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The fish below swam to and fro,
Attack'd from ev'ry quarter ;
Mongst folks above the water.
Of rebel staves and hoops, sir,
The conq'ring British troops, sir.
Display'd amazing courage;
Retir'd to sup their porridge.
Or more, upon my word, sir,
Their valor to record, sir.
Against these wicked kegs, sir,
They'll make their boast and brags, sir.
JAMES WILSON, 1742–1798.
James Wilson was born in the lowlands of Scotland about the year 1742. After leaving the grammar-school, he studied at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and, without determining upon any profession, he resolved to emigrate to this country. In the beginning of 1766, he reached Philadelphia. Soon after, he entered, as a student of law, the office of Jobn Dickinson, and in two years was admitted to the bar. He first settled in Reading, but soon removed to Carlisle, where he became quite eminent as a counsellor, and had much practice previous to the Revolutionary struggle. In 1775, by the unanimous voice of the General Assembly, he was elected, with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Willing, to the second Continental Congress, and was re-elected in the next year, when he affixed his name to the Declaration of Independence. In 1778, be removed to Philadelphia, where he continued to reside for the remainder of his life.
From his distinguished talents and unremitting industry, Mr. Wilson rose higher every year in public estimation, and was soon considered at the head of his profession. In 1782, he was again elected to Congress, and in 1787 was one of the delegates to the convention that met in Philadelphia to form our present Constitution. He took an active part in the debates, and by some was considered the ablest member of that distinguished body. In the latter part of the samo year, be was elected to the State Convention of Pennsylvania that met to ratify the Constitution. As he was the only member of the State Convention who had a seat in the General Convention, he was, of course, the most prominent member in it, and with consummate ability defended the Constitution from the attacks of its enemies.
On the 4th of July, 1788, Mr. Wilson was selected to deliver the oration on the occasion of the famous procession formed at Philadelphia to celebrate the adoption of the Constitution of the United States; and in October of the next year was appointed by Washington one of the Judges of the Supreme Court as first organized under the present Constitution ;' in which office he continued till his death. In 1790, the Law professorship of the College of Philadelphia was established, and Mr. Wilson was appointed the first professor. The course of lectures which he delivered in this and the two succeeding years may be found in his works, published in 1804 in three octavo volumes. He was now the acknowledged head of the Philadelphia bar,--learned as a man, profound as a lawyer, and distinguished for his attainments in political science. In private life he was warmly esteemed for his social and domestic virtues, as well as for his incorruptible integrity. He continued to exercise the duties of his office till the year of his death, which took place on the 28th of August, 1798, at Edenton, North Carolina, while on a circuit in bis judicial character.
THIE EXCELLENCE OF OUR CONSTITUTION.
I confess that I am not a blind admirer of this plan of government, and that there are some parts of it which, if my
wish had prevailed, would certainly have been altered. But, when I reflect how widely men differ in their opinions, and that every man (and the observation applies likewise to every State) has an equal pretension to assert his own, I am satisfied that any thing nearer to perfection could not have been accomplished. If there are errors, it should be remembered that the seeds of reformation are sown in the work itself, and the concurrence of two-thirds of the Congress may, at any time, introduce alterations and amendments. Regarding it, then, in every point of view, with a candid and disinterested mind, I am bold to assert that it is the BEST FORM OF GOVERN
MENT WHICH HAS EVER BEEN OFFERED TO THE WORLD.
THE PEOPLE THE SOURCE OF ALL POWER.
Oft have I viewed, with silent pleasure and admiration, with what force and prevalence, through the United States, the supreme power resides in the people; and that they never part with it
. It may
be called the Panacea in politics. There can be no disorder
Washington, in his letter on the occasion, thus wrote :-“Regarding the due administration of justice as the strongest cement of good government, I bave considered the first organization of tho judicial department as essential to the happiness of the people and to the stability of the political system. Under this impression, it has been with me an invariable object of anxious solicitude to select the fittest characters to expound the laws and to dispense justice.” At the head of this department, deened by himself so important, he placed that learned jurist, incorruptible patriot, and Christian statesman. Joun Jay, of N. Y., and nominated as his associates James Wilson, of Penn., John RUTLEDGE, of S.C., WILLIAM Cushing, of Mass., ROBERT HARRISON, of Md., and John Bláir, of Va.
in the community but may here receive a radical cure. If the error be in the legislature, it may be corrected by the constitution; if in the constitution, it may be corrected by the people. There is a remedy, therefore, for every distemper in government, if the people are not wanting to themselves; but for a people wanting to themselves, there is no remedy. From their power, as we have seen, there is no appeal; to their error, there is no superior principle of correction.
There are three simple species of government: Monarchy, where the
supreme power is in a single person : Aristocracy, where the supreme power is in a select assembly, the members of which either fill up, by election, the vacancies in their own body, or succeed to their places in it by inheritance, property, or in respect of some personal right or qualification : a Republic or Democracy, where the people at large retain the supreme power, and act either collectively or by representation.
Each of these species of government has its advantages and disadvantages.
The advantages of a Monarchy are strength, dispatch, secrecy, unity of counsel.
Its disadvantages are tyranny, expense, ignorance of the situation and wants of the people, insecurity, unnecessary wars, evils attending elections or successions.
