Personal and Civil Liberty by John A. Marshall

Law-of-God-William-BlackstonePERSONAL or civil liberty is that boon which man values most among the inestimable gifts of God, his Creator. In the proper enjoyment of it, he stands forth in the image of his Maker, self-reliant and strong. Take from him this inherent natural right — through the forms of government or law — by subjugation or force — by tyranny or prerogative and he is a mere machine, worked by the hand of power.

It is equally true that the prosperity and superiority of the State or Nation having the elements of personal or civil liberty or freedom incorporated in the formation of the society which constitutes it, is in proportion to the extent of the civil privileges, immunities, and franchises. When a State properly enjoys liberty, its progress is the more rapid and stable. When the liberties of the people are abused and degraded, the State retrogrades.

The proper uses of liberty, in a free government where emulation receives encouragement and support, stimulate the citizen, and produce culture, refinement, art, science, invention, learning, eloquence, oratory, statesmanship, and religion, in the highest degree. No other form of government advances the virtues and interests of the people to such superiority and pre-eminence. It invites competition — it is the lever of progress — it is the friend of ambition. Hence, when the whole people — like the individual man — are inspired with a pure, patriotic, and instinctive love of liberty, the State becomes great, illustrious, and mighty.

The Constitution is the chart by which every
Administration ought to be guided; but I 
regret to say — both for the reputation and
stability of our Government — it has, of late,
been a "dead letter".
"He that takes,
 Deep in his soft credulity the stamp
 Designed by loud declaimers on the part
 Of liberty, themselves the slaves of lust,
 Incurs derision for his easy faith
 And lack of knowledge, and with cause enough:
 For when was public virtue to be found
 Where private was naught? Can he love the whole
 Who loves no part? He be a nation's friend
 Who is in truth the friend of no man there,
 Can he be strenuous in his country's cause
 Who slights the charities, for whose dear sake
 That country, if at all, must be beloved?"
It is to be hoped that the men in power, who 
have abused the confidence of the people, 
will soon be displaced. 
Retributive justice will follow him who robs 
the citizen of his liberty, even unto the 
very precincts of the cold and silent grave; 
conscience will smite him on earth, and he 
will exclaim:
"The thorns that I have reaped, are of the 
tree I planted. They have torn me, and I 
bleed!"

The citizen of a free State has no superior, in point of liberty or in point of law. The humblest citizen is entitled lo the same rights and privileges, and the same protection, to which the highest magistrate is entitled. The law in a free government is no respecter of persons, nor does it make any distinction, in so far as liberty is concerned.

Christian Patriot1

In a free government, the Constitution throws around the citizen certain safeguards or protections to his liberty. It gives him the right to trial by jury. It secures him against unreasonable searches and seizures. It protects him against arrest, except on oath made by a responsible person. If maliciously arrested or falsely imprisoned, he has his redress or action against the informant or magistrate for trespass or false imprisonment. “Every restraint upon a man’s liberty” says Kent, “is, in the eye of the law, an imprisonment, wherever may be the place, or whatever may be the manner in which the restraint is effected.” Even words may constitute an imprisonment, if they impose a restraint upon a person, and he submits.

He, then, who, possessing the power, robs the citizen of his liberty, even for an hour—yea, for a moment—without the sanction of law, or deprives him of the right to all the immunities of the law, commits a crime against the interests of the State, which time cannot expiate. By his example, the people are made reckless of their liberties and their allegiance to the State.

Blackstone says: “Of so great importance to the public is the preservation of personal liberty, that, if once it wore left in the power of any, the highest magistrate, to imprison arbitrarily whoever he or his officers thought proper, there would soon be an end of all other rights and immunities. To bereave a man of his life, or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole kingdom; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary power.”

The highest aim of the magistrate in a free government should be to protect and defend, and not destroy, the liberty of the citizen. Even when the State is in danger, it is the province of the Legislature, and not of the magistrate, to protect it against external or internal foes.

In a free or elective system of government, as in the United States, where a written Constitution has been adopted, the different branches of government are so well marked out and defined, and the duties and offices of each are so independent and distinct, that under no possible circumstances can usurpations in any, or the encroachments of one upon the other, be excused. Any usurpation whatever, in either branch, leads to anarchy, demoralization, and finally disruption. The blow may not be aimed at, but it strikes into the very heart of liberty.

Hence the absolute necessity of keeping the liberties of the people pure and immaculate, and free from infringement, by the makers, the administrators, and the expounders of the laws.

In order to protect and increase the power and prolong the independence of the State, the liberties of the people must be fostered, guarded, and secured. “It ” (liberty), says Burke, “is not only a private blessing of the first order, but the vital spring or energy of the State itself, which has just so much life and vigor as there is liberty in it.”

BlackstonePrivateProperyTo protect liberty, the streams of legislation, administration, and justice must be kept clear, from the fountain-head even unto the mouth. Usurpation’s and encroachments upon the rights and liberties of the citizen are as deleterious to the tranquility and welfare of the State as the unbridled, unrestrained, and licentious abuse of them by the citizen.

These prefatory remarks are made merely to remind the general reader of his constitutional rights. Of late, the civic rights of the citizen have been abridged. It remains to be seen whether he will maintain them. The permanence and stability of the government rest entirely with the citizen. It is for him to say how long free government will exist in our country.

Although free government may be traced back to a period of about three thousand years, it is not my intention to allude to the experiments in establishing it beyond the adoption of Magna Charta, in which may be found the vital principles on which it is based. The political rights which we enjoy under our Constitution may be said to be derived directly from that document.

Yet, it is proper to say here, that the principles of liberty enunciated and the privileges granted by the Magna Charta, many of which had been digested in a code of laws by Alfred, were not confined exclusively to the Anglo-Saxons; for almost at the same era, upon the election of King Christopher II. of Denmark, he was obliged to sign a charter grant, ing nearly the same privileges and immunities as were contained in the Magna Charta, among which were that no man should be imprisoned, or deprived of life, liberty, or property, without public trial and conviction according to law; and that no law should be made or altered without the consent of the Parliament, composed of the best men of the kingdom, to be held annually at Wyborg.

And it may be said, that in Northern Europe, as well as in England, at the time of the granting of the Great Charter, the German tribes generally, and the Danes, were inspired by the same spirit of liberty which was kindled in the hearts of the Anglo-Saxons, their descendants.

Blackstones innocentsFrom the time of the granting of the municipal privileges and personal rights, as contained in Magna Charta, signed by King John on the 15th of June, 1215, but which was not really established until “after the contests of near a whole century,” for during that time, “it is computed,” says Hume, “that about thirty confirmations of the charter were at different times required of several kings, and granted by them in full Parliament,” the people of England have been jealous of their personal liberties and watchful of their civic rights.’

Since that period, the genius of the English people has been strongly and invariably in favor of liberty, while royal prerogative, until the accession of William and Mary, inclined as violently towards arbitrary power.

The Magna Charta laid the foundation for a Constitution, which has engrafted in it all the attributes and security of personal liberty, and stands a monument of enlightened statesmanship, worthy the pride and admiration of the English people; while the Great Charter itself denotes an epoch between despotism and liberty—semi-barbarism and civilization—rudeness and refinement.

The struggles to maintain the chartered rights of the people against the encroachments and usurpations of kingly prerogative, have been many, great, and even revolutionary. It has only been by an unconquerable will, and severe contests, that they have again and again been reasserted and re-established, enlarged and secured.

The Magna Charta secured personal freedom, 
the Declaration of Independence proclaimed it, 
and the Constitution guaranteed it!
When you allow the FIRST FREEDOM protected by 
the FIRST AMENDMENT to the Constitution to be 
consistently attacked and taken away by man, 
the Liberty; that of RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION, 
then all the other Liberties and Freedoms 
given to man by God, all other freedoms and 
liberties enumerated in the Magna Charta, the 
Declaration of Independence and the Constitution 
will SOON to follow!
How far, then, will politicians abuse our 
patience? How long, too, will their frantic 
wickedness of baffle our efforts? To what extent 
will their unbridled audacity insolently display 
itself? 
Liberty, in the better days of our Republic, 
was the birthright of the American citizen. 
What guarantee has he that he will be protected 
in this fireside right in the future, if we may 
judge the future by the past. When the 
Constitution is despoiled of the altar 
of Liberty, in what Temple can Freedom Worship?
With us Liberty has no protective guarantees. 
Mr. Seward may again ring his "little bell," 
and secretly hurry the citizen from the family 
circle to the loathsome prison by the strong 
arm of arbitrary power, and what redress has he? 
What becomes of the old English maxim, 
"Every man's house is his castle?"
Our bureaucracy is filled by people with skulls 
that cannot teach, and will not learn.

Encroachments upon the rights and liberties of the people by Charles I., who caused the arbitrary imprisonment of his subjects, gave birth to the enactment of the Petition of Right, and also brought the head of that unhappy monarch to the block.

To enforce the provisions contained in the Magna Charta and Petition of Right, for securing the subject in his personal rights and personal liberty, against arbitrary imprisonments by command of the King or the Privy Council, the Habeas Corpus Act was passed, in the 31st Charles II. It may be called the bulwark of English liberty.

For nearly five centuries, the contests between sovereign and people, the one for royal prerogative, the other for the rights of personal liberty, were many and violent.’

If the King would threaten with the Star Chamber, the people would point to the Magna Charta. If the King would commit by the High Commission Court, the people would unfold the Petition of Right. If the King would imprison by the Privy Council, the people would release through the Habeas Corpus.

In our own country, there was a time when the proudest appellation a man could bear was that of American citizen. “I am an American citizen,” implied liberty and safety — protection and justice. Then, the national shield was, indeed, a shield with arms — a shield which defended the citizen against every act of tyranny and usurpation — a shield which guarded him on land and sea„at home and abroad. Then, personal liberty was a citizen’s birthright. Then, free speech was unshackled. Then, Mr. ‘Webster could exclaim: “It” (free speech) ” if a homebred right — a fireside privilege. It has ever been enjoyed in every house, cottage, and cabin in the nation. It ‘s not to be drowned in controversy It is as undoubted as the right of breathing the air and walking on the earth. It is a right to be maintained in peace and in war. It is a right which cannot be invaded without destroying constitutional liberty. Hence, this right should be guarded and protected by the freemen of this country with a jealous care, unless they are prepared for chains and anarchy.”

What are the protections of the law now?

When the arteries which convey the life-blood from the heart of the constitution to all parts of its body once become paralyzed, the most skilful treatment can never restore it to its original vigor and healthful condition. A partial recovery may be effected, but the disease remains.

Oppressive and illegal acts by one Administration may be adopted as established precedents for similar encroachments by succeeding ones ; and who can gainsay the right? Surely, not the people, when they not only encourage, but are accessories in the wrong. Therefore, without a proper and conscientious regard for the majesty of the law, and the observance of personal rights, there is no security for permanence in free government.

See also: Rights of American Citizens: The mode of obtaining redress for any infringement of civil or political rights, committed either by the officers of the General Government, or of any of the State Governments.

House of Representatives: The Power of the Public Purse

Manufactured Crises: You Never Want To Let a Good Crisis Go To Waste

tsa-tyrannyDespots and tyrants have used crises or manufactured crises for centuries to further their despotic aims. It seems that we have had many of these “manufactured crises” under the leadership of the democrats and Barack Obama.

It was Leftist Democrat Rahm Emanuel who said “You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste; it’s an opportunity to do important things that you would otherwise avoid”, he said this in November 2008 when he was part of  the team for newly elected Barack Obama.

The POTUS with the help of the democrats have been manufacturing crises ever since they took office. This is one of the reasons Harry Reid had not passed a budget for 5 years until he was recently forced to. This is the reason Obama ginned up the class warfare and the occupy wall street crowd.

from-republic-despotism-obama-politicsAn elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be; divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others. ~Thomas Jefferson [Notes on the State of Virginia, 1787]

What can we learn about the politics of taking advantage of crises by despotic government officials from history.

On taking Advantage of popular Commotions, accidental Excesses, and foreign Revolutions, to extend Prerogative and Power, and encroach on the Liberties of the People.

The riots in London, which, to the disgrace of magistracy, and the boasted vigilance of ministers, (richly paid as they are, to guard the public safety,) arrived from contemptible beginnings to a formidable magnitude in the year 1780, have been considered by courtiers[political pundits], and those who are continually laboring to exalt prerogative at the expense of liberty, as extremely favorable to their purpose. They caused an universal panic. The cowardice, folly, and perhaps wickedness of certain public functionaries, were the true cause of the extensive mischief; but the excesses of a few most wretched rioters, who scarcely knew what they were doing… were attributed to the people. Arguments were drawn from the event against popular characters, popular books, popular assemblies, and in favor of military coercion. Military associations in the capital were encouraged, and the bank of England became a barrack. Liberty has few votaries[devout adherents] in comparison with property. The alarm was artfully[slyly] increased, and the spirit of despotism grew under its operation. The Tory[Elitists] and Jacobite party[loyalists to the Stuarts] exulted over the ruins, and would have rejoiced in building a Bastille[prison fortress] with the dilapidation’s. “See,” said they, as they triumphed over the scene, “the effects of power in the hands of the people!”

But the truth is, the people, the grand mass of the community, were not at all concerned in effecting the mischief… The first irregularities might have been suppressed by the slightest exertions of manly spirit. But those who were possessed of efficient places[political office] and their emoluments[profits], enjoying the sweets of office without suffering a sense of its duties to embitter them, displayed no spirit, and left it to be fairly inferred[concluded by reason] that they had it not. The people at large were not to be blamed for these unfortunate events; the whole of the culpability belonged to the appointed ministers of the law, in whom the people trusted and were deceived. The blame, however, was laid on the people; and those who, from their arbitrary principles, wished to discredit all popular interference in government, rejoiced at the calamity, as an auspicious event, confirming all their theories and justifying their practice.

despot211The artful[sly, wicked] encroachers on liberty were not deceived in calculating the effects resulting from this total dereliction of duty on the part of the civil magistrate. Almost immediately a damp[was discouraged or a check] was cast on the generous ardor, which, under a Wyvill, a Richmond, a Portland, and a Pitt, was seeking the salvation of the country, in a well-timed and deliberate reform of the House of Commons[elected representatives]. A few, indeed, remained equally zealous in the virtuous cause; but the minds of the many were palsied[paralyzed] by the panic, and seemed ready to acquiesce under every corruption attended with tranquility, rather than risk a reform, which, they were taught to believe, could not be effected without popular commotion[an uprising]. Toryism saw the change with delight, and employed all its influence in augmenting and continuing the political torpor[keeping the status quo, political inactivity or interference from the people].

In a few years the public mind seemed to have relinquished its intentions of effecting a speedy reform. It seemed to adopt the physician’s maxim, Malum bene positum ne moveto[Though this evil is malum malè positum.*]; and hesitated to undertake the removal of a local pain, lest it should throw the morbid matter over the whole habit. The fear of exciting a general inflammation prevented men from probing and cleaning the inveterate ulcer. In the mean time, the sore is growing worse, and if not stopped in its progress, must terminate in a mortification.

(*The detestable principle from which this policy originally sprung was, that if the people were engaged in fighting with and killing each other, their fury would be spent, and they would think less of combining against their superiors. It was the old medical principle— malum bene positum ne moveto. In later times, the dread professed was, that a greater loss of life would be occasioned by collisions with the police.)

Thus important and extensive were the consequences of a popular tumult, dangerous indeed and terrible in itself, but artfully exaggerated and abused by interested courtiers, for the prevention of parliamentary reform, and the discredit of all popular proceedings. When any appeal to the people was in agitation, on any business whatever, it was sufficient to say, “Remember the riots,” and the intended measure was immediately relinquished. A glorious opportunity for the growth of despotic opinions! The high-church and high-government bigots rejoiced as if they had gained a complete victory. They already sang Te Deum [also known as Ambrosian Hymn or A Song of the Church is an early Christian hymn of praise, joy and thanksgiving].

But in the midst of their triumphs, as human affairs are seldom long stationary, the French revolution commenced. Every honest and enlightened mind exulted at it; but the news was like a death-bell to the ears of the sycophants. So large, so powerful a part of Europe emancipated[freed] from the fangs of despotism, blasted all the budding hopes of those who were rather meditating the establishment than the demolition of absolute rule. Aristocratical pride was mortified. Every sullen sentiment, every angry passion, rose in the disappointed bosom of that ambition, which seeks its own elevation on the depression of the people. But liberty and humanity sympathized in the joy of millions, restored to the rights which God and nature gave them; and which had been gradually stolen from them by the spirit of despotism, acting, for mutual aid, in alliance with superstition.

But the morning which rose so beautifully in the political horizon of France was soon overclouded. The passions of leaders, jealous of each other, menaced from within and from without, hunted by surrounding enemies till they were driven to frenzy, burst forth in tremendous fury. Cruelties, which even despots would shudder to perpetrate, were the effects of a situation rendered dangerous in the extreme, and almost desperate, by the general attack of all neighboring nations. The friends of liberty and humanity wept; but the factors of despotism triumphed once more. “Here,” said they, “we have another instance of the unfitness of the people for the possession of power, and the mischievous effects of excessive liberty.” Every art which ingenuity can practice, and influence assist in its operation, was exerted to abuse and vilify the French revolution. Associations were formed to disseminate childish books, favoring the spirit of despotism, addressed to the meanest of the people, who yet had too much sense to be seduced by sentiments, doctrines, and language calculated only for the meridian of the nursery. Prosecutions and persecutions abounded; and it became sedition to hint the propriety of parliamentary reformation. The alarmists, as they were called, were so successful in propagating the old Tory tenets, under the favorable influence of the panic of real danger, and the detestation and horror which French murders had justly occasioned, that some of the staunchest friends of the people, men brought into the country at the revolution, owing all their honours and emoluments to it, and hitherto professed and zealous Whigs[reformers], deserted the standard of liberty, and took distinguished posts under the banners of the enemy.

The spirit of despotism now went forth with greater confidence than it had ever assumed since the expulsion of the Stuarts. Its advocates no longer skulked; no longer walked in masquerade. They boasted of their principles, and pretended that they alone were friends to law, order, and religion. They talked of the laws of England not being severe enough for the punishment of sedition, and boldly expressed a wish that the laws of Scotland might be adopted in their place. Active promoters of parliamentary reform were now accused of treasonable intentions by the very persons who were once loudest in their invectives against the corruption of the house of commons. Newspapers were hired to calumniate the best friends of freedom. Writers appeared in various modes, commending the old government of France; and pouring the most virulent abuse on all who promoted or defended its abolition. Priests who panted for preferment preached despotism in their pulpits, and garretteers[soldiers] who hungered after places or pensions, racked their invention to propagate its spirit by their pamphlets. Fear in the well-meaning, self-interest in the knavish, and systematic subtility in the great party of tories, caused a general uproar in favour of principles and practices hostile to constitutional liberty.

It is, however, the nature of all violent paroxysms[attacks] to be of transient[short] duration. The friends of man may therefore hope that panic fears, servile sycophantism, and artful bigotry, will not long prevail over cool reason and liberal philanthropy. The drunken delirium will pass off, and sober sense will soon see and acknowledge, that the accidental evils, (dreadful as they have been,) which have arisen in a neighbouring nation, during a singular struggle for liberty, can be no arguments in favour of despotism, which is a constant evil of the most destructive nature. The body in high and robust health is most subject to the heat of an inflammatory fever; but no man in his senses will therefore cease to wish for high and robust health.

Sensible men, and true friends to the constitution…will be on their guard against false alarms excited by courtiers; lest in the fear of some future evil, from popular commotion, they lay aside that everwaking vigilance which is necessary to guard the good in possession, their constitutional liberty, from the secret depredation of the artful spoiler, who is always on the watch to encroach on popular rights and privileges.

Riots, tumults, and popular commotions, are indeed truly dreadful, and to be avoided with the utmost care by the lovers of liberty. Peace, good order, and security to all ranks, are the natural fruits of a free constitution. True patriots will be careful to discourage every thing which tends to destroy them; not only because whatever tends to destroy them tends to destroy all human happiness, but also because even an accidental outrage in popular assemblies and proceedings, is used by the artful to discredit the cause of liberty. By the utmost attention to preserving the public peace, true patriots will defeat the malicious designs of servile courtiers; but, whatever may happen, they will not desert the cause of human nature. Through a dread of licentiousness[acting without regard to law, ethics, or the rights of others.], they will not forsake the standard of liberty. It is the part of fools to fall upon Scylla in striving to avoid Charybdis[monsters that lived on opposite sides of a narrow channel of water; Greek mythology]. Who but a fool would wish to restore the perpetual[never ending] despotism of the old French government, through a dread of the transient outrages of a Parisian tumult? Both are despotic while they last. But the former is a torrent that flows for ever; the latter only a land flood, that covers the meadows to-day, and disappears on the morrow.

Dr. Price has a passage so applicable to the present subject, that I shall beg leave to close this section by the citation of it: and on the mention of his name, I must pay a trifling tribute to his memory, which is the more necessary, as his character has been scandalously aspersed by those who are ever busy in discrediting the people and their friends, and who, pretending a love of goodness and religion, blacken with their foulest calumny those who are singularly remarkable for both, for no other reason than that, under the influence of goodness and religion, such persons espouse the cause of freedom, and prefer the happiness of millions to the pomp and pride of a few aspirants to unlimited dominion. Meek, gentle, and humane; acute, eloquent, and profoundly skilled in politics and philosophy; take him for all and all, the qualities of his heart, with the abilities of his head, and you may rank Price among the first ornaments of his age. Let his enemies produce from all their boasted despots and despotical Satraps, any one of his contemporaries whom, in the manner of Plutarch, they may place by his side as a parallel. Posterity will do him the justice of which the proud have robbed him, and snatch him from the calumniators, to place him in the temple of personal honour, high among the benefactors of the human race.

But I return from the digression, into which I was led by an honest indignation against the vilest of calumnies against one of the best of men. These are the words of Dr. Price:

“Licentiousness and despotism are more nearly allied than is commonly imagined. They are both alike inconsistent with liberty, and the true end of government; nor is there any other difference between them, than that one is the licentiousness of great men, and the other the licentiousness of little men; or that by one, the persons and property of a people are subject to outrage and invasion from a king, or a lawless body of grandees[high ranked noblemen, i.e. government officials]; and that by the other, they are subject to the like outrage from a lawless mob. In avoiding one of these evils, mankind have often run into the other. But all well-constituted governments guard equally against both. Indeed, of the two, the last is, on several accounts, the least to be dreaded, and has done the least mischief. It may truly be said, if licentiousness has destroyed its thousands, despotism has destroyed its millions. The former having little power, and no system to support it, necessarily finds its own remedy; and a people soon get out of the tumult and anarchy attending it. But a despotism, wearing a form of government, and being armed with its force, is an evil not to be conquered without dreadful struggles. It goes on from age to age, debasing the human faculties, levelling all distinctions, and preying on the rights and blessings of society. It deserves to be added, that in a state disturbed by licentiousness, there is an animation which is favourable to the human mind, and puts it upon exerting its powers; but in a state habituated to despotism, all is still and torpid. A dark and savage tyranny stifles every effort of genius, and the mind loses all its spirit and dignity.”

Heaven grant, that in guarding against a fever[state of nervous excitement], we fall not into a palsy[paralysis and involuntary tremors]!

Source: The Spirit of Despotism by Vicesimus Knox, D.D. (first printed 1795)

As For Me! I Will Take Liberty!!

My God Indeed! One of the greatest songs ever written! It’s amazing what a song can do for that which is within us, consider what songs touch your soul, God help us all.
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death by Patrick Henry

It got me to thinking.

You know we can be in bondage to so many things in our lives, Let us pray the Lord Jesus help us to always choose liberty over bondage in all things. Help us Lord to free ourselves from those things we can and assist us in those that are beyond our direct control.

Some Key Scriptures in the Bible containing the word “Liberty”

Psalm 119:45
And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.

Isaiah 61:1
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

Jeremiah 34:8
This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people which were at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto them;

Jeremiah 34:15
And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name: 16 But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom he had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids. 17
Therefore thus saith the Lord; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.

Luke 4:18
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

Romans 8:21
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

1 Corinthians 8:9
But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.

1 Corinthians 10:29
Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?

2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

Galatians 2:4
And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

Galatians 5:1
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Galatians 5:13
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

James 1:25
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

James 2:12
So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

1 Peter 2:16
As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

2 Peter 2:19
While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

I wonder if perhaps too many of us have chosen bondage over liberty in various things or ways in our lives, if perhaps that could have something to do with our loss of liberty as a nation?

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites…in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters. ~ Edmund Burke

Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry, to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men, and to piety, love and reverence toward Almighty God. What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be. ~ John Adams

These are the times that try men’s souls; The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, In this crisis, Shrink from the service of his country; But he that stands it now, Deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; Yet we have this consolation with us: That the harder the conflict, The more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, We esteem too lightly; ‘Tis darkness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price on its goods. And it would be strange indeed, If so celestial an article as Freedom Should not be highly rated. ~ Thomas Paine

As I often say, God help us all! Help US to understand, gain a knowledge of and have the wisdom to change those things we aught and to gain that liberty passed down to us from our forefathers, that we now are in such need of.

Help us Lord to be true to thy precepts and to have thy wisdom to continue that mission which America was born for and for which God smiled on US so greatly, this nation we call the Land of the Free!

Who Is The Final Judge or Interpreter in Constitutional Controversies by Joseph Story

Joseph Story 1Who Is The Final Judge or Interpreter in Constitutional Controversies:
JOSEPH STORY was born on September 18, 1779, in Marblehead, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard College in 1798. Story read law in the offices of two Marblehead attorneys and was admitted to the bar in 1801. He established a law practice in Salem, Massachusetts. In 1805, Story served one term in the Massachusetts Legislature, and in 1808 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. After one term, he returned to the Massachusetts Lower House, and in 1811 he was elected Speaker. On November 18, 1811, President James Madison nominated Story to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Senate confirmed the appointment on February 3, 1812. At the age of thirty-two, Story was the youngest person ever appointed to the Supreme Court. While on the Supreme Court, Story served as a delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1820 and was a Professor of Law at Harvard, where he wrote a series of nine commentaries on the law, each of which was published in several editions. Story served on the Supreme Court for thirty-three years. He died on September 10, 1845, at the age of sixty-five.

§ 373. THE consideration of the question, whether the constitution has made provision for any common arbiter to construe its powers and obligations, would properly find a place in the analysis of the different clauses of that instrument. But, as it is immediately connected with the subject before us, it seems expedient in this place to give it a deliberate attention.1

§ 374. In order to clear the question of all minor points, which might embarrass us in the discussion, it is necessary to suggest a few preliminary remarks. The constitution, contemplating the grant of limited powers, and distributing them among various functionaries, and the state governments, and their functionaries, being also clothed with limited powers, subordinate to those granted to the general government, whenever any question arises, as to the exercise of any power by any of these functionaries under the state, or federal government, it is of necessity, that such functionaries must, in the first instance, decide upon the constitutionality of the exercise of such power.2 It may arise in the course of the discharge of the functions of any one, or of all, of the great departments of government, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The officers of each of these departments are equally bound by their oaths of office to support the constitution of the United States, and are therefore conscientiously bound to abstain from all acts, which are inconsistent with it. Whenever, therefore, they are required to act in a case, not hitherto settled by any proper authority, these functionaries must, in the first instance, decide, each for himself, whether, consistently with the constitution, the act can be done. If, for instance, the president is required to do any act, he is not only authorized, but required, to decide for himself, whether, consistently with his constitutional duties, he can do the act.3 So, if a proposition be before congress, every member of the legislative body is bound to examine, and decide for himself, whether the bill or resolution is within the constitutional reach of the legislative powers confided to congress. And in many cases the decisions of the executive and legislative departments, thus made, become final and conclusive, being from their very nature and character incapable of revision. Thus, in measures exclusively of a political, legislative, or executive character, it is plain, that as the supreme authority, as to these questions, belongs to the legislative and executive departments, they cannot be re-examined elsewhere. Thus, congress having the power to declare war, to levy taxes, to appropriate money, to regulate intercourse and commerce with foreign nations, their mode of executing these powers can never become the subject of reexamination in any other tribunal. So the power to make treaties being confided to the president and senate, when a treaty is properly ratified, it becomes the law of the land, and no other tribunal can gainsay its stipulations. Yet cases may readily be imagined, in which a tax may be laid, or a treaty made, upon motives and grounds wholly beside the intention of the constitution.4 The remedy, however, in such cases is solely by an appeal to the people at the elections; or by the salutary power of amendment, provided by the constitution itself.5

§ 375. But, where the question is of a different nature, and capable of judicial inquiry and decision, there it admits of a very different consideration. The decision then made, whether in favour, or against the constitutionality of the act, by the state, or by the national authority, by the legislature, or by the executive, being capable, in its own nature, of being brought to the test of the constitution, is subject to judicial revision. It is in such cases, as we conceive, that there is a final and common arbiter provided by the constitution itself, to whose decisions all others are subordinate; and that arbiter is the supreme judicial authority of the courts of the Union.6

§ 376. Let us examine the grounds, on which this doctrine is maintained. The constitution declares, (Art. 6,) that “This constitution, and the laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties, etc. shall be the supreme law of the land.” It also declares, (Art. 3,) that “The judicial power shall extend to all cases in law and equity, arising under this constitution, the laws of the United States and treaties made, and which shall be made under their authority.” It further declares, ( Art. 3,) that the judicial power of the United States “shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts, as the congress may, from time to time, ordain and establish.” Here, then, we have express, and determinate provisions upon the very subject. Nothing is imperfect, and nothing is left to implication. The constitution is the supreme law; the judicial power extends to all cases arising in law and equity under it; and the courts of the United States are, and, in the last resort, the Supreme Court of the United States is, to be vested with this judicial power. No man can doubt or deny, that the power to construe the constitution is a judicial power.7 The power to construe a treaty is clearly so, when the case arises in judgment in a controversy between individuals.8 The like principle must apply, where the meaning of the constitution arises in a judicial controversy; for it is an appropriate function of the judiciary to construe laws.9 If, then, a case under the constitution does arise, if it is capable of judicial examination and decision, we see, that the very tribunal is appointed to make the decision. The only point left open for controversy is, whether such decision, when made, is conclusive and binding upon the states, and the people of the states. The reasons, why it should be so deemed, will now be submitted.

