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a Federal Convention to frame a new Constitution to meet the requirements and conditions of the Republic as it enters the beginning of the twentieth century. That demand met with a very favorable response from many leading journalists and public men of the day throughout the country, and while that sentiment may be sleeping now by reason of more urgent questions of immediate importance to the public welfare, it will awaken when repose shall follow present strife.
There were serious reflections among the men who originally framed and adopted the Constitution, whether it was adequate and suited to the wants and necessities of national conditions then existing, and there were animated and heated discussions among the people of the several states over the wisdom of its ratification. It is not at all startling that there should exist a want of unanimity of sentiment on the same questions at the present day. Another generation of men are in the field of action. They have no less of veneration for that sacred document than had their ancestors; but they are facing new problems, dealing with new questions, and are living witnesses of wonderful changes and a marvelous growth. The nation of 1787 bears about the same relation to the nation of 1900 that a slender young tree sustains to the giant cedars of California. It is surprising that among our progressive people, in the glow of national success, and the pride of unrivalled advancement, there has not existed a more widespread agitation of the question whether the United States has not outgrown the Constitution.
The thought is not new. The government had scarcely been established when Virginia and New York made application for a convention to draft amendments. In 1832 the legislature of South Carolina passed resolutions declaring it expedient that a convention of states be called to determine and settle disputed questions of power between the states and the general government; and soon thereafter the legislatures of Georgia and Alabama passed resolutions petitioning congress to call a federal convention to consider proposed amendments. Just previous to the rebellion, petitions from the legislatures of six states were received by congress, and nine propositions were presented by its mem bers for the calling of a convention to draft a new Constitution. During the period of the civil war, three propositions for a convention were presented and another again in 1866. Senator Ingalls in 1876 introduced a resolution recommending the legis latures of the states to apply to congress to call a convention to
revise and amend the Constitution. In 1884 an attempt was made to create a commission to call a convention and in 1886 the minority report of the Committee on Election of President and Vice President suggested the recommendation of a convention owing to the "imperative necessity of a substantial change in the organic law."
It assumed serious form at the close of the civil war. Additional constitutional provisions and guarantees were demanded by the public, deemed essential to our general welfare, and the protection of the sacred rights of citizens and their property, but the more sure and speedy method, under the form of amendments, was accepted. Since then, other questions, no less momentous in public opinion, have found expression in political conventions, declaring in favor of further amendments and changes in the Constitution. Congress has already taken the initiative in considering amendments relating to the national control of trusts and monopolies, and the election of senators by a direct vote of the people of the several states.
On the last subject nine resolutions were presented prior to 1872, and since then nearly one hundred more have been presented, and some fifteen states, through their legislatures, have made like recommendations. Three times has the house of representatives, by a decided majority, passed a joint resolution to submit such an amendment to the states.
There is a strong sentiment in favor of extending the term of office of the chief executive, and not without some force. Presidential elections are great disturbers of business, and are unwelcome to a commercial people. They are necessarily attended by an expenditure of money amounting to millions of dollars, by reason of the extent of our population, spread over so vast a national domain. Over one hundred and twenty-five amendments have been submitted on this subject and more than fifty of them have been propositions to fix the term at six years.
The disputed question of the right to acquire outlying territory and islands in the oceans and the unsettled question whether the Constitution proprio vigore extends over such territory and islands, the status of the inhabitants, and whether the republic can govern such acquired territory and islands as colonies or provinces, either temporarily or permanently, or whether only with the intent to ultimately admit them into the Union as states, and other kindred and contingent questions, have naturally sug
gested the thought in the minds of many people of revising the federal Constitution.
Perhaps the most plausible argument is based on the remarkable growth of the country. The contrast between 1787 and 1900 is marvelous and striking, almost surpassing human comprehension. Sir Charles Dilke has lately written a book entitled The British Empire. On its opening page is found the statement that the British empire, "with its colonies, protectorates and spheres of influence, has an area of nearly four Europes and a population of nearly four hundred millions of people, and handles one-half of the seaborne commerce of the world."
No nation can compare with her in extent of territory, excepting Russia. No nation can compare with her population, excepting China. No nation can compare with her in wealth, and resources, excepting the United States of America. Nineteen centuries have gone by since Julius Cæsar carried the Roman civilization to the Britons, and for eight hundred years England occupied the first place in history. Now that proud distinction has passed to our new republic.
But the United States is the national wonder of the world. But little more than a century has passed by since the framing of the Constitution--but an hour's space in the calendar of time --and that precious document, the bulwark of our liberties, has continued to stand the test under all our needs and all our ambitions, while our population has grown from three millions to seventy-five millions of busy, thriving, industrious, educated, refined, courageous, liberty loving and patriotic people. We have added domain after domain, each sufficient to form an empire, until we have spanned the continent and at last cast our anchors in the seas. Each act of expansion has been deemed a menace to our common weal by the timid and conservative element. The bold and fearless have not been restrained by difficulties, and have not yielded to doubts, but have ever kept alive upon our altars the bright flame of hope. We live in an age when the highest and most lively expectations have been fully realized, and we know that the end is not yet.
As a race, the American people have been content with nothing less than success, and in severest emergencies we have triumphed gloriously. We have builded cities, with a rapidity of growth that outrivalled the capitals of Europe. Our industry and skill have given us the first in place in the manufacturing world. Our trading instincts have put us at the head of
commercial nations. Matchless in peace, we are daring and victorious in war; we flee from no enemy and fear no foe. In national history, in progress and rapid and spontaneous growth, we would be a source of amazement to Washington and Hamilton and Jefferson could they return to review the past and grasp our present potentialities.
In that older time, in the undeveloped means of communication and travel, states and cities, although in close geographical proximity, were practically remote and distant. Since then, discoveries in the arts and sciences have furnished us with railways and telegraph lines, and inventive genius has found ways of coupling the power of steam and of electricity, and all over our three million square miles of territory we speak together and act together as if living in a single household. Our entire country is to us not so large as were the original thirteen states to the revered fathers of our republic, and we will grow closer together, even though we expand the more.
The query comes, Is the Constitution, formed by these illustrious statesmen for the government of thirteen small states, clustered along the Atlantic seacoast, now broad enough and comprehensive enough in its scope and purpose to shelter and protect, guide and control, our nation, now so mighty in strength and power?
If we are to look to the lawyers of this country to pass an intelligent judgment upon these questions of national importance and of such high and momentous consideration, they must lay aside the technicalities and refinements of the profession and consider the subject from the high ground of statesmanship, which deals with the power and scope of sovereignty and the welfare of the nation in its entirety.
From such vantage ground they can see all, and feel all, and understand all, as well as the legislators, and they will be actuated with no less profound sense of duty, with no less stern realization of the magnitude and delicacy of such responsibil ities, and with no less ardent love of liberty and justice. Hopefully and courageously they may be trusted to act as the nation's leaders.
DANGERS TO BE ENCOUNTERED.
The framers of the Constitution were "great in the arduous greatness of things accomplished," and are to be remembered ever for their splendid achievement. To undertake the remod
elling of their work, or the drafting of a new Constitution by a federal convention, composed of representatives from so many states, and representing so many millions of people, would be a movement fraught with many dangers, some present and some apparent, and others unseen and not to be conjectured.
The history of the world has not furnished an example of a country, so great in area and population, meeting in a representative capacity to remodel its fundamental laws and structural form of government. It would be an experiment without a precedent. While that fact ought not to have great weight as an argument against its feasibility or probable success, it suggests reflections not lightly to be cast aside.
There are many diversities of interests in the states, arising from location, involving varied conditions and industries, and these it would be difficult to harmonize. Views on the details of government, existing in the minds of so many people, influenced by such varied sentiments of place and policy, would make such an undertaking hazardous in the extreme. There would come debates and discussions among a people naturally contentious, and aggravated by partisan opinions and political organizations, where now we are united in a common feeling of admiration and devotion to the Constitution, and of profound veneration for the framers of that supreme document. Were the doors thrown open for the full and free consideration of a new Constitution, the many plans that might be proposed and the many changes suggested no man can foresee. They might be limited only by the number of persons permitted to become members of such an august assembly. It was so in 1787, as shown by the Madison Journal of the convention, and it would likely be so again. This thought is strongly emphasized from the fact that upward of 1,300 distinct resolutions, containing over 1,800 propositions to amend the Constitution have been offered in the na tional legislature, during the first century of our history, many of which, if adopted, would have substantially changed the instrument to such an extent that its original would no longer be recognizable, and one of which would have taken away the name under which the nation was christened in the Constitution.
We have now daily evidences of a seemingly imperishable patriotism and devotion to the Union, but no more serious dangers can come to a people than those which might arise during the changing or revision of its organism. There would surely come a clashing between the Northern and the Southern states