Page images
PDF
EPUB

However much the tone of a large portion of the American press towards this country is to be condemned, that of our own towards America-with far less excuse-has been equally unfriendly. Since this unhappy civil

upon which the old Union would split.' He was right. What was conjecture with him is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him, and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they did not know well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at the time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution

were

while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly used against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a government built upon it— When the storm came and the wind blew, it fell. Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid; its corner-stone rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. This, our new Government, is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."-Speech of Vice-President A. H. STEPHENS, at Savannah.

war it has too often spoken of the United States in language which it would not have used when they were an unbroken power. For this result Mr. Spence's work is in no small degree answerable. Readable in its type; clear, flowing, and forcible in its diction; eloquent in its expression; strewed with quotations so apt that they only leave us to regret the absence of all reference to their sources; artistic in all its arrangements, it has caught the popular eye, and has given the public a logical result without the necessity of thought.

But it is with the question discussed in the sixth chapter of his book, "Is secession a constitutional right?" that the following pages have more especially to do. Mr. Spence evinces a peculiar objection to America being considered as in any respect a Nation. It was once said of Goldsmith that he would have returned from foreign travel, bringing home a wheelbarrow, and called that an improvement. Mr. Spence has made a discovery equally important. A citizen of the United States now calls himself an American! Has he forgotten the words of

Washington's farewell address?" Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your National capacity, must always exalt a just pride of patriotism more than appellations derived from local discriminations." But Mr. Spence repudiates the term “ National Government" as quite inapplicable to Congress, and with singular inaccuracy declares it was repudiated by the Federal Convention. He states that those words actually appeared on the face of the first draft of the Constitution, and were struck out by that body on the ground of their being inapplicable to the facts, and opposed to the intentions of its framers.

Mr. Spence is wrong in saying that they appeared in the first draft of the Constitution. They did appear, however, in the first of a series of resolutions adopted by the Convention soon after it had commenced its sittings. These resolutions were subsequently revised, and, in the revision, the term "National Government" 1 Appendix C.

2 "History of the Constitution of the United States."

2

Sampson Low & Co., London, 1858, ii. 86.

2

disappeared from the first resolution simply because it was surplusage. The resolution then read, "That the Government of the United States ought to consist of a supreme Legislative Judiciary and Executive." The word "National" attached to these separate departments occurs no less than twelve times in the subsequent resolutions, and in two instances the term "National Government" is used. The intentions of the Convention are more clearly seen by comparing the preamble of the first draft of the Constitution as reported by the committee of detail with that finally adopted. The former says, We, the people of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, do ordain, declare, and establish the following constitution for the government of ourselves and our posterity." Now, as it was obvious that this preambl. presumed upon the ratification of the people. of all the States; that one of the States 1 Idem, ii. 190. 2 Idem, ii. 608.

66

enumerated, viz., Rhode Island, had sent no representatives to the Convention; and that, moreover, all mention of the objects of the Constitution were omitted; on these accounts it was rejected and the following adopted in its place, "We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America."

Had Mr. Spence simply asserted the revolutionary right which permanently exists with every People, we should certainly not have dissented. Our own system of government rests upon the same foundation as that claimed by the People of the United States "the consent of the governed." To give up this right, inherent as it is in every nation and overriding all constitutions whatever, parchment or otherwise, is to pass over at once to the doctrine of "divine right." Tyranny is not government, and allegiance is due only to protection. Where a government does not fulfil its only

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »