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There was no settled form of government. The powers of the Congress were not defined; but were altogether vague and uncertain. In fact, the government was of a revolutionary or provisional character, exercising such authority as the necessities of the times required.
§ 33. It was soon found that the plan detailed in the Articles of Confederation was impracticable. It gave to Congress no means of enforcing its laws upon the States, and the States disregarded the recommendations of Congress with impunity. The Congress had no power to lay taxes or collect a revenue for the public service; nor could it regulate commerce, either with foreign nations or among the several States. The public debt incurred by the war was very great, and the Articles of Confederation in no way provided effectual means for its payment.
§ 34. It became evident in a short time that distress and ruin would overspread the country, unless some different and more vigorous form of government were adopted. This discouraging state of affairs led to the proceedings which finally terminated in the formation and adoption of the present federal constitution.
§ 35. It has been said that the government of the United States has passed through the three following forms:
(1.) The Revolutionary.
§ 36. The Revolutionary government extended from the time of the meeting of the first Continental Congress, March 5, 1774, down to the final ratification of the Articles of Confederation, March 1, 1781.
The Confederate government extended from the ratification of the Articles of Confederation down to the
time when the Constitution went into operation, March 4, 1789.
The Constitutional government is that which has existed under the Constitution, and to it we are now about to direct our attention.
ADOPTION OF THE CONSTITUTION.
§ 37. IN 1785, the legislatures of Virginia and Maryland appointed commissioners to form a compact relative to the navigation of the Chesapeake bay and the rivers Potomac and Pocomoke. They met, but felt that larger powers were necessary, and referred the subject to their respective States.
§ 38. Accordingly, in January, 1786, the legislature of Virginia appointed several gentlemen "to meet such commissioners as were, or might be, appointed by the other States in the Union, at such time and place as should be agreed upon by the said commissioners, to take into consideration the trade and commerce of the United States; to consider how far a uniform system, in their commercial intercourse and regulations, might be necessary to their common interest and permanent harmony; and to report to the several States such an act relative to this great object, as, when unanimously ratified by them, would enable the United States in congress assembled effectually to provide for the same."
§ 39. It was afterward agreed that this meeting should be held at Annapolis, in Maryland, in September of the
same year. The resolutions were communicated to the States, and the meeting was held at the time and place appointed. Commissioners from the States of Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attended. Delegates were appointed by New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and North Carolina, but did not attend.
§ 40. So small was the number of States represented, that the delegates did not think proper to proceed to the important business which had brought them together. They were also satisfied that they ought to be intrusted with more ample powers, embracing other objects in addition to the mere regulation of trade and commerce.
§ 41. They, therefore, prepared an address and a report to be submitted to Congress and all the States, in which they recommended the States to concur "in the appointment of commissioners to meet at Philadelphia on the second Monday in May, 1787, to take into consideration the situation of the United States, to devise such further provisions as should appear to them necessary to render the constitution of the federal government adequate to the exigencies of the Union, and to report such an act for that purpose to the United States in congress assembled, as, when agreed to by them, and afterward confirmed by the legislature of every State, will effectively provide for the
§ 42. Virginia first appointed delegates. The legislature of New York instructed its delegates in Congress to bring the subject before that body; and in February, 1787, Congress, by a resolution, declared that it was expedient "that a convention of delegates, who shall have been appointed by the several States, be held at Philadelphia, for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of
Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall, when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States, render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of the government and the preservation of the Union."
§ 43. In consequence of these proceedings, delegates to the convention were appointed from all the States except Rhode Island, and the convention met at the State-House in Philadelphia, on the 14th day (the second Monday) of May, 1787, the time designated; but a majority of the States not being represented, the members present adjourned from day to day until Friday, May 25. Upon, organizing, George Washington, who was a delegate from Virginia, was unanimously elected to preside over their deliberations. Among the delegates were many of the most eminent men of the States.
§ 44. It will be seen from the proceedings mentioned above, that the object of calling the convention was to revise the Articles of Confederation. So weak and defective, however,, was the old form of government, that a majority of the delegates determined to form an entirely
§ 45. After much discussion, the present Constitution was finally adopted, as the result of their labours, on the 17th of September, 1787, and was signed by the members of the convention. There were great difficulties in its formation, arising out of jealousies among the States, and the difference in their extent, wealth, population, habits, religion, education, and political views: nothing but a wise and.patriotic spirit of mutual concession and of moderation could have overcome such obstacles.
§ 46. The convention directed the new Constitution to be
laid before Congress, and proposed that it should afterward be submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each State by the people thereof, under a recommendation of its legislature, for their assent and ratification; also, that as soon as nine States had thus ratified it, Congress should take measures for the election of a President, and fix the time and place for commencing proceedings under it. The convention also transmitted to Congress the resolutions and letters which we have appended to the Constitution. According to this recommendation, Congress, on the 28th of September, 1787, transmitted the plan of the Constitution and the letter of the convention, to the several legislatures of the States, in order to be submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each State by the people thereof.
$47. Conventions assembled in the different States in 1787 and 1788, and the new system was discussed with great learning and zeal amid many conflicting opinions; but was at last adopted, though not without much oppo sition.
§ 48. On the 17th of September, 1788, Congress, having received ratifications of the Constitution from the conventions of all the States, except North Carolina and Rhode Island, resolved that the first Wednesday in January, 1789, should be the day for appointing electors in the several States which may have ratified the Constitution before that day; that the first Wednesday of the following February should be the day for the electors. to assemble and vote for a President; and that the first Wednesday in the following March should be the time for commencing operations under the Constitution at New York, then the seat of government.
§ 49. Accordingly, elections were held in the several