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nected with the growth of our state and general governments, we are compelled to confine ourselves to mere outline. We have deemed it pertinent to our subject to notice these few details, as illustrating the different trials and processes through which these forms of government were passed before the results were reached, and which now bless our states and our general country. The work is one bearing all the marks of scrupulous care, of ability and integrity. Three different forms of government were tried by the different colonies, and three conventions were held by them, each convention performing its degree of labor, before the collected wisdom of the people could be imbodied and detailed in a shape that should at the same time practically meet the wants of the nation, and do justice to the cause of universal freedom.*
* “The Constitution of the United States," says De Tocqueville, " is like those exquisite productions of human industry which insure wealth and renown to their inventors, but which are profitless in other hands. This truth is exemplified by the condition of Mexico at the present time.” We should be sorry to admit that this remark needed no qualification. The bare desire for a free government is a step towards it. The successful administration of it requires the wisdom and experience of age, and these must be preceded by a certain amount of mental capacity.
“A great equity lawyer,” says Mr. Webster, *-had truly said that, ever since the revolution of 1688, law had been the basis of public liberty. He held it to be undoubted that the state of society depends more on elementary law, and the principles and rules that control the transmission, distribution, and free alienation of property, than on positive institutions. Written constitutions sanctify and confirm great principles, but the latter were prior in existence to the former. Habeas Corpus Act, the Bill of Rights, Trial by Jury, were surer bulwarks of right and liberty than written constitutions. The gradual establishment of our free institutions was the work of time and experience, not the immediate result of any written instrument. English and our colonial history were full of those experiments in representative government which heralded and led to our more perfect system. When our revolution made us independent, we had not
* In his speech delivered at Charleston, S. C., at a dinner given him by the Charleston Bar.
In this instrument and in the Declaration of Independence, are to be found the fundamental principles of our national gove ernment, and in which centre all those great sources of duty which involve justice and accountability.
Every true friend of liberty finds a subject of congratulation in
THE INDISSOLUBLE NATURE OF THE UNION.
This indissoluble combination of sovereignties of a gradual and similar formation is one of those extraordinary events of time, in which all may recognize the ruling hand of Providence. Such a union is one of inconceivable strength and permanency. We can see the elements of its growth, but we cannot even predict the beginning of the causes of its decay. It is enveloped in almost numberless circles of sovereignty. Its heart cannot be reached by danger. Towns, counties, states, and their unnumbered institutions, have each their own independent sphere of action, and their growing and diversified strength is a perpetual source of power to the Union.*
to frame government for ourselves — to hew it out of the original block of marble; our history and experience presented it ready made and proportioned to our hands."
The causes of progress may be found in the nature of man ; the means for their development in the nature of things; and the results appear in our character, laws, and institutions. These, as they are recorded, become important aids to new and further developments.
* “ Local assemblies of citizens,” says De Tocqueville, “constitute the strength of free nations. Town-meetings are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they bring it within the people's reach, they teach men how to use and how to enjoy it." The same author says, in another place, “In the American states power has been disseminated with admirable skill, for the purpose of interesting the greatest possible number of persons in the common weal. Independently of the electors, who are from time to time called into action, the body politic is divided into innumerable functionaries and officers, who all, in their several spheres, represent the same powerful whole, in whose name they act. The local administration thus affords an unfailing source of profit and interest to a vast number of individuals."
They are limbs of the great body politic. Their various modes of action, and the manifestation of their different views, sentiments, interests, and prejudices, are but the exercise necessary to their own growth, and to the healthy condition of that great body of which they are members. Its duration cannot be measured by man. The combined action of enemies without, and the assaults of party spirit within, can have no tendency, but to develop new energies, and to add new strength. It may rise in its grandeur and might for centuries to come; have its periods of growth and decay, its blessings and its troubles ; but its changes can only be those of progress. Dissolution may be discussed, threatened, and, possibly, even attempted; but every discussion will increase the knowledge of the indispensable necessity of union, every threat will add to the zeal of its friends, and every attempt to subvert it will create new safeguards for its protection and perpetuity. The physical world in its variety, and the mental world in its unity, encircle its boundaries and centralize its interests. THE DISSOLUTION OF SUCH A UNION IS A MORAL IMPOSSIBILITY.
