Abbildungen der Seite


American system. In the Declaration of each state, independently of the state govIndependence the provinces declare them- ernments, after the project had been framed. selves “free and independent states,” but the men of those days knew that the word

There had always been two parties in the "sovereign" was a term of feudal origin. When their connection withi a time-honored country during the brief but pregnant pefeudal monarchy was abruptly severed, the

riod between the abjuration of British auword “sovereign ” had no meaning for us.

thority and the adoption of the Constitution

of 1787. A sovereign is one who acknowledges no su

There was a party advocating perior, who possesses the highest authority state rights and local self-government in its without control, who is supreme in power.

largest sense, and a party favoring a more consolidated and national government.

The How could any one state of the United States claim such characteristics at all, least

National or Federal party triumphed in the of all after its inhabitants, in their primary strenuously supported and bitterly opposed

adoption of the new government. It was assemblies, had voted to submit themselves, without limitation of time, to a constitution on exactly the same grounds. Its friends which was declared supreme? The only in

and foes both agreed that it had put an end telligible source of power in a country be

to the system of confederacy. Whether it ginning its history de novo after a revolution,

were an advantageous or a noxious change, in a land never subjected to military or feu- all agreed that the thing had been done. dal conquest, is the will of the people of the “In all our deliberations,” says the letter whole land as expressed by a majority. At accompanying and recommending the Conthe present moment, unless the Southern stitution to the people, “ we kept steadily in revolution shall prove successful, the United view that which appeared to us the greatest

interest of every true American, the consoliStates Government is a fact, an established dation of our Union, in which is involved authority. In the period between 1783 and our prosperity, safety, perhaps our national 1787 we were in chaos. In May of 1787 existence.Journal of the Convention, 1 the Convention met in Philadelphia, and, Story, 368. after some months' deliberation, adopted

And an eloquent opponent denounced the with unprecedented unanimity the project of project for the very same reason :the great law, which, so soon as it should be

“ That this is a consolidated government,” accepted by the people, was to be known as

The the Constitution of the United States.

said Henry, “is demonstrably clear. language is . we the people' instead of ó we

the states.' It must be one great consoliIt was not a compact.

Who ever heard of all the states."

dated national government of the people of a compact to which there were no parties, or who ever heard of a compact made by a sin- And the Supreme Court of the United gle party with himself? Yet the name of States, after the government had been esno state is mentioned in the whole docu- tablished, held this language in an imporment; the states themselves are only men- tant case,

“Gibbons v. Ogden : tioned to receive commands or prohibitions,

“ It has been said that the states were and the “people of the United States” is sovereign, were completely independent, and the single party by whom alone the instru- were connected with each other by a league. ment is executed.

This is true. But when these allied soverThe Constitution was not drawn up by the eignties converted their league into a govstates, it was not promulgated in the name ernment, when they converted their Congress of the states, it was not ratified by the states. to enact laws, the whole character in which

of ambassadors into a legislature, empowered The states never acceded to it, and possess the states appear underwent a change." no power to secede from it. It “ was ordained and established" over the states by

There was never a disposition in any quara power superior to the states by the peo- ter in the early days of our constitutional ple of the whole land in their aggregate ca- history to deny this great fundamental prinpacity, acting through conventions of dele-ciple of the Republic. gates expressly chosen for the purpose within “In the most elaborate expositions of


the Constitution by its friends," says Justice all former Federal governments, such as the Story, “ils character as a permanent form Amphictyonic, Achæan, and Lycian Confedof government, as a fundamental law, as a eracies, and the Germanic, Helvetic, Hansupreme rule, which no state was at liberty seatic and Dutch Republics, is that they were to disregard, to suspend, or to annul, was sovereignties over sovereignties. The first constantly admitted and insisted upon.” effort to relieve the people of the country 1 Story, 325.

from this state of national degradation and The fears of its opponents, then, were vention afterwards met at Philadelphia in

ruin came from Virginia. The general conthat the new system would lead to a strong, May, 1787. The plan was submitted to a to an over-centralized government. The convention of delegates chosen by the peofears of its friends were that the central ple at large in each state for assent and ratpower of theory would prove inefficient to ification. Such a measure was laying the cope with the local, or state forces, in prac- foundations of the fabric of our national tice. The experience of the last thirty years polity where alone they ought to be laidand the catastrophe of the present year, have Kent, 225.

on the broad consent of the people.”—1 shown which class of fears were the more reasonable.

It is true that the consent of the people

was given by the inhabitants voting in each OPINIONS OF THE FATHERS. Had the Union thus established in 1787 could the people of the whole country have

state ; but in what other conceivable way been a confederacy, it might have been ar- voted ? « They assembled in the several gued, with more or less plausibility, that the states which peaceably acceded to it, might they assemble ?”

states," says Story ; " but where else could at pleasure peaceably secede from it. It is none the less true that such a proceeding SECESSION A RETURN TO CHAOS. would have stamped the members of the Con- Secession is, in brief, the return to chaos vention—Washington, Madison, Jay, Ham- from which we emerged three-quarters of a ilton, and their colleagues—with utter in- century since. No logical sequence can be competence ; for nothing can be historically more perfect. If one state has a right to more certain than that their object was to secede to-day, asserting what it calls its extricate us from the anarchy to which that sovereignty, another may, and probably will, principle bad brought us.

do the same to-morrow, a third on the next However gross a heresy it may be,” says day, and so on, until there are none left to the Federalist recommending the new Con- secede from. Granted the premises that stitution, “ to maintain that a party to a com- each state may peaceably secede from the pact has a right to revoke that compact, the Union, it follows that a county may peacedoctrine has had respectable advocates. The ably secede from a state, and a town from a possibility of such a question shows the necessity of laying the foundation of our na

county, until there is nothing left but a tional government deeper than in the mere

horde of individuals all seceding from each sanction of delegated authority. The fabric other. The theory that the people of a of American empire ought to rest on the whole country in their aggregate capacity solid basis of the consent of the people.” are supreme is intelligible; and it has been Certainly the most venerated expounders

a fact, also, in America for seventy years. of the Constitution-Jay, Marshall, Hamil

But it is impossible to show, if the people of ton, Kent, Story, Webster-were of opin

a state be sovereign, that the people of a ion that the intention of the Convention to county, or of a village, and the individuals establish a permanent consolidated govern

of the village, are not equally sovereign, and ment, a single commonwealth, had been justified in "resuming their sovereignty” completely successful.

when their interest or their caprice seems to

impel them. The process of disintegration “ The great and fundamental defect of brings back the community to barbarism, the confederation of 1781,” says Chancellor Kent, “which led to its eventual overthrow, precisely as its converse has built up comwas that, in imitation of all former confed- monwealths—whether empires, kingdoms, eracies, it carried the decrees of the Federal or republics-out of original barbarism. Council to the states in their sovereign ca- Established authority, whatever the thepacity. The great and incurable defect of lory of its origin, is a fact. It should never be lightly or capriciously overturned. They ment itself; it supposes dismemberment who venture on the attempt should weigh without violating the principles of Union ; it well the responsibility that is upon them. supposes opposition to law without crime ; Above all, they must expect to be arraigned it supposes the violation of oaths without refor their deeds before the tribunal of the sponsibility ; it supposes the total overthrow

of government without revolution.” civilized world and of future agesma court of last appeal, the code of which is based on

THE FOUNDERS OF THE COMMONWEALTH. the Divine principles of right and reason, The men who had conducted the Ameriwhich are dispassionate and eternal. No can people through a long and fearful revoman, on either side of the Atlantic, with lution were the founders of the new comAnglo-Saxon blood in his veins, will dispute monwealth which permanently superseded the right of a people or of any portion of a the subverted authority of the Crown. They people to rise against oppression, to demand placed the foundations on the unbiassed, unredress of grievances, and in case of denial trammelled consent of the people. They of justice to take up arms to vindicate the were sick of leagues, of petty sovereignties, sacred principle of liberty. Few English- of governments which could not govern a men or Americans will deny that the source single individual. The framers of the Conof government is the consent of the gov- stitution, which has now endured three-quarerned, or that every nation has the right to ters of a century, and under which the nagovern itself according to its will. When tion has made a material and intellectual the silent consent is changed to fierce re- progress never surpassed in history, were monstrance the revolution is impending. not such triflers as to be ignorant of the REBELLION NOT REVOLUTION.

consequences of their own acts. The Con

stitution which they offered, and which the The right of revolution is indisputable. people adopted as its own, talked not of sorIt is written on the whole record of our race.

