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It concerns his interest,
because it affects his property. He examines the cost, and compares it
with the advantages; and above all, he does not adopt the slavish custom
of following what in other governments are called Leaders.

It can only be by blinding the understanding of man, and making him
believe that government is some wonderful mysterious thing, that
excessive revenues are obtained. Monarchy is well calculated to ensure
this end. It is the popery of government; a thing kept up to amuse the
ignorant, and quiet them into taxes.

The government of a free country, properly speaking, is not in the
persons, but in the laws. The enacting of those requires no great
expense; and when they are administered, the whole of civil government
is performed--the rest is all court contrivance.




CHAPTER IV. OF CONSTITUTIONS

That men mean distinct and separate things when they speak of
constitutions and of governments, is evident; or why are those terms
distinctly and separately used? A constitution is not the act of a
government, but of a people constituting a government; and government
without a constitution, is power without a right.

All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It
must either be delegated or assumed. There are no other sources. All
delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does
not alter the nature and quality of either.

In viewing this subject, the case and circumstances of America present
themselves as in the beginning of a world; and our enquiry into the
origin of government is shortened, by referring to the facts that have
arisen in our own day. We have no occasion to roam for information into
the obscure field of antiquity, nor hazard ourselves upon conjecture.
We are brought at once to the point of seeing government begin, as if we
had lived in the beginning of time. The real volume, not of history,
but of facts, is directly before us, unmutilated by contrivance, or the
errors of tradition.

I will here concisely state the commencement of the American
constitutions; by which the difference between constitutions and
governments will sufficiently appear.

It may not appear improper to remind the reader that the United
States of America consist of thirteen separate states, each of
which established a government for itself, after the declaration of
independence, done the 4th of July, 1776. Each state acted independently
of the rest, in forming its governments; but the same general principle
pervades the whole. When the several state governments were formed, they
proceeded to form the federal government, that acts over the whole in
all matters which concern the interest of the whole, or which relate to
the intercourse of the several states with each other, or with foreign
nations. I will begin with giving an instance from one of the state
governments (that of Pennsylvania) and then proceed to the federal
government.

The state of Pennsylvania, though nearly of the same extent of territory
as England, was then divided into only twelve counties. Each of those
counties had elected a committee at the commencement of the dispute with
the English government; and as the city of Philadelphia, which also
had its committee, was the most central for intelligence, it became
the center of communication to the several country committees. When
it became necessary to proceed to the formation of a government, the
committee of Philadelphia proposed a conference of all the committees,
to be held in that city, and which met the latter end of July, 1776.

Though these committees had been duly elected by the people, they were
not elected expressly for the purpose, nor invested with the authority
of forming a constitution; and as they could not, consistently with the
American idea of rights, assume such a power, they could only confer
upon the matter, and put it into a train of operation. The conferees,
therefore, did no more than state the case, and recommend to the several
counties to elect six representatives for each county, to meet in
convention at Philadelphia, with powers to form a constitution, and
propose it for public consideration.

This convention, of which Benjamin Franklin was president, having met
and deliberated, and agreed upon a constitution, they next ordered it to
be published, not as a thing established, but for the consideration of
the whole people, their approbation or rejection, and then adjourned to
a stated time. When the time of adjournment was expired, the convention
re-assembled; and as the general opinion of the people in approbation of
it was then known, the constitution was signed, sealed, and proclaimed
on the authority of the people and the original instrument deposited
as a public record. The convention then appointed a day for the general
election of the representatives who were to compose the government, and
the time it should commence; and having done this they dissolved, and
returned to their several homes and occupations.

In this constitution were laid down, first, a declaration of rights;
then followed the form which the government should have, and the powers
it should possess--the authority of the courts of judicature, and of
juries--the manner in which elections should be conducted, and the
proportion of representatives to the number of electors--the time which
each succeeding assembly should continue, which was one year--the mode
of levying, and of accounting for the expenditure, of public money--of
appointing public officers, etc., etc., etc.

No article of this constitution could be altered or infringed at
the discretion of the government that was to ensue. It was to that
government a law. But as it would have been unwise to preclude the
benefit of experience, and in order also to prevent the accumulation of
errors, if any should be found, and to preserve an unison of government
with the circumstances of the state at all times, the constitution
provided that, at the expiration of every seven years, a convention
should be elected, for the express purpose of revising the constitution,
and making alterations, additions, or abolitions therein, if any such
should be found necessary.

Here we see a regular process--a government issuing out of a
constitution, formed by the people in their original character; and that
constitution serving, not only as an authority, but as a law of control
to the government. It was the political bible of the state. Scarcely a
family was without it. Every member of the government had a copy; and
nothing was more common, when any debate arose on the principle of a
bill, or on the extent of any species of authority, than for the members
to take the printed constitution out of their pocket, and read the
chapter with which such matter in debate was connected.

Having thus given an instance from one of the states, I will show the
proceedings by which the federal constitution of the United States arose
and was formed.

Congress, at its two first meetings, in September 1774, and May 1775,
was nothing more than a deputation from the legislatures of the several
provinces, afterwards states; and had no other authority than what arose
from common consent, and the necessity of its acting as a public body.
In everything which related to the internal affairs of America, congress
went no further than to issue recommendations to the several provincial
assemblies, who at discretion adopted them or not. Nothing on the
part of congress was compulsive; yet, in this situation, it was more
faithfully and affectionately obeyed than was any government in
Europe. This instance, like that of the national assembly in France,
sufficiently shows, that the strength of government does not consist in
any thing itself, but in the attachment of a nation, and the interest
which a people feel in supporting it. When this is lost, government is
but a child in power; and though, like the old government in France, it
may harass individuals for a while, it but facilitates its own fall.

After the declaration of independence, it became consistent with the
principle on which representative government is founded, that the
authority of congress should be defined and established. Whether that
authority should be more or less than congress then discretionarily
exercised was not the question. It was merely the rectitude of the
measure.

For this purpose, the act, called the act of confederation (which was a
sort of imperfect federal constitution), was proposed, and, after long
deliberation, was concluded in the year 1781. It was not the act of
congress, because it is repugnant to the principles of representative
government that a body should give power to itself. Congress first
informed the several states, of the powers which it conceived were
necessary to be invested in the union, to enable it to perform the
duties and services required from it; and the states severally agreed
with each other, and concentrated in congress those powers.

It may not be improper to observe that in both those instances (the one
of Pennsylvania, and the other of the United States), there is no such
thing as the idea of a compact between the people on one side, and the
government on the other. The compact was that of the people with each
other, to produce and constitute a government. To suppose that any
government can be a party in a compact with the whole people, is to
suppose it to have existence before it can have a right to exist. The
only instance in which a compact can take place between the people and
those who exercise the government, is, that the people shall pay them,
while they choose to employ them.

Government is not a trade which any man, or any body of men, has a right
to set up and exercise for his own emolument, but is altogether a trust,
in right of those by whom that trust is delegated, and by whom it is
always resumeable. It has of itself no rights; they are altogether
duties.

Having thus given two instances of the original formation of a
constitution, I will show the manner in which both have been changed
since their first establishment.

The powers vested in the governments of the several states, by the state
constitutions, were found, upon experience, to be too great; and those
vested in the federal government, by the act of confederation, too
little.



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