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Guarantee of Republican Government.-Mode of mak ing Amendments.
§ 412. THE fourth section of the fourth article declares, "The United States shall guaranty to every State in this Union a republican form of Government ; and shall protect each of them against invasion; and, on application of the Legislature, or of the Executive, when the Legislature cannot be convened, against domestic violence." The propriety of this provision will scarcely be doubted. If any of the States were to be at liberty to adopt any other form of Government, than a republican form, it would necessarily endanger, and might destroy, the safety of the Union. Suppose, for instance, a great State, like New York, should adopt a monarchical form of government, it might, under an enterprising and ambitious king, become formidable to, if not destructive of, the Constitution. And the PEOPLE of each State have a right to protection against the tyranny of a domestic faction, and to have a firm guarantee, that their political liberties shall not be overturned by a successful demagogue, who shall arrive at power by corrupt arts, and then plan a scheme for permanent possession of it. On the other hand, domestic violence by popular insurrection is equally repugnant to the good order and safety of the Union; and one of the blessings arising from a National Government is the security which it affords, against a recurrence of evils of this sort. Accordingly, it is made an imperative duty of the General Government, on the application of the Legislature or Executive of a State, to aid in the suppression of such domestic insurrections; as well as to protect the State from foreign invasion.
§ 413. It may possibly be asked, what need there could be of such a precaution, and whether it may not become a pretext for alterations in the State governments
without the concurrence of the States themselves. questions admit of ready answers. If the interposition of the General Government should not be needed, the pro vision for such an event will be a harmless superfluity only in the Constitution. But, who can say, what experiments may be produced by the caprice of particular States, by the ambition of enterprising leaders, or by the intrigues and influence of foreign powers? To the second question, it may be answered, that if the General Government should interpose, by virtue of this constitutional authority, it will, of course, be bound to pursue the authority. But the authority extends no further than to a guarantee of a republican form of Government, which supposes a pre-existing Government of the form, which is to be guarantied. As long, therefore, as the existing republican forms are continued by the States, they are guarantied by the Federal Constitution. Whenever the States may choose to substitute other republican forms, they have a right to do so, and to claim the federal guarantee for the latter. The only restriction imposed on them is, that they shall not exchange republican for antirepublican Constitutions: a restriction, which, it is presumed, will hardly be considered as a grievance.
§ 414. At first view, it might seem not to square with the republican theory, to suppose, either that a majority have not the right, or that a minority will have the force, to subvert a government; and, consequently, that the National interposition can never be required, but when it would be improper. But theoretic reasoning in this case, as in most other cases, must be qualified by the lessons of practice. Why may not illicit combinations, for purposes of violence, be formed, as well by a majority of a State, especially of a small State, as by a majority of a county, or of a district of the same State; and if the authority of the State ought, in the latter case, to protect the local magistracy, ought not the National authority, in the former, to support the State authority? Besides; there are certain parts of the State Constitutions, which are so interwoven with the National Constitution, that a violent blow cannot be given to the one, without communicating
the wound to the other. Insurrections in a State will rarely induce a National interposition, unless the number concerned in them bear some proportion to the friends of Government. It will be much better, that the violence in such cases, should be repressed by the superintending power, than that the majority should be left to maintain their cause by a bloody and obstinate contest. The existence of a right to interpose will generally prevent the necessity of exerting it.
§ 415. The next (the fifth) article, provides for the mode of making amendments to the Constitution. "The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution; or, on application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing amendments; which, in either case, shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one, or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment, which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article ; and that no State, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate."
§ 416. The importance of this power can scarcely be over estimated. It is obvious, that no human government can ever be perfect; and it is impossible to foresee, or guard against all the exigencies, which may, in different ages, require changes in the powers and modes of operation of a government, to suit the necessities and interests of the people. A government, which has no mode prescribed for any changes, will, in the lapse of time, become utterly unfit for the nation. It will either degenerate into a despotism, or lead to a revolution, by its oppressive inequalities. It is wise, therefore, in every government, and especially in a republic, to provide peaceable means for altering and improving the structure, as time and experience shall show it necessary, for the public safety and
happiness. But, at the same time, it is equally important Lo guard against too easy and frequent changes; to secure due deliberation and caution in making them; and to follow experience, rather than speculation and theory. A government, which is always changing and changeable, is in a perpetual state of internal agitation, and incapable of any steady and permanent operations. It has a constant tendency to confusion and anarchy.
§ 417. In regard to the Constitution of the United States, it is confessedly a new experiment in the history of nations. Its framers were not bold or rash enough to believe, or to pronounce, it to be perfect. They made use of the best lights, which they possessed, to form and adjust its parts, and mould its materials. But they knew, that time might develope many defects in its arrangements, and many deficiencies in its powers. They desired, that it might be open to improvement; and, under the guidance of the sober judgement and enlightened skill of the country, to be perpetually approaching nearer and nearer to perfection. It was obvious, too, that the means of amendment might avert, or at least have a tendency to avert, the most. serious perils, to which confederated republics are liable, and by which all have hitherto been shipwrecked. They knew, that the besetting sin of republics is a restlessness of temperament, and a spirit of discontent at slight evils. They knew the pride and 'ealousy of state power in confederacies; and they wished to disarm them of their potency, by providing a safe means to break the force, if not whelly to ward off the blows, which would, from time to time, under the garb of patriotism, or a love of the people, be aimed at the Constitution. They believed, that the power of amendment was, if one may so say, the safety-valve to let off all temporary effervescences and excitements; and the real effective instrument to control and adjust the movements of the machinery, when out of order, or in danger of self-destruction.
$418. Upon the propriety of the power, in some form, there will probably be little controversy. The only question is, whether it is so arranged, as to accom
plish its objects in the safest mode; safest for the sta bility of the Government; and safest for the rights and liberties of the people.
§ 419. The Constitution has adopted a middle course. It has provided for amendments being made; the mode is easy; and at the same time, it secures due deliberation, and caution. Congress may propose amendments, or a convention of the States. But, in any amendment proposed by Congress, two thirds of both Houses must concur; and no convention can be called, except upon the application of two thirds of the States. When amendments are proposed in either way, the assent of three fourths of all the States is necessary to their ratification. And, certainly, it may be said with confidence, that if three fourths of the States are not satisfied with the necessity of any particular amendment, the evils, which it proposes to remedy, cannot be of any general or pressing nature. That the power of amendment is not, in its present form, impracticable, is proved by the fact, that twelve amendments have been already proposed and ratified.
§ 420. The proviso excludes the power of amendment, until the year 1808, of the clauses in the Constitution, which respects the importation and migration of slaves, and the apportionment of direct taxes. And as the equality of the Representation of the States in the Senate might be destroyed by an amendment, it is ex pressly declared, that no amendment shall deprive any State, without its consent, of its equal suffrage in that body.
Public Debt.-Supremacy of the Constitution, and Laws
§ 421. THE first clause of the sixth article is, "AL debts contracted, and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States, under this Constitution, as under the