Imágenes de páginas

Second amendment referred to the number of representatives. Mr. Ames wanted one for every 40,000. “Article 1, section 9, between paragraphs two and three, “No religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed.’” Mr. Livermore moved to strike out this clause, and to substitute one to the following effect: “The congress shall make no law touching religion or the rights of conscience.” He observed, though the sense of both provisions was the same, yet the former might seem to wear an ill face, and was subject to misconstruction. The question on this motion was carried. It would appear Mr. Livermore would not admit congress held any power to establish any religious sect; that, from the very nature of the thing, they did not; and, as the form of the expression, as reported by the committee, might imply they had that power, he moved it be altered; and, under that impression, it was accordingly altered. It will be observed the understanding among the members of this congress was, that man possessed certain inalienable rights, and the great care manifested that it should not be in the power of congress, in making laws for the government of the country, to take away these rights; and, lest it might be thought at times they could so do, these amendments were proposed to prevent them. The assumption was, man in this country was and should be free ; and, if in his freedom he violated the rights of no one else, he should be protected in his freedom. Let it be borne in mind the people of the country are talking, not the people of the States; and, if the country protects the rights of the individual, certainly the States cannot take them away, much less can individuals : the lesser power cannot be greater than the whole.

“Fifth amendment: “The freedom of speech and of the press, and of the right of the people peaceably to assemble and consult for their common good, and to apply to the government for redress of grievances, shall not be infringed.”

Mr. Tucker moved to insert between the words “common good * “and to,” in this paragraph, the words, “to instruct their representatives.”

“On this motion a long debate ensued. Messrs. Hartly, Clymer, Sherman, Gerry, Madison, Smith, (S. C.) Stone, and others, spoke on the subject. All spoke against it, saving Mr. Gerry : the motion was negatived by a large majority. Mr. Sherman said he was there to consult the common good of the whole, and was the servant of the people at large.

“Mr. Stone said instead of being a representative government it would be a singular kind of democracy.

“Mr. Madison said it had been observed that the people are sovereign. True ; but who are the people Is every small district the people 2 And do the inhabitants of this district express the voice of the people when they may not be the thousandth part, and although their instructions may contradict the sense of the whole people besides 2

“The 6th and 7th amendments were agreed to.

“In the 8th, on motion of Mr. Lawrence, after the words ‘nor shall’ these words were inserted: ‘in any criminal cases.”

“The 9th was adopted without any alterations. “In the 10th, on motion of Mr. Benson, after the words ‘and effects” these words were inserted : * against unreasonable searches and seizures.” “The 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th were agreed to in their original form. The committee then rose. “Mr. Gerry introduced a motion on the subject of the amendments, to this purport : That such amendments to the Constitution of the United States as have been proposed by the different States, which are not in the report of the select committee, be referred to the committee of the whole house, and that those, with the amendments proposed by that committee, be included in the one report. “This motion was seconded by Mr. Sumpter. After a long debate it was decided in the negative.” “August 19th, Mr. Sherman brought forward a motion for adding the amendments, by way of supplement, to the Constitution, which was agreed to by more than three fourths of the members present. “The 1st amendment being taken up, on the question to agree to the same it was negatived. “The 2d amendment was laid on the table for further consideration. “The 3d amendment was agreed to. “The 4th amendment, on motion of Mr. Ames, was altered so as to read, ‘Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the right of conscience.” “The 5th amendment was agreed to. “Mr. Scott objected to the clause in the 6th amendment, “No person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms.” He said if this becomes part of the Constitution, we can neither call upon such persons for services nor an equivalent: it is attended with fur

[ocr errors]

ther difficulties, for you can never depend upon your militia. “Mr. Boudinot said that the provision, or something like it, appeared to be necessary. What dependence can be placed in men who are conscientious in this respect? or what justice can there be in compelling men to bear arms, when, if they are honest men, they would rather die than use them 2 . . . . I wish, in establishing this government, we may be careful to let every person know that we will not interfere with their particular professions. If we strike out this clause, we shall lead such persons to conclude that we mean to compel them to bear arms. The words “in person were added after the word arms, and the amendment was adopted. “The 7th, Sth, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th amendments, without any material alterations, were agreed to, as in the committee of the whole. “The 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th were agreed to without any essential alterations. “The 2d amendment was then modified as it now stands. “Messrs. Benson, Sherman, and Sedgwick were appointed a committee to arrange the amendments, and report to the house, when they were to be submitted to the State legislatures.” - *

A correspondent of the Centinel remarks, –

“The business of the amendments has been managed with great candor and address by those who were friends of the Constitution, and such as were indifferent to any amendments. To those the sticklers for alterations are principally indebted ; for it evidently appears that nothing short of such modification of the Constitution as would have extracted its essence and energy, would have satisfied the rigid anti-federalist: it appeared to every dispassionate person, that the object of some was so to hack and mutilate the original system as to leave no conspicuous feature remaining; hence we should have lost a Constitution framed by our wisest and best characters, and which a majority of the people have adopted, and had a plan palmed upon us by men who were not, and never would have been, chosen by the people for the purpose of making a constitution. But the principal part of the advocates for the amendments appear pretty well contented with the report. “The plan of incorporating the amendments being given up, the identity of the system remains; and if the amendments, in any future time, should be found to be unnecessary, superfluous, or absurd, they may be lopped off as a useless branch of the tree.”

At the present day we do not find them useless, unnecessary, or superfluous. A correspondent of August 26th, says, –

“Nothing can be more ridiculous and inconsistent, than a motion to have laid before congress ALL the amendments suggested by the several State legislatures, when it is considered that many of them are entirely contradictory to others, (especially those about the slavetrade,) some in favor of tender laws, &c. some local, some incomprehensible. Besides, it is hard to conceive how they can be admitted, especially in the senate, when it is recollected that a majority of the ratifying States did not wish a single amendment. Some were recommended as conciliatory, and in the hope, as beautifully expressed by the president of the United States, to a late answer to an address, when speaking of the Constitution as it now stands, – that its mild, and yet efficient operation, would tend to remove every remaining apprehension of those with whose opinions it may not

« AnteriorContinuar »