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it rieus the powers of the Federal Gorernment, as resulting from the compact, to which the States are parties." How completely, then, was the very existence of Mr. Madison, and of all the great transactions in which he had borne so conspicuous a part, ignored by Mr. Webster in the bold and astounding assertion, that neither friend nor foe had ever considered the new Constitution as a "compact between the States." The venerable old man must, indeed, have felt, as he read the speech of Mr. Webster, that he was fast sinking into oblivion, and that all the great transactions of his life were fast being forgotten amid the blaze of new ideas. Accordingly, in a letter to Mr. Webster, called forth
by the very speech in question. Mr. Madison once more raised his voice in favor of the one invariable doctrine of his life. “It is fortunate," says he “in the letter referred to, “when disputed theories can be decided by undisputed facts; and here the undisputed fact is, "that the Constitution was made by the people, but as embodied into the sereral States, “who were parties to it." Again, in the same letter, he says: “The Constitution of the United States, being established by a competent authority, by that of the sorereign people of the several States, who were parties to it.” Most fortunate is it, indeed, when disputed theories may be tested by undisputed facts; but how infinitely unfortunate is it, when new and disputed theories begin to pass for everything, and indisputable facts for nothing! Nay, when those who cling to hitherto undisputed facts are accounted traitors, and visited with a merciless and a measureless vengeance,
by those who, having nothing better than disputed theo. , ries to stand on, are nevertheless backed by the possession
of brute force sufficient to crush their opponents, and silence the voice of truth!
All agree, says Mr. Webster, “The Federalist," "the debates in the Conventions," “the publications of friends and foes”-all agree, “that a change had been made from a
confederacy of States to a different system.” Now, there is James Wilson, inferior only to Madison and Hamilton in the influence he exerted in favor of the new Constitution, who declares, that the only object aimed at by the Convention of '87, was to enable the States “to confederate anew on better principles ; and if no more could be effected, he would agree to "a partial union of the States,
a with a door left open for the accession of the rest.” Accordingly, it was finally agreed by the Convention, that nine States might form the new Union, with a door left open for the accession of the other four. In fact, eleven States confederated on the new principles; and it was more than a year before the remaining two States acceded to the compact of the Constitution, and became members of the Union.
Even Alexander Hamilton, in that great authority, The Federalist, to which Mr. Webster so confidently appeals, is directly and flatly opposed to the bold and unscrupulous assertion of “the great expounder.” If the new Constitution should be adopted, says he, the Union would still be, in fact and in theory, an association of States, or a confederacy."* Again, in the eightieth number of the
” work, Hamilton calls the new Union “the CONFEDERACY;" putting the word in capital letters, in order that it may not be overlooked by the most superficial reader. If necessary, it might be shown by various other extracts, that Alexander Hamilton, while insisting on the adoption of the new Constitution in The Federalist, speaks of the new Union as a confederacy of States. How, then, could Mr. Webster avouch The Federalist to support the assertion, that “a change had been made from a confederacy to a different system”? Was this in his character of the great expounder," or of the great deceiver ?
This appeal to the Federalist appears, if possible, still more wonderful, when viewed in connexion with other
* Federalist, No. ix.
numbers of the same work. Indeed, it was objected to the new Constitution by its enemies, that "it would make a change from a confederaer to a different system;" and this very objection is met and need in the pages of the Federalist. “Will it be 16' mods the Federalist, “that the fund: 1:the deniederation were not within the
– མན Conventica, and ought not to have been art, what are these principles ? Do they receive statshment of the Constitution, the Sacs gta de regarded as distinct and independent sorez Dey are so regarded by the Constitution
Now here the position of Vr. Webster, that the new taca was not a confederaey of States, that it was ade by the States - as distinct and independent Sreseiras but was ordained by the people of the Unite Staces in the aggregate" as one nation; is directirsad emphatically negatived by the very authority to which he appeals in support of his monstrous heresy.
Nor is this all. In the preceding number of the Federalist, it is said, "Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others and only to be bound by its own voluntary act.” Thus according to the Federalist, the Constitution was ratified by each State, as a sovereign body, independent of all others.” No such thing, says Mr. Webster, it was not ratitied by the States at all, it was ordained by a power superior to the States, by the sovereign will of the whole people of the United States; and yet he boldly and unblushingly appeals to the Federalist in support of his assertion! Why did he not quote the Federalist? Nay, why did he not read the Federalist, before he ventured on such a position ?
Mr. Webster has, indeed, quoted one expression from the Federalist. “The fabric of American empire,” says Hamilton, in the twenty-second number of the Federalist,
"ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE.” After quoting these words, Mr. Webster adds, with his usual confidence, "Such is the language, sir, addressed to the people, while they yet had the Constitution under consideration. The powers conferred on the new government were perfectly well understood to be conferred, not by any State, or the people of any State, but by the people of the United States." Now, if Mr. Webster had only paid more attention to the debates of the Convention of 1787, he might have escaped this egregious blunder, this gross perversion of the words of Alexander Hamilton. Nay, if he had only considered the three sentences which immediately precede the extract made by him, he would have seen that Hamilton was speaking to a very different question from that which had so fully engrossed and occupied his mind. He would have seen, that the language related, not to the question whether the Constitution ought to be ratified by the people of the States, or by the people of America as one nation; but to the question, whether it ought to be ratified by the Legislatures, or by the people, of the several States. This was the question of the Convention of '87; and this was the question to which its ablest member was speaking, when he said “the fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE.” Read the context, and this will be perfectly plain. "It has not a little contributed," says the context, "to the infirmities of the existing federal system, that it never had a ratification of the PEOPLE. Resting on no better foundation than the consent of the several Legislatures, it has been exposed to frequent and intricate questions concerning the validity of its powers; and has, in some instances, given rise to the enormous doctrine of legislative repeal.” Such is the context of Mr. Webster's very partial and one-sided extract. It shows that Hamilton was arguing the advantage of the new system over the old, just as it had been argued in the
Convention of 1787; because the old confederation rested on the consent of the Legislatures of the several States, whereas the new confederacy was to rest on the consent of the people of the several States. Hence it would be free from all doubts with respect to the power of “legislative repeal.”
Alexander Hamilton certainly knew that the Constitution was merely a proposal, or plan of government, and would so remain until it should be ratified-by “the Conventions of nine States;" and that then it would be binding only “between the States so ratifying the same.” For these are the words of the Constitution itself, as well as of his own formula of ratification in the Convention of 1787. These nine States or more, thus leagued together by a solemn compact entered into by the people of the several States in their highest sovereign capacity, is "the solid basis ” to which he refers; and which, like so many massive columns, were to bear up “the fabric of American empire." The consent of the whole people indeed! The majority of the whole voting population of the United States, which may be one thing to-day and another tomorrow, and which is bound by nothing but its own sovereign will and pleasure! Surely, nothing could be less solid or stable, or less fit to support “the fabric of American empire.” Such a system were, indeed, more like Aristophines' City of the Birds, floating in mid air, and tossed by the winds, than like the scheme of a rational being for the government of men. No conception could be more utterly inconsistent with all the well-known sentiments of Alexander Hamilton.
But if, instead of perverting the high authority of the Federalist by wresting one particular passage from its context, Mr. Webster had only read a little further, he would have discovered what was then “perfectly well understood” respecting the nature of the Constitution. He would have discovered, that it was, according to the