treaties with us, for there would be no assurance that our treaties would be observed. It was a serious defect of the government under the Articles of Confederation, that the States slighted the obligation of treaties.

$ 594. It is only those laws passed by Congress in pursuance of the Constitution, that become the supreme law of the land. If an act of Congress be contrary to the Constitution, it is no part of the supreme law.

$ 595. The judges of every State are bound by the Constitution, the constitutional laws, and the treaties of the United States; and every thing contrary thereto in the Constitution, laws, decisions, or proceedings of any State, or even in the Acts of Congress, is void and of no effect.

$ 596. According to law and practice in England, Parliament is supreme, and an act of Parliament once passed, becomes a part of the law of the land and demands perfect obedience. It is not always so here with an act of Congress. If it should be contrary to the Constitution of the United States, it is the right and the duty of the judiciary, to declare it void and of no effect. The reason of this is, that the written Constitution limits the powers of Congress, and if Congress may, notwithstanding, go beyond those limits, the Constitution ceases to have any binding operation in that respect.

[Clause 2.] “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution ; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

$ 597. The previous clause declares that the Constitution of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land; the present clause is intended to secure its observance as such, by the solemn sanction of an oath or affirmation. Fidelity to the Constitution is a test or qualification for legislative, judicial, or executive office, under the general government and in the several States.

$ 598. Senators, representatives, executive officers, and judicial officers of the United States, are required to be bound by oath or affirmation to support the Constitution, because they are directly concerned in its execution and administration. The corresponding officers of the several States are also required to be bound in like manner, because they owe obedience to the Federal Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

$ 599. June 1, 1789, Congress passed an act declaring that the oath or affirmation required by this clause shall be administered in the following form:“1, A. B., do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States." The act further declares the time and manner of administering the oath. At the first session of Congress, after every general election of Representatives, the oath is to be administered to the Speaker by any one member of the House of Representatives, (in practice this is done by the oldest members of the House, successively,) and then by the Speaker to all the members present, and to the clerk, previous to enter. ing on any other business.

$ 600. The President of the Senate for the time being, also administers the oath or affirmation to each newlyelected Senator, previous to his taking his seat; and if the President of the Senate has not himself taken the oath, it

is administered to him by any one of the members of the Senate.

$ 601. The members of the several State legislatures, and all the executive and judicial officers of the States, are required, before they proceed to execute the duties of their respective offices, to take the oath or affirmation, to be administered by the person who is authorized by the law of the State to administer the oath of office, and a record or certificate is to be made of it, in like manner as of the oath of office.

$ 602. All officers appointed under the authority of the United States, are required to take the oath or affirmation before entering upon their official duties.

$ 603. This clause contains the important provision that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. This prohibition was intended to restrain the effects of sectarian bigotry and intolerance, and prevent a union of church and State, such as we find in England and in many countries on the continent of Europe.

$ 604. In England, and in some other countries, public officers, before entering on the discharge of their official duties, are required to take an oath or make a declaration in favour of the established religion of the country. Such oaths or declarations are called tests. The Constitution of the United States does not establish any particular form of religious worship, or restrain the free exercise of any form, and it therefore abolishes religious tests, as inconsistent with its principles of religious liberty.

" ARTICLE VII. The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same."

$ 605. At the time of the formation of the Constitution there were thirteen States. This clause does not require that all the States should assent to the Constitution, foi a single State would then have been enabled to defeat the wishes of all the others. Nor does it make a majority sufficient; but it adopts a medium course, and declares that the ratification by the conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment of the Constitution between the States thus ratifying it.

$ 606. Had the Constitution been ratified by no more chan nine States, those nine States only would have composed the Union, and the remaining States would not have been members of it.

For the proceedings attending the ratification of the Constitution, see $ 46.

$ 607. The final clause of the Constitution is as follows:“Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of

the States present the Seventeenth day of September
in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred
and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the
United States of America the Twelfth. In Wit-
ness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our

It was then signed by


Presidt and deputy from Virginia, and by thirty-eight other delegates, being one or more from each of the original thirteen States, except Rhode Island, by whom no delegate was appointed.




$ 608. Much opposition was made to the ratification of the Constitution, in the conventions called by the States. The reasons for the opposition were different in their nature, but a very general opinion was entertained, that something should be added in the nature of a Declaration of Rights, which should positively assert and establish certain rights of the people. Many of the States, although they ratified the Constitution, expressed a wish that such amendments should be adopted.

$ 609. Accordingly, at the first session of the first Congress, begun and held in the city of New York, March 4, 1789, Congress, after duly considering the fact that the conventions of a number of the States, at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be adopted, passed a resolution on the 25th of September, 1789, twothirds of both houses concurring, to propose twelve articles to the legislatures of the States, as amendments to the Constitution.

$ 610. Ten of those articles having been finally ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the States, became amendments of the Constitution of the United States on the 15th day of December, 1791.

$ 611. These amendments, constituting the first ten of

« ForrigeFortsett »