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sive public emoluments or privileges from CONSTITUTION OF NEW JERSEY. the community.
6 Whereas all the constitutional author- That all political power is inherentity ever possessed by the kings of Great in the people, and all free governments Britain over these colonies or their other are founded on their authority and insti- dominions were, BY COMPACT, derived from tuted for their benefit; and that they have THE PEOPLE, and held by them for the at all times an undeniable and indefeasible common interest of the whole society.” right to alter their form of government in such manner as they may think expe. The constitutions of nearly all the dient.”
States assert similar doctrines. *
* THE CONSTITUTION OF PENNSYLVANIA,—"That the general and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognised and unalterably established, we declare,
“1. That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.
« 2. That all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness. For the advancement of these ends, they have at all times an unalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform, or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper."
THE CONSTITUTION OF DELAWARE.-" Through Divine goodness, all men have by nature the rights of worshipping and serving their Creator according to the dic. tates of their consciences, of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring and protecting reputation and property; and, in general, of attaining objects suitable to their condition, without injury by one to another; and as these rights are essential to their welfare, for the due exercise thereof power is inherent in them; and therefore all just authority in the institutions of political society is derived from the people, and established with their consent to advance their happiness. And they may for this end, as circumstances require, from time to time, alter their constitution of government.”
THE CONSTITUTION OF MARYLAND.—“1. That all government of right originates from the people, is founded in compact only, and instituted solely for the good of the whole.
“4. That all persons invested with the legislative or executive powers of government are the trustees of the public, and, as such, accountable for their conduct; wherefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and the public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to, reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.”
THE CONSTITUTION OF VIRGINIA.-"A declaration of rights made by the representatives of the good people of Virginia, assembled in full and free convention, which rights do pertain to them and their posterity, as the basis and foundation of government, Unanimously adopted, June 12, 1776.
“1. That all men are, by nature, equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
66 2. That all power is invested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.
“3. That government is or ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes or forms of government that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration; and that where any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal."
THE CONSTITUTION OF NORTH CAROLINA. 61. That all political power is vested in and derived from the people only.”
Here is evidence of the highest de- and equal, and government being instigree that, according to the public law tuted for the protection of their unaof America, all men being created free lienable rights, the right of the WHOLE
THE CONSTITUTION OF SOUTH CAROLINA._" All power is originally vested in the people; and all free governments are founded on their authority, and are instituted for their peace, safety and happiness.”
THE CONSTITUTION OF KENTUCKY.-" That the general, great and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognised and established, we declare,
"1. That all freemen when they form a social compact are equal; and that no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive, separate, public emolument or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services.
“2. That all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safely, and happiness. For the advancement of their ends, they have at all times an unalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform, or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper." ARKANSAS has nearly the same.
THE CONSTITUTION OF TENNESSEE. DECLARATION OF Rights.-“1. That all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness. For the advancement of those ends, they have at all times an unalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform, or abolish their government, in such manner as they may think proper.”
“ 2. That government being instituted for the common benefit, the doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive to the good and happiness of mankind.
The CONSTITUTION OF OHIO.-" That the general, great and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognised, and for ever unalterably established, we declare,
"1. That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursning and obtaining happiness and safety; and every free republican government, being founded on their sole authority, and organised for the purpose of protecting their liberties and securing their independence, to effect these ends, they have at all times a complete power to alter, reform, or abolish their government, whenever they may deem it necessary."
THE CONSTITUTION OF MISSISSIPPI. DECLARATION OF Rights." That the general, great and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognised, and for ever unalterably established, we declare,
“1. That all freemen, where they form a social compact, are equal in rights; and that no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive, separate, public emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services.
2. That all political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and established for their benefit; and therefore, they have at all times an unalienable and indefeasible right to alter or abolish their form of government in such manner as they may think expedient.”
ALABAMA has the same. CONSTITUTION OF ILLINOIS.-" That the general, great, and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognised and unalterably established, we de
“1. That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights; among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, and of acquiring and possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.
“2. That all power is inherent in the people; and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness."
CONSTITUTION OF MISSOURI." That all political power is vested in and derived from the people.
"That the people of this state have the inherent right of regulating the internal government and police thereof."
CONSTITUTION OF MICHIGAN.." All political power is inherent in the people.
COMMUNITY to change their govern- in any of their constitutions restricted ment at pleasure cannot be surrendered the right of suffrage or not, the right or taken away; that whether they have to open or change it at any time is in
Government is instituted for the protection, security and protection of the people; and they have the right at all times to alter or reform the same, and to abolish one form of government and establish another, when the public good requires it.”
