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as well as qualifications for the duty assigned to them, that would not be likely to be again witnessed. Of these men, Washington was the head; and no second Washington could be looked for. The peculiar crisis, too, occasioned by the total failure of the Confederation, notwithstanding the apparent fitness and actual necessity of that government at the time of its formation, could never occur again. There were, moreover, but thirteen States in the confederacy, nearly all of which dated their settlement and their existence as political communities from about the same period, and all had passed through the same revolutionary history. But the number of the States was evidently destined to be greatly increased, and the new members of the Union would also be likely to be very different in character from the old States. It was not probable, therefore, that the time would ever arrive when the people of the United States would feel that another national convention, for the purpose of acting on the national Constitution, would be safe or practicable. Still, it would not have been proper to have excluded the possibility of a resort to this method of amendment; since the national legislature might itself be interested to perpetuate abuses springing from defects in the Constitution, and to incur the hazards attending a convention might become a far less evil than the continuance of such abuses, or the failure to make the necessary reforms.
But it was indispensable that the precise functions and authority of such a convention should be defined,
lest its action might result in revolution.
method of amendment proposed by the committee of detail did not enable the Congress to call a convention on their own motion, and did not prescribe the action of such a body, or provide any mode in which the amendments proposed by it should be adopted. Hamilton and Madison both opposed this plan; the former, because it was inadequate, and because he considered it desirable that a much easier method should be devised for remedying the defects that would become apparent in the new system; the latter, on account of the vagueness of the plan itself. Accordingly, Mr. Madison brought forward, as a substitute, a method of proceeding, which, with some modifications, became what is now the fifth article of the Constitution; namely, that the Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments; or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the States, shall call a convention for proposing amendments. In either case, the amendments proposed are to become valid as part of the Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the States, or by conventions in three fourths of the States, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress.1
But when this provision had been agreed upon, the grave question arose, whether the power of amendment was to be subjected to any limitations. There were two objects, in respect to which, as we
1 Elliot, V. 530–532.
have more than once had occasion to see, different classes of the States felt great jealousy. One of them had been covered by the stipulations that the States should not be prohibited before the year 1808 from admitting further importations of slaves, and that no capitation or other direct tax should be laid unless in proportion to the census or enumeration of the inhabitants of the States, in which three fifths only of the slaves were included.' The other was the equality of representation in the Senate, so long and at length so successfully contended for by the smaller States. At the instance of Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina, a proviso was added, which forbade any amendment before the year 1808 affecting in any manner the clauses relating to the slave-trade and the capitation or other direct taxes. This proviso having now become inoperative, those clauses are, like others, subject to amendment. At the instance of Mr. Sherman of Connecticut, a restriction that is of perpetual force was placed upon the power of amendment, which prevents each State from being deprived of its equality of representation in the Senate, without its consent.1
The oath or affirmation to support the Constitution was provided for by the committee of detail, in accordance with the resolution directing that it should be taken by the members of both houses of Congress and of the State legislatures, and by all
1 Constitution, Art. I. § 9. 2 Ibid. Art. I. § 3.
4 Ibid. 551, 552. Constitution, Art. I § 3.
3 Elliot, V. 532.
executive and judicial officers of the United States and of the several States; and for the purpose of for ever preventing any connection between church and state, and any scrutiny into men's religious opinions, the Convention unanimously added the clause, that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." 1
We are next to ascertain in what mode the Constitution, which had thus been framed, was to provide for its own establishment and authority. There is a great difference between the importance of this question, as it presented itself to the framers of the Constitution, and its importance to this or any succeeding generation. To us it is chiefly interesting because it displays the basis of a government which has been established for seventy years over the thirteen original States of the confederacy, and is now acknowledged by more than twice the number of those original States. To those who made the Constitution, and to the people who were to vote upon it and to put it into operation, the mode in which it was to become the organic law of the Union was a topic of serious import and delicacy. It involved the questions, of what course would be politic with reference to the people; of what would be practicable; of the initiation of the new government without force; of its establishment on a firm, just, and legitimate authority; and of its right to supersede the Confederation, without a breach of faith toward the
1 Constitution, Art. VI.
members of that body by whose inhabitants the new system might be rejected.
The Convention had already decided that the Constitution must be ratified by the people of the States; but a difficulty had all along existed, in the opinions held by some of the members respecting the compact then subsisting between the States, which they regarded as indissoluble but by the consent of all the parties to it. The resolution, which the committee of detail were instructed to carry out, had declared that the new plan of government should first be submitted to the approbation of the existing Congress, and then to assemblies of representatives to be recommended by the State legislatures and to be expressly chosen by the people to consider and decide upon it. But this direction embraced no decision of the question, whether the ratification by the people of a less number than all the States should be sufficient for putting the government into operation. If the people of a smaller number than the whole of the States could establish this form of government, what was to be its future relation to the States which might reject or refuse to consider it? Could any number of the States thus withdraw themselves from the Confederation, and establish for themselves a new general government, and could that government have any authority over the rest? Various and widely opposite theories were maintained. One opinion was, that all the States must accept the Constitution, or it would be a nullity;- another, that a majority of the States might establish it, and so bind the