Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

it permits the people of Nebraska to govern themselves. The Irish hate slavery, and, doubtless, a like hate of Irish religion and other Irish social peculiarities is equally honest with Englishmen; and if slavery is to be interdicted in Nebraska, by reason that the Irish hate it, are they not justi. fying Englishmen in interdicting Irish peculiarities that Englishmen hate?

CHAPTER II.

OF THE NATURE OF OUR CONFEDERACY.

THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE AMERICAN UNION; OR, THE PRIN

CIPLES OF ITS COHESIVENESS.*

§ 1. The Elements of Disunion. Whom God hath united let no man separate, is an injunction applied to man and woman in matrimony, and is founded on the correlative organization of the wedded couple. God has created each of the parties incomplete without the other, and endued each with organs, desires, intellectual tendencies, and physical powers subsidiary to the social coalescence of the two. The same injunction is ocasionally applied fondly to the political union of the sovereign States in our national Confederacy; but we shall speak more profitably, in times like the present, if we examine less poetically the characteristics of our Federal nationality, which, instead of being a union that nature dictated, is a result of consummate art to unite those whom God separated, by making some of them powerful and others feeble ; scattering them also apart with vast intervening distances; diversifying them with great differences of climate, natural productions, social habits, industrial pursuits, and capabilities—so that even a uniform tariff of imposts, which shall be compatible with the prosperity of all the States, is constantly a result of elaborately adjusted compromises be

* Published January 1st, 1850.

tween the antagonistic interests of the respective confeder

So violently were these antagonisms brought into conflict in the year 1832, by a tariff that was deemed too favorable to protection, and consequently too aggressive to the non-manufacturing States who were only consumers, that South Carolina organized a system of resistance to its collection ; though a tariff is the most indispensable want of the General Government, and to insure its uniformity in all the States, was one of the principal motives for the formation of our Union. So the long embargo that occurred during the Presidency of Jefferson, and the long commercial non-intercourse with foreign countries, and subsequent war during the Presidency of Madison, were results of some of the most indispensable functions of every Government; but they affected our States so differently, that while some prospered thereunder, others were so injured, that a Convention was assembled at Hartford to give organization and efficiency to the dissatisfied, with a view to the coercive termination of their grievances.

The foregoing elements of disunion are inveterated by the constituent formation of our National Legislature. In the French Chambers the members are all Frenchmen ; but our members of Congress are Georgians, New-Yorkers, Carolinians, Pennsylvanians, &c., every member being identified by interest and filial attachments with the State he represents, and to whose partiality he owes his station, and ordinarily his hopes of further advancement. The practical effect of this want of homogeneity in our Legislature is seen in the hostility which existed to the purchase of Louisiana and Florida, to the acquisition of Texas, to the progress of our victories in Mexico, and in our churlish reception, by treaty, of California and New Mexico ;-the effect on each State of any increase of the nation being

alone considered by every member of Congress,—not the benefit of the increase to the Union as a whole.

The elements of disunion thus exemplified rather than enumerated, are not unexpected ingredients in our Confederacy. They manifested themselves in the Convention that formed our National Constitution, and constituted an obstacle which seemed for a long time insurmountable, and which was ultimately overcome by only numerous compromises. “To draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be preserved, is at all times difficult," said the Convention ; “and on the present occasion this difficulty," say they,

was increased by a difference among the several States as to their situation, extent, habits, and particular interests. The Constitution which we now present is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that natural deference and concession which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable. That it will meet the full and entire approbation of every State is not, perhaps, to be expected ; but each will doubtless consider, that had her interests alone been consulted, the consequences might have been particularly disagreeable or injurious to others. "By the unanimous order of the Convention,

“George Washington, President.§ 2. The most efficient compromise in forming the General Government was a limilation of its powers.

When we speak of the compromises of the Constitution, we are prone to regard only the provisions that relate to domestic slavery. These compromises proceeded from the clashing interests of the several States; but the most important compromise consisted in reconciling the clashing interests of the Federal sovereignty that was to be created, and the sovereignty that was sought to be retained by each

State. The reconcilement was eventually perfected by limiting the action of the General Government to a small number of expressed objects. The States had recently emerged from a contest with Great Britain, whose monarch had ceded his undoubted sovereignty, not to the United States as a whole, but to each State severally and by name; hence the States went into the Constitutional Convention as independent sovereigns. They severally determined to make no surrenders of power not dictated by their respective interests; and they severally retired from the Convention believing that they retained all the sovereignty they had not specifically surrendered. We may well admire the elaborate precautions that were taken in the Constitution to render this belief apparent and secure; but to make the restriction as definite as language can make it, the first Congress that assembled under the new Constitution, (March 4th, 1789,) added thereto an amendment, which was subsequently duly ratified, that, “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or the people.” The amendment grew out of a desire therefor by several States, expressed when they originally acceded to the Constitution; and for the avowed object of “ preventing misconception or abuse of power.”

§ 3. The cohesiveness of the Confederacy, and the circumscription of its powers, are measures of each other.

When France adopted recently universal suffrage as the basis of her Republic, Lamartine remarked in its favor, that universal suffrage was the strongest basis which any government could adopt, by reason that all occasions for re· volution were extinguished, when a people can at all times

legally adapt public measures to their own will. By like principles, a Confederacy in which each confederate can

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »