« PředchozíPokračovat »
that this is the Augustine æra of Boston,-its Elizabethan time. If 80,
I am thankful that my steps have wandered thither at such a period.
While I was at Boston I had the sad privilege of attending the funeral of President Felton, the head of Harvard College. A few months before I had seen him a strong man, apparently in perfect health and in the pride of life. When I reached Boston, I heard of his death. He also was an accomplished scholar, and as a Grecian has left few behind him who were his equals. At his installation as President, four ex-Presidents of Harvard College assisted. Whether they were all present at his funeral I do not know, but I do know that they were all still living. These are Mr. Quincy, who is now over ninety; Mr. Sparks; Mr.Everett, the well-known orator; and Mr. Walk
They all reside in Boston or its neighbourhood, and will probably all assist at the installation of another President.
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES. It is, I presume, universally known that the citizens of the Western American colonies of Great Britain which revolted, declared themselves to be free from British dominion by an Act which they called the Declaration of Independence. This was done on the 4th of July, 1776, and was signed by delegates from the thirteen colonies, or States as they then called themselves. These delegates in this document declare themselves to be the representatives of the United States of America in general Congress assembled. The opening and close of this declaration have in them much that is grand and striking; the greater part of it, however, is given up to enumerating, in paragraph after paragraph, the sins committed by George III. against the colonies. Poor George III.! 'There is no one now to say a good word for him; but of all those who have spoken ill of him, this declaration is the loudest in its censure.
In the following year, on the 15th November, 1777, were drawn up the Articles of Confederation between the States, by which it was then intended that a sufficient bond and compact should be made for their future joint existence and preservation. A reference to this document, which, together with the Declaration of Independence and the subsequently framed Constitution of the United States, is given in the Appendix, will show how slight was the then intended bond of union between the States. The second article declares that each State retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence. The third article avows that “the said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other for their common defence, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other against all force offered to, or attacks made upon, them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretext whatever.” And the third article, “the better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship,” declares that the free citizens of one State shall be free citizens of another. From this it is, I think, manifest that no idea of one united nation had at that time been received and adopted by the citizens of the States. The articles then go on to define the way in which Congress shall assemble and what shall be its powers. This Congress was to exercise the authority of a national Government rather than perform the work of a national Parliament. It was intended to be executive rather than legislative. It was to consist of delegates, the very number of which within certain limits was to be left to the option of the individual States, and to this Congress was to be confided certain duties and privileges, which could not be performed or exercised separately by the Governments of the individual States. One special article, the eleventh, enjoins that “Canada, acceding to the Confederation, and joining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into and entitled to all the advantages of this Union; but no other colony shall be admitted into the same unless such admission be agreed to by nine States.” 'I mention this to show how strong was the expectation at that time that Canada also would revolt from England. Up to this day few Americans can understand why Canada has declined to join her lot to them.
But the compact between the different States made by the Articles of Confederation, and the mode of national procedure therein enjoined, were found to be inefficient for the wants of a people, who to be great must be united in fact as well as in name. The theory of the most democratic among the Americans of that day was in favour of self-government carried to an extreme. Self-government was the Utopia which they had determined to realize, and they were unwilling to diminish the reality of the self-government of the individual States by any centralization of power in one head, or in one Parliament, or in one set of ministers for the nation. For ten years, from 1777 to 1787, the attempt was made; but then it was found that a stronger bond of nationality was indispensable, if any national greatness was to be regarded as desir
able. Indeed, all manner of failure had attended the mode of national action ordained by the Articles of Confederation. I am not attempting to write a history of the United States, and will not therefore trouble my readers with historic details, which are not of value unless put forward with historic weight. The fact of the failure is however admitted, and the present written constitution of the United States, which is the splendid result of that failure,
“Done in Convention by the unanimous consent of the States present."* Twelve States were present,-Rhode Island apparently having had no representative on the occasion, on the 17th September, 1787, and in the twelfth year of the Independence of the United States.
I call the result splendid, seeing that under this constitution so written a nation has existed for three quarters of a century, and has grown in numbers, power, and wealth till it has made itself the political equal of the other greatest nations of the earth. And it cannot be said that it has so grown in spite of the constitution, or by ignoring the constitution. Hitherto the laws there laid down for the national guidance have been found adequate for the great purpose assigned to them, and have done all that which the framers of them hoped that they might effect. We all know what has been the fate of the constitutions which were written throughout the French revolution for the use of France. We all, here in England, have the same ludicrous conception of Utopian theories of government framed by philosophical individuals who imagine that they have learned from books a perfect system of managing nations. To produce such theories is especially the part of a Frenchman; to disbelieve in them is especially the part of an Englishman. But in the States a system of government has been produced under a written constitution, in which no Englishman can disbelieve, and which every Frenchman must envy. It has done its work. The people have been free, well-educated, and politically great. Those among us who are most inclined at the present moment to declare that the institutions of the United States have failed, can at any rate only declare that they have failed in their finality ; that they have shown themselves to be insufficient to carry on the nation in its adva ng strides through all times. They cannot deny that an amount of success and prosperity, much greater than the nation even expected for itself, has been achieved under this constitution and in connection with it. If it be so they cannot disbelieve in it. Let those who now say that it is insufficient, consider what their prophecies regarding it would have been had they been called on to express their opinions concerning it when it was proposed in 1787. If the future as it has since come forth had then been foretold for it, would not such a prophecy have been a prophecy of success? That constitution is now at the period of its hardest trial, and at this moment one may hardly dare to speak of it with triumph ; but looking at the nation even in its present position, I think I am justified in saying that its constitution is one in which no Englishman can disbelieve. When I also say that it is one which every Frenchman must envy, perhaps I am improperly presuming that Frenchmen could not look at it with Englishmen's eyes.
* It must not, however, be supposed that by this doing in convention,” the constitution became an accepted fact. It simply amounted to the adoption of a proposal of the constitution. The constitution itself was formally adopted by the people in conventions held in their separate State capitals. It was agreed to by the people in 1788, and came into operation in 1789.
When the constitution came to be written, a man had arisen in the States who was peculiarly suited for the work in hand; he was one of those men to whom the world owes much, and of whom the world in general knows but little. This was Alexander Hamilton, who alone on the part of the great State of New York signed the constitution of the United States. The other States sent two, three, four, or more delegates; New York sent Hamilton alone; but in sending him New York sent more to the constitution than all the other States together. I should be hardly saying too much for Hamilton if I were to declare that all those parts of the constitution emanated from him in which permanent political strength has abided. And yet his name has not been spread abroad widely in men's mouths. Of Jefferson, Franklin, and Madison, we have all heard; our children speak of them and they are household words in the nursery of history. Of Hamilton however it may, I believe, be said that he was greater than
any of those.
Without going with minuteness into the early contests of democracy in the United States, I think I may say that there soon arose two parties, each probably equally anxious in the cause of freedom, one of which was conspicuous for its French predilections, and the other for its English aptitudes. It was the period of the French revolution,—the time when the French revolution had in it as yet something of promise, and had not utterly disgraced itself. To many in America the French theory of democracy not unnaturally endeared itself, and foremost among these was Thomas Jefferson. He was the father of those politicians in the States who have since taken the name of democrats, and in accordance with whose theory it bas come to pass that everything has been referred to the universal suffrage of the people. James Madison, who succeeded Jefferson as President, was a pupil in this school, as indeed have been most of the Presidents of the United States. At the head of the other party, from which through various denominations have sprung those who now call themselves republicans, was Alexander Hamilton. I believe I may say that all the political sympathies of George Washington were with the same school. Washington, however, was rather a man of feeling and of action, than of theoretical policy or speculative opinion. When the constitution was written, Jefferson was in France, having been sent thither as minister from the United States, and he therefore was debarred from concerning himself personally in the matter. His views, however, were represented by: Madison, and it is now generally understood that the Constitution, as it stands, is the joint work of Madison and Hamilton.* The democratic bias, of which it necessarily contains much, and without which it could not have obtained the consent of the people, was furnished by Madison ; but the conservative elements, of which it possesses much more than superficial observers of the American form of government are wont to believe, came from Hamilton.
The very preamble of the constitution at once declares that the people of the different States do hereby join themselves together with the view of forming themselves into one nation. “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure 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.” Here a great step was made towards centralization,—towards one national government and the binding together of the States into one nation. But from that time down to the present, the contest has been going on, sometimes openly and sometimes only within the minds of men, between the still alleged sovereignty of the individual States and the acknowledged sovereignty of the central Congress and central Government. The disciples of Jefferson,-even though they have not known themselves to be his disciples have been carrying on that fight for State rights which has ended in secession; and the disciples of Hamilton,-certainly not knowing themselves to be his disciples,-have been making that stand for central gov
* It should, perhaps, be explained that the views of Madison were originally not opposed to those of Hamilton. Madison, however, gradually adopted the policy of Jefferson,-his policy rather than his philosophy.