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Nihil interest pauper an dives,
Simul impulit clepsydram sors,
Habere nil juvat argentum,
Sceptra sarculis abigit sors,
Nihil interest turpis an pulcra,
Legit lappas et lilia sors,
Nec interest vilis an culta,
Vere namque novissimo sors,
Linquenda est aula cum casa,
Jubet ire promiscua sors,
Ex mille remanet non unus,
Ite, ite, quo convocat sors,
Ergo vale, O Leopoldina,
Vale, tibi nii nocuit sors,
Bella super et Suecica castra,
Penetrare quo nequeat sors,
Inde mundi despiciens molem,
Dulce sonat ex aethere vox,
Surge, veni ; quid, sponsa moraris,
Inber abiit, moestaque crux,
Naught avails to be wealthy or poor,
Still fate doth the water-clock guide,
Not with silver shal: freedom be bought,
Fate's spade human sceptres lays low,
Not beauty nor plainness can save,
Both the burr and the lily must die,
Neither cullure nor roughness avails,
fate, And death ere the winter is late.
Forth from hall and from hut must we fare,
Fate sounds one promiscuous knell,
From a thousand remaineth not one,
Pass, pass whither fate beckons all !
Farewell then, O) Leopoldina,
Farewell ! fate hath wrought no annoy,
Far above the camp-fires of Sweden,
Where fate never, never can come,
Thence beholding the earth underspread,
The sweet voice sounds on evermore,
Arise, come () Spouse ! wherefore falters
The tear and the sad cross are past,
A FACT OF HISTORY.
HAVE read with profound interest the able papers on the
Relations of the Federal Government to the States which appeared in THE SOUTHERN MAGAZINE for September and November
- the first over the signature of “ Justinian,” and the second bearing the name of B. J. Sage, of New Orleans. Both of these writers have unquestionably been careful students of the Constitution and its history; and each brings to the subject a power of analysis and clearness of comprehension most gratifying to those who, like myself, have bestowed upon it no inconsiderable thought and attention. Neither time nor present inclination would permit me to enter as deeply into the discussion of these great historical and political questions as their merits deserve; and were it otherwise, I should approach them with great deference in the presence of such abler expounders. There is one point, however, wherein they are at direct issue, on which I can throw some most convincing light; and to this only at the present moment I purpose to address myself.
At page 595 of the November SOUTHERN MAGAZINE, Mr. Sage says, under the caption of “Conditional Acceptance”:
“Justinian' is not less unfortunate in saying that New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island expressly annexed to their ratifications the condition that they'reserved to themselves the right to reassume the powers delegated whenever they should be perverted to the injury of the people'; and in saying that, as this condition is a part of the contract itself,' the right of secession is an essential component part of the Constitution.
“I think this involves both a misquotation and a misstatement. With due deference to 'Justinian,' I think it can be successfully controverted that the three States used these words, or that they'expressly annexed'them as a condition. At all events, I beg leave to opine that the ratifications were unconditional and absolute, and were at the time understood so to be."
There has been much controversy upon this point, very much advanced on each side by different writers in support of the different theories; but I have been unable to find, with one exception, any convincing historical record. No impartial student will deny that by far the ablest and most exhaustive treatise on the subject is “The History of the Origin, Formation, and Adoption of the Constitution of the United States," by George Ticknor Curtis, of Massachusetts. Twenty years ago the author of this splendid work — born and living in a State proverbial for its intolerance — wrote these memorable words as the closing paragraphs of its Preface:
“I have sought to write as an American. For it is, I trust, impossible to study the history of the Constitution, which has made us what we are, by making us one nation, without feeling how unworthy of the subject, how unworthy of the dignity of History, would be
any attempt to claim more than their just share of merit and renown for names and places endeared to us by local feeling or traditionary attachment. Historical writing that is not just, that is not impartial, that is not fearless, - looking beyond the interests of neighborhood, the claims of party, or the solicitations of pride,- is worse than useless to mankind.”
This is the spirit which pervades the whole of Mr. Curtis' work, and as a natural consequence, the Constitutional student will find it not only strictly accurate in the main but intensely interesting. Singularly enough, however, he touches lightly upon the point at variance between “Justinian' and Mr. Sage, and, although doubtless having access to the Acts of Ratification of the States referred to, omits, in one instance at least, in summarising their substance, the very words on which the whole question turns. The theory of the ratification of the Constitution by Virginia and New York was a virtual adoption, so as not to defeat the Union ; with the recommendation of certain subsequent amendments, which by implication were to be considered the condition of their ratification : Madison and others holding to the opinion that a conditional ratification would not make the States so ratifying members of the new Union — that the Constitution required an adoption in toto, and that any condition would vitiate the ratification of any State. If this theory was a sound one, it is open to serious controversy whether one State at least — Virginia — ever was a member of the Union. Pending the action of the conventions of Virginia, New Hampshire and New York, Hamilton, the leader of the Federal party in the latter State, had arranged a system of horse expresses between Richmond, Concord and New York, believing that the decisions of the other States would influence the convention of his own. It was by one of his messengers that the ratification referred to in the following reached New York, whence it very probably was transmitted by sailing vessel to Boston.
