網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

BEFORE THE REVOLUTION THE COLONIES WERE A PEOPLE.

countrymen, and the mildest and most beneficent government on the face of the earth!

BEFORE THE REVOLUTION THE COLONIES WERE A PEOPLE. But we are told all this is done in virtue of the Sovereignty of the States; as if, because a State is Sovereign, its people were incompetent to establish a government for themselves and their posterity. Certainly the States are clothed with Sovereignty for local purposes; but it is doubtful whether they ever possessed it in any other sense; and if they had, it is certain that they ceded it to the General Government, in adopting the Constitution. Before their independence of England was asserted, they constituted a provincial people, (Burke calls it “a glorious Empire,") subject to the British crown, organized for certain purposes under separate colonial charters, but, on some great occasions of political interest and public safety, acting as one. Thus they acted when, on the approach of the great Seven Years' War, which exerted such an important influence on the fate of British America, they sent their delegates to Albany to concert a plan of union. In the discussions of that plan which was reported by Franklin, the citizens of the colonies were evidently considered as a People. When the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765 roused the spirit of resistance throughout America, the Unity of her People assumed a still more practical form. “Union,” says one of our great American historians,* “ was the hope of Otis. Union that should knit and work into the very blood and bones of the original system every region as fast as settled.'” In this hope he argued against writs of assistance, and in this hope he brought about the call of the Convention at New York in 1765. At that Convention, the noble South Carolinian Christopher Gadsden, with prophetic foreboding of the disintegrating heresies of the present day, cautioned his associates against too great dependence on their colonial charters. “I wish,” said he, “ that the charters may not ensnare

us at last, by drawing different Colonies to act differently in this great cause. | Whenever that is the case all is over with the whole. There ought to be no New | England man, no New Yorker, known on the Continent, but all of us Americans.+ . While the patriots in America counselled, and wrote, and spoke as a people, they were recognized as such in England. “Believe me,” cried Colonel Barré in the House of Commons, “ I this day told you so, the same spirit of Freedom which actuated that people at first will accompany them still. The people, I believe, are as truly loyal as any subjects the king has, but a People jealous of their liberties, and who will vindicate them, should they be violated.”

When ten years later the great struggle long foreboded came on, it was felt, on both sides of the Atlantic, to be an attempt to reduce a free People beyond the sea to unconditional dependence on a parliament in which they were not represented. “What foundation have we,” was the language of Chatham on the 27th Jan. 1775, “ for our claims over America ? What is our right to persist in such cruel and vindíctive measures against that loyal, respectable People? How have this respectable people behaved under all their grievances ? Repeal, therefore, I say. But bare repeal will not satisfy this enlightened and spirited People.Lord Camden, in the same debate, exclaimed, “ You have no right to tax America ; the natural rights of man, and the immutable laws of Nature, are with that people.Burke,

• Barcroft's History of the United States, vol. v., p. 292.

Ibid., p. 335.

two months later, made his great speech for conciliation with America. “I do not know," he exclaimed," the method of drawing up an indictment against a WHOLE PEOPLE.” In a letter written two years after the commencement of the war, he traces the growth of the colonies from their feeble beginnings to the magnitude which they had attained when the revolution broke out, and in which his glowing imagination saw future grandeur and power beyond the reality. “At the first designation of these colonial assemblies,” says he, “they were probably not intended for any thing more (nor perhaps did they think themselves much higher) than the municipal corporations within this island, to which some at present love to compare them. But nothing in progression can rest on its original plan; we may as well think of rocking a grown man in the cradle of an infant. Therefore, as the Colonies prospered and increased to A NUMEROUS AND MIGHTY PEOPLE, spreading over a very great tract of the globe, it was natural that they should attribute to assemblies so respectable in the formed Constitution, some part of the dignity of the great nations which they represented."

The meeting of the first Continental Congress of 1774 was the spontaneous impulse of the People. All their resolves and addresses proceed on the assumption that they represented a People. Their first appeal to the Royal authority was their letter to General Gage, remonstrating against the fortifications of Boston. “ We entreat your Excellency to consider," they say," what a tendency this con- . duct must have to irritate and force a free People, hitherto well disposed to peaceable measures, into hostilities.” Their final act, at the close of the Session, their address to the King, one of the most eloquent and pathetic of State papers, appeals to him in the name of all your Majesty's faithful People in America."

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE RECOGNIZES A PEOPLE. But this all-important principle in our political system is placed beyond doubt, by an authority which makes all further argument or illustration superfluous. That the citizens of the British Colonies, however divided for local purposes into different governments, when they ceased to be subject to the English crown, became ipso facto one People for all the high concerns of national existence, is a fact embodied in the Declaration of Independence itself. That august Manifesto, the Magna Charta, which introduced us into the family of nations, was issued to the world, so its first sentence sets forth—because " a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires” such solemn announcement of motives and causes to be made," when in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another.” Mr. Jefferson Davis, in his message of the 29th of April, deems it important to remark, that, by the treaty of peace with Great Britain, “ the several States were each by name recognized to be independent.” It would be more accurate to say that the United States each by name were so recognized. Such enumeration was necessary, in order to fix beyond doubt, which of the Anglo-American colonies, twenty-five or six in number, were included in the recognition.* But it is surely a far more significant circumstance, that the separate States are not named in the Declaration

* Burke's account of "the English settlements in America,” begins with Jamaica, and proceeds through the West India Islands. There were also English settlements on the Continent, Canada--and Nova Scotia, -which it was necessary to esclude from the Treaty, by an enumeration of the included Colonies.

THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION.

13

of Independence, that they are called only by the collective designation of the United States of America; that the manifesto is issued “in the name and by the authority of the good people” of the Colonies, and that they are characterized in the first sentence as “ One People."

Let it not be thought that these are the latitudinarian doctrines of modern times, or of a section of the country predisposed to a loose construction of laws and Constitutions. Listen, I pray you, to the noble words of a Southern revolutionary patriot and statesman :

“ The separate independence and individual sovereignty of the several States were never thought of by the enlightened band of patriots who framed the Declaration of Independence. The several States are not even mentioned by name in any part of it, as if it was intended to impress this maxim on America, that our Freedom and Independence arose from our Union, and that without it we could neither be free nor independent. Let us then consider all attempts to weaken this Union, by maintaining that each State is separately and individually independent, as a species of political heresy, which can never benefit us, and may bring on us the most serious distresses.” * These are the solemn and prophetic words of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney; the patriot, the soldier, the statesman; the trusted friend of Washington, repeatedly called by him to the highest offices of the Government; the one name that stands highest and brightest, on the list of the great men of South Carolina.t

THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION. Not only was the Declaration of Independence made in the name of the ono People of the United States, but the war by which it was sustained was carried on by their authority. A very grave historical error, in this respect, is often committed by the politicians of the Secession School. Mr. Davis, in his message of the 29th of April, having called the old Confederation “ a close alliance," says: “under this contract of alliance the war of the revolution was successfully waged, and resulted in the treaty of peace with Great Britain of 1783, by the terms of which the several States were each by name recognized to be independent." I have already given the reason for this enumeration, but the main fact alleged in the passage is entirely without foundation. The Articles of Confederation were first signed by the delegates from eight of the States, on the 9th of July, 1778, more than three years after the commencement of the war, long after the capitulation of Burgoyne, the alliance with France, and the reception of a French Minister. The ratification of the other States was given at intervals the following years, the last not till 1781, seven months only before the virtual close of the war, by the surrender of Cornwallis. Then, and not till then, was “ the Contract of Alliance" consummated. Most true it is, as Mr. Davis bids us remark, that, by these Articles of Confederation the States retained “ each its sovereignty, freedom, and independence.” It is not less true, that their selfish struggle to exercise and enforce their assumed rights as separate sovereignties was the source of the greatest difficulties and dangers of the Revolution, and risked its success; not less true, that most of the great powers of a sovereign State were nominally conferred even by these

* Elliott's Debates, vol. iv., p. 301.

+ See an admirable sketch of his character in Trescot's Diplomatic History of the Administrations of Wach. ington and Adams, pp. 169-171.

Articlate from the Uniotes, it recognized was, and distinctly

volution, his great unable than

articles on the Congress, and that that body was regarded and spoken of by Wash. ington himself as the “SOVEREIGN OF THE UNION.” *

But feeble as the old Confederation was, and distinctly as it recognized the sovereignty of the States, it recognized in them no right to withdraw at their pleasure from the Union. On the contrary, it was specially provided that “the Articles of Confederation should be inviolably preserved by every State," and that " the Union should be perpetual.” It is true that in a few years, from the inherent weakness of the central power, and from the want of means to enforce its authority on the individual citizen, it fell to pieces. It sickened and died from the poison of what General Pinckney aptly called “ the heresy of State Sovereignty," and in its place a Constitution was ordained and established “ in order to form a more perfect Union ; " a Union more binding on its members than this “contract of alliance," which yet was to be “inviolably observed by every State;" more durable than the old Union, which yet was declared to be a perpetual.” This great and beneficent change was a Revolution-happily a peaceful revolution, the most important change probably ever brought about in a government, without bloodshed. The new government was unanimously adopted by all the members of the old Confederation, by some more promptly than by others, but by all within the space of four years.

