address to the People of N.Y. (Pamphlet)
- 1787: Letters from the Federal Farmer, Letter No. III
- 1787: Letters from the Federal Farmer, No. VII (Pamphlet)
- 1787: Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention
- 1787: Mason: Objections to the Proposed Constitution (Letter)
- 1787: Northwest Ordinance
- 1787: P. Webster, The Weakness of Brutus (Pamphlet)
- 1787: Ramsay, Address to the Freemen of Sth. Carolina (Speech)
- 1787: Selections from the Federalist (Pamphlets)
- 1787: US Constitution
- 1787: Virginia and New Jersey Plans
- 1787: Wilson, Address to the People of Philadelphia (Speech)
- 1788: Amendments recommended by the Several State Conventions
- 1789: French Declaration of the Rights of Man
- 1789: Madison, Speech Introducing Proposed Amendments to the Constitution
- 1790: Hamilton, First Report on Public Credit
- 1790: Jefferson, Memorandum on the Compromise of 1790
- 1790: Price, Discourse on the Love of Our Country (Sermon)
- 1791: Hamilton, Opinion as to the Constitutionality of the Bank of the US
- 1791: Jefferson, Opinion against the Constitutionality of a National Bank
- 1791: Madison, Speech on the Bank Bill
- 1791: US Bill of Rights (1st 10 Amendments) - with commentary
- 1793: French Republic Constitution of 1793
- 1793: Helvidius (Madison), No. 1 (Pamphlet)
- 1793: Pacificus (Hamilton), No. 1 (Pamphlet)
- 1796: George Washington’s “Farewell Address” (Speech)
- 1798-1992: US Bill of Rights Amendments (XI-XXVII)
- 1798: Alien and Sedition Acts
- 1798: Counter-resolutions of Other States
- 1798: Kentucky Resolutions
- 1798: Kentucky Resolutions (Jefferson’s Draft)
- 1798: Virginia Resolutions
- 1799: Report of the Virginia House of Delegates
- 1801: Jefferson, 1st Annual Message
- 1801: Jefferson, 1st Inaugural Address
- 1802: Jefferson, Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association (Letter)
- 1830: French Charter of 1830
- 1863: Emancipation Proclamation
- 1863: The Gettysburg Address
- 1865: U.S. Constitution, Thirteenth Amendment
- Pocket Guide to Political and Civic Rights