Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ousies to be vanquished, and by the force of reason to maintain harmony between all the citizens.

Some good men could not assent to the adoption of the Constitution because of the strength of the union thereby formed. *"So destructive," said Luther Martin, “do I consider the Constitution to the happiness of my country, I would cheerfully sacrifice that share of property with which Heaven has blessed a life of industry, I would reduce myself to indigence and poverty, and those who are dearer to me than my own existence I would intrust to the care and protection of that Providence who hath so kindly protected myself—if, on those terms only, I could procure my country to reject those chains which are forged for it.” Mason exerted all the powers of his great mind and Patrick Henry his matchless eloquence to defeat the Constitution in Virginia, but in vain.

What are some of the compromises in the Constitution which procured its adoption ?

They were made between the small and the large States, those of the South and those of the North, between men who saw nothing but tyranny and despotism in a strong national government, and men who saw anarchy, confusion, and perpetual war in a mere Federal Republic, and who pointed to the Confederation as an example of a Federal system which was falling to pieces by its own weight.

The first great compromise was in the construction of the Senate.

The House of Representatives is composed of members, chosen every second year by the people of the States, the more populous States sending more members—while in the Senate the States are equally represented. Under the articles of Confederation, the single Congressional body voted by States ; thus the smallest State had as much authority as the largest. In the Federal Convention, the small States asked to have their power continued, but the larger States objected to the rule of a minority. The debate on the construction of the Senate and manner of voting therein was violent, and threatened the dissolution of the Convention. The Senate was finally organized to represent the equal political capacity of the States, the House representing the populace. The choice of the Senators was given to the legislatures of the States whose embassadors they are.

* Elliott's Debates, i., p. 389.

The Northern States differed from the Southern chiefly concerning the regulations about exports, navigation and slavery.

The South was an agricultural region, its wealth consisted in plantations and fruitful fields, producing cotton, sugar, rice, and tobacco, which were ported and exchanged for manufactures of other countries. The North combined agriculture, commerce and manufactures. To tax exports was to add to the cost of Southern products while the North, exporting little, would not feel the burden.

Both sections, importing goods, submitted to a duty on imports, yet the North in this had an advantage, since imposts helped the home manufacturer by raising the price of the article imported. A uniform duty upon articles used only in the South, must be all

* Elliott's Debates, vol. v.

ex

paid by the South, and a duty on Northern imports, by the North. This was a source of strife in the Convention, but the South yielded mainly on account of concessions to slavery.

The difficulty of laying impartial imposts has always been felt, and in 1832 the dispute on this subject threatened the dissolution of the Union. Interest supplied the desire, and the belief in the existence of a mere Federal compact from which a State might withdraw, prompted South Carolina to attempt to nullify a fiscal law of Congress. General Jackson was not the man to fail to execute the laws and force intimidated Rebellion. The compromise of Clay pacified the discordant elements of 1832, and the taxing powers of Congress have since been peaceably exercised.

The need of authority to control foreign commerce was the greatest impulse to the formation of a national union, yet the South believed free trade to be for its interest and yielded the power to regulate commerce in exchange for protection to slavery and the slave trade. The iniportation of slaves was not to be prohibited before 1808, and fugitives from labor were to be returned. To the qualified voters of the slave States were added three-fifths of the slaves, who, although property, increased the number of Representatives from the South. The amount of direct taxes was increased for the South by this increase of representation, but direct taxes, that is capitation or land taxes, have seldom been imposed.

The Constitution finally having been adopted, went into full operation in all its departments on April 30,

[ocr errors]

In 1802,

1789. Soon twelve amendments were added to it, and the Judiciary having, by act of Congress, been organized, was called upon to construe the powers vested in the government. Two methods of construction have been advocated.

The friends of strict construction and State rights held the union to be a mere compact of sovereign States which could resume at will the functions which they have delegated to the Federal government.

The friends of liberal construction have maintained that the union of the States is an indissoluble nation : -sovereign in all those functions which the people have delegated to it.

For seventy years the dispute went on. At times the union was on the verge of dissolution. Fisher Ames stood up in the House of Representatives to speak on the Jay treaty. He was a Federalist firm and true. He had seen the nation struggle through years of imbecility and now he sees it trembling to apparent dissolution on account of difference of opinion about a foreign treaty. With trembling voice and broken health, the feeble patriot closed his remarks with these words: “If the vote should pass refusing to make laws necessary to carry into effect the treaty, and a spirit should rise, as it will, with the public disorders, to make "confusion worse confounded,' even I, slender and almost broken as my hold upon life is, may outlive the government and Constitution of my country.'

New England was jealous of the preponderating influence of the West and South, and believed the

* F. Ames' Works.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

purchase of Louisiana to be unconstitutional and the war of 1812 a mere party measure of the Democrats. In the Hartford Convention of 1814, the war measures of the government were denounced as destructive of the rights and interests of the people, and New England was united in demanding more restrictions upon the general government. When the question came up in Congress upon the admission of Louisiana into the Union, Mr. Josiah Quincy, of Massachusetts, gave expression to the sentiments of more than himself when he said: It is my deliberate opinion that if this bill passes, the bonds of the union are virtually dissolved ; that the States which compose it are free from their moral obligations, and that, as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some, definitely to prepare for separation, amicably if they can, violently if they must.” Here was secession from Massachusetts.

There is no doubt, however, that finally the war of 1812 united the nation more firmly by the vindication of its independence. In 1832, Calhoun and his friends felt that it was for the interest of the South not to remain in the Union, but the compromise measures of Clay retarded the “irrepressible conflict” between the North and the South.

The institution of slavery was, from the foundation of the government, an object of jealous care to the South, but a subject for lamentation, and often tirade and abuse by the people of the North.

The South asked favors for slavery in the Constitution and received them, demanded national laws for its protection and received them, finally secession was

« AnteriorContinuar »