« ForrigeFortsett »
actually adopted on the occasion, is, we think, more than commonly remarkable, for the flimsiness of the sophistry of which it consists, and for the boldness with which the authorities cited, are warped to the purposes of the writer. We could not well have imagined, before we had seen it done in this instance, that the name of Mr. Burke would have been adduced, by one pretending to be conversant with his writings, to support the right of instructions, however“ soberly and deliberately given. If the passages which Mr. Mercer has quoted from the works of this great statesman, could leave the shadow of a doubt, with respect to the decisiveness and singleness of his opinions on the subject, the ensuing must be deemed sufficient, to put the matter beyond all controversy. In the “ Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs,” Mr. Burke speaks thus of himself, in the third person:
" He was the first man, who, on the hustings, at a popular election, rejected the authority of instructions from constituents; or who, in any place, has argued so fully against it. Perhaps the discredit into which that doctrine of compulsive instructions under our constitution is since fallen, may be due, in a great degree, to his opposing himself to it in that manner, and on that occasion."
In his speech to the electors of Bristol, he discusses the point in the following unanswerable language.
“ Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative, to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and, above all, ever, and in all cases, to pref r their interest to his own. But, his unbiassed opinion, his mat. re judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
“My worthy colleague says, his will ought to be subservient to yours. If that be all, the thing is innocent. If government were a matter of will upon any side, yours, without question, ought to be superior. But government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment, and not of inclination; and, what ment of a senator of the United States from Virginia, who doth not hold himself bound to obey such instructions.
sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion; in which one set of men deliberate, and another decide; and where those who form the conclusion are perhaps three hundred miles distant from those who hear the arguments?
“ To deliver an opinion is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which he ought always most seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience; these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution.
“ Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when
have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament. If the local constituent should have an interest, or should form a hasty opinion, evidently opposite to the real good of the rest of the community, the member for that place ought to be as far as any other from any endeavour to give it effect.”
With the exception of two or three of the state legislatures, that of Virginia is said to contain more, both of talent and knowledge, than any other of the Union. We are inclined to admit this to be the truth; and yet the light, trashy stuff which is so often either promulgated or sanctioned by that body, the superficial, tawdry declamation sometimes attached to the acts of the Virginia government, would lead a judicious stranger to a very different inference. In many respects, nature has been more liberal towards the mind of the Virginians, than towards that of the inhabitants of the northern states. She has given them a quicker discernment, a more lively fancy, a more fluent elocution, greater activity of thought. Adventitious circumstances have added to these endowments, loftier feelings of personal dignity and independence. Our country at large has already, in several instances, shared in the benefits of the result, and will, doubtless, hereafter,--should Virginia suffer our union to endure, derive from the same quarter, if not the most solid advantage, at least its brightest illustration, and the most delectable pleasures of the fancy. Her sons are, we think, destined to be most successful in all the arts and works of imagination; to take the lead, also, in the career of romantic enterprise and elevated patriotism. Virginia will, probably, soar higher than any other of the states, in the regions of poetry and eloquence, as she will occasionally furnish us, with the most perfect model of a magnanimous, disinterested statesman, a successful naval, or military commander. In erudition, depth, philosophical abstraction, patient research, scientific accuracy, and in both public and private morals, she will be excelled by the northern states.
With the opinion which we entertain, concerning the natural sagacity of Virginia, it would be difficult for us to comprehend, how it is, that she labours under so many gross delusions in politics, did we not know that a character of intellect, such as that we have ascribed to her, is particularly liable to error. To rely with confidence upon first impressions, and to adhere to them with obstinate pride; to look no deeper than the surface, and to decide hastily, from an impatience of labour; to be captivated and seduced by brilliant paradoxes and fine-spun theories; to thirst incessantly after exclusive power, and to pursue the object without a nice regard to the morality, or even wisdom of the means, seems to mark the history, of every people of a very lively genius and an ardent temper. Accordingly, we have seen the wild speculations in religion and politics, which were imported from the European world at the close of the last century, the dogmas of Rousseau, and Godwin, and Paine, obtain most currency and authority in Virginia. We have seen, also, the doctrines most inconsistent, with the vigour and duration of our constitution, broached and maintained, in the same state; the solid interests of the Union sacrificed to promote her fantastical schemes of policy, and to gratify her love of dominion, until, at length, the country has been not only arrested, but impressed with a retrograde motion, in the career of prosperity; plunged into a gulph of calamity and humiliation;—and that very ascendancy in the national councils, for the preservation of which, in great part, all this has been done, violently shaken, and (as we trust) seriously endangered.
Making every due allowance on the score of character, conformably to what we have said above, we are yet sometimes tempted to wonder, that Virginia has not better understood or consulted, her own proper and permanent good; that she has not examined more accurately her relative situation, and looked more steadily to futurity. After she had acquired the sway of the federal goverment, her true policy was, to study and gratify the interests and inclinations of the Eastern states, and to discountenance every principle and measure, which tended to weaken the federal constitution, or to accelerate its decline. The favor of the Eastern states, was necessary to the continuance of her ascendancy over the Union; and she cannot but perceive, that this ascendancy is a condition preferable to that, in which she would be placed, on a dissolution of the confederacy. Who that inquires attentively, into the character and resources of the several states, but must be sensible, that Virginia could neither maintain, nor assume the first rank, in the event of a separation?
But we wander somewhat from our immediate purpose, which is to introduce the following masterly performance.
The general Assembly of Virginia reluctantly pronounces any sentiment, which can be construed to imply a censure of the proceedings of a former Legislature of this state, convened under the same authority, possessed of the same powers, acting under the same responsibility, and animated by the same motives with itself.
The opinions of men, however, fallible as they are, ought not to be immutable. To censure the change of opinion, on the mere ground, that it is a departure from one formerly entertained, would be to censure human nature, the errors of which it is the duty of man rather to deplore. It is, therefore, with a feeling, at peace with all the world, and, more especially, with an indulgence to the errors of its predecessors, which, it hopes, will bespeak of succeeding legislatures a like forgiveness of its own imperfections, that this Assembly undertakes to review such of the doctrines, contained in the report of a committee of a former house of delegates, as are now relied upon, to justify the instructions, relative to the bank of the United States, given to the Senators of this state, in Congress, by the last General Assembly; and to authorise this Assembly to censure those Senators, for having questioned or disobeyed the authority of those instructions.
It is contended, in behalf of the state legislatures, that they have a right to instruct the Senators representing in Congress, their respective states, on all points relating “either to the constitution, or the policy of the U. States;” and as a necessary consequence of this right, " that it is the duty of the Senators to obey such instructions, provided they do not require of them a violation of the Constitution of the United States, or the commission of an act of moral turpitude.”
The arguments urged in support of this doctrine, are deduced from the nature of representative government; from the right, which unquestionably belongs to the legislatures of the several
states, to elect the Senators who represent those states in Congress; and from the assumed principle, “that the state legislatures are clothed with the general attributes of the sovereignty of their respective states.
Is it to be inferred from the nature, and end of representative government, that the constituted authorities of such a government, are bound to obey, implicitly, the will of their constituents?
The people, who are the only legitimate source of all government, may, unquestionably, give to any government that they please to create, the particular form, which they themselves prefer. Whether the maxims which regulate that form, can be ascertained by custom, or have been embodied in a written constitution, those maxims, until they shall have been constitutionally altered, by the people themselves, furnish the only rule of political conduct, as well to the magistrate, as to the citizen. And wherever those maxims, furnish a solution of the inquiry, " whether a representative be bound by the instructions of his constituents?” 'there is an end of all further argument upon the subject. But, by the nature of representative government, is presumed to be meant, that government, reduced
to practice, in its best form, and adapted to its great end, the promotion of human happiness, without regard to any particular character of it in actual existence. In this sense, the argument is, here, regarded.
The first and simplest form of government is that, in which the will of a majority of the people prescribes the rulę, by which the conduct of each individual is to be regulated. So, Locke is to be interpreted, when he says, “that which begins and constitutes any political society, is nothing, but the consent of any number of freemen, capable of forming a majority, to unite and incorporate into such a society.” And this, he adds, “is that, and that only, which did, or could give beginning, to any lawful government in the world.” In this condition of society, if mankind, ever did so exist, it is evident, that a majority of the people, administering collectively, all the powers of government, the relation of 'representative and constituent could have no place. It is not necessary, therefore, to pause here, for a longer period, than to remark, that all legislative, judicial, and executive power would remain in the majority who governed, unlimited, and unrestrained, but by the law of nature. In the General Assembly, they would all be exercised, in one single act. The moment a case arose for the application of a law, it would be suggested by the feelings of the majority, and the interpretation, and execution of it, would instantly follow. As such a govern