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conceived to be the ultimate principles punished by imprisonment for life. of American freedom. Assuming that The friends of the people's constituthe sovereignty resided in the people, tion still persevering, the General Asthey of their own motion, and in their sembly resolve that an insurrection own names, in April, 1841, called a exists in the state, and call upon the convention; which assembled in Octo- President for assistance to put it down ber, and in the month following pro- by force. He promises to give it. His posed a constitution extending the right interference does not actually take of suffrage to every white male adult place, only because, on the first collicitizen of the United States who had sion between the two parties, the sufresided one year in the State, and ap- frage party is overthrown. Whether portioning the representatives among they will ever rally is the problem of the towns and cities of the State, as the future. nearly as possible in proportion to their Here are questions which go to the actual population. This constitution foundation of this government: was submitted to the people by the First. In whom does the sovereignty convention, in December, (the General reside ? Assembly giving no sanction whatever Second. What is the right of resistto it, nor providing any means for as ance or of revolution? certaining under oath the number of Third. How far does the Federal votes for or against it,) and received, Constitution authorize an interference as its friends allege, 13,944 votes in its by the Union with the exercise of sovefavor, of which 4,960 were given by reignty in a State ? persons having a right to vote under Fourth. In what manner can such The charter and the acts of the Gene- interference be made ? ral Assembly, being a majority not In discussing them we do not mean only of all the citizens, but even of the to enter any further than we have old electors.
done into the questions of fact. It is Meantime the General Assembly, of no importance to the questions we taking alarm at this new state of are about to consider, whether, in this things, had themselves, in February, particular case, the majority of the re1841, passed a resolution requesting sident citizens of Rhode Island did or the freemen to choose, in August, dele- did not sanction the people's constitugates to attend a convention in Novem- tion. We certainly think there is reaber to form a new constitution in sonable evidence that they did, not the whole or part, with full powers for least part of which is the refusal of that purpose. This convention met in the Charter Assembly to examine and November, and being unable to agree count the votes. If they had admitted on the question of the franchise, ad- the right of such majority to change journed to February, 1842. They met the organic law of the State, and had again in February, and extended the been sincerely desirous to ascertain the franchise to all white male adult na- fact whether the majority had done so tive citizens resident in the state two or not, they would, we think, have years, and
to naturalized citizens, made the examination which the ihree years resident, and having the friends of the constitution desired them old property qualification; but though to make. It is true that the charter they changed the rate of representa- government has always denied the fact tion, they made it nearly as unequal as of a majority of the people being in before. The constitution thus formed favor of the constitution; but they have was submitted to all those persons who also denied the right of such majority were made electors by it, and was lost to make the constitution if they would. by a majority of 676.
It is this latter position which we are The movement in favor of the about to discuss. people's convention and constitution All Americans agree, in general was denounced by the old government terms, th the sovereignty resides in in all its stages, as revolutionary and the people. This is the language of illegal, and, after the rejection of their our constitutions, our bills of rights, our constitution, they passed in March an legal formulas. But who are the peoact declaring the exercise of any of the ple? Is the people, in whom, accordprincipal offices under the people's ing to our American theory, the soveconstiiution an act of treason, to be reignty resides, the body of the elect
ors, or the whole body of adult male ants, till it rested upon the consecrated citizens, or the whole body of human shoulders of the actual possessors of beings in the State ?
thrones. Locke wrote his celebrated The question here put is general, as treatise in answer to Filmer, in which, if the same answer could be given for after exposing the absurdity of Filall the States of the Union. This may mer's theory, he entered upon a pronot be really the case. The states, found investigation of the origin and being independent, except so far as rightful authority of government, in a they surrendered their independence by manner which has illustrated even his the act of Union, each must determine own illustrious name. for itself what qualifications or excep His doctrine, in short, was this: that tions shall be made to the general doc- all men were born free, equal, and inirines which, as we shall show here- dependent; that no human being after, were promulgated by the whole could rightfully exercise any control circle of American States. The excep- over another but from his own free tions may qualify so much the general contract, children and idiots excepted; result, that in fact the sovereignty in that this contract might be expressed Massachusetts may reside in one body or implied; and that the authority and in South Carolina in another. The conferred by a political society upon its constitution of the United States does government could be resumed. not fix it, nor interfere with it, except to require a republican form of govern
« Men being, as has been said, all free, ment in every State.” It is possible, equal, and independent, no one can be therefore, that the general doctrines put out of this estate and subjected to upon which, as we shall show, the re
the political power of another, without
his own consent, The only way whereby volution was defended, may have been modified in a single State so that the erty, and puts on the bonds of civil society,
any one divests himself of his natural lib. sovereignty may in fact reside in a is, by agreeing with other men to join and greater or less body compared with unite into a community, for their comfortthe whole population. These, how- able, safe, and peaceable living, one ever, are exceptions, and do not destroy amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of the rule.
