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country; but did not give it power to legislate for the States on common local subjects, relating to their internal police.
The Convention was called "for the purpose of revising the articles of the Confederation, and for reporting to the several legislatures, such alterations and provisions therein, as should, when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States, render the federal compact adequate to the exigences of government and the preservation of the UNION."
There were different plans proposed in the Convention, as a remedy for the evils which existed, or were then apprehended. One was to grant full power to Congress, to regulate commerce, and to raise a revenue from imports to discharge the public debt; and to have Congress one body as it had formerly been. But the majority of the members early discovered a preference for a complete general government. And the great question was, whether it should be strictly national, or federal. The former system, it was supposed, would nearly annihilate the State governments, while the latter would be adequate to the objects in view, would still reserve to the States a great portion of their separate authority, and would be most agreeable to a large majority of the people. And the frame of Government, finally prepared and adopted, was of a federal rather than of a national government: or, as Mr. Madison has said, “was partly national and partly federal.”
The Constitution of the United States, from which the federal Government derives its powers, was framed by men deputed by the legislature or authority of the several States; and, though it was submitted to the consideration of the people of the United States, and adopted by them through their delegates, its acceptance or ratification depended, not on the majority of the whole people in the aggregate, but on the majority of States. And it is evident there might have been a majority (or two-thirds) of the States in favor of the Constitution, without there being two-thirds of the whole people in all the States. The government, therefore, is a federal, rather than a national government, strictly speaking. Still, it is a general government; it is the government of the United States. Nine States constituted the requisite majority : but if Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina had been opposed to it, by a large majority in each, there would not have been twothirds of the people for it. It was not a majority of the people, but of the States, then, which ratified the Constitution, and so the instrument itself provided and required.
The apportionment of the Senate is proof also, that the
general government is federal, and not strictly national. Every State is equally represented in that body, without regard to its population. But this is utterly irreconcilable with the doctrine of those, who say the general government is a national one, in which the whole people are equally represented. Neither numbers nor property are represented in the Senate; but States. The provision or principle which operates in the choice of President, when there has been no choice by the Electors, shows also the federal character of the government. Each State has a vote-instead of taking all the votes of the representatives in the aggregate, as in all cases where the numerical majority govern. It may, however, be justly said with Mr. Madison, that the government of the United States is partly federal and partly national. And yet the federal features prevail, and give the true character of the compact.*
The federal government was designed to be, and by a proper and natural construction of the Constitution, is, one of limited powers. Its jurisdiction or authority relate to certain specific objects, which are expressly enumerated. They are high and extensive powers; and with every intelligent man must be supposed to include the right to carry the specified powers into full effect. Any other construction would involve an absurdity. And yet the exercise of powers not expressly given, or clearly implied, would evidently be an unwarranted usurpation. In the exercise of powers fully given, Congress, or the federal government, is sovereign and uncontrollable by the States; much more so by a single State. But further and beyond such delegated power, it has not legitimate authority. All else remain with the States respectively, or with the people thereof. The man
• The Convention consisted of fifty members. Fifteen more were chosen, but did not attend. And several who attended did not put their names to the Constitution, as they disapproved of some parts of it : but after it was adopted, they generally gave it their decided support. Some members, who attended the Convention a great part of its session, and who approved of the Constitution, were absent, when the vote passed for its adoption. The members of the Convention were not in proportionate numbers to the population of the respective States : Delaware had five, Pennsylvania eight, New Jersey five, Massachusetts only four, Virginia seven, New York three, Connecticut three, Maryland five, South Carolina four, North Carolina four, New Hampshire two, Georgia two. The difficulty was at once perceived of framing a general government, so as to avoid collision with State authority, and to be free from
the charge of being imperium in imperio. And it was designed to guard against this difficulty and this imputation by stating to what subjects the power of the federal government should extend." In these cases, its authority is exclusive and paramount ; and in all other cases, it is by implication, without just authority or jurisdiction.
ner in which, and the State governments by which the federal Constitution was formed, clearly implies this : and in the first section of the first article, it declares, that the powers to be vested in and exercised by the general government were granted by the several States.
Such was the design and such the only reasonable construction of the federal compact. The powers of the general government were conferred on it by the States. It is the agent of the States for general purposes, and may justly act only on subjects on which its constituents have authorized it to act. For the original States were not creatures of the federal government; but the federal government is the creature, the agent of the several sovereign States. In the convention for forming the Constitution, Mr. King, a delegate from Massachusetts, (afterwards of New York,) is reported to have said—“it was of the nature of a commission, given by the several States, for performing acts of a general nature, which no one State was, separately, competent to
No one State may justly oppose the authority of Congress, unless it should make a law for such a State only, and that manifestly an arbitrary, oppressive, and unjust law : nor may Congress justly interfere with the laws of a State, unless such laws are clearly repugnant to the authority of Congress, conferred on it by the Constitution; or unless a State assumes to exercise authority prohibited to it by the federal coinpact.
To say, “ that the federal government has as much right to control the acts and measures of a State, as a State has to control those of a town or county,” is entirely incorrect and unsound. A State creates or forms a county or district within its territory; and such district or county is still a part of the State, and to be governed by the majority of the State in all cases whatever. But the federal government did not create or form the original States; and has no just authority over them, only in so far as is expressly granted by the States. In forming new States, it may be somewhat different; as certain conditions may be justly required by Congress on their admission into the Union; yet not interfering with their powers, as independent governments after their admission, except in cases of a general nature, as specified in the federal Constitution.
Thus the federal compact was designed for the consolidation of the Union, though not strictly speaking for the consolidation of the States; the federal government over the whole for general or national purposes being sovereign
in its defined sphere; and the several States sovereign in their internal concerns, where not expressly restrained by the federal Constitution, which they have approved and adopted.
The former Congress, under the confederation, consisted of one body, or assembly, for devising and recommending measures of a general nature ; and the members were appointed by the general assemblies, or representatives in the several States, and not directly by the whole people. Under the new Constitution, Congress* is a separate and complete government, composed of a House of Representatives, a Senate, and an executive officer, with the title of “President of the United States."
It was not until the thirtieth of April, that the federal government was fully organized ; as on that day President Washington was inducted into office as the chief magistrate of the Union. On this very interesting occasion, he delivered an address to the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, who had assembled some weeks previously, and had been occupied in forming their respective bodies, in the order, and with the rules necessary for the proper discharge of their legislative duties. It is difficult to do full justice to the merits of this speech, by any verbal representation of it; and an extract is here given, as characteristic of the mind of this very distinguished personage.
“ Among the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that, of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the fourteenth of the present month (April). On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen, with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years—a retreat rendered every day more necessary, as well as more dear to me, by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health, to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust, to which the voice of my country has called me, being sufficient to awaken, in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens, a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature,
* In the language of the Constitution, the term Congress is frequently used to signify the federal Government in all its branches united.
and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiences. In this conflict of emotions, all I dare aver is, that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it may be affected. All I dare hope is, that, if in accepting, I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendant proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens; and have, thence, too little consulted my incapacity, as well as disinclination, for the weighty and untried cares before me, my error will be palliated by the motives which misled me; and its consequences be judged by my country, with some share of the partiality in which they originated.
“Such being the impressions, under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to the Almighty Being, who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aid can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States, a government instituted by themselves, for these essential purposes; and may enable every instrument employed in its administration, to execute, with success, the functions alloted to his charge.
“In tendering this homage to the great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government, the tranquil deliberation and voluntary consent of so many distinct conimunities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude, with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seems to presage.
“ These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have been forced too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking there are none,