§ 377. In the first place, the judicial power of the United States rightfully extending to all such cases, its judgment becomes ipso facto conclusive between the parties before it, in respect to the points decided, unless some mode be pointed out by the constitution, in which that judgment may be revised. No such mode is pointed out. Congress is vested with ample authority to provide for the exercise by the Supreme Court of appellate jurisdiction from the decisions of all inferior tribunals, whether state or national, in cases within the purview of the judicial power of the United States; but no mode is provided, by which any superior tribunal can re-examine, what the Supreme Court has itself decided. Ours is emphatically a government of laws, and not of men; and judicial decisions of the highest tribunal, by the known course of the common law, are considered, as establishing the true construction of the laws, which are brought into controversy before it. The case is not alone considered as decided and settled; but the principles of the decision are held, as precedents and authority, to bind future cases of the same nature. This is the constant practice under our whole system of jurisprudence. Our ancestors brought it with them, when they first emigrated to this country; and it is, and always has been considered, as the great security of our rights, our liberties, and our property. It is on this account, that our law is justly deemed certain, and founded in permanent principles, and not dependent upon the caprice, or will of particular judges. A more alarming doctrine could not be promulgated by any American court, than that it was at liberty to disregard all former rules and decisions, and to decide for itself, without reference to the settled course of antecedent principles.

§ 378. This known course of proceeding, this settled habit of thinking, this conclusive effect of judicial adjudications, was in the full view of the framers of the constitution. It was required, and enforced in every state in the Union; and a departure from it would have been justly deemed an approach to tyranny and arbitrary power, to the exercise of mete discretion, and to the abandonment of all the just checks upon judicial authority. It would seem impossible, then, to presume, if the people intended to introduce a new rule in respect to the decisions of the Supreme Court, and to limit the nature and operations of their judgments in a manner wholly unknown to the common law, and to our existing jurisprudence, that some indication of that intention should not be apparent on the face of the constitution. We find, (Art. 4,) that the constitution has declared, that full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the judicial proceedings of every other state. But no like provision has been made in respect to the judgments of the courts of the United States, because they were plainly supposed to be of paramount and absolute obligation throughout all the states. If the judgments of the Supreme Court upon constitutional questions are conclusive and binding upon the citizens at large, must they not be equally conclusive upon the states? If the states are parties to that instrument, are not the people of the states also parties?

§ 379. It has been said, “that however true it may be, that the judicial department is, in all questions submitted to it by the forms of the constitution, to decide in the last resort, this resort must necessarily be deemed the last in relation to the other departments of the government, not in relation to the rights of the parties to the constitutional compact, from which the judicial, as well as the other departments hold their delegated trusts. On any other hypothesis, the delegation of judicial power would annul the authority delegating it; and the concurrence of this department with the others in usurped powers might subvert for ever, and beyond the possible reach of any rightful remedy, the very constitution, which all were instituted to preserve.”10 Now, it is certainly possible, that all the departments of a government may conspire to subvert the constitution of that government, by which they are created. But if they should so conspire, there would still remain an adequate remedy to redress the evil. In the first place, the people, by the exercise of the elective franchise, can easily check and remedy any dangerous, palpable, and deliberate infraction of the constitution in two of the great departments of government; and, in the third department, they can remove the judges, by impeachment, for any corrupt conspiracies. Besides these ordinary remedies, there is a still more extensive one, embodied in the form of the constitution, by the power of amending it, which is always in the power of three fourths of the states. It is a supposition not to be endured for a moment, that three fourths of the states would conspire in any deliberate, dangerous, and palpable breach of the constitution. And if the judicial department alone should attempt any usurpation, congress, in its legislative capacity, has full power to abrogate the injurious effects of such a decision. Practically speaking, therefore, there can be very little danger of any such usurpation or deliberate breach.

§ 380. But it is always a doubtful mode of reasoning to argue from the possible abuse of powers, that they do not exist.11 Let us look for a moment at the consequences, which flow from the doctrine on the other side. There are now twenty-four states in the Union, and each has, in its sovereign capacity, a right to decide for itself in the last resort, what is the true construction of the constitution; what are its powers; and what are the obligations founded on it. We may, then, have, in the free exercise of that right, twentyfour honest, but different expositions of every power in that constitution, and of every obligation involved in it. What one state may deny, another may assert; what one may assert at one time, it may deny at another time. This is not mere supposition. It has, in point of fact, taken place. There never has been a single constitutional question agitated, where different states, if they have expressed any opinion, have not expressed different opinions; and there have been, and, from the fluctuating nature of legislative bodies, it may be supposed? that there will continue to be, cases, in which the same state will at different times hold different opinions on the same question. Massachusetts at one time thought the embargo of 1807 unconstitutional; at another a majority, from the change of parties, was as decidedly the other way. Virginia, in 1810, thought that the Supreme Court was the common arbiter; in 1829 she thought differently.12 What, then, is to become of the constitution, if its powers are thus perpetually to be the subject of debate and controversy? What exposition is to be allowed to be of authority? Is the exposition of one state to be of authority there, and the reverse to be of authority in a neighbouring state, entertaining an opposite exposition? Then, there would be at no time in the United States the same constitution in operation over the whole people. Is a power, which is doubted, or denied by a single state, to be suspended either wholly, or in that state? Then, the constitution is practically gone, as a uniform system, or indeed, as any system at all, at the pleasure of any state. If the power to nullify the constitution exists in a single state, it may rightfully exercise it at its pleasure. Would not this be a far more dangerous and mischievous power, than a power granted by all the states to the judiciary to construe the constitution? Would not a tribunal, appointed under the authority of all, be more safe, than twenty-four tribunals acting at their own pleasure, and upon no common principles and cooperation? Suppose congress should declare war; shall one state have power to suspend it? Suppose congress should make peace; shall one state have power to involve the whole country in war? Suppose the president and senate should make a treaty; shall one state declare it a nullity, or subject the whole country to reprisals for refusing to obey it? Yet, if every state may for itself judge of its obligations under the constitution, it may disobey a particular law or treaty, because it may deem it an unconstitutional exercise of power, although every other state shall concur in a contrary opinion. Suppose congress should lay a tax upon imports burthensome to a particular state, or for purposes, which such state deems unconstitutional, and yet all the other states are in its favour; is the law laying the tax to become a nullity? That would be to allow one state to withdraw a power from the Union, which was given by the people of all the states. That would be to make the general government the servant of twenty-four masters, of different wills and different purposes, and yet bound to obey them all.13

§ 381. The argument, therefore, arising from a possibility of an abuse of power, is, to say the least of it, quite as strong the other way. The constitution is in quite as perilous a state from the power of overthrowing it lodged in every state in the Union, as it can be by being lodged in any department of the federal government. There is this difference, however, in the cases, that if there be federal usurpation, it may be checked by the people of all the states in a constitutional way. If there be usurpation by a single state, it is, upon the theory we are considering, irremediable. Other difficulties, however, attend the reasoning we are considering. When it is said, that the decision of the Supreme Court in the last resort is obligatory, and final “in relation to the authorities of the other departments of the government,” is it meant of the federal government only, or of the states also? If of the former only, then the constitution is no longer the supreme law of the land, although all the state functionaries are bound by ah oath to support it. If of the latter also, then it is obligatory upon the state legislatures, executives, and judiciaries. It binds them; and yet it does not bind the people of the states, or the states in their sovereign capacity. The states may maintain one construction of it, and the functionaries of the state are bound by another. If, on the other hand, the state functionaries are to follow the construction of the state, in opposition to the construction of the Supreme Court, then the constitution, as actually administered by the different functionaries, is different; and the duties required of them may be opposite, and in collision with each other. If such a state of things is the just result of the reasoning, may it not justly be suspected, that the reasoning itself is unsound?

§ 382. Again; it is a part of this argument, that the judicial interpretation is not binding “in relation to the rights of the parties to the constitutional compact.” “On any other hypothesis the delegation of judicial power would annul the authority delegating it.” Who then are the parties to this contract? Who did delegate the judicial power? Let the instrument answer for itself. The people of the United States are the parties to the constitution. The people of the United States delegated the judicial rower. It was not a delegation by the people of one state, but by the people of all the states. Why then is not a judicial decision binding in each state, until all, who delegated the power, in some constitutional manner concur in annulling or overruling the decision? Where shall we find the clause, which gives the power to each state to construe the constitution for all; and thus of itself to supersede in its own favour the construction of all the rest? Would not this be justly deemed a delegation of judicial power, which would annul the authority delegating it?14 Since the whole people of the United States have concurred in establishing the constitution, it would seem most consonant with reason to presume, in the absence of all contrary stipulations, that they did not mean, that its obligatory force should depend upon the dictate or opinion of any single state. Even under the confederation, (as has been already stated,) it was unanimously resolved by congress, that “as state legislatures are not competent to the making of such compacts or treaties, [with foreign states,] so neither are they competent in that capacity authoritatively to decide on, or ascertain the construction and sense of them.” And the reasoning, by which this opinion is supported, seems absolutely unanswerable.15

If this was true under such an instrument, and that construction was avowed before the whole American people, and brought home to the knowledge of the state legislatures, how can we avoid the inference, that under the constitution, where an express judicial power in cases arising under the constitution was provided for, the people must have understood and intended, that the states should have no right to question, or control such judicial interpretation?

§ 383. In the next place, as the judicial power extends to all cases arising under the constitution, and that constitution is declared to be the supreme law, that supremacy would naturally he construed to extend, not only over the citizens, but over the states.16 This, however, is not left to implication, for it is declared to be the supreme law of the land, “any thing in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.” The people of any state cannot, then, by any alteration of their state constitution, destroy, or impair that supremacy. How, then, can they do it in any other less direct manner? Now, it is the proper function of the judicial department to interpret laws, and by the very terms of the constitution to interpret the supreme law. Its interpretation, then, becomes obligatory and conclusive upon all the departments of the federal government, and upon the whole people, so far as their rights and duties are derived from, or affected by that constitution. If then all the departments of the national government may rightfully exercise all the powers, which the judicial department has, by its interpretation, declared to be granted by the constitution; and are prohibited from exercising those, which are thus declared not to be granted by it, would it not be a solecism to hold, notwithstanding, that such rightful exercise should not be deemed the supreme law of the land, and such prohibited powers should still be deemed granted? It would seem repugnant to the first notions of justice, that in respect to the same instrument of government, different powers, and duties, and obligations should arise, and different rules should prevail, at the same time among the governed, from a right of interpreting the same words (manifestly used in one sense only) in different, nay, in opposite senses. If there ever was a case, in which uniformity of interpretation might well be deemed a necessary postulate, it would seem to be that of a fundamental law of a government. It might otherwise follow, that the same individual, as a magistrate, might be bound by one rule, and in his private capacity by another, at the very same moment.

§ 384. There would be neither wisdom nor policy in such a doctrine; and it would deliver over the constitution to interminable doubts, founded upon the fluctuating opinions and characters of those, who should, from time to time, be called to administer it. Such a constitution could, in no just sense, be deemed a law, much less a supreme or fundamental law. It would have none of the certainty or universality, which are the proper attributes of such a sovereign rule. It would entail upon us all the miserable servitude, which has been deprecated, as the result of vague and uncertain jurisprudence. Misera est servitus, ubi jus est vagum aut incertum. It would subject us to constant dissensions, and perhaps to civil broils, from the perpetually recurring conflicts upon constitutional questions. On the other hand, the worst, that could happen from a wrong decision of the judicial department, would be, that it might require the interposition of congress, or, in the last resort, of the amendatory power of the states, to redress the grievance.

§ 385. We find the power to construe the constitution expressly confided to the judicial department, without any limitation or qualification, as to its conclusiveness. Who, then, is at liberty, by general implications, not from the terms of the instrument, but from mere theory, and assumed reservations of sovereign right, to insert such a limitation or qualification? We find, that to produce uniformity of interpretation, and to preserve the constitution, as a perpetual bond of union, a supreme arbiter or authority of construing is, if not absolutely indispensable, at least, of the highest possible practical utility and importance. Who, then, is at liberty to reason down the terms of the constitution, so as to exclude their natural force and operation?

§ 386. We find, that it is the known course of the judicial department of the several states to decide in the last resort upon all constitutional questions arising in judgment; and that this has always been maintained as a rightful exercise of authority, and conclusive upon the whole state.17 As such, it has been constantly approved by the people, and never withdrawn from the courts by any amendment of their constitutions, when the people have been called to revise them. We find, that the people of the several states have constantly relied upon this last judicial appeal, as the bulwark of their state rights and liberties; and that it is in perfect consonance with the whole structure of the jurisprudence of the common law. Under such circumstances, is it not most natural to presume, that the same rule was intended to be applied to the constitution of the United States? And when we find, that the judicial department of the United States is actually entrusted with a like power, is it not an irresistible presumption, that it had the same object, and was to have the same universally conclusive effect? Even under the confederation, an instrument framed with infinitely more jealousy and deference for state rights, the judgments of the judicial department appointed to decide controversies between states was declared to be final and conclusive; and the appellate power in other cases was held to overrule all state decisions and state legislation.18

§ 387. If, then, reasoning from the terms of the constitution, and the known principles of our jurisprudence, the appropriate conclusion is, that the judicial department of the United States is, in the last resort, the final expositor of the constitution, as to all questions of a judicial nature; let us see, in the next place, how far this reasoning acquires confirmation from the past history of the constitution, and the practice under it.

§ 388. That this view of the constitution was taken by its framers and friends, and was submitted to the people before its adoption, is positively certain. The Federalist 19 says, “Under the national government, treaties and articles of treaties as well as the law of nations, will always be expounded in one sense, and executed in the same manner; whereas, adjudications on the same points and questions in thirteen states, or three or four confederacies, will not always accord, or be consistent; and that as well from the variety of independent courts and judges appointed by different and independent governments, as from the different local laws, which may affect and influence them. The wisdom of the convention in committing such questions to the jurisdiction and judgment of courts appointed by, and responsible only to, one national government, cannot be too much commended.” Again, referring to the objection taken, that the government was national, and not a confederacy of sovereign states, and after stating, that the jurisdiction of the national government extended to certain enumerated objects only, and left the residue to the several states, it proceeds to say:20 “It is true, that in controversies between the two jurisdictions (state and national) the tribunal, which is ultimately to decide, is to be established under the general government. But this does not change the principle of the case. The decision is to be impartially made according to the rules of the constitution, and all the usual and most effectual precautions are taken to secure this impartiality. Some such tribunal is clearly essential to prevent an appeal to the sword, and a dissolution of the compact. And that it ought to be established under the general, rather than under the local governments, or, to speak more properly, that it could be safely established under the first alone, is a position not likely to be combated.”21

§ 389. The subject is still more elaborately considered in another number,22 which treats of the judicial department in relation to the extent of its powers. It is there said, that there ought always to be a constitutional method of giving efficacy to constitutional provisions; that if there are such things as political axioms, the propriety of the judicial department of a government being coextensive with its legislature, may be ranked among the number;23 that the mere necessity of uniformity in the interpretation of the national law decides the question; that thirteen independent courts of final jurisdiction over the same causes is a hydra of government, from which nothing but contradiction and confusion can proceed; that controversies between the nation and its members can only, be properly referred to the national tribunal; that the peace of the whole ought not to be left at the disposal of a part; and that whatever practices may have a tendency to disturb the harmony of the states, are proper objects of federal superintendence and control.24

§ 390. The same doctrine was constantly avowed in the state conventions, called to ratify the constitution. With some persons it formed a strong objection to the constitution; with others it was deemed vital to its existence and value.25 So, that it is indisputable, that the constitution was adopted under a full knowledge of this exposition of its grant of power to the judicial department.26

§ 391. This is not all. The constitution has now been in full operation more than forty years; and during this period the Supreme Court has constantly exercised this power of final interpretation in relation, not only to the constitution, and laws of the Union, but in relation to state acts and state constitutions and laws, so far as they affected the constitution, and laws, and treaties of the United States.27 Their decisions upon these grave questions have never been repudiated, or impaired by congress.28 No state has ever deliberately or forcibly resisted the execution of the judgments founded upon them; and the highest state tribunals have, with scarcely a single exception, acquiesced in, and, in most instances, assisted in executing them.29 During the same period, eleven states have been admitted into the Union, under a full persuasion, that the same power would be exerted over them. Many of the states have, at different times within the same period, been called upon to consider, and examine the grounds, on which the doctrine has been maintained, at the solicitation of other states which felt, that it operated injuriously, or might operate injuriously upon their interests. A great majority of the states, which have been thus called upon in their legislative capacities to express opinions, have maintained the correctness of the doctrine, and the beneficial effects of the powers, as a bond of union, in terms of the most unequivocal nature.30 Whenever any amendment has been proposed to change the tribunal, and substitute another common umpire or interpreter, it has rarely received the concurrence of more than two or three states, and has been uniformly rejected by a great majority, either silently, or by an express dissent. And instances have occurred, in which the legislature of the same state has, at different times, avowed opposite opinions, approving at one time, what it had denied, or at least questioned at another. So, that it may be asserted with entire confidence, that for forty years three fourths of all the states composing the Union have expressly assented to, or silently approved, this construction of the constitution, and have resisted every effort to restrict, or alter it. A weight of public opinion among the people for such a period, uniformly thrown into one scale so strongly, and so decisively, in the midst of all the extraordinary changes of parties, the events of peace and of war, and the trying conflicts of public policy and state interests, is perhaps unexampled in the history of all other free governments.31 It affords, as satisfactory a testimony in favour of the just and safe operation of the system, as can well be imagined; and, as a commentary upon the constitution itself, it is as absolutely conclusive, as any ever can be, and affords the only escape from the occurrence of civil conflicts, and the delivery over of the subject to interminable disputes.32

§ 392. In this review of the power of the judicial department, upon a question of its supremacy in the interpretation of the constitution, it has not been thought necessary to rely on the deliberate judgments of that department in affirmance of it. But it may be proper to add that the judicial department has not only constantly exercised this right of interpretation in the last resort; but its whole course of reasonings and operation has proceeded upon the ground, that, once made, the interpretation was conclusive, as well upon the states, as the people.33

§ 393. But it may be asked, as it has been asked, what is to be the remedy, if there be any misconstruction of the constitution on the part of the government of the United States, or its functionaries, and any powers exercised by them, not warranted by its true meaning? To this question a general answer may be given in the words of its early expositors: “The same, as if the state legislatures should violate their respective constitutional authorities.” In the first instance, if this should be by congress, “the success of the usurpation will depend on the executive and judiciary departments, which are to expound, and give effect to the legislative acts; and, in the last resort, a remedy must be obtained from the people, who can, by the election of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers. The truth is, that this ultimate redress may be more confided in against unconstitutional acts of the federal, than of the state legislatures, for this plain reason, that, as every act of the former will be an invasion of the rights of the latter, these will ever be ready to mark the innovation, to sound the alarm to the people, and to exert their local influence in effecting a change of federal representatives. There being no such intermediate body between the state legislatures and the people, interested in watching the conduct of the former, violations of the state constitution are more likely to remain unnoticed and unredressed.”34

§ 394. In the next place, if the usurpation should be by the president, an adequate check may be generally found, not only in the elective franchise, but also in the controlling power of congress, in its legislative or impeaching capacity, and in an appeal to the judicial department. In the next place, if the usurpation should be by the judiciary, and arise from corrupt motives, the power of impeachment would remove the offenders; and in most other cases the legislative and executive authorities could interpose an efficient barrier. A declaratory or prohibitory law would, in many cases, be a complete remedy. We have, also, so far at least as a conscientious sense of the obligations of duty, sanctioned by an oath of office, and an indissoluble responsibility to the people for the exercise and abuse of power, on the part of different departments of the government, can influence human minds, some additional guards against known and deliberate usurpations; for both are provided for in the constitution itself. “The wisdom and the discretion of congress, (it has been justly observed,) their identity with the people, and the influence, which their constituents possess at elections, are, in this, as in many other instances, as, for example, that of declaring, war; the sole restraints; on this they have relied, to secure them from abuse. They are the restraints, on which the people must often solely rely in all representative governments.”35

§ 395. But in the next place, (and it is that, which would furnish a case of most difficulty and danger, though it may fairly be presumed to be of rare occurrence,) if the legislature, executive, and judicial departments should all concur in a gross usurpation, there is still a peaceable remedy provided by the constitution. It is by the power of amendment, which may always be applied at the will of three fourths of the states. If, therefore, there should be a corrupt cooperation of three fourths of the states for permanent usurpation, (a case not to be supposed, or if supposed, it differs not at all in principle or redress from the case of a majority of a state or nation having the same intent,) the case is certainly irremediable under any known forms of the constitution. The states may now by a constitutional amendment, with few limitations, change the whole structure and powers of the government, and thus legalize any present excess of power. And the general right of a society in other cases to change the government at the will of a majority of the whole people, in any manner, that may suit its pleasure, is undisputed, and seems indisputable. If there be any remedy at all for the minority in such cases, it is a remedy never provided for by human institutions. It is by a resort to the ultimate right of all human beings in extreme cases to resist oppression, and to apply force against ruinous injustice.36

§ 396. As a fit conclusion to this part of these commentaries, we cannot do better than to refer to a confirmatory view, which has been recently presented to the public by one of the framers of the constitution, who is now, it is believed, the only surviving member of the federal convention, and who, by his early as well as his later labours, has entitled himself to the gratitude of his country, as one of its truest patriots, and most enlightened friends. Venerable, as he now is, from age and character, and absolved from all those political connexions, which may influence the judgment, and mislead the mind, he speaks from his retirement in a voice, which cannot be disregarded, when it instructs us by its profound reasoning, or admonishes us of our dangers by its searching appeals. However particular passages may seem open to criticism, the general structure of the argument stands on immovable foundations, and can scarcely perish, but with the constitution, which it seeks to uphold.37

Footnotes:
1.    The point was very strongly argued, and much considered, in the case of Cohens v. Virginia, in the Supreme Court in 1821, (6 Wheat. R. 264.) The whole argument, as well as the judgment, deserves an attentive reading. The result, to which the argument against the existence of a common arbiter leads, is presented in a very forcible manner by Mr. Chief Justice Marshall, in pages 376, 377.

“The questions presented to the court by the two first points made at the bar are of great magnitude, and may be truly said vitally to affect the Union. They exclude the inquiry, whether the constitution and laws of the United States have been violated by the judgment, which the plaintiffs in error seek to review; and maintain, that, admitting such violation, it is not in the power of the government to apply a corrective. They maintain, that the nation does not possess a department capable of restraining peaceably, and by authority of law, any attempts, which maybe made by a part against the legitimate powers of the whole; and that the government is reduced to the alternative of submitting to such attempts, or of resisting them by force. They maintain, that the constitution of the United States has provided no tribunal for the final construction of itself, or of the laws or treaties of the nation; but that this power may be exercised in the last resort by the courts of every state in the Union. That the constitution, laws, and treaties, may receive as many constructions, as there are states; and that this is not a mischief, or, if a mischief, is irremediable. These abstract propositions are to be determined; for he, who demands decision without permitting inquiry, affirms, that the decision he asks does not depend on inquiry.

“If such be the constitution, it is the duty of this court to bow with respectful submission to its provisions. If such be not the constitution, it is equally the duty of this court to say so; and to perform that task, which the American people have assigned to the judicial department.”

