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of the most striking traits in their character,sketch will show.
as a very brief During their colonial condition, they formed distinct communities,― each with its separate charter and government,— and in no way connected with each other, except as dependent members of a common empire. Their first union amongst themselves was, in resistance to the encroachments of the parent country on their chartered rights, when they adopted the title of,-"the United Colonies." Under that name they acted, until they declared their independence; always, in their joint councils, voting and acting as separate and distinct communities; and not in the aggregate, as composing one community or nation. They acted in the same character in declaring independence; by which act they passed from their dependent, colonial condition, into that of free and sovereign States. The declaration was made by delegates appointed by the several colonies, each for itself, and on its own authority. The vote making the declaration was taken by delegations, each counting one. The declaration was announced to be unanimous, not because every delegate voted for it, but because the majority of each delegation did; showing clearly, that the body itself, regarded it as the united act of the several colonies, and not the act of the whole as one community. To leave no doubt on a point so important, and in reference to which the several colonies were so tenacious, the declaration was made in the name, and by the authority of the people of the colonies, represented in Congress; and that was followed by declaring them to be,-"free and independent States." The act was, in fact, but a formal and solemn annunciation to the world, that the colonies had ceased to be dependent communities, and had become free and independent States; without involving any other change in their relations with each other, than those necessarily incident to a separation from the parent country. So far were they from supposing, or intending that it should have the effect of merging their existence, as separate communities, into one nation, that they had appointed a committee, which was actually sitting, while the declaration was under discussion,- to prepare a plan of a confederacy of the States, preparatory to entering into their new condition. In fulfilment of their appointment, this committee prepared the draft of the articles of confederation and perpetual union, which afterwards was adopted by the governments of the
several States. That it instituted a mere confederacy and union of the States has already been shown. That, in forming and assenting to it, the States were exceedingly jealous and watchful in delegating power, even to a confederacy; that they granted the powers delegated most reluctantly and sparingly; that several of them long stood out, under all the pressure of the revolutionary war, before they acceded to it; and that, during the interval which elapsed between its adoption and that of the present constitution, they evinced, under the most urgent necessity, the same reluctance and jealousy, in delegating power, are facts which cannot be disputed.
To this may be added another circumstance of no little weight, drawn from the preliminary steps taken for the ratification of the constitution. The plan was laid, by the convention, before the Congress of the confederacy, for its consideration and action, as has been stated. It was the sole organ and representative of these States in their confederated' character. By submitting it, the convention recognized and acknowledged its authority over it, as the organ of distinct, independent, and sovereign States. It had the right to dispose of it as it pleased; and, if it had thought proper, it might have defeated the plan by simply omitting to act on it. But it thought proper to act, and to adopt the course recommended by the convention; - which was, to submit it," to a convention of delegates, chosen in each State, by the people thereof, for their assent and adoption." All this was in strict accord with the federal character of the constitution, but wholly repugnant to the idea of its being national. It received the assent of the States in all the possible modes in which it could be obtained: first, in their confederated character, through its only appropriate organ, the Congress; next, in their individual character, as separate States, through their respective State governments, to which the Congress referred it; and finally, in their high character of independent and sovereign communities, through a convention of the people, called in each State, by the authority of its government. The States acting in these various capacities, might, at every stage, have defeated it or not, at their option, by giving or withholding their consent.
With this weight of presumptive evidence, to use no stronger expression, in favor of its federal, in contradistinction to its national character, I shall next proceed to show, that the ratification of the constitution, instead of furnishing proof against, contains additional and conclusive evidence in its favor.
We are not left to conjecture, as to what was meant by the ratification of the constitution, or its effects. The expressions used by the conventions of the States, in ratifying it, and those used by the constitution in connection with it, afford ample means of ascertaining with accuracy, both its meaning and effect. The usual form of expression used by the former is: "We, the delegates of the State," (naming the State,) "do, in behalf of the people of the State, assent to, and ratify the said constitution." All use, "ratify,”— and all, except North Carolina, use, assent to." The delegates of that State use, adopt," instead of "assent to;" a variance merely in the form of expression, without, in any degree, affecting the meaning. \Ratification was, then, the act of the several States in their separate capacity. It was performed by delegates appointed expressly for the purpose. Each appointed its own delegates; and the delegates of each, acted in the name of, and for the State appointing them. Their act consisted in, "assenting to," or, what is the same thing, "adopting and ratifying" the constitution.
