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“THE BASIS OF OUR POLITICAL SYSTEMS IS THE
See also the Constitution of Rhode Island, Art. 1, Sec. 1.
IN RHODE ISLAND
AMASA M. EATON, A.M., LL.B.
This contribution to the discussion concerning “Constitution-making in. Rhode
the legislature, when necessity arises.
The general assembly has such implied power and should exercise it when
the necessity occurs.
It is common knowledge that public opinion has called for years for a new
The general assembly has officially recognized such necessity by a resolution.
cation in another article.
3. Art. XIII does not therefore limit this right.
A construction to be favored that will give effect to both articles.
Instead of a construction that enlarges the operation of one to the exclusion
of the other.
The power to call a constitutional convention has been frequently exercised
by the general assembly.
4. Although these calls were before the adoption of the constitution of 1842,
the general assembly still has the same power.
Because Art. XIII is not exclusive:
That it is not exclusive is shown because it relates only to amendments
initiated by the general assembly, while Art. I, Sec. 1, relates to the
right of another party (the people) to do another thing (to make and
alter their constitution of government).
The framers of the constitution, aware of the fact that the general assembly
had called constitutional conventions repeatedly, took it for granted it
still could do so, especially in view of Art. IV, Sec. 10.
5. A statement of a way in which an agent of the people can propose amend.
ments is no limitation of the expressly stated power of the principal, the
and in addition to the expressly reserved power of the people.
exercised by a majority, as heretofore.
to limit this power.
For the same power that made can unmake. 6. A majority made the constitution in 1842; a majority can at any time un
make it and make a new constitution. By a majority of the electors, including those who will become electors
under such a new constitution.
physical force, and that is the majority.
Therefore the sovereign right of the majority to govern cannot be abrogated. 7. Sovereignty is and remains in the people. 3 Dallas, 54.
It cannot pass from the State. Lieber Pol. Ethics, 250.
time, set aside such self-imposed limitations.
it. For, although the right of the people to make and alter their constitution of
government is expressly stated in our constitution, it is not stated how
this is to be done. Necessarily, therefore, the general assembly may call a constitutional con
vention, there being a recognized necessity. The constitution so framed by such convention should be submitted to the
vote of those who will become qualified electors under its terms. If a majority votes for it, it becomes the supreme law of the State, subject
to the constitution and laws of the United States.
This alone is a republican form of government. 8. The argument is that the power of the majority to make and alter their con
stitution of government cannot be defeated. In Maryland and in Delaware the constitutions were changed in a different
manner than that provided in the constitution.
By Senator Bayard-his argument stated.
PAGE. 9. A provision in a constitution limiting the power of the majority to alter it
would be void. Art. XIII reconcilable with this, because it relates only to amendments and
was to provide against a hasty change. This is rather an excuse than a defence. It is a mistake to undertake to prevent a majority from rewriting or amend
ing their constitution. 10. If a distinction is made, the party in power will adopt the course most likely
to carry out their aim. The “Revised Constitution” so-called, by legal fiction, was really a new
constitution. It reversed the distinction between Art. I, Sec. 1, and Art. XIII of the
present constitution. It put the will of the general assembly above the will of the people. It put it in the hands of the party in power to adopt the course the most
likely to subserve their ends. 11. Constitutions are too sacred to be framed so they can be thus juggled with.
To prevent it, the majority should govern, however a change in the consti.
tution is instituted. The fundamental principle of all Anglo-Saxon government is that the
majority rule when its will is ascertained through the forms prescribed to
that end. This is what Washington meant in his language quoted in Art. I, Sec. 1. While power of general assembly to propose amendments can be limited, no
limitations can be imposed upon right of people to make and alter their
constitution of government.
defended to prevent hasty action.
government. 12. The majority rules in England, without our guarantees of a written consti
is ascertained in a lawful, explicit, and authentic manner.
One inconsistent with Art. IV, Sec. 4, constitution of the Unitǝd States. It is not a republican form of government if the majority cannot make or
alter their constitution of government. A republican form of government is one in which the majority governs. That our forefathers in this State intended the majority should govern is
evident from examination of their compacts of government. 13. These compacts examined :