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government could not be expected, none but the legislature, whose interest it would be to withhold it, being competent to give it.”
By the foregeing it appears that the powers of a legislature, established by a State Constitution, were at that time considered as supreme and uncontrollable ; that a written Constitution of civil government had not been raised to the dignity of a law, much less to the rank of a supreme law of the State, as it in fact was, before the Constitution of the United States was adopted. And is it wonderful, that a distinction was not at once taken between the powers of a legislature established by a State Constitution, and the powers of the legislature in all other govertiments, and that it was not perceived that the law-making power could be limited ?
Sovereignty had been exercised over the people as subjects. That sovereignty had been swept away and the people had become the sovereigns, wielding the supreme power of the State. Thus situated, time was required for the people to break up their former habits of thought, and set aside the principles of the governments under which they had lived, before they could discover the principles of their new government. Is it
then incredible that the legislature passed the act to give the force of law to the Constitution ? The wording of the act affords conclusive evidence that this was their object. If the act was passed to remedy a defect in the ratification of the Constitution, it is difficult to conceive why they should go beyond the existing Constitution ; but they did go further, and enacted “ that the Constitution as established by the Convention, subject to such alterations and additions as shall be made in it, agreeably to the 44th section of the frame of government, shall ever be considered, held and maintained as a part of the laws of this State.” Now they must have embraced and legalized all amendments, which should be made to the Constitution, either to save the trouble of passing an act at the end of each Septenary, to legalize the amended constitution, or they must have considered that if they made the existing Constitution a law of the State, forever, it could never be amended without a repeal of their act.
From what has been said, it is very clear that the act was not passed to remedy any supposed omission of a ratification of the Constitution. And, surely, if it was, it affords no explanation of the transaction, for the legislature had no power to pass any act affecting the Constitution. They were not elected by the people, in the exercise of their primitive soveriegnty, to act in relation to their fundamental law, the constitution, but to administer the government under the Constitution.
The legislature of Vermont did not stand alone in passing acts affecting the Constitution, for on the 20th of September 1777, the legislature of New Jersey passed an act altering the Constitution of that State, by substituting the word State for the word Colony, in Commissioner's writs, &c. No other alteration has been made in that Constitution since it was adopted in 1776.
The reader will recollect that the only evidence to prove that the Constitution was considered invalid is an extract from Ira Allen's history of Vermont. Allen says that the credentials of the members of the Convention authorized them to form a Constitution, but were silent as to its ratification. It appears from this that Allen was unacquainted with the constitutional history of that period, and it seems he considered that every constitution, to have any binding force, must be ratified by the people in their primary assemblies. Now until some years after our Constitution was adopted, every State Constitution was formed by
a convention authorized to form a Constitution without any subsequent ratification, and of course their credentials were silent as to a ratification, for none was required. Of this there can be no doubt, for it is proved by matter of record. Some years after this, and before Allen wrote his history, the legislatures of some of the States were authorized to make amendments to their Constitutions, but to render them valid a ratification by the people was required. Allen does not intimate that any objection was made to the Constitution because it was not ratified by the people, and it is confidently believed that none was ever made.
The following address of the Council of Safety to the people of Vermont, clearly proves that they pursued the same course in forming their Constitution that was pursued by all the other States. They called a Convention to form and establish a Constitution binding upon the people, without being laid before them for their ratification.
IN COUNCIL OF SAFETY,
BENNINGTON, Feb. 6th, 1778.
GENTLEMEN,—The united and joint representatives of this state, in their general convention,
held at Windsor, on the 2d of July last, did compose, and agree, unanimously, on a constitution for the future government and mutual advantage of its inhabitants. It was then proposed by the joint agreement of the said representatives, that such constitution should be printed, so as to have had them circulated among the inhabitants, seasonably, to have had the general election of representatives to compose the general assembly, in December last; who, by agreement, were to have met at Bennington, within this State, in the month of January last. But finding, by repeated experience, that the troubles of the war, and encroachments of the enemy, would, of necessity, render it impossible, this council did think fit to again call on the members of the general convention, to meet; who, accordingly, met at Windsor, on the 24th day of December last, and did, unanimously, agree to postpone the day of election until the first Tuesday of March next, and the sitting of the assembly to be at Windsor, on the second Thursday of March next. The constitution is now printed, and will be distributed among the inhabitants of the several towns in this state, so early, that they may be perused before the day of election; which, this council hope, will, sufficiently, recommend the most safe and just method of choosing of representatives to compose the general assembly. Nothing but a real zeal for the future well being of the United States of America, in general, and this, in particular, could have induced this council to have undertaken the arduous task of sitting, so many months saccessively, to