Imágenes de páginas

the Union. But Congress cannot join two or more states inio one, or erect a new staie wiibin the limits of an old one, without ihe consent of the states concerned. The United States guarantees to every state a republican form of government, and protection against invasion and domestic violence. No religious test is required as a qualification to any public office. Congress must make no law establishing or prohibiting any religion, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; nor must it deprive the people of the right peaceably to assemble and present petitions to the government. The people have the right to bear arms, without which no efficient militia can be established. Soldiers are never to be quartered on citizens in time of peace, nor even in time of war except according to prescribed regulations. No searches of houses or papers can take place without very weighty reasons and proofs. No person can be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or be compelled in a criminal case to testify against himself. No private property can be taken for public use without full compensation. Excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel punishments are prohibited. All the powers which the Constitution has not delegated to Congress or to others, are reserved to the states respectively.

Amendments to the Constitution may be proposed by two thirds of both houses, or by a convention called for the purpose on application of two thirds of the states; and when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, they become a part of the corrected Constitution.



The Territories.

The constitutions of the several states form to that of the whole United States, of 1787, a corresponding half of equal importance. It is only by uniting them together that we obtain a connected and closely interworking whole. But as it would not be proper in this place to enumerate the slight differences that prevail in each state, I will state here only what is most general and uniform, and leave many of the particulars for a synoptical table.*

Even before the independence of North America, it was held an established maxim, that to the colonists, as far as circumstances permitted, belonged all the rights of Englishmen born. Yet the constitutions of the several states had no inconsiderable influence on the extent to which these rights and privileges were enjoyed.

First, there were the so-called charter governments, to which belonged the right of legislation and taxation within their boundaries; as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

Secondly, proprietary governments, where the crown had granted extensive rights to the first acquirers, as Lord Baltimore and William Penn.

Thirdly, provincial governments, where great powers were given to the king's commissioners or governors, such as a negative on the assemblies' proceedings, the appointment of public officers, &c.

Yet, from the beginning there was an endeavor, which was by no means without its effects, to extend their restricted rights either amicably or by refractoriness; whence it ensued, that on the breaking out of the revolution, the internal regulations of the several states, and their relations to each other, were in fact more similar than they had been in former times. With the declaration of independence all controversies respecting the extent of the public law and the application of private law naturally had an end, and each state made such further regulations as it pleased.

The following principles, however, respecting the general rights of men and citizens, are acknowledged by all the states.t The objects of establishing, supporting, and administering a government, are to ensure and protect the existence of the civil partnership, and also to procure for the different shareholders the power of enjoying their natural rights and the blessings of life in security and peace. If these great objects are not attained, the people (with whom is the supreme power, and from whom it proceeds) have a right, by observing the legally prescribed forms, to change the government, and to adopt such measures as may be necessary for their safety, happiness, and prosperity. All men are born free and equal; and have natural, essential, and inalienable rights, to enjoy and defend their lives and liberties; to acquire, possess, and defend property; and in general to seek and obtain

* See Appendix I. To the twenty-six states indicated in this Appendix, two new ones, Florida and Iowa, have since been added. The addition of Texas and Wisconsin will raise the number of the states to thirty. † See the Statutes of Massachusetts, and most of the constitutions.

safety and happiness. There is no nobility, no hereditary or family prerogatives, no exclusive rights and monopolies, no censorship of the press, no standing army, no quartering of soldiers, no banishing from the country, no confiscation of property, no established church, no tithes, no religious compulsion of any

kind. Each ecclesiastical communion has the right to choose its own ministers, and to raise and expend money for religious purposes. All public officers are responsible. Every one must contribute with his person and property to the public good, but only in such manner as has been lawfully determined on. Every one is to be tried by jury and according to the laws. No one is bound to inform or testify against himself. It is permitted to assemble peaceably, to present petitions, and to bear arms; but every where the military remains subordinate to the civil power. No taxes without a grant, no disbursements of money without consent and rendering a public account, no retro-active force or suspension of the laws, no impeachment for what is spoken in the legislative assemblies, &c.

The legislative power in all the states is entrusted to two chambers, a senate and a house of representatives; the executive power is in the hands of a governor.

