Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

pathetic. He was but thirty years of age when in the convention, but exhibited wonderful maturity. Although in size the smallest man in the convention, he was often the largest in mental prowess.

New York had lost her vote by the defection of two of Hamilton's colleagues, yet he remained to help as he could the framers in their arduous labors.

He was appointed first Secretary of the Treasury by Washington, and ended his life in a duel with Aaron Burr. Of the eighty-odd numbers of the " Federalist," Hamilton wrote fifty-five, John Jay five, and Madison the rest. Curiously enough, biographers name as Hamilton's birthplace three islands, viz.: St. Kitt's, St. Croix, and St. Nevis, of the Lesser Antilles.

What was the vice of the Confederation?

The States ordained, during war, in the Articles of Confederation, which was the first Constitution of the United States, a "perpetual Union," which in peace made them restive. They had asserted and achieved their freedom, independence, and sovereignty. No amendment could be made to the Articles unless by the unanimous consent of the States. Bondage was unendurable. The Articles of Confederation, having superseded the authority of Congress, had control over war and peace, yet exercised only advisory powers, being dependent on the States for executory cooperation.

The Articles did not provide for an executive or a judicial department. In civil matters, such as the collection of revenue, they were powerless as the States were powerful.

The Philadelphia convention proceeded to reform the vice of the Confederation by ordaining three coordinate departments of government, viz.: the legislative, executive, and judicial. Amendments were provided for by a vote of three-fourths of the States, whereas the Articles required, as before stated, unanimous consent.

What does the preamble mean by " a more perfect Union"?

It means that "perpetual Union" not having saved the Confederacy from the peril of dissolution, a more " perfect Union," based on mutual consent and compromise, would be the salvation of the States-Union, or the United States, as a grand confederation of equal and co-equal States, and both immediately and remotely "establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty."

What was the fallacious argument of ChiefJustice Chase?

In the celebrated case of Texas vs. White (7 Wall. 700), decided by the Supreme Court after the war, Chief-Justice Chase said:

"The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. ... It received definite form and character and sanction by the Articles of Confederation. By these the Union was solemnly declared to be perpetual. And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained to form ' a more perfect Union.' It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not? But the perpetuity and indissolubility of the Union by no means implies the loss of distinct and individual existence, or of the right of self-government by the States. ... It may not be unreasonably said that the preservation of the States and the maintenance of their governments are as much within the design and care of the Constitution as the preservation of the Union and maintenance of the national government. The Constitution in all its provisions looks to an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible States. When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States she entered into an indissoluble relation. . . . There was no place for reconsideration or revocation except through revolution or through consent of the States. Considered, therefore, as transactions under the Constitution, the ordinance of secession adopted by the convention, and ratified by a majority of the citizens of Texas, was absolutely null, and utterly without operation in law. The obligations of the State as a member of the Union, and of every citizen of the State as a citizen of the United States, remained perfect and unimpaired. The State did not cease to be a State, nor her citizens to be citizens of the Union."—See also the cases of White vs. Hart (13 Wall. 646) and Keith vs. Clark (97 U. S. 451).

[graphic]

What were the comments of James Bryce in his "American Commonwealth"?

"As respects the argument that the Union established by the Constitution of 1788 must be perpetual, because it is declared to have been designed to make a previous perpetual Union more perfect, it may be remarked, as matter of history, that this previous Union [that resting on the Articles of Confederation] had not proved perpetual, but was, in fact, put an end to by the acceptance, in 1788, of the new Constitution by the nine States who first ratified that instrument. After that ratification the Confederation was dead, and the States of North Carolina and Rhode Island, which for some months refused to come into the new Union, were clearly out of the old one, and stood alone in the world. May it not, then, be said that those who destroyed a Union purporting to be perpetual were thereafter estopped from holding it to have been perpetual, and from founding on the word ' perpetual' an argument against those who tried to upset the new Union in 1861, as the old one had been upset in 1788? The answer to this way of putting the point seems to be to admit that the proceedings of 1788 were in fact revolutionary. In ratifying their new Constitution in that year, the nine States broke through and flung away their previous compact, which purported to have been made forever. But they did so for the sake of forming a better and more enduring compact, and their extra-legal action was amply justified by the necessities of the case."— "American Commonwealth," vol. i., page 316.

Mr. James Bryce, Member of Parliament from Aberdeen, Scotland, in his two volumes, shows himself to be a born nationalist. In his just criticism of the Chase opinion, he failed to see that the Chief-Justice was as bitter against Jeffersonianism as old Cato was against Carthage. No

« ForrigeFortsett »