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stitution of the United States, it would be good for nothing; there might as well be no general government at all. Any law, therefore, which is decided by a competent court to be contrary to the constitution, is void.
12. By the last article, the constitution was to go into effect when ratified by conventions of delegates of nine states, which was then a majority of three-fourths of the states. As it was hardly to be expected that every state would immediately adopt it, it was not thought proper to risk the good of all upon an event so doubtful.
13. The framers closed their labors in September, 1787 ; and in July, 1788, New Hampshire, the ninth state, sent its ratification to congress; and congress appointed the first Wednesday of January, 1789, for choosing electors of president in the several states, and the first Wednesday of Feb. ruary for the electors to meet in their respective states to elect the president. Gen. Washington was unanimously chosen, and on the 30th of April, was inaugurated presi. dent. Proceedings, however, commenced under the consti. tution on the 4th of March, preceding.
14. In the foregoing sketch of the government of the United States, many provisions of the constitution have been passed over without remark. A note on every clause could not be given. The student who wishes to obtain a better knowledge of our national jurisprudence, is referred to the larger work of the author, entitled “Science of Govern.
Review and Conclusion.
1. From the view which has been given of the state and national governments, it must be seen how well they are adapted to promote the general welfare of the people, and
12. How was the constitution ratified ? 13. When was it finally ratified ? and when was the government commenced under it? Who was the first president ? and when elected ?
to secure to them the blessings of liberty. Let us, by way of review, again advert to some of the leading features of our political system.
2. One of the excellencies of this system is the extent to which political rights and privileges are enjoyed. In the ancient democracies of Greece, where every freeman was a member of the legislature, political rights were enjoyed and exercised only by about one-twentieth part of the male citizens of full age. In England and France, where one branch of the legislature is elective, a large portion of the people have no right to vote for their representatives. In the latter country, containing a population of nearly 35 millions, there are probably not as many voters as in the state of Ohio.
3. But in the greater portion of the United States, nearly all the white male citizens exercise the rights of freemen. They have a voice in choosing their constitution, and in electing the officers of the government. This is the fundamental principle of republicanism, the highest privilege of freemen.
4. Another excellency of our government, and one that gives security to liberty, is the division of the civil power into legislative, executive, and judicial. If the persons who make the laws, should also have power to execute them, and to judge of and apply them, the government, whatever it might be called, would be little better than a despotism. There would be too many different powers in the same hands. It has found better to keep several kinds of
5. Additional security is given to liberty by the peculiar nature of the' union. This has been described. It differs from the unions that have heretofore existed. These were simple confederacies or leagues between sovereign states. The old American confederation was of this kind. By a sovereign state, we mean a state that makes all its own laws, and is controlled by no superior power.
2. To what extent was political power exercised in ancient Greece ! What is said of the right of suffrage in England and France ? 3. What is said of the same in the United States? 4. What division of civil power gives security to liberty? 5. What else increases this security ?
6. The Swiss cantons are at present united in such a eonfederacy. They are sovereign states; and, as in all mere confederations, each canton has an equal vote in the congress. The principal German states are simi. larly united ; some of which are republican, others monarchical.
7. But the states of the American union are not wholly sovereign. They have, for the good of the whole, given up a portion of their sovereignty to the general government, which, in some cases, controls the state governments. If the states were entirely sovereign, they could establish any kind of government. But by the constitution, the general government has power, and is bound, to prevent any state from changing its government to any other than a republican form. [Art. 4, 94.]
8. In the progress of this work, the government of the United States has frequently been called the national government; but it is not wholly national. To have an idea of a government purely national, we must suppose the people united in one great government, with only one legislature to make laws for the whole nation, one executive, and one judiciary. And in adopting a constitution, all the electors must vote directly for or against the proposed form, and a majority of all the votes must be necessary for its adoption, as when choosing a state constitution.
9. But it must be kept in mind that the state governments existed first, and that the civil conduct of the citizens is regulated by the laws of the states. Although the general government, also, in some cases, acts directly upon indi. vidual citizens, and is superior to the state governments ; yet its powers extend only to certain objects, which powers are given to it by the people of the states; consequently all powers which the constitution does not grant to the general government, remain with the states and the people. [Amend. Art. 10.]
What is a sovereign state? 6. What is said of the Swiss and German confederations ? 7. Are our states wholly sovereign ? How, and to what extent are they prevented from changing their governments ? 8, What would be necessary to make the general government purely national ? 9. By what laws is the civil conduct of the citizens regulated ?
10. The government is therefore of a mixed nature, being partly national and partly federal. Federal signifies, united .by a league or confederation, and implies that the members have equal power. Such was the character of the old confederation ; and some of its principles have been retained in the constitution.
11. Under the former, all the states were equally represented in the congress, the members of which were chosen by the state legislatures. So in the senate, the states are equally represented now; and the senators are also appointed by the state legislatures. In the adoption of the constitution, also, the states had an equal voice; and so they must have in amending it. In these cases the federal prin. ciple is preserved.
12. Again : In electing a president by presidential elec. tors, each state having a number proportioned to its popula. tion, the election is upon the national principle. But if the election is to be made by the house of representatives, each state has an equal vote : this is according to the federal principle. Hence the government of the United States is sometimes called the “ federal government.”
13. It may perhaps be asked: Why are so many govern. ments necessary? Why not dispense with the state govern. ments, and let the people of the whole nation be united in one great national government, like that of a state ? Such a plan would be impracticable. A single government could not make all the laws necessary for so great a nation, nor manage its numerous affairs. Hence, the interests of large portions and of different classes of the people must be neg. lected. Complaints and grievances would spring up in every quarter, and the government could not satisfy or re. dress them; and disorder and confusion would soon prevail throughout the republic, and perhaps result in bloodshed.
14. Thus we see that our liberties are best secured by having the national territory divided into portions of conve.
Whence does the general government derive its powers? 10. What two principles are combined in the general government? What is federal ? 11, 12. Wherein has the federal principle been retained ? 13. Why might not the whole nation be under a single government ? 14. How
nient size, with a government in each, and by binding them together under a strong national government, which shall keep each of them within its own proper sphere.
15. How highly favored the people who live under such a government as that which we have described! How dear should be the memory of those who achieved the indepen. dence of these states, and established the system of govern. ment which has conveyed to us, their descendants, the blessings of civil and religious freedom! And what a debt of gratitude is due to the Supreme Ruler of nations, for conducting a feeble and infant nation, through difficulties and dangers, to a state of unexampled prosperity and happiness!
16. With our patriot fathers, the great object was inde. pendence and liberty. With us let the question be, How shall our liberties be preserved?
Whether the American people shall long continue to enjoy the blessings which our excellent constitution is capable of securing to them, depends upon what shall be the character and conduct of the people themselves.
17. A nation to be prosperous and happy, must be virtu. ous. A community may live under a free constitution, and yet suffer all the evils of a despotism. The people may be their own oppressors. Bad laws in a republican government, are no less oppressive than in any other. Where there is not virtue in the body politic, bad men will be elected to office, and bad laws will be made.
18. On the other hand, freedom may be enjoyed even in a monarchy. A wise and virtuous king will make good and wholesome laws; and his subjects may as truly enjoy civil and religious liberty, as the citizens of a republic. Freedom exists really wherever the laws are good, and where they are properly administered and duly re. spected.
19. The people must also be intelligent. In general, the
aro our liberties best secured? 15. To whom are we indebted for all the blessings of good government? 16. On what does the continuance of our liberties depend? 17, 18. What is necessary to the happiness and prosperity of a nation? Can there be freedorn in a monarchy? Where does it exist ? 19. What are the effects of ignorance in a community!