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carry an implication of some defect in the government, frequent appeals would, in a great measure, deprive the government of that veneration which time bestows on every thing, and without which perhaps the wisest and freest governments would not possess the requisite stability. If it be true that all gov. ernments rest on opinion, it is no less true, that the strength of opinion in each individual, and its practical influence on his conduct, depend much on the number which he supposes to have entertained the same opinion. The reason of man,
liko man himself, is timid and cautious, when left alone; and acquires firmness and confidence, in proportion to the number with which it is associated. When the examples, which fortify opinion, are ancient, as well as numerous, they are known
to bave a double effect, In a nation of philosophers, this consideration ought to be disregarded. A reverence for the laws, would be sufficiently inculcated by the voice of an enlightened
But a nation of philosophers, is as little to be expected, as the philosophical race of kings wished for by Plato. And in every other nation, the most rational government will not find it a superfluous advantage to have tho prejudices of the community on its side.
The danger of disturbing the public tranquillity, by interesting too strongly the public passions, is a still moro sortons objection against a frequent reference of constitutional questions, to the decision of the whole society. Notwithstanding the success which bas attended the revisions of our established forms of government, and which does so much honour to the virtue and intelligence of the people of America, it must be confessed, that the experiments are of too ticklish a nature to be unnecessarily multiplied. We are to recollcct, that all tho existing constitutions were formed in the midst of a danger which repressed the passions most unfriondly to order and concord; of an enthusiastic confidence of the people in their patriotic leaders, which stifled the ordinary diversity of opinions on great national questions; of an universal ardour for new and opposite forms, produced by an universal resentment and ir.dig.
nation against the ancient government; and whilst no spirit of party, connected with the changes to be made, or the abuses to be reformed, could mingle its leaven in the operation. The future situations in which we must expect to be usually placed, do not present any equivalent security against the danger which is apprehended.
But tho greatest objoction of all is, that the decisions which would probably rosult from such appoals, would not answer tho purpose of maintaining the constitutional equilibrium of the government. We have seen that the tendency of republican governments is, to an aggrandizement of the legislative, at the expense of the other departments. The appeals to the people, therefore, would usually be made by the executive and judiciary departments. But whether made by one side or the other, would each sido enjoy equal advantages on the trial? Let us view their different situations. The members of the executive and judiciary departments, are few in number, and can be personally known to a small part only of the people. The latter, by the mode of their appointment, as well as by the nature and permanency of it, are too far removed from the people to share much in their prepossessions. The former are generally the objects of jealousy; and their administration is always liable to be discoloured and rendered unpopular. The members of the legislative department, on the other hand, are numerous. They are distributed and dwell among the people at large. Their connexions of blood, of friendship, and of acquaintance, ombrace a great proportion of the most influential part of the society. The nature of their public trust implies a personal weight with the people, and that they are moro immediately the confidential guardians of their rights and liberties. With these advantages, it can hardly be supposed, that the adverse party would bave an equal chance for a favourable issue.
But the logislative party would not only be able to plead their cause most successfully with the people: They would probably be constituted themselves the judges. The same influence which had gained them an election into tho legislature, would gain them a seat in the convention. If this should not
be the case with all, it would probably be the case with many, and protty certainly with thoso leading characters, on whom everything depends in such bodies. The convention, in short, would bo composed chiefly of men who had been, who actually were, or who expected to be, members of the department whose conduct was arraigned. They would consequently be parties to the very question to be decided by them.
It might, however, sometimes happen, that appeals would be made under circumstances less adverse to the executive and judiciary departments. The usurpations of the legislature might be so flagrant and so sudden, as to admit of no spocious colouring. A strong party among themselves might take side with the other branches. The executive power might be in the hands of a peculiar favourite of the people. In such a posture of things, the public decision might be loss swayed by prepossossions in favour of the legislativo party. But still it could never be expected to turn on the true merits of the question. It would inevitably be connected with the spirit, of parttes pre-existing, or springing out of the question itself. It would be connected with persons of distinguished character, and extensive influence in the community. It would be pronounced by the very men who had been agents in, or opponents of the measures, to which the decision would relate. The passions, therefore, not the reason-of-the-public, would sit in judgment. But it is the reason of the public alone, that ought to control and regulate the government. The passions ought to be controled and regulated by the government.
We found in the last paper, that mero declarations in the written constitution, aro not sufficient to rostrain the several departments within their legal limits. It appears in this, that occasional appeals to the people, would be neither_a_proper, por an effectual provision, for-that-purpose. How far the provisions of a different nature contained in the plan above quoted, might be adequate, I do not examine. Some of them are unquestionably founded on sound political principles, and all of them are framed with singular ingenuity and precision.
NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 5, 1788.
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED, WITH THE SAME VIEW.
It may be contended, perhaps, that instead of occasional appeals to the people, which are liable to the objections urged against them, periodical appeals are the proper and adequate means of preventing and correcting infractions of the constitution.
It will be attended to, that in the examination of these expedients, I confine myself to their aptitude for enforcing the constitution, by keeping the several departments of power within their due bounds; without particularly considering them, as provisions for altering the constitution itself. In the first view, appeals to the people at fixed periods, appear to be nearly as ineligible, as appeals on particular occasions as they emerge. If the periods be separated by short intervals, the measures to be reviewed and rectified, will have been of recent date, and will be connected with all the circumstances which tend to vitiate and pervert the result of occasional revisions. If the periods be distant from each other, the same remark will be applicable to all recent measures; and in proportion as the remoteness of the others may favour a dispassionate review of them, this advantage is inseparable from inconveniences which seem to counterbalance it. In the first place, a distant prospect of public censure would be a very feeble restraint on power
from those excesses, to which it might be urged by the force of present motives. Is it to be imagined, that a legislative assembly, consisting of a hundred or two hundred members, eagerly bent on some favourite object, and breaking through the restraints of tho constitution in pursuit of it, would be arrested in their career, by considerations drawn from a censorial revision of their conduct at the future distance of ten, fifteen, or twenty years? In the next place, the abuses would often have completed their mischievous effects, before the remedial provision would be applied. And in the last place, where this might not be the case, they would be of long standing, would have takon deep root, and would not easily be extirpated.
The scheme of revising the constitution, in order to correct recent breaches of it, as well as for other purposes, has been actually tried in one of the states. One of the objects of the council of censors, which met in Pennsylvania, in 1783 and 1784, was, as we have seen, to inquire " whether the constitution had been violated; and whether the legislative and executive departments had encroached on each other.” This important and novel experiment in politics, merits, in several points of view, very particular attention. In some of them it may, perhaps, as a single experiment, made under circumstances somewhat peculiar, be thought to be not absolutely conclusive. But, as applied to the case under consideration, it involves some facts which I venture to remark, as a complete and satisfactory illustration of the reasoning which I have employod.
First, It appears, from the names of the gentlemen who composed the council, that some, at least, of its most active and leading members, had also beon active and leading characters in the parties which pre-existed in the state.
Second. It appears that the same active and leading members of the council, had been active and influential members of the legislative and executive branches, within the period to be reviewed; and even patrons or opponents of the very measures to be thus brought to the test of the constitution. Two of thu members had been vice-presidents of the state, and several