Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

always a definite act or transaction, an attempt to formulate the organic law. It is always a document, lex scripta.

37. Unwritten Constitutions.—These constitutions grow up gradually, springing out of the life of the state. They consist of customs, precedents, traditions, grants of rights by the executive authority, rules of proceeding by the legislature, and decisions by the courts of law. Such constitutions are never found in a formal document, and so are called unwritten, lex non scripta. They are sometimes called prescriptive, historical, and traditionary constitutions. The most celebrated constitution of this kind is that of England. According to this constitution, sovereignty resides, pro forma, in Parliament, which enacts such laws as it pleases, and may at any time change the constitution itself, even to the extent of abolishing the Crown. This constitution consists of documents and precedents which are found in books of law and history.

38. Advantages of the Two kinds of Constitutions.-Each kind has its own points of advantage and disadvantage. Unwritten constitutions are more elastic, more rapidly changed, and they more nearly represent the Constitution of the people. Written constitutious are more definite, are less open to dispute, are more readily understood and followed. They are bulwarks against faction and violence, and against abuses of power. They are monuments from which we may measure the advance or recession of the body politic. An unwritten constitution of necessity lodges sovereignty in the government, or some branch of it, as the English Constitution does in Parliament; while a written constitution always assumes that there is a power above the goverument—the People, or the Nation—that makes and changes the constitution at will. The question, which is better? must be answered with reference to the history and political character of the people directly interested in a particular case.

VII. MODES OF IMPROVING GOVERNMENT.

39. Evolution.-Some governments are more and some less imperfect, but all are capable of improvement. The common mode of improving them is through public opinion. Interested men agitače reforms in newspapers, books, pamphlets, sermons, speeches, and private conversation, until, at last, public sentiment declares itself satisfied with the existing state of affairs or compels a change. This is the civilized way of reforming government, and in free countries these processes are all the time going on. It is a slow but, under favorable circumstances, an effectual, mode of accomplishing the end.

40. Revolution.—The Declaration of Independence describes another mode of effecting political changes. “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends (viz., the securing of rights] it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to insti. tute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” This is called the right of revolution. It is an extreme and violent measure even when peaceful, and still more so when it is effected by war and bloodshed. Accordingly the Declaration says: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce thein [the people] under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such goverument, and to provide new safeguards for their future security.”

PART I.

THE MAKING OF THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT.

CHAPTER I.

THE THIRTEEN ENGLISH COLONIES PLANTED.

REFERENCES. 1. GENERAL HISTORIES. – Bancroft, History of the U. S. (author's final revision), Part I.; Hildreth, History of the U. S., Vol. I.; Winsor, Narrative and Critical History of America, Vol. III.; Johnston, The United States. See also the same author's articles on the thirteen Colonies, by names, in Lalor's Cyclopædia of Political Science, etc.

II. SPECIAL HISTORIES.-Doyle, The English Colonies in America, I., The Puritan Colonies, II., Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas; Lodge, A Short History of the English Colonies in America ; Fiske, The Beginnings of New England; Hinsdale, The Old Northwest, Chaps., VI., VII., and How to Study and Teach History, Chaps. XV.-XVII., Thwaites, The Colonies (Epochs of American History). See also the volumes on Connecticut, New York, Maryland, and Virginia in the American Commonwealths series.

III. ON RIGHT OF DISCOVERY.-Phillimore, Commentaries upon International Law, Part III., Chap. XII.; Wheaton, Elements of International Law, Part II., Chap. IV.; Wharton, Digest of the Inter. national Law of the U. S., Chap. I., Sec. 2.

IV. COLONIAL CHARTERS AND PATENTS.—These are nearly all given by Poore, Federal and State Constitutions, and Colonial Charters, etc., and several of the principal ones by Preston, Documents Illustrative of American History.

41. The Right of Discovery.--Columbus and his successors made known to Europe the Continent of North

1 Titles of books once given will not ordinarily be repeated in these bibliographies, save when necessary to avoid confusion. A bibliographical index will be found at the close of the work.

America. These vast regions, Spain, England, and France divided among themselves. The Right of Discovery, as the rule was called by which this division was made, embraced, when fully developed, these ideas : (1) The Christian nation that discovers a heathen land owns it to the exclusion of all other Christian nations; (2) This nation, to complete its title, must, within a reasonable time, occupy and use this land ; (3) The native inhabitants are only the occupants of the land and not its owners. Lands that a Christian power thus appropriated were vested in the king as its representative. This, in the case of England, it is important to remember; for the American Revolution hinged upon the fact.

42. First Division of North America.- In the years 1512-1540 Spanish navigators discovered the Southern parts of the United States bordering on the Gulf of Mexico, including Florida. In 1497-98 John Cabot, a Venetian adventurer, who had made his home some time before at Bristol, England, sailing with a commission given him by Henry VII. of that country, first discovered the continent, and sailed along its eastern shore from a high latitude to Chesapeake Bay. In 1534, 1535, and 1540, Jacques Cartier, a French navigator, sailing under the flag of the King of France, discovered the Gulf and River St. Lawrence and the valley that these waters drain. These discoveries gave Spain the Southern, England the Central, and France the Northern parts of North America, and at the same time left many disputes as to claims and boundary lines to be afterwards settled by negotiation and the sword. The three powers proceeded at their own time and in their own way to found colonies in their new dominions.

43. London and Plymouth Companies. - England was slow to begin colonization, and even then her first efforts proved disastrous failures. But in 1606, King James I., by one charter, created the London and Plymouth Companies, and divided his American dominions between them. To the London Company, which had its headquarters in London, he gave the zone between 34° and 41° north latitude, and to the Plymonth Company, having its seat in Plymouth, the zone between 38o and 45°. Within their respective limits, the Companies were authorized to establish colonies of the King's subjects, care being taken to prevent disputes within the three-degree strip covered by both grants, by prohibiting either one to make a settlement within one hundred miles of one previously made by the other. Each colony was to be subject to the King, and to be governed by a local council of its Company in England, at the King's pleasure. It was expected in 1606 that there would be but two colonies, or at the most but two groups of colonies, but this expectation failed, and in the end thirteen Colonies, divided into three groups, appeared. The two Companies were short lived, and yet they played important parts in American history. Other companies appeared on the scene, but none as prominently as these two original ones. 44.

Colonies Planted by Companies. These were Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Georgia. These companies were mercantile corporations clothed with political powers. Such companies played a great part in the days when the maritime nations of Europe were establishing themselves in America and in the other countries discovered by the navigators of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The stockholders were merchants, politicians, adventurers, courtiers, patriots, reformers, and philanthropists—two or more of these characters often appearing in the same man.

Their motives are sufficiently suggested by the names applied to them. Few of the stockholders became colonists. The Massachusetts Bay Company was the only one that was merged in the Colony that it planted.

45. Colonies Planted by Proprietors.--This list contains New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and the two Carolinas. New York and New Jersey, too, although planted by a Dutch Company, were for a time following

« AnteriorContinuar »