By turning to the seventh article of the constitution, and to the preamble, it will be found what was the effect of ratifying. The article expressly provides, that, "the ratification of the conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this constitution, between the States so ratifying the same." The preamble of the constitution is in the following words; "We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America." The effect, then, of its ratification was, to ordain and establish the constitution; — and, thereby, to make, what was before but a plan,-"The constitution of the United States of America." All this is clear.
It remains now to show, by whom, it was ordained and established; for whom, it was ordained and established; for what, it was ordained and established; and over whom, it was ordained and established. These will be considered in the order
in which they stand.
Nothing more is necessary, in order to show by whom it was ordained and established, than to ascertain who are meant by, -"We, the people of the United States;" for, by their author
ity, it was done. To this there can be but one answer:- it meant the people who ratified the instrument; for it was the act of ratification which ordained and established it. Who they were, admits of no doubt. The process preparatory to ratification, and the acts by which it was done, prove, beyond the possibility of a doubt, that it was ratified by the several States, through conventions of delegates, chosen in each State by the people thereof; and acting, each in the name and by the authority of its State: and, as all the States ratified it,— "We, the people of the United States," mean,- We, the people of the several States of the Union. The inference is irresistible. And when it is considered that the States of the Union were then members of the confederacy,—and that, by the express provision of one of its articles, "each State retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence," the proof is demonstrative, that,-"We, the people of the United States of America," mean the people of the several States of the Union, acting as free, independent, and sovereign States. This strikingly confirms what has been already stated; to wit, that the convention which formed the constitution, meant the same thing by the terms,-"United States," and, "federal,”— when applied to the constitution or government; and that the former, when used politically, always mean, these States united as independent and sovereign communities.
Having shown, by whom, it was ordained, there will be no difficulty in determining, for whom, it was ordained. The preamble is explicit; - it was ordained and established for,"The United States of America;" adding, "America," in conformity to the style of the then confederacy, and the Declaration of Independence. Assuming, then, that the "United States" bears the same meaning in the conclusion of the preamble, as it does in its commencement, (and no reason can be assigned why it should not,) it follows, necessarily, that the constitution was ordained and established for the people of the several States, by whom it was ordained and established.
Nor will there be any difficulty in showing, for what, it was ordained and established. The preamble enumerates the objects. They are,—“ to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." To effect these objects, they ordained and established, to use their own lan
guage, "the constitution for the United States of America; clearly meaning by "for," that it was intended to be their constitution; and that the objects of ordaining and establishing it were, to perfect their union, to establish justice among them to insure their domestic tranquillity, to provide for their common defence and general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty to them and their posterity. Taken all together, it follows, from what has been stated, that the constitution was ordained and established by the several States, as distinct, sovereign communities; and that it was ordained and established by them for themselves — for their common welfare and safety, as distinct and sovereign communities.
It remains to be shown, over whom, it was ordained and established. That it was not over the several States, is settled by the seventh article beyond controversy. It declares, that the ratification by nine States shall be sufficient to establish the constitution between the States so ratifying. "Between," necessarily excludes over; as that which is between States cannot be over them. Reason itself, if the constitution had been silent, would have led, with equal certainty, to the same conclusion. For it was the several States, or, what is the same thing, their people, in their sovereign capacity, who ordained and established the constitution. But the authority which ordains and establishes, is higher than that which is ordained and established; and, of course, the latter must be subordinate to the former; — and cannot, therefore, be over it. Between," always means more than over; — and implies in this case, that the authority which ordained and established the constitution, was the joint and united authority of the States ratifying it; and that, among the effects of their ratification, it became a contract between them; and, as a compact, binding on them; but only as such. In that sense the term, "between," is appropriately applied. In no other, can it be. It was, doubtless, used in that sense in this instance; but the question still remains, over whom, was it ordained and established? After what has been stated, the answer may be readily given. It was over the government which it created, and all its functionaries in their official character, and the individuals composing and inhabiting the several States, as far as they might come within the sphere of the powers delegated to the United States.
I have now shown, conclusively, by arguments drawn from the act of ratification, and the constitution itself, that the sev