Imágenes de páginas

insurrections, and repel invasions. These are the only cases wherein they can interfere with the militia; and the obvious necessity of their having power over them in these caseş, must flash conviction on any reflecting mind. Without uniformity of discipline, military bodies would be incapable of action: without a general controlling power to call forth the strength of the union, for the purpose of repelling invasions, the country might be overrun, and conquered by foreign enemies. Without such a power to suppress insurrections, our liberties might be destroyed by intestine faction, and domestic tyranny be established.

The honorable member then told us, that there was no instance of power once transferred, being voluntarily renounced. Not to produce European examples, which may probably be done before the rising of this convention, have we not seen already, in seven states, (and probably in an eighth state,) legislatures surrendering some of the most important powers they possessed? But, sir, by this government, powers are not given to any particular set of men—they are in the hands of the people—delegated to their representatives chosen for short terms ;-to representatives at all times responsible to the people, and whose situation is perfectly similar to their own as long as this is the case, we have no danger to apprehend. When the gentleman called to our recollection the usual effects of the concession of powers, and imputed the loss of liberty generally to open tyranny, I wish he had gone something further. Upon a review of history, he would have found, that the loss of liberty very often resulted from factions and divisions; from local considerations, which eternally lead to quarrels : he would have found internal dissensions to have more frequently demolished civil liberty, than a tenacious disposition in rulers to retain any stipulated powers.

[Here Mr. Madison enumerated the various means whereby nations had lost their liberties.]

The power of raising and supporting armies is ex

claimed against, as dangerous and unnecessary. I sincerely wish, sir, that there were no necessity for vesting this power in the general government. But suppose a foreign nation should declare war against the United States, must not the general legislature have the power of defending the United States ? Ought it to be known to foreign nations, that the general government of the United States of America has no power to raise or support an army, even in the utmost danger, when attacked by external enemies? Would not their knowledge of such a circumstance stimulate them to fall upon us? If, sir, Congress be not invested with this power, any great nation, prompted by ambition or avarice, will be invited by our weakness to attack us; and such an attack, by disciplined veterans, would certainly be attended with success, when only opposed by irregular, undisciplined militia. Whoever considers the peculiar situation of this country, the multiplicity of its excellent inlets and harbors, and the uncommon facility of attacking it, however much he may regret the necessity of such a power, cannot hesitate a moment in granting it. One fact

One fact may elucidate this argument. In the course of the late war, when the weak parts of the union were exposed, and many states were placed in the most deplorable situation by the enemy's ravages, the assistance of foreign nations was thought so urgently necessary for our protection, that the relinquishment of territorial advantages was not deemed too great a sacrifice for the acquisition of one ally. This expedient was admitted with great reluctance even by those states who expected most advantages from it. The crisis, however, at length arrived, when it was judged necessary for the salvation of this country, to make certain cessions to Spain ; whether wisely, or otherwise, is not for me to say; but the fact was, that instructions were sent to our representative at the court of Spain, to empower him to enter into negotiations for that purpose. How it terminated is well known. This fact shows

the extremities to which nations will recur in cases of imminent danger, and demonstrates the necessity of making ourselves more respectable. The necessity of making dangerous cessions, and of applying to foreign aid, ought to be provided against.

The honorable member then told us, that there are heart-burnings in the states that have assented to the new constitution, and that Virginia may, if she does not come into the measure, continue in amicable confederacy with those adopting states. I wish, as seldom as possible, to contradict the assertions of gentlemen; but I can venture to affirm, without danger of being detected in an error, that there is the most conclusive evidence of the satisfaction of those states being every day augmented, and that, in that state where it was adopted only by a majority of nineteen, there is not, at this time, one fifth of the people dissatisfied. There are some reasons which induce us to conclude, that the grounds of proselytism extend every where; its principles begin to be better understood; and the inflammatory violence wherewith it was opposed by designing, illiberal and unthinking minds, begins to subside. I will not enumerate the causes from which, in my conception, the heart-burnings of a majority of its opposers have originated. Suffice it to say, that in all cases, they were founded on a misconception of the nature and tendency of the new government. Had it been candidly examined and fairly discussed, I believe, sir, that but a very inconsiderable minority of the people of the United States would at any time have opposed it. With respect to the Swiss confederacy, which the honorable gentleman has proposed for our example, as far as historical authority may be relied upon, we shall find their government quite unworthy of our imitation. I am sure if the honorable member had sufficiently considered their history and government, he never would have quoted their example in this place. He would have found, that instead of respecting the rights of mankind, their government, (at

least that of several of their cantons,) is one of the vilest aristocracies that ever was instituted. The peasants of some of their cantons are more oppressed and degraded than the subjects of any monarch of Europe; nay, almost as much so, as those of

any eastern despot. It is a novelty in politics, that from the worst of systems, the happiest consequences should arise. For it is their aristocratical rigor, and the peculiarity of their situation, that have so long supported their union. Without the closest compressment, dismemberment would unquestionably ensue, and their powerful, ambitious neighbors, would immediately avail themselves of their least jarrings. As we are not circumstanced like them, however, no conclusive precedent can be drawn from their situation. I trust, the gentleman does not carry his idea so far as to recommend a separation from the adopting states. This government may secure our happiness; this is at least, as probable as that it shall be oppressive. If eight states have, from a persuasion of its policy and utility, adopted it, shall Virginia shrink from it, without a full conviction of its danger and inutility ? I hope she will never shrink from any duty: I trust she will not determine without the most serious reflection and deliberation.

I confess to you, sir, that were uniformity of religion to be introduced by this system, it would, in my opinion, be ineligible; but I have no reason to conclude, that uniformity of government will produce that of religion. To the great honor of America, that right is perfectly free and unshackled among us. ernment has no jurisdiction over it; the least reflection will convince us, there is no danger to be feared on that ground.

But we are flattered with the probability of obtaining previous amendments. This point calls for the most serious care of the convention. If amendments are to be proposed by one state, other states have the same right, and will also propose alterations. These

The gov.

cannot but be dissimilar, and opposite in their nature. I beg leave to remark, that the governments of the different states are in many respects dissimilar in their structure; their legislative bodies are not similar; their executives are still more different. In several of the states, the first magistrate is elected by the people at large; in others, by joint ballot of the members of both branches of the legislature; and in others again, in other different manners. This dissimilarity has oce casioned a diversity of opinion on the theory of government, which will, without many reciprocal concessions, render a concurrence impossible. Although the appointment of an executive magistrate has not been thought destructive to the principles of democraсу, ,

in any of the states, yet, in the course of the debate, we find objections made to the federal executive: it is urged that the president will degenerate into a tyrant. I intended, in compliance with the call of the honorable member, to explain the reasons of proposing this constitution, and develope its principles ; but I shall postpone my remarks, till we hear the supplement which he has informed us, he means to add to what he has already offered.

Give me leave to say something of the nature of the government, and to show that it is perfectly safe and just, to vest it with the power of taxation. There are a number of opinions ; but the principal question is, whether it be a federal or a consolidated government. In order to judge properly of the question before us, we must consider it minutely, in its principal parts. I myself conceive, that it is of a mixed nature: it is, in a manner, unprecedented. We cannot find one express prototype in the experience of the world: it stands by itself. In some respects, it is a government of a federal nature : in others, it is of a consolidated nature. Even if we attend to the manner in which the constitution is investigated, ratified and made the act of the people of America, I can say, notwithstanding what the honorable gentleman has alledged, that


VOL. 1.

« AnteriorContinuar »