« AnteriorContinuar »
The latter party, in fact, thinks of nothing but of undoing the compromise, in order to recover what she has lost; and perhaps intends to exceed the measure, as a satisfaction for the wrong she has been compelled to submit to. To accomplish this end, she will watch all opportunities, and take hold of any that offers, even if not prudent, nor perhaps lawful. As she seeks to recover what she is sure belongs to her, so is she apt not to be very nice in the choice of the means she has to employ for that purpose. It is but too common in men to act upon the principle, though false it is, that the end justifies the means. In the mean time both parties are constantly watching each other's movements, anticipating them, and putting all possible obstacles to hinder their course in the direction aimed at. And is this the Union? Certainly, it is not that which we intended to establish and cement between the confederate States. It were far better to dissolve it.
BOST.-There seems nothing to remain, then, but to amend the Constitution, by submitting the controversy to the people in a convention, called according to its forms, and acting in the manner prescribed by it. This we intended, and proposed to do even before the secession took place; but in vain. Such an amendment would be made a part of that instrument, and the controversy be regarded as settled by the Constitution.
WASH.-This is a great mistake, and we would call it a fatal delusion, if we could suppose that you have begun and carried on your opposition to the South so constantly, with the view of getting it at last sanctioned, as it were, with an amendment to the Constitution. To see the mistake, it is enough to observe that such an amendment, not only could not be made, but cannot be so much as proposed in the manner prescribed by the Constitution. Where are the two thirds of both Houses of Congress, or of the Legislatures of the several States, who should propose the amendment; and where the three fourths of the Legislatures who should ratify it when passed? We do not see how can
these quotas be counted if some of the States are not in the Union.
BOST.-But we would count them as present in reckoning those proportions of States and Legislatures empowered to propose and ratify amendments: so that, when the one I speak of were made, those States being absent, we would enforce its observance on them, and they should be bound to keep it in the same manner as if they had been present and consented to its enactment.
WASH.-This is quite another question, or accumulation of questions, whose several decisions cannot be thought of, before the following one is resolved; namely, whether those States can secede from the Union, or must, willing-unwilling, remain in it. Of this we have spoken already, as well as in what manner may the perpetuity of the Union be understood as expressed in the Act of Confederation.
But, had we said nothing about it, yet still it would be certain that, in whatever way you choose to determine on the right of secession, the judge must needs be sought and, if possible, found, out of the Constitution. This instrument says nothing that might refer to it; and so does also the Act of Confederation. And, as this evidently is a preliminary question, which must be decided before you can think of proposing the above-mentioned amendment, so there can be no doubt that, if the Constitution shuts the door to the controversy of secession, much more it does shut it to the proposal of an amendment which should come after its decision.
Not to mention that this amendment's object is to bear against those very States who declare and contend they are not in the Union. For they are the parties chiefly, if not only, interested in it. Now, we fail to see how could such an amendment possibly be made, or, if made, be observed, before it is decided whether these States who should fulfil its terms are, or may be compelled to be, in the Union.
These considerations, however, touch only the surface
of the matter. For, such an amendment, as you call it, cannot take place according to the Constitution, not only on account of its extrinsic form, but also, and chiefly, on account of its essence and destination. It cannot take place if the laws of the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation are complied with.
Long and maturely did we discuss all matters that might pertain to the sound organization and working of this Government. We tried and regarded them in every point of view, and consequently had reason to rest assured that, of what could be conducive to the great end proposed, little or nothing had been omitted, not seen, or not provided for. Hence, in my letter, dated on September the 17th, 1787, wherewith, by the unanimous voice of the Convention, I accompanied and submitted the Constitution, dated and signed on the same day, to the consideration of the United States in Congress assembled, I expressed it to be "such as had appeared to us the most advisable." I made also special mention of the fact that, before arriving at our conclusions, we had, in deliberating, purposely considered and taken into account the differences existing between the several States "as to their situation, extent, habits, and peculiar interests."
Nevertheless, we spoke of amendments, and prescribed the manner in which they should be made; because we were sensible, and willing to confess, that, as any work which issues from the hands of man must bear the mark of imperfection, so might the Constitution, elaborated by us, have also been wanting. Besides, we knew that circumstances, not foreseen by us, might happen in future which should counsel, or even force on the confederacy the necessity of amending the Constitution in the particular matter they turned upon.
But neither what we might have omitted, nor any future change of circumstances, ever could justify, or give cause to, amendments by which what we did expressly contemplate and provide for should be annulled or in the
least altered; especially in matters connected with the fundamental principles on which the Declaration of Independence, the Act of Confederation, and the Constitution themselves stand.
These fundamental principles, and the matters inseparably connected with them, must be looked upon as deposited within a sacred inclosure, unapproachable to any power on earth, except only the' will of the whole people of the Union, to be then considered as one person. They cannot, therefore, be touched upon, much less destroyed or altered by means of amendments; certainly not by authority of the Constitution either express or implied.
They are: The independence and sovereign power of all the confederate States, each within the limits of her territorial jurisdiction, save what they themselves have ceded and surrendered, or more properly delegated, to the Federal Government, to be exercised by her in their name and for their sake; their perfect Equality among themselves, reciprocally, so far as the enjoyment of their political rights, their part in the administration of the Federal Government, and their participation in the benefits or losses resulting from all her measures, may be concerned: Fundamental principles and matters not to be touched by any amendment, are also the perfect Equality of all the Citizens of the United States, no matter to what State they belong; and their right of personal Freedom, Life, and Property, and its free use. This is the chief part and quality of property: for, property without its use is a useless name.
There is no need to advert, it being too obvious, that the rights of the States have been acknowledged and secured to them, in consideration and behalf of their respective citizens; for these it is that make the State. Consequently, any attempt against their private rights is just the same thing as if the public right of the State, to which they belong, and which they represent, were infringed upon.
We take it to be uncontrovertible and uncontradicted that an amendment, whose end should be to destroy wholly,
or in part, any of the above-mentioned principles, or any of the rights guaranteed to the States or individual citizens, cannot be made, nor proposed according to the forms of the Constitution and in the manner prescribed by it. Otherwise it must be maintained that the Constitution not only contradicts itself, but prescribes the mode of its own destruction. Had it done, or intended so, then, instead of amendments (whose end must be to complete and perfect what is wanting, not to demolish what has been established and guaranteed), such alterations should be called what they are; namely, a destruction of the Constitution, so far as their subject matter extends.
Now, the amendment you speak of belongs precisely to the class which I have just described; it being intended to exclude Slavery from the Territory belonging to the United States. Visibly, this is the same thing as to say that the citizens of the Southern States cannot settle in the Territory with their slaves; the same as to say that the slaveholders are deprived of the right to use their property in a place which belongs to them as much as to any other citizens. For, if this is not to dispossess citizens of what is acknowledged and secured to them by the Constitution; if it is not to destroy also the equality of the States to which these citizens respectively belong; then the notions of things are overturned, or there is no sense in language.
BOST.-But the proposed amendment would be made by the voice and consent of a large majority of the people. The slaveholders, therefore, must acquiesce in it when enacted; the legislation by the voice of the majority being a law of the Constitution.
WASH.-So it is: but in matters permitted; not in matters forbidden, nor those which have been expressly provided for in that instrument. Such is the subject on which the proposed amendment should turn. Its objects are no new things. Slavery and slaves we have contemplated, and have, in express terms, secured to the masters all the rights which they had upon them, the right of property.