Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

much difficulty on the other. If changes are too easily made, there will be instability in the government; if with too great difficulty, the community may be deprived of the benefit of salutary reforms, or seek a remedy in revolution or civil dissension. 409. No amendments, it will be observed, can be made to the Constitution unless two-thirds of Congress propose them, or they are proposed by a convention called by Congress, on the application of two-thirds of the legislatures of the several states; and also, unless three-fourths of the states, either by their legislatures or by conventions called for that purpose, ratify them. 410. No amendment, made prior to the year 1808, could affect, in any manner, those clauses which relate to the migration or importation of such persons as the states might think proper to admit, and to the manner in which direct taxes should be laid: in other words, no changes could be made in those clauses which relate to the importation of slaves, or the apportionment of taxes, until after the year 1808. A permanent limitation upon the power of amendment is, that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate. It should be observed that a proposed amendment to the Constitution need not be presented to the President for his approval. |

PUBLIC DEBT, SUPREMACY OF THE CONSTITU- TION, &c.

Public Debt.

411. All debts contracted and engagements entered into before the adoption of the Constitution, are as valid against the United States, under the Constitution, as under the Confederation.

412. When a nation changes one form of government for another, the government under the new form becomes liable for all the obligations of the preceding government. Hence the government of the United States under the Constitution necessarily became liable for the debts and engagements entered into by the government of the United States under the Confederation. The object of expressly asserting this principle of the law of nations in the Constitution itself was, doubtless, to allay any apprehensions that the public creditors might be supposed to feel.

Supremacy of the Constitution. 413. The Constitution and the laws of the United

States made in pursuance of it, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, are the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state are bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding. 414. The propriety and the necessity of making the Constitution, and the laws passed in pursuance of it, the supreme law of the land, are very obvious. The very existence of the federal government depends upon it. If the powers conferred on that government could be overridden by contradictory powers in the several state governments, they might as well not have been conferred at all. Necessarily, therefore, powers conferred for national purposes must be supreme over those conferred for state purposes. But those powers cannot be exceeded. If Congress pass laws not in pursuance of the Constitution, they are void, and it is the duty of the judiciary to declare them void. And it is equally their duty to declare void acts of the state legislatures which are repugnant to the Constitution of the United States. 415. A treaty ratified with proper formalities is, by the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, and the courts have no power to examine into the authority of the persons by whom it was entered into on behalf of the foreign nation. Whenever a right grows out of, or is protected by, a treaty, it is sanctioned against all the laws and judicial decisions of the states; and whoever may have this right, it is to be protected.

- Oath of Office,

416. The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, are bound by oath or affirmation to support the Constitution; but no religious test can ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

417. The solemn sanction of an oath or affirmation is required of all officers, legislative, executive, and judicial, both of the state and United States governments, in order to secure their faithful support of the Constitution. Members and officers of the state governments are bound to take this oath, because they have an important agency in carrying the Constitution into effect; the state legislatures, for example, elect the Senate; and the state courts may be called on to decide cases in which are involved questions arising out of the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States.

No Religious Test.

418. Religious tests as a qualification to any office

or public trust under the United States are prohibited,

because the Constitution contemplates entire freedom of religious belief and worship. It, therefore, forbids any test or oath by which adherence to any particular sect or form of belief shall be made a qualification for office.

Ratification of the Constitution.

419. The last article of the Constitution is as follows:—The ratification of the conventions of nine states shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the states so ratifying the same.

420. The ratification of all the states as a condition to the establishment of the Constitution, would have put it in the power of any one state to have defeated the wishes of all the others. If a simple majority of states had been sufficient, it might happen that seven of the smaller states would ratify it, while the six larger would reject it—the consequence being the dissolution of the original union and probable dissension between the unequal parts. The Convention, therefore, avoided the danger of requiring a unanimous ratification on the one hand, and a mere majority ratification on the other. As we have already seen, only eleven of the states ratified it in the first instance; Rhode Island and North Carolina not ratifying until the government had gone into operation.

« AnteriorContinuar »