their properties, and a greater security There were, we think, certain. prin- against any that are not of it. This any ciples promulged at the revolution, by number of men may do, because it injures the authority and on behalf of all the not the freedom of the rest; they are left States, which necessarily lead to the as they were in the liberty of the state doctrine, that the sovereignty resides, of nature. When any number of men with some exceptions, in the whole have so consented to make a community body of the male population.
or government, they are thereby presently To understand this matter clearly, it wherein the majority have a right to
incorporated, and make one body politic, may be necessary to refer to the state of act and conclude the rest.” —-Locke on opinion at and previous to the revolution. Civil Government. Book 2, chap. 8, Ever since the time of the English com
sec. 95. monwealth, the general mind of England “ Though I have said above, that all had been much engaged upon ques men by nature are equal, I cannot be suptions of government, and among others posed to understand all sorts of equality ; of its origin and the social compact. age or virtue may give some a just preceThe dethronement of James the Second, dency; excellency of parts and merit may and the accession of William and place others above the common level; Mary,
, gave a new occasion and a new birth may subject some, and alliance or impetus to the discussion. Beginning benefits others, to pay an observance to with philosophers, the question spread those to whom nature, gratitude or other among the people, and finally, in the respects may have made it due ; and yet latter part of the last century, engaged all men are in respect of jurisdiction or
all this consists with the equality which the attention of Christendom. There were persons who maintained the equality I then spoke of, as proper to
dominion over one another ; which was the divine right of kings. Sir Robert the business in hand, being that equal Filmer wrote a book to prove that the right, that every man hath to his natural kingly office was transmitted from freedom, without being subjected to the Adam, down through the eldest sons will or authority of any other man.”— in countless generations of his descend- Chap. 6, sec. 54.
“ Though in a constituted common The people, then, who entered into wealth, standing upon its own basis, and the social compact, were the whole acting according to its conviction, that is, people, without any distinction of proacting for the preservation of the community, there can be but one supreme power: ing to this theory, all government was
perty or other qualifications. Accordwhich is the legislative, to which all the
originally founded on rest are and must be subordinate ; yet the
some original legislative being only a fiduciary power
agreement of all the persons then existto act for certain ends, there remains still ing, acting as equals, and concurring in the people a supreme power to renew in the formation of a state. Persons or alter the legislative, when they find the who afterwards came upon the stage legislature act contrary to the trust became in their turn parties to reposed in them.” – Chap. 13, sec. the compact.
It was from such a 149.
compact that the legality of existing “ To conclude; the power that every in- institutions was deduced, the consent dividual gave to society when he entered thus originally given attaching to and into it, can never revert to the individuals rendering legal all the forms which the again, as long as the society lasts, but governments afterwards underwent in will always remain in the community; be- all their changes. Such was the theory cause without this there can be no com- of the social compact. munity, no commonwealth, which is contrary to the original agreement; so also from this theory, that if consent had
It was also a very general inference when the society hath placed the legisla- been originally necessary to justify tive in any assembly of men, to continue in them and their successors, with direc- government, there were conditions or tion and authority for providing such stipulations implied on the part of successors, the legislative can never revert those in whom it was vested, or that to the people, whilst that government there still remained a right in the peolasts; because, having provided a legisla. ple to compel a fulfilment of the oblive with power to continue for ever, they jects for which the compact was formhave given up their political power to the ed. It was upon this point that there legislative and cannot resume it. But if arose a great difference of opinion. they have set limits to the duration of
One party insisted, that although it their legislative, and made this supreme might be very true that the consent of power in any person or assembly only the governed' was necessary to make temporary; or else when by the miscar- the government rightful in its establishriages of those in authority it is forfeited; ment, yet that the consent once given upon the forfeiture or at the determination of the time set, it reverts to the could not be recalled, and that the society, and the people have a right to act power
conferred by the people as supreme and continue the legislative upon their government could not be in themselves, or erect a new form, or resumed. The other party maintained, under the old form place it in new hands, that the right of the people to selfas they think good.”
