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Now, had the first comma been inserted after the word bond, instead of after the word liquor, the operation of the section might have been to check intemperance, instead of authorizing, as it now does, the grocers of the village of Waterford, to be drunk a whole year in their respective buildings!
We now take leave of these subjects for the present, and proceed to examine one of a higher order, the Constitution of our State, the Palladium of our rights.
What has been said concerning the necessity of critical accuracy in drafting laws, applies with double force to forming a Constitution; since on that the laws are founded. Besides, a Constitution is supposed to be the result of much deliberation and care. The bustle and excitement which often interrupt the proceedings of Legislative bodies, are not likely to operate on a grave Convention, intent upon the great purpose of forming so important an instrument as the Constitution of a free and sovereign state.
DECLARATION OF RIGHTS.
SECT. 1. "All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent and unalienable Rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty," &c.
Inherent is included in natural; it should therefore be expunged.
SECT. 2. "All power is inherent in the people; all free governments are founded in their authority and instituted for their benefit," &c.
In should be on. We do not say, in English, the "superstructure is founded in a rock," but on it.
SECT. 3. "And all religious societies in this State, whether incorporate or unincorporate, shall at all times have the exclusive right of electing their public teachers, and contracting with them for their [?] support and maintenance."
Are not support and maintenance, as they are here used, synonymous? Should not one of them be rejected?
SECT. 6. "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall have a right to be heard by himself and his counsel, or either, at his election." [!]
The words "or either at his election" are mere surplusage, and should, therefore, be expunged.
SECT. 12. Treason against this State shall consist only in levying war against it, adhering to its enemies, giving them aid and comfort."
Here are three distinct acts named, viz: levying war, adhering to enemies, and giving enemies aid, &c. Was it intended by the framers of the Constitution, that each of these three acts, taken separately, should be considered treason against the State? or that all of them united should constitute that offence? If the former construction was intended by the framers of the Constitution, or should have been inserted after "enemies"—if the latter, and should have been thus inserted. As the language now stands, the section is ambiguous.
SECT. 14. "No person shall be subject to corporal punishment under military law, except such as are employed in the army or navy, or in the militia when in actual service in time of war or public danger."
This section is badly constructed. It should read "No person except those who [shall be] employed," &c.
SECT. 15. "The people have a right at all times in an orderly and peaceable manner to assemble to consult upon the common good, to give instructions to their representatives, and to request, of either department of the government by petition or remonstrance [?] redress of their wrongs and grievances."
Either can be used, properly, in reference to two things only. The powers of the government, says the Constitution, shall be divided into three distinct Departments, the Legislative, Executive and Judicial. Therefore, it is not good English to say "either department of the government."
SECT. 19. "And right and justice shall be administered freely and without sale, completely and without denial, promptly and without delay." [Redundancies.]
This we copy on account of its peculiar elegance! Every one who aims at becoming a good writer, should commit this to memory; its straight-for-ward-ness would be useful to him as a model! It reminds us of Don Pedro and Dogberry-" First, I ask thee what they have done? thirdly, I ask thee what's their offence? sixth and lastly, why they are committed? and to conclude, what you lay to their charge?"
SECT. 21. "Private property shall not be taken [by the government] for public uses without just compensation; nor unless the public exigencies require it."
It appears from the language here used, that the "compensation" named, is to be received by the property, or by the person who performs the act of taking the property-a meaning directly the reverse of that intended by the framers of the constitution. Suppose the language of a Law to run thus! No
man shall be compelled to labor without just compensation"-would it not be understood to mean, that the person who performs the service should receive the compensation?
SECT. 2. "Electors shall, in all cases, except [on accusation for] treason, felony or breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest on the days of election, during their attendance at, going to, and returning therefrom."
That is, "Electors shall be privileged from arrest, during their attendance at election, going to election, and returning therefrom election."
It should read-"during their attendance thereat, going thereto, and returning therefrom." It would perhaps, be better to give the sentence a new form,
DISTRIBUTION OF POWERS.
SECT. 2. "No person or persons, belonging to one of these Departments, shall exercise any of the powers properly belonging to either of the others, except in the cases herein expressly directed or permitted."
As no particular department is here intended, any should be inserted before "one."
ARTICLE IV. PART FIRST.
Legislative Powers-House of Representatives. "SECT. 1. The Legislative power shall be vested in two distinct branches, a House of Representatives, and a Senate, each to have a negative on the other, and both to be styled the Legislature of Maine, and the style of their Acts and Laws shall be," &c.
"BOTH, a. [Sax. butu, butwu, or batwa.] Two considered as distinct from others, or by themselves; the one and the other."Webster's Dictionary.
BOTH, adj. The two; as well the one as the other. Example-"The lot of both [i. e. as well the one as the other] he left to destiny." Johnson's Dictionary.
Now apply the principle contained in these definitions to the language of the preceding section. "The Legislative power shall be vested in two distinct branches, &c. and both [i. e. as well the one as the other"] to be styled the Legislature of Maine," &c.
Does this language give the meaning which the framers of the Constitution intended to convey? To say the least, is not the language of the section ambiguous?