The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured ... by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was "to form a more perfect Union." Abraham Lincoln, 1861
Few Americans are aware that our union of states predates the Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence. During Lincoln’s time this document was still celebrated, but the legacy of this important document has now been forgotten by all but the most dedicated students of history.
The Articles of Association was drawn up and signed by members of the First Continental Congress in 1774. The intent of the Congress and the Articles was to unify the British American colonies into a cohesive political body which could resist the high taxation and economic sanctions that the Crown had imposed on them. There was no intent to sever allegiance, only to alter Britain's policies towards the colonies and to repeal the Coercive Acts that had been passed by Parliament.
Twelve of the future thirteen colonies sent delegates to Philadelphia to First Continental Congress in September 1774. Georgia did not, as they were preoccupied with war against the Muskogee Indian Nation at the time. The colonies of East Florida and West Florida never did agree to send delegates to the Continental Congress. (East and West Florida were the fourteenth and fifteenth colonies in what was to become the United States. We have somehow collectively forgotten that they existed, but that is another story!)
On October 20, 1774 the First Continental Congress passed the Articles of Association which laid out grievances and fourteen economic and boycotting measures that the colonies would take against the Crown and British commerce. More importantly, the colonies had taken the first step in coalescing into and union of states that would culminate in the Constitution thirteen years later. The signers considered the Articles of Association as a contract, which universally pledged all the colonies together under "self rule." In some ways, the Articles of Association is just as important as the Declaration of Independence. The complete text of the Articles of Association can be found here: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/contcong_10-20-74.asp
|One of the surviving 1774 printed version of Articles|
Copies of the Articles were sent to all the colonies and to Great Britain, but the original, with the signatures of fifty three of our founding fathers, was lost.
Fast Forward to 1978
In 1978 a collector who was visiting Knoxville Tennessee on business went into a used book store in hopes of finding a first edition copy of "Lee and His Lieutenants," which was published in 1867. He was thrilled to find just what he was looking for. When he got home, he discovered a large document folded neatly and resting between the leaves of the book. He did not know what he had found, but he could not miss the signatures of George Washington, John Adams, Roger Sherman and fifty other men.
The document was later authenticated by scholars at the Smithsonian and other institutions. It was page four, the signature page, of the original hand drafted Articles of Association. The fate of pages 1 - 3 is still a mystery. But, if only one page was to survive, this was the page to have! The document is still owned by the original finder and has been safeguarded since 1978.
|The signature page of the Articles of Association as it is being displayed while on tour|
|Mr. Bill Stone visited the Huntsville, Alabama chapter of the |
Sons of the American Revolution on February 11th, 2013 and told
the fascinating story of the Articles and their rediscovery in 1978
|A close up of the signatures of Virginia Delegation, including George Washington and Richard Henry Lee|