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plish its objects in the safest mode ; safest for the stability of the Government ; and safest for the rights and liberties of the people.
§ 419. The Constitution has adopted a middle course. It has provided for annendments being made ; the mode is easy ; and at the same time, it secures due deliberation, and caution. Congress may propose amendments, or a convention of the States. But, in any amendment proposed by Congress, two thirds of both Houses must concur ; and no convention can be called, except upon the application of two thirds of the States. When amendments are proposed in either way, the assent of three fourths of all the States is necessary to their ratification. And, certainly, it may be said with confidence, that if three fourths of the States are not satisfied with the necessity of any particular amendınent, the evils, which it proposes to remedy, cannot be of any general or pressing nature. That the power of amendment is not, in its present form, impracticable, is proved by the fact, that twelve amendments have been already proposed and ratified.
§ 420. The proviso excludes the power of amendment, until the year 1808, of the clauses in the Constitution, which respects the importation and migration of slaves, and the apportionment of direct taxes. And as the equality of the Representation of the States in the Senate might be destroyed by an amendment, it is expressly declared, that no amendment shall deprive any State, without its consent, of its equal suffrage in that body.
Public Debt.— Supremacy of the Constitution, and Laws.
§ 421. The first clause of the sixth article is, “ All debts contracted, and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against
ligation public ined more
Confederation.” This can scarcely be deemed more than a solemn declaration of what the public law of nations recognizes as a moral obligation, binding on all nations, notwithstanding any changes in their forms of Government. It was important, however, to clear away all possible doubts, and to satisfy and quiet the public creditors, who might fear, that their just claims upon the Confederation might be disregarded or denied.
§ 422. The next clause is, '“ This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land. And the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution, or laws of any State, to the contrary notwithstanding.” The propriety of this power results from the very nature of the Constitution. To establish a National Government, and to affirm, that it shall have certain powers ; and yet, that in the exercise of those powers it shall not be supreme, but controllable by any State in the Union, would be a solecism, so mischievous, and so indefensible, that the schere could never be attributed to the framers of the Constitution, without manifestly impeaching their wisdom, as well as their good faith. The want of such an effective practical supremacy was a vital defect in the Confederation; and furnished the most solid reason for abolishing it. It would be an idle mockery, to give powers to Congress, and yet at the same time to declare, that those powers might be suspended or annihilated, at the will of a single State ; that the will of twenty-five States should be surrendered to the will of one. A government of such a nature would be as unworthy of public confidence, as it would be incapable of affording public protection, or private happiness. ..
§ 423. In regard to treaties, there is equal reason, why they should be held, when made, to be the supreme law of the land. It is to be considered, that treaties constitute solemn compacts of binding obligation among nations; and unless they are scrupulously obeyed, and
with us ; or if it did, any want of strict fidelity, on our part, in the discharge of the treaty stipulations, would be visited by reprisals, or by war. It is, therefore, indispensable, that they should have the obligation and force of a law, that they may be executed by the judicial power, and be obeyed like other laws. This will not prevent them from being cancelled, or abrogated, by the nation, upon grave and suitable occasions ; for it will not be disputed, that they are subject to the legislative power, and may be repealed, like other laws, at its pleasure ; or they may be varied by new treaties. Still, while they do subsist, they ought to have a positive binding efficacy, as laws, upon all the States, and all the citizens of the States. The peace of the nation, and its good faith, and moral dignity, indispensably require, that all State laws should be subjected to their supremacy. The difference between considering them as laws, and considering them as executory, or executed contracts, is exceedingly important in the actual administration of public justice. If they are supreme Jaws, courts of justice will enforce them directly in all cases, to which they can be judicially applied, in opposition to all State laws, as we all know was done in the case of the British debts, secured by the treaty of 1783, after the Constitution was adopted. If they are deemed but solemn compacts, promissory in their nature and obligation, courts of justice may be embarrassed in enforcing them, and may be compelled to leave the redress to be administered through other departments of the Government. It is notorious, that treaty stipulations (especially those of the treaty of peace of 1783) were grossly disregarded by the States under the Confederation. They were deemed by the States, not as laws, but like requisitions, of a mere moral obligation, and dependent upon the good will of the States for their execution. Congress, indeed, remonstrated against this construction, as unfounded in principle and justice. But their voice was not heard. Power and right were separated ; the argument was all on one side ; but the power was on the other. It was probably to obviate this very
and it would redound to the immortal honor of ::e authors, if it had done no more, than thus to bring treaties within the sanctuary of justice, as laws of supreme obligation. There are, indeed, still cases, in which courts of justice can administer no effectual redress ; for, when the terms of a stipulation import a contract, or when either of the parties engages to perform a particular act, the treaty addresses itself to the political, and not to the judicial, department; and the legislature must execute the contract, before it can become a rule for the courts.
§ 424. From this supremacy of the Constitution, and laws, and treaties, of the United States, within their constitutional scope, arises the duty of courts of justice to declare any unconstitutional law passed by Congress, or by a State legislature, void. So, in like manner, the same duty arises, whenever any other department of the National or State governments exceeds its constitutional functions. But the Judiciary of the United States has no general jurisdiction to declare acts of the several States void, unless they are repugnant to the Constitution of the United States, notwithstanding they are repugnant to the State Constitution. Such a power belongs to it only, when it sits to administer the local law of a State, and acts exactly, as a State tribunal is bound to act. But upon this subject it seems unnecessary to dwell, since the right of all courts, State as well as National, to declare unconstitutional laws void, seems settled beyond the reach of judicial controversy.
Oath of Office.—Religious Test.—Ratification of the
$425. The next clause is, “ The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, (that is, in Congress,) and the members of the several State Legislatures, and all exand of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution. But no religious test shall ever be required, as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
$ 426. That all those, who are intrusted with the execution of the powers of the National Government, should be bound, by some solemn obligation, to the due execution of the trusts reposed in them, and to support the Constitution, would seem to be a proposition too clear, to render any reasoning necessary in support of it. It results from the plain right of society, to require some guarantee from every officer, that he will be conscientious in the discharge of his duty. Oaths have a solemn obligation upon the minds of all reflecting men, and especially upon those, who feel a deep sense of accountability to a Supreme being. If, in the ordinary administration of justice, in cases of private rights, or personal claims, oaths are required of those, who try the cause, as well as of those, who give testimony, to guard against malice, falsehood, and evasion, surely like guards ought to be interposed in the administration of high public trusts, and especially in such, as may concern the welfare and safety of the whole community. But there are known denominations of men, who are conscientiously scrupulous of taking oaths, (ainong which is that pure and distinguished sect of Christians, commonly called Friends, or Quakers,) and, therefore, to prevent any unjustifiable exclusion from office, the Constitution has permitted a solemn affirmation to be made, instead of an oath, and as its equivalent.
§ 427. But it may not appear to all persons quite so clear, why the officers of the State governments should be equally bound to take a like oath or affirmation ; and it has been even suggested, that there is no more reason to require that, than to require, that all of the United States officers should take an oath or affirmation to support the State Constitutions. A moment's reflection will show sufficient reasons for the requisition of it in the one case, and the omission of it in the other. The members and officers of the National Government have no agen