Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

the resources of a small State, as a permanent establishment. The ordinary expenditures, necessary for the protection of the whole Union with its present limits, are probably less than would be required for a single State, surrounded by jealous and hostile neighbors.

46. But, in regard to foreign powers, the States sepaately would sink at once into the insignificance of the small European principalities. In the present situation of the world, a few great Powers possess the command of commerce, both on land and at sea. No effectual resistance could be offered by any of the States singly, against any monopoly these Powers might choose to establish, or any pretensions they might choose to assert.

Each would be compelled to submit its commerce to all the burthens and inequalities, which they might impose; or purchase protection, by yielding up its dearest rights, and, perhaps, its independence. A National Government, containing as it does, the strength of all the States, affords to all of them a competent protec. tion. A navy, or army, which could be maintained by a single State, would be scarcely formidable to any second rate power in Europe ; and would be an intolerable public burthen. A navy, or army, for all the purposes of home defence, or protection on the ocean, is within the compass of the actual means of the General Government, without any severe exaction.

$ 47. The next object is, 'to promote the general welfare." If it should be asked, why this may not be effectually accomplished by the States, it may be answered: first, that they do not possess the means; and secondly, if they did, they do not possess the power, necessary to carry the appropriate measures into execution. The means of the States will rarely be found to exceed their domestic wants, and appropriations to domestic improvements. Their resources in internal taxation must necessarily be limited ; and their revenue from imports would, if they were separated, be small

and fluctuating. Their whole system would be defeated by the jealousy, or local interests of their neighbors. The want of uniformity of duties, as well as the facility of smuggling, would render any efficient collection of duties almost impracticable. It was so under the Confederation.

$ 48. But, if the means were completely within the reach of the States, the jurisdiction would be wanting, completely to carry into effect any great or comprehensive plan, for the welfare of the whole. The idea of a permanent and zealous co-operation of all the States, in any one scheme for the common welfare, is visionary. No scheme could be devised, which would not bear unequally upon some particular parts; and these inequalities could not be, as they are now, under a General Government, meliorated and corrected, by other correspondent benefits. Each State would legislate singly; and it is scarcely possible, that a change of councils should not take place, before any scheme could receive the sanction of all of them. Infinite delays would intervene; and various modifications of measures be proposed, to suit particular local interests, which would again require re-consideration. After one or two vain attempts, to accomplish any great system of improvements, there would be a general abandonment of all efforts; and each State would consult only its own peculiar convenience, and policy, in despair of any common concert.

$ 49. The concluding object, stated in the preamble, is, 'to secure the blessings of liberty to us, and our posterity.' And surely nothing, of mere earthly concern, is more worthy of the profound reflection of the wise and good, than to erect structures of Government, which shall sustain the interests of civil, political, and religious liberty, on solid foundations. The great problem in human government has hitherto been, how to combine durability with moderation in power, energy with equality of rights, responsibility with a sense of independence, steadiness in councils with popular elections, and

a lofty spirit of patriotism with the love of personal aggrandizement; in short, how to combine the greatest happiness of the whole with the least practicable restraints, so as to ensure permanence in the public institutions, intelligent legislation, and incorruptible private virtue. The Constitution of the United States aims at the attainment of these ends, by the arrangements and distributions of its powers, by the introduction of checks and balances in all its departments, by making the existence of the State Governments an essential part of its own organization ; by leaving with them the ordinary powers of domestic legislation ; and, at the same time, by drawing to itself those only, which are strictly national, or concern the general welfare. Its duties, and its

powers,

thus naturally combine to make it the common guardian and friend of all; and in return, the States, while they may exercise a salutary vigilance for self-protection, are persuasively taught, that the blessings of liberty, secured by the National Govern, ment, are far more certain and extensive, than they would be under their own distinct sovereignties.

$ 50. Let us now enter upon a more close survey of the structure and powers of this Constitution, that we may see, whether it is as wisely framed as its founders believed ; so as to justify our confidence in its durability, and its adaptation to the great objects proposed in the preamble. If it be, then, indeed, it will be entitled to our most profound reverence; and wo shall accustom ourselves to repel with indignation every attempt to weaken its powers, or obstruct its operations, as involving our own degradation, and, ulti, mately, our national ruin.

CHAPTER VIII.

Distribution of Powers. - The Legislative Department.

$ 51. The first thing, that strikes us, upon the slightest survey of the Constitution, is, that its structure contains a fundamental separation of the three great departments of Government, the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial. The existence of all these departments has always been found indispensable to due energy and stability in a Government. Their separation has always been found equally indispensable, for the preservation of public fiberty and private rights. Whenever they are all vested in one person or body of men, the Government is in fact a despotism, by whatever name it may be called, whether a monarchy, an aristocracy, or a democracy. When, therefore, the Convention, which framed the Constitution, determined on a more efficient system, than the Confederation, the first resolution adopted by them was, that 'a National Government ought to be established, consisting of a supreme legislative, judiciary, and executive.'

$ 52. The first section, of the first article, begins with the structure of the Legislature. It is in these words :

All legislative powers, herein granted, shall be vested in ' a Congress of the United States; which shall consist of a * Senate and House of Representatives.' Under the Confederation, the whole legislative power of the Union was confided to a single branch; and limited as that power was, this concentration of it in a single body, was deemed a prominent defect. The Constitution, on the other hand, adopts as a fundamental rule, the exercise of the legislative power by two distinct and independent branches. The advantages of this division are, in the first place, that it interposes a great check upon undue, hasty, and oppressive legislation. In the next place, it interposes a barrier against the strong propensity of all public bodies to accumulate all power, patronage, and in

fluence in its own hands. In the next place, it operates, indirectly, to prevent attempts by a few popular leaders, to carry their own personal, private or party objects into effect, unconnected with the public good. In the next place, it secures a deliberate review of the same measures, by independent minds,

ngaged in the same habits of legislation, but organized upon a different system. And, in the last place, it affords great securities to public liberty, by requiring the co-operation of different bodies, which can scarcely ever, if properly organized, embrace the same national interests, or influences, in the same proportions. And the value of such a separate organization will, of course, be greatly enhanced, the more the elements, of which each body is composed, differ from each other, in the mode of choice, in the qualifications, and in the duration of office, provided due intelligence and virtue are secured in each body. We shall presently see, how far these desirable modifications have been attained in the actual composition of the Senate, and House of Representatives.

CHAPTER IX.

The House of Representatives.

$ 53. The second section, of the first article, contains the structure and organization of the House of Representatives. The first clause is —' The House of Representatives shall be

composed of members chosen, every second year, by the 'people of the several States; and the Electors in each State 'shall have the qualifications, requisite for Electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature.'

$ 54. First, the Principle of Representation. The Representatives are to be chosen by the People. No reasoning

« ZurückWeiter »