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their independence. They had all been subjects of a personal sovereign. When they cast off this sovereignty, they had no master; nor were any of them masters over the rest. They came together as political equals: all free, and all equally tree. It followed, of necessity, that the will of the majority must govern. Everybody felt, everybody saw, that if the majority did not govern, nothing could govern; and if there were no government, there could be no social order, no organized community.

Under their charters, the people of the different colonies had voted on many important matters, and determined them by a majority. When the colonies became States, this became, of necessity, the universal rule. Within each State no other method was thought of. The machinery of counties and townships was still made use of, because they were accustomed to it, and it was the most convenient way of ascertaining the will of the majority. So when the question came, Shall we form a Union, shall we become a nation, and how shall we become a nation, and what shall it be?-all these questions were answered by a convention of delegates, chosen in the several States by a majority vote. That convention framed a constitution for the people; and the people in the States, and through State organizations, accepted it. This was done in conventions of delegates chosen by majority votes, and the constitution was ratified in these conventions by a majority vote.

And what did the people do? “We the people of the United States ... ordain and establish this constitution.” Surely words of such emphatic meaning were not chosen by accident or without design. They tell us that the constitution is a supreme, a fixed, and abiding law; ordained and established, so that it might make of the people, from whose will it was born, a nation, - & permanent and abiding nation. This it could not be and do if the very existence of the constitution and of the Union itself were made dependent upon the will and pleasure of any portion of the people who framed it. No portion of the people, whether under the name and form of a State, or county, or township, or by any other designation, could annul it. True to its fundamental principle, the will of the majority, and knowing that the will of the majority may change either from change of circumstances or the teaching of experience, it provides the means of change, which will be considered presently. But unless and until changed in accordance with these provisions, the constitution remains, the fixed and abiding, the ordained and established, framework of our political and national existence.

The principle which underlies the Constitution of the United States, and every State constitution, and upon which all are founded, us this, -- the utmost liberty is given to the individual, and yet he,

with others, must yield so much of this as is needed to give due life and efficiency to the nearest and least community of which he is a member; this smaller community joins with others to make a larger; and that a yet larger, until the series ends in a nation which embraces the whole. And in the whole series, from the lowest step to the highest, each for its own sake gives up so much of right and power as is needed to make the community which stands on the next higher step all that it should be. Founded upon this principle, the system of government formed by the Constitution of the United States is not, I think, to be regarded as, merely and upon the whole, the best thing which circumstances permitted our fathers to construct, but as in itself near to the perfection of a republican government.

I am perfectly aware that this may seem to many persons an obscure statement. Let me try to explain my meaning.

The first form of union for a common regulation is in the family; and that the family may be happy, each individual member gives up somewhat of his or her own mere will and pleasure. All our eitizens, who are not exceptions to a prevailing method, live in families; and it is there that the work of government begins; there its first lessons are learned; there its habits are formed; there its first fruits are gathered; and there, if the family government is wise and good, those fruits are peace and happiness and mutual assistance and universal improvement.

But families need that duties should be performed and advantages secured which demand combination with other families, and the strength and support of united counsel and united action; and to this end families combine into townships or cities. To the town or city, as an organization, are committed all those duties and utilities the need of which has called them into being, and to the town or city is freely entrusted all the power requisite to a full and complete discharge of all those duties.

And then the same principle is further applied. Beyond those of the towns and cities are, again, common duties and utilities, which are all those of a certain district; and within this district the towns coalesce into counties, to which, again, as separate organizations, are confided the duties which can be best discharged in this way and by this means; and with these duties goes all the power requisite to the best performance of them.

Nor is this principle then arrested. For the counties are gathered into one body, and this is the State. And who are they who then form the State, - who constitute the State? The people, and the whole people. They who first form its families, and then its towns and cities and counties, finally, in their widest assemblage, form the State. And for what do they form it? Precisely for all those duties and all those utilities which embrace the whole people, which require for their due performance a due regard to the whole people, and which may serve not only to cement all together by a coinmou interest, a common safety, and a common prosperity, but may use the strength of the whole for the protection of each, and for the preservation of all personal rights, and family rights, and all the rights of those lesser and larger communities into which families and persons are gathered.

And, then, what power do the people who constitute the State give to it? Abundant power to discharge all its duties; to do the whole of its work of legislation for the whole, and of common defence and protection through all the departments of government; but nothing more. This, then, is the theory of our State polity; and so far as we are wise, this it is in active operation; and so far as we are truly prosperous, this prosperity is its effect.

Did the thought ever enter into the mind of a human being that it would be wise for any State to abandon to-morrow all town and city and county lines and organizations, and commit all the duties now performed by their means to the central power of the State? No one can imagine such a thing. And he who should desire it must, if he would be consistent, go yet further, and propose also to obliterate all family lines, all family organization and authority, and ask of the central power to determine what food shall be placed on every table, and what clothes every member of the household shall wear. No; State rights, in the just and rational meaning of that phrase, are perfectly compatible with national sovereignty.

We all feel that our present form of government is perfectly adapted to the great end of all republican government, and that is, a wise self-government; and the reason of this adaptation is, that it leaves to the individual, with the least possible control or interference, the freedom of voluntary choice and action. And it gathers individuals into communities, the least, the larger, and at length the largest, only so far as a common necessity and a common good require this, leaving to each one full power to do all that is needful to subserve and protect its best interests, and promote its highest prosperity. And then it seeks so to form these communities, and so to provide for them, and so to act by its common legislation upon individuals and the bodies into which they are gathered, as to lead and guide each and all into that conduct which shall be best for each and for all, with the least possible compulsory action upon any.

When the several States came together and formed a nation, what else did they but take a step further forward upon the same pathway, which each State does so well and so wisely in treading for herself? It seems to me that it was precisely this step and no other which was taken when the Constitution of the United States was formed, and this nation was born.

It may be asked, Is there not here a division of sovereignty and of power, which shows that much is wanting to constitute the full strength of a national government? I answer, The national government has at this moment, by force of the constitution, all the strength -- absolutely all — which it needs, or could profitably use, as a central national government. I answer, next, that, by the provisions of our national and State constitutions, the reserved powers of every State may be, and, so far as that State does its duty, will be, prepared and developed to their utmost efficiency, and then imparted to the nation in its need. Did not the efforts made by all the States during the late war prove this?

The constitution thus framed makes use throughout of State machinery. More than this, it recognizes the States as separate organizations; and we shall presently see that it watches with the most careful consideration over the interests and safety of the smaller and weaker States which thus came into union with larger and stronger States. But through all this, and by means of all this, the one end and aim in framing the constitution, in adopting it, and in carrying out its various provisions through coming ages, was to ascertain and carry into effect the will of the majority.

This, we cannot understand too well, is a new thing upon earth. From the earliest times of recorded history there was never before an instance of a people, large enough to form a nation, perfectly liberated from all restraint, all government delivered over into their own hands, with no power on earth to restrain or coerce them, and then deliberately forming an organic constitution by which they should govern themselves, by the vote of the majority.

Because mankind had no experience of such a thing as this, our fathers had nothing to help them in their work but their knowledge of human nature, their earnest desire to secure the prevalence of right over wrong, and their wisdom in discovering the means of doing 80. To that wisdom we owe, under Divine Providence, our constitution; and great is the marvel that the experience of nearly a century, in good part a stormy and painful experience, should have revealed so few errors or deficiencies.

One of the greatest dangers to be guarded against was the abuse of their power by the majority. In all ages, the supreme power, the sovereignty, whatever its form, had been abused. Emperors, kings, and absolute rulers, under any name, had sometimes been despotic, anjust, and cruel. When the sovereignty was given to a majority, what was to prevent that majority from tyrannizing over a prostrate minority? The answer to this question is, The constitution. It accomplishes the purpose of curbing the will of the majority, so that while free for all good, it might be restrained from evil, by three means. First, the constitution itself, as the law of the law, as a declaration of the rights of all men, and a fixed and unyielding barrier against any assault upon those rights, exerts a powerful influence to protect the minority against the abuse of power by a majority Next, the checks and hinderances by which the will of the people is delayed by repeated and protracted consideration before it acquires the force of law; while it is only delayed, and not prevented from enforcing itself as law after it has received due consideration. This is accomplished mainly through the structure of the legislative body; and we shall treat of it more fully when we come to consider the form and functions of the body to which the power of making law is entrusted.

But most of all is the supremacy of law and right secured by the judicial power, its full authority, its independence, and its place and function as interpreter and defender of the constitution. This subject, also, which we deem of vital importance to a just comprehension of our constitution, we shall treat of more fully when considering the judicial power: its structure, its duty, and its value.




From the facts stated in the chapter on the history of the constitution, it will be seen that the greatest difficulty in forming and in adopting it arose from the reluctance of the people in the several States to relinquish any part of their independent sovereignty. They saw and they felt that if the United States became a nation, it must possess, in all national matters, sovereignty; and that, so far as it was sovereign, the several States were subordinate. As this was the great objection to the constitution, so the adoption of the constitution must be regarded as a yielding of the States on this point.

It must, however, be remembered, that while our nationality involved the giving up by the States of so much of their sovereignty as was necessary to constitute a national sovereignty, this necessity went no further. The several States gave up nothing which they could hold, and the United States be a nation. Here was the practical difficulty for those whose work it was to frame a constitution; and they displayed nothing less than a marvellous wisdom in overcoming

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