Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

THE Convention,” which formed the Constitution, was composed of delegates chosen by the State Legislature.* When the Convention had formed the Oonstitution, they by resolution directed it to be “laid before the United States in Congress assembled,” and declared their opinion that it should afterwards “be submitted to a convention of delegates, chosen in each state by the people thereof, under a recommendation of its legislature, for their assent and ratification ; ” and that each convention assenting thereto, and ratifying it, should notify Congress thereoff Accordiugly, Congress having received the report of the convention,-tResolved, that the report, resolutions, and letter accompanying them, be transmitted to the several legislatures, to be by them submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each state by the people thereof, in conformity to the resolve of the convention. Under this resolution of Congress, the several States called conventions of the people, and the Constitution being submitted to them, was ratified successively by all of them, and the Constitution became the supreme law of the land. The language of the ratification Conventions is remarkably uniform and explicit, as to the source whence the Constitution receives its authority and force.

* Pitkin's Civil History, p. 219. + Elliott's Debates, 248. Idem.

MODE OF RATIFICATION OF THE CONSTITUTION. 3.5 All the ratifications commence with, “We, the delegates of the people;” and all terminate by making the ratifications “in the name of our constituents, the people.” Thus the states in their official capacity proposed the Constitution, and the people by ratifying it, gave it authority and binding force; it is therefore a government founded by separate states, but receiving its sanction and validity from the whole people in their sovereign capacity. The following are the original thirteen states in the order in which they ratified it, viz., Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. The Constitution, after its formation, was addressed to the President of Congress, and accompanied by a letter from General Washington, President of the Convention, from which the following extracts are taken. The letter shows in what light the Constitution was. then viewed, and what were the objectsofits formation*:— “It is obviously impracticable in the federal government of these states, to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interests and safety of all. Individuals entering into society must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend, as well on situation and circumstance as on the obiect to be obtained. It is at all times difficult to draw . precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered and those which may be reserved; and, on the present occasion, this difficulty was increased by a difference among the several states as to their situation, extent, habits, and particular interests. “In all our deliberations on this subject, we kept steadily in our view that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of the Union, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety,–perhaps our national existence. This important consideration, seriously and deeply impressed upon our minds, led each state in the Convention to be less rigid on points of inferior magnitude than might have been otherwise expected; and thus, the Constitution, which we now present, is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable.”

* Elliott's Debates, 249.

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
[Adopted in Congress, July 4th, 1776.]

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America. When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident:—that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such princples, and organising its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate, that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves, by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present king of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation, till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature— a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the repository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused, for a long time after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise, the State remaining, in the mean time, exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the laws of naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage

their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers. He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers, to harass our people, and eat out their substance. He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures. He has affected to render the military, independent of, and superior to, the civil powers.

He has combined with others to subject us to a juris. diction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops amongstus' For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these States. For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world: For imposing taxes on us without our consent: For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury. For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences: For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighbouring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries, so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies. For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering, fundamentally, the forms of our governments: For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring

« ПредишнаНапред »