THE STATES MIGHT BE COERCED UNDER THE CONFEDERATION. Much has been said against coercion, that is, the employment of force to compel obedience to the laws of the United States, when they are resisted under the assumed authority of a State; but even the old Confederation, with all its weakness, in the opinion of the most eminent contemporary statesmen possessed this power. Great stress is laid by politicians of the Secession School on the fact, that in a project for amending the articles of Confederation brought forward by Judge Paterson in the Federal Convention, it was proposed to clothe the Government with this power and the proposal was not adopted. This is a very inaccurate statement of the facts of the case. The proposal formed part of a project which was rejected in toto. The reason why this power of State coercion was not granted eo nomine, in the new Constitution, is that it was wholly superfluous and inconsistent with the fundamental principle of the Government. Within the sphere of its delegated powers, the General Government deals with the individual citizen. If its power is resisted, the person or persons resisting it do so at their peril and are amenable to the law. They can derive no immunity from State Legislatures or State Conventions, because the Constitution and laws of the United States are the Supreme Law of the Land. If the resistance assumes an organized forın, on the part of numbers too great to be restrained by the ordinary powers of the law, it is then an insurrection, which the General Government is expressly authorized to suppress. Did any one imagine in 1793, when General Washington called out 15,000 men to suppress the insurrection in the Western counties of Pennsylvania, that if the insurgents had happened to have the control of a majority of the Legislature, and had thus been able to clothe their rebellion with a pretended form of law, that he would have been obliged to disband his troops, and return himself baffled and discomfited to Mount Vernon? If John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry, instead of being the

* Sparks' Washington, vol. 1s., pp. 12, 23, 29.

STATE SOVEREIGNTY DOES NOT AUTHORIZE SECESSION.

15

project of one misguided individual and a dozen and a half deluded followers, had been the organized movement of the States of Ohio and Pennsylvania, do the Seceders hold that the United States would have had no right to protect Virginia, or punish the individuals concerned in her invasion ? Do the seceding States really mean, after all, to deny, that if a State law is passed to prevent the rendition of a fugitive slave, the General Government has any right to employ force to effect his surrender ?

But, as I have said, even the old Confederation, with all its weakness, was held by the ablest contemporary statesmen, and that of the State rights school, to possess the power of enforcing its requisitions against a delinquent State. Mr. Jefferson, in a letter to Mr. Adams of the 11th of July, 1786, on the subject of providing a naval force of 150 guns to chastise the Barbary Powers, urges, as an additional reason for such a step, that it would arm“ the Federal head with the safest of all the instruments of coercion, over its delinquent members, and prevent it from using what would be less safe,” viz. : a land force. Writing on the same subject to Mr. Monroe a month later, (11 Aug. 1786.) he answers the objection of expense thus : “ It will be said, “There is no money in the Treasury.' There never will be money in the Treasury till the Confederacy shows its teeth. The States must see the rod, perhaps it must be felt by some of them. Every rational citizen must wish to see an effective instrument of coercion, and should fear to see it on any other element than the water. A naval force can never endanger our liberties nor occasion bloodshed; a land force would do both.” In the following year, and when the Confederation was at its last gasp, Mr. Jefferson was still of the opinion that it possessed the power of coercing the States, and that it was expedient to exercise it. In a letter to Col. Carrington of the 4th of April, 1787, he says: “It has been so often said as to be generally believed, that Congress have no power by the Confederation to enforce any thing, for instance, contributions of money. It was not necessary to give them that power expressly, they have it by the law of nature. When two parties make a compact, there results to each the power of compelling the other to execute it. Compulsion was never so easy as in our case, when a single frigate would soon levy on the commerce of a single State the deficiency of its contributions.”

Such was Mr. Jefferson's opinion of the powers of Congress, under the “old contract of alliance." Will any reasonable man maintain that under a constitution of government there can be less power to enforce the laws ?

STATE SOVEREIGNTY DOES NOT AUTHORIZE SECESSION. But the cause of secession gains nothing by magnifying the doctrine of the Sovereignty of the States or calling the Constitution a compact between them. Calling it a compact does not change a word of its text, and no theory of what is implied in the word “ Sovereignty” is of any weight, in opposition to the actual provisions of the instrument itself. Sovereignty is a word of very various signification. It is one thing in China, another in Turkey, another in Russia, another in France, another in England, another in Switzerland, another in San Marino, another in the individual American States, and it is something different from all in the United States. To maintain that, because the State of Virginia, for instance, was in some sense or other a sovereign State, when her people adopted the Federal Constitution, (which in terms was ordained and established not only for the people of that

« 上一頁繼續 »