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27. The civil and municipal institutions derived from Great Britain were in general preserved by the several States, so far as they were compatible with the abolition of regal authority and Colonial dependence.
28. Amongst these institutions was the Common Law of England, which, before the American Revolution, had been generally established as the municipal code of the British Provinces, so far as it was applicable to their situation and circumstances, and the benefit of it was claimed by the first general Congress as a branch of those " indubitable rights and liberties" to which the respective Colonies were entitled.
29. By this system of Law, the absolute and inalienable rights of the Colonists as individuals, were recognized and secured to them; their relative rights, or political and civil privileges as members of society, regulated and maintained; and offences against public justice investigated and punished.
30. The most essential of these privileges were those natural rights which are common to all mankind, and which, in virtue of certain fundamental laws of England, were held to be the peculiar birthright and inheritance of every British subject.
31. They consist either of that portion of natural liberty which is not required by the Laws of society to be surrendered for the public benefit ; or, of those civil privileges which society engages to provide in lieu of them.
32. The former comprehend 1. The right of personal security ; which con
sists in the uninterrupted legal enjoyment of life, health, and reputation,
2. The right of personal liberty; which includes
the power of removing the person to whatsoever place inclination may direct without
restraint, unless by due course of law. And, 3. The right of private property; or the free use
and enjoyment of a man's own acquisitions, without control or diminution, except by the Laws of the land.
33. The subordinate privileges of a similar character, to which the Colonists were entitled in lieu of those natural rights surrendered for the general benefit, were, 1. The constititution, powers, and privileges of
their provincial assemblies, which were intended to preserve the Legislative power exercised over them in due health and vigour, and to prevent the enactment of Laws
destructive to general liberty. 2. The limitation of the King's prerogative by
certain and notorious bounds; which was designed as a guard upon the Executive power by retaining it within the rules esta
blished by fundamental Laws. 3. The right of applying to the Courts of jus
tice for the redress of injuries, and of having justice administered impartially and speedily; the most valuable incidents to which were the right of trial by jury; and the benefit of the writ of Habeas Corpus, as the most effectual security of the right of
personal liberty. 4. The right of petitioning the King, or either
branch of the Legislature, for the redress of
grievances; and, 5. The right of every individual to keep arms
for his defence, suitable to his condition and degree ; which was the public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation.
34. Upon the establishment of independent Governments, the several States provided for the secure and permanent enjoyment by their respective citizens of their natural rights, and of the civil privileges designed for their maintenance, or substituted as their equivalents.
35. As additional safeguards, they secured to every individual freedom of speech, and the liberty of the press, uncontrolled by any but proper nioral restraints.
36. Some of the States expressly recognized, and others tacitly adopted, the English Common Law as further modified by the change of Government; but they universally abolished that feature of the system, which is essentially political,--the right of primogeniture.
37. The same natural, political, and civil rights and privileges which had been declared to be the inalienable inheritance of the People as citizens of the respective States, were, on their becoming parties to the federal compact, expressly asserted to belong to them as citizens of the Union.
38. The Common Law, in its modified form, constitutes, therefore, the basis of the laws of all the original members of the Union ; and the Constitution of the United States, as well as the Constitutions and Laws of the several States, were made in reference to the pre-existing validity of that system, both under the Colonial and State Governments,
39. Although the existence of the Common Law
is presupposed by the Constitution of the United States, and referred to for the construction of its powers, yet it seems, that under the Federal Government, the Common Law, considered as a source of jurisdiction, never was in force ; but, considered as the means or instrument of exercising jurisdiction, that system of municipal jurisprudence does exist in full validity.
40. The Constitution, founded on this basis and on these principles, and formed from these materials, was “ ordained and established” by “the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to them and their posterity.”
41. By the terms of the compact, the States, as members of the Union, are no longer regarded in their sovereign and corporate capacities, as they surrendered such portions of their sovereignties as were requisite for the purposes of National Government; retaining, however, their previous organization and the exclusive control of their local concerns.
42. The former compact between the States, was annulled; and the People of the several States, by their ratification and adoption, in their respective con. ventions, of the new Constitution proposed to them by the General Convention who framed that instrument,-united with each other in establishing a permanent system of National Government, operating directly upon individuals, for the attainment of specific objects, for which neither the States separately, nor the former confederation between them, had proved competent.