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would then seek by their own means to possess it; and thus, as a mustard seed would it multiply, and its salutary principles be extended.
Nor could any means more convenient be proposed, than to entrust to the hands of the guardians of the Constitution in Congress the distribution, or the sowing of this good seed. It would appear from the tables of the last census, that there are, in the United States, upwards of three and a half millions of men, over twenty years of age, capable of reading; and should there be only one copy furnished by the Government to every hundred men, a large portion of the other ninety-nine would, probably, by their own means, obtain it.
Viewing the immense diffusion of printed political matter through all the villages and hamlets of the Republic, as the abundance of material provided by the generosity of the Government and zeal of private enterprise, as political food for the mind, this compilation may be considered as salt for the preservation of such as may be wholesome, or as lime to neutralize and destroy such as may be carious. It would be a test by which to separate the wheat from the tares and cockle-a crucible by which to separate the gold from the dross and base metal, or the cupel by which to try the current coin of politics, and a text book by which to judge of the orthodoxy of political disquisitions.
By the British statute, “ confirmatio cartarum," the great charter was directed “to be allowed as the common law; all judgments contrary to it are declared void ; copies of it are ordered to be sent to all cuthedral churches, and read twice a year to the people;” whereby it was intended that the sanctity of the place should inspire a peculiar veneration for that noble structure of fundamental law-sacred to human liberty, civil and religious.
According to Plato and Aristotle, “ Lex est mens sine affectu, et quasi Deus,''--the law is nind without passion, and therefore like God. Or, according to Grotius, “God approved and ratified the salutary constitutions of government made by men;" while Demosthenes declares, that “the design and object of laws is to ascertain what is just, honorable, and expedient; and when that is discovered, it is proclaimed as a general ordinance, equal and impartial to all. This is the origin of law, which, for various reasons, all are under an obligation to obey, but especially because all law is the invention and gift of Hea
the resolution of wise men, the correction of every offence, and the general compact of the State; to
live in conformity with which is the duty of every individual in society.”
Bossuet remarks, that "If the Roman laws have appeared so sacred, that their majesty still subsists, notwithstanding the ruin of the empire, it is because good sense, which controls human life, reigns throughout the whole, and that there is no where to be found a finer application of the principles of natural equity.”
Algernon Sidney adds, that “ The Israelites, Spartans, Romans, and others, who framed their
governments according to their own will, did it not by any peculiar privilege, but by a universal right conferred upon them by God and nature. They were made of no better clay than others; they had no right that does not as well belong to other nations ; that is to say, the Constitution of every government is referred to those who are concerned in it, and no other has any thing to do with it.”.
“Salus populi est lex suprema.'
Judge Blackstone remarks, that" every man, when he enters into society, gives up a part of his natural liberty as the price of so valuable a purchase; and, in consideration of receiving the advantages of mutual commerce, obliges himself to conform to those
laws which the community has thought proper to establish. And this species of legal obedience and conformity, is infinitely more desirable than that wild and savage liberty which is sacrificed to obtain it. For no man, that considers a moment, would wish to retain the absolute and uncontrolled power of doing whatever he pleases; the consequence of which is, that every other man would also have the same power, and then there would be no security lo individuals in any of the enjoyments of life. Political, therefore, or civil liberty, which is that of a member of society, is no other than natural liberty, so far restrained by human laws (and no farther) as is necessary and expedient for the general advantage of the public. Hence we may collect that the law, which restrains a man from doing mischief to his fellowcitizens, though it diminishes the natural, increases the civil liberty, of mankind.” And Locke has well observed," where there is no law there is no freedom."
Socrates made a promise, with himself, to observe the laws of his country; but this is nothing more than what every good man ought both to promise and to perform : and he ought to promise still further, that
he will exert all his power, when constitutionally called upon to compel others to obey them.
The compiler of this edition of our own venerated Constitution, to which he has with anxious labor prefixed a copious, and, he trusts, a faithful analytical index, believes that there are among his fellow-citizens many thousands of intelligent men capable of reading and understanding the great American charter of liberty, but who, without seeing and judging for themselves of " its limitations and its authorities,” have, with a passive credulity, (which, in other matters of comparative insignificance, would have been indignantly spurned,) reposed their faith, their birth, right, and their safety, on the opinions of others, whose impassioned, and sometimes vituperative, tones, have appealed rather to the prejudices of the heart than to the integrity of the understanding.
Mr. Dallas has well said, that “the Constitution in its words is plain and intelligible, and it is meant for the home-bred, unsophisticated understandings of our fellow-citizens.” To this sentiment the compiler is indebted for suggesting to his mind the idea of publishing this edition of the Constitution, with its accompaniments; and he therefore believed that there