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imagined but much of the Grecian wisdom was derived into those parts. The people were a free people, governed by laws which they themselves made; and, for this reason, they were denominated free. This, he subjoins, was like unto the manner of the Athenians.
The Saxons were called freemen, because they were born free from all yoke of arbitrary power, and from all laws of compulsion, except those which were made by their voluntary consent: for all freemen have votes in making and executing the general laws. The freedom of a Saxon consisted in the three following particulars. 1. In the ownership of what he had. 2. In voting upon any law, by which his person or property could be affected. 3. In possessing a share in that judiciary power, by which the laws were applied. 8
By this time, we clearly perceive the exquisite propriety, historical as well as political, with which the people appear in the foreground of the national constitution and of that of Pennsylvania. We, the people of the United States, ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.” “We, the people of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, ordain and establish this constitution for its government.”
In free states, the people form an artificial person or body politick, the highest and noblest that can be known. They form that moral person, which, in one of my former lectures, I described as a complete body of free natural persons, united together for their common benefit; as having an understanding and a will; as deliberating, and resolving, and acting; as possessed of interests which it ought to manage ; as enjoying rights which it ought to maintain ; and as lying under obligations which it ought to perform. To this moral person, we assign, by way of eminence, the dignified appellation of state.
& Id. 84.
f Bac, on Gov. 34.
In discussing the rights and duties of a state, I observ. ed, that it is its right, and that, generally, it is its duty, to form a constitution, to institute civil government, and to establish laws. The general principles, on which constitutions should be formed, government should be instituted, and laws should be established, were treated at large then, and will not be repeated now. present business to trace the application of those principles, as that application has been practically made by the people of the United States, and, in particular, by the people of Pennsylvania.
It is my
I mention the people of Pennsylvania in particular; because, in discussing this system, it is necessary that I should select the constitution, and government, and laws of some one of the states in the Union; and because it is natural, for many reasons, that Pennsylvania should be the state, whose constitution, and government, and laws are selected for this discussion. The observations, however, which I shall have occasion to make with regard to Pennsylvania, will, in the greatest number of instances, apply to her sister states, with an equal degree of propriety. Whenever any very striking difference or coincidence shall occur to me, I shall distinguish it by an especial notice.
The people of the United States must be considered attentively in two very different views-as forming one nation, great and united; and as forming, at the same time, a number of separate states, to that nation subordinate, but independent as to their own interiour government. This very important distinction must be continually before our eyes. If it be properly observed, every thing will appear regular and proportioned: if it be neglected, endless confusion and intricacy will unavoidably ensue.
The constitution of the United States is arranged, as we have formerly seen it ought to be, under three great divisions--the legislative department, the executive department, and the judicial department.
The legislative power is divided between two different bodies, a senate, and a house of representatives. The reasons and the importance of this division were explained in a former part of my lectures. i
In discoursing farther concerning the legislature of the United States, I shall regulate myself by the following order. I shall treat, I. of the election of its members; II. of their number; III. of the term, for which they are elected; IV. of the laws, and rules, and powers of the two houses ; V. of the manner of passing laws; VI. of the powers of congress.
I. I am first to treat concerning the election of members of congress. Many of the remarks, which I shall make on this subject, will be applicable to the election of members of the general assembly of this commonwealth; for the assembly of Pennsylvania, like the congress of the United States, consists of two bodies, a senate and a house of representatives. Some important articles of discrimination will be noticed in their proper places.
i Ante. vol. 1. p. 394. &6.
The constitution of the United States and that of Pennsylvania rest solely, and in all their parts, on the great democratical principle of a representation of the people ; in other words, of the moral person, known by the name of the state. This great principle necessarily draws along with it the consideration of another principle equally great-the principle of free and equal elections. To maintain, in purity and in vigour, this important principle, whose energy should pervade the most distant parts of the government, is the first duty, and ought to be the first care, of every free state. This is the original fountain, from which all the streams of administration flow. If this fountain is poisoned, the deleterious influence will extend to the remotest corners of the state: if this foun. tain continues pure and salubrious, the benign operation of its waters will diffuse universal health and soundness.
Let me, by the way, be indulged with repeating a remark, which was made and fully illustrated in a former lecture-that government, founded solely on representation, made its first appearance on this, and not on the European side of the Atlantick.
Of the science of just and equal government, the progress, as we have formerly seen, has been small and slow. Peculiarly small and slow has it been, in the discovery and improvement of the interesting doctrines of election
j Ante. Vol. 1. p. 429.
and representation. If, with regard to other subjects, government may be said, as it has been said, to be still in its infancy; we may, with regard to this subject, consider it as only in its childhood. And yet this is the subject, which must form the basis of every government, that is, at once, efficient, respectable, and free.
The pyramid of government and a republican government may well receive that beautiful and solid form -should be raised to a dignified altitude: but its foundations must, of consequence, be broad, and strong, and deep. The authority, the interests, and the affections of the people at large are the only foundation, on which a superstructure, proposed to be at once durable and magnificent, can be rationally erected.
Representation is the chain of communication between the people and those, to whom they have committed the exercise of the powers of government. If the materials, which form this chain, are sound and strong, it is unnecessary to be solicitous about the very high degree,, to which they are polished. But in order to impart to them the true republican lustre, I know no means inose effectual, than to invite and admit the freemen to the right of suffrage, and to enhance, as much as possible, the value of that right. Its value cannot, in truth, be enhanced too highly. It is a right of the greatest import, and of the most improving efficacy. It is a right to choose those, who shall be intrusted with the authority and with the confidence of the people: and who may employ that authority and that confidence for the noblest interests of the commonwealth, without the apprehension of disappointment or control.