The advantages of Aristocracy are wisdom, arising from experience and education. Its disadvantages are dissensions among themselves, oppression to the lower orders.
The advantages of Democracy are liberty; equal, cautious, and salutary laws, public spirit, frugality, peace, opportunities of exciting and producing the abilities of the best citizens. Its disadvantages are dissensions, the delay and disclosure of public counsels, the imbecility of public measures, retarded by the necessity of a numerous consent.
A government may be composed of two or more of the simple forms above mentioned. Such is the British government. It would be an improper government for the United States, because it is inadequate to such an extent of territory, and because it is suited to an establishment of different orders of men.
What is the nature and kind of that government which has been proposed for the United States by the late convention? In its principle it is purely democratical; but that principle is applied in different forms, in order to obtain the advantages, and exclude the inconveniences, of the simple modes of government.
If we take an extended and accurate view of it, we shall find the streams of power running in different directions, in different dimensions, and at different heights; watering, adorning, and fertilizing the fields and meadows through which their courses are led; but if we trace them, we shall discover that they all originally flow from one abundant fountain.
In THIS CONSTITUTION all authority is derived from the PEOPLE.
THE ANTI-SLAVERY CHARACTER OF THE CONSTITUTION.
With respect to the clause' restricting Congress from prohibiting the migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, prior to the year 1808, the honorable gentleman says, that this clause is not only dark, but intended to grant to Congress, for that time, the power to admit the importation of slaves. No such thing was intended; but I will tell you what was done, and it gives me high pleasure that so much was done. Under the present confederation, the States may admit the importation of slaves as long as they please; but by this article, after the year 1808 the Congress will have power to prohibit such importation, notwithstanding the disposition of any State to the contrary. I consider this as laying the foundation for banishing slavery out of this country; and though the period is more distant than I could wish, yet it will produce the same kind, gradual change, which was pursued in Pennsylvania. It is with much satisfaction I view this power in the general government whereby they may lay an interdiction on this reproachful trade: but an immediate advantage is also obtained; for a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person ; and this, sir, operates as a partial prohibition : it was all that could be obtained. I am sorry it was no more; but from this I think there is reason to hope that yet a few years, and it will be prohibited altogether; and, in the mean time, the new States which are to be formed, will be under the control of Congress in this particular, and slaves will never be introduced amongst them.
So far, therefore, as this clause operates, it presents us with the pleasing prospect that the rights of mankind will be acknowledged and established throughout the Union.
If there was no other lovely feature in the constitution but this one, it would diffuse a beauty over its whole countenance. Yet the lapse of a few years, and Congress will have
power to exterminate slavery from within our borders.
| Article I., Section IX. The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing sball think proper to admit, shall not bo prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight; but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation not exceeding ten dollars for each pcrson.
THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1743—1826.
Thomas JEFFERSOx, descended from a family which had been long settled in his native State, was born at Shadwell, Albemarle county, Virginia, on the 2d of April, 1743. After finishing his collegiate course of education at William's and Mary's Collego, he commenced the study of the law with the celebrated George Wythe, afterwards Chancellor of the State. He was called to the bar in 1766 ; and in 1769 was a member of the Legislature of Virginia. On the 12th of March, 1773, he was appointed a member of the first committee of correspondence established by the Colonial Legislatures; and the next year he wrote and published his Summary View of the Rights of British America. It was a bold and manly document, ably setting forth our own rights, and pointing out clearly the various ways in which they had been violated by the British Government. On the 27th of March, 1775, he was elected one of the members to represent Virginia in the General Congress of the Confederated Colonies, already assembled at Philadelphia, and took his seat in this assembly on the 21st of June. So early did he become known for his ability, that, in a few days after his arrival, be'was made a member of a committee appointed to draw up a declaration setting forth the causes and necessity of resorting to arms.
With the year 1776, the affairs of the colonies began to assume an aspect of more energy, with aims more definite. When, therefore, the subject of our independence was brought before Congress in June, it met with a hearty response in that body, and a committee was appointed to prepare a declaration “that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved." This committee consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and R. R. Livingston; and to Mr. Jefferson, the chairman, was assigned the important duty of preparing the draft of the document. On the 28th of June, the Declaration of Independence (the report of the committee) was presented to Congress and read; on the first, second, and third of July, it was fully discussed in committee of the whole; and on the fourth it was adopted in its present form, many alterations having been made in the draft as it was first presented by the committee.
During the summer of this year, (1776,) Mr. Jefferson took an active part in the deliberations and business of Congress; but in the fall, owing to his ill health, the situation of his family, and the embarrassed condition of things in Virginia, he felt it his duty to return to his own State, and devote bimself to her service. Though his public duties were arduous, he found time to write, in 1781, his Notes on Virginia,—the work by which, next to the Declaration of Independence, he is most favorably known. In June, 1783, Mr. Jefferson was again elected a delegate to Congress from Virginia, and of course took a prominent part in the deliberations of that body. An opportunity soon offered itself of expressing again, as he had already so frequently done, his detestation of slavery, and his earnest desire for the entire abolition of it in the United States. Being appointed, in April, 1784, chairman of a committee to which was assigned the task of forming a plan for the temporary government of the Western Territory, he introduced into it the