This latter retains his office for from one to four years; and his re-election is permitted, or prohibited for a certain time. He is chosen only in four states by the legislative assembly, in all the others by the people. His powers are not every where equally great: thus he fills more or fewer offices, has an absolute or only a postponing veto, is restricted by a special council or is not.

In most of the states every male settler of twenty-one years of age has a right of voting; or else the amount of property and of taxes paid is so small, that no one scarcely is excluded. No religious test is ever required; clergymen are excluded from all political offices and employments. Senators remain in office from one to four years, representatives from one to two years. From the former are usually required a greater age, a longer residence, and in some states also a larger property, than from the latter.

In most of the states, on the contrary, no questions are asked respecting the property of senators and representatives. It is only in a few states that the choice of the former is left to the legislative assemblies; both chambers are usually filled by popular elections. In three states the elections are public and open; in the others, by ballot. Money and taxation bills mostly originate in the house of representatives : indeed, according to many of the constitutions, all bills must originate there; while according to others, any bill can begin in either house. Impeachments come from the representatives to the senate, and are decided by two-thirds of the votes. The judges are appointed by the governors, or the two houses, or the people, for a greater or less number of years, mostly during good behavior, and there is no want of provisions for the case of their removal.

The number of senators varies from 9 to 90, and that of representatives from 21 to 350. Their allowance varies from one and a half to six dollars a day; and a governor's salary from $400 (in Rhode Island) to $7,500 (in Louisiana). The legislatures usually meet every year; in some states, however, they meet every two years, and in Rhode Island half-yearly.*

In addition to the twenty-six states, three other territories (Florida, Wisconsin, and Iowa) are growing up and soon to enter their ranks; while the District of Columbia, containing Washington, the seat of the general government, is in circumstances wholly peculiar to itself.

As soon as a territory numbers 60,000 inhabitants, it obtains the rights of a state and draws up its constitution. It is herein restricted, however, by certain general provisions; as for instance, that its constitution must be republican. The president of the United States appoints the governors of the territories; but the inhabitants possess very extensive rights, and are trained to political action. Thus there are even here two legislative bodies, and each territory sends a delegate to Congress; though he has no vote, but only a voice in the debates.

After this brief abstract of the federal and state constitutions, it would at first seem most natural to let the general observations and reflections immediately follow. But as these would have reference only to the forms of public law, without respect to countless other co-operating circumstances, it would be impossible to avoid both incompleteness and indistinctness. Hence it is more advisable to pursue still further the thread of historical development, and take into view the other material and spiritual conditions; and then, after extending and clearing up the circle of vision, to embrace the whole of the public relations, and to consider especially the value and efficacy of the republican form of government.

* Mason's Elementary Treatise, pp. 27, 206.



Washington's Presidentship—The French Revolution-Genet-Foreign Relations

-Washington's Farewell—Washington's Death-John Adams—Dispute with
France-Alien and Sedition Bills.

[ocr errors]

By the new federal Constitution of 1787 many hopes were necessarily deceived, many prejudices wounded, and many selfish plans rendered abortive. The power of truth, however, had gradually prevailed, and induced even those states to receive it who had been the loudest in their opposition. But as the instruction and support derived from long experience were as yet wanting to the new institutions, it was hardly possible that all should be of a like mind respecting the unknown future. Many feared the too extensive, and some the too restricted power of Congress. The president, many complained, will soon change himself into an unlimited monarch, the Senate will introduce aristocratic privileges, the House of Representatives will favor an unruly democracy, and the supreme court will interfere with the operations of the legislative power.

As long as these doubts and objections sprang up on American soil, and grew out of American circumstances, they were rather warning and profitable than exaggerated and dangerous. But on the breaking out of the French revolution, principles and views were developed which, without respect to time, place, or national peculiarities, were held up as perfectly new and unexceptionable models, whose universal applicability was stoutly and presumptuously asserted. The new apostles announced also to the North Americans, that their political leaders had paid greatly too much attention to the defective course of the earlier historical development, and by far too little to the eternal truths of science, and consequently had not attained their object, but had stopped when only half-way. The almost childish beginnings of the Americans, a patch-work of aceidents and mutual concessions, must be rooted out with a bold hand and thrown aside ; while the new political wisdom of the greatest people on earth must be cordially and thankfully received, and defended with united powers against all opponents in every part of the world.

« AnteriorContinuar »