Слике страница
PDF
ePub

be any thing, which may justly challenge the admiration of all mankind, it is that sublime patriotism, which, looking beyond its own times, and its own fleeting pursuits, aims to secure the permanent happiness of posterity by laying the broad foundations of government upon immovable principles of justice. Our affections, indeed, may naturally be presumed to outlive the brief limits of our own lives, and to repose with deep sensibility upon our own immediate descendants. But there is a noble disinterestedness in that forecast, which disregards present objects for the sake of all mankind, and erects structures to protect, support, and bless the most distant generations. He, who founds a hospital, a college, or even a more private and limited charity, is justly esteemed a benefactor of the human race. How much more do they deserve our reverence and praise, whose lives are devoted to the formation of institutions, which, when they and their children are mingled in the common dust, may continue to cherish the principles and the practice of liberty in perpetual freshness and vigour.

$ 507. The grand design of the state governments is, doubtless, to accomplish this important purpose; and there can be no doubt, that they are, when well administered, well adapted to the end. But the question is not so much, whether they conduce to the preservation of the blessings of liberty, as whether they of themselves furnish a complete and satisfactory security. If the remarks, which have been already offered, are founded in sound reasoning and human experience, they establish the position, that the state governments, per se, are incompetent and inadequate to furnish such guards and guaranties, as a free people have a right to require for the maintenance of their vital interests, and especially

of their liberty. The inquiry then naturally presents itself, whether the establishment of a national government will afford more effectual and adequate securities.

§ 508. The fact has been already adverted to, that when the constitution was before the people for adoption, it was generally represented by its opponents, that its obvious tendency to a consolidation of the powers of government would subvert the state sovereignties, and thus prove dangerous to the liberties of the people. This indeed was a topic dwelt on with peculiar emphasis; and it produced so general an alarm and terror, that it came very nigh accomplishing the rejection of the constitution. And yet the reasoning, by which it was supported, was so vague and unsatisfactory; and the reasoning, on the other side, was so cogent and just, that it seems difficult to conceive, how, at that time, or at any later time, (for it has often been resorted to for the same purpose,) the suggestion could have had any

substantial influence upon the public opinion. 509. Let us glance at a few considerations, (some of which have been already hinted at,) which are calculated to suppress all alarm upon this subject. In the first place, the government of the United States is one of limited powers, leaving all residuary general powers in the state governments, or in the people thereof. The jurisdiction of the general government is confined to a few enumerated objects, which concern the common welfare of all the states. The state governments have a full superintendence and control over the immense mass of local interests of their respective states, which con

1 1 Elliot's Debates, 278, 296, 297, 332, 333; 2 Elliot's Debates, 47, 96, 136; 3 Elliot's Debates, 243, 257, 294; The Federalist, No. 39, 45,

17, 31.

2 The Federalist, No. 17.

nect them elves with the feelings, the affections, the municipal institutions, and the internal arrangements of the whole population. They possess, too, the immediate administration of justice in all cases, civil and criminal, which concern the property, personal rights, and peaceful pursuits of their own citizens. They must of course possess a large share of influence; and being independent of each other, will have many opportunities to interpose checks, as well as to combine a common resistance, to any undue exercise of power by the general government, independent of direct force.?

$ 510. In the next place, the state governments are, by the very theory of the constitution, essential constituent parts of the general government. They can exist without the latter, but the latter 'cannot exist without them. Without the intervention of the state legislatures, the president of the United States cannot be elected at all ; and the senate is exclusively and absolutely under the choice of the state legislatures. The representatives are chosen by the people of the states. So that the executive and legislative branches of the national government depend upon, and emanate from the states. Every where the state sovereignties are represented ; and the national sovereignty, as such, has no representation. How is it possible, under such circumstances, that the national government can be dangerous to the liberties of the people, unless the states, and the people of the states, conspire together for their overthrow ? If there should be such a conspiracy, is not this more justly to be deemed an act of the states through their own agents, and by their own choice, rather than a corrupt usurpation by the general government ?

1 The Federalist, No. 14, 45.

2 Id. No. 45.

3 Id. No. 45.

§ 511. Besides ; the perpetual organization of the state governments, in all their departments, executive, legislative, and judicial; their natural tendency to cooperation in cases of threatened danger to their common liberties; the perpetually recurring right of the elective franchise, at short intervals, must present the most formidable barriers against any deliberate usurpation, which does not arise from the hearty co-operation of the people of the states. And when such a general co-operation for usurpation shall exist, it is obvious, that neither the general, nor the state governments, can interpose any permanent protection. Each must submit to that public will, which created, and may destroy them.

§ 512. Another not unimportant consideration is, that the powers of the general government will be, and indeed must be, principally employed upon external objects, such as war, peace, negotiations with foreign powers, and foreign commerce. In its internal operations it can touch but few objects, except to introduce regulations beneficial to the commerce, intercourse, and other relations, between the states, and to lay taxes for the common good. The powers of the states, on the other hand, extend to all objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, and liberties, and property of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the state. The operations of the general government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the state governments, in times of peace and security. Independent of all other considerations, the fact, that the states possess a concurrent power of taxation, and an

[blocks in formation]

exclusive power to regulate the descents, devise, and distribution of estates, (a power the most formidable to despotism, and the most indispensable in its right exercise to republicanism,) will for ever give them an influence, which will be as commanding, as, with reference to the safety of the Union, they could deliberately desire.

$ 513. Indeed, the constant apprehension of some of the most sincere patriots, who by their wisdom have graced our country, has been of an opposite character. They have believed, that the states would, in the event, prove too formidable for the Union. That the tendency would be to anarchy in the members, and not to tyranny in the head.2

Whether their fears, in this respect, were not those of men, whose judgments were misled by extreme solicitude for the welfare of their country, or whether they but too well read the fate of 'our own in the history of other republics, time, the great expounder of such problems, can alone deterinine.

1 The Federalist, No. 31. 2 Id. 17, 45, 46, 31.

3 Mr. Turgot appears to have been strongly impressed with the difficulty of maintaining a national government, under such circumstances. In his letter to Dr. Price, he says: "In the general union of the states, I do not observe a coalition, a fusion of all the pa to form one homogeneous body. It is only a jumble of communities too discordant, and which contain a constant tendency to separation, owing to the diversity in their laws, customs, and opinions, to the inequality of their present strength, but still more to the inequality of their advances to greater strength. It is only a copy of the Dutch republic, with this difference, that the Dutch republic had nothing to fear, as the American republic has, from the future possible increase of any one of the provinces. All this edifice has been hitherto supported upon the erroneous foundation of the most ancient and vulgar policy ; upon the prejudice, that nations and states, as such, may have an interest distinct from the interest, which individuals have to be free, and defend their property against the attacks of robbers and conquerors," &c. &c. Similar views seem to have

« ПретходнаНастави »