Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything


Books Menu

Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog


- NEW YORK - 3/6 -

Republic, purely from the struggles of faction. When men have a specific and important purpose in view, it is but natural they should bend most of its collateral connections to the support of their own objects. We conceive that the Constitution has thus been largely misinterpreted, and they who live at the epoch of the renowned "equilibrium" and of the "rights of the people of the Sovereign States," will have seen memorable examples of the truth of this position.

The first popular error, then, that we shall venture to assail, is that connected with the prevalent notion of the sovereignty of the States. We do not believe that the several States of this Union are, in any legitimate meaning of the term, sovereign at all. We are fully aware that this will be regarded as a bold, and possibly as a presuming proposition, but we shall endeavor to work it out with such means as we may have at command.

We lay down the following premises as too indisputable to need any arguments to sustain them: viz., the authority which formed the present Constitution of the United States had the legal power to do so. That authority was in the Government of the States, respectively, and not in their people in the popular signification, but through their people in the political meaning of the term, and what was then done must be regarded as acts connected with the composition and nature of governments, and of no minor or different interests of human affairs.

It being admitted, that the power which formed the government, was legitimate, we obtain one of the purest compacts for the organization of human society that probably ever existed. The ancient allegiance, under which the Colonies had grown up to importance, had been extinguished by solemn treaty, and the States met in Convention, sustained by all the law they had and backed in every instance by institutions that were more or less popular. The history of the world cannot, probably, furnish another instance of the settlement of the fundamental compact of a great nation under circumstances of so much obvious justice. This gives unusual solemnity and authority to the Constitution of 1787, and invests it with additional claims to our admiration and respect.

The authority which formed the Constitution admitted, we come next to the examination of its acts. It is apparent from the debates and proceedings of the Convention, that two opinions existed in that body; the one leaning strongly toward the concentration of power in the hands of the Federal Government, and the other desirous of leaving as much as possible with the respective States. The principle that the powers which are not directly conceded to the Union should remain in first hands, would seem never to have been denied; and some years after the organization of the Government, it was solemnly recognized in an amendment. We are not disposed, however, to look for arguments to the debates and discussions of the Convention, in our view often a deceptive and dangerous method of construing a law, since the vote is very frequently given on even conflicting reasons. Different minds arrive at the same results by different processes; and it is no unusual thing for men to deny each other's premises while they accept their conclusions. We shall look, therefore, solely to the compact itself, as the most certain mode of ascertaining what was done.

No one will deny that all the great powers of sovereignty are directly conceded to the Union. The right to make war and peace, to coin money, maintain armies and navies, &c., &c., in themselves overshadow most of the sovereignty of the States. The amendatory clause would seem to annihilate it. By the provisions of that clause three fourths of the States can take away all the powers and rights now resting in the hands of the respective States, with a single exception. This exception gives breadth and emphasis to the efficiency of the clause. It will be remembered that all this can be done within the present Constitution. It is a part of the original bargain. Thus, New York can legally be deprived of the authority to punish for theft, to lay out highways, to incorporate banks, and all the ordinary interests over which she at present exercises control, every human being within her limits dissenting. Now as sovereignty means power in the last resort, this amendatory clause most clearly deprives the State of all sovereign power thus put at the disposition of Conventions of the several States; in fact, the votes of these Conventions, or that of the respective legislatures acting in the same capacity, is nothing but the highest species of legislation known to the country; and no other mode of altering the institutions would be legal. It follows unavoidably, we repeat, that the sovereignty which remains in the several States must be looked for solely in the exception. What then is this exception?

It is a provision which says, that no State may be deprived of its equal representation in the Senate, without its own consent. It might well be questioned whether this provision of the Constitution renders a Senate indispensable to the Government. But we are willing to concede this point and admit that it does. Can the vote of a single State, which is one of a body of thirty, and which is bound to submit to the decision of a legal majority, be deemed a sovereign vote? Assuming that the whole power of the Government of the United States were in the Senate, would any one State be sovereign in such a condition of things? We think not. But the Senate does not constitute by any means the whole or the half of the authority of this Government; its legislative power is divided with a popular body, without the concurrence of which it can do nothing; this dilutes the sovereignty to a degree that renders it very imperceptible, if not very absurd. Nor is this all. After a law is passed by the concurrence of the two houses of Congress it is sent to a perfectly independent tribunal to decide whether it is in conformity with the principles of the great national compact; thus demonstrating, as we assume, that the sovereignty of this whole country rests, not in its people, not in its States, but in the Government of the Union.

