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claring what the government shall be, what officers are to be elected, and what duties they are to perform. It declares also what laws may, and what may not be made: hence it is sometimes called the fundamental law, being the foundation of all other laws, which must conform to or agree with the fundamental law. It is also called a frame of govern. ment, and may be compared to the frame of a building. The frame gives form and shape to the building; and every additional timber and plank required to finish it, must be fitted to the frame. So every law that is made, and every act that is done by the officers of the government, must conform to the constitution.
14. But, though a constitution is a law, is a constitution. A constitution is a form of government, or fundamental law; and being made by the act of the people, as a body politic, or political body, it is sometimes called the political law. The laws are acts of the legisleture, which are necessary in carrying on the government, and regulating the conduct of the citizens; and are called, by way of distinction, the civil, or municipal laws.
15. It appears, also, that the first and highest act of a free people, is the choice of a constitution or form of gov. ernment for themselves. Hence, in no country do the pers. ple enjoy greater political privileges, than in the United States. In most governments there is either no constitution at all, or none that is made by the people. The people of Great Britain enjoy a good degree of civil liberty, and we hear of the British constitution ; but it is not a written instrument like ours, adopted by the free vote of the people. Not having such a constitution to restrain their rulers, the people are liable to suffer, and often do suffer, from the enactment of unjust laws.
called the fundamental law? To what is it compared ? 14. Why is it called the political law? What is meant by body politic? In what does a political law differ from a civil or municipal law? 15. What is the most important act of a free people ? Do the ments enjoy this privilege? What is said of the people of Great Britain, and the British constitution ?
ople in most govern CHAPTER IV.
How the present Form of Government came to be established
in this country.
1. It is presumed that the youngest of my readers know, that the people of the United States have not always lived under their present excellent form of government. For more than one hundred and fifty years after the first settlement of this country, they were subject to the government of Great Britain. The present year (1845) is the 69th since the American colonies, now states, separated them. selves from the parent country, and claimed the right to establish a government for themselves.
2. This country was first settled by the English, who claimed it by right of discovery, they having discovered it in 1497, about five years after Columbus had discovered the West India Islands. The first permanent settlement, however, was not made until the year 1607, when a colony of 105 persons settled at Jamestown, in Virginia. A few years afterwards, (1620,) a colony was planted in Plymouth, in Massachusetts. After this, the number of colonies rapidly increased to twelve, the last of which, Pennsylvania, was settled in 1681.
About fifty years thereafter, (1732,) Georgia was settled, the last of the thirteen which declared themselves free and independent states.
3. During their connection with Great Britain, the gov. ernment of the colonies was not one of their own choice, but such as the king was pleased to institute for them. Each colony had a separate and distinct government; but the governments in the different colonies were in many particulars alike. The powers of government were generally vested in a governor, a council, and an assembly of repre. sentatives chosen by the people. These three branches
1. To what government were the people of this country formerly subject? How long ? What is a colony ? 2. When did the English discover this country?
When and where was the first settlement made? What is said of others? 3. What is said about the government of the colonies while connected with Great Britain ? Were they all
corresponded to the king, the nobles, and the commons, in the government of Great Britain. Power was therefore divided, in those governments, in nearly the same manner as it is in the states at present; for there is in every state a governor, a senate, and a representative assembly.
4. There is, however, an important difference between those governments and the present. The people of the col. onies were not al wed to choose a constitution or form of government for themselves; nor had they the privilege of choosing the officers of the different departments of the gov. ernment. The governors were appointed either by the king, or by such persons as had authority from the king to appoint them; and they were generally under the control of the king, who kept them in office as long or as short a time as he pleased.
5. The council was composed of a small number of men, also appointed by the king, and subject to his pleas
This body constituted one branch of the legislature. The judges and magistrates, and other officers, were appointed by the governors, or by the king, or other persons who appointed the governors.