government was inalienable and inde
feasible-that it could not be surrenSuch were the doctrines of Locke, a dered nor forfeited. few years after the English revolution We come now to the period of our of 1688. The point which we wish to revolution. The abuse of the kingly establish by these extracts is, that the office had absolved the people from people, as the word is used by Locke, in- their allegiance. The fountains of cludes every person in the state who power were broken up. The governcould have been a party to the social ment of prescription, whose roots were compact, if it had been formed anew at in the dark ages, and which had flourthe time, or in other words, every hu- ished a thousand years, lay prostrate. man being of sufficient age and judg. There was no successor, according to ment to enter into a contract.
any received legal opinions, to the auLocke was not alone. The same thority which had been torn from the opinions were entertained by others; crown. What was the consequence? nor were there wanting antagonists There were no legal rights resulting who combated these doctrines with from it, for no law had provided for great power.
Hooker, Bolingbroke, such a case. All the laws which the Hume, Burke, are some of the English Anglo-Saxon race had ever known, Dames that have been engaged in the had proceeded upon the notion that discussion.
the supreme government was in the VOL. XI.NO. XLIX.
King and Parliament. The conse- might, if they saw fit, restrict the electquence was, that the whole population ive franchise to any particular class, was remitted to their original rights. and exclude some of their own numThe rights to which they had succeed- ber from the choice of public officers. ed were their rights, not as British sub- Would such a delegation be revocable? jects, for they were such no longer; not Could such a restriction be removed as American citizens, for they had not by a majority of the whole people afbecome such by the formation of an terwards? Is the consent thus given American government; but to their really or by implication, to a constiturights as men—to their natural equali- tion, revocable, and can the exercise of ty. Every person, of a competent age the sovereignty be resumed at any and judgment, had as much right as time by the whole people, without the any other to participate in the new consent of the parties to whom the government. No man, or number of power may have been confided, or, to men, had any right to exclude any use a legal expression, without the other man from his equal share in its consent of the grantees? Can it be foundation,
resumed without a revolution ? After a Such was the state of things at that constitution is once adopted, by which particular crisis. Society was resolved an electoral body is established smallinto its elements, and the authority of er than the whole people, does there the state devolved upon the whole peo- still remain a legal right to change ple. Such was the general understanding that constitution, in a manner not proat that time. For that reason, Congress vided by the constitution itself, and recommended to the several States without the consent of the electoral to frame governments suited to their body? condition and wants. It was, to use This depends entirely upon another the language of the old constitution of question, before alluded to, whether Virginia, because “ the government of the rights which belonged to the whole this country, as before exercised under people, when they entered into the social the crown of Great Britain, was totally compact, or when at the revolution dissolved,” and “ viewing with great they formed a new government, were concern the deplorable condition to transferable or defeasible. That at the which this once happy country would formation of the social compact all men be reduced, unless some regular, ade- were equal, and entered into it as such, quate mode of civil polity should be we have clearly shown ; that at the speedily adopted,” that all the States, revolution they acted as equals again, excepting Connecticut and Rhode Isl- is equally clear. Have they surrendered and, created forms of government for or lost that equality—that equal right themselves. How were these govern- to participate in ihe governmentments formed? By the actual or im “that equal right that every man hath plied consent of the whole people. It 10 his natural freedom, without being was not necessary, that every human subjected to the will or authority of being should be personally present and any other man?” The answer is consent to the new constitution, nor contained in the Declaration of Inde. that they should all actually act on the pendence, and firmly imbedded in our matter. Acquiescence might be equi- fundamental laws, as is our glorious valent to consent, and silence to acqui- ancestors had
presentiment In theory, the new consti- that there might come some inglorious tution was the act of a majority of all day when this great right of rights the persons in the state, capable of en- should be questioned : tering into a contract; in fact, it was the act of a portion acquiesced in by
DECLARATION OF INDEFENDENCE. all.
