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Congress immediately acted upon this call; and all the States, except Rhode Island, appointed delegates, who met in a convention at Philadelphia in May, 1787.
This was the convention that framed the present Constitution of the United States.
Before we can understandingly proceed further in the history of the Constitutional Convention, we must pause a few minutes to take a look at the political par. ties which had already assumed distinct forms in this young Republic.
There was one party, led by Alexander Hamilton, the advocate of a strong central, or general government, which was called the National party, from the fact that it was in favor of consolidating the States into one great national government, to be invested with powers, which, as you will see, the majority of our fathers believedwould be dangerous to the principles of local independence.
The party which opposed this centralism or “Nationalism," as it was called, was alarmed at a proposition which they said would alter the very foundations of the government of the Union, by consolidating into one mass the sovereign and independent States—thus elevating the creature over the creator, the subordinate and derivative government over the Sovereign States which had created it."
In the early stages of the convention Mr. Hamilton sub. mitted the form of a new constitution, which embodied his views of an energetic consolidated National Government.
This Constitution, proposed by Hamilton, provided for the election of a President for life, or during good behavior-invested the Executive of the Union with the powers of appointing the governors of the States,
with a veto on the legislative acts of the States, together with many other similar features, which naturally alarmed the majority of the convention and of the people, who declared that such a Constitution would violate the fundamental principles on which the Union had been formed. Mr. Hamilton's draft of a constitution was therefore very summarily dismissed from the at. tention of the Convention.
Mr. Randolph's previous outline of a constitution was also negatived ; although it was less objectionable to the popular party than the one offered by Mr. Hamilton. It provided for a limited presidential term, but what was especially distasteful to the majority, it provided for the election of the Senate—which now represents the people of the States as independent political bodiesby the Housc of Representatives of Congress. Mr. Randalph's draft of a constitution therefore met with lit. tle favor by the advocates of State Sovereignty.
The outline of a Constitution presented by the popu. lar party, simply confined the General Government to "the right of regulating commerce between foreign nations and between the States-gave it the power of executing its laws directly upon the people of the States, without the intervention of their respective legislatures -also, gave it the power of legislating upon all sub. jects which involved the interest of more than one State, to which the legislature of a single State was necessarily inadequate, and for the want of which powers the government of the Confederation had in a great measure failed.”
You now see how the two parties in the Constitutional Convention had taken their ground, preparatory to the debates which followed.
But, besides these, there was a third draft of a con. stitution, submitted by Mr. Pinckney, possessed of cer. tain features of both the other parties, but in which the centralism was intended to be held in safe check by the localism of State Sovereignty.
From the fact that Mr. Pinckney's draft became the basis of the present Constitution, you will plainly discover which party held the supremacy during all the debates, to the final action of the Convention which established the Constitution of our country,
It is proper, however, to say that, in consequence of the great talents of the leaders of the Nationalists, or Consolidationists, they made a powerful show in the Convention, from its opening, in May, until the 25th of June, when they received a severe and unexpected blow. They had kept a resolution before the convention that a “ National Government ought to be established.”
On the 25th of June it was moved to strike out the word “ National,” and insert in its place “ United States," which passed in the affirmative.
Up to this time the Consolidationists had kept the word “ National" constantly before the mind of the Convention.
But, by the 18th of August, three months from the assembling of the Convention, we find that this word “ National” was entirely driven from the floor of the Convention, and that of United States inserted in stead.
This fact plainly enough shows you the mind of the Convention that was forming our Constitution, and proves that Consolidationism was already defeated at this early period.
But the battle was not yet over.
On the 18th of August just named, the advocates of Consolidation and the friends of “State Individuality"
had a severe conflict, which resulted in the discomfiture of the consolidationists.
On that day they made their last effort at Consolida. tion by introducing a series of resolutions, tending to aggrandize the General Government at the expense the reserved sovereignty of the States, which proposed to invest the General Government with the following powers :
“ To grant charters of incorporation in cases where the public good might require it, and the authority of a State would be incompetent."
* To establish a University."
“ To encourage by proper premiums and provisions the advancement of useful knowledge and discoveries.”
“ To establish seminaries for the promotion of literaure, and the arts and sciences."
“To grant charters of incorporation."
“To establish public institutions, rewards and im. munities, for the promotion of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures.”
All these propositions of the Consolidationists were rejected by the Convention, except one. And, with that single exception, none of them find a place in our Constitution.
The ground on which these propositions were rejected was, that no powers should be given to the General Government which could be exercised by the States in their separate soveregnities.
The defeated Consolidationists never again rallied in the Convention with sufficient force to give the friends of State individuality any effective opposition.
The Constitution was completed, and finally became
the supreme law of the Union on the 4th March, 1789, three years after the first meeting of the Convention.
We have seen that our fathers tenaciously adhered to their originally cherished principle of local sove. reignty and state independence.
It must be clear to your minds that they never meant to impart to the general government any powers incon. sistent with this principle, which they had watched as the apple of their eye.
And the text of the constitution to which they gave their assent everywhere inculcates that the United States government, as its very name imports, is a government of State legislatures, instead of being a government of the people, viewed as one consolidated nation.
1st. The President is not chosen by the people of the United Ststes as one consolidated people, but he is chosen by electors, who represent the State sovereignties.
You will realize the truth of this assertion when I remind you that a man may be legally elected Presi. dent of the United States, when an immense majority of the votes of the whole people are against him.
President Lincoln was constitutionally elected presi. dent, while a majority of almost two-thirds of all the people of the United States voted against him.
Thus the very office of the President represents, not the sovereignty of the people as a consolidated body, but of the States by whose electors he is chosen.
2d. So, the Senate, the highest legislative branch of the general government, is elected, not by the people, as one consolidated nation, but by the legislatures of the States, and it, too, represents State sovereignties.
3d. The House of Representatives, the lower branch of the federal legislature, represents the State sove.