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C EIA PTER II.
By the instruction of the numerous and influential authorities which are cited in the preceding chapter, and |by the writings and the speeches of a great number of politicians (who, if they are less distinguished than these authorities, have been very earnestly engaged in the work of disseminating their views), a large part of the population of the United States have been induced to believe that the Declaration of American Independence made thirteen separate, sovereign, and independent States—that these thirteen separate, sovereign, and independent States formed for themselves Articles of Confederation, as treaties of alliance, commerce, &c. are formed between sovereign and independent nations—that the Constitution of the United States was not ordained and established by the will of “the people of the United States,” but that it was established as a compact between Sovereign and independent States—and that the Congress of the United States can lawfully exercise only such powers as are easpressly granted by the Constitution, or those which may be necessary and proper to carry such powers into effect.
The two contradictory theories relating to the origin and nature of the Government of the United States of America, ought to be treated as questions which can be rightfully decided only in the light of evidence arising from history, from the principles of international law, and from the legislation and general jurisprudence of the nation.
The acts, opinions, and intentions of the statesmen who proclaimed the Declaration of American Independence, and adopted the Articles of Confederation, and the acts, opinions, and intentions of the statesmen who framed the Constitution of the United States, ought to be admitted as evidence of the highest authority on the subjects to which they are relative; and as conclusive evidence on certain questions concerning the true principles on which the Government of the United States of America is founded.
Presumptive evidence of the state of public opinion in the United States, in reference to the nature of the Government during the time that elapsed between the years 1776 and 1788, may be based upon the statements of eminent men of that period. “Great regard,” says Lord Coke, “ought, in construing a statute, to be paid to the construction which the sages of the law who lived about the time or soon after it was made, put upon it; because they were best able to judge of the intention of the makers at the time when the law was made.” The same principle has been applied in the United States, to a certain extent, in the construction of constitutions.”— Sedgwick's Treatise, p. 251.
The unreasonable and profitless controversies which are still maintained, relative to the true meaning of certain words, or phrases, which appear in the Declaration of Independence, in the Articles of Confederation, and in the Constitution of the United States, ought to be definitively settled in conformity with the most reasonable and equitable rules which have been established among enlightened nations, for the interpretation of contracts, laws, and constitutions. According to these rules, it is necessary—
1st.—To make, in all the particular cases which present themselves, a just application of what has been decreed in a general manner. 2d.—As soon as we meet with any obscurity in a document, we should seek for what was probably in the thoughts of those who drew it up ; and we ought to interpret it accordingly. 3d.—Every interpretation that leads to an absurdity ought to be rejected. 4th.-Words ought to be construed according to the intent of those who use them, and not otherwise. 5th.-Ambiguous words, or words having a double Sense, are to be construed so as to make them stand with law and equity. 6th.-Words which are in themselves uncertain, may be made certain by subsequent words.
7th.-In every agreement the intent is the chief thing to be considered.
8th.-In an Act of Parliament the intention appearing in the Preamble shall control the letter of the law.
9th.-When a word, or a sentence, is capable of Several significations, conjectures are necessary to find out the true one.
10th.-Obscure expressions must not have meanings put upon them, contrary to express declarations.
11th.-“Where the language of a document, of whatever description, is doubtful, its meaning is best understood by reference to, and consideration of, the circumstances attending its original formation.”—Wharton's Legal Maazims, p. 41.
12th.-When the subject relates to things favorable, we ought to give the terms all the extent they are capable of in common use; and, if a term has many significations, the most extensive ought to be preferred.—Wide Grotius on the Rights of War and Peace, B. II, ch. xvi; Pufendorf on the Law of Wature and Wations, B. W, ch. xii; Wattel's Law of Wations, B. II, ch. xvii; Rutherforth's Institutes of Watural Law, B. II, ch. vii; Sedgwick’s Treatise, p. 231; Jac. Law Dic., “Intention”; Ayliffe's Civil Law, B. I, tit.x.
C EIA PTER III.
IT seems that the principal difficulties which prevent a satisfactory settlement of popular disputes on the origin and nature of the Government of the United States, grow out of controversies concerning the true meanings of certain words and phrases which appear either in the Declaration of American Independence, in the Articles of Confederation, or in the acts and proceedings of the Convention that framed the National Constitution. These difficulties would, perhaps, disappear if the disputants would wisely agree to accept, from the highest authorities, definitions of the real meanings of such words and phrases as “Sovereignty,” “State,” “Nation,” “Sovereign and Independent State,” and “We, the People of the United States.”
Sovereign power, according to Grotius, “is perfectly
or completely independent of other human power, inso
much that its acts cannot be annulled by any human will