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to its advocates that it would be eventually accepted. It contained provisions for the preservation of the public faith and the support of private credit which interfered with the views, and counteracted the interests and designs, of those by whom public and private credit were equally disregarded ; and against the jealous opposition of such objectors the powers of reason were exerted in vain, because their real motives could not be avowed. There were, however, among the opponents of the new Constitution individuals of a different character, upon whom the force of argument, it was hoped, might make its due impression. Men of influence and authority were to be found in every state, who, from an honest conviction of its justice and policy, were desirous of retaining unimpaired the sovereignty of the states, and reducing the Union to mere alliance between kindred nations. Others supposed that an irreconcilable opposition of interests existed between different parts of the Continent, and that the claims of that portion to which they themselves belonged had been surrendered without an equivalent: while a more numerous class, who felt themselves identified with the state institutions, and thought their ambition restrained to state objects, considered the government now proposed for the United States, in some respects, a foreign one ; and were, consequently, disposed to measure out power to the National Legislature with the same sparing hand with which they would confer authority on agents neither chosen by themselves nor accountable to them for its exercise.

The friends and opponents of the Federal Constitution were therefore stimulated in their exertions by motives equally powerful; and during the interval between its publication and adoption, every faculty of the superior minds of both the parties was

strained to secure the acceptance or rejection of the new system. The result was for some time extremely doubtful.

The amendments proposed by several of the states as conditions of their accession show with what reluctance their assent was given, and clearly evince that the dread of dismemberment, rather than sincere approbation of the Constitution, had in many instances induced its adoption. Nevercheless, the cause of political wisdom and justice at length prevailed. Within one year from its promulgation the new government was assented to by eleven of the states, and ratified by Congress.. Delaware was the first to accede to it; and the assent of NewHampshire, as the ninth state, rendered it certain that the Constitution would be carried into effect by the states which had already adopted it. The important states of Virginia and New-York, in each of which its fate remained uncertain, were probably determined in its favour by the previous ratification of New-Hampshire :* so that, by the spring of 1789, the Federal Government was duly organized under the new Constitution, and went immediately into full and successful operation, without the concurrence of Rhode Island or North Carolina, who were afterward admitted, in succession, to the Union.

The final establishment of this admirable system of government, so well adapted to the genius, character, and circumstances of the people, and to the situation and extent of the country; so skilfully ingrafted upon the pre-existing institutions, amid all the difficulties and impediments which have been exhibited, affords a signal example of the benignant influence of peaceful deliberation and calm decision, combined with a spirit of moderation and mutual conciliation, not only beyond all precedent, but, when we reflect

* Vide Appendix D.

on the fate of similar attempts in other countries, beyond the hope of imitation. And while the felicitous issue of this experiment, and the universal acknowledgment of its hitherto successful results, constitute lasting proofs of the wisdom and patriotism of the founders of our government, we must ever venerate their names, adhere to their principles, and cherish their remembrances of services, which are entitled equally to the gratitude and admiration of their posterity. We shall never, I trust, disregard or undervalue the blessings which, under Providence, they secured to us, nor forget the dangers and evils which were averted by their persevering and devoted efforts—dangers and evils to which the people of these states would again be exposed, in every degree and form of aggravation, should the wisdom and energy of the fathers of our country be rendered abortive by the madness and folly of their sons. lf threatened with such a reverse, we shall, I trust, ever be ready to respond to the sentiments called forth in a happy hour from one of our late chief magistrates, that at every sacrifice, except of the inalienable rights and liberties which the Constitution was intended to perpetuate, “ THE UNION MUST BE PRESERVED.




Having in the former lecture presented a rapid sketch of.the origin and progress of the American Confederation down to the establishment of the present Constitution, I now propose to treat more partic

* Vide Appendix E.

ularly of the fundamental principles on which the Federal Government was formed, and exhibit a general view of its organization and powers. This statement of the subjects of discussion comprises a definition of the terms by which they are designated; for by a constitution is meant, not only the form in which a government is organized, but the principles upon which it is founded; and that branch of jurisprudence-which treats of those principles, of the practical exercise of the powers of government in conformity with them, and the construction to be given to them in such their application-has been denominated by jurists “ ConstITUTIONAL Law.”

It has been justly observed by a writer on this subject,* that “the origin of political constitutions is as various as their forms. In a pure and unmixed monarchy, we seldom hear,” he remarks,“ of a constitution ; in a despotism, never.” The subjects or the slaves of such governments may nevertheless be roused or driven to the vindication of their natural rights; and the absolute king or the obdurate tyrant may be compelled to adopt fixed, if not liberal principles of administration, or they may voluntarily concede them in favour of their subjects. So, too, a successful conqueror may, from motives of policy, establish certain forms and principles for the government of a people whom he may have subdued. In any of these cases, if the government obtained be the result of general consent, whether actually expressed or fairly to be implied, such nation or people may be said to possess a constitution. The same may be affirmed of an aristocracy, if the people at large agree to deposite all the powers of government in a select few; as it may also be said of a democracy, in which the people retain, under such

* Mr. Rawle.

An ex

modifications as they conceive most conducive to their own safety and liberty, all sovereignty within their own control. The great difficulty, however, in every such case, is to regulate the subdivisions of authority granted, so that the portion of it vested in one department or body of men shall bear a due proportion to that vested in another. Each branch of the government should be sufficient for its own support in the exercise of its appropriate functions, yet all should be made to harmonize and co-operate.

To alter and amend an existing system by adding new parts to the old machinery, and particularly to attempt to infuse a new spirit into the existing government contrary to its original genius, produces an irregular and jarring combination, discordant in its elements and confused in its operation. emplification of this idea is afforded by the late re

form of the Parliament in England, where, although the elective branch has been rendered a more perfect representative of the Commons, the members of the upper house continue to sit in their individual right, and still constitute an hereditary and permanent body. We Americans may be pardoned for considering that the best mode of forming a political community is the voluntary association of a sufficient number of individuals, on the ground of an original contract, specifying the terms on which they are to be united, and thus to establish a new constitution or plan of government adapted to their situation, character, exigencies, and prospects. Indeed, this may be asserted to be the only true origin and firm basis of a republic.

The constitution of a government on a single principle, whether of monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy, is undoubtedly the most practical and easy, from its greater simplicity. But a constitution may

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