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imposed by the States upon themselves, were to be enforced by any agreed sanctions, the parties to the compact were left to a voluntary performance of their stipulations. Still, there were certain powers which the States agreed should be exercised by the United States in Congress assembled, and certain duties towards the confederacy which they agreed to discharge; and therefore, so far as authority and jurisdiction had been conferred upon the United States, so far they had been surrendered by the States. The peculiarity of the case was, that the powers surrendered were ineffectual for the want of appropriate means of coercion.
These powers the States did not propose to recall. The Union was unbroken, though feeble, and trembling on the verge of dissolution. The purpose of all was to strengthen and secure its powers, to add somewhat to their number, and to render the whole efficient and operative by providing some form of direct and compulsory authority. For this end, as members of an existing confederacy, in possession of all the powers not previously delegated to the Union, the States had assembled upon the same equality, and under the same form of representation, with which they had always acted in the Congress.
As the States had conferred certain powers upon the Confederation, so it was equally competent to them to enlarge and add to those powers. They had formed State governments, and established written constitutions. But the people of the States, and not their governments, held the supreme, absolute,
and uncontrollable power. They had created, and they could modify or destroy; they could withdraw the powers conferred upon one class of agents, and bestow them upon another class. What was wanted was the discovery of some mode of proceeding, which, by involving the consent of the State governments, would avoid the appearance and the reality of revolution, and make the contemplated changes consist with the American idea of constitutional action.
Here also it seems proper to state the reasons why the process of framing the Constitution is so important as to demand a careful exhibition of the proceedings of those to whom this great undertaking was intrusted.
The Convention had confessedly no power to enact or establish anything. It was a representative body, clothed with authority to agree upon a system of government to be recommended to the adoption of their constituents. The constituents were twelve of the thirteen States of the confederacy, each having an equal voice and vote in the proceedings; but neither the assent nor the dissent of a State, in the Convention, to the whole system, or to any part of it, bound the people of that State to receive or to reject it when it should come before them. Still, the results of the various determinations of a majority of the States in this body; the purposes of particular provisions which those results clearly disclose; the relations which they evince between the different parts of the system, are all of
the utmost importance in determining the sense in which the whole ultimately came before the enacting authority for approval or rejection. If, for example, a majority of the States came to a very early determination that the principle of the government should no longer be that of an exclusive representation of States, but should include a representation of the people of the different States in some fair and equitable ratio; if they adhered to this throughout their deliberations, and adjusted everything with reference to it; and if, when they finally provided for a mode of establishing the new system, they submitted it directly to the people of each State to declare whether they would be so represented, it is manifest that these results of their action have much to do with the inquiry, What is the true nature of the present government of the United States?
Every student of the proceedings and discussions in the national Convention should, however, be careful not to extend this principle of general interpretation to the views, opinions, or arguments expressed or employed by individuals in that assembly. The line of argument or illustration adopted by different members may be more or less important, as tending to explain the scope or purpose of a particular decision arrived at by a vote of the Convention; and occasionally, as will be seen in reference to the arrangements which were finally entered into as mutual concessions or compromises between different interests, the discussions will be found to
be of great significance and importance. But it is, after all, to the results themselves, and to the principles involved in the various decisions of the Convention, as indicated by the votes taken, that we are to look for the landmarks that are to guide our inquiries into the fundamental changes, improvements, and additions proposed by the Convention to the country, and afterwards adopted by the people of the States.
CONSTRUCTION OF A LEGISLATIVE POWER.- BASIS OF REPRE-
THE Convention having been organized, Governor Randolph of Virginia' submitted a series of resolutions, embracing the principal changes that ought to be proposed in the structure of the federal system.
Mr. Charles Pinckney of South Carolina also submitted a plan of government, which, with Governor Randolph's resolutions, was referred to a committee of the whole. It is not necessary here to state the details of these several systems; for although that introduced by Randolph gave a direction to the deliberations of the committee, the results arrived at were in some respects materially different.
The first distinct departure that was made from the principles of the Confederation was involved in one of the propositions brought forward by Governor Randolph, "that a NATIONAL government ought to be established, consisting of a supreme legislative, executive, and judiciary"; and as this proposition was
1 Edmund Randolph. See ante, Vol. I. p. 480.