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of a calamity, for which no possible constitution can provide
Among the advantages of a confederate republic, enumerated by Montesquieu, an important one is, “that should a popular insurrection happen in one of the states, the others are able to quell it. Should abuses creep into one part, they are reformed by those that remain sound.”
7. "To consider all debts contracted, and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this constitution, as being no less valid against the United States under this constitution, than under the confederation."
This can only be considered as a declaratory proposition; and may bave been inserted, among other reasons, for the satisfaction of the foreign creditors of the United States, who cannot be strangers to the pretended doctrine, that a change in the political form of civil socioty, has the magical effect of dissolving its moral obligations.
Among the lesser criticisms which have been exercised on the constitution, it has been remarked, that the validity of engagements ought to have been asserted in favour of the United States, as well as against them; and in the spirit which usually characterizes little critics, the omission has been transformed and magnified into a plot against the national rights. The authors of this discovery may be told, what few others need be informed of, that as engagements are in their nature reciprocal, an assertion of their validity on one side, necessarily involves a validity on the other side; and that as the article is merely declaratory, the establishment of the principle in one case, is sufficient for every case. They may be further told, that every constitution must limit its precautions to dangers that are not altogether imaginary; and that no real danger can exist that the government.would dare, with, or even without, this constitutional declaration before it, to romit the debts justly due to tho public, on the protext boro condomnod.
8. “To provide for amendments to be ratified by tbreo fourths of the states, under two exceptions only."
Tbat useful alterations will be suggested by experience, could not but be foreseen. It was requisite, therefore, that a mode for introducing them should be provided. The mode preferred by the convention seems to be stamped with every mark of propriety. It guards equally against that extremo facility, which would render the constitution too mutable; and that extreme difficulty, which might perpetuate its discovered faults. It moreover equally enables the general and the state governments to originate the amendment of errours, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other. The exception in favour of the equality of suffrage in the senate, was probably meant as a palladium to the residuary sovereignty of the states, implied and secured by that principle of representation in one branch of the legislature; and was probably insisted on by the states particularly attached to that equality. The other exception must have been admitted on the same considerations which produced the privilege defended by it.
9. “The ratification of the conventions of nine states, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this constitution between the states ratifying the same."
This article speaks for itself. The express authority of the people alone could give due validity to the constitution. To have required the unanimous ratification of the thirteen states, would have subjected the essential interests of the whole, to the caprice or corruption of a single member. It would have marked a want of foresight in the convention, which our own experience would have rendered inexcusable.
Two questions of a very delicate nature present themselves on this occasion: 1. On what principle the confederation, which stands in the solomn form of a compact among the states, can be superseded without the unanimous consent of the parties to it: 2. What relation is to subsist between the nine or more states ratifying the constitution, and the remaining few who do not become parties to it ?
The first question is answered at once by recurring to the
absolute necessity of the case; to tho great principle of selfpreservation; to the transcendent law of nature and of nature's God, which declares that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim, and to which all such institutions niust be sacrificed. Perhaps, also, an answer may be found without searching beyond the principles of the compact itself. It has been heretoforo noted among the defects of the confederation, that in many of the states, it had received no higher sanction than a mere legislative ratification. The principle of reciprocality seems to require, that its obligation on the other states should be reduced to the same standard. A compact between independent sovereigns, founded on acts of legislative authority, can pretend to no higher validity than a league or treaty between the parties. It is an established doctrine on the subject of treaties, that all the articles are mutually conditions of each other; that a breach of any one article is a breach of the whole treaty; and that a breach, committed by either of the parties, absolves the others, and authorizes them, if they please, to pronounce the compact violated and void. Should it unhappily be necessary to appeal to these delicate truths, for a justification for dispensing with the consent of par. ticular states to a dissolution of the federal pact, will not the complaining parties find it a difficult task to answer the multiplied and important infractions, with which they may be confronted ? The time has been, when it was incumbent on us all to veil the ideas which this paragraph oxbibits. The scono is now changed, and with it the part which the same motives dictate.
The second question is not less delicate: and the flattering prospect of its being merely hypothetical, forbids an over curious discussion of it. It is one of those cases which must be left to provide for itself. In general, it may be observed, that although no political relation can subsist between the assenting and dissenting states, yet the moral relations will remain uncancelled. The claims of justice, both on one side and on the other, will be
in force, and must be fulfilled; the rights of humanity must in all cases be duly and mutually respected; whilst considerations of a common interest, and above all, the remembrance of the endearing sconos which are past, and the anticipation of a speedy triumph over the obstacles to reunion, will, it is hoped, not urge in vain moderation on one side, and prudence on the other
NEW YORK, JANUARY 25, 1788.
THE SAME VIEW CONTINUED AND CONCLUDED.
A fifth class of provisions in favour of the federal authority, consists of the following restrictions on the authority of the several states.
1. "No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin monen
emit bills of credit; make any thing but gold and silver a legal tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts; or grant any title of nobility.”
The prohibition against treaties, alliances, and confederations, makes a part of the existing articles of union; and, for reasons which need no explanation, is copied into the new constitution. The prohibition of letters of marque, is another part of the old system, but is somewhat extended in the new. According to the former, letters of marque could be granted by the states after a declaration of war: according to the latter, these licenses must be obtained, as well during the war, as previous to its declaration, from tho government of the United States. This alteration is fully justified, by the advantage of uniformity in all points which relate to foreign powers; and of immediate responsibility to the