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attempt should be made to form a more efficient Government, before the great interests of the Union were buried beneath its ruins.
§ 28. In 1785, Commissioners were appointed by the Legislatures of Maryland and Virginia, to form a compact, relative to the navigation of the rivers Potomac and Roanoke, and the Chesapeake Bay. The Commissioners met accordingly; but, feeling the want of adequate powers, they recommended proceedings of a more enlarged nature. The Legislature of Virginia accordingly, in Jan. 1788, proposed a Convention of Commissioners from all the States, for the purpose of taking into consideration the state of trade, and the propriety of a uniform system of commercial relations, for their permanent harmony and common interest. Pursuant to this proposal, the Commissioners from five States met at Annapolis, in September, 1786. They framed a report, to be laid before Congress, advising the latter to call a general Convention of Commissioners from all the States, to meet in Philadelphia, in May, 1787, for a more effectual revision of the Articles of Confederation.
$ 29. Congress adopted the recommendation of the Report, and in February, 1787, passed a resolution for assembling a Convention accordingly. All the States, except Rhode Island, appointed Delegates; and they met at Philadelphia ; and, after very protracted deliberations, and great diversities of opinion, they finally, on the 17th of September, 1789, framed the present Constitution of the United States, and recommended it to be laid by Congress before the several
States, to be by them considered and ratified, in Conventions of the Representatives of the People, to be called for that purpose. Congress accordingly took measures for this purpose. Conventions were accordingly called in all the States, except Rhode Island, and, after many warm discussions, the Constitution was ratified by all of them, except North Carolina.
§ 30. The assent of nine States only being required to put the Constitution into operation, measures were taken for this purpose by Congress, in September, 1788, as soon as the requisite ratifications were ascertained. Electors of President and Vice President were chosen, who subsequently assembled and gave their votes; and the necessary elections of Senators and Representatives being made, the first Congress under the Constitution assembled at New-York, (the then Seat of Government) on Wednesday, the fourth day of March, 1789, for commencing proceedings under the Constitution. A quorum, however, of both Houses, for the transaction of business generally, did not assemble until the 6th of April following, when, the votes of the Electors being counted, it was found, that George Washington was unanimously elected President, and John Adams was elected Vice President. On the 30th of April, President Washington was sworn into office; and the Government immediately went into full operation. North Carolina afterwards, in a new Convention, called in November, 1789, adopted the Constitution; and Rhode Island, also, by a Convention, in May, 1790. So that all the thirteen States, by the authority of the people thereof, became parties under the new Government.
$ 31. Thus was achieved another, and still more glorious triumph in the cause of liberty, than even that by which we were separated from the parent country. It was not achieved, however, without great difficulties and sacrifices of opinion. It required all the wisdom, the patriotism, and the genius of our best statesmen, to overcome the objections, which, from
various causes, were arrayed against it. The history of those times is full of melancholy instruction, at once to admonish us of the dangers we have passed, and of the necessity of incessant vigilance, to guard and preserve, what has been hardly earned. The Constitution was adopted unanimously in New Jersey, Delaware, and Georgia. It was supported by large majorities in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and South Carolina. In the remaining States, it was carried by small majorities ; and especially, in Massachusetts, New-York, and Virginia, by little more than a preponderating vote. What a humiliating lesson is this, after all our self-bearings and sacrifices, of our experience of the evils of disunited councils, and the pernicious influence of State jealousies, and local interests! It teaches us, how slowly even adversity brings the mind to a due sense of what political wisdom requires. It teaches us, how liberty itself may be lost, when men are found ready to hazard its permanent blessings, rather than submit to the wholesome restraints, which its permanent security demands.
$ 32. To those great men, who thus framed the Constitution, and secured the adoption of it, we owe a debt of gratitude, which can scarcely be repaid. It was not then, as it is now, looked upon from the blessings, which, under the guidance of Divine Providence, it has bestowed, with general favor and affectin. On the contrary, many of those pure and disinterested patriots, who stood forth, the firm advocates of its principles, did so at the expense of their existing popularity. They felt, that they had a higher duty to perform, than to flatter the prejudices of the people, or to subserve their own selfish interes s. Many of them went to their graves, without the soothing consolation that their services, and their sacrifices were duly appreciated. They scorned every attempt to rise to power and influence, by the common arts of demagogues ; and they were content to trust their characters, and their conduct, to the deliberate judgment of posterity.
33. If, upon a close survey of their labors, as developed in the actual structure of the Constitution, we shall have reason to admire their wisdom and forecast, to observe their profound love of liberty, and to trace their deep sense of the value of political responsibility, and their anxiety, above all things, to give perpetuity, as well as energy, to the republican Institutions of their country ; then, indeed, will our gratitude kindle into a holier reverence, and their memories be cherished among those of the noblest benefactors of mankind,
Exposition of the Constitution. - The Preamble. .
$ 34. Having given this general sketch of the origin of the Colonies, of the rise and fall of the Confederation, and of the formation and adoption of the Constitution of the United States, we are now prepared to enter upon an examination of the actual structure and organization of that Constitution, and the powers belonging to it. We shall treat it, not as a mere compact, or league, or confederacy, existing at the mere will of any one or more of the States, during their good pleasure ; but, (as it purports on its face to be) as a Constitution of Government, framed and adopted by the people of the United States, and obligatory upon all the States, until it is altered, amended, or abolished by the People, in the manner pointed out in the instrument itself. It is to be interpreted, as all other solemn instruments are, by endeavoring o ascertain the true sense and meaning of all the terms; and we are neither to narrow, nor enlarge them, by straining them from their just and natural import, for the pura pose of adding to, or diminishing its powers, or bending them to any favorite theory or dogma of party. It is the language
of the People, to be judged of according to common sense, and not by mere theoretical reasoning. It is not of the mere private interpretation of any particular men. The People have spoken it; and their will is to be obeyed as the Supreme Law. Every department of the Government must, of course, in the first instance, in the exercise of its own powers and duties, necessarily construe the instrument. But, if the case admits of judicial cognizance, every citizen has a right to contest the validity of that construction before the proper judicial tribunal; and to bring it to the test of the Constitution. And, if the case is not capable of judicial redress, still the people may, through the acknowledged means of new elections, check any usurpation of authority, whether wanton, or unintentional, and relieve themselves from any grievances of a political nature.
$ 35. For a right understanding of the Constitution of the United States, it will be found most convenient to examine the provisions, generally, in the order, in which they are stated in the instrument itself; and thus, the different parts may be made mutually to illustrate each other. This order will, accordingly, be adopted in the ensuing commentaries.
$36. We shall begin then, with the Preamble, which is in the following words :
We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the gene'ral welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves
and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution ' for the United States of America.'
$ 37. This preamble is very important, not only as explanatory of the motives and objects of framing the Constitution; but, as affording the best key to the true interpretation thereof. For it may well be presumed, that the language used will be in conformity to the motives, which govern, and the objects to be attained. Every provision in the instrų.