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to the injury, and sometimes to the destruction, of their inoffensive, but, in their judgement, erring neighbors And we shall presently see, that, by an amendment to the Constitution, evils of this sort in the National Government are still more effectually guarded against.
§ 429. The seventh and last article of the Constitu tion is, "The ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the same.' It is unnecessary now to comment upon this article, as all the States have ratified the Constitution. But we know, that if an unanimous ratification of it, by all the States, had been required, it would have been rejected; for North Carolina, and Rhode Island, did not, at first, accede to it.
§ 430. And here closes our review of the Constitu tion in the original form, in which it was adopted by the people of the United States. The concluding passage of it is valuable, as an historical reminiscence. "Done in Convention, by the unanimous consent of the States present, the seventeenth day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven, and of the Independence of the United States the twelfth. In witness whereof, we have hereunto subscribed our names.' At the head of the illustrious men, who framed and signed it, stands the name of "George Washington, President, and Deputy from Virginia ;" a name, at the utterance of which it is impossible not to feel the liveliest sense of gratitude to a gracious Providence, for a life of so much glory, such spotless integrity, and such exalted patriotism.
Amendments to the Constitution.
§ 431. WHEN the Constitution was before the people for adoption, several of the State conventions suggested
ertain amendments for the consideration of Congress, some of the most important of which were afterwards proposed to the people for adoption, by that body, at its first organization; and, having been since ratified, they are now incorporated into the Constitution. They are mainly clauses, in the nature of a Bill of Rights, which more ef fectually guard certain rights, already provided for in the Constitution, or prohibit certain exercises of authority, supposed to be dangerous to the public interests. We have already had occasion to consider several of them in the preceding pages; and the remainder will now be presented.
§ 432. Before, however, proceeding to the consideraion of them, it may be proper to say a few words, as to the origin and objects of the first ten amendments, which nay be considered as a Bill of Rights, and were proposed by the first Congress, and were immediately adopted by the people of the United States. The first amendment is, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
§ 433. It has been already stated, that many objections were taken to the Constitution, not only on account of its actual provisions, but also on account of its deficiencies and omissions. Among the latter, none were proclaimed with more zeal, and pressed with more effect, than the want of a Bill of Rights. This, it was said, was a fatal defect; and sufficient of itself to bring on the ruin of the republic. To this objection, several answers were given; first, that the Constitution did, in fact, contain many provisions in the nature of a Bill of Rights, if the whole Constitution was not, in fact, a Bill of Rights; secondly, that a Bill of Rights was in its nature more adapted to a monarchy, than to a government, professedly founded upon the will of the people, and executed by their imme diate representatives and agents; and, thirdly, that a formal Bill of Rights, beyond what was contained in it, was wholly unnecessary, and might even be dangerous
§ 434. It was further added, that, in truth, the Constr tution itself, was, in every rational sense, and to every useful purpose, a Bill of Rights for the Union. It speci fies, and declares the political privileges of the citizens in the structure and administration of the Government. defines certain immunities and modes of proceeding, which relate to their personal, private, and public rights and concerns. It confers on them the unalienable right of electing their rulers; and prohibits any tyrannical measures, and vindictive prosecutions. So that, at best, much of the force of the objection rests on mere nominal distinctions, or upon a desire to make a frame of government a code to regulate rights and remedies.
§ 435. Although it must be conceded, that there is much intrinsic force in this reasoning, it cannot in candor be admitted to be wholly satisfactory, or conclusive on the subject. It is rather the argument of an able advocate, than the reasoning of a constitutional statesman. In the first place, a Bill of Rights (in the very sense of this reasoning) is admitted in some cases to be important and the Constitution itself adopts, and establishes its pro priety to the extent of its actual provisions. Every reason, which establishes the propriety of any provision of this sort in the Constitution, such as a right of trial by jury in criminal cases, is, to that extent, proof, that it is neither unnecessary nor dangerous. It reduces the ques tion to the consideration, not whether any Bill of Rights is necessary, but what such a Bill of Rights should properly contain. This is a point for argument, upon which different minds may arrive at different conclusions. That a Bill of Rights may contain too many enumerations, and especially such, as more correctly belong to the ordinary legislation of a government, cannot be doubted. Some of our State Bills of Rights contain clauses of this description, being either in their character and phraseology quite too loose, and general, and ambiguous; or covering doctrines quite debatable, both in theory and practice; or even leading to mischievous consequences, by restricting the Legislative power under circumstances, which were not foreseen, and if foreseen, the restraint would have
been pronounced by all persons inexpedient, and perhaps unjust. Indeed, the rage of theorists to make constitutions a vehicle for the conveyance of their own crude and visionary aphorisms of government, requires to be guarded against with the most unceasing vigilance.
§ 436. In the next place, a Bill of Rights is important, and may often be indispensable, whenever it operates as a qualification upon powers, actually granted by the people to the government. This is the real ground of all the Bills of Rights in the parent country, in the Colonial constitutions and laws, and in the State constitutions. In England, the Bills of Rights were not demanded merely of the Crown, as withdrawing a power from the Royal prerogative; they were equally important, as withdrawing power from Parliament. A large proportion of the most valuable of the provisions in Magna Charta, and the Bill of Rights in 1688, consists of a solemn recognition of the limitations upon the powers of Parliament; that is, a dec laration, that Parliament ought not tʊ abolish, or restrict those rights. Such are the right of trial by jury; the right to personal liberty and private property, according to the law of the land; that the subjects ought to have a right to bear arms; that elections of members of Parliament ought to be free; that freedom of speech and debate in Parliament ought not to be impeached, or questioned elsewhere ; and that excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel or unusual punishments inflicted. Whenever, then, a general power exists, or is granted to a government, which may, in its actual exercise or abuse, be dangerous to the people, there seems a peculiar propriety in restricting its operations, and in excepting from it some at least of the most mis chievous forms, in which it may be likely to be abused And the very exception in such cases, will operate with a silent, but irresistible influence, to control the actual abuse cft in other analogous cases.
§ 437. In the next place, a Bill of Rights may be important, even when it goes beyond the powers supposed to be granted. It is not always possible to foresee the extent of the actual reach of certain powers, which are
given n general terms. They may be construed to extend (and perhaps fairly) to certain classes of cases, which did not at first appear to be within them. A Bill of Rights, then, operates, as a guard upon any extravagant or undue extension of such powers. Besides; (as has been justly remarked,) a Bill of Rights is of real efficiency in controlling the excesses of party spirit. It serves to guide and enlignten public opinion, and to render it more quick to detect, and more resolute to resist, attempts to disturb private rights. It requires more than ordinary hardihood and audacity of character, to trample down principles, which our ancestors have consecrated with reverence; which we imbibed in our early education; which recommend themselves to the judgement of the world by their truth and simplicity; and which are constantly placed before the eyes of the people, accompanied with the imposing force and solemnity of a constitutional sanction. Bills of Rights are a part of the muniments of freemen, showing their title to protection; and they become of increased value, when placed under the protection of an independent judiciary, instituted as the appropriate guar dian of the public and private rights of the citizens.
§ 438. In the next place, a Bill of Rights is an important protection against unjust and oppressive conduct on the part of the people themselves. In a government modified like that of the United States, (it has been said by a great statesman,) the great danger lies rather in the abuse of the community, than of the legislative body. The prescriptions in favor of liberty ought to be levelled against that quarter, where the greatest danger lies, namely, that which possesses the highest prerogative of power. But this is not found in the executive or legislative departments of government; but in the body of the people, operating by the majority against the minority. It may be thought, that all paper barriers against the power of the community are too weak to be worthy of attention. They are not so strong, as to satisfy all, who have seen and examined thoroughly the texture of such a defence. Yet, as they have a tendency to impress some degree of respect or them, to establish the public opinion in their