“ We hold these truths to be self-eviA constitution being thus once estab- dent: that all men are created equal; that lished by an act of popular sovereign- tain UNALIENABLE rights; that among these
they are endowed by their Creator with certy, the actual administration might then be delegated to a smaller number, ness. That to secure these rights, govern
are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiwho thenceforth were to wield all the ments are instituted among men, deriving powers of the state. The majority of their just powers from the consent of the whole people being competent to THE GOVERNED; that whenever any form make such constitution as they please, of government becomes destructive of
these ends, it is the right of THE PEOPLE right originates from the people, is foundto alter or to abolish it, and to institute ed in consent, and instituted for the gea new government, laying its foundation neral good.” on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem
If the “people” mentioned in this most likely to effect their safety and hap- sentence includes “all men,” the argupiness."
ment is conclusive—otherwise it is al
together fallacious. CONSTITUTION OF MAINE. “ All power is inherent in the people ; CONSTITUTION OF VERMONT. all free governments are founded on their
“Government is or ought to be constiauthority and instituted for their benefit; tuted for the common benefit, protection, they have, therefore, an UNALIENABLE and security of the people, nation, or AND INDEFEASIBLE right to institute community, and not for the particular government, and to alter, reform, or to- emolument or advantage of any single tally change the same, when their safety man, family, or set of men, who are a and happiness require it.”
part only of that community; and that If their right to institute and to the community hath an indubitable, inchange government is inalienable, then alienable, and indefeasible right to reform no form of government, no contract, and alter government in such manner as no agreement, can be devised by which shall be by that community judged most the people can be bound not to resume
conducive to the public weal.” the powers which they have granted. Community must mean the same A delegation of the administra, thing, wherever it is used in this sention of government to a limited tence, and plainly signifies the whole body of electors is valid so long as it population. is not revoked; but it is always revo The State of Rhode Island herself, cable; and the constitution of this in 1790, in convention, met to delibeyear may be abrogated the next, with- rate on the constitution of the United out the consent of any of the bodies States, used this remarkable language which it may have created. If the in the solemn instrument by which whole people cannot alienate their she made known her ratification of that right of self-government, so cannot constitution : any portion of them, for the same reason. The right resides in every mem “ We declare, That there are certain ber of the body politic, and is inaliena- natural rights, of which men, when they ble, indefeasible, and indestructible. form a social compact, cannot deprive or No time can bar it-no act or consent divest their posterity, among which are can give it away--no calamity can de- the enjoyments of life and liberty, with
the means of acquiring, possessing, and stroy it.
protecting property, and preserving and
obtaining happiness and safety. “Government is instituted for the com
“ That all power is naturally vested in, mon good; for the protection, safety, That magistrates are their trustees and
and consequently derived from the people. prosperity, and happiness of THE PEOPLE, and not for the profit, honor, or private agents, and at all times amenable to them.
“ That the powers of government may interest of any one man, family, or class be re-assumed by the people, whenever it of men. Therefore, THE PEOPLE alone shall become necessary to their happiness. have an inalienable and indefeasible right to institute government, and to re- ing that the rights aforesaid cannot be
“ Under these impressions, and declarform, alter, or totally change the same, abridged or violated, and that the explawhen their protection, safety, prosperity, nations aforesaid are consistent with the and happiness require it."
said constitution, we, the said delegates, The people in the latter sentence, in the name and behalf of the people of is certainly the same people mentioned the state of Rhode Island and Providence in the former; and they for whom gove plantations, do by these presents assent to ernment is instituted have alone the and ratify the said constitution.” right to change it.
CONSTITUTION OF CONNECTICUT. CONSTITUTION OF NEW HAMPSHIRE.
“That all men, when they form a social “ All men are born equally free and in- compact, are equal in rights; and that no dependent; therefore, all government of men, or set of men, are entitled to exclu
CONSTITUTION OF MASSACHUSETTS.