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portant written political system, which the world has ever seen, the Constitution of the United States of America.
We have said that it is a work of the old school. It broaches no startling questions upon ultimate principles, though there is no example in history so brilliant of a successful appeal to those principles, as that which is afforded by the dismemberment of the British empire, the erection of an independent government, and the peaceful formation of the Constitution of the United States.
The author does not touch, we believe, even by allusion, on the speculations which have so much exercised the bold spirits of the present day in Germany and France; and which the philosophical statesmen of our own country have not wholly left unnoticed, respecting the principle of Constitutions ; the nature of the obligation they impose; the nature and quality of unconstitutional popular acts. Mr Jefferson, in one of the letters with which his correspondents occasionally favour the public, without asking the permission of the venerable writer, with whose confidence they deal so uncerimoniously, has said, in substance, that the world belongs to its inhabitants for the time being; a proposition which it would not seem dangerous to grant, but which leads to perilous inferences, as to the validity of all acts, by which the inhabitants of the world in past ages claim to bind their successors. It is not probable, at least in any state of things now to be foreseen, that this scruple as to the abstract obligation of a constitution will ever become practically formidable. There is no danger, that the people of the United States will ever meet in convention to abolish the constitution ; if they did, however, the act of abolition, according to the theory of our institutions, would be valid, in our judgment. Others, we doubt not, entertain a different view on this subject, and conceive that such an act would be rebellion here, precisely as it would be in England, or in any other country where a hereditary government exists. But without intending any discussion of this question, we will only observe, that the theoretical views, which men entertain of the degree of power which one generation has constitutionally to bind another, will exert some influence on their opinions as to the great practical question of construction.
At the present day of united parties and forgotten feuds, when it has been found altogether impossible to keep up the ancient array of two opposed phalanxes in national politics,
almost the only question of a general political nature which divides the minds of men regards the subject of constructive powers. It is true that, in reality, the parties are much nearer each other on this subject than they are willing to allow, as is commonly the case in controversy. The party in favor of constructions, does not mean that even by construction any power shall be assumed, by the national government, which is not fairly deducible from the instrument. They say indeed that the general welfare” is one of the objects, which the constitution is to effect; but this object is to be effected, not by any and every measure, but by measures directly authorized by the text, or necessarily incident to what is directly authorized. Farther than this, we apprehend no advocate of constructive powers will go. On the other hand, the opponents of construction are obliged, every day, to sanction extremely liberal interpretations of the instrument; for the government could not be administered, if no function were performed beyond those which are expressed totidem verbis in the constitution. But the nominal difference between the two parties furnishes excellent ground for dispute; the topics are fruitful; the field for retort ample. In the progress of the discussion, the parties no doubt excite themselves to a higher pitch, than they could have reached by any course of private reasoning. The standing theme of discussion in Virginia—the theme not only of newspaper essays but of octavo volumes—is the total prostration of the rights of the several states by the constructive usurpations of Congress; although that Congress is a body returning periodically to the people, one branch of it the immediate representatives of the states, as such ; and all their acts subject to the veto of a president, who hitherto has been, thirty years out of thirtyfour, a Virginian. If, under these premises, the rights of the states in general and of Virginia in particular, have been constructively betrayed, they and she are most certainly participes criminis.
But we observed that the question of construction is a practical one; it is most highly and seriously só. The framers, of the constitution were wise men, endued with foresight almost prophetical. We are the daily and the hourly witnesses of the sagacity, with which they were able to frame an instrument of government, whose operation is already most şuccessful over a country, which can hardly be called the same, as that, for which they framed the constitution. Still,
however, they were but men; they were not prophets: they were prudent, not inspired; they foresaw general results, they could not calculate for particular facts. The extent of the country is increasing, the number of important interests multiplying, the relations with other states assuming the most unlooked-for aspects. The constitution remains, and will, we trust, forever remain. But what shall we do with it? shall we, on every occasion when some new modification of measures, unforeseen in 1789, is called for, in the new state of things, shall we think it enough to set our foot down and say,
the framers of the constitution did not contemplate it, it is therefore unconstitutional ?” The late distinguished senator from New York is understood, in the last session of Congress, to have declared, though in an unofficial way, that no such thing was dreamed of by the framers of the constitution, as the right of the national government to construct the Cumberland road. But was it dreamed of, that in less than thirty-five years after the date of that instrument, there would be not thirteen states, but twenty-four; and that for several branches of the public service a good road across the country was indispensable? But you say, "amend the constitution, if you find its powers inadequate to the present increased extent, relations, and wants of the country.” But this is a most delicate point of political prudence. An amendment of the constitution is the very worst remedy that can be imagined. All the evils which imagination can conjure out of the abuses of construction are insignificant, compared with the disastrous consequences, that could not fail to flow from a habit of ready tampering with amendments. The power of amendment ought certainly to remain; as a kind of safety-valve to prevent a fatal accumulation of discontent, under the existence of what time might prove to be intolerable evils. But if this safety-valve is to be kept constantly opened, the power cannot be created to keep the heavy wheels of government in motion. A thousand, ten thousand times preferable is the practical over the theoretical remedy. With every branch of the government not only in name but in reality elective, what possibility is there of any organized and systematic encroachment of that government on the rights of the people. How much better to allow the people to proclaim their sense of the constitution in particular nice questions at the ballot boxes, than to be calling upon them constantly to take the constitution into their hands and alter it.
There is one remark only, which we will make in addition on this topic. The politicians of the Virginia school are very earnest in denouncing the constructive policy, as unconstitutional, in its tendency to aggrandize the national government and subvert state rights. They say nothing similar was contemplated by the glorious sages, who formed the constitution. But when we go back to the controversies, which arose on the question of adopting the constitution, we find that it was by this same class of politicians, with Patrick Henry at their head, objected to the instrument, that it had this effect; to create a national, and to merge and consolidate the state governments. Whatever other objection then it may now be proper to make to the policy in question, it ought not to be objected that it is unconstitutional, when in 1789 it was objected to the constitution, that it was built on a consolidating policy. If this party are now in earnest, in the complaint of unconstitutionality, the language of Mr Gerry, of Mr Monroe, of Mr Henry in 1788 was mere cavil. If those distinguished patriots and statesmen were sincere (and who will doubt it?) then the present cry of unconstitutional and constructive, is unjust and inconsistent. That it is inconsistent we firmly believe. The constitution never had better friends than the men we have just named, from the moment they saw that its operation was salutary. They found that the power given the national government did not destroy the sovereignty of the states. And it is well known that Patrick Henry, the illustrious champion of the pure antifederalism of 1788, lived to hold the very language,
which we have now held in a somewhat wider application; and declared that after having made it an objection to the constitution, that it clothed the national government with strong powers, he could not and would not turn round and say, the exercise of those powers was unconstitutional. The last act of his public life was to offer himself for Congress, for the avowed purpose of maintaining on its floor those alien and sedition laws, which are still held up, by eminence, as unconstitutional.
With regard to Mr Rawle's work, we conceive that it will be very valuable as a text-book in our places of education. The Federalist has been hitherto used as a manual on the constitution of the country. But the Federalist is, in general, in style too diffuse for such an object : it is adapted rather for that, in view of which it was written-contemporary perusal in the newspapers. This however is not the only
exception, which may fairly be taken to the Federalist as a text-book-it is avowedly a work designed to set forth the bright side of the constitution, and is so far of the nature of a panegyric, of which the object is to commend a favourite measure, against the assaults of active enemies. Besides this, the Federalist was prospectively written. Not a little of it is taken up in discussing objections, which were started at that day, but which in practice never afterwards became important; as for instance, the objection that the constitution gives the national government the power of controlling by law the times, places, and manner of bolding elections for representatives, and the times and manner of holding elections for senators. In our own state convention for adopting the constitution, no provision was more anxiously discussed than this; no power granted to the general government was thought more dangerous; none claimed, as more important. What could be more narcotic than such a debate at ihe present day! Finally, much has been settled, by experience in administering the constitution. Mr Rawle's work embraces every thing of this kind, and this alone would give it a preference as a text-book.
The most delicate questions under the constitution are those which concern conflicting exercises of power on the part of the national and state governments. The following passage will unfold Mr Rawle's views on the most serious conflict of this kind that has occurred since the adoption of the constitution.
During the late war, a construction of this part of the constitution was given in a highly respectable state, which excited no small uneasi. ness at the time, and ought not to be passed over in silence. The act of congress declaring war took place on the 18th of June 1812, and the president was expressly authorized by the act to use the whole land and naval forces to carry it into effect. Orders were soon afterwards issued by him for calling out certain portions of the militia from each state. The opinions of the judges of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts were required by the governor, and three of them, in the absence of the others, declared their sentiments, that the commander in chief of the militia of a state had a right to decide whether or not the exigencies to warrant the call existed. Of course that whatever were the declarations of congress, or the course pursued by the president, if the governor of a state thought differently; if he thought there was no war, no insurrection, no invasion, he was not obliged to obey such requisitions. The governor expressed the same opinion in a message to the legislature ; and a line of conduct was adopted greatly tending to impair the energies of the country, and encourage the hopes of the enemy.
The apprehension professed was, that if congress, by determining that