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tilled, distress and gaunt famine, would every where rear their hideous forms; the cry of starving thousands, would be, give us bread, even with the Austrian supremacy." How would Confalonieri, and the counts Cusati, answer such a cry
? Miss Sedgwick tells us, that her patriotic friend, “Count c., believes the government of the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom, to be the best in Italy.” We believe so too. In her own letters, it stands forth, in bright relief, when contrasted with the Italian governments of Naples and Rome. Though, in both these states, there has been a great change for the better, since my Lady Morgan wrote her Italy, and the march of improvement is still bearing onward.
Through the whole of the letters, Miss Sedgwick makes an unnecessary and obtrusive display of her democratic feelings: in a work of this nature, and, particularly, as written by a lady, we deem it a proof of bad taste; and, it appears singularly so, when, as in the present volumes, such demonstrations are contrasted with an equally ostentatious display of the names of titled or highborn personages. We were, too, extremely sorry to find many pages sullied by vulgarisms. If Madame Sismondi talked of “tittery-tattery;" we could have excused the repetition; we would draw a pen through“ jimcrackeries,” and the word “ nice," which, she fancies, she uses in the pure English sense, would, as she has applied it, puzzle every English person, as much as it must every American. And, on the whole, though we admire simplicity, we think it would have been possible to have given a little more of elevation and dignity to her style, without injuring that simplicity.
ART. VI.—1. Brief Exposition of the Constitution of the
United States, by James Bayard. Philadelphia, 1838. 2. Speeches in the Senate of the United States, on Mr.
Calhoun's Resolutions. 1833.
The nature and origin of our government,—that is, a right understanding of the text and spirit of the Constitution, and of by whom the latter was formed are subjects of the highest importance to the American patriot. They
are, more or less, connected with all our civil and social institutions; but, although plain and legible in the records of the times, and on the face of the Federal Charter itself, through the obliquity of the human mind, its passions and prejudices, and the false lights which the perverse spirit of party has thrown over them, they have become to many,and they among the most enlightened intellects in the confederacy,—subjects of discordant and angry speculation.
By whom was the Constitution formed, is a question whose solution lies at the foundation of all other knowledge, as to the principles, the precepts, and the mode of action, of that instrument; and governs, both immediately and remotely, its provisions, in their whole scope, and throughout all their ramifications : it is the key stone which supports the Federal arch. Much has been said and written on this subject; and those who have put forth their views divide themselves into two great and opposing classes. By the one class it is maintained, That the Constitution of the United States is the work of the people, considered as a nation,-a political family, one and indivisible. By the other class it is maintained, That the Constitution is the creation of the people, acting separately in their character of individual, independent States. By the former, the Constitution is considered to be the charter of a consolidated government, of unlimited discretionary powers, grouped around specified objects; and the people on whom it acts, a solid political mass. According to the latter, it is the charter of a general government; the external political machinery of a confederated mass, possessing none but expressly delegated powers, under a limited and qualified discretion ; and the people on whom it acts, the people of separate, independent States.
Among the speculations on this vital subject, which have issued om the press, are those of the writer whose work stands at the head of this article. The work contains a great deal of good sense and sound comment, on what may be called the minor points of the Constitution, conveyed in good language, and a good style. But the writer is a liberal constructionist of the Constitution ; and like all the sectaries of the Supreme Court School of interpretation, involves himself, whenever he touches the fundamental question, in vagueness, inconsistency and contradiction.
The “Exposition" proceeds on the dogma, that the Constitution of the United States is the work of the entire people, considered as a homogeneous mass,—one consolidated political community: a dogma entirely inconsistent with the facts of the case, and pregnant with consequences dangerous, in the highest and most vital degree, to the sovereignty of the States, and to the safety and independence of State franchises and institutions. This doctrine is the nucleus, around which the comments of the advocates of consolidation arrange and encrust themselves, the central pier, on which the Supreme Court supports that magnificent ħighway, which they have constructed for the free discretion of Congress to march into the regions of universal legislation, the buttress, on which the executive department leans, in all its self-appropriations of power,--the fatal fountain, from which issue the torrents that are destined to obliterate the landmarks of the Constitution, and to sweep away the foundations of State independence. It is the arch vice, which commenced its contaminations of the Federal Government, with the fatal bank discussions of 1791,—the cancer, which is now eating away at the very vitals of the Constitution.