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES
is a sacred instrument, not only to the people of this country, but to the world. It is not a charter to bless a particular people, but the race. Our relation to the soil of this continent is
* We find the following eloquent passage in the able report of the secretary of the treasury, December, 1847 :
• Upon this point, sectional fanatics, few in number at home, and despots abroad concurring with them, may hope or menace; but the American Union is a moral and physical, a political and commercial necessity, and never can, or will, be dissolved. As well might we attempt to decompose the great element of nature which holds together the planets, suns, and systems of the universe, as hope to sever the links of mighty lakes and rivers, of ever-extending telegraphs, railroads, and canals, of free trade, of intercourse, of interest, of love and affection, of the glories of the past, the present, and future, which but a temporary one. Though citizen transfers to citizen his deeds of pecuniary interest, his moral relation to the soil is one of sacred trust. All governments are commissions of trust, and prosperity and true glory await them only as they are faithfully executed.
The Indian, the steward of one talent, buried it, and made no interest. - From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” We are endowed with more talents, and they involve corresponding responsibilities. If our work is of any account, it makes a part of that Providence which numbers the hairs of our heads, and directs the destiny of nations. If it be any thing, it is one of vast concern and strict accountability.
Placed upon a continent of great extent, we are favored with that variety of climate and soil necessary to the countless products suited to the condition of man. Watered by mighty rivers and lakes, commerce moves its wealth upon them to every region of our land. The mountains meet the clouds in their heights, and send to our fields and valleys their fertilizing streams. Bound on every side with coasts and harbors, the products of our country are carried to every clime, and those of other nations are brought to ours.
Enlivened and enriched by the spirit of enterprise, the valleys are exalted, the mountains are made low, and roads of iron radiate from every city, and are traversed with stupendous freights with the speed of the wind ; and with the speed of lightning, intelligence is
must forever bind together the American Union. Indeed, when we look upon the American revolution, the framing of our Constitution, the addition of Louisiana, Florida, Texas, and Oregon, our everextending area, products, and population, our triumphs in war and peace, we must be blind to the past, and close our eyes upon the fulfilling realities of the future, if we cannot perceive and gratefully acknowledge that a higher than an earthly power still guards and directs our destiny, impels us onward, and has selected our great and happy country as a model and ultimate centre of attraction for all the nations of the world.”
transmitted from boundary to boundary of the entire continent. Steamships plough every ocean, and, with the aid of the mighty press, report all our acts to other nations, and they in return report to us. Experiments of governments, of science, and reform, are closely watched and studied by every people.*
OUR GOVERNMENT IS THE RULE OF THE PEOPLE.
It is a republic that secures, as from a common centre to its entire circumference, equal rights and freedom to all. It gives freedom to mind, security to body, and protection to interests.
The democracy of the republic is in process of development.† The people are sovereign. Man stands alone, in his dignity, representing both government and subject. He acts for himself and for the greatest good of the whole people. The virtue of the masses is blended in action, and conscience is beginning to rule. Every man being made to feel that he is accountable to his God for the acts of his country, he is ever ready to serve her with unyielding integrity. He lives and rejoices in her glory, and suffers in her shame. Early taught at the district school, he knows the power of knowledge, and
* See Appendix B.
十 + “ If the men of our time were led by attentive observation, and by sincere reflection, to acknowledge that the gradual and progressive development of social equality is at once the past and future of their history, this solitary truth would confer the sacred character of a divine decree upon the change. To attempt to check democracy, would be, in that case, to resist the will of God; and the nations would then be constrained to make the best of the social lot awarded to them by Providence.” Christianity, which has declared that all men are equal in the sight of God, will not refuse to acknowledge that all citizens are equal in the eye of the law. But, by a singular concourse of events, religion is entangled in those institutions which democracy assails, and it is not unfrequently brought to reject the equality it loves, and to curse that cause of liberty as a foe, which it might hallow by its alliance." -- De Tocqueville.