Sovereignty, and that of the most absolute character, is indispensable to the right of secession: Nay, sovereignty, in the ordinary acceptation of the meaning of the term, might exist in a State without this right of secession. We doubt if it would be held sound doctrine to maintain that any single State had a right to secede from the German Confederation, for instance; and many alliances, or mere treaties, are held to be sacred and indissoluble; they are only broken by an appeal to violence.

Every human contract may be said to possess its distinctive character. Thus, marriage is to be distinguished from a partnership in trade, without recurrence to any particular form of words. Marriage, contracted by any ceremony whatever, is held to be a contract for life. The same is true of governments: in their nature they are intended to be indissoluble. We doubt if there be an instance on record of a government that ever existed, under conditions, expressed or implied, that the parts of its territory might separate at will. There are so many controlling and obvious reasons why such a privilege should not remain in the hands of sections or districts, that it is unnecessary to advert to them. But after a country has rounded its territory, constructed its lines of defence, established its system of custom-houses, and made all the other provisions for security, convenience, and concentration, that are necessary to the affairs of a great nation, it would seem to be very presumptuous to impute to any particular district the right to destroy or mutilate a system regulated with so much care.

The only manner in which the right of secession could exist in one of the American States, would be by an express reservation to that effect, in the Constitution. There is no such clause; did it exist it would change the whole character of the Government, rendering it a mere alliance, instead of being that which it now is--a lasting Union. But, whatever may be the legal principles connected with this serious subject, there always exists, in large bodies of men, a power to change their institutions by means of the strong hand. This is termed the right of revolution, and it has often been appealed to to redress grievances that could be removed by no other agency. It is undeniable that the institution of domestic slavery as it now exists in what are termed the Southern and South-Western States of this country, creates an interest of the most delicate and sensitive character. Nearly one half of the entire property of the slave-holding States consists in this right to the services of human beings of a race so different from our own as to render any amalgamation to the last degree improbable, if not impossible. Any one may easily estimate the deep interest that the masters feel in the preservation of their property. The spirit of the age is decidedly against them, and of this they must be sensible; it doubly augments their anxiety for the future. The natural increase, moreover, of these human chattels renders an outlet indispensable, or they will soon cease to be profitable by the excess of their numbers. To these facts we owe the figments which have rendered the Southern school of logicians a little presuming, perhaps, and certainly very sophistical. Among other theories we find the bold one, that the Territories of the United States are the property, not of the several States, but of their individual people; in other words, that the native of New York or Rhode Island, regardless of the laws of the country, has a right to remove to any one of these Territories, carry with him just such property as he may see fit, and make such use of it as he may find convenient. This is a novel co-partnership in jurisdiction, to say the least, and really does not seem worthy of a serious reply.

The territory of the United States is strictly subject to the Government. The only clause in the Constitution which refers to this interest conveys that meaning. But, were the instrument silent, the power would remain the same. Sovereignty of this nature is not determined by municipal law, but by the law of nations. Thus, for instance, the right to make war, which is inherent in every state of FOREIGN RELATIONS, infers the right to secure its conquests; and that clause of the Constitution which declares that the war-making power shall abide in Congress, says, at the same time, by an unavoidable implication, that the national legislature shall have all authority to control the consequences of this war. It may dispose of its prisoners and its conquests according to its own views of policy and justice, subject only to the great principles that modern civilization has introduced into public concerns.

One can understand why a different theory is in favor at the South. It would be very convenient, no doubt, to the slaveholder to be permitted to transfer his slaves to the gold diggings, and gather the precious metal in lieu of a crop of cotton. But this, the policy of the whole country forbids. Congress has very justly left the decision of this very important matter to the people of California itself; and they have almost unanimously raised their voices against the measure. This, after all, is the really sore point in controversy between the South and the North. The fugitive slave has been, and will be given up to the legal claims of his master; and, in a vast majority of the people of the

NEW YORK - 3/6

Previous Page     Next Page

  1    2    3    4    5    6 

Schulers Books Home

 Games Menu

Dice Poker
Tic Tac Toe


Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything