National Geographic : 1899 Mar
ORIGINAL TERRITORY OF THE UNITED STATES 83 and the unlimited expansion of others. It was indeed no imagi nary danger, for by offering free lands to settlers the larger states could easily depopulate the smaller. Silas Deane, who had been sent as commissioner to France, had suggested that the North west Territory was " a resource amply adequate, under proper regulations, for defraying the whole expense of the war." When, therefore, in September, 1776, a resolution of Congress offered a bounty of land to soldiers enlisting for the war, Maryland, seeing that Congress had no land to give and she herself none to contrib ute, perceived that the states without land would be compelled to buy it of those whose stock was unbounded and at their own price, thus impoverishing themselves and enriching their rivals. Virginia in her constitution maintained her charter claims, which if allowed would have made her a mighty empire, greater when developed than all the other states combined. On the 30th of October, 1776, Maryland passed a resolution asserting that Virginia's title had "no foundation in justice, and that if the same or any like claim is admitted, the freedom of the smaller states and the liberties of America may be thereby greatly endangered," and expressed the conviction that, the dominion over those lands having been established by the blood and treasure of the United States, " such lands ought to be con sidered a common stock, to be parceled out at proper times into convenient, free, and independent governments." Thus by the foresight of Maryland, to which all honor will be forever due, was first posed the momentous question upon whose decision hung the whole harmonious system of govern ment which we now enjoy. A year later, and a month before the Articles of Confederation were proposed for ratification, it was moved in Congress " that the United States in Congress assembled shall have the sole and exclusive right and power to ascertain and fix the western boundary of such states as claim to the Mississippi or South Sea (meaning the Pacific), and shall lay out the land beyond the boundary so ascertained into sepa rate and independent states from time to time as the numbers and circumstances of the people may require." Only Mary land, battling for this great and fruitful idea and appealing to the wisdom of the people as against the ambition and avarice of the states, voted in the affirmative; but a principle had been laid down whose wisdom was eventually to be perceived by all a principle which has proved the keystone of the Union, sup porting the splendid arch upon which our local liberties and national power now rest.