Abbildungen der Seite

greater than those proposed to be vested in the President and Council by the plan of 1754.

$ 25. This Confederacy had many obvious and palpable deficiencies, as a government, principally, however, in the mode and process of its administration,

1. There was still wanting an Executive in form, though nearly all its powers were granted to Congress and the committee of the states."

2. No general Judiciary was provided; yet they had gone so far as to provide a Marine or Admiralty. Court, and a general tribunal to settle conflicts and disputes between the several states.

3. The great deficiency was, that the articles of confederation did not act upon individuals, but upon the states; and that to raise men and money, it was necessary to act through the medium of many distinct governments.

$26. By a comparison of the original association of 1643, the plan of 1754, and the articles of confederation, we find that the minds of the colonists had gradually tended from the notion of separate sovereignties to that of a general and united government. Each change, founded on experience, had given additional strength to the confederacy. Thus the association of 1643 was a simple league, existing by means of treaties, and exercised through commissioners; and though possessing many of the attributes of sovereignty, holding them only through an alliance. The plan of 1754, though not adopted, was that of a general government, and had a strong executive. The articles of confederation, though reverting back to the form of a confederacy, greatly increased, in theory, the powers of government: For example, it superadded to the powers of former Congresses, those of emitting bills of credit, establishing Marine Courts, and judging between the states. Under this confederation, the United States, by the peace of 1783, achieved their separate and independent

existence as a nation. Yet, we have already seen, it was found insufficient for the purposes of a stable government, and how, in 1787, the present Constitution was formed and adopted.

§ 27. In this chapter we have established these propositions :

1st. That the idea of a union of the colonies originated in the very earliest stage of their existence.

2d. That their idea was that of a government exercised for the general welfare, and founded upon a representation of the people.

3d. That for this purpose they from time to time formed leagues and confederacies.

4th. That these associations were made closer and stronger, as time and experience progressed.

5th. Lastly, that they were all merged in the more perfect union” and general government formed by the Convention of 1787.




$ 28. 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 general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. $ 29. In this preamble are asserted, 1st, the

power making the Constitution, “We the People," &c.; 2dly, the object for which it was formed, the more perfect union, general welfare, &c.; 3dly, the subject of it, the United States.

$ 30. The first position, that “We the People do ordain," &c., is the foundation of the most solemn inquiry which ever agitated the American people,—whether this phrase be a mere nullity, or whether the Constitution was indeed formed by the whole people!

$31. It is one of the rules' for interpreting laws, that they must be understood according to the context, i. e. the whole must be taken in connexion. will, therefore, be better understood when we have re.. viewed the entire Constitution. The preamble throws light upon the instrument, and the instrument upon the preamble. It is sufficient to remark here, that the terms used are in perfect accordance with the mode by which the Constitution was ratified: this was by condentions of the people, and not by the legislatures of 1 Blackstone's Comm. 59.

2 2 Pitkin's Civil Hist. p. 264. .

This passage

the states. On the other hand, the convention' which formed the Constitution was composed of delegates chosen by the state Legislatures. The necessary inference is, that the states, in their official capacity, proposed the Constitution, and the people, by ratifying it, gave it authority: it is therefore a government founded by separate states, but receiving its sanction and validity from the whole people.

$ 32. 2d. The objects proposed are exactly consistent with this idea. A perfect union, and a government legislating for the general welfare, are incompatible with separate and independent sovereignties. The terms independence and sovereignty, used in relation to matters of government and politics, must of course be understood in a political sense, and according to our definition. There are some common acceptations of these terms in which a much lower importance is attached to sovereignty. Thus, a man may be perfectly sovereign in his own house, and yet be subject to the laws of society. An animal may be utterly independent of another animal, and yet a member of, and subject to the laws of, the animal kingdom. In this sense the states, considered as composing a society, are sovereign and independent in their domestic and municipal relations. These terms, in their political sense, have a higher meaning: as applied to nations, independence does not admit of a close union, nor sovereignty of another government legislating for the general welfare.

THE CONSTITUTION. $ 33. The Constitution of the United States contains seven articles,—to which were added several miscellaneous amendments.

Article 1st. Relates to the Legislative Power.
Article 2d. To the Executive Power.
Article 3d. To the Judicial Power.

i Pitkin's Civil Hist.



Article 4th. To the validity of Public Acts and Records,--the rights of Citizenship,—the admission of new States,—and the forms of State Governments.

Article 5th. Relates to the mode of amending the Constitution.

Article 6th. To the national faith and the binding force of the Constitution.

Article 7th. To the mode of its ratification.

$ 34. That we may have an accurate view of the Constitution, not merely as it is written, but as it has been construed, and acted upon by the various departments of the government, we shall take these Articles up by sections, and consider them in connexion with judicial and other decisions upon them.


8 35. SECTION 1st. 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.

$36. Whenever power is vested in a representative body, it is usually divided between a body of direct representatives and one more remote and differently constituted. Thus, in Great Britain, the legislative power is vested in the Commons and the House of Peers; so also in France, the House of Deputies and the Peers; so also the legislative power of the several states is similarly vested in two houses. The provision is a wise one, in rendering measures less precipitate, and in removing one portion of the Legislature from the immediate action of popular passion, while it retains it within the ultimate influence of the people.

$ 37. SECTION 2d. First clause. 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

« ZurückWeiter »