2.    See the Federalist, No. 33.
3.    Mr. Jefferson carries his doctrine much farther, and holds, that each department of government has an exclusive right, independent of the judiciary, to decide for itself, as to the true construction of the constitution. ” My construction,” says he, ” is very different from that, you quote. It is, that each department of the government is truly independent of the others, and has an equal right to decide for itself, what is the meaning of the constitution in the laws submitted to its action, and especially, when it is to act ultimately and without appeal.” And he proceeds to give examples, in which he disregarded, when president, the decisions of the judiciary, and refers to the alien and sedition laws, and the case of Marbury v. Madison, (1 Cranch, 137.) 4 Jefferson’s Corresp. 316, 317. See also 4 Jefferson’s Corresp. 27; Id. 75; Id. 372, 374.
4.    See 4 Elliot’s Debates, 315 to 320.
5.    The Federalist, No. 44. — Mr. Madison, in the Virginia Report of Jan. 1800, has gone into a consideration of this point, and very properly suggested, that there may be infractions of the constitution not within the reach of the judicial power, or capable of remedial redress through the instrumentality of courts of law. But we cannot agree with him, that in such cases, each state may take the construction of the constitution into its own hands, and decide for itself in the last resort; much less, that in a case of judicial cognizance, the decision is not binding on the states. See Report p. 6, 7, 8, 9.
6.    Dane’s App. §44, 45, p. 52 to 59. — It affords me very sincere gratification to quote the following passage from the learned Commentaries of Mr. Chancellor Kent, than whom very few judges in our country are more profoundly versed in constitutional law. After enumerating the judicial powers in the constitution, he proceeds to observe: “The propriety and fitness of these judicial powers seem to result, as a necessary consequence, from the union of these states in one national government, and they may be considered as requisite to its existence. The judicial power in every government must be co-extensive with the power of legislation. Were there no power to interpret, pronounce, and execute the law, the government would either perish through its own imbecility, as was the case with the old confederation, or other powers must be assumed by the legislative body to the destruction of liberty.” 1 Kent’s Comm. (2d ed. p. 296,) Lect. 14, 277.
7.    4 Dane’s Abridg. ch. 187. art. 20, §15, p. 590; Dane’s App. §42, p. 49, 50; §44, p. 52, 53; 1 Wilson’s Lectures, 461, 462, 463.
8.    See Address of Congress, Feb. 1787; Journals of Congress, p. 33; Rawle on the Constitution, App. 2, p. 316.
9.    Bacon’s Abridgment, Statute. H.
10.    Madison’s Virginia Report, Jan. 1800, p. 8, 9.
11.    See Anderson v. Dunn, 6 Wheaton’s R. 204, 232.
12.    Dane’s App. §44, 45, p. 52 to 59, §54, p. 66; 4 Elliot’s Debates, 338, 339.
13.    Webster’s Speeches, 420; 4 Elliots Debates, 339.
14.    There is vast force in the reasoning Mr. Webster on this subject, in his great Speech on Mr. Foot’s Resolutions in the senate, in 1830, which well deserves the attention of every statesman and jurist. See 4 Elliot’s Debates, 338, 339, 343, 344, and Webster’s Speeches, p. 407, 408, 418, 419, 420; Id. 430, 431, 432.
15.    Journals of Congress, April 13, 1787, p. 32, etc. Rawle on the Constitution, App. 2, p. 316, etc.
16.    The Federalist, No. 33.
17.    2 Elliot’s Debates, 248, 328, 329, 395; Grimke’s Speech in 1828, p. 25, etc.; Dane’s App. § 44, 45, p. 52 to 59; Id. § 48, p. 62.
18.    Dane’s App. §52, p. 65; Penhallow v. Doane, 3 Dall. 54; Journals of Congress, 1779, Vol. 5, p. 86 to 90; 4 Cranch, 2.
19.    The Federalist, No. 3.
20.    The Federalist, No. 39.
21.    See also The Federalist, No. 33.
22.    The Federalist, No. 80.
23.    The same remarks will be found pressed with great force by Mr. Chief Justice Marshall, in delivering the opinion of the court in Cohens v. Virginia, (6 Wheat. 264, 384.)
24.    In The Federalist, No. 78 and 82, the same course of reasoning is pursued, and the final nature of the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is largely insisted on. In the Convention of Connecticut, Mr. Ellsworth (afterwards Chief Justice of the United States) used the following language: “This constitution defines the extent of the powers of the general government. If the general legislature should at any time overleap their limits, the judicial department is the constitutional check. If the United States go beyond their powers; if they make a law, which the constitution does not authorize, it is void; and the judicial power, the national judges, who, to secure their impartiality, are to be made independent, will declare it void. On the other hand, if the states go beyond their limits; if they make a law, which is a usurpation upon the general government, the law is void, and upright and independent judges will declare it. Still, however, if the United States and the individual states will quarrel; if they want to fight, they may do it, and no frame of government can possibly prevent it.” In the debates in the South Carolina legislature, when the subject of calling a convention to ratify or reject the constitution was before them,* Mr. Charles Pinckney (one of the members of the convention) avowed the doctrine in the strongest terms. “That a supreme federal jurisdiction was indispensable,” said he, “cannot be denied. It is equally true, that in order to ensure the administration of justice, it was necessary to give all the powers, original as well as appellate, the constitution has enumerated. Without it we could not expect a due observance of treaties; that the state judiciaries would confine themselves within their proper sphere; or that a general sense of justice would pervade the Union, etc. That to ensure these, extensive authorities were necessary; particularly so, were they in a tribunal, constituted as this is, whose duty it would be, not only to decide all national questions, which should arise within the Union; but to control and keep the state judiciaries within their proper limits, whenever they should attempt to interfere with the power.”
*    Debates in 1788, printed by A. E. Miller, 1831, Charleston, p. 7.
25.    It would occupy too much space to quote the passages at large. Take for an instance, in the Virginia debates, Mr. Madison’s remarks. ” It may be a misfortune, that in organizing any government, the explication of its authority should be left to any of its co-ordinate branches. There is no example in any country, where it is otherwise. There is no new policy in submitting it to the judiciary of the United States.” 2 Elliot’s Debates, 390. See also Id. 380, 383, 395, 400, 404, 418. See also North Carolina Debates, 3 Elliot’s Debates, 125, 127, 128, 130, 133, 134, 139, 141, 142, 143; Pennsylvania Debates, 3 Elliot’s Debates, 280, 313. Mr. Luther Martin, in his letter to the Maryland Convention, said: ” By the third article the judicial power is vested in one Supreme Court, etc. These courts, and these only, will have a right to decide upon the laws of the United States, and all questions arising upon their construction, etc. Whether, therefore, any laws, etc. of congress, or acts of its president, etc. are contrary to, or warranted by the constitution, rests only with the judges, who are appointed by congress to determine; by whose determinations every state is bound.” 3 Elliot’s Debates, 44, 45; Yates’s Minutes, etc. See also The Federalist, No. 78.
26.    See Mr. Pinckney’s Observations cited in Grimke’s Speech in 1828, p. 86, 87.
27.    Dane’s App. §44, p. 53, 54, 55; Grimke’s Speech, 1828, p. 34 to 42.
28.    In the debate in the first congress organized under the constitution, the same doctrine was openly avowed, as indeed it has constantly been by the majority of congress at all subsequent periods. See 1 Lloyd’s Debates, 219 to 599; 2 Lloyd’s Debates, 284 to 327.
29.    Chief Justice M’Kean, in Commonwealth v.Cobbett (3 Dall. 473,) seems to have adopted a modified doctrine, and to have held, that the Supreme Court was not the common arbiter; but if not, the only remedy was, not by a state deciding for itself, as in case of a treaty between independent governments, but by a constitutional amendment by the states. But see, on the other hand, the opinion of Chief Justice Spencer, in Andrews v. Montgomery, 19 Johns. R. 164.
30.    Massachusetts, in her Resolve of February 12, 1799, (p. 57,) in answer to the Resolutions of Virginia of 1798, declared, ” that the decision of all cases in law and equity, arising under the constitution of the United States, and the construction of all laws made in pursuance thereof, are exclusively vested by the people in the judicial courts of the United States;” and ” that the people in that solemn compact, which is declared to be the supreme law of the land, have not constituted the state legislatures the judges of the acts or measures of the federal government, but have confided to them the power of proposing such amendments” etc.; and “that by this construction of the constitution, an amicable and dispassionate remedy is pointed out for any evil, which experience may prove to exist, and the peace and prosperity of the United States may be preserved without interruption.” See also Dane’s App. §44, p. 56; Id. 80. Mr. Webster’s Speech in the Senate, in 1830, contains an admirable exposition of the same doctrines. Webster’s Speeches, 410, 419, 420, 421. In June, 1821. the House of Representatives of NewHampshire passed certain resolutions. (172 yeas to 9 nays,) drawn up (as is understood) by one of her most distinguished statesmen, asserting the same doctrines. Delaware, in January, 1831, and Connecticut and Massachusetts held the same, in May, 1831.
31.    Virginia and Kentucky denied the power in 1793 and 1800; Massachusetts, Delaware, Rhode-Island, New-York, Connecticut, NewHampshire, and Vermont disapproved of the Virginia resolutions, and passed counter resolutions. (North American Review, October, 1830, p. 500.) No other state appears to have approved the Virginia resolutions. (Ibid.) In 1810 Pennsylvania proposed the appointment of another tribunal than the Supreme Court to determine disputes between the general and state governments. Virginia, on that occasion, affirmed, that the Supreme Court was the proper tribunal; and in that opinion New-Hampshire, Vermont, North-Carolina, Maryland, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and New-Jersey concurred; and no one state approved of the amendment (North American Review, October, 1830, p. 507 to 512; Dane’s App. §55, p. 67; 6 Wheat. R. 358, note.) Recently, in March, 1831, Pennsylvania has resolved, that the 25th section of the judiciary act of 1789, ch. 20, which gives the Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction from state courts on constitutional questions, is authorized by the constitution, and sanctioned by experience, and also all other laws empowering the federal judiciary to maintain the supreme laws.
32.    Upon this subject the speech of Mr. Webster in the Senate, in 1830, presents the whole argument in a very condensed and powerful form. The following passage is selected, as peculiarly appropriate:

“The people, then, sir, erected this government. They gave it a constitution, and in that constitution they have enumerated the powers which they bestow on it. They have made it a limited government. They have defined its authority. They have restrained it to the exercise of such powers, as are granted; and all others, they declare, are reserved to the states, or the people. But, sir, they have not stopped here. If they had, they would have accomplished but half their work. No definition can be so clear, as to avoid possibility of doubt; no limitation so precise, as to exclude all uncertainty. Who, then, shall construe this grant of the people? Who shall interpret their will, where it may be supposed they have left it doubtful? With whom do they repose this ultimate right of deciding on the powers of the government? Sir, they have settled all this in the fullest manner. They have left it, with the government itself, in its appropriate branches. Sir, the very chief end, the main design, for which the whole constitution was framed and adopted, was to establish a government, that should not be obliged to act through state agency, or depend on state opinion and state discretion. The people had had quite enough of that kind of government, under the confederacy. Under that system, the legal action – the application of law to individuals, belonged exclusively to the states. Congress could only recommend – their acts were not of binding force, till the states had adopted and sanctioned them. Are we in that condition still? Are we yet at the mercy of state discretion, and state construction? Sir, if we are, then vain will be our attempt to maintain the constitution, under which we sit.

“But, sir, the people have wisely provided, in the constitution itself, a proper, suitable mode and tribunal for settling questions of constitutional law. There are, in the constitution, grants of powers to Congress; and restrictions on these powers. There are, also, prohibitions on the states. Some authority must, therefore, necessarily exist, having the ultimate jurisdiction to fix and ascertain the interpretation of these grants, restrictions, and prohibitions. The constitution has itself pointed out, ordained, and established that authority. How has it accomplished this great and essential end? By declaring, sir, that ‘ the constitution and the law of the United States, made in pursuance thereof, shall be the supreme law of the land, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.’

“This, sir, was the first great step. By this, the supremacy of the constitution and laws of the United States is declared. The people so will it. No state law is to be valid, which comes in conflict with the constitution, or any law of the United States passed in pursuance of it. But who shall decide this question of interference? To whom lies the last appeal? This, sir, the constitution itself decides, also, by declaring, ‘that the judicial power shall extend to all cases arising under the constitution and laws of the United States.’ These two provisions, sir, cover the whole ground. They are, in truth, the keystone of the arch. With these, it is a constitution; without them, it is a confederacy. In pursuance of these clear and express provisions, congress established, at its very first session, in the judicial act, a mode for carrying them into full effect, and for bringing all questions of constitutional power to the final decision of the Supreme Court. It then, sir, became a government. It then had the means of self-protection; and, but for this, it would, in all probability, have been now among things, which are past. Having constituted the government, and declared its powers, the people have further said, that since somebody must decide on the extent of these powers, the government shall itself decide; subject, always, like other popular governments, to its responsibility to the people. And now, sir, I repeat, how is it, that a state legislature acquires any power to interfere? Who, or what, gives them the right to say to the people, ‘ We, who are your agents and servants for one purpose, will undertake to decide, that your other agents and servants, appointed by you for another purpose, have transcended the authority you gave them!’ The reply would be, I think, not impertinent -‘ Who made you a judge over another’s servants? To their own masters they stand or fall.’

“Sir, I deny this power of state legislatures altogether. It cannot stand the test of examination. Gentlemen may say, that in an extreme case, a state government might protect the people from intolerable oppression. Sir, in such a case, the people might protect themselves, without the aid of the state governments. Such a case warrants revolution. It must make, when it comes, a law for itself. A nullifying act of a state legislature cannot alter the case, nor make resistance any more lawful. In maintaining these sentiments, sir, I am but asserting the rights of the people. I state what they have declared, and insist on their right to declare it. They have chosen to repose this power in the general government, and I think it my duty to support it, like other constitutional powers.”

See also 1 Wilson’s Law Lectures, 461, 462. – It is truly surprising, that Mr. Vice-President Calhoun, in his Letter of the 28th of August, 1832, to governor Hamilton, (published while the present work was passing through the press,) should have thought, that a proposition merely offered in the convention, and referred to a committee for their consideration, that ” the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court shall be extended to all controversies between the United States and an individual state, or the United States and the citizens of an individual state,”* should, in connexion with others giving a negative on state laws, establish the conclusion, that the convention, which framed the constitution, was opposed to granting the power to the general government, in any form, to exercise any control whatever over a state by force, veto, or judicial process, or in any other form. This clause for conferring jurisdiction on the Supreme Court in controversies between the United States and the states, must, like the other controversies between states, or between individuals, referred to the judicial power, have been intended to apply exclusively to suits of a civil nature, respecting property, debts contracts, or other claims by the United States against a state; and not to the decision of constitutional questions in the abstract. At a subsequent period of the convention, the judicial power was expressly extended to all cases arising under the constitution, laws, and treaties, of the United States, and to all controversies, to which the United States should be a party,** thus covering the whole ground of a right to decide constitutional questions of a judicial nature. And this, as the Federalist informs us, was the substitute for a negative upon state laws, and the only one, which was deemed safe or efficient. The Federalist No. 80.
*    Journal of Convention, 20th Aug. p. 235.
**    Journal of Convention, 27th Aug. p. 298.
33.    Martin v. Hunter, I Wheat. R. 304, 334, etc. 342 to 348; Cohens v. The State of Virginia,6 Wheat. R. 264, 376, 377 to 392; Id. 413 to 432; Bank of Hamilton v. Dudley, 2 Peters’s R. 524; Ware v. Hylton, 3 Dall. 199; I Cond. R. 99, 112. The language of Mr. Chief Justice Marshall, in delivering the opinion of the court in Cohens v. Virginia, presents the argument in favour of the jurisdiction of the judicial department in a very forcible manner.

“While weighing arguments drawn from the nature of government, and from the general spirit of an instrument, and urged for the purpose of narrowing the construction, which the words of that instrument seem to require, it is proper to place in the opposite scale those principles, drawn from the same sources, which go to sustain the words in their full operation and natural import. One of these, which has been pressed with great force by the counsel for the plaintiffs in error, is, that the judicial power of every well constituted government must be coextensive with the legislative, and must be capable of deciding every judicial question, which grows out of the constitution and laws.

“If any proposition may be considered as a political axiom, this, we think, may be so considered. In reasoning upon it, as an abstract question, there would, probably, exist no contrariety of opinion respecting it. Every argument, proving the necessity of the department, proves also the propriety of giving this extent to it. We do not mean to say, that the jurisdiction of the courts of the Union should be construed to be coextensive with the legislative, merely because it is fit, that it should be so; but we mean to say, that this fitness furnishes an argument in construing the constitution, which ought never to be overlooked, and which is most especially entitled to consideration, when we are inquiring, whether the words of the instrument, which purport to establish this principle, shall be contracted for the purpose of destroying it.

“The mischievous consequences of the construction, contended for on the part of Virginia, are also entitled to great consideration. It would prostrate, it has been said, the government and its laws at the feet of every state in the Union. And would not this be its effect? What power of the government could be executed by its own means, in any state disposed to resist its execution by a course of legislation? The laws must be executed by individuals acting within the several states. If these individuals may be exposed to penalties, and if the courts of the Union cannot correct the judgments, by which these penalties may be enforced, the course of the government may be, at any time, arrested by the will of one of its members. Each member will possess a veto on the will of the whole.

“The answer, which has been given to this argument, does not deny its truth, but insists, that confidence is reposed, and may be safely reposed, in the state institutions; and that, if they shall ever become so insane, or so wicked, as to seek the destruction of the government, they may accomplish their object by refusing to perform the functions assigned to them.

“We readily concur with the counsel for the defendant in the declaration, that the cases, which have been put, of direct legislative resistance for the purpose of oppose the acknowledged powers of the government, are extreme cases, and in the hope, that they will never occur; capacity of the government to protect itself and its laws in such cases, would contribute in no inconsiderable degree to their occurrence.

“Let it be admitted, that the cases, which have been put, are extreme and improbable, yet there are gradations of opposition to the laws, far short of those cases, which might have a baneful influence on the affairs of the nation. Different states may entertain different opinions on the true construction of the constitutional powers of congress. We know, that at one time, the assumption of the debts, contracted by the several states during the war of our revolution, was deemed unconstitutional by some of them. We know, too, that at other times, certain taxes, imposed by congress, have been pronounced unconstitutional. Other laws have been questioned partially, while they were supported by the great majority of the American people. We have no assurance, that we shall be less divided, than we have been. States may legislate in conformity to their opinions, and may enforce those opinions by penalties. It would be hazarding too much to assert, that the judicatures of the states will be exempt from the prejudices, by which the legislatures and people are influenced, and will constitute perfectly impartial tribunal. In many states the judges are dependent for office and for salary on the will of the legislature. The constitution of the United States furnishes no security against the universal adoption of this principle. When we observe the importance, which that constitution attaches to the independence of judges, we are the less inclined to suppose, that it can have intended to leave these constitutional questions to tribunals, where this independence may not exist, in all cases where a state shall prosecute an individual, who claims the protection of an act of congress. These prosecutions may take place, even without a legislative act. A person, making a seizure under an act of congress, may be indicted as a trespasser, if force has been employed, and of this a jury may judge. How extensive may be the mischief, if the first decisions in such cases should be final!

“These collisions may take place in times of no extraordinary commotion. But a constitution is framed for ages to come, and is designed to approach immortality, as nearly as human institutions can approach it. Its course cannot always be tranquil. It is exposed to storms and tempests, and its framers must be unwise statesmen indeed, if they have not provided it, as far as its nature will permit, with the means of self-preservation from the perils it may be destined to encounter. No government ought to be so defective in its organization, as not to contain within itself the means of securing the execution of its own laws against other dangers, than those which occur every day. Courts of justice are the means most usually employed; and it is reasonable to expect, that a government should repose on its own courts, rather than on others. There is certainly nothing in the circumstances, under which our constitution was formed; nothing in the history of the times, which would justify the opinion, that the confidence reposed in the states was so implicit, as to leave in them and their tribunals the power of resisting or defeating, in the form of law, the legitimate measures of the Union. The requisitions of congress, under the confederation, were as constitutionally obligatory, as the laws enacted by the present congress. That they were habitually disregarded, is a fact of universal notoriety. With the knowledge of this fact, and under its full pressure, a convention was assembled to change the system. Is it so improbable, that they should confer on the judicial department the power of construing the constitution and laws of the Union in every case, in the last resort, and of preserving them from all violation from every quarter, so far as judicial decisions can preserve them, that this improbability should essentially affect the construction of the new system? We are told, and we are truly told, that the great change, which is to give efficacy to the present system, is its ability to act on individuals directly, instead of acting through the instrumentality of state governments. But, ought not this ability, in reason and sound policy, to he applied directly to the protection of individuals employed in the execution of the laws, as well as to their coercion? Your laws reach the individual without the aid of any other power; why may they not protect him from punishment for performing his duty in executing them?

“The counsel for Virginia endeavour to obviate the force of these arguments by saying, that the dangers they suggest, if not imaginary, are inevitable; that the constitution can make no provision against them; and that, therefore, in construing that instrument, they ought to be excluded from our consideration. This state of things, they say, cannot arise, until there shall be a disposition so hostile to the present political system, as to produce a determination to destroy it; and, when that determination shall be produced, its effects will not be restrained by parchment stipulations. The fate of the constitution will not then depend on judicial decisions. But, should no appeal be made to force, the states can put an end to the government by refusing to act. They have only not to elect senators, and it expires without a struggle.

“It is very true, that, whenever hostility to the existing system shall become universal, it will be also irresistible. The people made the constitution, and the people can unmake it. It is the creature of their will, and lives only by their will. But this supreme and irresistible power to make, or to unmake, resides only in the whole body of the people; not in any subdivision of them. The attempt of any of the parts to exercise. it is usurpation, and ought to be repelled by those, to whom the people have delegated their power of repelling it.

“The acknowledged inability of the government, then, to sustain itself against the public will, and, by force or otherwise, to control the whole nation, is no sound argument in support of its constitutional inability to preserve itself against a section of the nation acting in opposition to the general will.

“It is true, that if all the states, or a majority of them, refuse to elect senators, the legislative powers of the Union will be suspended. But if any one state shall refuse to elect them, the senate will not, on that account, be the less capable of performing all its functions. The argument founded on this fact would seem rather to prove the subordination of the parts to the whole, than the complete independence of any one of them. The framers of the constitution were, indeed, unable to make any provisions, which should protect that instrument against a general combination of the states, or of the people, for its destruction; and, conscious of this inability, they have not made the attempt. But they were able to provide against the operation of measures adopted in any one state, whose tendency might be to arrest the execution of the laws, and this it was the part of true wisdom to attempt. We think they have attempted it.”

See also M’Culloch v. Maryland, (4 Wheat. 316, 405, 406.) See also the reasoning of Mr. Chief Justice Jay, in Chisholm v. Georgia,(2 Dall. 419, S. C. 2 Peters’s Cond. R. 635, 670 to 675.) Osborn v. Bank of the United States,( 9 Wheat. 738, 818, 819;) and Gibbons v. Ogden,(9 Wheat. 1, 210.)
34.    The Federalist, No. 44; 1 Wilson’s Law Lectures, 461, 462; Dane’s App. §58, p. 68.
35.    Gibbons v. Ogden, 9) Wheat. R. 1, 197. — See also, on the same subject, the observations of Mr. Justice Johnson in delivering the opinion of the court, in Anderson v. Dunn, 6 Wheat. R. 204, 226.
36.    See Webster’s Speeches, p. 408, 409; 1 Black. Comm. 161, 162. See also 1 Tucker’s Black. Comm. App. 73 to 75.
37.    Reference is here made to Mr. Madison’s Letter, dated August, 1830, to Mr. Edward Everett, published in the North American Review for October, 1830. The following extract is taken from p. 537, et seq.

“In order to understand the true character of the constitution of the United States, the error, not uncommon, must be avoided, of viewing it through the medium, either of a consolidated government, or of a confederated government, whilst it is neither the one, nor the other; but a mixture of both. And having, in no model, the similitudes and analogies applicable to other systems of government, it must, more than any other, be its own interpreter according to its text and the facts of the case.

“From these it will be seen, that the characteristic peculiarities of the constitution are, 1, the mode of its formation; 2, the division of the supreme powers of government between the states in their united capacity, and the states in their individual capacities.

“1. It was formed, not by the governments of the component states, as the federal government, for which it was substituted was formed. Nor was it formed by a majority of the people of the United States, as a single community, in the manner of a consolidated government.

“It was formed by the states, that is, by the people in each of the states, acting in their highest sovereign capacity; and formed consequently, by the same authority, which formed the state constitutions.

“Being thus derived from the same source as the constitutions of the states, it has, within each state, the same authority, as the constitution of the state; and is as much a constitution, in the strict sense of the term, within its prescribed sphere, as the constitutions of the states are, within their respective spheres: but with this obvious and essential difference, that being a compact among the states in their highest sovereign capacity, and constituting the people thereof one people for certain purposes, it cannot be altered, or annulled at the will of the states individually, as the constitution of a state may. be at its individual will.

“2. And that it divides the supreme powers of government, between the government of the United States, and the governments of the individual states; is stamped on the face of the instrument; the powers of war and of taxation, of commerce and of treaties, and other enumerated powers vested in the government of the United States, being of as high and sovereign a character, as any of the powers reserved to the state governments.

“Nor is the government of the United States, created by the constitution, less a government in the strict sense of the term, within the sphere of its powers, than the governments created by the constitutions of the states are, within their several spheres. It is, like them, organized into legislative, executive, and judiciary departments. It operates, like them, directly on persons and things. And, like them, it has at command a physical force for executing the powers committed to it. The concurrent operation in certain cases is one of the features marking the peculiarity of the system.

“Between these different constitutional governments, the one operating in all the states, the others operating separately in each, with the aggregate powers of government divided between them, it could not escape attention, that controversies would arise concerning the boundaries of jurisdiction; and that some provision ought to be made for such occurrences. A political system, that does not provide for a peaceable and authoritative termination of occurring controversies, would not be more than the shadow of a government; the object and end of a real government being, the substitution of law and order for uncertainty, confusion, and violence.

“That to have left a final decision, in such cases, to each of the states, then thirteen, and already twenty-four, could not fail to make the constitution and laws of the United States different in different states, was obvious; and not less obvious, that this diversity of independent decisions must altogether distract the government of the union, and speedily put an end to the union itself. A uniform authority of the laws, is in itself a vital principle. Some of the most important laws could not be partially executed. They must be executed in all the states, or they could be duly executed in none. An impost, or an excise, for example, if not in force in some states, would be defeated in others. It is well known, that this was among the lessons of experience, which had a primary influence in bringing about the existing constitution. A loss of its general authority would moreover revive the exasperating questions between the states holding ports for foreign commerce, and the adjoining states without them; to which are now added, all the inland states, necessarily carrying on their foreign commerce through other states.

“To have made the decisions under the authority of the individual states, coordinate, in all cases, with decisions under the authority of the United States, would unavoidably produce collisions incompatible with the peace of society, and with that regular and efficient administration, which is of the essence of free governments. Scenes could not be avoided, in which a ministerial officer of the United States, and the correspondent officer of an individual state, would have rencounters in executing conflicting decrees; the result of which would depend on the comparative force of the local posses attending them; and that, a casualty depending on the political opinions and party feelings in different states.

“To have referred every clashing decision, under the two authorities, for a final decision, to the states as parties to the constitution, would be attended with delays, with inconveniences, and with expenses, amounting to a prohibition of the expedient; not to mention its tendency to impair the salutary veneration for a system requiring such frequent inter positions, nor the delicate questions, which might present themselves as to the form of stating the appeal, and as to the quorum for deciding it.

“To have trusted to negotiation for adjusting disputes between the government of the United States and the state governments, as between independent and separate sovereignties, would have lost sight altogether of a constitution and government for the Union; and opened a direct road from a failure of that resort, to the ultima ratio between nations wholly independent of, and alien to each other. If the idea had its origin in the process of adjustment between separate branches of the same government, the analogy entirely fails. In the case of disputes between independent parts of the same government, neither part being able to consummate its will, nor the government to proceed without a concurrence of the parts, necessity brings about an accommodation. In disputes between a state government, and the government of the United States, the case is practically, as well as theoretically different; each party possessing all the departments of an organized government, legislative, executive, and judiciary; and having each a physical force to support its pretensions. Although the issue of negotiation might sometimes avoid this extremity, how often would it happen among so many states, that an unaccommodating spirit in some would render that resource unavailing? A contrary supposition would not accord with a knowledge of human nature, or the evidence of our own political history.

“The constitution, not relying on any of the preceding modifications, for its safe and successful operation, has expressly declared, on the one hand, 1, ‘that the constitution, and the laws made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land; 2, that the judges of every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution and laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding; 3, that the judicial power of the United States shall extend to all cases in law and equity arising under the constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made under their authority, etc.’

“On the other hand, as a security of the rights and powers of the states, in their individual capacities, against an undue preponderance of the powers granted to the government over them in their united capacity, the constitution has relied on, (1,) the responsibility of the senators and representatives in the legislature of the United States to the legislatures and people of the states; (2,) the responsibility of the president to the people of the United States; and ( 3,) the liability of the executive and judicial functionaries of the United States to impeachment by the representatives of the people of the states, in one branch of the legislature of the United States, and trial by the representatives of the states, in the other branch: the state functionaries, legislative, executive, and judicial, being, at the same time, in their appointment and responsibility, altogether independent of the agency or authority of the United States.

“How far this structure of the government of the United States is adequate and safe for its objects, time alone can absolutely determine. Experience seems to have shewn, that whatever may grow out of future stages of our national career, there is, as yet, a sufficient control, in the popular will, over the executive and legislative departments of the government. When the alien and sedition laws were passed, in contravention to the opinions and feelings of the community, the first elections, that ensued, put an end to them. And whatever may have been the character of other acts, in the judgment of many of us it is but true, that they have generally accorded with the views of the majority of the states and of the people. At the present day it seems well understood, that the laws, which have created most dissatisfaction, have had a like sanction without doors: and that, whether continued, varied, or repealed, a like proof will be given of the sympathy and responsibility of the representative body to the constituent body. Indeed, the great complaint now is, against the results of this sympathy and responsibility in the legislative policy of the nation.

“With respect to the judicial power of the United States, and the authority of the Supreme Court in relation to the boundary of jurisdiction between the federal and the state governments, I may be permitted to refer to the thirty-ninth number of the Federalist for the light, in which the subject was regarded by its writer at the period, when the constitution was depending; and it is believed, that the same was the prevailing view then taken of it; that the same view has continued to prevail; and that it does so at this time, notwithstanding the eminent exceptions to it.

“But it is perfectly consistent with the concession of this power to the Supreme Court, in cases falling within the course of its functions, to maintain, that the power has not always been rightly exercised. To say nothing of the period, happily a short one, when judges in their seats did not abstain from intemperate and party harangues, equally at variance with their duty and their dignity; there have been occasional decisions from the bench, which have incurred serious and extensive disapprobation. Still it would seem, that, with but few exceptions, the course of the judiciary has been hitherto sustained by the prominent sense of the nation.

“Those who have denied, or doubted the supremacy of the judicial power of the United States, and denounce at the same time a nullifying power in a state, seem not to have sufficiently adverted to the utter inefficiency of a supremacy in a law of the land, without a supremacy in the exposition and execution of the law: nor to the destruction of all equipoise between the federal government and the state governments, if, whilst the functionaries of the federal government are directly or indirectly elected by, and responsible to the states, and the functionaries of the states are in their appointment and responsibility wholly independent of the United States, no constitutional control of any sort belonged to the United States over the states. Under such an organization, it is evident, that it would be in the power of the states, individually, to pass unauthorized laws, and to carry them into complete effect, any thing in the constitution and laws of the United States to the contrary notwithstanding. This would be a nullifying power in its plenary character; and whether it had its final effect, through the legislative, executive, or judiciary organ of the state, would be equally fatal to the constituted relation between the two governments.

“Should the provisions of the constitution as here reviewed, be found not to secure the government and rights of the states, against usurpations and abuses on the part of the United States, the final resort within the purview of the constitution, lies in an amendment of the constitution, according to a process applicable by the states.

“And in the event of a failure of every constitutional resort, and an accumulation of usurpations and abuses, rendering passive obedience and non-resistance a greater evil, than resistance and revolution, there can remain but one resort, the last of all; an appeal from the cancelled obligations of the constitutional compact, to original rights and the law of self-preservation. This is the ultima ratio under all governments, whether consolidated, confederated, or a compound of both; and it cannot be doubted, that a single member of the Union, in the extremity supposed, but in that only, would have a right, as an extra and ultra constitutional right, to make the appeal.

“This brings us to the expedient lately advanced, which claims for a single state a right to appeal against an exercise of power by the government of the United States, decided by the state to be unconstitutional, to the parties to the constitutional compact; the decision of the state to have the effect of nullifying the act of the government of the United States, unless the decision of the state be reversed by three fourths of the parties.

“The distinguished names and high authorities, which appear to have asserted, and given a practical scope to this doctrine, entitle it to a respect, which it might be difficult otherwise to feel for it.

“If the doctrine were to be understood as requiring the three fourths of the states to sustain, instead of that proportion to reverse the decision of the appealing state, the decision to be without effect during the appeal, it would be sufficient to remark, that this extra-constitutional course might well give way to that marked out by the constitution, which authorizes two thirds of the states to institute, and three fourths to effectuate an amendment of the constitution, establishing a permanent rule of the highest authority, in place of an irregular precedent of construction only.

“But it is understood, that the nullifying doctrine imports, that the decision of the state is to be presumed valid, and that it overrules the law of the United States, unless overruled by three fourths of the states.

