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respect to this, before we can have any clear understanding of our early history.
Man is a creature of habit, and in nothing does habit appear more akin to instinct, than it does in relation to the government under which he lives. Without this trait in the character of man, no government could long exist.
The people of the American Colonies had lived so long under the British Government, a limited monarchy, that they had become strongly attached to it by habit. They asked nothing, they desired nothing but the enjoyment of their Constitutional rights as British subjects, and they complained of nothing but a violation of those rights by the Ministers of the King, and they felt a strong desire for a reconciliation between the Colonies and the Mother Country. These sentiments prevailed and were generally expressed, until after the Declaration of Independence. In the first Constitution of New Hampshire, adopted on the 5th day of January 1776, we find the following :
Therefore, for the preservation of peace and good order, and for the security of the lives and properties of the inhabitants of this colony, we conceived ourselves reduced to the necessity of establishing a form of government, to continue during the present unhappy and unnatural contest
with Great Britain; protesting and declaring, that we never fought to throw off our dependance upon Great Britain—but felt ourselves happy under her protection, while we could enjoy our constitutional rights and privileges—and that we shall rejoice, if such a reconciliation, between us and our parent state, can be effected, as shall be approved by the continental congress, in whose prudence and wisdom we confide.
And to the Constitution of New Jersey, adopted July 2, 1776, two days before the Declaration of Independence, the following proviso was annexed:
Provided always, and it is the true intent and meaning of this congress, that if a reconciliation, between Great Britain and these colonies, should take place, and the latter be taken again under the protection and government of the crown of Britain, this charter shall be null and void—otherwise to remain firm and inviolable.
In the government of Great Britain, to which the people of the Colonies were so strongly attached, as well as in all other existing governments, there was a power above the people which governed them as subjects.
Under this government, the people of the Colonies occasionally witnessed scenes of popular violence, endangering the lives and property of all, and they had rejoiced to see the violators of the
law subdued, and peace and good order restored in the name and by the authority of the King.
But they could not readily conceive how this could be done by the people themselves, and so it came to be said that the people needed protection against their own worst enemies, themselves. And great fears were entertained, that a government by the people would have none of the properties of a good government, that it would neither have any stability nor render the citizens secure in the enjoyment of their rights. And these views and these fears were expressed, until the Constitution of the United States was adopted.
The reader has seen that the first Constitution of Pennsylvania was formed twelve years before this, when the first attempt was made to form a civil government, founded on the sovereignty of the people, and when, as before remarked, great fears were entertained that such a government would prove a failure. All their ideas of civil government had been formed, by witnessing the operation of those governments, where the people had been governed by some man or body of men raiscd to a high rank above them, and in whom was vested the power, and consequently the sovereign right to govern. And they could not readily con
ceive how the people could be all at once transformed from subjects into sovereigns; it seemed like letting the people loose upon themselves. And their fears were greatly increased by the erroneous opinion then prevailing, that the powers of the Legislature could not be restricted—that all their acts, however repugnant to the Constitution, would have the force of laws. Fears were also entertained that the people would be so fickle, that no permanent government could be maintained. The framers of the Constitution were oppressed with these fears, and almost brought to a stand, when a plan was conceived and proposed for creating a power so long sought in vain, which was to control the Legislature, prevent all abuse of power, and, at the same time, keep the people at a respectful distance from their Constitution; and they break out in the triumphant language of the section, "in order that the freedom of this Commonwealth may be preserved inviolate forever, there shall be chosen by ballot, &c.” Through the whole section, we find the language of a man who, in the prosecution of a hazardous enterprise, on the successful issue of which, he had risked his whole fortune, had met with obstacles in his way, which had appeared insurmountable, and who after a long and doubtful struggle had removed them all, and is exulting in his unexpected success. It being the great object to create a high controlling power, they make a free use of the word authority, “ they shall have authority to pass public censures, and to recommend to the Legislature the repealing of such laws,” &c. They did not make it the duty of the Council to pass public censures, if they should find anything censureable in the administration of the government; this would have appeared to them but feeble language, illy adapted to create that high power which they had in view. By neither of the clauses of the section above recited, is the least power conferred upon the Council. The same is the case with the clause which authorizes the Council to order impeachments, for the Council had no power to enforce the order. The framers of the Constitution then must have relied on the great moral power with which they had invested the Council, and yet, experience has shown that they have been entirely powerless, they have not had as a body the least power whatever; not because it has been composed of uninfluential men, far from it; we have generally had in the Council men of the highest standing, men of great person