Gambar halaman

remarks usually carried the Committee with him.

This mode of proceeding was pursued, and the two Houses went on harmoniously together, without any act directing the mode of passing laws, until February 1784, when an act was passed en. titled an act “ directing the form of passing laws." This act established the mode of proceeding as above stated and limited, in which the Governor and Council should return to the Assembly all bills sent to them for amendment.

I am aware that it must appear strange if not incredible to men of the present generation, that the House of Representatives, a body somewhat numerous, vested with supreme legislative power and the Governor and Council, a small body, vested with no power, yet slightly connected with the House in legislation, should have thus proceeded harmoniously together. Yet it will appear credible and natural, when we refer to the peculiar condition of the people of Vermont at that time, and to some of the peculiar views, sentiments and habits of the men of that age. The inhabitants of the New-Hampshire Grants had been united, and had acted together in defence of their all, their farms and their independence as a people, not under an organized government, but

[ocr errors]

by a voluntary association of individuals. They constituted their Council of Safety, and their SubCommittees of Safety, whose decrees had all the force of laws, and the members of the Council and of the Committees were treated with all the respect which they had been accustomed to pay to the magistrate.

This state of things continued until the government was organized under the Constitution. And as the common danger continued, the independence of Vermont not having been acknowledged, all felt the necessity of acting in concert; to act thus under their former system had become a habit so strong, that for some time after the government was organized, the Governor and Council exercised all the powers, that the Council of Safety had exercised, that is, all the powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial. In this state of things, and for reasons which have already been given, little attention was paid to the Constitution; it had served to put the machine in motion, but served little purpose as a regulator ; reliance was wholly placed on a union of councils, as it had before been, and many of the people being influenced by the peculiar religious sentiments and staid habits of the puritans, this fitted them for the condition in which they were placed. To reverence the magistrate and to look to old men for counsel, was with them a religious duty. It was then natural for the House of Representatives composed of younger men, to look to their fathers and superior magistrates, the Governor and Council, for advice and direction.


Ratification of the first Constitution of Vermont.-Acts of

the Legislature making the Constitution a law of the State. Extracts from Vt. State Papers.--Address of the Council of Safety to the people.

Having given a concise history of the Constitution of Pennsylvania, we will now proceed to give a more particular history of our own Constitution, noting as we go along the additions that were made to the Constitution of Pennsylvania, in framing the Constitution of Vermont.

A question has been raised whether our Constitution was duly ratified ; to prove that it was not, Gov. Slade makes the following note under the Constitution as published in Vermont State Papers,

page 241.

It is worthy of remark, that this Constitution was never submitted to the people for their appro

bation. It is stated by Ira Allen, in his history of Vermont that the credentials of the members of the Convention, authorized them to form a Constitution, but were silent as to its ratification; and that, owing to the unsettled state of public opinion, it was thought hazardous to submit it, directly, to the decision of the people. It was, however, silently submitted to,--not only because a government, organized under even a defective constitution, was esteemed preferable to the unsettled state of things which had so long existed, but because such organization seemed necessary to lay the foundation for a recognition of the sovereignty of Vermont, and her admission into the Union.

At the session of the Legislature in 1779, an act was passed, entitled “ An Act for securing general privileges of the people, and establishing common law and the constitution, as part of the laws of this State,” and concluding as follows:

Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the Constitution of this State, as established by general convention held at Windsor, July and December, 1777, together with, such alterations and additions as shall be made in such Constitution, agreeable to the 44th section in the plan of government, shall be forever considered, held, and maintained, as part of the laws of this State.

In June, 1782, an act was passed entitled an act establishing the Constitution, and securing the privileges of the people. By this act the foregoing section was enacted in the same words. To the first of these acts, Gov. Slade appended the following note :

“ The Constitution, if it was any thing, was, already, the fundamental law of the State, possessing authority, necessarily paramount to any act of the legislature,—the very charter, indeed, of its existence, and by which alone, it was invested with power to legislate at all,—and yet we here find the legislature gravely attempting to give to this instrument the force of law !

A recurrence to the history of the Constitution, will explain this singular proceeding. We have before suggested, that it was never sanctioned by the people, but went into operation as it came from the hands of the Convention, and was submitted to, rather from necessity than choice. The truth of that suggestion is fully confirmed by this attempt to legalize the Constitution; and we are irresistibly led to the conclusion, that it was considered a mere nullity by the statesmen of that period.”

These constitutional principles stated by Gov. Slade are at this day known to all, and admitted by all, the learned and unlearned, but it does not follow, that the framers of our Constitution were governed by them or ever had an idea of them. Every one, who in an examination of the history of our Government, shall go back beyond the reach of his own memory will be exposed to similar errors.

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »