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as The Federalist, which exerted a most powerful influence in producing the final result, and whi:h have been, and will remain, an authority to the courts, and a text-book to political students, one of the most complete and profound expositions of the science of government that has ever appeared.
84. Conventions in eleven states having ratified the Constitution, Congress, on the 13th of September, 1788, took measures for the election of officers, and on the 4th of March, 1789, the present government commenced the exercise of its functions. North Carolina did not ratify until the 21st of November, 1789,2 and Rhode Island until the 29th of May, 1790.3
Having thus sketched the external history of the adoption of our Constitution, and examined the nature of the various acts which preceded that event, to the end that the true national character of the political society and of its organic law might be discovered, I shall, in the following chapter, interrogate the instrument itself with the same intent.
1 See the official ratifications of the several states, Elliot's Debates, Vol. 1, pp. 319-331.
2 Elliot's Debates, Vol. 1, p. 383. 3 Ibid. p. 334.
THE NATIONAL ATTRIBUTES INVOLVED IN THE PROVISIONS OF
DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT AND THE NATION.
$ 85. In the preceding chapter I have spoken of those grand salient facts in the history of our people which seem to stamp a distinctive character upon our political society, — the combined revolt, the united declaration of independence, the subsequent receding from the high ground of nationality during the short and disastrous period of the Confederation, and the final return to the early and true idea of unity and nationality by the voluntary act of the people in pushing aside the crumbling fabric of government built on the foundation of state sovereignty, and adopting one emanating directly from themselves, as the expression of their organic will. We are now prepared to interrogate the Constitution itself, and to discover if the answers which it shall return accord with the principles and doctrines contained in the facts of our history.
$ 86. It is natural to expect that the work will represent, in some measure, the condition and thought of the artificer; and if the one people of these United States are the authors of an organic law, we may well ask if they have left any trace of their oneness and nationality in the product of their sovereign political action.
But here it is necessary to repeat and elaborate a general doctrine which has already been dwelt upon with some emphasis, arred which must be constantly recalled to mind through the whole course of the present inquiry as the solution of many a difficulty and apparent contradiction. This truth is, the
absolute and necessary distinction between the nation which is the source of political power, and the government which is the creature of that power, established to act, in certain cases, instead of, or as the agent of, that nation.
$ 87. We affirm that the People of these United States are the nation, possessed of supreme powers, and that the government of the United States is their creature and agent. All those theorists who deny the original and essential unity and nationality of this people, declare that the separate states are or were the original nations. As a consequence it is either expressly maintained, or tacitly assumed, that there is no United States apart from the limited government created by the Constitution ; in a word, that the United States, and the government thereof, which we recognize as distinct, are one and the same existence. In this short sentence are summed up the differences between the advocates of nationality, and those of state sovereignty. If we fail to apprehend the truth of the doctrine which I have stated, we shall fail to obtain any adequate conception of the imperial character of the people as an organic political society.
$ 88. Nor is the thought peculiar to our own social condition ; it is a dogma which lies at the basis of all political science. The French nation has continued one and the same, while its government has taken the successive forms of Monarchy, Republic, Empire, Monarchy, Republic, and Empire, again. These several forms were, for the time being, the recognized organs and channels for the utterance and execution of the organic will of the people, in whoin alune, as the final source, reside all the attributes and functions of legislation.
The English people remained one nation through the whole gradual but grand progress of constitutional change and development, from the time of the earliest Norman kings down to the temporary overthrow of the monarchy under Cromwell, to its unqualified restoration in the persons of the second Charles and the second James, to its subsequeno limitation on the accession of William of Orange, and to its present existence as a splendid but empty pageant.
The people, the nation, live on, subject only to destruction by overwhelming force or by the gradual decay of race life, the governments come and go, with no inherent qualities of their own, but only as the representatives of the nation's will.
$ 89. The powers which can be lawfully wielded by a government may range through an ascending scale, from those so feeble that the agent has hardly an appreciable existence, to those so complete that they express the entire sovereignty of the nation. Over the form of its own government, a nation has an absolute control. It may declare that no powers shall be given to delegated rulers; that itself shall deliberate, shall determine, act, and execute in every emergency; or, in other words, it may itself use all the sovereign authority which inheres in every nation, without the intervention of any constituted agents. It is evident, therefore, why a pure democracy must be the most terrible of tyrannies, because there is no check, no limit upon the exercise of authority ; since the people, who are everywhere, and at all times, the source of power, and who, in other forms of political society, place some restraint upon the use of that power by themselves, now wield it to its full measure, with no organic law compelling them, no guide but their own wish.
90. On the other hand, the people, the nation, may clothe the government constituted by them with all the political attributes and functions which they themselves enjoy, and may thus remove the necessity of any direct formal interference by themselves to make changes in the organic law. This, as it seems to me, is true in Great Britain. The government is Parliament, consisting of King, Lords, and Commons. This parliament is, in fact, omnipotent. The British Constitution is nothing more than the will of the people, not expressed by them directly in a written instrument or in any other positive manner, as in our own country, but expressed by and through the Parliament; and over this constitution the legislature has complete power to amend, alter, or destroy. When we talk
1 It should be remarked that no form of government can prevent or destroy the extra-legal, or revolutionary capacity of the people to interfere
62 DISTINCTION BETWEEN NATION AND GOVERNMENT.
or read of the constitutional rights of the British subject, we mean such rights as Parliament has conferred, or has suffered him to enjoy ; and the same body that bestowed may take away. Parliament deposed one king, and established a military rule under the name of the Protectorate ; declared that another king had abdicated, and presented the crown, under many restrictions, to a successor. Parliament might abolish Magna Charta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus ; it is, as far as human government can be, omnipotent. That it has not exercised its full power ; that it is bound by traditions and the received law; that it represents and acts for the people and not against their interests ; that it is, in a true sense, conservative and not destructive; are not denied as facts : but I am not speaking of what may probably, but of what may possibly, happen. The same government which abolished the disabilities of Roman Catholics, and admitted Jews to a seat in the House of Commons, may destroy the English Church as a temporal organization ; the same government which passed the Reform Bill in 1832, and thus accomplished what has been called a "bloodless revolution," may grant universal suffrage, and at last dispense with royalty and privileged orders. I do not predict such changes in England ; I only say that should they ever come about, they may be effected by the existing government, in the regular course of administration, without an appeal to the people in their collective capacity as the final depositaries of all political powers.
§ 91. While, therefore, the people, the nation, is sovereign, and not the machinery which it has established in order that its power, or some portion thereof, may be regularly exerted; and while this machinery may be arranged according to an infinite variety of plans, we cannot expect to find in the detail of these plans an unerring index of the character of the society which exists behind and superior to them. The nation may have so limited the attributes of the government as hardly to suggest the existence of a national authority; or it may have
1 The act lately passed by Parliament is certainly a long step toward universal suffrage, and it may not be rash to assume that before many years Parliament will complete the work thus begun.