“Can more be necessary to demonstrate the inadmissibility of such a doctrine, than, that it puts it in the power of the smallest fraction over one fourth of the United States, that is, of seven states out of twentyfour, to give the law, and even the constitution to seventeen states, each of the seventeen having, as parties to the constitution, an equal right with each of the seven, to expound it, and to insist on the exposition? That the seven might, in particular instances be right, and the seventeen wrong, is more than possible. But to establish a positive and permanent rule giving such a power, to such a minority, over such a majority, would overturn the first principle of free government, and in practice necessarily overturn the government itself.

“It is to be recollected, that the constitution was proposed to the people of the states as a whole, and unanimously adopted by the states as a whole, it being a part of the constitution, that not less than three fourths of the states should be competent to make any alteration in what had been unanimously agreed to. So great is the caution on this point, that in two cases where peculiar interests were at stake, a proportion even of three fourths is distrusted, and unanimity required to make an alteration.

“When the constitution was adopted as a whole, it is certain, that there were many parts, which, if separately proposed, would have been promptly rejected. It is far from impossible, that every part of a constitution might be rejected by a majority, and yet taken together as a whole, be unanimously accepted. Free constitutions will rarely, if ever, be formed, without reciprocal concessions; without articles conditioned on, and balancing each other. Is there a constitution of a single state out of the twenty-four, that would bear the experiment of having its component parts submitted to the people, and separately decided on?

“What the fate of the constitution of the United States would be, if a small proportion of the states could expunge parts of it particularly valued by a large majority, can have but one answer.

“The difficulty is not removed by limiting the doctrine to cases of construction. How many cases of that sort, involving cardinal provisions of the constitution, have occurred? How many now exist? How many may hereafter spring up? How many might be ingeniously created, if entitled to the privilege of a decision in the mode proposed?

“Is it certain, that the principle of that mode would not reach further than is contemplated? If a single state can, of right, require three fourths of its co-states to overrule its exposition of the constitution, because that proportion is authorized to amend it, would the plea be less plausible, that, as the constitution was unanimously established, it ought to be unanimously expounded?

“The reply to all such suggestions, seems to be unavoidable and irresistible; that the constitution is a compact; that its text is to be expounded, according to the provisions for expounding it – making a part of the compact; and that none of the parties can rightfully renounce the expounding provision more than any other part. When such a right accrues, as may accrue, it must grow out of abuses of the compact releasing the sufferers from their fealty to it.”

Sources: Commentaries On the Constitution of the United States by Justice Joseph Story published 1833

See also:
Rights of American Citizens Series:
The Importance of Free Speech and The Free Press in America
Rules of Interpreting the Constitution by Justice Joseph Story
The Consequence of Bad Legal Precedent in American Legislation
When Vain & Aspiring Men Possess the Highest Seats in Government by Samuel AdamsPatrick Henry may well be proved a Prophet as well as a Statesman
Preface To Resolutions of Virginia and Kentucky by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson
Constitution of the United States and it’s Governmental Operations (In Plain English)

Rules of Interpreting the Constitution by Justice Joseph Story

Joseph-Story-1779-1845Rules of Interpreting the Constitution:
JOSEPH STORY was born on September 18, 1779, in Marblehead, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard College in 1798. Story read law in the offices of two Marblehead attorneys and was admitted to the bar in 1801. He established a law practice in Salem, Massachusetts. In 1805, Story served one term in the Massachusetts Legislature, and in 1808 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. After one term, he returned to the Massachusetts Lower House, and in 1811 he was elected Speaker. On November 18, 1811, President James Madison nominated Story to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Senate confirmed the appointment on February 3, 1812. At the age of thirty-two, Story was the youngest person ever appointed to the Supreme Court. While on the Supreme Court, Story served as a delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1820 and was a Professor of Law at Harvard, where he wrote a series of nine commentaries on the law, each of which was published in several editions. Story served on the Supreme Court for thirty-three years. He died on September 10, 1845, at the age of sixty-five.

Rules of Interpretation: Note, sorry the footnote links aren’t working right yet I am still learning, please bear with me.

§ 397. IN our future commentaries upon the constitution we shall treat it, then, as it is denominated in the instrument itself, as a CONSTITUTION of government, ordained and established by the people of the United States for themselves and their posterity.1 They have declared it the supreme law of the land. They have made it a limited government. They have defined its authority. They have restrained it to the exercise of certain powers, and reserved all others to the states or to the people. It is a popular government. Those who administer it are responsible to the people. It is as popular, and Just as much emanating from the people, as the state governments. It is created for one purpose; the state governments for another. It may be altered, and amended, and abolished at the will of the people. In short, it was made by the people, made for the people, and is responsible to the people.2

§ 398. In this view of the matter, let us now proceed to consider the rules, by which it ought to be interpreted; for, if these rules are correctly laid down, it will save us from many embarrassments in examining and defining its powers. Much of the difficulty, which has arisen in all the public discussions on this subject, has had its origin in the want of some uniform rules of interpretation, expressly or tacitly agreed on by the disputants. Very different doctrines on this point have been adopted by different commentators; and not unfrequently very different language held by the same parties at different periods. In short, the rules of interpretation have often been shifted to suit the emergency; and the passions and prejudices of the day, or the favor and odium of a particular measure, have not unfrequently furnished a mode of argument, which would, on the one hand, leave the constitution crippled and inanimate, or, on other hand, give it an extent and elasticity, subversive of all rational boundaries.

§ 399. Let us, then, endeavor to ascertain, what are the true rules of interpretation applicable to the constitution; so that we may have some fixed standard, by which to measure its powers, and limit its prohibitions, and guard its obligations, and enforce its securities of our rights and liberties.

§ 400. I. The first and fundamental rule in the interpretation of all instruments is, to construe them according to the sense of the terms, and the intention of the parties. Mr. Justice Blackstone has remarked, that the intention of a law is to be gathered from the words, the context, the subject matter, the effects and consequence, or the reason and spirit of the law.3 He goes on to justify the remark by stating, that words are generally to be understood in their usual and most known signification, not so much regarding the propriety of grammar, as their general and popular use; that if words happen to be dubious, their meaning may be established by the context, or by comparing them with other words and sentences in the same instrument; that illustrations may be further derived from the subject matter, with reference to which the expressions are used; that the effect and consequence of a particular construction is to be examined, because, if a literal meaning would involve a manifest absurdity, it ought not to be adopted; and that the reason and spirit of the law, or the causes, which led to its enactment, are often the best exponents of the words, and limit their application.4

§ 401. Where the words are plain and clear, and the sense distinct and perfect arising on them, there is generally no necessity to have recourse to other means of interpretation. It is only, when there is some ambiguity or doubt arising from other sources, that interpretation has its proper office. There may be obscurity, as to the meaning, from the doubtful character of the words used, from other clauses in the same instrument, or from an incongruity or repugnancy between the words, and the apparent intention derived from the whole structure of the instrument, or its avowed object. In all such cases interpretation becomes indispensable.

§ 402. Rutherforth5 has divided interpretation into three kinds, literal, rational, and mixed. The first is, where we collect the intention of the party from his words only, as they lie before us. The second is, where his words do not express that intention perfectly, but exceed it, or fall short of it, and we are to collect it from probable or rational conjectures only. The third is, where the words, though they do express the intention, when they are rightly understood, are themselves of doubtful meaning, and we are bound to have recourse to the like conjectures to find out in what sense they are used. In literal interpretation the rule observed is, to follow that sense in respect both of the words, and of the construction of them, which is agreeable to common use, without attending to etymological fancies or grammatical refinements. In mixed interpretation, which supposes the words to admit of two or more senses, each of which is agreeable to common usage, we are obliged to collect the sense, partly from the words, and partly from conjecture of the intention. The rules then adopted are, to construe the words according to the subject matter, in such a sense as to produce a reasonable effect, and with reference to the circumstances of the particular transaction. Light may also be obtained in such cases from contemporary facts, or expositions, from antecedent mischiefs, from known habits, manners, and institutions, and from other sources almost innumerable, which may justly affect the judgment in drawing a fit conclusion in the particular case.

§ 403. Interpretation also may be strict or large; though we do not always mean the same thing, when we speak of a strict or large interpretation. When common usage has given two senses to the same word, one of which is more confined, or includes fewer particulars than the other, the former is called its strict sense, and the latter, which is more comprehensive or includes more particulars, is called its large sense. If we find such a word in a law, and we take it in its more confined sense, we are said to interpret it strictly. If we take it in its more comprehensive sense, we are said to interpret it largely. But whether we do the one or the other, we still keep to the letter of the law. But strict and large interpretations are frequently opposed to each other in a different sense. The words of a law may sometimes express the meaning of the legislator imperfectly. They may, in their common acceptation, include either more or less than his intention. And as, on the one hand, we call it a strict interpretation, where we contend, that the letter is to be adhered to precisely; so, on the other hand, we call it a large interpretation, where we contend, that the words ought to be taken in such a sense, as common usage will not fully justify; or that the meaning of the legislator is something different from what his words in any usage would import. In this sense a large interpretation is synonymous with what has before been called a rational interpretation. And a strict interpretation, in this sense, includes both literal and mixed interpretation; and may, as contra-distinguished from the former, be called a close, in opposition to a free or liberal interpretation.6

§ 404. These elementary explanations furnish little room for controversy; but they may nevertheless aid us in making a closer practical application, when we arrive at more definite rules.

§ 405. II. In construing the constitution of the United States, we are, in the first instance, to consider, what are its nature and objects, its scope and design, as apparent from the structure of the instrument, viewed as a whole, and also viewed in its component parts. Where its words are plain, clear, and determinate, they require no interpretation; and it should, therefore, be admitted, if at all, with great caution, and only from necessity, either to escape some absurd consequence, or to guard against some fatal evil. Where the words admit of two senses, each of which is conformable to common usage, that sense is to be adopted, which, without departing from the literal import of the words, best harmonizes with the nature and objects, the scope and design of the instrument. Where the words are unambiguous, but the provision may cover more or less ground according to the intention, which is yet subject to conjecture; or where it may include in its general terms more or less, than might seem dictated by the general design, as that may be gathered from other parts of the instrument, there is much more room for controversy; and the argument from inconvenience will probably have different influences upon different minds. Whenever such questions arise, they will probably be settled, each upon its own peculiar grounds; and whenever it is a question of power, it should be approached with infinite caution, and affirmed only upon the most persuasive reasons. In examining the constitution, the antecedent situation of the country, and its institutions, the existence and operations of the state governments, the powers and operations of the confederation, in short all the circumstances, which had a tendency to produce, or to obstruct its formation and ratification, deserve a careful attention. Much, also, may be gathered from contemporary history, and contemporary interpretation, to aid us in just conclusions.7

§ 406. It is obvious; however, that contemporary interpretation must be resorted to with much qualification and reserve. In the first place, the private interpretation of any particular man, or body of men, must manifestly be open to much observation. The constitution was adopted by the people of the United States; and it was submitted to the whole upon a just survey of its provisions, as they stood in the text itself. In different states and in different conventions, different and very opposite objections are known to have prevailed; and might well be presumed to prevail. Opposite interpretations, and different explanations of different provisions, may well be presumed to have been presented in different bodies, to remove local objections, or to win local favor. And there can be no certainty, either that the different state conventions in ratifying the constitution, gave the same uniform interpretation to its language, or that, even in a single state convention, the same reasoning prevailed with a majority, much less with the whole of the supporters of it. In the interpretation of a state statute, no man is insensible of the extreme danger of resorting to the opinions of those, who framed it, or those who passed it. Its terms may have differently impressed different minds. Some may have implied limitations and objects, which others would have rejected. Some may have taken a cursory view of its enactments, and others have studied them with profound attention. Some may have been governed by a temporary interest or excitement, and have acted upon that exposition, which most favored their present views. Others may have seen lurking beneath its text, what commended it to their judgment against even present interests. Some may have interpreted its language strictly and closely; others from a different habit of thinking may have given it a large and liberal meaning. It is not to be presumed, that, even in the convention, which framed the constitution, from the causes above mentioned, and other causes, the clauses were always understood in the same sense, or had precisely the same extent of operation. Every member necessarily judged for himself; and the judgment of no one could, or ought to be, conclusive upon that of others. The known diversity of construction of different parts of it, as well of the mass of its powers, in the different state conventions; the total silence upon many objections, which have since been started; and the strong reliance upon others, which have since been universally abandoned, add weight to these suggestions. Nothing but the text itself was adopted by the people. And it would certainly be a most extravagant doctrine to give to any commentary then made, and, a fortiori, to any commentary since made under a very different posture of feeling and opinion, an authority, which should operate an absolute limit upon the text, or should supersede its natural and just interpretation.

§ 407. Contemporary construction is properly resorted to, to illustrate, and confirm the text, to explain a doubtful phrase, or to expound an obscure clause; and in proportion to the uniformity and universality of that construction, and the known ability and talents of those, by whom it was given, is the credit, to which it is entitled. It can never abrogate the text; it can never fritter away its obvious sense; it can never narrow down its true limitations; it can never enlarge its natural boundaries.8 We shall have abundant reason hereafter to observe, when we enter upon the analysis of the particular clauses of the constitution, how many loose interpretations, and plausible conjectures were hazarded at an early period, which have since silently died away, and are now retained in no living memory, as a topic either of praise or blame, of alarm or of congratulation.

§ 408. And, after all, the most unexceptionable source of collateral interpretation is from the practical exposition of the government itself in its various departments upon particular questions discussed, and settled upon their own single merits. These approach the nearest in their own nature to judicial expositions; and have the same general recommendation, that belongs to the latter. They are decided upon solemn argument, pro re nata, upon a doubt raised, upon a lis mota, upon a deep sense of their importance and difficulty, in the face of the nation, with a view to present action, in the midst of jealous interests, and by men capable of urging, or repelling the grounds of argument, from their exquisite genius, their comprehensive learning, or their deep meditation upon the absorbing topic. How light, compared with these means of instruction, are the private lucubrations of the closet, or the retired speculations of ingenious minds, intent on theory, or general views, and unused to encounter a practical difficulty at every step!

§ 409. But to return to the rules of interpretation arising ex directo from the text of the constitution. And first the rules to be drawn from the nature of the instrument. (1.) It is to be construed, as a frame, or fundamental law of government, established by the PEOPLE of the United States, according to their own free pleasure and sovereign will. In this respect it is in no wise distinguishable from the constitutions of the state governments. Each of them is established by the people for their own purposes, and each is founded on their supreme authority. The powers, which are conferred, the restrictions, which are imposed, the authorities, which are exercised, the organization and distribution thereof, which are provided, are in each case for the same object, the common benefit of the governed, and not for the profit or dignity of the rulers.

§ 410. And yet it has been a very common mode of interpretation to insist upon a diversity of rules in construing the state constitutions, and that of the general government. Thus, in the Commentaries of Mr. Tucker upon Blackstone, we find it laid down, as if it were an incontrovertible doctrine in regard to the constitution of the United States, that “as federal, it is to be construed strictly, in all cases, where the antecedent rights of a state may be drawn in question. As a social compact, it ought likewise “to receive the same strict construction, wherever the right of personal liberty, of personal security, or of private property may become the object of dispute; because every person, whose liberty or property was thereby rendered subject to the new government, was antecedently a member of a civil society, to whose regulations he had submitted himself, and under whose authority and protection he still remains, in all cases not expressly submitted to the new government.”9

§ 411. We here see, that the whole reasoning is founded, not on the notion, that the rights of the people are concerned, but the rights of the states. And by strict construction is obviously meant the most limited sense belonging to the words. And the learned author relies, for the support of his reasoning, upon some rules laid down by Vattel in relation to the interpretation of treaties in relation to odious things. It would seem, then, that the constitution of the United States is to be deemed an odious instrument. And why, it may be asked? Was it not framed for the good of the people, and by the people? One of the sections of Vattel, which is relied on, states this proposition,10 “That whatever tends to change the present state of things, is also to be ranked in the class of odious things.” Is it not most manifest, that this proposition is, or at least may be, in many cases, fundamentally wrong? If a people free themselves from a despotism, is it to be said, that the change of government is odious, and ought to be construed strictly? What, upon such a principle, is to become of the American Revolution; and of our state governments, and state constitutions? Suppose a well-ordered government arises out of a state of disorder and anarchy, is such a government to be considered odious? Another section11 adds, “Since odious things are those, whose restriction tends more certainly to equity than their extension, and since we ought to pursue that line, which is most conformable to equity, when the will of the legislature or of the contracting parties is not exactly known, we should, where there is a question of odious things, interpret the terms in the most limited sense. We may even, to a certain degree, adopt a figurative meaning in order to avert the oppressive consequences of the proper and literal sense, or anything of an odious nature, which it would involve.” Does not this section contain most lax and unsatisfactory ingredients for interpretation? Who is to decide, whether it is most conformable to equity to extend, or to restrict these? Who is to decide, whether the provision is odious? According to this rule, the most opposite interpretations of the same words would be equally correct, according as the interpretator should deem it odious or salutary. Nay, the words are to be deserted, and a figurative sense adopted, whenever he deems it advisable, looking to the odious nature or consequence of the common sense. He, who believes the general government founded in wisdom, and sound policy, and the public safety, may extend the words. He, who deems it odious, or the state governments the truest protection of all our rights, must limit the words to the narrowest meaning.

§ 412. The twelfth amendment to the constitution is also relied on by the same author, which declares, “that the powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” He evidently supposes, that this means “in all cases not expressly submitted to the new government “; yet the word “expressly” is no where found in the amendment. But we are not considering, whether any powers can be implied; the only point now before us is, how the express powers are to be construed. Are they to be construed strictly, that is, in their most limited sense? Or are they to receive a fair and reasonable construction, according to the plain meaning of the terms and the objects, for which they are used?

§ 413. When it is said, that the constitution of the United States should be construed strictly, viewed as a social compact, whenever it touches the rights of property, or of personal security, or liberty, the rule is equally applicable to the state constitutions in the like eases. The principle, upon which this interpretation rests, if it has any foundation, must be, that the people ought not to be presumed to yield up their rights of property or liberty, beyond what is the clear sense of the language and the objects of the constitution. All governments are founded on a surrender of some natural rights, and impose some restrictions. We may not be at liberty to extend the grants of power beyond the fair meaning of the words in any such case; but that is not the question here under discussion. It is, how we are to construe the words as used, whether in the most confined, or in the more liberal sense properly belonging to them. Now, in construing a grant, or surrender of powers by the people to a monarch, for his own benefit or use, it is not only natural, but just, to presume, as in all other cases of grants, that the parties had not in view any large sense of the terms, because the objects were a derogation permanently from their rights and interests. But in construing a constitution of government, framed by the people for their own benefit and protection, for the preservation of their rights, and property, and liberty; where the delegated powers are not, and cannot be used for the benefit of their rulers, who are but their temporary servants and agents; but are intended solely for the benefit of the people, no such presumption of an intention to use the words in the most restricted sense necessariIy arises. The strict, or the more extended sense, both being within the letter, may be fairly held to be within their intention, as either shall best promote the very objects of the people in the grant; as either shall best promote or secure their rights, property, or liberty. The words are not, indeed, to be stretched beyond their fair sense; but within that range, the rule of interpretation must be taken, which best follows out the apparent intention.12 This is the mode (it is believed) universally adopted in construing the state constitutions. It has its origin in common sense. And it never can be a matter of just jealousy; because the rulers can have no permanent interest in a free government, distinct from that of the people, of whom they are a part, and to whom they are responsible. Why the same reasoning should not apply to the government of the United States, it is not very easy to conjecture.

§ 414. But it is said, that the state governments being already in existence, and the people subjected to them, their obedience to the new government may endanger their obedience to the states, or involve them in a conflict of authority, and thus produce inconvenience. In the first place, it is not true, in a just sense, (if we are right in our view of the constitution of the United States,) that such a conflict can ultimately exist. For if the powers of the general government are of paramount and supreme obligation, if they constitute the supreme law of the land, no conflict, as to obedience, can be found. Whenever the question arises, as to whom obedience is due, it is to be judicially settled; and being settled, it regulates, at once, the rights and duties of all the citizens.

§ 415. In the next place, the powers given by the people to the general government are not necessarily carved out of the powers already confided by them to the state governments. They may be such, as they originally reserved to themselves. And, if they are not, the authority of the people, in their sovereign capacity, to withdraw power from their state functionaries, and to confide it to the functionaries of the general government, cannot be doubted or denied.13 If they withdraw the power from the state functionaries, it must be presumed to be, because they deem it more useful for themselves, more for the common benefit, and common protection, than to leave it, where it has been hitherto deposited. Why should a power in the hands of one functionary be differently construed in the hands of another functionary, if, in each case, the same object is in view, the safety of the people. The state governments have no right to assume, that the power is more safe or more useful with them, than with the general government; that they have a higher capacity and a more honest desire to preserve the rights and liberties of the people, than the general government; that there is no danger in trusting them; but that all the peril and all the oppression impend on the other side. The people have not so said, or thought; and they have the exclusive right to judge for themselves on the subject. They avow, that the constitution of the United States was adopted by them, “in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity.” It would be a mockery to ask, if these are odious objects. If these require every grant of power, withdrawn from the state governments, to be deemed strictissimi juris, and construed in the most limited sense, even if it should defeat these objects. What peculiar sanctity have the state governments in the eyes of the people beyond these objects? Are they not framed for the same general ends? Was not the very inability of the state governments suitably to provide for our national wants, and national independence, and national protection, the very groundwork of the whole system?

§ 416. If this be the true view of the subject, the constitution of the United States is to receive as favorable a construction, as those of the states. Neither is to be construed alone; but each with a reference to the other. Each belongs to the same system of government; each is limited in its powers; and within the scope of its powers each is supreme. Each, by the theory of our government, is essential to the existence and due preservation of the powers and obligations of the other. The destruction of either would be equally calamitous, since it would involve the ruin of that beautiful fabric of balanced government, which has been reared with so much care and wisdom, and in which the people have reposed their confidence, as the truest safeguard of their civil, religious, and political liberties. The exact limits of the powers confided by the people to each, may not always be capable, from the inherent difficulty of the subject, of being defined, or ascertained in all cases with perfect certainty.14 But the lines are generally marked out with sufficient broadness and clearness; and in the progress of the development of the peculiar functions of each, the part of true wisdom would seem to be, to leave in every practicable direction a wide, if not an unmeasured, distance between the actual exercise of the sovereignty of each. In every complicated machine slight causes may disturb the operations; and it is often more easy to detect the defects, than to apply a safe and adequate remedy.

§ 417. The language of the Supreme Court, in the case of Martin v. Hunter,15 seems peculiarly appropriate to this part of our subject. “The constitution of the United States,” say the court, “was ordained and established, not by the states in their sovereign capacities, but emphatically, as the preamble of the constitution declares, by the people of the United States.16 There can be no doubt, that it was competent to the people to invest the general government with all the powers, which they might deem proper and necessary; to extend or restrain those powers according to their own good pleasure; and to give them a paramount and supreme authority. As little doubt can there be, that the people had a right to prohibit to the states the exercise of any powers, which were in their judgment incompatible with the objects of the general compact; to make the powers of the state governments, in given cases, subordinate to those of the nation; or to reserve to themselves those sovereign authorities, which they might not choose to delegate to either. The constitution was hot, therefore, necessarily carved out of existing state sovereignties, nor a surrender of powers already existing in state institutions. For the powers of the state governments depend upon their own constitutions; and the people of every state had a right to modify or restrain them according to their own views of policy or principle. On the other hand, it is perfectly clear, that the sovereign powers, vested in the state governments by their respective constitutions, remained unaltered and unimpaired, except so far as they were granted to the government of the United States.” These deductions do not rest upon general reason, plain and obvious as they seem to be. They have been positively recognised by one of the articles in amendment of the constitution, which declares, that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”17

” The government, then, of the United States, can claim no powers, which are not granted to it by the constitution; and the powers actually granted must be such, as are expressly given, or given by necessary implication. On the other hand, this instrument, like every other grant, is to have a reasonable construction according to the import of its terms. And where a power is expressly given in general terms, it is not to be restrained to particular cases, unless that construction grows out of the context expressly, or by necessary implication. The words are to be taken in their natural and obvious sense, and not in a sense unreasonably restricted or enlarged.”

§ 418. A still more striking response to the argument for a strict construction of the constitution will be found in the language of the court, in the case of Gibbons v. Ogden, (9 Wheat. 1, &c.) Mr. Chief Justice Marshall, in delivering the opinion of the court, says, “This instrument contains an enumeration of powers expressly granted by the people to their government. It has been said, that these powers ought to be construed strictly. But why ought they to be so construed? Is there one sentence in the constitution, which gives countenance to this rule? In the last of the enumerated powers, that, which grants expressly the means for carrying all others into execution, congress is authorized `to make all laws, which shall be necessary and proper’ for the purpose. But this limitation on the means, which may be used, is not extended to the powers, which are conferred; nor is there one sentence in the constitution, which has been pointed out by the gentlemen of the bar, or which we have been able to discern, that prescribes this rule. We do not, therefore, think ourselves justified in adopting it. What do gentlemen mean by a strict construction? If they contend only against that enlarged construction, which would extend words beyond their natural and obvious import, we might question the application of the terms, but should not controvert the principle. If they contend for that narrow construction, which, in support of some theory not to be found in the constitution, would deny to the government those powers, which the words of the grant, as usually understood, import, and which are consistent with the general views and objects of the instrument; for that narrow construction, which would cripple the government, and render it unequal to the objects, for which it is declared to be instituted, and to which the powers given, as fairly understood, render it competent; then we cannot perceive the propriety of this strict construction, nor adopt it as the rule, by which the constitution is to be expounded. As men, whose intentions require no concealment, generally employ the words, which most directly and aptly express the ideas they intend to convey; the enlightened patriots, who framed our constitution, and the people, who adopted it, must be understood to have employed words in their natural sense, and to have intended, what they have said. If, from the imperfection of human language, there should be serious doubts respecting the extent of any given power, it is a well settled rule, that the objects, for which it was given, especially, when those objects are expressed in the instrument itself, should have great influence in the construction. We know of no reason for excluding this rule from the present case. The grant does not convey power, which might be beneficial to the grantor, if retained by himself, or which can ensure solely to the benefit of the grantee; but is an investment of power for the general advantage, in the hands of agents selected for that purpose; which power can never be exercised by the people themselves, but must be placed in the hands of agents, or lie dormant. We know of no rule for construing the extent of such powers, other than is given by the language of the instrument, which confers them, taken in connection with the purposes, for which they were conferred.”18

§ 419. IV. From the foregoing considerations we deduce the conclusion, that as a frame or fundamental law of government, (2.) The constitution of the United States is to receive a reasonable interpretation of its language, and its powers, keeping in view the objects and purposes, for which those powers were conferred. By a reasonable interpretation, we mean, that in case the words are susceptible of two different senses, the one strict, the other more enlarged, that should be adopted, which is most consonant with the apparent objects and intent of the constitution; that, which will give it efficacy and force, as a government, rather than that, which will impair its operations, and reduce it to a state of imbecility. Of course we do not mean, that the words for this purpose are to be strained beyond their common and natural sense; but keeping within that limit, the exposition is to have a fair and just latitude, so as on the one hand to avoid obvious mischief, and on the other hand to promote the public good.19

§ 420. This consideration is of great importance in construing a frame of government; and a fortiori a frame of government, the free and voluntary institution of the people for their common benefit, security, and happiness. It is wholly unlike the case of a municipal charter, or a private grant, in respect both to its means and its ends. When a person makes a private grant of a particular thing, or of a license to do a thing, or of an easement for the exclusive benefit of the grantee, we naturally confine the terms, however general, to the objects clearly in the view of the parties. But even in such cases, doubtful words, within the scope of those objects, are construed most favorably for the grantee; because, though in derogation of the rights of the grantor, they are promotive of the general rights secured to the grantee. But, where the grant enures, solely and exclusively, for the benefit of the grantor himself, no one would deny the propriety of giving to the words of the grant a benign and liberal interpretation. In cases, however, of private grants, the objects generally are few; they are certain; they are limited; they neither require, nor look to a variety of means or changes, which are to control, or modify either the end, or the means.

§ 421. In regard also to municipal charters, or public grants, similar considerations usually apply. They are generally deemed restrictive of the royal or public prerogative, or of the common rights secured by the actual organization of the government to other individuals, or communities. They are supposed to be procured, not so much for public good, as for private or local convenience. They are supposed to arise from personal solicitation, upon general suggestions, and not ex certâ causâ, or ex mero motu of the king, or government itself. Hence, such charters are often required by the municipal jurisprudence to be construed strictly, because they yield something, which is common, for the benefit of a few. And yet, where it is apparent, that they proceed upon greater or broader motives, a liberal exposition is not only indulged, but is encouraged, if it manifestly promotes the public good.20 So that we see, that even in these cases, common sense often dictates a departure from a narrow and strict construction of the terms, though the ordinary rules of mere municipal law may not have favored it.

