« AnteriorContinuar »
THE OBJECT FOR WHICH THE CONSTITUTION WAS ORDAINED.
23. Government may be briefly defined as the power or authority which rules a community. When there is no control upon the persons who exercise this power or authority but their own will, the government is arbitrary. On the contrary, when the methods and the limits, within which they must exercise it, are marked out and prescribed, the government is constitutional, no matter what particular form it may assume.
24. A constitution, then, may be defined as the rule which limits the action and prescribes the powers and duties of a government, and the methods by which those powers and duties shall be administered.
How Constitutions originate.
25. It is not necessary that a constitution should be written or exist in visible form. On the contrary, the instances are rare, in the history of mankind, of a constitution being drawn up in a formal manner,
and for the purpose of instituting a new form of
government. For the most part constitutions have grown out of successive modifications of pre-existing governments. 26. An arbitrary government, for example, becoming intolerable, the community rise and demand some security against its oppressions. They insist upon a curtailment of its powers, and some provision for their protection. Such curtailment and provision amount, in fact, to a constitution, however imperfect it may be. As time develops its defects further changes take place, until, at length, it becomes, in greater or less measure, adapted to the wants and situation of the particular community. 27. The Roman constitution came into being in this manner, and though never existing in visible form, yet the respective powers of the senate, consuls, tribunes, and assemblies of the people were as well defined perhaps by usage and particular decrees as if they had been written upon parchment or engraven upon stone. The English constitution, too, is the growth of centuries, and is the combined product of custom, tradition, judicial decisions, royal grants, and legislative acts. 28. The Constitution of the United States, on the other hand, instituted the government itself, and may be termed a Constitution of written Articles, which set forth the principles upon which the
government shall be organized and administered, and the powers and duties of its respective departments.
For what Purpose the Constitution was
29. It was ordained and established by 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 themselves and their posterity.
80. Such being the purpose, what means have been devised to attain it 7 In the first place, the powers with which the government is invested are divided among distinct and separate departments,
each acting as a control on the others. These
departments are legislative, executive, and judicial. We shall consider them in the order they are presented in the Constitution itself.
31. It is proper to observe, however, in this place, that when the Constitution declares the purpose for which it was ordained and established, such declaration neither confers nor enlarges any power confided to any department of the government, but is merely explanatory of the objects for which those powers were conferred, and thus constitutes an important key to their interpretation.
32. All legislative powers granted by the Constitution are vested in a Congress of the United States, which consists of a Senate and House of Representatives.
Importance of two Branches.
83. Several eminent characters have deemed a division of legislative power between two branches, each having a negative on the other, as unwise and unnecessary. A legislature with two branches, said Dr. Franklin, is a wagon drawn by a horse before and a horse behind, in opposite directions. But reason and experience have alike demonstrated the correctness of the contrary opinion.
34. It is now generally conceded that a division of legislative power is essential in order to prevent those errors and mistakes which a single assembly is liable to commit from haste or inattention, or those impolitic and dangerous acts of legislation into which it may be hurried by the impulses of feeling, by surprise, by intrigue, by fervid eloquence within doors, or the pressure of opinion without.
35. With two branches, it is obvious that each will act with more caution and deliberation, in order that its measures may justify the approval of the other. To make this mutual check and control more effectual, the two branches ought to be instituted upon different principles, so that the same influences which operate upon the one shall be less potential with the other.
36. The framers of the Constitution of the United States were not inattentive to this consideration when they made the term of office, the qualifications, and mode of election for a senator different from what are prescribed for a representative. We shall presently see that in all these particulars the two
houses of Congress are constituted differently. 5 +