Journals of the Continental Congress - Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union; July 12, 1776

Articles of confederation and perpetual union, between the colonies of (1)

New Hampshire, The counties of New Castle,Kent
Massachusetts Bay, and, Sussex on Delaware,
Rhode Island, Maryland,
Connecticut, Virginia,
New York, North Carolina,
New Jersey, South Carolina, and
Pennsylvania, Georgia.


THE Name of this Confederacy shall be "THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA."


The said Colonies unite themselves so as never to be divided by any Act whatever, and 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 the said Colonies to assist one another 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.


Each Colony shall retain and enjoy as much of its present Laws, Rights and Customs, as it may think fit, and reserves to itself the sole and exclusive Regulation and Government of its internal police, in all matters that shall not interfere with the Articles of this Confederation.(2)


No Colony or Colonies, without the Consent of the United States in Congress assembled, shall send any Embassy to or receive any Embassy from, or enter into any Treaty, Convention or Conference with the King or Kingdom of Great-Britain, or any foreign Prince or State; nor shall any Colony or Colonies, nor any Servant or Servants of the United States, or of any Colony or Colonies, accept of any Present, Emolument, Office, or Title of any Kind whatever, from the King or Kingdom of Great-Britain, or any foreign Prince or State; nor shall the United States assembled, or any Colony grant any Title of Nobility.


No two or more Colonies shall enter into any Treaty, Confederation or Alliance whatever between them, without the previous and free Consent and Allowance 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.


The Inhabitants of each Colony shall henceforth always have the same Rights, Liberties, Privileges, Immunities and Advantages, in the other Colonies, which the said Inhabitants now have, in all Cases whatever, except in those provided for by the next following Article.


The Inhabitants of each Colony shall enjoy all the Rights, Liberties, Privileges, Immunities, and Advantages, in Trade, Navigation, and Commerce, in any other Colony, and in going to and from the same from and to any Part of the World, which the Natives of such Colony or any Commercial Society, established by its Authority shall enjoy.


Each Colony may assess or lay such Imposts or Duties as it thinks proper, on Importations or Exportations, provided such Imposts or Duties do not interfere with any Stipulations in Treaties hereafter entered into by the United States assembled, with the King or Kingdom of Great Britain, or any foreign Prince or State.


No standing Army or Body of Forces shall be kept up by any Colony or Colonies in Times of Peace, except such a Number only as may be requisite to garrison the Forts necessary for the Defence of such Colony or Colonies: But every Colony shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined Militia, sufficiently armed and accoutred; 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 Ammunition, and ether Camp Equipage.(3)


When Troops are raised in any of the Colonies for the common Defence, the Commission Officers proper for the Troops raised in each Colony, except the General Officers, shall be appointed by the Legislature of each Colony respectively, or in such manner as shall by them be directed.


All Charges of Wars and all other Expences that shall be incurred for the common Defenee, or general Welfare, and allowed by the United States in General Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common Treasury, which shall be supplied by the several Colonies in Proportion to the Number of Inhabitants of every Age, Sex and Quality, except Indians not paying Taxes, in each Colony, a true Account of which, distinguishing the white(4) Inhabitants who are not slaves, shall be triennially taken and transmitted to Congress the Assembly of the United States. The Taxes for paying that Proportion shall be laid and levied by the Authority and Direction of the Legislatures of the several Colonies, within the Time agreed upon by United States assembled.(5)


Every Colony shall abide by the Determinations of the United States in General Congress assembled, concerning the Services performed and Losses or Expences incurred by every Colony for the common Defence or general Welfare, and no Colony or Colonies shall in any Case whatever endeavor by Force to procure Redress of any Injury or Injustice supposed to be done by the United States to such Colony or Colonies in not granting such Satisfactions, Indemnifications, Compensations, Retributions, Exemptions, or Benefits of any Kind, as such Colony or Colonies may think just or reasonable.


