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THE Constitution, as the fireside companion of the American citizen, preserves in full freshness and vigor the recollection of the patriotic virtues and persevering courage of those gallant spirits of the Revolution who achieved the national independence, and the intelligence and fidelity of those fathers of the republic who secured, by this noble charter, the fruits and the blessings of independence. The judgment of the Senate of the United States has declared the importance of familiarizing American citizens, more extensively, with this fundamental law of their country, and has approved its association with the examples of republican virtue and the paternal advice of the “Father of his country,” joined to other kindred matter, constituting the body of this work. To this honorable body is due the credit of having provided for the first general promulgation of the Constitution, the continued dissemination of whose wise injunctions and conservative principles among the people, can alone preserve their fraternal union and the precious inheritance of freedom.
That branch of the government which is clothed by the Constitution with legislative, executive and judicial powers, and thus invested with three separate authorities to preserve, protect, and defend this venerated instrument, has been pleased to take the initiative in a measure calculated so powerfully to support the Constitution, as that of giving it, in its simplicity and purity, to the people, who possess, themselves, the sovereign power to judge of the manner in which it may be executed, to rebuke its infraction, and to defend its integrity, and who therefore require every legitimate aid to enable them to perform this vitally important duty in justice, truth, and good faith, for “The Constitution in its words is plain and intelligible, and it is meant for the homebred, unsophisticated understandings of our fellow-citizens.” “It is addressed to the commom sense of the people.” Several distinguished authorities and individuals having, in the plenitude of their liberality, honored the author and compiler with their sentiments on the subject-matter of the work, he claims the indulgence of the friends of the Constitution in giving them place in this edition, believing, that a salutary effect may be produced by the sanction of their special approbation, and the expression of their several views of the importance of an extended dissemination of that instrument. These may impress, in terms more unexceptionable, the obligation incumbent on every intelligent citizen to make himself acquainted with its provisions, restrictions, and limitations, and of imparting, so far as the ability may extend, a knowledge of this paramount law of our country to the minds of the rising generation. The length of time required in the ordinary course of business, for obtaining a practical knowledge of the operations of government, by persons entering into public life, and their embarrassments for the want of a convenient mode of reference to the various sources of information, have suggested the utility of preparing, as a part of this work, and as germain to its design, a means of collecting and rendering available to the public interest the experience and information acquired in this respect, in the progress of time, by attention to the business of legislation in the public service. The five new chapters in this edition may therefore be considered an essay, to be improved and extended hereafter, with a view, not only to add to the intrinsic matter proper to be read and studied by the great body of American citizens, but to render it peculiarly a vade mecum to the statesman and legislator, the ministering to whose individual convenience must, necessarily, result in facilitating the performance of arduous public duty, and in promoting, in no inconsiderable degree, the public interests.
FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND
* The first and second editions. *