§ 422. But a constitution of government, founded by the people for themselves and their posterity, and for objects of the most momentous nature, for perpetual union, for the establishment of justice, for the general welfare, and for a perpetuation of the blessings of liberty, necessarily requires, that every interpretation of its powers should have a constant reference to these objects. No interpretation of the words, in which those powers are granted, can be a sound one, which narrows down their ordinary import, so as to defeat those objects. That would be to destroy the spirit, and to cramp the letter. It has been justly observed, that “the constitution unavoidably deals in general language. It did not suit the purposes of the people, in framing this great charter of our liberties, to provide for minute specification of its powers, or to declare the means, by which those powers should be carried into execution. It was foreseen, that it would be a perilous, and difficult, if not an impracticable task. The instrument was not intended to provide merely for the exigencies of a few years; but was to endure through a long lapse of ages, the events of which were locked up in the inscrutable purposes of Providence. It could not be foreseen, what new changes and modifications of power might be indispensable to effectuate the general objects of the charter; and restrictions and specifications, which at the present might seem salutary, might in the end prove the overthrow of the system itself. Hence its powers are expressed in general terms, leaving the legislature, from time to time, to adopt its own means to effectuate legitimate objects, and to mould and model the exercise of its powers, as its own wisdom and the public interests should require.”21 Language to the same effect will be found in other judgments of the same tribunal.22

§ 423. If, then, we are to give a reasonable construction to this instrument, as a constitution of government established for the common good, we must throw aside all notions of subjecting it to a strict interpretation, as if it were subversive of the great interests of society, or derogated from the inherent sovereignty of the people. And this will naturally lead us to some other rules properly belonging to the subject.

§ 424. V. Where the power is granted in general terms, the power is to be construed, as coextensive with the terms, unless some clear restriction upon it is deducible from the context. We do not mean to assert, that it is necessary, that such restriction should be expressly found in the context. It will be sufficient, if it arise by necessary implication. But it is not sufficient to show, that there was, or might have been, a sound or probable motive to restrict it. A restriction founded on conjecture is wholly inadmissible. The reason is obvious: the text was adopted by the people in its obvious, and general sense. We have no means of knowing, that any particular gloss, short of this sense, was either contemplated, or approved by the people; and such a gloss might, though satisfactory in one state, have been the very ground of objection in another. It might have formed a motive to reject it in one, and to adopt it in another. The sense of a part of the people has no title to be deemed the sense of the whole. Motives of state policy, or state interest, may properly have influence in the question of ratifying it; but the constitution itself must be expounded, as it stands; and not as that policy, or that interest may seem now to dictate. We are to construe, and not to frame the instrument.23

§ 425. VI. A power, given in general terms, is not to be restricted to particular cases, merely because it may be susceptible of abuse, and, if abused, may lead to mischievous consequences. This argument is often used in public debate; and in its common aspect addresses itself so much to popular fears and prejudices, that it insensibly acquires a weight in the public mind, to which it is no wise entitled. The argument ab inconvenienti is sufficiently open to question, from the laxity of application, as well as of opinion, to which it leads. But the argument from a possible abuse of a power against its existence or use, is, in its nature, not only perilous, but, in respect to governments, would shake their very foundation. Every form of government unavoidably includes a grant of some discretionary powers. It would be wholly imbecile without them. It is impossible to foresee all the exigencies, which may arise in the progress of events, connected with the rights, duties, and operations of a government. If they could be foreseen, it would be impossible ab ante to provide for them. The means must be subject to perpetual modification, and change; they must be adapted to the existing manners, habits, and institutions of society, which are never stationary; to the pressure of dangers, or necessities; to the ends in view; to general and permanent operations, as well as to fugitive and extraordinary emergencies. In short, if the whole society is not to be revolutionized at every critical period, and remodeled in every generation, there must be left to those, who administer the government, a very large mass of discretionary powers, capable of greater or less actual expansion according to circumstances, and sufficiently flexible not to involve the nation in utter destruction from the rigid limitations imposed upon it by an improvident jealousy. Every power, however limited, as well as broad, is in its own nature susceptible of abuse. No constitution can provide perfect guards against it. Confidence must be reposed somewhere; and in free governments, the ordinary securities against abuse are found in the responsibility of rulers to the people, and in the just exercise of their elective franchise; and ultimately in the sovereign power of change belonging to them, in cases requiring extraordinary remedies. Few cases are to be supposed, in which a power, however general, will be exerted for the permanent oppression of the people.24 And yet, cases may easily be put, in which a limitation upon such a power might be found in practice to work mischief; to incite foreign aggression; or encourage domestic disorder. The power of taxation, for instance, may be carried to a ruinous excess; and yet, a limitation upon that power might, in a given case, involve the destruction of the independence of the country.

§ 426. VII. On the other hand, a rule of equal importance is, not to enlarge the construction of a given power beyond the fair scope of its terms, merely because the restriction is inconvenient, impolitic, or even mischievous.25 If it be mischievous, the power of redressing the evil lies with the people by an exercise of the power of amendment. If they do not choose to apply the remedy, it may fairly be presumed, that the mischief is less than what would arise from a further extension of the power; or that it is the least of two evils. Nor should it ever be lost sight of, that the government of the United States is one of limited and enumerated powers; and that a departure from the true import and sense of its powers is, pro tanto, the establishment of a new constitution. It is doing for the people, what they have not chosen to do for themselves It is usurping the functions of a legislator, and deserting those of an expounder of the law. Arguments drawn from impolicy or inconvenience ought here to be of no weight. The only sound principle is to declare, ita lex scripta est, to follow, and to obey. Nor, if a principle so just and conclusive could be overlooked, could there well be found a more unsafe guide in practice, than mere policy and convenience Men on such subjects complexionally differ from each other. The same men differ from themselves at different times. Temporary delusions, prejudices, excitements, and objects have irresistible influence in mere questions of policy. And the policy of one age may ill suit the wishes, or the policy of another. The constitution is not to be subject to such fluctuations. It is to have a fixed, uniform, permanent construction. It should be, so far at least as human infirmity will allow, not dependent upon the passions or parties of particular times, but the same yesterday, today, and forever.

§ 427. It has been observed with great correctness, that although the spirit of an instrument, especially of a constitution, is to be respected not less than its letter; yet the spirit is to be collected chiefly from the letter. It would be dangerous in the extreme, to infer from extrinsic circumstances, that a case, for which the words of an instrument expressly provide, shall be exempted from its operation. Where words conflict with each other, where the different clauses of an instrument bear upon each other, and would be inconsistent, unless the natural and common import of words be varied, construction becomes necessary, and a departure from the obvious meaning of words is justifiable. But if, in any case, the plain meaning of a provision, not contradicted by any other provision in the same instrument, is to be disregarded, because we believe the framers of that instrument could not intend what they say, it must be one, where the absurdity and injustice of applying the provision to the case would be so monstrous, that all mankind would, without hesitation, unite in rejecting the application.26 This language has reference to a case where the words of a constitutional provision are sought to be restricted. But it appears with equal force where they are sought to be enlarged.

§ 428. VIII. No construction of a given power is to be allowed, which plainly defeats, or impairs its avowed objects. If, therefore, the words are fairly susceptible of two interpretations, according to their common sense and use, the one of which would defeat one, or all of the objects, for which it was obviously given, and the other of which would preserve and promote all, the former interpretation ought to be rejected, and the latter be held the true interpretation. This rule results from the dictates of mere common sense; for every instrument ought to be so construed, ut magis valeat, quam pereat.27 For instance, the constitution confers on congress the power to declare war. Now the word declare has several senses. It may mean to proclaim, or publish. But no person would imagine, that this was the whole sense, in which the word is used in this connection. It should be interpreted in the sense, in which the phrase is used among nations, when applied to such a subject matter. A power to declare war is a power to make, and carry on war. It is not a mere power to make known an existing thing, but to give life and effect to the thing itself.28 The true doctrine has been expressed by the Supreme Court: “If from the imperfection of human language there should be any serious doubts respecting the extent of any given power, the objects, for which it was given, especially when those objects are expressed in the instrument itself, should have great influence in the construction.”29

§ 429. IX. Where a power is remedial in its nature, there is much reason to contend, that it ought to be construed liberally. That was the doctrine of Mr. Chief Justice Jay, in Chisholm v. Georgia;30 and it is generally adopted in the interpretation of laws.31 But this liberality of exposition is clearly inadmissible, if it extends beyond the just and ordinary sense of the terms.

§ 430. X. In the interpretation of a power, all the ordinary and appropriate means to execute it are to be deemed a part of the power itself. This results from the very nature and design of a constitution. In giving the power, it does not intend to limit it to any one mode of exercising it, exclusive of all others. It must be obvious, (as has been already suggested,) that the means of carrying into effect the objects of a power may, nay, must be varied, in order to adapt themselves to the exigencies of the nation at different times.32 A mode efficacious and useful in one age, or under one posture of circumstances, may be wholly vain, or even mischievous at another time. Government presupposes the existence of a perpetual mutability in its own operations on those, who are its subjects; and a perpetual flexibility in adapting itself to their wants, their interests, their habits, their occupations, and their infirmities.33

§ 431. Besides; if the power only is given, without pointing out the means, how are we to ascertain, that any one means, rather than another, is exclusively within its scope? The same course of reasoning, which would deny a choice of means to execute the power, would reduce the power itself to a nullity. For, as it never could be demonstrated, that any one mode in particular was intended, and to be exclusively employed; and, as it might be demonstrated, that other means might be employed, the question, whether the power were rightfully put into exercise, would forever be subject to doubt and controversy. If one means is adopted to give it effect, and is within its scope, because it is appropriate, how are we to escape from the argument, that another, falling within the same predicament, is equally within its scope? If each is equally appropriate, how is the choice to be made between them? If one is selected, how does that exclude all others? If one is more appropriate at one time, and another at another time, where is the restriction to be found, which allows the one, and denies the other? A power granted in a frame of government is not contemplated to be exhausted in a single exertion of it, or uno flatu. It is intended for free and permanent exercise; and if the discretion of the functionaries, who are to exercise it, is not limited, that discretion, especially, as those functionaries must necessarily change, must be coextensive with the power itself. Take, for instance, the power to make war. In one age, this would authorize the purchase and employment of the weapons then ordinarily used for this purpose. But suppose these weapons are wholly laid aside, and others substituted, more efficient and powerful; is the government prohibited from employing the new modes of offence and defence? Surely not. The invention of gunpowder superseded the old modes of warfare, and may perhaps, by future inventions, be superseded in its turn. No one can seriously doubt, that the new modes would be within the scope of the power to make war, if they were appropriate to the end. It would, indeed, be a most extraordinary mode of interpretation of the constitution, to give such a restrictive meaning to its powers, as should obstruct their fair operation. A power being given, it is the interest of the nation to facilitate its execution. It can never be their interest, and cannot be presumed to be their intention, to clog and embarrass its execution, by withholding the most appropriate means. There can be no reasonable ground for preferring that construction, which would render the operations of the government difficult, hazardous, and expensive; or for imputing to the framers of the constitution a design to impede the exercise of its powers, by withholding a choice of means.

§ 432. In the practical application of government, then, the public functionaries must be left at liberty to exercise the powers, with which the people by the constitution and laws have entrusted them. They must have a wide discretion, as to the choice of means; and the only limitation upon that discretion would seem to be, that the means are appropriate to the end. And this must naturally admit of considerable latitude; for the relation between the action and the end has has been justly remarked) is not always so direct and palpable, as to strike the eye of every observer.34 If the end be legitimate and within the scope of the constitution, all the means, which are appropriate, and which are plainly adapted to that end, and which are not prohibited, may be constitutionally employed to carry it into effect.35 When, then, it is asked, who is to judge of the necessity and propriety of the laws to be passed for executing the powers of the Union, the true answer is, that the national government, like every other, must judge in the first instance of the proper exercise of its powers; and its constituents in the last. If the means are within the reach of the power, no other department can inquire into the policy or convenience of the use of them. If there be an excess by overleaping the just boundary of the power, the judiciary may generally afford the proper relief; and in the last resort the people, by adopting such measures to redress it, as the exigency may suggest, and prudence may dictate.36

§ 433. XI. And this leads us to remark, in the next place, that in the interpretation of the constitution there is no solid objection to implied powers.37 Had the faculties of man been competent to the framing of a system of government, which would leave nothing to implication, it cannot be doubted, that the effort would have been made by the framers of our constitution. The fact, however, is otherwise. There is not in the whole of that admirable instrument a grant of powers, which does not draw after it others, not expressed, but vital to their exercise; not substantive and independent, indeed, but auxiliary and subordinate.38 There is no phrase in it, which, like the articles of confederation,39 excludes incidental and implied powers, and which requires, that everything granted shall be expressly and minutely described. Even the tenth amendment, which was framed for the purpose of quieting the excessive jealousies, which had been excited, omits the word “expressly,” (which was contained in the articles of confederation,) and declares only, that “the powers, not delegated to the United States, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people;” thus leaving the question, whether the particular power, which may become the subject of contest, has been delegated to the one government, or prohibited to the other, to depend upon a fair construction of the whole instrument. The men, who drew and adopted this amendment, had experienced the embarrassments, resulting from the insertion of this word in the articles of confederation, and probably omitted it to avoid those embarrassments. A constitution, to contain an accurate detail of all the subdivisions, of which its great powers will admit, and of all the means, by which these may be carried into execution, would partake of the prolixity of a legal code, and could scarcely be embraced by the human mind. It would probably never be understood by the public. Its nature, therefore, requires, that only its great outlines should be marked, its important objects designated, and the minor ingredient which compose those objects, be deduced from the nature of those objects themselves. That this idea was entertained by the framers of the American constitution, is not only to be inferred from the nature of the instrument, but from the language. Why, else, were some of the limitations, found in the ninth section of the first article, introduced? It is also, in some degree, warranted, by their having omitted to use any restrictive term, which might prevent its receiving a fair and just interpretation. In considering this point, we should never forget, that it is a constitution we are expounding.40

§ 434. The reasoning of the Federalist is to the same effect. Every power, which is the means of carrying into effect a given power, is implied from the very nature of the original grant. It is a necessary and unavoidable implication from the act of constituting a government, and vesting it with certain specified powers. What is a power, but the ability or faculty of doing a thing? What is the ability to do a thing, but the power of employing the means necessary to its execution? What is a legislative power, but a power of making laws? What are the means to execute a legislative power, but laws?41 No axiom, indeed, is more clearly established in law or in reason, than that, where the end is required, the means are authorized. Whenever a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power necessary for doing it is included. In every new application of a general power, the particular power, which are the means of attaining the object of the general power, must always necessarily vary with that object; and be often properly varied, whilst the object remains the same.42 Even under the confederation, where the delegation of authority was confined to express powers, the Federalist remarks, that it would be easy to show, that no important power delegated by the articles of confederation had been, or could be, executed by congress, without recurring more or less to the doctrine of construction or implication!43

§ 435. XII. Another point, in regard to the interpretation of the constitution, requires us to advert to the rules applicable to cases of concurrent and exclusive powers. In what cases are the powers given to the general government exclusive, and in what cases may the states maintain a concurrent exercise? Upon this subject we have an elaborate exposition by the authors of the Federalist;44 and as it involves some of the most delicate questions growing out of the constitution, and those, in which a conflict with the states is most likely to arise, we cannot do better than to quote the reasoning.

§ 436. “An entire consolidation of the states into one complete national sovereignty, would imply an entire subordination of the parts; and whatever powers might remain in them, would be altogether dependent on the general will. But as the plan of the convention aims only at a partial union or consolidation, the state governments would clearly retain all the rights of sovereignty, which they before had, and which were not, by that act, exclusively delegated to the United States. This exclusive delegation, or rather this alienation of state sovereignty, would only exist in three cases: where the constitution in express terms granted an exclusive authority to the Union; where it granted, in one instance, an authority to the Union, and in another, prohibited the states from exercising the like authority; and where it granted an authority to the Union, to which a similar authority in the states would be absolutely and totally contradictory and repugnant. I use these terms to distinguish this last case from another, which might appear to resemble it; but which would, in fact, be essentially different: I mean, where the exercise of a concurrent jurisdiction might be productive of occasional interferences in the policy of any branch of administration, but would not imply any direct contradiction or repugnancy in point of constitutional authority. These three cases of exclusive jurisdiction in the federal government, may be exemplified by the following instances. The last clause but one in the eighth section of the first article, provides expressly, that congress shall exercise ‘exclusive legislation ‘ over the district to be appropriated as the seat of government. This answers to the first case. The first clause of the same section empowers congress ‘to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises; ‘ and the second clause of the tenth section of the same article declares, that ‘no state shall, without the consent of congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except for the purpose of executing its inspection laws; Hence would result an exclusive power in the Union to lay duties on imports and exports, with the particular exception mentioned. But this power is abridged by another clause, which declares, that no tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state; in consequence of which qualification, it now only extends to the duties on imports. This answers to the second case. The third will be found in that clause, which declares, that congress shall have power ‘to establish an uniform rule of naturalization throughout the United States.‘ This must necessarily be exclusive; because, if each state had power to prescribe a distinct rule, there could be no uniform rule.” The correctness of these rules of interpretation has never been controverted; and they have been often recognised by the Supreme Court.45

§ 437. The two first rules are so completely self-evident, that every attempt to illustrate them would be vain, if it had not a tendency to perplex and confuse. The last rule, viz. that which declares, that the power is exclusive in the national government, where an authority is granted to the Union, to which a similar authority in the states would be absolutely and totally contradictory and repugnant, is that alone, which may be thought to require comment. This rule seems, in its own nature, as little susceptible of doubt, as the others in reference to the constitution. For, since the constitution has declared, that the constitution and laws, and treaties in pursuance of it shall be the supreme law of the land; it would be absurd to say, that a state law, repugnant to it, might have concurrent operation and validity; and especially, as it is expressly added, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding. The repugnancy, then, being made out, it follows, that the state law is just as much void, as though it had been expressly declared to be void; or the power in congress had been expressly declared to be exclusive. Every power given to congress is by the constitution necessarily supreme; and if, from its nature, or from the words of the grant, it is apparently intended to be exclusive, it is as much so, as if the states were expressly forbidden to exercise it.46

§ 438. The principal difficulty lies, not so much in the rule, as in its application to particular cases. Here, the field for discussion is wide, and the argument upon construction is susceptible of great modifications, and of very various force. But unless, from the nature of the power, or from the obvious results of its operations, a repugnancy must exist, so as to lead to a necessary conclusion, that the power was intended to be exclusive, the true rule of interpretation is, that the power is merely concurrent. Thus, for instance, an affirmative power in congress to lay taxes, is not necessarily incompatible with a like power in the States. Both may exist without interference; and if any interference should arise in a particular case, the question of supremacy would turn, not upon the nature of the power, but upon supremacy of right in the exercise of the power in that case.47 In our complex system, presenting the rare and difficult scheme of one general government, whose action extends over the whole, but which possesses only enumerated powers, and of numerous state governments, which retain and exercise many powers not delegated to the Union, contests respecting power must arise. Were it even otherwise, the measures taken by the respective governments to execute their acknowledged powers would be often of the same description, and might sometimes interfere. This, however, does not prove, that the one is exercising, or has a right to exercise, the powers of the other.48

§ 439. And this leads us to remark, that in the exercise of concurrent powers, if there be a conflict between the laws of the Union and the laws of the state, the former being supreme, the latter must of course yield. The possibility, nay the probability, of such a conflict was foreseen by the framers of the constitution, and was accordingly expressly provided for. If a state passes a law inconsistent with the constitution of the United States it is a mere nullity. If it passes a law clearly within its own constitutional powers, still if it conflicts with the exercise of a power given to congress, to the extent of the interference its operation is suspended; for, in a conflict of laws, that which is supreme must govern. Therefore, it has often been adjudged, that if a state law is in conflict with a treaty, or an act of congress, it becomes ipso facto inoperative to the extent of the conflict.49

§ 440. From this great rule, that the constitution and laws, made in pursuance thereof, are supreme; and that they control the constitutions and laws of the states, and cannot be controlled by them, from this, which may be deemed an axiom, other auxiliary corollaries may be deduced. In the first place, that, if a power is given to create a thing, it implies a power to preserve it. Secondly, that a power to destroy, if wielded by a different hand, is hostile to and incompatible with this power to create and preserve. Thirdly, that where this repugnancy exists, the authority, which is supreme, must control, and not yield to that, over which it is supreme.50 Consequently, the inferior power becomes a nullity.51

§ 441. But a question of a still more delicate nature may arise; and that is, how far in the exercise of a concurrent power, the actual legislation of congress supersedes the state legislation, or suspends its operation over the subject matter. Are the state laws inoperative only to the extent of the actual conflict; or does the legislation of congress suspend the legislative power of the states over the subject matter? To such an inquiry, probably, no universal answer could be given. It may depend upon the nature of the power, the effect of the actual exercise, and the extent of the subject matter.

§ 442. This may, perhaps, be best illustrated by putting a case, which has been reasoned out by a very learned judge, in his own words:52 “Congress has power,” says he, “to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia; and it is presumable, that the framers of the constitution contemplated a full exercise of all these powers. Nevertheless, if congress had declined to exercise them, it was competent to the state governments to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining their respective militia in such manner, as they might think proper. But congress has provided for these subjects in the way, which that body must have supposed the best calculated to promote the general welfare, and to provide for the national defence. After this, can the state governments enter upon the same ground, provide for the same objects, as they may think proper, and punish, in their own way, violations of the laws they have so enacted? The affirmative of this question is asserted by counsel, etc. who contend, that unless such state laws are in direct contradiction to those of the United States, they are not repugnant to the constitution of the United States. – From this doctrine I must, for one, be permitted to dissent. The two laws may not be in such absolute opposition to each other, as to render the one incapable of execution without violating the injunctions of the other; and yet the will of the one legislature may be in direct collision with that of the other. This will is to be discovered, as well by what the legislature has not declared, as by what they have expressed. Congress, for example, have declared, that the punishment for disobedience of the act of congress shall be a certain fine. If that provided by the state legislature for the same offence be a similar fine with the addition of imprisonment or death, the latter law would not prevent the former from being carried into execution, and may be said, therefore, not to be repugnant to it. But surely the will of Congress is nevertheless thwarted and opposed.”53 He adds, “I consider it a novel and unconstitutional doctrine, that in cases, where the state governments have a concurrent power of legislation with the national government, they may legislate upon any subject, on which congress has acted, provided the two laws are not in terms, or in their operation contradictory and repugnant to each other.”54

§ 443. Another illustration may be drawn from the opinion of the court in another highly important case. One question was, whether the power of congress to establish uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies was exclusive, or concurrent with the states. “It does not appear,” it was then said, “to be a violent construction of the constitution, and is certainly a convenient one, to consider the power of the states as existing over such cases, as the laws of the Union may not reach. Be this as it may, the power of congress may be exercised, or declined, as the wisdom of that body shall decide. If, in the opinion of congress, uniform laws concerning bankruptcies ought not to be established, it does not follow, that partial laws may not exist, or that state legislation on the subject must cease. It is not the mere existence of the power, but its exercise, which is incompatible with the exercise of the same power by the states. It is not the right to establish these uniform laws; but their actual establishment, which is inconsistent with the partial acts of the states. If the right of the states to pass a bankrupt law is not taken away by the mere grant of that power to congress, it cannot be extinguished. It can only be suspended by the enactment of a general bankrupt law. The repeal of that law cannot, it is true, confer the power on the states; but it removes a disability to its exercise, which was created by the act of congress.”55

It is not our intention to comment on these cases; but to offer them as examples of reasoning in favor and against the exclusive power, where a positive repugnancy cannot be predicated.

§ 444. It has been sometimes argued, that when a power is granted to congress to legislate in specific cases, for purposes growing out of the Union, the natural conclusion is, that the power is designed to be exclusive; that the power is to be exercised for the good of the whole by the will of the whole, and consistently with the interests of the whole; and that these objects can nowhere be so clearly seen, or so thoroughly weighed, as in congress, where the whole nation is represented. But the argument proves too much; and pursued to its full extent, it would establish, that all the powers granted to congress are exclusive, unless where concurrent authority is expressly reserved to the states.56 For instance, upon this reasoning the power of taxation in congress would annul the whole power of taxation of the states; and thus operate a virtual dissolution of their sovereignty. Such a pretension has been constantly disclaimed.

§ 445. On the other hand, it has been maintained with great pertinacity, that the states possess concurrent authority with congress in all cases, where the power is not expressly declared to be exclusive, or expressly prohibited to the states; and if, in the exercise of a concurrent power, a conflict arises, there is no reason, why each should not be deemed equally rightful.57 But it is plain, that this reasoning goes to the direct overthrow of the principle of supremacy; and, if admitted, it would enable the subordinate sovereignty to annul the powers of the superior. There is a plain repugnance in conferring on one government a power to control the constitutional measures of another, which other, with respect to these very measures, is declared to be supreme over that, which exerts the control.58 For instance, the states have acknowledgedly a concurrent power of taxation. But it is wholly inadmissible to allow that power to be exerted over any instrument employed by the general government to execute its own powers; for such a power to tax involves a power to destroy; and this power to destroy may defeat, and render useless the power to create.59 Thus a state may not tax the mail, the mint, patent rights, custom-house papers, or judicial process of the courts of the United States.60 And yet there is no clause in the constitution, which prohibits the states from exercising the power; nor any exclusive grant to the United States. The apparent repugnancy creates, by implication, the prohibition. So congress, by the constitution, possess power to provide for governing such part of the militia, as may be employed in the service of the United States. Yet it is not said, that such power of government is exclusive. But it results from the nature of the power. No person would contend, that a state militia, while in the actual service and employment of the United States, might yet be, at the same time, governed and controlled by the laws of the state. The very nature of military operations would, in such case, require unity of command and direction. And the argument from inconvenience would be absolutely irresistible to establish an implied prohibition.61 On the other hand, congress have power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia; but if congress should make no such provision, there seems no reason, why the states may not organize, arm, and discipline their own militia. No necessary incompatibility would exist in the nature of the power; though, when exercised by congress, the authority of the states must necessarily yield. And, here, the argument from inconvenience would be very persuasive the other way. For the power to organize, arm, and discipline the militia, in the absence of congressional legislation, would seem indispensable for the defence and security of the states.62 Again, congress have power to call forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, to suppress insurrections, and repel invasions. But there does not seem any incompatibility in the states calling out their own militia as auxiliaries for the same purpose.63

§ 446. In considering, then, this subject, it would be impracticable to lay down any universal rule, as to what powers are, by implication, exclusive in the general government, or concurrent in the states; and in relation to the latter, what restrictions either on the power itself, or on the actual exercise of the power, arise by implication. In some cases, as we have seen, there may exist a concurrent power, and yet restrictions upon it must exist in regard to objects. In other cases, the actual operations of the power only are suspended or controlled, when there arises a conflict with the actual operations of the Union. Every question of this sort must be decided by itself upon its own circumstances and reasons. Because the power to regulate commerce, from its nature and objects, is exclusive, it does not follow, that the power to pass bankrupt laws also is exclusive.64

§ 447. We may, however, lay down some few rules, deducible from what has been already said, in respect to cases of implied prohibitions upon the existence or exercise of powers by the states, as guides to aid our inquiries. (1.) Wherever the power given to the general government requires, that, to be efficacious and adequate to its end, it should be exclusive, there arises a just implication for deeming it exclusive. Whether exercised, or not, in such a case makes no difference. (2.) Wherever the power in its own nature is not incompatible with a concurrent power in the states, either in its nature or exercise, there the power belongs to the states. (3.) But in such a case, the concurrency of the power may admit of restrictions or qualifications in its nature, or exercise. In its nature, when it is capable from its general character of being applied to objects or purposes, which would control, defeat, or destroy the powers of the general government. In its exercise, when there arises a conflict in the actual laws and regulations made in pursuance of the power by the general and state governments. In the former case there is a qualification engrafted upon the generality of the power, excluding its application to such objects and purposes. In the latter, there is (at least generally) a qualification, not upon the power itself, but only upon its exercise, to the extent of the actual conflict in the operations of each. (4.) In cases of implied limitations or prohibitions of power, it is not sufficient to show a possible, or potential inconvenience. There must be a plain incompatibility, a direct repugnancy, or an extreme practical inconvenience, leading irresistibly to the same conclusion. (5.) If such incompatibility, repugnancy, or extreme inconvenience would result, it is no answer, that in the actual exercise of the power, each party may, if it chooses, avoid a positive interference with the other. The objection lies to the power itself, and not to the exercise of it. If it exists, it may be applied to the extent of controlling, defeating, or destroying the other. It can never be presumed, that the framers of the constitution, declared to be supreme, could intend to put its powers at hazard upon the good wishes, or good intentions, or discretion of the states in the exercise of their acknowledged powers. (6.) Where no such repugnancy, incompatibility, or extreme inconvenience would result, then the power in the states is restrained, not in its nature, but in its operations, and then only to the extent of the actual interference. In fact, it is obvious, that the same means may often be applied to carry into operation different powers. And a state may use the same means to effectuate an acknowledged power in itself, which congress may apply for another purpose in the acknowledged exercise of a very different power. Congress may make that a regulation of commerce, which a state may employ as a guard for its internal policy, or to preserve the public health or peace, or to promote its own peculiar interests.65 These rules seem clearly deducible from the nature of the instrument; and they are confirmed by the positive injunctions of the tenth amendment of the constitution.

