Page images
PDF
EPUB

Enlightened

statesmen

prevent clashes.

.

tionment of taxes, on the various descriptions of property, is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party, to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling, with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets.

It is in vain to say, that enlightened statesmen will be able to cannot adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm: nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all, without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another, or the good of the whole.

Factions must be balanced

against

The inference to which we are brought is, that the causes of faction cannot be removed; and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects. If a faction consists of one another. less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views, by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest, both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good, and private rights, against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed. Let me add, that it is the great desideratum, by which alone this form of government can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has so long laboured, and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.

By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority, at the same time must be prevented; or the majority,

must be

oppressing

having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by Majorities their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry prevented into effect schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the op- from portunity be suffered to coincide, we well know, that neither moral minorities. nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together; that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful.

20. Transmission of the New Constitution to Congress

The convention of delegates to revise the Articles of Confederation was organized on May 25, 1787, and, casting aside the instructions given to the members by their respective state legislatures, drafted a wholly new document. The work was completed by the signing of the instrument on September 17, and the new Constitution was then transmitted to the Congress with the following recommendations:

The Con

stitution

to be

Resolved, That the preceding constitution be laid before the United States in congress assembled, and that it is the opinion of this convention, that it should afterwards be submitted to ratified a convention of delegates, chosen in each state by the people conventions. by state thereof, under the recommendation of its legislature, for their assent and ratification; and that each convention assenting thereto, and ratifying the same, should give notice thereof to the United States in congress assembled.

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this convention, that as soon as the conventions of nine States shall have ratified this constitution, the United States in congress assembled should fix a day on which electors should be appointed by the states which shall Congress have ratified the same, and a day on which the electors should assemble to vote for the president, and the time and place for commencing proceedings under this constitution. That after such publication the electors should be appointed, and the senators new Conand representatives elected; that the electors should meet on

should provide for the elections

to be held

under the

stitution.

the day fixed for the election of the president, and should transmit their votes certified, signed, sealed, and directed, as the constitution requires, to the secretary of the United States in congress assembled; that the senators and representatives should convene at the time and place assigned; that the senators should appoint a president of the senate, for the sole purpose of receiving, opening, and counting the votes for president; and that after he shall be chosen, the congress, together with the president, should without delay proceed to execute this constitution.

By the unanimous order of the convention.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, President.

21. Ratification of the New Constitution by the States

Congress acted on the recommendations of the convention and transmitted the document to the states for approval or disapproval by special conventions. The process of ratification is fully illustrated by the formal announcement issued by the Georgia convention on January 2, 1788.1

In Convention, Wednesday, January 2, 1788. To all to whom these presents shall come, Greeting:

Where the form of a Constitution for the government of the United States of America, was, on the 17th day of September, 1787, agreed upon and reported to Congress by the deputies of the said United States convened in Philadelphia, which said Constitution is written in the words following, to wit: . . . .

And whereas the United States in Congress assembled did, on the 28th day of September, 1787, resolve, unanimously, "That the said report, with the resolution and letter accompanying the same, be transmitted to the several legislatures, in order to be

1 The dates of ratification are as follows: Delaware, December 7, 1787; Pennsylvania, December 12, 1787; New Jersey, December 18, 1787; Georgia, January 2, 1788; Connecticut, January 9; Massachusetts, February 7; Maryland, April 28; South Carolina, May 23; New Hampshire (the ninth state), June 21, 1788; Virginia, June 25; New York, July 26, 1788; North Carolina, November 21, 1789; Rhode Island, May 29, 1790.

submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each State by the people thereof, in conformity to the resolves of the Convention made and provided in that case."

the state

And whereas the legislature of the State of Georgia did, on the How 26th day of October, 1787, in pursuance of the above recited reso- convention lution of Congress, resolve, that a convention be elected on the was called. day of the next general election, and in the same manner that representatives are elected; and that the said Convention consist of not more than three members from each county; and that the said convention should meet at Augusta, on the 4th Tuesday in December then next, and, as soon thereafter as convenient, proceed to consider the said report and resolutions, and to adopt or reject any part or the whole thereof.

Now know ye, that we, the delegates of the people of the State of Georgia, in convention met, pursuant to the resolutions of the legislature aforesaid, having taken into our serious consideration the said Constitution, have assented to, ratified, and adopted, and by these presents do, in virtue of the powers and authority to us given by the people of the said State, for that purpose, for and in behalf of ourselves and our constituents, fully and entirely The assent to, ratify, and adopt, the said Constitution.

convention ratifies

Done in Convention, at Augusta, in the said State, on the 2d the Conday of January, in the year of our Lord 1788, and of the independ- stitution.

ence of the United States the 12th.

In witness whereof, we have hereunto subscribed our names.

JOHN WEREAT, President,

and delegate for the county of Richmond.

CHAPTER IV

Article V

of the Constitution.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION

SINCE the federal Constitution was established, the thirteen original states have increased to forty-six, the economic system prevailing at the close of the eighteenth century has been overthrown by the Industrial Revolution, and undreamt-of social questions have been raised. Before this marvelous development of the nation, the system of government devised in 1787 would have broken down, if attempts had been made to limit its operations to the strict letter of the law. It is true that Article V of the instrument made provisions for amendments, but the fifteen articles that have been added by the formal process are no index to the real constitutional evolution of the country. This must be sought in congressional statutes, judicial decisions, executive actions, and party practices.

22. The Formal Amending Process

The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several States, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of threefourths of the several States, or by conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first Article; and that no State, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

« PreviousContinue »