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This work appears to have been written poration, capable of acting as an individwith an honest intention, and bears evi-ual person. dent marks of talent and serious study. But our present purpose is not to critIt contains many first views on the con- icise this little work itself ; we have institution of the United States, clearly, troduced it simply as an occasion for though not vividly expressed, but appears offering some remarks on the subject of to us to err in its general theory of gov- the presidential or executive veto-a ernment, by overlooking the fact, that subject we should be happy to see disthe necessity of government does not cussed more generally than it has been, grow wholly out of the depravity of in a calm philosophic spirit, from the human nature, and that government point of view of the statesman, rather than is not restricted in its functions merely from that of the demagogue or the parto the repression of violence, or the tisan. unjust encroachments of one man upon There is, and as long as human nature the rights of another. The maintenance remains as it is there will be, under popof justice, or the repression and redress ular governments; a strong tendency in the of wrongs, is, no doubt, a chief func- party that comes into power to exaggerate tion of government; but government has, the intrinsic importance of the constitubeyond this, a positive mission to per- tional provisions to which it owes its sucform, positive benefits to confer, or cess, and also, in the party frequently unsecure, which in no sense grow out of successful, to depreciate or unreasonably the wickedness of men, and which would oppose those provisions which have be the same whatever the intelligence thwarted its wishes. We like that and virtue of individuals. Man is by his which aids us; we are hostile to that essential nature a social being, and de- which defeats us. The men who can mands society; and society demands look beyond the passions of the moment social as well as individual labors. These and judge of the merits of an institulabors have for their end not merely the tion by its average results, are alnegative, but the positive benefit of the ways and everywhere comparatively entire community, and cannot be per- few; the great majority look neither formed without government, or an organ- before nor after : they fix their eyes on ization by which society is made a cor- the present; what favors that is for them

* The Plan of the American Union, and the Structure of its Government Explained and Defended. By JAMES WILLIAMS. Baltimore : Sherwood & Co. 1848. 12mo. pp. 165. VOL. IV. NO. U. NEW SERIES.


good-good in all times and places, and modified. Yet who is prepared to say under all circumstances; what here and that the time may not even soon come now impedes or thwarts them is bad-can when they will find the executive veto never be of service to them, must always their best, perhaps their only, safeguard work against them, and should nowhere against measures which in their judgment and under no circumstances be tolerated would be ruinous to the country ? for a moment. Constitutions are designed The tendency, when we are disapto maintain a fixed and permanent rule, pointed or defeated by some constituand, if they answer their purpose, must tional provision, to complain of the Connot unfrequently control popular wishes stitution itself, and to propose an amendand tendencies, and often restrain the ma- ment which suits our wishes for the mojority, preventing them, for a time at least, ment, is strengthened and apparently justifrom adopting measures which they are fied by certain false notions as to the origin persuaded are for the interests of the of constitutions and as to the rights of country. Hence we must always expect majorities, which have become, or are under popular governments a party that becoming, quite prevalent in our country will be dissatisfied with the Constitution, as well as in some others. It was prenow with this provision, and now with tended by some men in the last century, that, and ready to agitate for its amend who then passed for philosophers, that ment, alteration, or total suppression. to make a constitution is the easiest thing

It can hardly as yet be forgotten, that, in the world, that nothing is simpler or under the administration of General Jack- more feasible than for a people without son, the constitution of the Senate of the a government, or as if in a state of nature, United States was the object of virulent to come together in person or by delegates attacks from the Democratic party of the and give themselves any constitution they time. That party denounced the Senate please, and provide for its wise and beas the aristocratic branch of the govern- neficent practical operation. They put ment, as repugnant to the genius of free forth the most extravagant follies on the institutions, and demanded its essential excellence and perfectibility of human modification, because, just then, it hap- nature, and virtually deified the people. pened not to be for them. Yet that They disdained, indeed, to believe in God, party to-day find the Senate a purely blasphemously alleging that they “had democratic institution, and their chief never seen him at the end of their telereliance to prevent the administration scopes ;" but they did not hesitate to transfrom adopting a policy to which they are fer to the people all the essential attriopposed for they happen to have a butes of Deity, and to fall down and majority of Senators on their side. They worship them as a divinity. The people no longer denounce it as aristocratic, and could remedy all evils; the people could no longer demand that its constitution be make no mistakes ; the people could do modified. On the other hand, it is re- no wrong; and we had only to clear the membered that, in consequence of the use way for the free, full and immediate exand abuse of the executive veto by pression of the popular will, in order to General Jackson and some of his successors have a perfect civil constitution, and a wise to defeat important measures which had re- and just administration. Hence, there ceived the sanction of a majority of Con- need be no hesitancy before overthrowing gress, many in the Whig party who were existing institutions, breaking up establishstrongly in favor of these measures, be- ed order, or in trusting to the unchecked will lieving them to be really demanded by the of the people for a wise remodelling of industry and business of the country, took the State, or the reconstruction of society. up the opinion that the veto power was anti- In consequence of the prevalence of such republican, exceedingly liable to be abus- a pleasant theory, all power of change ed, and in its abuse throwing such undue was removed, all prudence in experimentinfluence into the hands of the Executive ing or innovating rendered superfluous ; as to endanger our free institutions, and all attachment to old institutions or to therefore a constitutional provision that a long-established order appeared foolish, should be either abolished or essentially if not wicked; nothing in heaven or on

earth was to be henceforth sacred or compatible with everything like estabinviolable but the will of the multitude-lished order, with everything permanent that is, the will of the demagogues who or stable in government, and keeps everycould manage the multitude and we were thing unsettled and fluctuating. to surrender ourselves to that will with From the fact that, under our political as much confidence, and with as little re- order, the greater number of questions are serve, as the saint reposes on the will of determined by the will of the majority, a God.

large class of our politicians, seldom acInto this silly and impious doctrine the customed to look beneath the surface, or fathers of our republic did not fall. They to trace facts to their principles, conclude were no vague theorizers, no mad vision that the majority have a natural right to aries ; they were plain, practical men, who govern, and that whatever tends to hinder looked at realities, and dealt with things the free and full expression of their will as they found them. But this doctrine, is contrary to natural law, and smells of which has for the last sixty years con usurpation. They are scandalized when vulsed all Europe, overturned thrones, they find the Constitution opposing a displaced dynasties, and left few things barrier to the will of the majority, standing, except despotism on one side and call out with all their force, from and the mob on the other, has found the very top of their lungs, for its its way amongst us also, and spread amendment. Is it not the essential its subtle poison through our own com- principle of all republicanism, say they, munity. Our people, in large numbers, that the majority must govern ?' What forget that constitutions are generated, then can be more anti-republican, more not made, and that no constitution can really undemocratic, than to uphold a draw up and impose a constitution which constitution that hinders the majority from shall be really a constitution, unless its doing whatever they please? But these essential principles are already, through sage politicians would do well to rememProvidence, established in the wants, the ber, that the right of the majority to rule habits, the usages, the manners and cus is a civil, not a natural right, and exists toms of the people for whom it is in only by virtue of positive law. Anterior tended ; that the constitution can never to civil society, or under the law of nature, be arbitrarily imposed, but must always all men are equal, respectively independgrow out of the pre-existing elements of ent, and no one has any authority over the national life; and that when once another. Each is independent of all, and formed it is to be henceforth modified only all of each ; and both majorities and miaccording to its own internal law, through norities are inconceivable.

Civil society the most urgent necessity, with the must be constituted before you can even greatest delicacy, and the most consum- conceive the existence of a political mate wisdom and prudence. Hence they majority or minority, and when it is cease to regard the Constitution as sacred, constituted, neither has any rights but and look upon it as a thing that may be those the law confers. Deriving their exchanged with as much facility, and almost istence and their rights from the civil for as slight reasons, as a gentleman constitution, it is absurd to pretend changes the fashion of his coat, or a lady that the majority are, or can be, dethe make of her bonnet. To change it, prived of any of their natural rights by is not only the easiest but the safest any constitutional provision. If then a thing in the world. Consequently, the given constitutional provision should reidea of submitting to a present inconven- strain the majority, prevent them from ience, of suffering a constitutional provi- making their will prevail, that is no just sion which restrains their will or thwarts cause of complaint, for no law is broken, their present wishes, rarely occurs to no right is violated ; and when no law is them; and whenever things do not go to broken and no right violated, no injustice their mind they clamor for a change is done. in the Constitution. The danger of this It is necessary to set aside these false nostate of the public mind needs not to be tions, or pretensions, of modern Radicals pointed out to the statesman. It is in- | and Socialists, which are revolutionary in

principle, and incompatible not only with of the English constitution are the separaall stable government, but with the very tion, on the one hand, of the bodies repreexistence of the State [status, of legal or- sented in the government; and on the othder itself. We must approach every estab- er, of the powers of government itself, each lished constitution with the presumption, as with a veto on the others. It is solely in the lawyers say, in its favor, and as bound to this separation of the constituent bodies, accept and sustain it as it is, unless good and of the several departments of govand suficient reasons are forthcoming for ernment, each with its veto, that consists alteration or amendment. On no other con- the beauty and excellence of the English dition can we be distinguished, in princi- system; and it is this alone that constiple, from Radicals and Destructives, and tutes the safeguard of English liberty. consistently profess to be conservatives, These divisions, and the veto power attachand friends of liberty, because friends of ing to each, are not in themselves, it is true, order. The presumption is universally in favorable to the efficiency of administration, favor of authority—that the constitution, nor are they intended to be so; they are as it is, is right—that the law is just ; and intended to serve as checks or restraints before we can have the right even to en- on power, to prevent it from becoming tertain a proposition to alter it, we must despotic, or hostile to the liberty of the be able to prove beyond a reasonable subject; and the peculiar merit of this condoubt that it is wrong, that it is unjust. stitutional system is, that they serve this The fact that the veto power exists in the purpose without impairing, in too great Constitution is to us, therefore, a presump- a degree, the unity and force of authotion, at least, that it ought to be there; | rity. it is, indeed, a sufficient motive for re- This system we inherited with the comtaining it, until a valid and sufficient mon law from our English ancestors, and reason is shown for abolishing it. We in- have retained it with simply such modifisist on this view of the case, because we cations as the circumstances of our counare anxious that the principle we indicate try and the elements of our society renshould be well considered. The oppo- dered necessary or expedient. In intersite principle is rapidly gaining ground preting our institutions, we are always to amongst us, if indeed it bas not already seek our principle of interpretation in this become predominant. The fashion is now system, and are never to resort to any of to presume every man guilty till proved the ancient republican or to any of the innocent-to hold every charge true till it modern democratic theories. Our governis proved to be false—all government, all ment is republican, in the sense that it is law, all authority in the wrong, till the not monarchical ; it is democratic in the contrary is established. The popular ten- sense that it recognizes no political arisdency is to arraign government before the tocracy, and treats all men as equal before bar of anarchy, and compel it to vindicate the law; but in no other sense is it, or its own innocence, thus reversing all the was it ever intended to be, either repubmaxims of law, of justice, and of logic, lican or democratic ; save as all governhitherto devised and held in respect by the ments that are instituted for the public common sense of mankind. It is well, weal, instead of the private benefit of the therefore, to remind the public, occasion governors, are republican, whatever their ally, that the presumption is always on form. The people with us are the motive the side of the Constitution and of the au- power, but not the directire or governthorities holding under it.

ing power; the government vests in the The value of the veto power is not, how- Constitution rather than in them; for outever, left to be merely presumed. It is a side of it they have no political existence, vital element in our general system of gov- and no political authority, except from it, ernment, which is not so much an original and in and through it. The government, system, as an original and peculiar modifi- in principle, is the government of law, not cation of the English system, well known the government of mere will, whether of to be a government of estates, as distin- the one, the few, or the many. The Conguished from what has received the name stitution governs the State, or the people of centralism. The characteristic features in their collective and associated capacity; the ordinary laws govern the people as | ies into Kings, Lords and Commons, individuals.

adopted in England, we have not adoptIt is well to bear this fact in mind, es- ed, and could not have adopted, if we pecially in these times, when the rage is to had wished, because there was nothing abolish law, and introduce, everywhere, in our society which rendered it either governments of mere will. Law is the necessary or practicable. We had no will of the sovereign regulated by reason, King and no Lords; for, as Mr. Bancroft the expression of power united with jus- has well remarked, royalty and nobility tice; will without reason is power dis- did not emigrate. Only the third estate joined from justice, and therefore the es- emigrated. Of the three estates representsential or the distinctive principle of des- ed in the English government, we had potism. Every government which is a only one, the Commons, and, of course, government of mere will is despotic, and could not represent what we had not. incompatible with freedom, whether the Having but one estate, we necessarily apwill be that of the king, of the nobility, or proached nearer to centralism in repof the democracy; of the minority, or of resentation than the English, and their the majority. Strange as it may seem,

Constitution has an advantage over ours. there is not the least conceivable differ- | Nevertheless, in consequence of the dience in principle between Russian autocra- vision of the country into separate States, cy, or oriental despotism, and the pure we have in some degree been able to absolute democracy which is just now the escape centralism in the Constitntion of fashion in Italy, in France, in parts of the national Senate, and we have also Germany, and, we are sorry to add, in our done it to some extent, though not as far own country. In each the sovereign au- as we might and ought to have done, in thority is absolute, unlimited ; and under the several States, by dividing the reboth the law, or what is to be regarded as presentives into two chambers, each with law, is the expression of mere arbitrary will. a different electoral basis. But in regard Practically, we should prefer the Russian to the separation of the powers of gov- . or oriental despotism to that which our ernment into legislative, executive, and fashionable democrats are laboring to es judiciary departments, we have in the tablish here, both in the several States and general government, and in most of the in the nation, and which the National As- State governments, conformed to the Eng

, lish

This separation of the powers of gorgated, to fasten upon France ; for we ernment into distinct and mutually inwould much rather be subject to a single dependent departments, by which we despot, than to a mob of despots. In con- escape the worst form of centralism, is sequence of mistaking the real character fundamental in our political system, and of our government, of overlooking the fact to change it would destroy the essential that what its framers most sedulously character of the system itself, and, by guarded against was that of making it, or centralizing all the powers of government having it to become, a government of mere in one and the same department, would will, and of seeking to naturalize amongst render freedom wholly impracticable. To us a wild and destructive democracy im- the maintenance of this separation, and of ported from abroad, from the Radicals of each department in its independence, the Europe, most of whom are born despots, executive veto is indispensable, as every and have not the least imaginable concep- statesman-we say not every politician--tion either of the nation, or of the constitu- must readily perceive and admit. It was tion of true liberty, our democratic politi- given by the Constitution mainly, though cians have created, or suffered to be formed not exclusively, to enable the Executive to in our community, a public opinion which maintain its independence in face of legislaalready hinders the regular working of our tive encroachments. Without it, there political system, and threatens, at no dis would be no independent, no efficient, and tant day, if not soon corrected, its very no responsible Executive. All the powers existence.

of government would be 'absorbed by The separation of the constituent bod- | Congress, and the President would cease

lous constitution they have first promul- This separation of the

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