§ 448. XIII. Another rule of interpretation deserves consideration in regard to the constitution. There are certain maxims, which have found their way, not only into judicial discussions, but into the business of common life, as founded in common sense, and common convenience. Thus, it is often said, that in an instrument a specification of particulars is an exclusion of generals; or the expression of one thing is the exclusion of another. Lord Bacon’s remark, “that, as exception strengthens the force of a law in cases not excepted, so enumeration weakens it in cases not enumerated,” has been perpetually referred to, as a fine illustration. These maxims, rightly understood, and rightly applied, undoubtedly furnish safe guides to assist us in the task of exposition. But they are susceptible of being applied, and indeed are often ingeniously applied, to the subversion of the text, and the objects of the instrument. Thus, it has been suggested, that an affirmative provision in a particular case excludes the existence of the like provision in every other case; and a negative provision in a particular case admits the existence of the same thing in every other case.66 Both of these deductions are, or rather may be, unfounded in solid reasoning.67 Thus, it was objected to the constitution, that, having provided for the trial by jury in criminal cases, there was an implied exclusion of it in civil cases. As if there was not an essential difference between silence and abolition, between a positive adoption of it in one class of cases, and a discretionary right (it being clearly within the reach of the judicial powers confided to the Union) to adopt, or reject it in all or any other cases.68 One might with just as much propriety hold, that, because congress has power “to declare war,” but no power is expressly given to make peace, the latter is excluded; or that, because it is declared, that “no bill of attainder, or ex post facto law shall be passed” by congress, therefore congress possess in all other cases the right to pass any laws. The truth is, that in order to ascertain, how far an affirmative or negative provision excludes, or implies others, we must look to the nature of the provision, the subject matter, the objects, and the scope of the instrument. These, and these only, can properly determine the rule of construction. There can be no doubt, that an affirmative grant of powers in many cases will imply an exclusion of all others. As, for instance, the constitution declares, that the powers of congress shall extend to certain enumerated cases. This specification of particulars evidently excludes all pretensions to a general legislative authority. Why? Because an affirmative grant of special powers would be absurd, as well as useless, if a general authority were intended.69 In relation, then, to such a subject as a constitution, the natural and obvious sense of its provisions, apart from any technical or artificial rules, is the true criterion of construction.70

§ 449. XIV. Another rule of interpretation of the constitution, suggested by the foregoing, is, that the natural import of a single clause is not to be narrowed, so as to exclude implied powers resulting from its character, simply because there is another clause, which enumerates certain powers, which might otherwise be deemed implied powers within its scope; for in such cases we are not, as a matter of course, to assume, that the affirmative specification excludes all other implications. This rule has been put in a clear and just light by one of our most distinguished statesmen; and his illustration will be more satisfactory, perhaps, than any other, which can be offered. “The constitution,” says he, “vests in congress, expressly, the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, and the power to regulate trade. That the former power, if not particularly expressed, would have been included in the latter, as one of the objects of a general power to regulate trade, is not necessarily impugned by its being so expressed. Examples of this sort cannot sometimes be easily avoided, and are to be seen elsewhere in the constitution. Thus, the power ‘to define and punish offences against the law of nations’ includes the power, afterwards particularly expressed, ‘to make rules concerning captures,’ etc. from offending neutrals. So, also, a power ‘to coin money’ would, doubtless, include that of ‘ regulating its value,’ had not the latter power been expressly inserted. The term taxes, if standing alone, would certainly have included ‘duties, imposts, and excises.’ In another clause it is said, ‘ no tax or duty shall be laid on exports.’ Here the two terms are used as synonymous. And in another clause, where it is said ‘no state shall lay any imposts or duties,’ etc. the terms imposts and duties are synonymous. Pleonasms, tautologies, and the promiscuous use of terms and phrases, differing in their shades of meaning, (always to be expounded with reference to the context, and under the control of the general character and scope of the instrument, in which they are found,) are to be ascribed, sometimes to the purposes of greater caution, sometimes to the imperfection of language, and sometimes to the imperfection of man himself. In this view of the subject it was quite natural, however certainly the power to regulate trade might include a power to impose duties on it, not to omit it in a clause enumerating the several modes of revenue authorized by the construction. In few cases could the [rule], ex majori cautela, occur with more claim to respect.”71

§ 450. We may close this view of some of the more important rules to be employed in the interpretation of the constitution, by adverting to a few belonging to mere verbal criticism, which are indeed but corollaries from what has been said, and have been already alluded to; but which, at the same time, it may be of some use again distinctly to enunciate.

§ 451. XV. In the first place, then, every word employed in the constitution is to be expounded in its plain, obvious, and common sense, unless the context furnishes some ground to control, qualify, or enlarge it. Constitutions are not designed for metaphysical or logical subtleties, for niceties of expression, for critical propriety, for elaborate shades of meaning, or for the exercise of philosophical acuteness, or judicial research. They are instruments of a practical nature, founded on the common business of human life, adapted to common wants, designed for common use, and fitted for common understandings. The people make them; the people adopt them; the people must be supposed to read them, with the help of common sense; and cannot be presumed to admit in them any recondite meaning, or any extraordinary gloss.

§ 452. XVI. But, in the next place, words, from the necessary imperfection of all human language, acquire different shades of meaning, each of which is equally appropriate, and equally legitimate; each of which recedes in a wider or narrower degree from the others, according to circumstances; and each of which receives from its general use some indefiniteness and obscurity, as to its exact boundary and extent.72 We are, indeed, often driven to multiply commentaries from the vagueness of words in themselves; and perhaps still more often from the different manner, in which different minds are accustomed to employ them. They expand or contract, not only from the conventional modifications introduced by the changes of society; but also from the more loose or more exact uses, to which men of different talents, acquirements, and tastes, from choice or necessity apply them. No person can fail to remark the gradual deflections in the meaning of words from one age to another; and so constantly is this process going on, that the daily language of life in one generation sometimes requires the aid of a glossary in another. It has been justly remarked,73 that no language is so copious, as to supply words and phrases for every complex idea; or so correct, as not to include many, equivocally denoting different ideas. Hence it must happen, that however accurately objects may be discriminated in themselves, and however accurately the discrimination may be considered, the definition of them may be rendered inaccurate by the inaccuracy of the terms, in which it is delivered. We must resort then to the context, and shape the particular meaning, so as to make it fit that of the connecting words, and agree with the subject matter.

§ 453. XVII. In the next place, where technical words are used, the technical meaning is to be applied to them, unless it is repelled by the context.74 But the same word often possesses a technical, and a common sense. In such a case the latter is to be preferred, unless some attendant circumstance points clearly to the former. No one would doubt, when the constitution has declared, that “the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless” under peculiar circumstances, that it referred, not to every sort of writ, which has acquired that name; but to that, which has been emphatically so called, on account of its remedial power to free a party from arbitrary imprisonment.75 So, again, when it declares, that in suits at common law, etc. the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, though the phrase “common law” admits of different meanings, no one can doubt, that it is used in a technical sense. When, again, it declares, that congress shall have power to provide a navy, we readily comprehend, that authority is given to construct, prepare, or in any other manner to obtain a navy. But when congress is further authorized to provide for calling forth the militia, we perceive at once, that the word “provide” is used in a somewhat different sense.

§ 454. XVIII. And this leads us to remark, in the next place, that it is by no means a correct rule of interpretation to construe the same word in the same sense, wherever it occurs in the same instrument. It does not follow, either logically or grammatically, that because a word is found in one connection in the constitution, with a definite sense, therefore the same sense is to be adopted in every other connection, in which it occurs.76 This would be to suppose, that the framers weighed only the force of single words, as philologists or critics, and not whole clauses and objects, as statesmen, and practical reasoners. And yet nothing has been more common, than to subject the constitution to this narrow and mischievous criticism. Men of ingenious and subtle minds, who seek for symmetry and harmony in language, having found in the constitution a word used in some sense, which falls in with their favorite theory of interpreting it, have made that the standard, by which to measure its use in every other part of the instrument. They have thus stretched it, as it were, on the bed of Procrustes, lopping off its meaning, when it seemed too large for their purposes, and extending it, when it seemed too short. They have thus distorted it to the most unnatural shapes, and crippled, where they have sought only to adjust its proportions according to their own opinions. It was very justly observed by Mr. Chief Justice Marshall, in The Cherokee Nation v. The State of Georgia,77 that “it has been said, that the same words have not necessarily the same meaning attached to them, when found in different parts of the same instrument. Their meaning is controlled by the context. This is undoubtedly true. In common language, the same word has various meanings; and the peculiar sense, in which it is used in any sentence, is to be determined by the context.” A very easy example of this sort will be found in the use of the word “establish,” which is found in various places in the constitution. Thus, in the preamble, one object of the constitution is avowed to be “to establish justice,” which seems here to mean to settle firmly, to fix unalterably, or rather, perhaps, as justice, abstractedly considered, must be considered as forever fixed and unalterable, to dispense or administer justice. Again, the constitution declares, that congress shall have power “to establish an uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies,” where it is manifestly used as equivalent to make, or form, and not to fix or settle unalterably and forever. Again, “congress shall have power to establish post-offices and post-roads,” where the appropriate sense would seem to be to create, to found, and to regulate, not so much with a view to permanence of form, as to convenience of action. Again, it is declared, that “congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” which seems to prohibit any laws, which shall recognise, found, confirm, or patronize any particular religion, or form of religion, whether permanent or temporary, whether already existing, or to arise in future. In this clause, establishment seems equivalent in meaning to settlement, recognition, or support. And again, in the preamble, it is said, “We, the people, etc. do ordain and establish this constitution,” etc. where the most appropriate sense seems to be to create, to ratify, and to confirm. So, the word “state” will be found used in the constitution in all the various senses, to which we have before alluded. It sometimes means, the separate sections of territory occupied by the political societies within each; sometimes the particular governments established by these societies; sometimes these societies as organized into these particular governments; and lastly, sometimes the people composing these political societies in their highest sovereign capacity.78

§ 455. XIX. But the most important rule, in cases of this nature, is, that a constitution of government does not, and cannot, from its nature, depend in any great degree upon mere verbal criticism, or upon the import of single words. Such criticism may not be wholly without use; it may sometimes illustrate, or unfold the appropriate sense; but unless it stands well with the context and subject matter, it must yield to the latter. While, then, we may well resort to the meaning of single words to assist our inquiries, we should never forget, that it is an instrument of government we are to construe; and, as has been already stated, that must be the truest exposition, which best harmonizes with its design, its objects, and its general structure.79

§ 456. The remark of Mr. Burke may, with a very slight change of phrase be addressed as an admonition to all those, who are called upon to frame, or to interpret a constitution. Government is a practical thing made for the happiness of mankind, and not to furnish out a spectacle of uniformity to gratify the schemes of visionary politicians. The business of those, who are called to administer it, is to rule, and not to wrangle. It would be a poor compensation, that one had triumphed in a dispute, whilst we had lost an empire;80 that we had frittered down a power, and at the same time had destroyed the republic.

I will continue to add the commentaries as I can get to them and as they become relevant to current conditions in the United States. The Preamble is the next in this series.

Please also see my series on the Rights of American Citizens starting with RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: General Rights; Division One
My series on the non-revisionist history of the world beginning with Non-Revisionist Politically Incorrect History of the World With Biblical References Part 1

The Constitution in Plain English


Footnotes:

1.    “The government of the Union,” says Mr. Chief Justice Marshall, in delivering the opinion of the court in McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, “is emphatically and truly a government of the people. It emanates from them; its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them and for their benefit.” Id. 404, 405; see also Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. R. 264, 413, 414. “The government of the United States was erected,” says Mr. Chancellor Kent, with equal force and accuracy, “by the free voice and the joint will of the people of America for their common defence and general welfare.” 1 Kent’s Comm. Lect. 10, p. 189.
2.    I have used the expressive words of Mr. Webster, deeming them as exact as any that could be used. See Webster’s Speeches, p, 410, 418, 419; 4 Elliot’s Debates, 338, 343.
3.    1 Black. Comm. 59, 60. See also Ayliffe’s Pandects, B. 1, tit 4, p. 25, &c.; 1 Domat. Prelim. Book, p. 9; Id. Treatise on Laws, ch. 12, p. 74.
4.    Id. See also Woodes. Elem. of Jurisp. p. 36. — Rules of a similar nature will be found laid down in Vattel, B. 2, ch. 17, from §262 to 310, with more ample illustrations and more various qualifications. But not a few of his rules appear to me to want accuracy and soundness. Bacon’s Abridg. title, Statute I. contains an excellent summary of the rules for construing statutes. Domat, also, contains many valuable rule in respect to interpretation. See his Treatise on Laws, c. 12, p. 74 &c. and Preliminary Discourse, tit. 1, §2, p. 6 to 16.
5.    Book 2, ch. 7, §3.
6.    The foregoing remarks are borrowed almost in terms from Rutherforth’s Institutes of Natural Law (B. 2, ch. 7, §4 to 11), which contain a very lucid exposition of the general rules of interpretation. The whole chapter deserves an attentive perusal.
7.    The value of contemporary interpretation is much insisted on by the Supreme Court, in Stuart v. Laird, 2 Cranch, 299, 309, in Martin v. Hunter, 1 Wheat. R. 304, and in Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. R. 264, 418 to 421. There are several instances, however, in which the contemporary interpretations by some of the most distinguished founders of the constitution have been overruled. One of the most striking is to be found in the decision of the Supreme Court of the suability of a state by any citizen of another state;* and another in the decision by the Executive and the Senate, that the consent of the latter is not necessary to removals from office, although it is for appointments.ϯ
*   Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dall. 419.
ϯ   The Federalist, No. 77.
8.    Mr. Jefferson has laid down two rules, which he deems perfect canons for the interpretation of the constitution.* The first is “The capital and lending object of the constitution was, to leave with the states all authorities, which respected their own citizens only, and to transfer to the United States those, which respected citizens of foreign or other states; to make us several as to ourselves, but one as to all others. In the latter case, then, constructions should lean to the general jurisdiction, if the words will bear it; and in favor of the states in the former, if possible, to be so construed.” Now, the very theory, on which this canon is founded, is contradicted by the provisions of the constitution itself. I many instances authorities and powers are given, which respect citizens of the respective states, without reference to foreigners, or the citizens of other states.ϯ But if this general theory were true, it would furnish no just rule of interpretation, since a particular clause might form an exception to it; and, indeed, every clause ought, at all events, to be construed according to its fair intent and objects, as disclosed in its language. What sort of a rule is that, which, without regard to the intent or objects of a particular clause, insists, that it shall, if possible, (not if reasonable) be construed in favor of the states, simply because it respects their citizens? The second canon is, “On every question of construction [we should] carry ourselves back to the time, when the constitution was adopted; recollect the spirit manifested in the debates; and instead of trying, what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one, in which it was passed.” Now, who does not see the utter looseness, and incoherence of this canon. How are we to know, what was thought of particular clauses of the constitution at the time of its adoption? In many cases, no printed debates give any account of any construction; and where any is given, different persons held different doctrines. Whose is to prevail? Besides; of all the state conventions, the debates of five only are preserved, and these very imperfectly. What is to be done, as to the other eight states? What is to be done, as to the eleven new states, which have come into the Union under constructions, which have been established, against what some persons may deem the meaning of the framers of it? How are we to arrive at what is the most probable meaning? Are Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Madison, and Mr. Jay, the expounders in the Federalist, to be followed. Or are others of a different opinion to guide us? Are we to be governed by the opinions of a few, now dead, who have left them on record? Or by those of a few now living, simply because they were actors in those days, (constituting not one in a thousand of those, who were called to deliberate upon the constitution, and not one in ten thousand of those, who were in favor or against it, among the people)? Or are we to be governed by the opinions of those, who constituted a majority of those, who were called to act on that occasion, either as framers of, or voters upon, the constitution? If by the latter, in what manner can we know those opinions? Are we to be governed by the sense of a majority of a particular state, or of all of the United States? If so, how are we to ascertain, what that sense was? Is the sense of the constitution to be ascertained, not by its own text, but by the “probable meaning” to be gathered by conjectures from scattered documents, from private papers, from the table talk of some statesmen, or the jealous exaggerations of others? Is the constitution of the United States to be the only instrument, which is not to be interpreted by what is written, but by probable guesses, aside from the text? What would be said of interpreting a statute of a state legislature, by endeavoring to find out, from private sources, the objects and opinions of every member; how every one thought; what he wished; how he interpreted it? Suppose different persons had different opinions, what is to be done? Suppose different persons are not agreed, as to “the probable meaning” of the framers or of the people, what interpretation is to be followed? These, and many questions of the same sort, might be asked. It is obvious, that there can be no security to the people in any constitution of government, if they are not to judge of it by the fair meaning of the words of the text; but the words are to be bent and broken by the “probable meaning” of persons, whom they never knew, and whose opinions, and means of information, may be no better than their own? The people adopted the constitution according to the words of the text in their reasonable interpretation, and not according to the private interpretation of any particular men. The opinions of the latter may sometimes aid us in arriving at just results; but they can never be conclusive. The Federalist denied, that the president could remove a public officer without the consent of the senate. The first congress affirmed his right by a mere majority. Which is to be followed?
*    Jefferson’s Corresp. 373; Id. 391, 392; Id. 396.
ϯ    Jefferson’s Corresp. 391, 392, 396.

9.    1 Tucker’s Black. Comm. App. 151.
10.    B. 2, § 305.
11.    § 508.
12.    Rawle on the Constitution, ch. 1, p. 31.
13.    Martin v. Hunter, 1 Wheat. R. 304, 325.
14.    The Federalist, No. 37.
15.    Wheat. R. 304; S. C. 3 Peters’s Cond. R. 575.
16.    This is still more forcibly stated by Mr. Chief Justice Marshall in delivering the opinion of the court in McCulloch v. Maryland, in a passage already cited. 4 Wheat. R. 316, 402 to 405.
17.    See also McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. R. 316, 402 to 406.
18.    See also Id. 222, and Mr. Chief Justice Marshall’s opinion in Ogden v. Saunders, 12 Wheat. R. 332.
It has been remarked by President John Q. Adams, that “it is a circumstance, which will not escape the observation of a philosophical historian, that the constructive powers of the national government have been stretched to their extremest tension by that party when in power, which has been most tenderly scrupulous of the state sovereignty, when uninvested with the authority of the union themselves.” He adds, “Of these inconsistencies, our two great parties can have little to say in reproof of each other.” Without inquiring into the justice of the remark in general, it may be truly stated. that the Embargo of 1807, and the admission of Louisiana into the Union, are very striking illustrations of the application of constructive powers.
19.    See Ogden v. Saunders, 12 Wheat. R. 332, Opinion of Mr. Chief Justice Marshall.
20.    See Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. R. 189.
21.    Hunter v. Martin, 1 Wheat. R. 304, 326, 327; S. C. 3 Peters’s Cond. R. 575, 583.
22.    See Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. R. 1,187, &c. 222, &c.
23.    See Sturgis v. Crowninshield, 4 Wheat. R. 112, 202.
24.    Mr. Justice Johnson, in delivering the opinion of the court in Anderson v. Dunn, (6 Wheat. 204, 226) uses the following expressive language: “The idea is Utopian, that government can exist without leaving the exercise of discretion some where. Public security against the abuse of such discretion must rest on responsibility, and stated appeals to public approbation. Where all power is derived from the people, and public functionaries at short intervals deposit it at the feet of the people, to be resumed again only at their own wills, individual fears may be alarmed by the monsters of imagination, but individual liberty can be in little danger.”
25.    See United States v. Fisher, 2 Cranch, 358; S. C. Peters’s Cond. R. 421.
26.    Sturgis v. Crowninshield, 4 Wheat R 122, 202.
27.    See Bacon’s Abridg. Statute I; Vattel, B. 2, ch. 17, § 277 to 285, 299 to 302.
28.    See Bas v. Tingey 4 Dall. R. 37; S. C. 1 Peters’s Cond. R. 221.
29.    Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. R. 1,188, 189.
30.    2 Dall. R. 419; S. C. 2 Cond. R. 635, 652.
31.    Bacon’s Abridg. Statute 1. 8.
32.    The Federalist, No. 44.
33.    The reasoning of Mr. Chief Justice Marshall on this subject, in McCulloch v. Maryland, (4 Wheat. 316) is so cogent and satisfactory, that we shall venture to cite it at large. After having remarked, that words have various senses, and that what is the true construction of any used in the constitution must depend upon the subject, the context, and the intentions of the people, to he gathered from the instrument, he proceeds thus:

The subject is the execution of those great powers, on which the welfare of a nation essentially depends. It must have been the intention of those, who gave these powers, to insure, as far as human prudence could insure, their beneficial execution. This could not be done by confiding the choice of means to such narrow limits, as not to leave it in the power of congress to adopt any, which might be appropriate, and which were conducive to the end. This provision is made in a constitution intended to endure for ages to come, and, consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs. To have prescribed the means, by which government should, in all future time, execute its powers, would have been to change entirely the character of the instrument, and give it the properties of a legal code. It would have been an unwise attempt to provide, by immutable rules, for exigencies, which, if foreseen at all, must have been seen dimly, and which can be best provided for, as they occur. To have declared, that the best means shall not be used, but would deny a choice of means to execute the power, would reduce the power itself to a nullity. For, as it never could be demonstrated, that any one mode in particular was intended, and to be exclusively employed; and, as it might be demonstrated, that other means might be employed, the question, whether the power were rightfully put into exercise, would for ever be subject to doubt and controversy. 1 If one means is adopted to give it effect, and is within its scope, because it is appropriate, how are we to escape from the argument, that another, falling within the same predicament, is equally within its scope? If each is equally appropriate, how is the choice to be made between them? If one is selected, how does that exclude all others? If one is more appropriate at one time, and another at another time, where is the restriction to be found, which allows the one, and denies the other? A power granted in a frame of government is not contemplated to be exhausted in a single exertion of it, or uno flatu. It is intended for free and permanent exercise; and if the discretion of the functionaries, who are to exercise it, is not limited, that discretion, especially, as those functionaries must necessarily change, must be coextensive with the power itself. Take, for instance, the power to make war. In one age, this would authorize the purchase and employment of the weapons then ordinarily used for this purpose. But suppose these weapons are wholly laid aside, and others substituted, more efficient and powerful; is the government prohibited from employing the new modes of offence and defence? Surely not. The invention of gunpowder superseded the old modes of warfare, and may perhaps, by future inventions, be superseded in its turn. No one can seriously doubt, that the new modes would be within the scope of the power to make war, if they were appropriate to the end. It would, indeed, be a most extraordinary mode of interpretation of the constitution, to give such a restrictive meaning to its powers, as should obstruct their fair operation. A power being given, it is the interest of the nation to facilitate its execution. It can never be their interest, and cannot be presumed to be their intention, to clog and embarrass its execution, by withholding the most appropriate means. There can be no reasonable ground for preferring that construction, which would render the operations of the government difficult, hazardous, and expensive; or for imputing to the framers of the constitution a design to impede the exercise of its powers, by withholding a choice of means.*So, with respect to the whole penal code of the United States: whence arises the power to punish, in cases not prescribed by the constitution? All admit, that the government may legitimately, punish any violation of its laws; and yet, this is not among the enumerated powers of congress. The right to enforce the observance of law, by punishing its infraction, might be denied with the more plausibility, because it is expressly given in some cases. Congress is empowered ‘to provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States,’ and ‘to define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offences against the law of nations.’ The several powers of congress may exist, in a very imperfect state to be sure, but they may exist, and be carried into execution, although no punishment should be inflicted in cases, where the right to punish is not expressly given.Take, for example, the power ‘to establish post offices and post roads.’ This power is executed by the single act of making the establishment. But, from this has been inferred the power, and duty of carrying the mail along the post road, from one post office to another. And, from this implied power has again been inferred the right to punish those, who steal letters from the post office, or rob the mail. It may be said, with some plausibility, that the right to carry the mail, and to punish those, who rob it, is not indispensably necessary to the establishment of a post office, and post road. This right is indeed essential to the beneficial exercise of the power, but not indispensably necessary to its existence. So, of the punishment of the crimes of stealing or falsifying a record, or process of a court of the United States, or of perjury in such court. To punish these offences is certainly conducive to the due administration of justice. But courts may exist, and may decide the causes brought before them, though such crimes escape punishment.The baneful influence of this narrow construction, on all the operations of the government, and the absolute impracticability of maintaining it without rendering the government incompetent to its great objects, might be illustrated by numerous examples drawn from the constitution, and from our laws. The good sense of the public has pronounced without hesitation, that the power of punishment appertains to sovereignty, and may be exercised, whenever the sovereign has a right to act, as incidental to his constitutional powers. It is a means for carrying into execution all sovereign powers, and may be used, although not indispensably necessary. It is a right incidental to the power, and conducive to its beneficial exercise.ϯ

*   McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. R. 316, 408.
ϯ     See United States v. Fisher, 2 Cranch, 358; S. C. 1 Peters’s Cond. R. 421, 429.
34.    See the remarks of Mr. Justice Johnson, in delivering the opinion of the court in Anderson v. Dunn, 6 Wheat. R. 204, 226; United States v. Fisher, 2 Cranch. 358; S. C. 1 Peters’s Cond. R. 421, 429.
35.    McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. R, 316, 409, 410, 421, 423; United States v. Fisher, 2 Cranch, 358; S. C. 1 Peters’s Cond. R. 421.
36.    The Federalist, No. 33, 44; McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. R. 316, 423.
37.    In the discussions, as to the constitutionality of the Bank of the United States, in the cabinet of President Washington, upon the original establishment of the Bank, there was a large range of argument, pro el contra, in respect to implied powers. The reader will find a summary of the lending views on each side in the fifth volume of Marshall’s Life of Washington, App. p. 3, note 3, &c.; 4 Jefferson’s Corresp. 523 to 526; and in Hamilton’s Argument on Constitutionality of Bank, 1 Hamilton’s Works, 111 to 155.
38.    Anderson v. Dunn, 6 Wheat. 204, 226.
39.    Article 2.
40.    Per Mr. Chief Justice Marshall, in McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat R. 316, 406, 407, 421.
41.    The Federalist, No. 33.
42.    The Federalist, No. 44.
43.    The Federalist, No. 44.
44.    The Federalist, No. 32.
45.    See Huston v. More, 5 Wheat. R. 1, 22, 24, 48; Ogden v. Gibbons, 9 Wheat. R. 1, 198, 210, 228, 235; Sturgis v. Crowninshield, 4 Wheat. R. 122, 192, 193; Ogden v. Saunders, 12 Wheat. 1, 275, 307, 322, 334, 335.
46.    Sturgis v. Crowninshield, 4 Wheat. R. 122, 192, 193; Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. R. 1, 198, &c.
47.    The Federalist, No. 32; Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. R. 1,198, 199 to 205; McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat, R. 316, 425.
48.    Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. R. 1, 205. — Mr. Chancellor Kent has given this whole subject of exclusive and concurrent power a thorough examination; and the result will be found most ably stated in his learned Commentaries, Lecture 18. 1 Kent Comm. 364 to 379, 2d edit. p. 387 to 405.
49.    Ware v. Hylton, 3 Dall. 199, S. C. 1, Conden. R. 99, 112,127, 128, 129; Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. R. 1, 210, 211; McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. R. 316, 405, 406, 425 to 436 Houston v. Moore. 5 Wheat. R. 1, 22, 24, 49, 51, 53, 56; Sturgis v. Crowninshield, 2 Wheat. R. 1, 190,196; Golden v. Prince, 3 Wash. C. C. R. 313, 321; The Federalist, No. 32; Brown v. Maryland, 12 Wheat. R. 419, 419.
50.    McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. R. 316, 426.
51.    Sturgis v. Crowninshield, 4 Wheat. R. 1, 193.
52.    Mr. Justice Washington, Houston v. Moore, 5 Wheat. R. 1, 21, 22.
53.    5 Wheat R. p. 22.
54.    Id. 24. See also Golden v. Prince, 3 Wash. C. C. R. 313, 324, &c.;
55.    Sturgis v. Crowninshield, 4 Wheat. R. 122, 195, 196. See also Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. R. 1, 197, 227, 235, 238; Houston v. Moore, 5 wheat. R. 34, 49, 52, 54, 55. — This opinion, that the power to pass bankrupt laws is not exclusive, has not been unanimously adopted by the Supreme Court. Mr. Justice Washington maintained at all times an opposite opinion; and his opinion is known to have been adopted by at least one other of the judges of the Supreme Court. The reasons, on which Mr. J. Washington’s opinion is founded, will be found at large in the case of Golden v. Prince, 3 Wash. C. C. R. 313, 322, &c. See also Ogden v. Saunders, 12 Wheat. R. 213, 264, 265, and Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. R. 1, 209, 226, 238.
56.    Houston v. Moore, 5 Wheat. R. 1, 49, 55, 56.
57.    See Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. R. 1,197, 210; McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. R. 316, 527.
58.    McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. R. 316, 431.
59.    Ibid.
60.    Id. 432.
61.    Houston v. Moore, 5 Wheat. R. 1, 53.
62.    Houston v Moore, 5 Wheat. R. 50, 51, 52.
63.    Id. 54, 55.
64.    Sturgis v. Crowninshield, 4 Wheat. 122, 195, 197, 199; Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. R. 1,196,197, 209.
65.    See Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. R. 1, 203 to 210.
66.    See The Federalist, No. 83, 84.
67.    Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. R. 395 to 401.
68.    The Federalist, No. 83.
69.    The Federalist, No. 83. See Vattel, B. 2, ch, 17, §282.
70.    The Federalist, No. 83.
71.    Mr. Madison’s Letter to Mr. Cabell, 18th September, 1828.
72.    See Vattel, B. 2, ch. 17, §262, §299.
73.    The Federalist, No. 37.
74.    See Vattel, B. 2, ch. 17, §276, 277.
75.    Ex parte Bollman & Swartout, 4 Cranch, 75; S. C. 2 Peters’s Cond. R. 33.
76.    Vattel, B. 2, ch. 17, §281.
77.    5 Peters’s Rep. 1, 19.
78.    Mr. Madison’s Virginia Report, 7 January, 1800, p. 5; ante, §208, p. 193.
79.    See Vattel, B. 2, ch. 17, §285, 286.
80.    Burke’s Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol in 1777.

