people in the several states, not from the state govern


§ 461. The language of the ratifications is remarkably uniform, and remarkably explicit, as to the source whence the Constitution receives its authority and force.

All the ratifications commence with, We, the delegates of the people thereof; and all terminate by making the ratifications in the name of their constituents, the people.

It is plain throughout, that some other binding force was thought necessary than mere state authorities. The people,-common constituents, it is true, of both state and national governments, were everywhere summoned, in their original and sovereign capacity, to give authority to that union and Constitution, which was not a compact among state governments, but among the people, who are equally sovereign over both national and state governments, and upon whom the Constitution acts directly and personally.

§ 462. Among the constructions given to the Constitution at the time, in the declarations of the states ratifying it, may be remarked the following fact, that Massachusetts explicitly declared, that the rights not expressly granted were reserved to the states, and Virginia, on the other hand, as explicitly held, that all powers of the Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and those not granted were reserved to them. These states have now exactly reversed their positions, and exhibit a new evidence of the instability of human opinion. Indeed, to those who love truth more than argument, all the metaphysical subtilties of the profoundest philosopher would weigh little, in construing the Constitution, against such facts as the Letter of Washington, the ratifications of the states, the debates of the Convention, and the declared object of all the statesmen who participated in the acts and doings of that day.



§ 463. By article 4th, Section 4th, of the United States Constitution, the United States guaranties to every state in the Union a republican form of government. Most of the colonies had charters previous to the Revolution, especially the New-England States, which conceded to them all the rights of self-government; but after the Declaration of Independence, and at the close of the war, nearly all of them formed Constitutions for themselves. Rhode Island alone still continues under her ancient charter. The new states formed their Constitutions as they were admitted into the Union.

§ 464. These Constitutions are all formed upon the same principles with each other, and with the Constitu tion of the United States. They all observe the same division of the government into the three parts of Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. They all adopt the representative principle, and are all republican. Onehalf of them are accompanied with declarations of right, -a measure of superabundant caution; for, the evils which they are generally intended to operate against could not take place if the State Constitutions had no existence; as the Constitution of the United States effectually prohibits them.

§ 465. The order of time in which the State Constitutions were formed, is as follows, viz:

1. 1Rhode Island has no Constitution, but is governed by a charter from Charles II., which concedes to the, governor and company all the powers executive, legis

1 American Constitutions.

lative, and judicial. The governor and legislature are chosen by the people, and they appoint the officers.

2. The first Constitution formed among the states was that of New-Jersey, which was ratified by the Provincial Congress, July 2d, 1776. As this was before the Declaration of Independence, it was provided that if a reconciliation took place with Great Britain, then that instrument was to be null and void.

3. The next Constitution was that of Maryland, which was formed on the 14th of August, 1776.

4. The Constitution of North Carolina was formed December 18th, 1776.

5. Massachusetts assumed her form of March 2d, 1780.


6. The next was South Carolina, which adopted her Constitution on the 3d of June, 1790.

7. The next Pennsylvania, on the 2d of September, 1790.

8. The next New-Hampshire, in February, 1792.
9. Vermont, July 9th, 1793.

10. Tennessee, February 6th, 1796.
11. Georgia, May 30th, 1798.

12. Kentucky, 17th of August, 1799.
13. Ohio, November 1st, 1802.
14. Louisiana, January 28th, 1812.
15. Indiana, June 29th, 1816.

16. Mississippi, 15th of August, 1817.

17. Illinois, on the 26th of August, 1818.

18. Connecticut, on the 15th September, 1818. Connecticut had until this time lived, like Rhode Island, under the charter of Charles II.

19. Alabama, on the 2d of August, 1819.

20. Maine, which had previously constituted a part of Massachusetts, adopted her Constitution on October 29th, 1819.

21. Missouri, on the 19th of July, 1820.

22. New-York had a Constitution previously, but her

present one was formed and adopted 10th of November, 1821.

23. Virginia also had a Constitution ever since the Revolution; but she formed a new one, 14th Jan. 1830. 24. Delaware adopted her present Constitution, 2d December, 1831.

§ 466. As all these are similar to each other, and nearly in form the same with the Constitution of the United States, it will be unnecessary for the purpose of instruction, to consider more than one of them, and then point out the differences between that and the others. For this purpose we shall select the Constitution of New-York, which will be found interesting, on account of its being formed at so late a period, the peculiar talent displayed in the convention which formed it, and the elaborate structure of its judiciary.


§ 467. In considering this instrument, we shall merely give an outline of its principles, without entering into details.

§468. By the Constitution of New-York, power is vested in three branches,—the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial.

By the 1st Article of the Constitution, legislative power is vested in a Senate and an Assembly. The Senate consists of thirty-two members, who are freeholders, and chosen for four years; the Assembly, of 128 members, annually elected. Senators are chosen by districts, the state being divided into eight; Representatives by counties. A majority of each house constitutes a quorum. Each house determines the rules of its proceedings, the qualifications of its members, chooses its own officers, except that the lieutenant-governor, when present, is President of the Senate,-each house keeps a journal of its proceedings, and publishes the same, except when secrecy is required. Bills may

originate in either house. Every bill which passes the two houses must be presented to the governor for his signature; if he object, he may return it, with his objections; if two-thirds of both houses re-enact it, it becomes a law without the governor's consent; if a bill is not returned within ten days, Sundays excepted, after it shall have been presented, it becomes a law. Officers elected during good behavior may be removed by joint resolution of the two houses, two thirds of the Assembly concurring, and a majority of the Senate. The Legislature meets every year.

§ 469. By Article 2d, every male citizen of the age of twenty-one years, who was a resident of the state a year previous to any election, and for the last six months a resident of the town or county where he may offer his vote, and shall have within the year next preceding the election paid a tax to the state, or county, assessed upon real or personal property, or shall by law be exempt from taxation, or shall have performed militia duty properly equipped, or shall be exempt by being a fireman; also every male citizen, who shall have been for three years next preceding such elections an inhabitant of the state, and the last year a resident of the town or county where he offers his vote, and shall for the last year have been assessed to work on the public highway, and shall have performed the labor or paid an equivalent therefor, shall be entitled to vote in the town or ward where he actually resides, and not elsewhere, for all officers that now are, or hereafter may be elective by the people; no man of color can vote unless he has been three years a citizen, and for one year shall have been seized and possessed of a freehold of the value of $250 over all incumbrances, and shall have paid a tax on it. And no person of color is subject to direct taxation without he is so possessed. Since the adoption of the Constitution the right of suffrage has been extended by an

« ForrigeFortsett »