ereign states-spoke not the word confederBritish and American history is made up acy. In the very preamble to the instruof rebellion and revolution. Many of the ment are inserted the vital words which show crowned kings were rebels or usurpers. its character. "We, the people of the United Hampden, Pym, and Oliver Cromwell ; States, to ensure a more perfect union, and Washington, Adams, and Jefferson—all were to secure the blessings of liberty for ourrebels. It is no word of reproach. But selves and our posterity, do ordain and esthese men all knew the work they had set tablish this Constitution.Sic volo, sic jubeo. themselves to do. They never called their It is the language of a sovereign solemnly rebellion “ peaceable secession.". They were speaking to the world. It is the promulgasustained by the consciousness of right when tion of a great law, the norma agendi of a they overthrew established authority, but

new commonwealth. It is no compact. they meant to overthrow it. They meant rebellion, civil war, bloodshed, infinite suf

A compact," says Blackstone," is a promfering for themselves and their whole gen- directed to us. The language of a compact

ise proceeding from us. Law is a command eration, for they accounted them welcome is, We will or will not do this: that of a law substitutes for insulted liberty and violated is, Thou shalt or shalt not do it.”—1 B. 38, right. There can be nothing plainer, then, 44, 45. than the American right of revolution. But,

THE LANGUAGE OF THE CONSTITUTION. then, it should be called revolution. “ Secession, as a revolutionary right,” said Dan

And this is, throughout, the language of iel Webster in the Senate, nearly thirty years

the Constitution. Congress shall do this ; ago, in words that now sound prophetic

the President shall do that; the states shall

not exercise this or that power. Witness, “ Is intelligible. As a right to be pro- for example, the important clauses by which claimed in the midst of civil commotions, and the “sovereign ” states are shorn of all the asserted at the head of armies, I can understand it. But as a practical right, existing great attributes of sovereigntyno state under the Constitution, and in conformity shall coin money, nor emit bills of credit, with its provisions, it seems to be nothing nor pass ex post facto laws, nor laws impairbut an absurdity, for it supposes resistance ing the obligation of contracts, nor mainto government under authority of govern- tain armies and navies, nor grant letters of marque, nor make compacts with other states, against the right of secession. How could nor hold intercourse with foreign powers, nor it do so ? The people created a constitution grant titles of nobility; and that most sig- over the whole land, with certain defined, nificant phrase, “this Constitution, and the accurately enumerated powers, and among laws made in pursuance thereof, shall be the these were all the chief attributes of soversupreme law of the land.

eignty. It was forbidden to a state to coin Со language be more imperial ? Could money, to keep armies and navies, to make the claim to state “sovereignty” be more compacts with other states, to hold intercompletely disposed of at a word ? How course with foreign nations, to oppose the can that be sovereign, acknowledging no su- authority of the Government. To do any perior, supreme, which has voluntarily ac- one of these things is to secede, for it would cepted a supreme law from something which be physically impossible to do any one of it acknowledges as superior ?

them without secession. It would have been The Constitution is perpetual, not provi- puerile for the Constitution to say formally sional or temporary. It is made for all time to each state," Thou shalt not secede.” The _" for ourselves and our posterity.” It is constitution, being the supreme law, being absolute within its sphere. “This Constitu- perpetual, and having expressly forbidden tion shall be the supreme law of the land, to the states those acts without which secesany thing in the constitution or laws' of a sion is an impossibility, would have been state to the contrary notwithstanding.” Of wanting in dignity had it used such suwhat value, then, is a law of a state declar- perfluous phraseology. This Constitution is ing its connection with the Union dissolved ? supreme, whatever laws a state may enact, The Constitution remains supreme, and is says the organic law. Was it necessary to bound to assert its supremacy till overpow- add, “ and no state shall enact a law of seered by force. The use of force-of armies cession”? To add to a great statute, in and navies of whatever strength—in order which the sovereign authority of the land to compel obedience to the civil and consti- declares its will, a phrase such as “and be tutional authority, is not "wicked war,is it further enacted that the said law shall not civil war, is not war at all. So long as not be violated," would scarcely seem to it exists the Government is obliged to put strengthen the statute. forth its strength when assailed. The Pres- It was accordingly enacted that new states ident, who has taken an oath before God and might be admitted ; but no permission was man to maintain the Constitution and laws, given for a state to secede. is perjured if he yields the Constitution and

