« PreviousContinue »
the lesson, that morality, virtue, religion, or by whatever name it may be called, is the basis of all republican government, and the last and best hope of freemen. As one mode of doing this, let him show that every citizen is under a moral obligation to obey the laws of his country; that to defraud the government, is a sin just as really as to defraud an individual, that to evade the law, or to resist it, is a moral guilt for which the guilty must stand accountable.
We are so accustomed to the daily blessings which flow from the Constitution, that we are unmindful of their source. It too rarely enters our thoughts that this source may ever fail. We regard them permanent as the benefits which flow to us from the great fountain of light and heat.
That such may be the fact, let no effort be spared to instruct the youth of the country in the nature of these blessings, and to teach them the only mode by which they may be perpetuated.
ORIGIN OF THE NORTH AMERICAN UNION.
THE United States of America were settled chiefly by colonies from England. These colonies either were in the beginning, or soon became, subject to the crown of Great Britain. They however had each its own local government, of which the precise character depended on the genius and circumstances of the colonists and upon the charter granted by the king. These governments, however imperfect, contained the first rudiments of the Constitutions which are now established in the different states of this Union.
The tree of liberty had long grown upon the English soil. Restricted, however, by numerous obstacles, it was unable to expand itself, and to put forth its precious
fruits with the full perfection of its native vigor. Our forefathers, when they came to this western world, brought its seeds with them. Planted here in the native soil of the wilderness, they sprang up in the fulness of their strength. Without artificial restraints, cherished by this free atmosphere, defended from external injury, and cultivated by a jealous' hand, they have grown into twenty-four goodly shades, which, though independent, have yet a common trunk, independent also, and extending its branches over the country, from Maine to Florida, and from the Atlantic borders to the remote regions of the West.
This growth has however been gradual. The legislatures of the colonies contained the Republican principle in different degrees. Subject to the British crown, they all felt, more or less, the weight of its immediate influence. It would be interesting to trace the history of each of the older State Governments from its first origin in the colonial form to its present improved condition. It might be useful to observe, what difficulties they have had to encoun
ter, how these difficulties have been overcome, and how, under the influence of the virtue, the wisdom, and the stern republican integrity of our ancestors, the governments have advanced, step by step, to their present degree of perfection. The main purpose of this book is, however, briefly to sketch the history of our present Union, beginning with its earliest elements, and to explain the instrument which defines what this Union is, for what objects it was formed, and what is the mode prescribed for the accomplishment of these objects. This instrument, it need not be said, is termed, The Constitution of the United States of America.
The union of these States under one government is not the work of an hour nor of a day. It is the result of a series of successive efforts, scattered throughout the space of almost a century and a half. About two hundred years intervened between the settlement of the first English colony on this continent, and the formation of the government styled the United States of America. The former event occurred
in 1585 and the latter in 1781. The New England colonies were, however, very early in the habit of uniting for their common defence and for the promotion of their common interests. The first instance is that of a league, formed one hundred and ninety-two years ago, and one hundred and forty-six years before the ratification of the present. Constitution of the United States.
In 1643, the colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, apprehensive of danger from the Indians and suffering encroachments from the Dutch, formed a league, offensive and defensive, and styled themselves "The United Colonies of New England." By the stipulations of this league, a congress, composed of commissioners from each colony, was to be holden annually. This congress was to decide upon matters of peace and war, and upon other subjects of common concern. The number of commissioners from each colony was two. The decision of three fourths of the members was to be binding on all the colonies. This union lasted more than forty years.