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this state was out of the union? They are importiny. states, and importing states will ever be competitors and rivals. Rhode Island and Connecticut have been on the point of war, on the subject of their paper money-Congress did not attempt to interpose. When Massachusetts was distressed by the late insurrection, Congress could not relieve her. Who headed that insurrection? Recollect the facility with which it was raised, and the very little ability of the ring-leader, and you cannot but deplore the extreme debility of our merely nominal government; we are too despicable to be regarded by foreign nations. The defects of the confederation consisted principally in the want of power. It had nominally powers-powers on paper, which it could not use. The power of making peace and war is expressly delegated to Congress; yet the
power of granting passports, though within that of making peace and war, was considered by Virginia as belonging to herself. Without adequate powers, vested in Congress, America cannot be respectable in the eyes of other nations. Congress, sir, ought to be fully vested with power to support the union, protect the interest of the United States, maintain their commerce, and defend them from external invasions and insults, and internal insurrections; to maintain justice, and promote harmony and public tranquillity among the states. A government, not vested with these powers, will ever be found unable to make us happy or respectable: how far the confederation is different from such a government, is known to all America. Instead of being able to cherish and protect the states, it has been unable to defend itself against the encroachments made upon it by the states: every one of them has conspired against it-Virginia as much as any. This fact could be proved by reference to actual history. I might quote the observations of an able modern author, (not because he is decorated with the name of author, but because his sentiments are drawn from human nature,) to prove the dangerous impolicy of withholding neces
sary powers from Congress; but I shall at this time, fatigue the house, as little as possible. What are the powers of Congress ? They have full authority to recommend what they please: this recommendatory power reduces them to the condition of
poor supplicants. Consider the dignified language of the members of the American Congress-May it please your high mightinesses, of Virginia, to pay your just, proportionate quota of our national debt: we humbly supplicate, that it may please you to comply with your federal duties! We implore, we beg your obedience! Is not this, sir, a fair representation of the powers of Congress? Their operations are of no validity, when counteracted by the states. Their authority to recommend is a mere mockery of government.
But the amendability of the confederation seems to have great weight on the minds of some gentlemen. To what point will the amendments go? What part makes the most important figure? What part deserves to be retained? In it, one body has the legislative, executive and judicial powers: but the want of efficient powers has prevented the dangers naturally consequent on the union of these. Is this union consistent with an augmentation of their power? Will you then amend it, by taking away one of these three powers ? Suppose, for instance, you only vested it with the legislative and executive powers, without any control on the judiciary, what must be the result? Are we not taught by reason, experience and governmental history, that tyranny is the natural and certain consequence of uniting these two powers, or the legislative and judieial powers, exclusively, in the same body? If any one denies it, I shall pass by him, as an infidel not to be reclaimed. Wherever any two of these three powers, are vested in one single body, they must, at one time or other, terminate in the destruction of liberty. In the most important cases, the assent of nine states is necessary to pass a law: this is too great a restriction, and whatever good conse
it may, in some cases, produce, yet it will prevent energy in many other cases; it will prevent energy,
which is most necessary on some emergencies, even in cases wherein the existence of the community depends on vigor and expedition. It is incompatible with that secrecy, which is the life of execution and dispatch. Did ever thirty or forty men retain a secret ? Without secrecy, no government can carry on its operations, on great occasions : this is what gives that superiority in action to the government of one. If any thing were wanting to complete this farce, it would be, that a resolution of the assembly of Virginia, and the other legislatures, should be necessary to confirm and render of any validity, the congressional acts: this would openly discover the debility of the general government to all the world. But, in fact, its imbecility is now nearly the same, as if such acts were formally requisite. An act of the assembly of Virginia, controverting a resolution of Congress, would certainly prevail. I therefore conclude, that the confederation is too defective to deserve correction. Let us take farewell of it, with reverential respect, as an old benefactor. It is gone, whether this house says so, or not. It is gone, sir, by its own weakness.
I am afraid I have tired the patience of this house; but I trust you will pardon me, as I was urged by the importunity of the gentleman, in calling for the reasons of laying the ground work of this plan. It is objected by the honorable gentleman over the way, (Mr. George Mason,) that a republican government is impracticable in an extensive territory, and the extent of the United States is urged, as a reason, for the rejection of this constitution. Let us consider the definition of a republican government, as laid down by a man who is highly esteemed. Montesquieu, so celebrated among politicians, says, “ that a republican government is that, in which the body, or only a part of the people, is possessed of the supreme power; a monarchical, that in which a single person governs,
by fixed and established laws; a despotic government, that in which a single person, without law, and without rule, directs every thing, by his own will and caprice. This author has not distinguished a republican government from a monarchy, by the extent of its boundaries, but by the nature of its principles. He, in another place, contradistinguishes it, as a government of laws, in opposition to others, which he denominates a government of men. The empire, or government of laws, according to that phrase, is that, in which the laws are made with the free will of the people; hence then, if laws be made by the assent of the people, the government may be deemed free. When laws are made with integrity, and executed with wisdom, the question is, whether a great extent of country will tend to abridge the liberty of the people. If defensive force be necessary, in proportion to the extent of country, I conceive that, in a judiciously constructed government, be the country ever so extensive, its inhabitants will be proportionably numerous, and able to defend it. Extent of country, in my conception, ought to be no bar to the adoption of a good government. No extent on earth seems to me too great, provided the laws be wisely made and executed. The principles of representation and responsibility, may pervade a large, as well as a small territory: and tyranny is as easily introduced into a small, as into a large district. If it be answered, that some of the most illustrious and distinguished authors, are of a contrary opinion, I reply, that authority has no weight with me, till I am convinced—that not the dignity of names, but the force of reasoning, gains my assent.
I intended to have shown the nature of the powers which ought to have been given to the general government, and the reason of investing it with the power of taxation, but this would require more time than my strength, or the patience of the committee, would now admit of. I shall conclude with a few observations, which come from my heart. I have labored for
the continuance of the union—the rock of our salvation. I believe, that as sure as there is a God in Heaven, our safety, our political happiness and existence, depend on the union of the states; and, that without this union, the people of this and the other states, will undergo the unspeakable calamities, which discord, faction, turbulence, war and bloodshed, have produced in other countries. The American spirit ought to be mixed with American pride-pride to see the union magnificently triumph. Let that glorious pride, which once defied the British thunder, reanimate you again. Let it not be recorded of Americans, that, after having performed the most gallant exploits, after having overcome the most astonishing difficulties, and after having gained the admiration of the world by their incomparable valor and policy, they lost their acquired reputation, their national consequence and happiness, by their own indiscretion. Let no future historian inform posterity, that they wanted wisdom and virtue, to concur in any regular, efficient government. Should any writer, doomed to so disagreeable a task, feel the indignation of an honest historian, he would reprehend and recriminate our folly, with equal severity and justice. Catch the present moment, seize it with avidity and eagerness, for it may be lost, never to be regained. If the union be now lost, I fear it will remain so forever. I believe gentlemen are sinc ere in their opposition, and actuated by pure motives: but when I maturely weigh the advantages of theunion, and dreadful consequences of its dissolution; when I see safety on my right, and destruction on my left; when I behold respectability and happiness acquired by the one, but annihilated by the other, I cannot hesitate to decide in favor of the former.XI hope my weakness, from speaking so long, will apologize for my leaving this subject in so mutilated a condition. If a further explanation be desired, I shall take the liberty to enter into it more fully another time.