6. Hence it appears, that only one branch of the lawmaking power was chosen by the people; while the other two, the governor and council, were appointed by the king, or were subject to him, as were also the other officers of the government. Although one branch of the legislature was composed of men chosen by the people, the people could not always get such laws enacted as they wished ; because both the governor and the council must agree to every measure which the people's representatives might propose; and then, when agreed to by them, it must be sent to England, and submitted to the king, who also must give it his approval before it could be a law.
7. In a few of the colonies, however, the people enjoyed greater privileges. In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and
governed alike? 4. In what respect did those governments differ from the present? Who appointed the governors ? 5. How was the council composed ? How were other officers appointed ? 6. What officers were chosen by the people ? Could the people have such laws as they wished? Why not?' 7. In what colonies did the people choose
Connecticut, for some years before the revolution, they elected their governors and both houses of the legislature. But even in these colonies, no laws might be enacted that were contrary to the laws of England. And the privileges which they did enjoy were granted by the king, and might at any time be taken away from them at his pleasure.
8. From this description of the government of the colonies, it will be seen that the people could not have such a government, in all respects, as they wished; the laws being such as the king was pleased to impose upon them. Many of the laws enacted by parliament, and approved by the king, bore hard upon the colonists. The main object of these laws was to prevent the colonists from trading wherever they pleased, and to compel them to trade with England. A law was enacted, declaring that no goods should be imported into the colonies, but in English vessels. If brought in other vessels, both goods and vessels were to be forfeited to the British government.
9. Another law required, that such articles of produce raised here, as England wanted, the colonists should not transport to any other country than Great Britain, and other countries belonging to the crown of England. . They might ship to foreign markets only such articles as English merchants did not want. They might not sell abroad any wool, yarn, or woollen manufactured goods. Another law declared, that no iron wares of any kind should even be manufactured in the plantations.
10. By these and sundry other laws, it was intended that all the manufactured goods the colonists wanted, and whatever else they did not produce for themselves, they should be compelled to buy of England; and that all they had to sell, that England wanted, they should sell to Eng. land. To accomplish this object, heavy duties were laid upon goods brought hither from any country but Great Britain and her possessions, A duty, as the word is here used, is a tax levied upon goods brought into a country from abroad.
their governors and legislatures ? 8, 9, 10. What was the general object of the laws made in England, that led the colonies to separate from that government ? Describe some of those laws.
What is a
11. The nature of these duties will appear from the fol. lowing facts :—The colonists traded with the West India Islands. Some of these islands belonged to France, some to Spain, and others to Great Britain. Now, to prevent the colonists from buying goods at the French and Spanish islands, parliament enacted a law compelling them to pay high duties on the molasses, sugar, and other articles which they should receive from these islands. To avoid this tax, therefore, they must obtain these articles from the British islands.
12. Great Britain did not stop here. Not satisfied with these acts of parliament, by which English traders had been enabled to enrich themselves, parliament claimed the right to tax the colonies “in all cases whatsoever;" and an act was passed, accordingly, laying duties upon all tea, glass, paper, and painters' colors, imported into the colonies; and the money thus collected was put into the British treasury.
13. The colonists remonstrated against these unjust laws. Petitions were sent to the king, and memorials to both houses of parliament, praying that these laws might be repealed; but their requests were of no avail. AT length, the colonists resolving no longer to submit to such laws, and the British government being determined to en. force them, a war between the two countries was the con. sequence.
14. The war commenced in 1775. On the 4th of July, 1776, congress declared the colonies to be free and inde. pendent states, no longer subject to Great Britain. Con. gress was a kind of legislative body, composed of a few delegates or representatives from the several colonies. A description of this congress will be given in another part of this work; also the declaration of independence, with the names of the men who signed it. After a hard struggle of about seven years, the war was ended, and Great Britain
duty ? 11. Give a fact, illustrating the nature and operation of a duty. 12. What general power did parliament claim ? And what law was then enacted ? 13. How did the colonists endeavor to get these laws repealed ? 14. When was independence declared ? By whom? How was congress composed ? What is meant by the American Revolution?