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extent of the powers vested in Congress, cannot easily be persuaded that the avowal of such a rule would not have prevented its ratification. It has been the misfortune, if not the reproach, of other nations, that their Govt have not been freely and deliberately established by themselves. It is the boast of ours that such has been its source and that it can be altered by the same authority only which established it. It is a further boast that a regular mode of making proper alterations has been providently inserted in the Constitution itself. It is anxiously to be wished therefore, that no innovations may take place in other modes, one of which would be a constructive assumption of powers never meant to be granted. If the powers be deficient, the legitimate source of additional ones is always open, and ought to be resorted to.
Much of the error in expounding the Constitution has its origin in the use made of the species of sovereignty implied in the nature of Gov The specified powers vested in Congress, it is said, are sovereign powers, and that as such they carry with them an unlimited discretion as to the means of executing them. It may surely be remarked that a limited Gov: may be limited in its sovereignty as well with respect to the means as to the objects of his powers; and that to give an extent to the former, superseding the limits to the latter, is in effect to convert a limited into an unlimited Govt There is certainly a reasonable medium between expounding the Constitution with the strictness of a
penal law, or other ordinary statute, and expounding it with a laxity which may vary its essential character, and encroach on the local sovereignties with wch it was meant to be reconcilable.
The very existence of these local sovereignties is a controul on the pleas for a constructive amplification of the powers of the General Gov! Within a single State possessing the entire sovereignty, the powers given to the Gov! by the People are understood to extend to all the Acts whether as means or ends required for the welfare of the Community, and falling within the range of just Gov! To withhold from such a Gov! any particular power necessary or useful in itself, would be to deprive the people of the good dependent on its exercise; since the power must be there or not exist at all. In the Gov! of the U. S. the case is obviously different. In establishing that Gov! the people retained other Govts capable of exercising such necessary and useful powers as were not to be exercised by the General Gov! No necessary presumption therefore arises from the importance of any particular power in itself, that it has been vested in that Gov! because tho' not vested there, it may exist elsewhere, and the exercise of it elsewhere might be preferred by those who alone had a right to make the distribution. The presumption which ought to be indulged is that any improvement of this distribution sufficiently pointed out by experience would not be withheld.
Altho' I have confined myself to the single question
concerning the rule of interpreting the Constitution, I find that my pen has carried me to a length which would not have been permitted by a recollection that my remarks are merely for an eye to which no aspect of the subject is likely to be new. I hasten therefore to conclude with assurances &c &c.
TO EDWARD COLES.
CHIC. HIST. SOC. MSS.
MONTPELLIER, Sept. 3, 1819.
I have received, my dear Sir, your agreeable letter of July 20 wch. was very long on the way.
We congratulate you much on the various successes of your western career. The first thing that strikes is the rapidity of your promotions. Bounding over the preliminary sailorship, the first step on the deck of your Bark, pardon me, of the nobler structure, your Ark, makes you a Pilot. The name of Pilot is scarcely pronounced, before you are a Captain. And in less than a twinkling of an eye, the Captain starts up a Commodore. On the land, a scene opens upon us in which you equally figure.
We see you at once a ploughman, a rail splitter, a fence builder, a cornplanter, a Haymaker, and soon
to be a wheat sower. To all these rural felicities, which leave but a single defect on your title of
i Coles was Madison's secretary from 1810 to 1816 and in 1819 went to Edwardsville, Ill., where he freed all his slaves, giving to each man 160 acres of land. He was governor of Illinois from 1823 to 1826. See Sketch of Edward Coles, Second Governor of Illinois, by Elihu B. Washburne, Chicago, 1882.
Husband-man, you add the polished pleasures of a Town, you mean a City, life. And to cap the whole, you enjoy the official dignity of Register of the land office in the important Territory of Illinois. We repeat our congratulations on all these honors & employments, and wish that the emoluments may fully equal them.
You are well off, for this year at least, in being where you can expect bread from corn planted in July. Here famine threatens us, in the midst of fields planted in April. So severe a drought is not remembered. We have had no rain, scarcely, throughout the months of June, July & Aug'st, and the earth previously but little charged with moist
On some farms, among them my two small ones near me, there has been no rain at all, or none to produce a sensible effect. In some instances there will not be the tythe of a crop, and the drought has been very general not only in this, but in other States. It has been, I understand particularly severe throughout the Tobacco Districts in Virg'a and must make this crop very scanty. It is at this critical moment feeling in all its force, the want of rain. I fear that Albemarle has no better than neighbour's fare. Fortunately for us the wheat crop was everywhere very fine, and well harvested.
The season has been as remarkable too for the degree & constancy of its heat, as for its dryness. The Thermometer in the coolest part of my largest room was on two days, at 92°, for several at 90 & 91, and generally from 84 to 5-6-7-8. Our springs &
wells have not yet entirely failed; but without copious rains this must quickly be the case.
You are pursuing, I observe, the true course with your negroes, in order to make their freedom a fair experiment for their happiness. With the habits of the slave, and without the instruction, the property, or the employments of a freeman, the manumitted blacks, instead of deriving advantage from the partial benevolence of their Masters, furnish arguments against the general efforts in their behalf. I wish your philanthropy could compleat its object, by changing their colour as well as their legal condition. Without this, they seem destined to a privation of that moral rank & those social participations which give to freedom more than half its value.
Mrs. Madison as well as myself, is much gratified by your promise to devote the next winter to your native haunts. We hope your arrangements will give us an ample share of your time. We will then take the case of your Bachelorship, into serious & full consideration. Mrs. M. is well disposed to give all her aid, in getting that old thorn out of your side, and putting a young rib in its place. She very justly remarks, however, that with your own exertions, hers will not be wanted & without them not deserved.
Accept our joint & affectionate wishes for your health & every other happiness.
END OF VOLUME VIII