PROVISIONS FOR AMENDMENT. laws to armed rebellion without a struggle. Provisions were made for the amendment He knows nothing of states. Within the of the Constitution from time to time, and it sphere of the United States' Government he was intended that those provisions should deals with individuals only, citizens of the be stringent. A two-thirds vote in both great Republic, in whatever portion of it they Houses of Congress, and a ratification in may happen to live. He has no choice but three-quarters of the whole number of states, to enforce the laws of the Republic wherever are conditions only to be complied with in they may be resisted. When he is overpow- grave emergencies. But the Constitution ered the Government ceases to exist. The made no provision for its own dissolution, Union is gone, and Massachusetts, Rhode and, if it had done so, it would have been Island, and Ohio are as much separated from a proceeding quite without example in hiseach other as they are from Georgia or Lou- tory. A constitution can only be subverted isiana. Anarchy has returned upon us. by revolution, or by foreign conquest of the The dismemberment of the commonwealth land. The revolu on may be the result of is complete. We are again in the chaos of a successful rebellion. A peaceful revolu1785.

tion is also conceivable in the case of the WIIY THE CONSTITUTION DOES NOT PROVIDE

United States. The same power which es

tablished the Constitution may justly destroy FOR SECESSION.

it. The people of the whole land may meet, But it is sometimes asked why the Consti- ' by delegates, in a great national convention, tution did not make a special provision , as they did in 1787, and declare that the


Constitution no longer answers the purpose monwealth thus designated is a unit, " for which it was ordained ; that it no longer pluribus unum.The Union alonc is clothed can secure the blessings of liberty for the with imperial attributes ; the Union alone is people in present and future generations, and known and recognized in the family of nathat it is therefore forever abolished. When tions ; the Union alone holds the purse and that project has been submitted again to the sword, regulates foreign intercourse, imthe people voting in their primary assem- poses taxes on foreign commerce, makes blies, not influenced by fraud or force, the war, and concludes peace. The armies, the revolution is lawfully accomplished and the navies, the militia, belong to the Union alone, Union is no more.

and the President is commander-in-chief

of all. No state can keep troops or fleets. WHAT IS REBELLION ?

What man in the civilized world has not Such a proceeding is conceivable, although heard of the United States ? What man in attended with innumerable difficulties and England can tell the names of all the indidangers. But these are not so great as vidual states ? And yet, with hardly a those of the civil war into which the action superficial examination of our history and of the seceding states has plunged the coun- our Constitution, men talk gibly about a try. The division of the national domain confederacy, a compact, a copartnership, and and other property, the navigation and po- the right of a state to secede at pleasure, lice of the great rivers, the arrangement and not knowing that by admitting such loose fortification of frontiers, the transit of the phraseology and such imaginary rights, we isthmus, the mouth of the Mississippi, the should violate the first principles of our pocontrol of the Gulf of Mexico, these are sig- litical organization, should fly in the face of nificant phrases which have an appalling our history, should trample under foot the sound; for there is not one of them that does teachings of Jay, Hamilton, Washington, not contain the seeds of war. In any sepa- Marshall, Madison, Dane, Kent, Story, and ration, however accomplished, these difficul- Webster, and, accepting only the dogmas ties must be dealt with, but there would of Mr. Calhoun as infallible, surrender forseem less hope of arriving at a peaceful ever our national laws and our national exsettlement of them now that the action of istence. the seceding states has been so precipitate

A PARALLEL. and lawless. For a single state, one after Englishmen themselves live in a united another, to resume those functions of sover-empire; but if the kingdom of Scotland eignty which it had unconditionally abdi- should secede, should seize all the national cated when its people ratified the Constitu- property, forts, arsenals, and public treasure tion of 1787, to seize forts, arsenals, custom-on its soil, organize an army, send forth houses, post-offices, mints, and other valu- foreign ministers to Louis Napoleon, the able property of the Union, paid for by the Emperor of Austria, and other powers, issue treasure of the Union, was not the exercise invitations to all the pirates of the world to of a legal function, but it was rebellion, prey upon English commerce, screening their treason, and plunder.

piracy from punishment by the banner of

Scotland, and should announce its intention THE UNION CLOTHED WITH IMPERIAL

of planting that flag upon Buckingham PalATTRIBUTES.

ace, it is probable that a blow or two would It is strange that Englishmen should find be struck to defend the national honor and difficulty in understanding that the United the national existence, without fear that the States' Government is a nation among the civil war would be denounced as wicked and nations of the earth ; a constituted authority, fratricidal. Yet it would be difficult to show which may be overthrown by violence, as that the State of Florida, for example, a may be the fate of any state, whether king- Spanish province, purchased for national dom or republic, but which is false to the purposes some forty years ago by the United people if it does not its best to preserve States' Government for several millions, and them from the horrors of anarchy, even at fortified and furnished with navy-yards for the cost of blood. The “United States” national uses at a national expense of many happens to be a plural title, but the com- more millions, and numbering at this mo

« ZurückWeiter »