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18 Cenew Euleer. Land
AN EXPOSITION OF THE leclina
hcc. 46 let
Givocla The Meeting and Result of the Convention.
18. Delegates were accordingly appointed by the several state legislatures, except the legislature of Rhode Island, who assembled in convention at Philadelphia, in May, 1787. This Convention, which was composed of the most distinguished abilities of the country, continued in session nearly four months.
19. The Constitution, or plan of government, which they framed, was finally adopted on the 17th of September, 1787. It was then laid before the Congress of the Confederation, together with the opinion of the Convention that it should be submitted to a convention of delegates, chosen in each state by the people thereof, under the recommendation of its legislature, for their assent and ratification. This mode of proceeding was adopted, and the Constitution was thus submitted to the people of the several states. They acted upon it, through delegates assembled in convention within their respective states. From these conventions the Constitution derives its whole authority. By their assent and ratification it became of complete obligation, and bound the state
Organization of the Government. 20. Eleven of the states, that is, all but North Carolina and Rhode Island, having notified Congress of their ratification of the Constitution, that body, on the 13th of September, 1788, passed a resolution appointing the first Wednesday in January following, for the choice of Electors of President; the first Wednesday in February following, for the assembling of the Electors to vote for a President; and the first Wednesday in March following, for the government, under the Constitution, to go into operation.
21. Electors were accordingly chosen in the several states, who met at the designated time and voted for President and Vice-President. George Washington, as afterwards appeared upon opening and counting the votes, was unanimously elected President, and John Adams was elected Vice-President. Senators and Representatives were also duly chosen in the several states, and the First Congress assembled at New York, then the seat of government, on the 4th of March, 1789, when the Constitution went into legal operation.
22. A quorum of the House of Representatives, however, was not formed until the first of April, nor of the Senate until the 6th. Several months, too, elapsed before Congress could pass the necessary laws for organizing the judiciary and the several executive departments. But, in the course of a year, the machinery, so to speak, of the new government was adjusted and put in harmonious operation. In November, 1789, North Carolina, through her convention, ratified the Constitution, and Rhode Island followed her example in May, 1790. And thus the og vinal circle of thirteen states was completed.
THE OBJECT FOR WHICH THE CONSTITUTION WAS
Definitions. 23. Government may be briefly defined as the power or authority which rules a community. When there is no control upon the persons who exercise this power or authority but their own will, the government is arbitrary. On the contrary, when the methods and the limits, within which they must exercise it, are marked out and prescribed, the government is constitutional, no matter what particular form it may assume.
24. A constitution, then, may be defined as the rule which limits the action and prescribes the powers and duties of a government, and the methods by which those powers and duties shall be administered.
How Constitutions originate. 25. It is not necessary that a constitution should be written or exist in visible form. On the contrary, the instances are rare, in the history of mankind, of a constitution being drawn up in a formal manner, and for the purpose of instituting a 'new form of government. For the most part constitutions have grown out of successive modifications of pre-existing governments.
26. An arbitrary government, for example, becoming intolerable, the community rise and demand some security against its oppressions. They insist upon a curtailment of its powers, and some provision for their protection. Such curtailment and provision amount, in fact, to a constitution, however imperfect it may be. As time develops its defects further changes take place, until, at length, it becomes, in greater or less measure, adapted to the wants and situation of the particular community.
27. The Roman constitution came into being in this manner, and though never existing in visible form, yet the respective powers of the senate, consuls, tribunes, and assemblies of the people were as well defined perhaps by usage and particular decrees as if they had been written upon parchment or engraven upon stone. The English constitution, too, is the growth of centuries, and is the combined product of custom, tradition, judicial decisions, royal grants, and legislative acts.
28. The Constitution of the United States, on the other hand, instituted the government itself, and may be termed a Constitution of written Articles, which set forth the principles upon which the