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Is it an unreasonable conjecture, that the errors which may be contained in the plan of the convention, are such as have resulted, rather from the defect of antecedent experience on this complicated and difficult subject, than from a want of accuracy or care in the investigation of it; and consequently, such as will not be ascertained until an actual trial shall have pointed them out? This conjecture is rendered probable, not only by many considerations of a general nature, but by the particular case of the articles of confederation. .
It is observable, that among the numerous objections and amendments suggested by the several states, when these articles were submitted for their ratification, not one is found, which alludes to the great and radical error, . which on actual trial has discovered itself. And if we except the observations which New Jersey was led to make, rather by her local situation, than by her peculiar foresight, it may be questioned whether a single suggestion was of sufficient moment to justify a revision of the system. There is abundant reason nevertheless to suppose, that immaterial as these objections were, tbey would have been adhered to with a very dangerous inflexibility in some states, had not a zeal for their opinions and sup. posed interests, been stifled by the more powerful sentiment of self-preservation. One state, we may remember, persisted for several years in refusing her concurrence, although the enemy remained the whole period at our gates, or rather in the very bowels of our country. Nor was her pliancy in the end effected by a less motive, tban the fear of being chargeable with protracting the public calamities, and endangering the event of the contest. Every candid reader will make the proper reflections on these important facts.
A patient, who finds bis disorder daily growing worse, and that an efficacious remedy can no longer be delayed without extreme danger; after coolly revolving his situation, and the characters of different physicians, selects and calls in such of them as he judges most capable of administering relief, and best entitled to his confidence. The physicians attend: the case of the patient is carefully
examined....a consultation is held: they are unanimously agreed that the symptoms are critical; but that the case, with proper and timely relief, is so far from being des. perate, that it may be made to issue in an improvement of his constitution. They are equally unanimous in prescribing the remedy by which this happy effect is to be produced. The prescription is no, sooner made known, however, than a number of persons interpose, and without denying the reality or danger of the disorder, assure the patient that the prescription will be poison to his constitution, and forbid him, under pain of certain death, to make use of it. Might not the patient reasonably "emand, before he ventured to follow this advice, that the authors of it should at least agree among themselves, on some other remedy to be substituted ? And if he found them differing as much from one another, as from his first counsellors, would he not act prudently, in trying the experiment unanimously recommended by the latter, rather than in hearkening to those who could neither deny the necessity of a speedy remedy, nor agree in proposing one.
Such a patient, and in such a situation, is America at this moment. She has been sensible of her malady. She bas obtained a regular and unanimous advice from men of her own deliberate choice. And she is warned by others against following this advice, under pain of the most fatal consequences. Do the monitors deny the reality of her danger? No. Do they deny the necessity of some speedy and powerful remedy? No. Are they agreed, are any two of them agreed, in their objections to the remedy proposed, or in the proper one to be substituted? Let them speak for themselves.
This one tells us, that the proposed constitution ought to be rejected, because it is not a confederation of the states, but a government over individuals. Another ad mits, that it ought to be a government over individuals, to a certain extent, but by no means to the extent proposed. A third does not object to the government over individuals, or to the extent proposed, but to the want of a bill of rights. A fourth concurs in the absolute neces. sity of a bill of rights, but contends that it ought to be declaratory, not of the personal rights of individuals, but of the rights reserved to the states in their political capacity. A fifth is of opinion that a bill of rights of any sort would be superfluous and misplaced, and that the plan would be unexceptionable, but for the fatal power of regulating the times and places of election. An objector in a large state, exclaims loudly against the unreasonable equality of representation in the senate. An objector in a small state, is equally loud against the dangerous inequality in the house of representatives. From this quarter, we are alarmed with the amazing expense, from the number of persons who are to admi. nister the new government. From another quarter, and sometimes from the same quarter, on another occasion, the cry is, that the congress will be but the shadow of a representation, and that the government would be far less objectionable, if the number and the expense were doubled. A patriot in a state that does not import or export, discerns insuperable objections against the power of direct taxation. The patriotic adversary in a state of great exports and imports, is not less dissatisfied that the whole burthen of taxes may be thrown on consumption. This politician discovers in the constitution a direct and irresistible tendency to monarchy: that, is equally sure, it will end in aristocracy. Another is puzzled to say which of these shapes it will ultimately assume, but sees clearly it must be one or other of them. Whilst a fourth is not wanting, who with no less confidence affirms, that the constitution is so far from having a bias towards either of these dangers, that the weight ou that side will not be sufficient to keep it upright and firm against its opposite propensities. With another class of adversaries to the constitution, the language is, that the legislative, executive, and judiciary departments, are intermixed in such a manner, as to contradict all the ideas of regular government, and all the requisite precautions in favor of liberty. Wbilst this objection circulates in vague and general expressions, there are not a few who lend their sanction to it. Let
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each one come forward with his particular explanation, and scarcely any two are exactly agreed on the subject. In the eyes of one, the junction of the senate with the president, in the responsible function of appointing to offices, instead of vesting this executive powerin the executive alone, is the vicious part of the organization. To another, the exclusion of the bouse of representatives, whose numbers alone could be a due security against corruption and partiality in the exercise of such a power, is equally obnoxious. With another, the admission of the president into any share of a power, which must ever be a dangerous engine in the hands of the executive magis. trate, is an unpardonable violation of the maxims of republican jealousy. No part of the arrangement, according to some, is more inadmissible than the trial of impeachments by the senate, which is alternately a member both of the legislative and executive departments, when this power so evidently belonged to the judiciary department. We concur fully, reply others, in the objection to this part of the plan, but we can never agree that a reference of impeachments to the judiciary authority would be an amendment of the error : our principal dislike to the organization, arises from the extensive powers already lodged in that department. Even among the zealous patrons of a council of state, the most irreconcileable variance is discovered, concerning the mode in which it ought to be constituted. The demand of one gentleman is, that the council should consist of a small number, to be appointed by the most numerous branch of the legislature. Another would prefer a larger number, and considers it as a fundamen. tal condition, that the appointment should be made by the president himself.
As it can give no umbrage to the writers against the plan of the federal constitution, let us suppose, that as they are the most zealous, so they are also the most sagacious, of those who think the late convention were unequal to the task assigned them, and that a wiser and better plan might and ought to be substituted. Let us further suppose, that their country should concur, both
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in this favourable opinion of their merits, and in their unfavourable opinion of the convention ; and should accordingly proceed to form them into a second convention, with full powers, and for the express purpose, of revising and remoulding the work of the first. Were the experiment to be seriously made, though it requires some effort to view it seriously even in fiction, I leave it to be decided by the sample of opinions just exhibited, whether, with all their enmity to their predecessors, they would, in any one point, depart so widely from their example, as in the discord and ferment that would mark their own deliberations; and whether the constitution, now before the public, would not stand as fair a chance for immortality, as Lycurgus gave to that of Sparta, by making its change to depend on his own return from exile and death, if it were to be immediately adopted, and were to continue in force, not until a BETTER, but until ANOTHER should be agreed upon by this new assembly of lawgivers.
It is a matter both of wonder and regret, that those who raise so inany objections against the new constitu. tion, should never call to mind the defects of that which is to be exchanged for it. It is not necessary that the former should be perfect : it is sufficient that the latter is more imperfect. No man would refuse to give brass for silver or gold, because the latter had some alloy in it. No man would refuse to quit a shattered and tottering habitation, for a firm and commodious building, because the latter had not a porch to it; or because some of the rooms might be a little larger or smaller, or the cieling a little higher or lower than his fancy would have planned them. But waving illustrations of this sort, is it not manifest, that most of the capital objections urged against the new system, lie with tenfold weight against the existing confederation? Is an indefinite power to raise money, dangerous in the hands of a federal government? The present congress can make requisitions to any amount they please; and the states are constitutionally bound to furnish them. They can emit bills of credit as long as they will pay for the paper : they can borrow
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