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promulgated by the Congress of the Confederation in which the States alone were represented, and in which all the States were perfectly equal. The “Articles of Confederation” says: “In determining questions in the United States, in Congress assembled,' each State shall have one
It was thus as equals that the States voted in determining to promulgate the new Constitution; and it was in consequence of that action of the States, that the Constitution was promulgated and laid before the people of the several States for their adoption. Here, again, in direct opposition to the unblushing assertion of Mr. Motley, the Constitution was promulgated by the States in Congress assembled. If Mr. Motley had only deigned to glance at the history of the transaction about which he speaks so confidently, he could not have failed to perceive, that the Constitution was first submitted, by the Convention of 1787, “to the United States in Congress assembled;"+ and that it was afterwards, in conformity with the opinion of the Convention, promulgated by the States “in Congress assembled.” But Mr. Motley's theory of the Constitution takes leave of history; and has little to do with facts, except to contradict them.
"The Constitution was not ratified by the States," says Motley. In the Resolutions just quoted, and which were unanimously adopted by the Convention of 1787, we find this clause: “Resolved, That in the opinion of this convention that as soon as the Convention of nine States shall have ratified this Constitution, the United States in Congress assembled should fix a day on which electors should be appointed by the States which shall have ratified the same,” &c. Not one of the fathers of the Constitution ever imagined that it was not ratified by the States. But in this instance, as well as in many others,
* Art. V. *Resolutions which," by the unanimous order of the Convention" of 1787, was forwarded with the Constitution to Congress.
their most familiar idea is repudiated, and their most explicit language is contradicted, by Mr. Motley.
In the sentence next to the one above quoted from Motley, he says: “The States never acceded to it [the Constitution,] and possess no power to secede from it."* This peremptory and flat contradiction of the language of the fathers of the Constitution deserves no further notice; since it has already been sufficiently exposed.
* Chapter III.
The Constitution a Compact between the States—The language of the Constitution.
2. The Language of the Constitution. “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union,
...do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United ces of America.” The first clause of this preamble to the Constitution, wholly detached from its history and from every other portion of the same instrument, as well as from all the contemporary and subsequent expositions of its authors, is made the very corner-stone of the Northern theory of the general government of the United States. That tremendous theory, or scheme of power, has been erected on this naked, isolated, and, as we expect to show, grossly misinterpreted clause.
From the bare words of this clause it is concluded, both by Story and Webster, that the Constitution was established or ratified, not by a federal but by a national act; or, in other terms, that it was not ratified by the States, but by a power superior to the States, that is, by the sovereign will of “the whole people of the United States in the aggregate,” acting as one nation or political community. With Puritanical zeal they stick to "the very words of the Constitution,” while the meaning of the words is unheeded by them, either because it is unknown, or because it does not suit their purpose. But words are not the money, they are merely the counters, of wise men. The meaning of the Constitution is the Constitution.
In arriving at the meaning of these words, of the very
clause in question, I shall not do the least violence to any law of language, or to any rule of interpretation. I shall, on the contrary, show that we are not "obliged to depart from the words of the instrument," * as Mr. Justice Story alleges, in order to sustain our interpretation of any portion of it. I shall show that the Southern interpretation of the clause in question is, in reality, the only fair, legitimate and reasonable sense of the preamble itself. Nor shall I, for this purpose, repeat the arguments which are usually employed by the friends of the South in this controversy. Those arguments are amply sufficient to refute the interpretation of Story and Webster. But they are so well put by others—by John Taylor, of Caroline; by Judge Upsher, of Virginia; by John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina ; and especially by Mr. Spence, of Liverpool, that I need not repeat them here. Every one may find access to them in the admirable work of Mr. Spence. Hence, passing by those arguments, I shall, by an appeal to the records of the Convention of 1787, make my position good, and annihilate the great corner-stone of the Northern theory of the Constitution of the United States.
“We, the people of the United States." The history of these words is curious and instructive. Only a portion of that history has, as yet, been laid before the public of England or of the United States. In the light of that history the great corner-stone in question will be found to crumble into dust and ashes; and the only wonder will be, that considerations so clear and so conclusive should have been so long locked up, as a profound secret, in the records of the very convention that formed the Constitution of the United States.
It is well known that in the original draft of the Constitution, its preamble, instead of saying, “We, the people
*" Commentaries on the Constitution," Book iii., chap. ii.
† We have only said admirable; but, all things considered, Mr. Spence's work is truly a wonderful production.
of the United States," specified each State by name, as the previous Articles of Confederation had done. If it had remained thus, then the States would have appeared, on the very face of the preamble itself, as the parties to the Constitution. But the preamble, as is well known, was afterwards changed, by omitting to mention the States by name. There are, however, some most important facts connected with the change and the origin of the words in question, which seem to be wholly unknown on both sides of the Atlantic. They have, certainly, attracted no notice whatever from any of the writers on the great controversy between the North and the South.
The first of these facts relates to the person by whom, and the manner in which, the change in question was effected; or, the words, “We, the people of the United States," were substituted for an enumeration of the States by name. During all the great discussions of the Convention, the preamble to the Constitution retained its original form; nor was there, from the beginning to the end of their deliberations, a single whisper of dissatisfaction with it in that form. Every member of the Convention appeared perfectly satisfied that the States should stand, on the very front of the Constitution, as the parties to the compact into which they were about to enter. It was only after the provisions of the Constitution were agreed upon, and its language was referred to "a committee on style,” that the names of the States were silently omitted, and the clause, “We, the people of the United States,” substituted in their place. Now, it will not be denied, that if this change had not been made by the “committee on style," then the States would have been the parties to the new Constitution just as they had been to the old Articles of Confederation. Hence, if the interpretation of Story and Webster be the true one, then it must be admitted that the “committee ou style," appointed merely to express the views of the Convention, really transformed the nature