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without any just authority. It is plain, that whenever government assumes to secure any right of one man by power, it must be by the restriction of the natural right of some other man; and this power has not its origin in the consent of the one thus restricted ; but simply in the necessity of justice which disregards all abstract rights.
We know that this conclusion has been attempted to be evaded by the allegation, that the resignation of part of the natural rights of the individual is made in the formation of a Constitution or Government by compact. The legal maxim, that the ancestor may bind his successors as well as himself, in regard to property, is most irrationally extended to moral obligation ; and it is accordingly held, that the compromises made by the framers of the National and State Constitutions, are obligatory on the consciences of all citizens now living under them. Thus, it is said, in the Preamble of the Constitution of Massachusetts “ The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals : it is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good.” A sufficient reply to this would be, that, in point of fact, no such compact was ever made, either in Massachusetts or in any other country; and if it is said, that if not personally by the people themselves, it was by their representatives, -- the plain answers are, that but a small part of the people were ever represented ; that many citizens expressly dissented from the Constitution ; and that such defect of representation or dissent, even by the smallest minority, invalidates the whole contract, as a general one; and that it therefore binds only those who expressly agreed with their enacting representatives.
But we are aware, that they are not facts, but presumptions, that are made the basis of political institutions; and it is gravely held, that, although no such compact as is supposed was made in reality, it is presumed to have been made, as no other foundation can be found for the existing “ body politic.
Admitting for a moment, that the presumption of a fact shall stand as good for a premise, as the fact itself, it must be one which is possible or conceivable : an absurdity cannot be premised. It is easy to show, that the alleged compact in question is not only izen;
an impossible, but even an inconceivable case. A compact is an agreement between two or more parties, by which one party confers on another a right affecting itself, which that other did not previously possess ; and for such a grant, there must be at least two parties: there can be no compact of one party only. Now in the supposed compact by which government is formed, there are not two, but only one party. When it said, that “ the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole," we ask, Who is this “whole ?" We understand the whole, in this case, to be an imagined aggregation of every cit
and if each citizen gives assent together, they become a whole ; and it is clearly a whole contracting with itself. If we say that each citizen gives his consent only as an individual, then where is the consenting whole, with whom he contracts ? Does the citizen contract as one of the whole, and as an individual at the same time? Then again the two supposed parties are united in the same persons, who transfer no right to any other. Shall we set aside the nonentity, here called “ the whole," and
that each individual citizen contracts with each other individual separately ? then the contract is plainly made only by those who become express parties to it, and binds no other individual living at the same time; and not a single person who should afterwards be born; which would exempt almost all the the present inhabitants of Massachusetts, who have not sworn to support the Constitution on entering office. The presumption of a compact of each and all the citizens is therefore an inconceivable idea.
It is said, however, that this principle of compact standing at the head of the Constitution of Massachusetts, as its basis, every person who remains in its territory, submits to its laws, and avails himself of its protection, thereby gives assent to the government; and if he dislikes it, he is at liberty to retire from political action, and leave the operations of the laws to those who consider them beneficial; or to remove to another region. Here is another fallacy: even hypothetically it is not true. Each man derives his right of judgment and self-protection, not from his associated fellow-men, but from his Creator; and is by nature entitled to determine for himself, what are his rights, and to protect them, as independently of others in the community, as they are for themselves : if he submits to the adjudication and protection of government, it is because that government has taken away from him the power of exercising these rights for himself: he yields merely to power which he cannot resist; and no inference can be drawn, that he does it voluntarily. Practically the proposition is still more untrue. The individual is compelled to pay the taxes and submit to the laws of government, however unjust he may deem them: the protection given is oppressive and imperfect. As to removal to another country--the citizen's right of residence in the land where he was born, as also of a portion of its territory, is the gift of God, and not of men: and where, then, is the right of other men to impose on him the alternative of submission to laws to which he does not assent, or to depart to another country, where he has no right of residence, and whạre he would meet equal if not greater oppressions ? The doctrine of government founded on a consent of the governed, beirg evinced by unavoidable acquiescence in it, is erroneous ane absurd, as is every principle of right assumed for it: neither is assumptions or regulations are any where conformed to the priaciples of the Revolution.
Has the entire departure from these principles been inevitable? It cannot be admitted that principles almost self-evidently just and true, in plain accordance with the instructions of divine wisdom, and as plainly conducive to human elevation and felicity, are incapable of being carried into practical operation. So far from this, we believe that not only most of the evils, but also the difficulties and perplexities of civil government arise from disregard of them. It is because these inalienable rights" are alienated to rulers, that power everywhere predominates over justice. It is because the right of "life" is disrespected, that multitudes are compelled to exposure to martial destruction. It is because the right of " liberty” is so limited, that the constraint of laws and the rod of the oppressor” is so keenly felt, and the dark cloud of slavery obscures one half, and menaces the other half of our land. It is because “ the pursuit of hap. piness" is not fully allowed to men, at their own discretion, but constantly regulated by the usurpations of government, that the sources of rational and elevating enjoyment are so poisoned in our social connections. Political government lays its rude,
coercive hand on the most refined and most sacred of human aspirations.
Whenever this inconsistency between our theoretic declarations and our actual laws is admitted, it is not only alleged to be from necessity, which we deny, but the infringement on private rights is said to be made for public good.” Here we have to deal with one of the most extraordinary fallacies of which political history gives us any account. It is one of the most striking examples of those 6 time-honored” maxims, not only baseless, but absurd, which yet have been held and maintained, in all ages, by the greatest minds, merely for want of definition. What is meant by 5 public," and what by “ good,” in connexion with each other? By “ good," we understand the promotion of the interest, happiness, or elevation of some intelligent being: there must therefore be such a being, to be susceptible of a good. But what being is the public?” Has such a person or thing ever been seen ? Where does it exist? what is its shape or substance ? The term " public,” is undoubtedly convenient in political discussion, to denote supposed combinations of the majority of individuals ; but certainly does not convey an idea of any real being; and consequently not any thing which is capable of any good. “Public good” is one of those hackneyed expressions, which are useful in mystifying persons, who do not care for distinct conceptions ; but which vanish at the touch of intelligent definition. Unhappily, however, this phrase has a practical, perverted import, which is not thus inconceivable. In effect, it means the interest or power of the ruling or wealthier classes of society, in disregard of the rights of the vaster number of the laboring, the poor and the ignorant. Is this a calumnious observation? Let any person examine the statute books in our country, and the reports of adjudged cases, setting aside those designed to settle private interests in special transactions, and looking only at those professing or implying regulation of public concerns ; see if he can find one which does not tend to promote the interests or secure the power of the ruling or the eminent, at the expense of the multitude of the depressed. Public good virtually signifies aristocracy; literally, it signifies nothing.
If such are the effects of the departure from the principles
of the Revolution, reproducing the delusions and oppressions of the transatlantic world, in a minor degree, while legislating in faithful conformity to our Constitution ; how much greater a stride has been made toward despotism, by the extension of law into unauthorized enactments, which legislatures ---ever prone to absorb power, and encroach on private right-have made by looseness of construction; in which the judiciary -- ever leaning to the side of government-have faithfully imitated and confirmed them. Much of this is seen in our State laws, but vastly more in those of the United States. Although by the Constitution, snch ample powers are granted to the general government, as to deprive the States of every vestige of sovereignty; yet the verbal restrictions of these powers are perpetually overleaped ; and the approach is manifest toward consolidated tyranny; an empire in all but the name.
The practical and pertinent question will now be asked, How could this have been avoided ? How could a government have been formed mainly on the basis of the revolutionary rights, with only occasional and unavoidable imperfection? It must in candor be supposed that the respected and intelligent framers of our government did not perceive how they could have effected this; or they would have done so. At the same time we cannot avoid charging them with inattention to the subject. If they had constantly reverted to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, in enacting the separate articles of the Constitution, they could not have so formed them: the inconsistency would have beer. too glaring. Could they have done otherwise? If they had discarded from their minds all ideas of the prerogatives of government in the past; and without any light to guide them, but the principles announced in the Declaration of Independence, could they have constructed a government mainly on this basis? This is the question ; and, although premature in the mouths of those who do not admit the failure of this trial, it can be answered.
Dismissing all the fanciful authorities alleged for the institution of government - the divine right of sovereigns ; the assent of the governed ; compact between each individual and the whole, which was never made; combination for safety, &c., - the only origin of it in all ages and countries, in fact,