To show the fallacy of this dogma, one question, among many others which might be propounded, may suffice, viz. : When and where did the people of the several States hold the great elementary meeting, and execute the grand and solemn political act, of abrogating their separate independence and sovereignty, and of fusing themselves into one national mass? At what time, and in what place, was this great moral crucible set up? If the people of the United States formed the Constitution as one nation, they must have effected this fusion antecedent to that formation; and they could have done this only by grand popular convocations within the limits of their several domains. But, as no transactions of this kind ever took place, it necessarily follows, that the premises of the dogma are false, and that all the corollaries which are deduced from it are false also. Besides, if the people had merged their State individualities in one national mass, then, at the formation of the Constitution, there could have been no State sovereignties, and no rights to be reserved.—so that the Constitution would speak of things existing which did not exist !
From this preposterous assumption, arises a large portion of the dangers which menace the State sovereignties. On it rest the startling doctrines and interpretations, as to the powers of the Federal Government, promulgated by the Supreme Court. This high judicatory has, in those doctrines and interpretations, broken down the barriers of the Constitution, taken away all restrictions from the will of Congress, and, in fact, invested that department of the government with a horizon of legislation which amplifies and recedes with every step of approach. It also serves as the basis to the reasonings and interpretations of the Executive Department; which assumes, that all the views and notions of the President, regarding the Constitution, and its provisions, are right and orthodox, and all the measures he may, in consequence thereof, enter into, are proper and constitutional,-because the President was elected by a majority of the people of the United States, who were necessarily au fait as to what were his views and notions a position, springing in the line of direct descent from the dogma we are commenting on, as its natural and necessary issue,—and now, since the days of Jackson inclusive, openly assumed by executive incumbents, and unsuspectingły received, by the people at large, as a political axiom !
-but fatal to the spirit of this confederacy, as a confederacy,—setting aside, in its purport and results, the guidance and control of a written charter, and ending, as it must, and will end, in immolating the State sovereignties at the feet of a parvenu, illegitimate, irresponsible despotism! In a word, this doctrine is the basis of federalism, centralism, consolidism; the fulcrum, on which the advocates of a strong government plant their levers, to overthrow every thing which would prevent the legislative and executive functionaries from walking free and at large among the delegated powers; the rock, from whose summit play the batteries, which are slowly, but surely demolishing the State sovereignties. Take away this iniquitous dogma, and what becomes of the “Proclamation," and the “Force Bill,”—of that key-stone blunder, the opinion of Chief Justice Marshall in the case of Macculloch vs. the State of Maryland, -of all the numerous heresies with which our political faith is now inundated ?
Till the advocates of consolidation have answered the above question, as to when and where was held the grand convention for melting the confederated States into a national mass, the futility and fallacy of talking about the Constitution being formed by the people, as one nation, may be considered to be irrefragably affirmed and demonstrated. But it may, nevertheless, be worth while, to ask some other questions, of synonymous import and pertinency.
1. Were not the Colonies, under the British domination, separate governments ?
2. Were not the Colonies wholly independent of one another in their entire political organization and administration, having no connecting tie but what they derived from being lieges of the British sceptre ; and, in this respect, standing in the same relation to one another, as they did to Canada, Minorca, or any other of the dependancies of the British crown, except, in so far as the mere fact of proximity was concerned ?
3. When the Colonies confederated to resist the exactions of the English Parliament, did they not form their coalition, frame their measures, perform their acts, on the principle of being separate States, each possessing its own distinct independent polity, acting on the basis of its own free agency?
4. When the Federal Constitution was formed, did not each State act for itself ?-did not the people of each State, at the call of its own Legislature, meet on its own soil, within its own territorial boundaries, in its own primordial capacity, of an independent political community, possessing and exercising the attributes of original underived sovereignty, the power and the will of political omnipotence, that power and that will which are antecedent and paramount to all political organization and laws, the principium et fons whence governments imbibe their existence and life,-did not the people of each State thus and there meet, and by their own, several, sovereign act, adopt and ordain the Constitution, each for itself?
5. Was the Constitution binding on any State, before the people of that State thus ordained it?
6. When all the States, but two, had ratified the Constitution, how comes it that the Constitution did not extend itself over the said two, and, without more ado, incorporate them into the “national family," instead of waiting for them to accede?