I have now before me a copy of “The Boston Gazette and Country Journal” for July 14, 1788, from which, among its New York items of news, I extract the following :
"NEW YORK, July 21, 1788.- Ratification of the New Constitution by the Convention of Virginia, on Wednesday last, by a majority of 10—88 for it, 78 against it.
“We, the delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected in pur. suance of a recommendation of the General Assembly, and now met in Convention, having fully and fairly investigated and discussed the proceedings of the Federal Convention, and being prepared as well as the most mature deliberation will enable us to decide thereon, DO, in the name and on behalf of the PeopLE OF VIRGINIA, declare and make known, that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by THEM when soever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression, and
, that every power not granted thereby, remains with them and at their will: That therefore no right of any denomination can be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified by the Congress, by the Senate or House of Representatives acting in any capacity, by the President, or any department or officer of the United States, except in those instances where power is given by the Constitution for those purposes : That among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified by any authority of the United States.
“ With these impressions, with a solemn appeal to the Searcher of hearts for the purity of our intentions, and under the conviction that whatsoever imperfections may exist in the Constitution ought rather to be examined in the mode prescribed therein, than to bring the Union into danger by a delay with a hope of obtaining amendments previous to the ratification: We the said delegates, in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia, do by these presents assent to and ratify the Constitution recommended on the 17th day of September, 1788, by the Federal Convention, for the government of the United States ; hereby announcing to all those whom it may concern that the said Constitution is binding upon the said people according to an authentick copy hereto annexed in the words following :
[Here followed a copy of the Constitution.] * Done in Convention, etc., etc.
“EDMUND PENDLETON, President. "Attest: John BECKLEY, Sec'ry."
This is unquestionably an exact transcript of the Act of Ratification by the State of Virginia. If the very first declaration in it does not reserve the right of secession, then I am at a loss to understand the English language. Stripped of its verbiage, the clause simply reads
“We the delegates of Virginia do, in the name of the people of Virginia, declare that the powers of the Constitution (being derived from the people of the States united thereby) may be resumed by THEM (the people of Virginia) whenever the same shall be perverted to their injury and oppression."
The Federal party of 1788, the Consolidationists, barely succeeded in securing the ratification of the Constitution. The popular feeling was in the main opposed to it. The great State of New York preferred her own independence, and nothing but the transcendant genius and skilful tactics of the indefatigable Hamilton eventually carried her convention in favor of ratification by the miserable majority of two. Mr. Curtis deservedly awards the highest honor 10 Virginia, both in the framing of the Constitution and the subsequent Bill of Rights and amendments, as well as for her influence in securing the ultimate ratification and the consequent establishment of the Union. The following extract from the same venerable paper before referred to, gives a graphic description of the labors of the Virginia Convention and the feeling prevalent at the time :
“ Extract from the Riehmond, Virginia, paper of June 25th, 1788, the day on which the Constitution was ratified in their convention :
“The committee of the whole convention got through the new plan of government on Monday last, and the debates have been since on the mode on which they should conclude this important business.
“Two plans are now before the committee : one for ratifying the proposed plan of government, and annexing to the ratification certain reservations and declarations which ought not to be exercised by the Federal Government; the other in the form of a conditional ratification, which is, that previous to receiving the plan, amendments be recommended to the government for their further consideration. These are principally a bill of rights and certain amendments relative to the proposed plan. The calm, cool and deliberate manner in which this important subject has been investigated, will be a lasting monument of national gratitude to those venerable statesmen who have so eminently distinguished themselves in forming this new plan of government.
Posterity will with gratitude view the services of this convention ; and with extacy and admiration they will contemplate in the records of time the magnanimity and disinterested patriotism which has been so eminently distinguished on this occasion.
“A crowded audience have viewed with an awful reverence the distinguished order which has been observed during the debate ; and whatever may be the ultimate decision of this grand assembly, we have no doubt but the minority will accede to it, with their usual love for their country, that harmony and good-will will pervade the State, and the virtues of the majority will be echoed with applause throughout succeeding generations.
I think from the Act of Ratification, the text of which I have been enabled to give in full, that the State of Virginia at least accepted the Constitution conditionally, reserving to herself the right of secession. In a legal point of view, had that question been left to proper arbitrament, and could she have been enabled to prove the acts of injury and oppression provided for by her Act of Ratification, she would unquestionably have obtained a verdict in her favor. She, however, in concert with all of our Southern States, chose to put the question to test by “wager of battle.” We all know what has been the verdict; and I put it as a corollary worthy of profound consideration, whether that test has not forever settled the question. I hold that the results of the war, the results of the last Presidential election, the prevailing majority of sentiment throughout the whole country, are all in favor of the perpetuity of the Union. This being conceded, the only profit to be derived from further discussion of the Constitution as affecting the rights of the States is in their relation to the General Government. and in the elucidation of those reserved rights which the people of the States seem so little to understand. I wish it to be acknowledged simply as a historical fact that one State at least reserved to herself the right of secession. With this one exception I hold that there is no right guaranteed by the Constitution, expressed or implied, or reserved to the States or to the people, but what by persistent effort, and calm, dispassionate discussion can be eventually obtained and permanently maintained within the Union.