The Importance of Free Speech and The Free Press in America

Infringed

When contemplating the liberties, freedoms and protections given by God and enumerated by the Constitution and Bill of Rights: Remember! The Free Exercise of Religion was the first to be mentioned by the Framers! The Freedom of the Press was meant to insure against the abuse of the government and those in power of all the other rights of man.

Remember also! When one right, liberty, or freedom is under attack, they are all under attack, when one is in jeopardy, they are all in jeopardy! The Second Amendment is meant to guarantee the First Amendment! 

The Importance of Free Speech and The Free Press in America

Background:

One of the most egregious breaches of the U.S. Constitution in history became federal law when Congress passes the Sedition Act, endangering liberty in the fragile new nation. While the United States engaged in naval hostilities with Revolutionary France, known as the Quasi-War, Alexander Hamilton and congressional Federalists took advantage of the public’s wartime fears and drafted and passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, without first consulting President John Adams.

President Adams never took advantage of his new found ability to deny rights to immigrants. However, the fourth act, the Sedition Act, was put into practice and became a black mark on the nation’s reputation. In direct violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech, the Sedition Act permitted the prosecution of individuals who voiced or printed what the government deemed to be malicious remarks about the president or government of the United States. Fourteen Republicans, mainly journalists, were prosecuted, and some imprisoned, under the act.

In opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison drafted the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves, declaring the acts to be a violation of the First and Tenth Amendments. President Adams, appalled at where Hamilton and the congressional Federalists were leading the country under the guise of wartime crisis, tried to end the undeclared war with France to undercut their efforts. He threatened to resign from the presidency and leave the Federalists with Republican Vice President Thomas Jefferson if they did not heed his call for peace. Adams succeeded in quashing Hamilton and the Federalists’ schemes, but ended any hope of his own re-election in the process.

The first of the laws was the Naturalization Act, passed by Congress on June 18. This act required that aliens be residents for 14 years instead of 5 years before they became eligible for U.S. citizenship.

Congress then passed the Alien Act on June 25, authorizing the President to deport aliens “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States” during peacetime.

The third law, the Alien Enemies Act, was enacted by Congress on July 6. This act allowed the wartime arrest, imprisonment and deportation of any alien subject to an enemy power.

The last of the laws, the Sedition Act, passed on July 14 declared that any treasonable activity, including the publication of “any false, scandalous and malicious writing,” was a high misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment. By virtue of this legislation twenty-five men, most of them editors of Republican newspapers, were arrested and their newspapers forced to shut down.

One of the men arrested was Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, editor of the Republican Aurora and General Advertiser. Charged with libeling President Adams, Bache’s arrest erupted in a public outcry against all of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Many Americans questioned the constitutionality of these laws. Indeed, public opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts was so great that they were in part responsible for the election of Thomas Jefferson, a Republican, to the presidency in 1800. Once in office, Jefferson pardoned all those convicted under the Sedition Act, while Congress restored all fines paid with interest. “

(See Text of Act(s) below)

Bill of RightsThe Argument against Unlimited Power in the Hands of the Federal Government!

One of the best arguments against these acts came from The Honorable Josephus Daniels in response to members George K. Taylor and Magill.

Daniels stated that the acts enumerated in the first section of the sedition law, as offences to be punished with heavy fines and long imprisonment, were “to combine or conspire together with intent to oppose any measure, or to impede the operation of any law of the United States;” or to intimidate any officer under the government of the same, from undertaking, performing, or executing his trust or duty; or to counsel, advise, or attempt to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly, or combination, whether such counsel or advice had effect or not. The offences enumerated in the second section of said law, he said, were, “to write, print, utter, or publish, or to cause the same to be done, or to aid in writing, printing, uttering, or publishing, any false writings against the government, the president, or either house of the congress of the United States, with intent to defame the government, either house of congress, or the president, or to bring them, or either of them, into disrepute; or to excite against them, or either of them, the hatred of the people; or to excite any unlawful combination, for opposing any law, or act of the president of the United States, or to defeat any such law or act.” These were the provisions of the act. The provisions of the constitution were, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Third article of amendments to the constitution. He requested gentlemen to read the one and the other; to compare them, and reconcile them if possible. He was one of those who believed, that the first clause of the law would in its operation, effectually destroy the liberty of speech; and the second clause did most completely annihilate the freedom of the press. “To combine, conspire, counsel and advise together,” was a natural right of self-defense, belonging to the people; it could only be exercised by the use of speech; it was a right of self-defense [2nd Amendment force] against the tyranny and oppression of government; it ought to be exercised with great caution; and -never, but upon occasions of extreme necessity. Of this necessity, the people are the only judges. For if government could control this right; if government were the judge, when the necessity of exercising this right has arrived, the right never will be used; for government never will judge that the people ought to oppose its measures, however unjust, however tyrannical, and despotically oppressive. This right, although subject to abuse, like many other invaluable rights, was nevertheless essential to, and inseparable from, the liberties of the people. The warmest friend of any government would not contend that it was infallible. The best of governments may possibly change into tyranny and despotism. Measures may be adopted violating the constitution, and prostrating the rights and principles of the people. He hoped never to see the time; but, if it should so happen, no man would deny but that such measures ought to be opposed. But, he would ask, how they could be effectually opposed, without the people should “combine, conspire, counsel and advise” together? One man could do nothing. This right of adopting the only efficient plan of opposition to unconstitutional, oppressive and tyrannical measures, whenever they should occur, he hoped never would be given up. This right had been well exercised on a former occasion against England; and it would probably be well used again, if our liberties were sufficiently endangered, to call forth its exertion. But for the spirited and energetic exercise of this right; but for the “combining, conspiring, counseling and advising” together of the American people, these United States, now independent and free, would have remained under the tyrannical and despotic domination of the British king. It had been said, that this doctrine leads to anarchy and confusion; but, said Mr. Daniel, this doctrine gave birth and success to our revolution; secured our present liberty, and the privileges consequent thereupon. The contrary doctrine, said Mr. Daniel, leads to passive obedience and non-resistance, to tyranny and oppression, more certain, and more dangerous. If a measure was unpopular, and should give discontent, it would be discussed: if it should thereupon be found to be tolerable, it would be acquiesced in. If, on the contrary, measures should be adopted of such dangerous and destructive tendency, that they ought to be opposed; he would ask, how this could be done, but by the means which are forbidden in the first section of the law in question? These were the only means by which liberty, once trampled down by tyrants and despots, could be reinstated: and if the general government continued its rapid progress of violating the constitution, and infringing the liberties of the people, the time he feared was hastening on, when the people Would find it necessary again, to exercise this natural right of defense.

Mr. Daniel said, he would now turn his attention to that part of the law which affects the freedom of the press, in which the constitution was most palpably, and most dangerously infringed. On this subject, he said, the gentleman from Frederick had contended, that the constitution was not violated; that the common law was a part of the constitution; and that the offences enumerated in the act, were always punishable at common law. If this be the fact, said Mr. Daniel, the law in question is nugatory; and the clause of the constitution on this subject, which had been read, was of no effect, By the gentleman’s common law, which he had read, offences against the king and his government, were precisely such as were enumerated if offences in this law, against the president and government of the United States; substituting the word “president,” in the latter case, for the word “king,” in the former. These offences might be “by speaking, or writing against them; or wishing him (the king in England, and the president in America,) ill, giving out scandalous stories concerning them, (the king and his government in England, and the president and his government in America,) or doing anything, that may tend to lessen him (the king, or president, as the case may be) in the esteem of his subjects; weaken the government, or raise jealousies among the people.” JBlackstone’s Commentaries, page 123. When our “sedition law” was so like the law of England, he did not wonder that the gentleman had supposed that the law of England was in force here; one being the copy of the other, with the necessary change of names, and some other trivial circumstances; nor did he wonder that the gentleman should say, in conformity to that authority, that “the liberty of the press, properly understood, is by no means infringed or violated” by such regulations; “but consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications;” and is otherwise “licentiousness.” Blackstone, pa. 151, that a printer may publish what he pleases, but must answer the consequence, if a certain set of men shall adjudge his writings to contain “dangerous and licentious sentiments.” If this be true, he said, he would be glad to be informed, for what purpose was it declared by the constitution, that “the freedom of the press should not be restrained;” and how we were more free in the United States than the people of any other nation whatsoever? The most oppressed of Europe; the slaves and subjects of the most despotic power on the earth, he said, had the right to speak, write and print, whatever they pleased, but were liable to be punished afterwards, if they spoke, wrote or printed, anything that was offensive to the government: that there was very little difference as to the liberty of the press, whether the restraints imposed, were “previous” or subsequent to publications. If the press was subjected to a political licenser, the discretion of the printer would be taken away, and with it his responsibility; and nothing would be printed, but what was agreeable to the political opinions of a certain set of men; whereas subsequent restraints have the same operation, by saying, if you do “write, print, utter or publish,” anything contrary to the political opinions, reputation or principles of certain men, you shall be fined and imprisoned. In vain, he said, were we told that the accused may prove the truth of his writings or printing, and that we are only forbidden to write or print false facts. The truth was, that it was not the facts, but the deductions and conclusions drawn from certain facts, which would constitute the offence. If a man was to write and publish that the congress of the United States had passed the “alien and sedition acts,” that the provisions of the said acts were in these words, reciting the laws as they are, that the constitution was in these words, reciting the provisions of the constitution truly; and conclude, that the said acts violated the constitution; that the congress and the president, in enacting the same, had assumed powers not granted to them, and had encroached upon the liberties of the people, who ought to take measures “to defeat” these laws, and this “act of the president.” Here the facts stated, that the laws had been passed, and that the constitution was in terms stated, could be proved, and would not constitute the offence, but the inference from these facts, that the congress, in enacting the said laws, had violated the constitution, assumed powers not delegated to them, and usurped the rights and liberties of the people, in which usurpation the president had joined, would certainly have a tendency “to defame the government, the congress, and the president, and to bring them into disrepute and hatred among the people,” and would therefore constitute the offence. The inference or conclusion from certain facts might be true or not, and was mere matter of opinion. It was opinion then, political opinion, which was the real object of punishment. The deduction made from the facts just stated, he said, was in his opinion true, the consequence of which was, that the congress and president of the United States had not his confidence; with him they were in “disrepute.” But he could not prove that the opinion was true, as a fact; he could offer those reasons which convinced his mind of its truth, but they might not be satisfactory to a jury summoned with a special regard to their political opinions, or to a judge of the United States, most of whom had already pronounced their opinion on the subject, either in pamphlets, or political instead of legal charges to the grand juries of the several circuits of the United States; thus prejudging a constitutional question, which they knew would be made, if ever the law was attempted to be carried into effect.

He said he would state one more case to exemplify his opinion. If at the time of British oppressions, when the parliament of England boldly implied the right to make laws for, and to tax the American people, without representation, any man had by writing maintained that representation and taxation were inseparable, and that it was an usurpation and assumption of power by parliament to impose taxes on the American colonies, who were not represented in parliament, the fact here stated would not offend, because true; but the conclusion, the charge of usurpation, made upon the British government, would certainly have a tendency to bring it into “disrepute and hatred” among the people, as it did most effectually in America, and would have constituted the offence. This opinion, though now clearly admitted to be true, was then new, and could not be proven true to an English judge and jury, for they were so impressed with its falsity, that the nation undertook and carried on a bloody and expensive war, to correct its error. He concluded that the provisions of this act abridged and infringed the liberty of the press, which at the time of the adoption of the constitution had no other restraint than the responsibility of the author to the individual who might be injured by his writing or printing: that they destroyed all enquiry into political motives, silenced scrutiny, weakened the responsibility of public servants, and established political and executive infallibility. That the solicitude discovered by the government to defend itself against the attacks of its own citizens, was an evidence that its acts would not deserve their confidence and esteem: that the solicitude thus expressed by threats of fine and imprisonment, to keep the president for the time being from coming “into disrepute,” was evidence of a fear that a comparison of motives and views would prove favorable to his competitor, and was calculated to keep the real merits of competition out of view, inasmuch as the merits of one of the proposed candidates could not be insisted on to advantage, without exposing the demerits of the other, which would tend to bring him “into disrepute.” And if the one to whom the want of merit should be ascribed, should be president for the time being, thus to bring him into “disrepute,” would be to bring the person discussing the subject into the pains of fine and imprisonment.

It had been contended, said Mr. Daniel, by the gentleman from Frederick, that the adoption of the resolutions would be an infringement of the right of the people to petition. He, Mr. Daniel, would slate, that this right might be exercised by an individual, by an assemblage of individuals, or by the representatives of the people; which last mode was preferable, when the sovereignty of the state, as well as the appropriate rights of the people was attacked, as in the present case. He conceived, however, that the law in question had very much abridged the right of the people to petition and remonstrate. The necessity and propriety of petitions and remonstrance’s could not be seen but by discussion: the right itself could not be effectually used, without “counseling and advising together.” Three or more persons would constitute an “unlawful assembly;” for it would be easily said, that they were unlawfully assembled, when they intended, by discussing certain acts of the president, or laws of the government, “to defeat” the same, by inducing the people to petition and remonstrate; or if the same were not defeated, by virtue of such petition and remonstrance, to bring the government and president into “disrepute,” for continuing such acts and laws in operation, against which the people had petitioned and remonstrated. But those things being offences, and so enumerated in one clause of the law, an assembly of three or more persons, contemplating the objects just described, would be “unlawful,” within the purview of the act, and subject to fine and imprisonment. Again, he said, the dangerous and ruinous tendency of certain measures, might not be observed by the people of any particular district. A few, however, might wish a petition to be made, to remove the grievance of the measures; in order to which, they would individually address the district by writing, in which they would expose and censure the evil tendency of the said measures, to excite the people to petition and remonstrate, “to defeat” the same, or necessarily to bring the friends of the continuance thereof into “disrepute.” This would be an offence within the purview of the second clause of the law. Thus, said he, by one act we have seen, that that clause of the constitution, which secures the right of speech, of the press, of petition, of the free exercise of religious opinion to the people, is prostrated in every respect, except as it relates to religion. And this last and most invaluable right, he had no doubt would soon be invaded, inasmuch as he had been informed, that the friends of the present measures had already begun to insinuate, that an “established church was one of the strongest props to government:” and inasmuch, that the same reasons might be urged in its favor, as in favor of the abridgment of the liberty of the press. But it was said, that the press was still left free to print truth: “its licentiousness and abuse” are only forbid. So it might be said of religion: true religion only ought to be tolerated: the abuse of religion ought to be forbidden: the “licentiousness” of particular sectaries ought to be restrained.

He said, he was fearful that he had already trespassed upon the patience of the committee, and he would hasten to a conclusion, with a few remarks on the particular shape and address of the resolutions. It had been objected by gentlemen, that it was going too far to declare the acts in question, to be “no law, null, void and of no effect:” that it was sufficient to say they were unconstitutional. He said, if they were unconstitutional, it followed necessarily that they were “not law, but null, void and of no effect.” But, if those particular words were offensive to gentlemen he had no objection to any modification, so the principle were retained. As to the objection, that they were improperly addressed to the other states, Mr. Daniel said, he supposed that this mode was extremely eligible. If the other states think with this, that the laws are unconstitutional, the laws will be repealed, and the constitutional question will be settled by this declaration of a majority of the states: thereby destroying the force of this precedent, and precluding from any future congress, who might be disposed to carry the principle to a more pernicious and ruinous extent, the force of any argument which might be derived from these laws. If, on the contrary, a sufficient majority of the states should declare their opinion, that the constitution gave congress authority to pass these laws, the constitutional question would still be settled; but an attempt might be made so to amend the constitution, as to take from congress this authority, which in our opinion was so pernicious and dangerous.

He then concluded by saying, that something must be done: the people were not satisfied: they expected that this legislature would adopt some measure on this subject: that the constitution of the United States was the basis of public tranquility; the pledge of the sovereignty of the states, and of the liberties of the people. But, said he, this basis of public tranquility, this pledge of liberty and security is but a name, a mere phantom, unless it be strictly observed. It became our duty to watch attentively, to see that it was not violated; to see that it was equally observed by those who govern, and by those who are destined to obey. To attack the constitution was an offence against society; and if those guilty of it were invested with authority, they added to the offence a perfidious abuse of the power with which they were entrusted. It was our duty, said he, to suppress this abuse with our utmost vigor and vigilance. It was strange to see a free constitution openly and boldly attacked by those who were put in power under it. It was generally by silent and slow attacks, that free governments had progressively changed, till very little of their original texture and principles remained: that the doctrine of implication had introduced innovations, under the influence and operation of which, the freest governments had been enslaved. It was our duty to guard against innovations. The people of Virginia had been attentive to this subject. The petitions and remonstrances, which had been read to the committee, proved that the people were seriously alarmed at the innovations of the federal government. He said they proved more: they proved that the people thought that their servants, in the administration of the federal government, were not even modest enough to wait the increase of their power by progressive change. That their ambition exceeded the resources of the doctrine of implication: that their thirst of power could not be satiated, but by a direct attack upon the constitution, and a prostration of the great rights of the people. He said, this apprehension of the people, which he thought just, would be satisfied. He thought the mode proposed by the resolutions was most likely to effect this purpose; as well as other important purposes. He said, if they who were the representatives of the people, would not act for them when called upon, the people will speak for themselves; and as the voice of God, they would be heard. He hoped this final and dreadful appeal would never be necessary. He preferred the resolutions, and hoped they would be adopted by the committee. ..

Related: The Sedition Act of 1918 signed into law by Progressive President Thomas Woodrow Wilson

During World War I, libel laws surfaced again. The Sedition Act of 1918was part of an amendment to the Espionage Act, created in 1917 to prohibit “false statements” that might “impede military success.”

The revisions prohibited not only public criticism of the government, but also forbade “any abusive language about … the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States, or the flag of the United States, or the uniform of the Army or Navy.”

It extended further to target any person who displayed the flag of an enemy country, or attempted to curb the production of goods needed for war. Both the Espionage Act and Sedition Act were repealed in 1921.

Because the Sedition Acts of 1798 and 1918 were each in effect only for three years, neither was ever challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court. In the 1964 case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prevented a public official from charging a fine for libel, “unless ‘actual malice’—knowledge that statements are false or in reckless disregard of the truth—is alleged and proved.”

The Court took this opportunity to officially declare the Sedition Act of 1798, which had expired over 150 years earlier, unconstitutional: “the Act, because of the restraint it imposed upon criticism of government and public officials, was inconsistent with the First Amendment.”

Justice William Brennan quoted James Madison, stating, “The censorial power is in the people over the Government, and not in the Government over the people.”

Text of Act(s)

An act in addition to the act entitled, “An act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States.”

[Approved July 14, 1798.]

ABSTRACT.

SECTION I. Punishes combinations against United States government.

1. Definition of offence:
Unlawfully to combine or conspire together to oppose any measure of the government of the United States, &c. This section was not complained of.

2. Grade of offence:
A high misdemeanour.

3. Punishment:
Fine not exceeding $5000, and imprisonment six months to five years.

SECTION II. Punishes seditious writings.
1. Definition of offence:

To write, print, utter or publish, or cause it to be done, or assist in it, any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the President, with intent to defame, or bring either into contempt or disrepute, or to excite against either the hatred of the people of the United States, or to stir up sedition, or to excite unlawful combinations against the government, or to resist it, or to aid or encourage hostile designs of foreign nations.

2. Grade of offence:
A misdemeanour.
3. Punishment:
Fine not exceeding $2000, and imprisonment not exceeding two years.

SECTION III. Allows accused to give in evidence the truth of the matter charged as libellous.

SECTION IV. Continues the Act to 3d March, 1801.


SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled. That if any persons shall unlawfully combine or conspire together, with intent to oppose any measure or measures of the government of the United States, which are or shall be directed by proper authority, or to impede the operation of any law of the United States, or to intimidate or prevent any person holding a place or office in or under the government of the United States, from undertaking, performing, or executing his trust or duty: and if any person or persons, with intent as aforesaid, shall counsel, advise, or attempt to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly, or combination, whether such conspiracy, threatening, counsel, advice, or attempt shall have the proposed effect or not, he or they shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanour, and on conviction before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, and by imprisonment during a term of not less than six months, nor exceeding five years; and further, at the discretion of the court, may be holden to find sureties for his good behaviour, in such sum, and for such time, as the said court may direct.

SECT. 2. And be it further enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter, or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered, or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering, or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either House of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either House of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States; or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the Constitution of the United States; or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act; or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against the United States, their people or government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.

SECT. 3. And be it further enacted and declared, That if any person shall be prosecuted under this act for the writing or publishing any libel aforesaid, it shall be lawful for the defendant, upon the trial of the cause, to give in evidence in his defence, the truth of the matter contained in the publication charged as a libel. And the jury who shall try the cause shall have a right to determine the law and the fact, under the direction of the court, as in other cases.

SECT. 4. And be it further enacted, That this act shall continue and be in force until the third day of March, one thousand eight hundred and one, and no longer: Provided, That the expiration of the act shall not prevent or defeat a prosecution and punishment of any offence against the law, during the time it shall be in force.

See also:
Constitution of the United States and it’s Governmental Operations (In Plain English)
The Importance of the Freedom of the Press; by Senator Ebenezer Mack (1791-1849)
THE LIBERTY OF THE PRESS by Charles F. Partington 1836
George Mason of Virginia the Father of the Declaration of Independence
A REPUBLIC! A LIVING BREATHING CONSTITUTION DEFINED! by Alphonse De Lamartine 1790-1869
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Powers delegated to the General Government in the Federal Constitution
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The mode of obtaining redress for infringement of civil or political rights by officers of the government
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Liberty of Speech and of the Press
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Law of Libel in relation to Public Officers
Sources:
1. http://www.history.com
2. http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/milestones/sedition/
3. “Resolutions of Virginia and Kentucky” by James Madison, Thomas Jefferson
4. http://www.constitution.org/rf/sedition_1798.htm

RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Rights of Witnesses

Bill of RightsThe Rights of an American Citizen: With a Commentary on State Rights, and on the Constitution and Policy of the United States by Benjamin Lynde Oliver published 1832

PART II; OF SOME PARTICULAR RIGHTS

CHAPTER VI: Of the Rights of Witnesses

As society is organized for the protection of the persons, and the security of the property and rights of its members, each individual may be considered as undertaking on his part, to conform to all the regulations, which the government may think it expedient to introduce, for the more readily obtaining of those important objects.

Among these regulations may usually be found one, which gives every individual a right to call on others to give testimony, in any cause which may arise before the tribunals of justice, in which his rights are concerned.

This right of calling on witnesses, is one of the greatest importance; because, without it, no man would be able to obtain redress by law, for any injuries which might be offered to him, for want of evidence; unless he was so fortunate as to find volunteers, who would step forward of their own good will to give testimony in his favor. The law therefore provides a process, by which a party in any cause may compel the attendance of witnesses, so far as may be thought necessary to secure their testimony. But, as it would be unreasonable to compel a witness to neglect his own affairs, and to be at the expense and trouble of going from his place of residence, and living at board during his attendance on the court, provision is made by the law for the indemnity of the witness in all these respects.

A witness therefore is under no obligation to attend court at all, unless he is summoned by a regular subpoena, stating the cause in which his testimony is wanted, and served by a regular officer, and also has sufficient money tendered him to defray his charges, or, at any rate, such allowance as is provided by the statute law, whether such allowance is more or less. If such a sum is tendered him, he will be obliged to attend so many days as it is a legal allowance for, unless he is sooner dismissed. But, it seems, he is under no obligation to make advances ; and therefore, after the money which has been paid him is expended, or rather, after the time has elapsed, for which the money so paid is a legal allowance, he is under no obligation to remain in attendance upon the court, unless a further advance is made to him.

Though a witness, when summoned, is obliged to attend court if his expenses are tendered, yet the notice ought not to be so short that, in order to comply with it, he must break off suddenly from his business; the notice should be a reasonable one, so that he may not be put to any inconvenience from the mere circumstance of its being unexpected.

So, a witness is entitled to a reasonable time to convey himself from the place where he is summoned, to the court which he is to attend. As there is no allowance made him by law, for coach hire, turnpikes, Sic. it would seem that he is under no obligation to pay such charges; indeed, he may be unable to do it. Unless therefore some suitable conveyance is provided for him, he can be under no obligation to go any otherwise than on foot, and on the common county road. And as the law estimates a day’s travel on foot, at a certain number of miles, (say twenty) if the witness, as soon as he is summoned and receives his advance, sets out and travels at the rate of twenty miles per day towards the place where the court is sitting, it will be difficult to make out against him a case of contempt for not attending at an earlier day, though perhaps he might have arrived in half the time by taking the stage coach. The default is in the party who summons him; for, either he should have given an earlier notice, or furnished the witness a. suitable conveyance, or advanced him an additional sum for that express purpose.

A witness is usually allowed for a day’s attendance, though he may not actually attend in court five minutes; and if he is obliged to attend court on two or three different days, he is entitled to one full day’s attendance on each.

A person must be summoned, in order to be subject to examination as a witness. And therefore, if an individual should happen to be in court, without having been summoned, and one of the counsel in a cause should call upon him to be sworn and give his testimony, he may refuse to be sworn, without being guilty of any contempt, and has a right to depart without molestation. ,

Where a married woman is summoned, the fees must be tendered to her, and not to her husband.

A witness summoned to attend court, is entitled to the protection of the court, against all arrests, while going to court, or attending upon it, and in returning, if he uses common diligence and expedition, without being obliged either to take the shortest road, or to make use of more than ordinary dispatch.

This protection will be granted, either by a writ of protection, which the witness may have by asking for it, and which it will be a contempt of court for any officer to disobey, by arresting the witness after it is shown to him; or, if the witness has never applied for the writ, and is arrested, the court, on motion, will discharge him. This protection, however, is afforded against arrests on actions brought for causes of a civil nature only, but will not protect the witness from arrests, on warrants for breaches of the peace, &c.

A witness, when called upon to testify, is supposed to be entirely disinterested, because the smallest pecuniary interest in the event of the cause, will be a sufficient cause of exception to disqualify him as a witness. To ascertain whether a witness is interested or not, he may be asked that question, or the testimony of others may be brought to prove it. But, if the question is made to the witness, and he denies it, it is not permitted afterwards to introduce the testimony of others to contradict him.

As no person will be permitted to give testimony, by which he will discharge himself from any species of legal accountability by throwing that burthen on another; but, if he is wholly and absolutely discharged himself, from such accountability in any legal way, will immediately become a competent witness, it has become a common practice to qualify an interested witness, by releasing him, if there is a cause of action against him, so that he becomes entirely indifferent to the result of the suit.

It frequently happens, also, where an action is brought against a wrong party by mistake, either of the law or the fact, that the person against whom the action ought to have been brought, if used as a witness, would clear the defendant by making himself chargeable. To the competency of such a witness, the plaintiff in such case can never make any valid objection, because he is called upon to swear against his own interest.

But, it may be asked, is a witness bound by law, to testify against his own interest in this way? May he not decline to answer any questions, the answers to which may be given against him either in a civil action, or on a criminal prosecution?

With regard to such questions, as if answered one way, tend to incriminate the witness, he is entirely at liberty to decline answering them. But, this is held to be the privilege of the witness alone. The counsel of the parties have no rights on this subject. The witness may refuse to answer the question or not, at discretion. As a matter of prudence, however, the witness ought to take care to object to answering the first question in relation to such objectionable subjects of inquiry; for, it has been held, if he answers to part, he may be compelled to answer to the whole, whatever the consequence may be. See 1 Moody and Mai. 47.

