« AnteriorContinuar »
subject of commerce, which the agricultural States of the South did not favor. Georgia and the Carolinas favored the continuance of the slave trade, to which most of the other States were opposed. But progressively these differences were overcome by adjustment and compromise, and, at the end, all of the delegates who remained but three signed their names to the Constitution, while all the States that were then represented voted for its adoption. What had been done, however, was to frame a new constitution and not to patch up the old one. The body that framed it is called the Federal Convention.
323. The Constitution Ratified.—The Convention had no authority to make a new constitution, but only to recommend changes in the old one. So on the completion of its work, it sent the document that it had framed to Congress with some recommendations. One of these was that Congress should send the Constitution to the States, with a recommendation that the Legislatures should submit it to State conventions to be chosen by the people, for their ratification. Congress took such action, and the States, with the exception of Rhode Island, took the necessary steps to carry out the plan. Ultimately every State in the Union ratified the Constitution ; but North Carolina and Rhode Island did not do so until the new Government had been some time in operation. Nor was this end secured in several of the other States, as Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia, without great opposition.
324. Friends and Enemies of the Constitution.Those who favored the ratification of the Constitution have been divided into these classes: (1) Those who saw that it was the admirable system that time has proved it to be; (2) those who thought it imperfect but still be
lieved it to be the best attainable government under the circumstances; (3) the mercantile and commercial classes generally, who believed that it would put the industries and trade of the country on a solid basis. Those who opposed it have been thus divided: (1) Those who resisted any enlargement of the National Government, for any reason; (2) those who feared that their importance as politicians would be diminished; (3) those who feared that public liberty and the rights of the States would be put in danger; (4)those who were opposed to vigorous government of any kind, State or National. 1
325. The New Government Inaugurated. The new Constitution was to take effect as soon as nine States had ratified it, its operation to be limited to the number ratifying. When this condition had been complied with, the Continental Congress enacted the legislation necessary to set the wheels of the new Government in motion. It fixed a day for the appointment of Presidential Electors by the States, a day for the Electors to meet and cast their votes for President and Vice-President, and a day for the meeting of the new Congress. The day fixed upon for Congress to meet was March 4, 1789; but a quorum of the House of Representatives was not secured until April 1, and of the Senate not until April 6, owing to various causes. On the second of these dates the Houses met in joint convention to witness the counting of the Electoral votes. Washington was declared elected President, John Adams Vice-President. Messengers were at once sent to the President- and Vice-President-elect summoning them to New York, which was then the seat of government. Here Washington was inaugurated April 30. The Legislative and Executive branches of the Government were now in motion.
1G. T. Curtis: History of the Constitution, Vol. II, pp. 495, 496.
AMENDMENTS MADE TO THE CONSTITUTION.
The American Government. Sections 457-460; 467-474; 536-537;
604-607; 623-652. It was anticipated that amendments to the Constitution would be found necessary, and a method was accordingly provided for making them. This method embraces the two steps that will now be described.
326. Proposing an Amendment. This may be done in either of two ways. First, Congress may propose an amendment by a two-thirds vote of each House; secondly, Congress shall, on the application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the States, call a convention of the States for that purpose. The first way is evidently the simpler and more direct of the two, and it is the one that has always been followed.
327. Ratifying an Amendment.--This also may be done in one of two ways.
One is to submit the amendment to the Legislatures of the States, and it becomes a part of the Constitution when it is ratified by threefourths of them. The other way is to submit the amendment to conventions of the States, and it becomes binding when three-fourths of such conventions have given it their approval. Congress determines which of the two ways shall be adopted. The first is the simpler and more direct, and it has been followed in every instance.
328. Amendments I–X.–One of the principal objections urged against the Constitution when its ratification was pending in 1787-88, was the fact that it lacked a bill of rights. Such a bill, it may be observed, is a
statement of political principles and maxims. The States had fallen into the habit of inserting such bills in their constitutions. At its first session, Congress undertook to remedy this defect. It proposed twelve amendments, ten of which were declared duly ratified, December 15, 1791. These amendments, numbered I to X, are often spoken of as a bill of rights.
329. Amendment XI.—Article III of the Constitution made any State of the Union suable by the citizens of the other States and by citizens or subjects of foreign states. (See section 2, clause 1.) This was obnoxious to some of the States, and when such citizens began to exercise their right of suing States a movement was set on foot to change the Constitution in this respect. An amendment having this effect was duly proposed, and was declared ratified January 8, 1798.
330. Amendment XII.—According to the original Constitution, the members of the Electoral colleges cast both their ballots for President and neither one for VicePresident. The rule was that the candidate having most votes should be President, and the one having the next larger number Vice-President, provided in both cases it was a majority of all the Electors. In 1800 it happened that Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr had each an equal number of votes and a majority of all. The Democratic-Republican party, to which they belonged, had intended Jefferson for the first place and Burr for the second. The election went to the House of Representatives, and was attended by great excitement. Steps were taken to prevent a repetition of such a dead-lock. This was accomplished by an amendment declared ratified September 25, 1804.
331. Amendment XIII.-Slavery was the immediate exciting cause of the Civil War, 1861–65. In the course
of the war President Lincoln, acting as commander-inchief of the army and navy of the United States, declared all the slaves held in States and parts of States that were engaged in the war against the Union free. The other Slave States, Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennes. see, and Missouri, and parts of Louisiana and Virginia, his power did not reach as they were not in rebellion. The conviction grew strong throughout the country that slavery should not survive the war. This conviction asserted itself in Amendment XIII, which took effect December 18, 1865.
332. Amendment XIV.–At the close of the Civil War Congress was called upon to deal with the important question of readjusting the States that had seceded from the Union. It was thought necessary to incorporate certain new provisions into the Constitution. So an elaborate amendment was prepared and duly ratified. It was declared in force July 28, 1868. The most far-reaching of the new provisions were those in relation to citizenship contained in the first section.
333. Amendment XV.-Down to 1870 the States had fixed the qualifications of their citizens for voting to suit themselves. At that time most of the States, and all of the Southern States, denied suffrage to the negroes. The emancipation of the slaves, together with Amend. ment XIV, made the negroes citizens of the United States and of the States where they resided. But the negroes had no political power, and so no direct means of defending their civil rights. To remedy this state of things a new amendment was proposed and ratified, bearing the date of March 30, 1870. It declared that the right of citizens to vote should not be abridged, either by the United States or by any State, on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.