No Colony or Colonies shall engage in any War without the previous Consent of the United States assembled, unless such Colony or Colonies be actually invaded by Enemies, or shall have received certain Advice of a Resolution being formed by some Nations of Indians to invade such Colony or Colonies, and the Danger is so imminent, as not to admit of a Delay, till the other Colonies can be consulted: Nor shall any Colony or Colonies 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 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 assembled.(6)


A perpetual Alliance, offensive and defensive, is to be entered into by the United States assembled as soon as may be, with the Six Nations, and all other neighbouring Nations of Indians; their Limits to be ascertained, their Lands to be secured to them, and not encroached on; (7) no Purchases of Lands, hereafter to be made of the Indians by Colonies or private Persons before the Limits of the Colonies are ascertained, to be valid: All Purchases of Lands not included within those Limits, where ascertained, to be made by Contracts between the United States assembled, or by Persons for that Purpose authorized by them, and the great Councils of the Indians, for the general Benefit of all the United Colonies.(8)


When the Boundaries of any Colony shall be ascertained by Agreement, or in the Manner herein after directed, all the other Colonies shall guarantee to such Colony the full and peaceable Possession of, and the free and entire Jurisdiction in and over the Territory included within such Boundaries.(9)


For the more convenient Management of the general Interests of the United States, Delegates should be annually appointed in such Manner as the Legislature of each Colony shall direct, or such Branches thereof as the Colony shall authorize for that purpose, to meet in General Congress at the City of Philadelphia, in the Colony of Pennsylvania, until otherwise ordered by Congress the United States assembled; which Meeting shall be on the first Monday of November in every Year, with a Power reserved to those who appointed the said Delegates, respectively to supercede recal them or any of them at any time within the Year, and to send new Delegates in their stead for the Remainder of the Year. Each Colony shall support its own Delegates in Congress a Meeting of the States, and while they act as Members of the Council of State, herein after mentioned.(10)


In determining Questions in Congress each Colony shall have one Vote.


The United States assembled shall have the sole and exclusive Right and Power of determining on Peace and War, except in the Cases mentioned in the thirteenth Article-Of establishing Rules for deciding in all Cases, what Captures on Land or Water shall be legal-In what Manner Prizes taken by land or naval Forces in the Service of the United States shall be divided or appropriated-Granting Letters of Marque and Reprisal in Times of Peace-Appointing Courts for the Trial of all Crimes, Frauds and Piracies committed on the High Seas, or on any navigable River, not within the Body of a County or Parish-Establishing Courts for receiving and determining finally Appeals in all Cases of Captures-Sending and receiving Ambassadors under any Character-Entering into Treaties and Alliances-Settling all Disputes and Differences now subsisting, or that hereafter may arise between two or more Colonies concerning Boundaries, Jurisdictions, or any other Cause whatever-Coining Money and regulating the Value thereof-Regulating the Indian Trade, and managing all Indian Affairs with the Indians-Limiting the Bounds of those Colonies, which by Charter or Proclamation, or under any Pretence, are said to extend to the South Sea, and ascertaining those Bounds of any other Colony that appear to be indeterminate-Assigning Territories for new Colonies, either in Lands to he thus separated from Colonies and heretofore purchased or obtained by the Crown of Great-Britain from the Indians, or hereafter to be purchased or obtained from them-Disposing of all such Lands for the general Benefit of all the United Colonies-Ascertaining Boundaries to such new Colonies, within which Forms of Government are to be established on the Principles of Liberty(12)-Establishing and regulating Post-Offices throughout all the United Colonies, on the Lines of Communication from one Colony to another-Appointing General Officers of the Land Forces in the Service of the United States--Commissioning such other Officers of the said Forces as shall be appointed by Virtue of the tenth Article-Appointing all the Officers of the Naval Forces in the Service of the United States-Making Rules for the Government and Regulation of the said Land and Naval Forces, and directing the Marches, Cruises and operations of such land and naval Forces-Appointing a Council of State, and such Committees and civil Officers as may be necessary for managing the general Affairs of the United States, under their Direction while assembled, and in their Recess, of the Council of State-Appointing one of their number to preside, and a suitable Person for Secretary-And adjourning to any Time within the Year.

The United States assembled shall have Authority for the Defence and Welfare of the United Colonies and every of them, to agree upon and fix the necessary Sums and Expences-To emit Bills, or to borrow Money on the Credit of the United Colonies-To raise Naval Forces- To agree upon the Number of Land Forces to be raised, and to make Requisitions from the Legislature of each Colony, or the Persons therein authorized by the Legislature to execute such Requisitions, for the Quota of each Colony, which is to be in Proportion to the Number of white inhabitants in that Colony who are not slaves, which Requisitions shall be binding, and thereupon the Legislature of each Colony or the Persons authorized as aforesaid, shall appoint the Regimental Officers, and raise the Men, and arm and equip them in a soldier-like Manner; and the Officers and Men so armed and equipped, shall march to the Place appointed, and within the Time agreed on by the United States assembled.

But if the United States assembled shall on Consideration of Circumstances judge proper, that any Colony or Colonies should not raise Men, or should raise a smaller Number than the Quota or Quotas of such Colony or Colonies, and that any other Colony or Colonies should raise a greater number of men than the Quota or Quotas thereof, such extra-numbers shall be raised, officered, armed and equipped in the same Manner as the Quota or Quotas of such Colony or Colonies, unless the Legislature of such Colony or Colonies respectively, shall judge, that such extra-numbers cannot be safely spared out of the same, in which Case they shall raise, officer, arm and equip as many of such extra-numbers as they judge can be safely spared; and the Officers and Men so armed and equip[p]ed shall march to the Place appointed, and within the Time agreed on by the United States assembled.

To establish the same Weights and Measures throughout the United Colonies.

But the United States assembled shall never impose or levy any Taxes or Duties, except in managing the Post-Office, nor interfere in the internal Police of any Colony, any further than such Police may be affected by the Articles of this Confederation. The United States assembled shall never engage the United Colonies in a War, nor grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal in Time of Peace, nor enter into Treaties or Alliances, nor coin Money nor regulate the Value thereof, nor agree upon nor fix the Sums and Expences necessary for the Defence and Welfare of the United Colonies, or any of them, nor emit Bills, nor borrow Money on the Credit of the United Colonies, nor raise Naval Forces, nor agree upon the Number of Land Forces to be raised, unless the Delegates of nine Colonies freely assent to the same: (13) Nor shall a Question on any other Point, except for adjourning, be determined, unless the Delegates of seven Colonies vote in the affirmative.

No Person shall be capable of being a Delegate for more than three Years in any Term of six Years.

No Person holding any Office under the United States, for which he, or another for his Benefit, receives any Salary, Fees, or Emolument of any Kind, shall be capable of being a Delegate.

The Assembly of the United States to publish the Journal of their Proceedings monthly, except such Parts thereof relating to Treaties, Alliances, or military Operations, as in their Judgment require Secrecy-The Yeas and Nays of the Delegates of each Colony on any Question to he entered on the Journal, where it is desired by any Delegate; and the Delegates of a Colony, or any of them, at his or their Request, to be furnished with a Transcript of the said Journal, except such Parts as are above excepted, to lay before the Legislatures of the several Colonies.(14)


The Council of State shall consist of one Delegate from each C[o]lony, to be named annually by the Delegates of each Colony, and where they cannot agree, by the United States assembled.(15)

The Business and Duty of This Council shall have Power to receive and open all Letters directed to the United States, and to return proper Answers; but not to make any Engagements that shall be binding on the United States-To correspond with the Legislature of each Colony, and all Persons acting under the Authority of the United States, or of the said Legislatures-To apply to such Legislatures, or to the Officers in the several Colonies who are entrusted with the executive Powers of Government, for occasional Aid whenever and wherever necessary-To give Counsel to the Commanding Officers, and to direct military Operations by Sea and Land, not changing any Objects or Expeditions determined on by the United States assembled, unless an Alteration of Circumstances which shall come to the Knowledge of the Council after the Recess of the States, shall malice such Change absolutely necessary-To attend to the Defence and Preservation of Forts and strong Posts, and to prevent the Enemy from acquiring new Holds--To procure Intelligence of the Condition and Designs of the Enemy-To expedite the Execution of such Measures as may be resolved on by the United States assembled, in Pursuance of the Powers hereby given to them-To draw upon the Treasurers for such Sums as may be appropriated by the United States assembled, and for the Payment of such Contracts as the said Council may make in Pursuance of the Powers hereby given to them- To superintend and controul or suspend all Officers civil and military, acting under the Authority of the United States-In Case of the Death or Removal of any Officer within the Appointment of the United States assembled, to employ a Person to fulfill the Duties of such Office until the Assembly of the States meet-To publish and disperse authentic Accounts of military Operations-To summon an Assembly of the States at an earlier Day than that appointed for their next Meeting, if any great and unexpected Emergency should render it necessary for the Safety or Welfare of the United Colonies or any of them-To prepare Matters for the Consideration of the United States, and to lay before them at their next Meeting all Letters and Advices received by the Council, with a Report of their Proceedings-To appoint a proper Person for their Clerk, who shall take an Oath of Secrecy and Fidelity, before he enters on the Exercise of his Office- Seven Members shall have Power to act-In Case of the Death of any Member, the Council shall immediately apply to his surviving Colleagues to appoint some one of themselves to be a Member thereof till the Meeting of the States, and if only one survives, they shall give him(16) immediate Notice, that he may take his Seat as a Councilor till such Meeting.(17)


Canada acceding to this Confederation, and entirely joining in the Measures of the United Colonies, 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 the Delegates of nine Colonies.

These Articles shall be proposed to the Legislatures of all the United Colonies, to be by them considered, and if approved by them, they are advised to authorize their Delegates to ratify the same in the Assembly of the United States, which being done, the foregoing Articles of this Confederation shall inviolably be observed by every Colony, and the Union is to be perpetual: Nor shall any Alteration be at any Time hereafter made in these Articles or any of them, unless such Alteration be agreed to in an Assembly of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the Legislatures of every Colony.(18)

Resolved, That eighty copies, and no more, of the confederation, as brought in by the committee, be immediately printed, and deposited with the secretary, who shall deliver one copy to each member:

That a committee of be appointed to superintend the press, who shall talk care that the foregoing resolution [unfinished]

That the printer be under oath to deliver all the copies, which he shall print, together with the copy sheet, to the secretary, and not to disclose either directly or indirectly, the contents of the said confederation:

(1) The Articles of Confederation as first laid before Congress and ordered to be printed are in the Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 47. The original manuscript is in the writing of John Dickinson (folio 9,) but was used by Charles Thomson in noting such changes or amendments as were made in Congress, before the Articles were ordered to be printed a second time, on August 20. I have sought to give in this place the Articles as they were prepared by Dickinson, with the few changes he made while writing them, and with the queries which he noted on the margin. The text is substantially that printed in the first issue. Under August 20 is again repeated this first printed issue in parallel with the Articles as reported to Congress on that day and ordered to be printed. Back

(2) "Q. Should not the first Article provide for a Toleration and agt Establishments hereafter to be made?" J. D. Back

" Quaere. The Propriety of the Union's garranteeing to every colony their respective Constitution and form of Government?" J. D.

(3) "Q. Should not this Article specify the Particulars, as to Age, Arms, Field pieeeB, &c." J. D. Back

(4) This word was inserted on striking out "who are not slaves." Back

(5) "Q. If no Notice should be taken of the Bills already emitted, and if there should not be a Contract to contribute in due Proportion towards sinking them?" J. D. Back

(6) "Q. How far the Expence of any War is to be defrayed by the Union?" J. D. Back

(7) Q. How far a Colony may interfere in Indian Affairs? " J. D. Back

To this point this paragraph was omitted in the printed version.

(8) "This Article is submitted to Congress." J. D. Back

(9) "This Article is submitted to Congress. Back

"Q. Should there not be an Article to prevent those who are hereafter brought into these Colonies, from being held in Slavery within the Colonies?" J. D.

(10) "Q. If there should not be an Oath or Affirmation prescribed for every Delegate to take? See 31st. Vol. of Mod. Univ'l Hist. Back

"Q. If a Delegate should be permitted to vote by Proxy or by Writing, when absent by Reason of Sickness, &c.?", J. D.

(11) "Q. How the power is to be describ'd, if any is to be given to the United States assembled of erecting Forts and keeping Garrisons, in any Colony, for the gem. Defence? Should it be done, if the Colony objects?

"Q. The power of arresting and trying persons in the Service of the United States, in any Colony, without applying to the Government of such Colony? A Dispute on this Head occasioned great Confusion in Holland. Back

"Q. The power of laying Embargos?" J. D.

(12) "These clauses [from Limiting the Bounds, &c.] are submitted to Congress." J. D. Back

(13) "Q. If So large a Majority is necessary in concluding a Treaty of Peace?" J. D. Back

(14) "Q. Whether the proceedings of the Assembly of the States should not be published weekly, except such Matters as relate to Alliances, military Operations, &c, which require Secrecy? If this is not proper, yet, should not every Delegate have a Right to enter his Protest, and assign his Reasons, and even publish them, if he thinks fit? " J. D. Back

(15) "Q. The Oath of a Councillor? " J. D. Back

(16) This word omitted in the printed version. Back

(17) "Q If the Secretary of the Congress should not be Secretary to the Council of States to prevent unnecessary Expence and the Discovery of Secrets-It would also promote the Despatch of Business." J. D. Back

(18) "Q. If there should not be a solemn Oath taken by every Colony, or its Delegates, authorized for that Purpose, by the respective Legislatures, to observe and abide by all and similar the Articles of this Confederation?" J. D.

The following paper is in the Franklin Manuscripts in the Library of Congress. Although the document itself is not in the writing of Franklin, there is a slip of paper on which he wrote:

" This Paper was drawn up by B. Franklin in 1776, he being then President of the Convention of Pennsylvania; but he was dissuaded from endeavouring to carry it through, from some prudential Considerations respecting the necessary Union at that time of all the States in Confederation "

The paper must have been prepared in the interval between July 12 and August 20, the dates of the submission to Congress of the first form of the Confederation and of the rising of the Pennsylvania Convention.

"We the Representatives of the State of Pennsylvania in full Convention met, having duly Considered the plan of Confederation formed in Congress, and submitted to the several States, for their Assent or Dissent, do hereby declare the Dissent of this State to the same for the following reasons vizt

1st Because the foundation of every Confederation intended to be lasting, ought to be laid in Justice and Equity, no unfair Advantage being given to, or taken by, any of the Contracting parties.

"2d Because it is, in the Nature of things, just end equal, that the respective States of the Confederacy should be represented in Congress, and have Votes there in proportion to their Importance, arising from their Numbers of People, and the Share and degree of Strength they afford to the United Body. And therefore the xviith Article (1 Note) which gives one Vote to the smallest State and no more to the largest when the difference between them may be as 10 to 1, or greater, is unjust, and injurious to the larger States, since all of them are by other Articles obliged to Contribute in proportion to their respective abilities.

"3d Because the Practice hitherto in Congress, of allowing only one Vote to each Colony, was originally taken up under a Conviction of its Impropriety and Injustice,

" Note 1. This since forms Part of the 5th Article of the Confederation as agreed to by all the States, except Maryland,-on the 9th July 1778:-and finally ratified by the whole Union, on the 1st March 1781.-(the State of Maryland acceding thereto)" William Temple Franklin, on original manuscript. From the Franklin Manuscripts in the Library of Congress, folio 293. Back

Journals of the Continental Congress 1774-1779
Edited from the original records in the Library of Congress
by Worthington Chauncey Ford; Chief, Division of Manuscripts.
Washington, DC : Government Printing Office, 1905.
127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.