« AnteriorContinuar »
that the course of things was tending to
anarchy and confusion,” and that so many sacrifices might prove to have been made in vain.* “ The domestic debt sunk down to about one-tenth of its nominal value.”+ Serious dissensions arose among the States themselves, “ and were fostered to a high degree, so as to threaten at once the peace and safety of the Union.”
* § 256, Marshall's “Life of Washington,” vol. v. p. 47. + $ 257.
I § 260,
It was, therefore, not until after thirteen
years of trial and of struggle, of tentative efforts in the new career of self-government, and failures in the difficult task of adjusting conflicting powers and reconciling adverse interests, that on the 17th of September, 1787, the Convention, to which the whole subject had been referred, finally adopted the plan of the present Constitution. This was again referred by Congress to a “convention of delegates, chosen in each State by the people thereof;” and the proposed plan having been ratified by eleven out of the thirteen States, Congress appointed the 4th of March, 1789, “ for the first meeting under the new Constitution.” On the 6th of April Washington was elected
president, 66 and on the 30th he was sworn into office, and the Government went into full operation in all its departments.”*
But the Constitution had not come into existence without encountering many difficulties and much violent opposition. It was carried in six out of the thirteen States by only small majorities, and in three out of those six, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, “by little more than a preponderating vote.”+ One party throughout the Union was in favour of a constitution embodying the powers proposed, because they were anxious for the “exact observance of public and private engagements;" another strong and active party was violently hostile to it, because disposed to evade both. It was stigmatised as unequal, unjust, and oppressive; by some of the large States from fear of losing their importance; by some of the smaller from apprehension of being over
* North Carolina adopted the Constitution in November, 1789, and Rhode Island in May, 1790. “Thus all the thirteen original States became parties to the new Government,” 278. + $ 281.
I § 286.
borne. It was, however, finally acquiesced in as " a system of compromise and conciliation,” in which the strictness of abstract theory was made to yield to a just consideration for particular interests and even prejudices, and some “inequality of benefit” was submitted to “ for the common good.”*
It has been a matter of much discussion by the statesmen and public writers of the various parties in the United States, whether the Constitution is to be considered as a treaty between independent States, or a federal, or a social compact, or both ? And the inclination of the public mind on this question has been, from time to time, a subject of great importance, in reference to the conflicting interests and opinions of the North and the South, on vital objects of public policy. If, as has been argued, it is a treaty or a compact only, then any State might withdraw from the confederation at pleasure and dissolve the connection ; and thus the Government of the Union would
be reduced to “a mere confederation during pleasure.” *
The determination of this point involves the whole question of the foundation of civil government.
In arguing it, Mr. Justice Story adopts the limitations placed upon the doctrines of Locke by Paley and Burke, and by able writers also of his own country.
“ If,” he argues, “ the doctrine of Locke, that all civil government is founded upon consent, be in a general sense true, it is nevertheless to be taken with many limitations and qualifications,” because a State, however organised, “ embraces many persons in it who have never assented to its form of government; and many": who are deemed incapable of such assent, and yet who are held bound by its fundamental institutions and laws. Infants, minors, married women, persons insane, and many others, are deemed subjects of a country, and bound by its laws, although they have never assented