No additional authority can be given to these doctrines by single names. If it could, we might refer to a great number. For example,
JEFFERSON._“It is not only the right but the duty of those now on the stage of action to change the laws and institutions of government to keep pace with the progress of knowledge, the light of science, and the amelioration of the condition of society. Nothing is to be considered unchangeable but the inherent and inalienable rights of man.”
MADISON.-" It is essential to such a government,” (that is, republican) that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their power, might aspire to the rank of republicans and claim for their government the honorable title of republic."
WILSON.—“Of the right of a majority of the whole people to change their government at will, there is no doubt." --1, Wilson, 418.-i Tytler's Black. Comm. 165, cited p. 324, Vol. 1, Story's Comm.
“ Permit me to mention one great principle, the vital principle I may well call it, which diffuses animation and vigor through all the others. The principle I mean is this, that the supreme or sovereign power of the society resides in the citizens at large; and that, therefore, they always retain the right of abolishing, altering, or amending their constitution, at whatever time, and in whatever manner, they shall deem expedient."- Lectures on Law, vol. 1, p. 10.
JAY." At the Revolution, the sovereignty devolved on the people; and they are truly the sovereigns of the country; but they are sovereign without subjects, (unless the African slaves among us may be so called,) and have none to govern but themselves: the citizens of America are equal as fellow citizens, and as joint tenants in the sovereignty.”—2 Dallas's Reports, 219.
MARSHALL.-“ It has been said that the people had already surrendered all their powers to the state sovereignties, and had nothing more to give. But surely the question, whether they may resume and modify the powers granted to government, does not remain to be settled in this country.”—4 Wheaton's Reports, 405.
« Perhaps some politician, who has not considered with sufficient accuracy our political systems, would answer, that in our government the supreme power was vested in the constitution. This opinion approaches a step nearer to the truth," (than the supposition that it resides in the legislatures)“ but does not reach it. The truth is, that our government, the supreme, absolute and uncontrollable power, remains in the people. As our constitutions are superior to our legislatures, so the people are superior to our constitutions. Indeed, the superiority, in this last instance, is much greater, for the people possess over our constitutions control in act as well as right." -Works, vol. iii., p. 292.
The consequence is, that the people may change the constitution, whenever and however they please. This is a right of which no positive institution can deprive them."
RAWLE.-- Vattell justly observes, that the perfection of a state, and its aptitude to fulfil the ends proposed by society, depend upon its constitution. The first duty to itself is, to form the best constitution possible, and one most suited to its circumstances, and thus it lays the foundation for its safety, permanence, and happiness. But the best constitution which can be framed with the most anxious deliberation that can be bestowed upon it, may, in practice, be found imperfect and inadequate to the true interests of society. Alterations and amendments then become desirable. The people retains, the people cannot perhaps divest itself of the power to make such alterations. A moral power, equal to, and of the same nature with that which made, alone can destroy. The laws of one legislature may be repealed by another legislature, and the power to repeal cannot be withheld by the power which enacted them. So the people may, on the same principle, at any time alter or abolish the constitution they have formed. This has been frequently and peaceably done by several of these staies since 1776. If a particular mode of effecting such alterations has been agreed
disputable. If all persons entered into from political power. They cannot the social compact, equal in rights, enter into any political relation. They and if their rights could not be trans- cannot contract. To say that they ferred or forfeited, they have them are slaves, is to say that they are still, and their exercise of them depends not thought of as beings having a poon their own will and pleasure. litical existence. “In the calm of re
The people, we repeat, are all those gular government they are sunk below who were capable of entering into the the level of men." Their exclusion is social compact. Those who are not a fact, which we take as we find it. competent to form a contract are not It has been defended upon the ground included. Children are not included, of necessity, and of their incapacity, for this reason. At what age persons from weakness of intellect, to enter shall be deemed men, emancipated into any political questions. from parental tutelage, and of sufficient We believe now that we have gone judgment to enter into contracts, must over the whole ground, and that we necessarily depend on some arbitrary are safe in asserting it to be the law rule, which might not suit every indi- of all the American States, wherever vidual case. The society itself has the slavery does not exist, that the soveright to determine this time. In the reignty resides in the whole body of absence of any other rule, that of the adult male permanent residents of sound common law, among an Anglo-Saxon mind. If this be a just conclusion, then people, would be adopted. Idiots and the right of a majority of this body to insane persons are for the same rea- change the government at pleasure, son not included. Strangers are not whatever may be the wishes of the included, because they belong to some electors, is beyond dispute. other political society, and could not But it may be asked, where will all enter into a new compact without re- this lead us? May you at any time nouncing the old one. Permanent re- take a census of all this body of persidents, therefore, are alone included; sons, and if you can procure the conthose who have established their home sent of a majority of them to any with the new society. Are women scheme, does such scheme, ipso facto, included ? By the practice of the become the law of the land? To this world, a practice as old as history, we answer—first, that if the people and almost universal, women have should choose to act in an irregu. been excluded from political power. lar manner, it cannot be helped; that All our governments having been they have the ultimate power to act as formed during the existence of such a they shall judge best; second, that the practice, and no innovation upon it people of this country never will act in having been attempted, they must be that manner, so long as they are fit for deemed to have been framed in con- freedom. We repeat the language formity to it. They virtually declared, of Locke, “ Perhaps it will be said in accordance with the general voice that the people, being ignorant and of the rest of the world, that women always discontented, to lay the foundatake no part in the formation of the tion of government in the unsteady, social compact. Whether such an opinions and uncertain humor of the exclusion is justifiable upon principle, people, is to expose it to certain ruin; it is not our province now to discuss. and no government will be able long
But suppose slavery to exist in a to subsist, if the people may set up a state, how does that affect the ques. new legislature whenever they take tion? Wherever slavery exists, the offence at the old one. To this I anslaves must of necessity be excluded swer, quite the contrary. People are
upon, it is most convenient to adhere to it, but it is not exclusively binding.”-Rawle on the Constitution, p. 17.
Congress gave its sanction to the same doctrine, in the case of Michigan, when the people of that state, acting in their original capacity, without the intervention of its legislature, and even in opposition to the different action of the legislature, accepted the conditions on which it was received into the Union.
In North Carolina, also, the same doctrine was appealed to some years since by the people of the western part of that state, who were about to put it in practice, when the other party, who had possession of the actual government, gave way.
not so easily got out of their old forms Before we leave this part of the subas some are apt to suggest. They are ject, we cannot help adverting to two hardly to be prevailed with to amend considerations in addition to those we the acknowledged faults in the frame have already brought forward, not nethey have been accustomed to.” The cessary indeed to the argument, but will of the people is the supreme law. proper to be borne in mind by all who So is an act of Congress, passed within would take a view of the whole subject. the scope of the constitution. Con- The first is, that those who exercise gress may pass a very absurd law; for the time being the functions of electbut that is no reason for denying them ors in this country, bear a relation to power. Our government rests upon the elective officers, and to the whole the people. If it cannot rest upon people, quite different in fact from that that foundation, it can rest upon no- which is borne by electors in the conthing. It supposes the right and stitutional governments of Europe. the capacity of the people to govern There the electors are in fact invested themselves. No scheme of govern- with the whole power of the state. ment is practicable which does not re- No practice has ever prevailed with quire the will of the people to be clearly them, of establishing an organic law, ascertained and formally promulged, by the authority of the whole body before it can become a rule of action. politic, superior to the legislative Order is one of the chiesest laws of authority. The theory of the social society. While, therefore, we declare compact is there hitherto a mere specuthe right of the people, at all times lation. No authority supreme to the and in any manner that seems proper legislature is recognised in the state, to them, to signify their will and to and its acts are supreme. Here the carry that will into effect; we declare theory of the social compact has been at the same time that this very right reduced to practice. The body politic exists partly because of the capacity of establishes on our soil constitutions the people to govern well and dis- superior to the legislature. There is creetly, and that an irregular, tumul- no inconsistency therefore in holding tuary exercise of their authority would that the body of the electors is an indestroy one of the foundations upon termediate hody, established between which the right itself rests. These the whole body politic and the elective two things must go together, order and officers by the will and authority of the the sovereignty of the people, or the whole. As such, the electors are the latter will eventually fall.
agents of the whole body. To hold There is little danger that it will that the consent of the agent is necesever be otherwise in this country. sary to the revocation of his power by Certainly, in this particular case, it was his principal, is to hold, not only that he not otherwise. During the progress of is more than agent, but that the printhe election of the conventions and the cipal has bestowed upon him a power formation, promulgation, and adoption irrevocable and unchangeable. of the constitution of Rhode Island,ere. The other consideration is this, rything was conducted in a peaceable that even if the doctrine of the unalienand orderly manner. There was no able nature of the right of self-govviolence, no secresy, no tyranny. If the ernment were otherwise, still, in people's constitution was the act of a the case of Rhode Island, the people majority, never did a majority conduct are not precluded from now exercising themselves with greater moderation or that right, because they had never yet take inore pains to show the grounds done anything to delegate their soveron which they acted.
eignty. There the people have never The conclusion from these argu- acted in any solemn manner upon the ments is, that the sovereignty resides subject of their government. They have in the majority of the parties to the so- never established an organic law. Upon cial compact; and that these parties the abolition of the authority of the in the free States are all the male re- crown, the old electoral body continued sidents of full age and of sound mind. to elect a governor and representaIf, therefore, in the State of Rhode Isl. tives as before. Until the whole body and, a majority of such have ratified politic, in its own good time, chose to the people's constitution, it is the true begin the work of framing a governand real organic law of the State. ment, the old government was permis