« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
and actions were lately viewed has disappeared, and has been replaced by one more pure and tranquil. Their political virtues are now manifest and almost universally admitted. Time, which tests the truth of every thing, has been just to their merits, and converted the reproaches of party spirit into expressions of gratitude for the usefulness of their labours. It is to be hoped that neither a mistaken zeal of friendship for departed worth, nor an inclination to flatter living virtue, will induce any one to disturb this growing sentiment of veneration.
To the Federalist the publisher has added the Letters of Pacificus, written by Mr. Hamilton, and an answer to those Letters by Helvidius, from the pen of Mr. Madison. As these two eminent men had laboured in unison to inculcate the general advantages to be derived from the Constitution, it cannot be deemed irrelevant to show in what particular point, as it respects the practical construction of that instrument, they afterwards differed. The community is, perhaps, always more enlightened by the candid criticism of intelligent conflicting minds than it is by their concurring opinions.
In this collection, the Act of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States also find an appropriate place. They are the text upon which the Federalist is a commentary. By comparing these two national constitutions, and reflecting upon the results of each, the defects of the former and the perfections of the latter will be easily perceived; and the American people may be thence instructed, that however prudence may dictate the necessity of caution in admitting innovations upon established institutions, yet that it is at all times advisable to listen with attention to the suggestions and propositions, of temperate and experienced statesmen, for the cure of political evils and the promotion of the general welfare.
The Constitution of the United States has had, in the sunshine of peace and in the storm of war, a severe but impartial trial, and it has amply fulfilled the expectations of its friends and completely dissipated the fears of its early opponents. It may, in truth, be asserted, that the ten first declaratory and restrictive emendatory clauses, proposed at the session of congress which commenced on the 4th of March, 1789, and which were ratified by the legislatures of the states, fully satisfied the scruples of those who were inimical to that instrument as it was first adopted, and by whom the amendments were considered necessary as a safeguard for religious and civil liberty. Thus, and still further, amended, the Constitution, as a great rule of political conduct, has guided the public authorities of the United States through the unprecedented political vicissitudes and the perilous revolutionary commotions which have agitated the
human race for the last quarter of a century, to a condition at once 80 prosperous, so commanding, and so happy, that it has wholly outstripped all previous foresight and calculation. When we look back upon the state of inertness in which we reposed under the Act of Confederation, to the languishment of our commerce, and the indifference with which, in that situation, we were regarded by foreign governments, and compare that disposition of things with the energy to which we were subsequently roused by the operation of the Constitution ; with the vast theatre on which, under the influence of its provisions, our maritime trade has been actively employed; with the freedom and plenty which we enjoy at home, the respect entertained for the American name abroad, and the alacrity with which our favour and friendship are sought by the nations of the earth, our thankfulness to Providence ought to know no bounds, and to the able men who framed and have supported the Constitution should only be limited by those paramount considerations which are indispensable to the perpetuation and increase of the blessings which have been already realized.
The perspicuous brevity of the Constitution has left but little room for misinterpretation. But if at any tine ardent or timid minds have exceeded or fallen short of its intentions; if the precision of human language has, in the formation of this instrument, been inadequate to the expression of the exact ideas meant to be conveyed by its framers; if from the vehemence of party spirit, it has been warped by individuals, so as to incline it either too much towards monarchy or towards an unmodified democracy ; let us con. sole ourselves with the reflection, that however these aberrations may have transiently prevailed, the essential principles of the Representative System of government have been well preserved by the clearsighted common sense of the people ; and that our affections all concentre in one great object, which is the improvement and glory of our country.
After deriving so many and such uncommon benefits from the Constitution, the notion of an eventual dissolution of this Union must be held, by every person of unimpaired intellect, as entirely visionary. The state governments, divested of scarcely any thing but national authority, have answered, or are competent to answer, every purpose of melioration within the boundaries of the territory to which they are respectively restricted ; whilst, in times of diffi. culty and danger, acting directly upon an intimate knowledge of local resources and feeling, they are enabled to afford efficient aid to the exertions of the national government in the defence and protection of the republic. These truths are obvious: they have been de.
monstrated in times of domestic tranquillity, of internal commotion, and of foreign hostility. In return, the advantages which the national government dispenses to the several states are keenly felt and highly relished. When the Constitution was ratified, Rhode Island and North Carolina, from honest but mistaken convictions, for a moment withheld their assent. But when Congress proceeded solemnly to enact that the manufactures of those states should be considered, as foreign, and that the acts laying a duty on goods imported and on tonnage should extend to them, they hastened, with a discernment quickened by a sense of interest, and at the same time honourable to their patriotic views, to unite themselves to the Confederation.
The only alteration of importance which the Constitution has undergone since its adoption, is that which changes the mode of electing the President and Vice-President. It is believed that, all things being duly weighed, the alteration has been beneficial. If it enables a man to aim with more directness, at the first office in the gift of the people, it equally tends to prevent the recurrence of an unpleasant contest for precedency, between the partisans of any two individuals, in Congress, to which body in the last resort, the choice is referred. Besides, whether the Constitution should prescribe it or not, the people themselves would invariably designate the man they intended for chief magistrate : a reflection which may serve to convince as that the change in question is more in form than in fact.
To conclude, the appearance of so perfect an edition of the Federalist as the present nust be allowed to be, may be regarded as the niore fortunate, as the Journal of the Convention that framed the Constitution is about to be pubiished, and a new light to be thus shed upon the composition of that instrument. The Act of Confederation, and the Constitution itse!f, have been by permission of Mr. Adanıs, the Secretary of State, carefully compared with the originals deposited in the Office of that department; and their accuracy may therefore be relied on, even to the punctuation,
City of Washington,
BY ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
After full experience of the insufficiency of the existing federal government, you are invited to deliberate upon a New Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance ; comprehending in its consequences, nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire, in many respects, the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country to decide, by their conduct and example, the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are for ever destined to depend for their political constitutions, on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may, with propriety, be regarded as the period when that decision is to be made ; and a wrong election of the part we shall act, may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.
This idea, by adding the inducements of philanthropy to those of patriotism, will heighten the solicitude which all considerate and good men must feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, uninfluenced by considerations foreign to the public good. But this is more ardently to be wished for, than seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations, affects too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects extraneous to its merits, and of views, passions, and prejudices little favourable to the discovery of truth.
Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new
constitution will have to encounter, may readily be distinguished the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every state to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution
of the power, emolument, and consequence of the offices they
hold under the state establishments....and the perverted ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandize themselves by the confusions of their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects of elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial confederacies, than from its union under one government.
It is not, however, my design to dwell upon observations of this nature. I am aware it would be disingenuous to resolve indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men into interested or ambitious views, merely because their situations might subject them to suspicion. Candour will oblige us to admit, that even such men may be actuated by upright intentions; and it cannot be doubted, that much of the opposition, which has already shown itself, or that may hereafter make its appearance, will spring from sources blameless at least, if not respectable....the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears. So numerous indeed and só powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions, of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would always furnish a lesson of moderation to those, who are engaged in any controversy, however well persuaded of being in the right. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection, that we are not always sure, that those who advocate the truth are actuated by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives, not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support, as upon those who oppose, the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill judged than that intolerant spirit, which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For, in politics as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.