PrecedentThis doctrine however seems to be laid down too broadly; for, the only reason why a witness who has answered to part, shall be compelled to tell the whole, is, that a partial statement may do great injustice to one of the parties. But, the answer is, that, where part is told, and the rest is inaccessible, the part told is no evidence at all to the jury. Thus, the court will not suffer part of a deed, where the rest is torn off, to be shown to the jury as evidence of a contract; because it is impossible to tell what the effect of the whole would be. Suppose a witness, after he had been examined originally, should die in a fit before his cross examination, would not the court generally instruct the jury to pay no regard to his testimony, though possibly there might be some excepted cases? The doctrine of the case cited, it would seem, ought to be restricted to cases, where a witness, with a full knowledge of his rights, to refuse to answer all questions tending to incriminate himself, voluntarily testifies to part of a transaction, &c. Here he may be compelled to answer to the whole, without any violation of principle ; since, by answering the first question, he, of his own accord, relinquishes the protection which the law affords him. Ld. Ellenborough, in the case Jean Peltier, remarks : ‘I think it is the office of the judge to suggest to a witness, that he is not bound to answer anything which will incriminate himself; and if a judge were not to remind a witness of that circumstance, he would neglect his duty.’ It would therefore be a good rule to establish, that a witness does not relinquish the protection of the law in any case, by a partial answer, unless the court has given him notice in the manner suggested by Ld. Ellenborough.

It is held, that questions may be put to witnesses on a cross examination, tending to degrade them, for the purpose of trying their characters, unless the answers to such questions may expose them to punishment. 1 Moody and Mal. 10S. The inference is, that the witness will be bound to answer any such questions. In New York, however, it has been held, that a witness is not only not bound to answer any questions, the answers to which may expose him either to a civil or criminal prosecution; but, it seems, he is under no obligation to answer any questions, the answers to which may have a tendency to degrade or disgrace him. See 1 Johns. R. 498. Whether such questions ought to be permitted to be put, does not seem clearly settled. For, it is not the same thing to allow the question to be put, and leave the witness to answer, or not, at discretion, and to refuse to permit such questions to be put at all. The decisions on this subject cannot easily be reconciled with each other. In one case, the court would not suffer the question to be put to a witness on a cross examination, whether he had not been put in the house of correction. 4 Esp. R. 225. On the trial of James Watson for high treason before the king’s bench, the general doctrine in relation to this subject, was held to be: 1. That if any question is put to a witness to shake his credibility, he may refuse to answer it. If he answers, you must take the answer, and will not be allowed to impeach it. A witness who has received a pardon for a crime, or who has been prosecuted, and the prosecution is put an end to, is not bound to answer any questions in relation to the subject. No evidence will be received to show that a witness has committed infamous crimes, for the purpose of impeaching his character and testimony, short of the record of conviction; because the court will not try collateral issues, which might be endless. If a question is asked a witness, whether he has not committed a particular crime, and he refuses to answer; though this may have its effect on the jury, yet it is not sufficient to discredit him in law, or render him incompetent. It seems to be the settled practice in England to permit such question to be put, and leave the witness to answer or not, as he pleases.

In Phillips’ treatise on evidence, however, a case is mentioned where, a witness being asked on a cross examination, whether he had not been tried for theft, refused to answer, and appealed to Ld. Ellenborough, whether he was bound to answer. Ld. Ellenborough said, :If you do not answer I will commit you,’ adding, ‘you shall not be compelled to say, whether you were guilty or not.’ 1 Phil, on Evi. 269, in notis. In New York, it seems, no public officer is bound to answer any questions in relation to his official conduct, the answer to which may tend to impeach his integrity. See 1 Johns. 498.

Whether a question tends to incriminate a witness or not, it is held, not to belong to the court to decide, but to the witness himself. Because, the court cannot know beforehand the facts and circumstances, which may be necessary in order to decide whether it may or may not, have such a tendency. For, though a question apparently may not have that tendency at first, yet, it may be the first link of a chain which has. See 2 Nott. and Mc. Cord. 15. In Burr’s trial, it was held, that a witness may be required to answer on oath, whether he thinks answering a question will tend to incriminate himself, before he will be allowed to decline to answer it. With regard to questions, the answers to which may expose the witness to a civil action, or may be given in evidence against him, in any action, which may afterwards be brought either by or against him, the law does not seem finally settled. Under this general class, a variety of cases are comprehended, which, in their decision, would seem to involve very different considerations. For, Erst—the answer to the question may be obviously and indispensably necessary to the plaintiff in the action, for the maintenance of his suit, or, it may be thus necessary to the defendant’s defence, in a civil action, or the prisoner’s defence, on a criminal prosecution; if it is not answered, therefore, there must be a failure of justice. Second—the answer, though it may be directly injurious to the interest of the witness, may be wanted by one of the parties, for the mere purpose of strengthening an argument of the probability or improbability of a certain fact, which is material to his cause. Here there is a greater or less probability, according to the circumstances of each particular case, that there may be a failure of justice in consequence of not obtaining an answer from the witness. The rule, in these cases, it is obvious, must be grounded on the same principle. It may be remarked here, that, in these cases, if the witness is compelled to testify, no injustice can be done to him by it in fact, because he is bound to answer nothing but the truth. He does not therefore create a cause of action against himself, but merely furnishes evidence against himself, by which an action may be maintained against him. But, however, it has been held, that though one who conveys land, may be a witness to prove that he had no title, he is not compellable to give such evidence. 2 Ld. Raym. 1008. By the law of Scotland, it seems, a witness is not held to answer against his interest; and in such case, it is held to be the duty of the presiding judge, to inform him of his right. Tait on Evi. 429. In Pennsylvania it has been held, that a witness is bound to answer any questions the answers to which do not render him liable to a criminal charge, or tend to degrade him. In the case of Baird v. Cochran, Tilghman, Ch. Jus., ruled the law to be so, and observed, that’ every man may be compelled on a bill filed against him in equity, to declare the truth, though it may affect his interest; why then should he not be compelled at law, except where he is a party to the suit’? This is a most unfortunate analogy, ox rather there is a great want of it in the two cases. A man who has a bill filed against him in equity, is compelled to disclose; to maintain the analogy, a defendant in an action at law, ought to be compelled to disclose. This, however, is not contended for; but it is contended, that a witness ought to disclose his interest, in an action at law between third persons: there would be some ground for analogy, if a third person were compelled to disclose his interest in a suit in equity between third persons. But the true ground of the argument is, that as a person may be compelled to disclose in equity, by bringing a bill in equity against him, there is no hardship in compelling him to disclose the same interest, in an action at law between third persons. But there is a striking difference between being compelled to answer questions on a cross examination, as a witness on the stand, and giving answers to interrogatories, with the direction and assistance of legal counsel at the elbow.—See 4 Serg. & R’ 397.

In Connecticut, it is settled, that a witness shall be protected from answering questions, which subject him to a civil suit or debt. See More v. Hathaway. 3 Con. R.

Third—the question may be wholly immaterial to the issue, so that, whether it be answered affirmatively, or negatively, or not at all, it will have no effect whatever on the result of the action or prosecution. In this case, it is obvious, there will be no failure of justice in the cause then in hearing, if the witness should decline answering. It may be remarked, also that, if the witness should see fit to answer, he cannot be convicted of perjury, though he should swear falsely; because perjury can only be committed by swearing falsely in relation to something which is material to the issue. For, though it is settled that perjury may be in a mere circumstance, yet it must be one that is material to the issue, though it is not necessary that it should be decisive. So held by Ld. Holt. See 10 Mod. 195. Carth. 422. 2 Ld. Raym. 889.

It has been held, that a subscribing witness to a note, may be compelled to testify to that fact, though he may be bail for the defendant; but, if he is not a subscribing witness, he would be at liberty to testify or not. See 1 Strang. 406. This is on the principle, that a subscribing witness undertakes to testify when called on, and cannot by his own act destroy the party’s right to his testimony. As to the question, what papers or documents a witness, who has been summoned by a subpoena duces tecum, [A subpoena duces tecum is used to compel the production of documents that might be admissible before the court. It cannot be used to require oral testimony] is bound to produce, no general principle appears to be settled, which will apply to every case that may arise. It seems, however, that a witness is not bound to expose his own title deeds. Such is the settled law in England, because, by exposing his deeds, he may disclose a flaw in his title. The same reason does not seem to apply in places where title deeds are recorded; but, as a copy of a title deed may at any time be had by applying to the registrar, there seems to be no reason, why a person should be compelled to produce his title deed, unless there is some other object, than to obtain a knowledge of its contents. So, it is held that a witness ought not to be compelled to produce his private books, relating to his private transactions. See 1 Str. 646.

So, a trustee, to whom it is suggested the plaintiff has conveyed his estate in trust, may demur to the production of the title deeds. 2 Stark. R. 203.

So, a solicitor to a third person will not be compelled to produce the deeds of such third person, where it may be prejudicial to his interest. 1 Starkie, 95. For, generally, an attorney is not at liberty to disclose communications made to him by his client, whether the client is or is not a party to the cause before the court. See 2 Camp. 578. In these cases, it may be remarked, that this is the client’s privilege; and, it will seem that, where any such confidence is recognized by the law, the witness will not be called on to testify, nor even permitted to do so. And therefore the client’s interpreter cannot be examined as to communications, made through him to his counsel. And, from a regard to a similar principle, a woman after her husband’s death shall not be examined as to conversations, had between herself and her husband during his life time. And for the same reason, a woman, after a divorce, cannot be called on to give evidence of conversations previously had between herself and her husband. See 1 Ryan and Moody, 198.

It has been held, that, under a subpoena duces tecum, a witness is under no obligation to produce private papers in his custody. 1 Esp. N. P. Cases, 405. In the case referred to, Ld. Kenyon denied the general position, that, in such case, a witness might be required to produce every paper in his possession, which did not tend to incriminate him, because it would ruin millions. See 1 Esp. N. P. Cas. 405. However, it seems impracticable, to lay down any general rule or principle as to the production of papers and documents. In Amty v. Long, Ld. Ellenborough observes, that ‘though it will always be prudent and proper, for a witness served with such a subpoena, to be prepared to produce the specified papers and instruments at the trial, if it be at all likely, that the judge will deem such production fit to be there insisted upon; yet, it is in every instance a question for the consideration of the judge at nisi prius (fn1), whether, upon the principles of reason and equity, such production should be required by him; and, of the court afterwards, whether having been there withheld, the party should be punished by attachment.’ 9 East. 485. The question as to the obligation of the witness to produce papers, is therefore to be decided by the court, according to the circumstances of each particular case. But, this is to leave the subject wholly unsettled, because the opinion or discretion of different judges, as to the same facts or circumstances,. is found to be different, and indeed the same judge is sometimes found to entertain different opinions at different times. Thus, when the question was made on the trial of Ld. Melville, whether a witness was bound to answer a question, the answer to which would subject him to a civil action, four judges held that he was not, and eight judges held that he was. As this is a case, where a similar principle is involved, if it had come up at nisi prius, the witness might or might not have been held to answer; according as one of the four, or one of the eight judges happened to preside. If the law is so unsettled, therefore, on this subject, and a case should occur, where the witness should be called upon to violate the sacredness of private confidential correspondence, or, to render himself liable to a civil action, it might be well for him not to be too hasty, either in the answering of questions, or in the production of papers. It has been said, and there seems to be no improbability in it, that Ld. Keith, in his answer to a question proposed to him, as a witness in an insurance case, subjected himself to damages to the amount of ten thousand pounds sterling. If a case of any considerable importance, therefore, should arise, the witness must by no means rely upon the court to protect his rights, unless he claims them. For, if he neglects to assert his rights, the court will take for granted that he waives the objection, and consents to produce the letters, and to answer the objectionable questions. Many things take place in this way, in the course of a trial, which would immediately be overruled by the court, if an exception were taken to them, regularly and in season. But, in most cases, the witness not being acquainted with the precise extent of his rights, does not know what he may legally insist on, and what he cannot. Sometimes, therefore, it happens, that no objection is made, and the irregularity passes off without notice, as if done by consent. In any such case, therefore, the witness should state his objection to the court, and if of great consequence, should request delay, in order to obtain the advice and assistance of counsel to argue it, and, if it should be overruled by the court, and it becomes necessary for the protection of his rights, and the court is one of inferior jurisdiction, he may appeal, and if his appeal should not be allowed, and he is confident that his objection is a legal one, he may take the hazard of disobeying. For, if he is committed in consequence, he may bring his habeas corpus, when, if his objection is legal, he will be discharged. If a witness should be called on to produce papers, put into his custody by a third person, who had a right to call for them when he pleased, it would be very proper to give immediate notice of the subpoena, to such third person, that he might adopt such measures as he saw fit. .If in consequence of it, the owner were to replevy [To regain possession of by a writ of replevin] them (though it has been held that at common law replevin does not lie for charters) there does not appear to be any way of coming at them. But the law does not seem to be settled.

It is apparent that the rights of witnesses in some respects, are not so much regarded, and consequently, not so well protected as they ought to be, from whatever cause it may arise. No reference is here had to the circumstance, that a witness is compelled to neglect his own affairs, for the purpose of traveling to and attending upon the court, to give testimony in a cause in which he has not the slightest concern; because this is for the benefit of one of the parties in the cause, and, is the consequence of a regulation, of which he will have the advantage himself, if he ever has a cause in court. But, it is intended to allude principally to the mode of examining witnesses, by way of cross examination, as it is sometimes seen practiced, and, for any thing that appears, may always legally be done, but seldom justifiably.

The legitimate objects of a Cross examination, are among others, 1. To enable the party against whom a witness is brought forward to testify, to elicit from him any circumstances which attended the transactions to which he may have testified; but which he may have omitted, or had no opportunity to mention on his direct examination. 2. By a series of close and judicious interrogatories, respecting the minute circumstances attending such transactions, to ascertain whether the witness is testifying to a story, which he has either fabricated himself or concerted with others. 3. To determine in the same way, supposing the witness to be honest, how far his observation, memory, and discrimination can be depended on. 4. On the supposition, that he is a dishonest witness, to exhibit him in that light to the jury; by compelling him to invent new falsehoods at every question, in order to keep his story consistent with itself, until he is involved unconsciously, in absurdity, impossibility, and self-contradiction. The advantages of a cross examination in all these respects, are obviously very great. In an examination in chief, it is a general rule, though there are some exceptions, that the questions should be very general, so as not to intimate to the witness what he is desired to say, nor to prompt him, nor to lead him, nor to put answers in his mouth. After the direct examination is finished, which terminates as soon as the witness has testified sufficient for the examiner’s purpose, because it is part of the professional tactics, observed on such occasions, not to push to the inquiry further, as well because it is unnecessary, as because something unfavorable may come out, the cross examiner considers it his duty to draw out what has thus been omitted, which frequently gives a different color to the case. On a cross examination, therefore, the advocate has a right to make use of questions of a much more direct and particular nature, than are usually allowed on an original examination. The advantage of this mode of examining a witness, in detecting a concerted story, sworn to by the witness on his direct examination, is very great; a few moments of well directed cross examination, being sufficient to expose the most ingeniously contrived fabrication. This is done by a close inquiry into minute circumstances, without which no real event ever happens, and which, if remembered, may readily be sworn to by an eye witness. But minute circumstances are seldom concerted in a false relation, and the witness, if interrogated in relation to them, is obliged to rely on his power of extemporaneous creation, to keep his testimony consistent. The consequence is, that the consciousness of adding falsehood to falsehood, accompanied with the fear of detection, exposure and punishment, soon throw him into a state of perceivable embarrassment, and perhaps inextricable confusion. A witness sometimes falls into a similar situation, from having answered a question on his direct examination, with too little precision, either from heedlessness or vanity, though without any unfair intention whatever. In a case of this kind, which occurred on the trial of Hardy, for high treason, a witness, who was a dancing master, being asked whether there had been a subcription for a certain individual imprisoned; answered, ‘ Yes; perhaps I gave a shilling or half a crown, or a guinea or five guineas towards his relief.’ Being afterwards cross examined down to, ‘but I might have given half a crown,’ and being further urged with perplexing questions on the subject, he said, ‘I would as soon give one as the other for a poor family in distress.’ Ch. Jus. Eyre then gave him the following reproof and caution. ‘You have brought yourself into a scrape, only for the sake of a flourish. When you are upon your oath, if you would only speak plain English, you would be under no difficulty. There is a great difference between a shilling, and a guinea, and five guineas, therefore you should not have conveyed an idea, that you did not know whether you gave one shilling, two shillings, one guinea or five guineas. I would advise you, when you are upon your oath, never to speak by metaphor,’ &c.

With regard to the mode of examining witnesses, it may be further remarked, that it is not considered proper, though it is a very common practice, to state direct propositions to a witness, with the tone of a person asking a question, and to require an answer to it, as if it were really a question. On this account, Mr. Justice Abbott checked the examining counsel in the trial of Isaac Ludlam for sedition; ‘You must not,’ says he) be angry with the witness, if what he says is not an answer, when you do not put a question.’ It is also a frequent practice in cross-examining a witness, to state interrogatively to him, propositions consisting of a variety of circumstances, some of which are true and some false. This is unfair and ensnaring; for, if he gives a general denial, intending that the whole is not correctly stated, it may be argued, that he has denied that part which is true. On the other hand, if he gives a general assent, intending it only for that part which he thinks material and which is strictly true, if the slightest inaccuracy can be detected in the whole proposition to which he has assented, it may be urged against him to impeach his credit. A witness for his own security, in any such case, would do well, to make no reply to propositions which are not questions, and, where the question is embarrassed with a variety of particulars, should request the examiner to simplify his question, or should ask, ‘what is the question,’ which will induce him to put it in a more simple form, and directly to the purpose. It is a common practice also with some, when examining a witness, to interlard their questions with comments and observations. This irregularity is also much censured by the court; particularly by Ch. Jus. Eyre, and Ld. Ellenborough. It is also considered unfair and a breach of decorum, While the counsel on one side are examining a witness, for the counsel of the opposite party to make use of grimaces or gesticulations, expressive of surprise, as holding up the hands, &c. In Watson’s trial for high treason, the court declared, that they would animadvert very severely upon such conduct. In the course of the same trial, Ld. Ellenborough checked Mr. Wetherell for improper treatment of a witness, and observed that he would not suffer injustice to be practised upon a witness by counsel. IMr. Jus. Abbott, also remarked on another occasion during the same trial, ‘ Every witness is entitled to the protection of the court from insulting questions and observations.’ 32 St. Tr. 291,298.

It sometimes happens, that the result of a trial depends upon a particular fact, which is sworn to by a single witness only. When this is the case, every legal measure possible is resorted to, for the purpose of impeaching his credit with the jury, so that they may set his testimony aside, and find their verdict for the party against whom he testifies.

For this purpose, persons may be called to testify, that the general reputation of the witness for veracity is bad. But they can only be asked general questions in relation to the subject, i. e. as to their opinion of his character for truth, and the grounds of that opinion; but, it would seem, that they ought not to be permitted to state particular facts against the witness. See 2 Starkie, 241.

The testimony of the witness may also be impeached by showing, that he has previously done or said something, inconsistent with what he now testifies. But, before introducing testimony of this kind, the witness must be asked, whether he has said or done that particular thing, so that he may have an opportunity to deny, or admit and explain it; and contradictory testimony ought not to be admitted until he has had this opportunity. See the opinion of Abbott, Ch. Jus., in the Queen’s Case; 2 Brod. and B. 312.

A witness cannot be cross-examined as to any collateral independent fact, irrelevant to the matter in issue, for the purpose of contradicting him, if he answers one way, by another witness, in order to discredit his whole testimony. In such cases only general questions can be put. If, however, the witness should answer, his answer cannot be contradicted by other witnesses. For, this would lead to the trial of collateral issues, and might be endless. See 7 East, 108. 2 Campb. 637.

Nor can a witness be cross-examined as to facts not in issue, if such facts are injurious to the characters of third persons, not connected in the cause. 1 Car. and P. 100.

The court will protect a witness from questions put through impertinent curiosity, and much more, if it seems probable, that any unfair use may be made of them. See the opinion of Tilghman, Ch. Jus., in the case of’ Baird v. Cochran. 4 Serg. and R. 397. See also, 1 Car. and P. 363.

Every witness is entitled to ordinary civility, at least, from the examining counsel; since, whether he is willing or not, he may be compelled to attend the trial by the process of the court, and if he refuses to answer proper questions, may be fined and imprisoned for the contempt. He is not at all, in legal contemplation, under the control of the examining counsel, except so far as the court sanctions and authorizes the questions put by him, and, in case of any illiberal treatment, has a right to claim the protection of the court, which is readily afforded when there is a suitable occasion for it and it is claimed decently and respectfully. If the ill treatment is gross, or the witness does not seem to be aware that he has a right to this protection, the court will interfere of their own motion, as where any opprobrious epithet is bestowed on a witness, whether merited or not. It would certainly be singular, if the judges should permit their court to exhibit a scene of indecent altercation between the examining counsel and a witness. In the trial of Mr. Hardy, both Mr. Erskine and Mr. Gibbs were checked by Ch. Jus. Eyre, for addressing the witness by the epithet of spy, though he was in fact a government spy, and an informer. 24 St. Tr. 751.

It is plain, therefore, that those professional gentlemen mistake the purpose of a cross-examination very much, who waste . the time and patience of the court, jury and witnesses, by asking a thousand frivolous and unmeaning questions, which have no bearing on the merits of the cause. When such questions are asked, the court cannot always stop them, because they cannot tell beforehand, whether something may not be made of them in the address to the jury. If therefore they are not absolutely illegal questions, and the witness makes no objection, the court commonly does not interfere. It frequently happens, in consequence, that the witness not knowing his own rights, and believing himself bound to answer every question whatever that is put to him, makes no objection to answer, and if he finds himself insulted by an offensive question, instead of asking the opinion or protection of the court, resorts to ill-tempered and petulant answers. But, when it is found that, after all this parade of questioning, no use can be made of the answers, let them be made which way they may, being wholly foreign to the case before the court, the judges and jury very naturally feel disgusted, because they perceive their attention has been kept in suspense without any other object than the gratification of the examiner’s vanity, in having all eyes directed towards him during the examination. These useless questions furnish the occasion for the sarcasm of Swift, which is in substance, that if an action at law is brought for a cow, the decision of the case does not depend upon the inquiry, whether the cow belongs to the plaintiff or to the defendant, but whether the cow is a black cow or a red cow, or has long or short horns.

It is to be much wished that the law, with regard to the examination of witnesses, were altered in the respects following, viz:

1. That witnesses should never be called for the purpose of impeaching the testimony of a witness, by giving testimony against his character for veracity. This is a most unjust practice, and though sanctioned by long usage, is contrary to legal analogy. For, in this way, the reputation of the witness is attacked in a suit between third persons, in which he has been compelled to testify, and, for aught that appears, may have told the exact truth. This is done without any previous notice to him; and, if he had received notice, he is entitled to no process to compel the attendance of his witnesses, not being a party to the suit. If his enemies are summoned as witnesses against him, they have an opportunity of aspersing or disparaging his character in this respect, with perfect impunity. The defence of his character, is left entirely with one of the parties in the suit, whose principal if not sole object, is merely to gain his own cause, and who may or may not feel interest enough to endeavor to establish it. His feelings and character may therefore be grossly injured without the possibility of redress.

2. That all questions, the answers to which tend to disparage a witness, should be overruled by the court; for, if the subject of the question is known, it may be proved by others; and if unknown, the witness is tempted to perjure himself, and thus preserve his character. But, if he acknowledges what is insinuated against him, then he establishes his veracity, instead of destroying it; because a person who will not be guilty of falsehood for his own sake, can hardly be supposed willing to practice it for the sake of another.

3. That personal questions, addressed to the witness relative to his private affairs, should not be put until the examiner has made it appear probable, that the ends of justice cannot be obtained without an answer to them.

4. That witnesses should never be examined under oath, but each witness should be affirmed under the pains and penalties of perjury. There could then be no objection to the competency of atheists; nor of children, however young; but the credit of the witness, in every case, would be left where it ought to be left, with the jury, and-crimes, which may now go unpunished on account of the inadmissibility of certain testimony, would then be subject to legal animadversion.

fn1. A court of nisi prius is a court that tries questions of fact before one judge and, in some cases, a jury. In the United States, the term ordinarily applies to the trial level court where the case is heard by a jury, as opposed to a higher court that entertains appeals where no jury is present.

Continued in CHAPTER VII: Of the mode of obtaining redress for any infringement of civil or political rights, committed either by the officers of the General Government, or of any of the State Governments.

See the other parts of this series:
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: General Rights; Division One
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: General Rights; Division Two
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: General Rights; The Social Compact
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Powers delegated to the General Government in the Federal Constitution
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: Powers delegated to the State Governments
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Independence of the States
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The rights reserved to the people of the United States
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: Of the right of suffrage and of elections
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Liberty of Speech and of the Press
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Power of Courts to punish for Contempts
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Law of Libel in relation to Public Officers
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Rights of Juries
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Rights of Witnesses
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The mode of obtaining redress for infringement of civil or political rights

George Mason of Virginia the Father of the Declaration of Independence

GeorgeMason-paintingThe emancipation of the states of North America must ever be regarded as one of the most memorable events recorded in the annals of the human race. The revolutions, which have embroiled and desolated the great nations from which they sprang, are acknowledged to have received their first impulse from the principles and events of the American struggle. The grave has closed upon a great majority of the leaders in the American revolution; and the characters of the founders of our independence and freedom are beginning to be contemplated with the severe impartiality of a distant posterity. The passions which buoyed, annoyed, or infested their individual fame have subsided. Each is receiving a settled and mellow luster; and a just judgment is already busily engaged in assigning the decree of estimation and respect which a grateful posterity should continue to render to the memory of each of those whose efforts have obtained so many blessings and such everlasting glory for this nation.

Among the conductors of those important events, the name of George Mason, must always hold a distinguished place. An exhibition of character, in a public station, may be calculated to give an impression of the profoundest respect; but, the sincerest, and best affections of the heart can only be won by those traits, which are developed when the individual has been divested of the imposing forms and circumstances of place and office. It is for these reasons, as well as for the rays of light which they shed upon the most interesting portion of the history of our country, that I send you the following papers.

George Mason, their author, was an independent planter, resident in Fairfax county, Virginia, his native state, when the revolution commenced. He was a man endowed by nature with a vigorous understanding, which had been well cultivated by a liberal education. He was a sound constitutional lawyer, although he had not practiced or been bred to the profession. His mind had, evidently, been well stored from the best political writers of his time. In temperance he was, like the younger Cato, constitutionally stern, firm, and honest; and in all the affairs of life, in which he was engaged, as well private as public, he was habitually, minutely, and critically clear, punctual, exact, and particular. He was a member of the first conventions and assemblies elected by the people independently of the colonial authorities. He chose and valued most, the station of a representative of the people ; because he thought it most honorable, and one where he could be most useful; nor did he ever consent to accept of any other, but once, when he acted as a commissioner to adjust the navigation and boundary, between Maryland and Virginia. He was a man of the people in spirit and in truth; and every act of his life incontestibly evinces, that in their cause he never once, or for a single moment, trembled, hesitated, or wavered.

Many intelligent foreigners, and some of our own countrymen, whose judgments have been confused or perverted by aristocratic principles, entertain a belief, and propagate the opinion, that our liberties were principally established by the integrity, wisdom, and forbearance of our military leaders. To such it will be particularly instructive to attend to the first of the following letters from this venerable patriot; written at a time, and under circumstances singularly impressive and affecting. In a ripe old age, chastened by experience, when the hand of Providence had visited his household with such an affliction as to induce him to desire no more the return of hilarity to his heart, he seats himself in his closet to unbosom himself to his friend ; to tell him of his political opinions and principles and to speak of the sentiments, feelings, and probable fortunes of his country. This letter, which is so highly honorable to its author, furnishes conclusive proof, that all the chiefs, as well military as civil, were guided and qontroled by the people, and bears ample testimony to their virtue and their glory.

He was a member of the convention which formed the present constitution of the United States, and appears to have been deeply, and sincerely impressed with the magnitude of the undertaking. He was afterwards a member of the convention of Virginia by which it was ratified, which he actively and firmly opposed, without previous amendments. He was a most decided enemy to all constructive and implied powers. And it is remarkable, that he was the. author of some, and the warm advocate of every amendment since made to it. His friend and coadjutor, the illustrious Henry, poured forth the boundless wealth of his impassioned eloquence in opposition ; he charmed, enchanted, or won over many of his auditors to withhold their assent from the proposed plan of government. But, when Mason spoke, he seemed to cite his hearers severally to the bar of reason and truth, and imperatively to demand of them to produce the reason and grounds upon which they proposed to tolerate the pernicious principles he denounced. Henry delighted, astonished, and captivated. Mason stirred the house, and challenged every friend of the new constitution to stand forth; at the same time, that he made them feel, they would have to meet an antagonist whom it was difficult to vanquish, and impossible to put to flight; such was the clear, condensed, and dauntless vigor he displayed.

George Mason was a member of that convention of Virginia, which, on the fifteenth day of May, 1776, declared that state independent and formed the constitution by which it is still governed. And to him belongs the honor of having draughted the first declaration of rights ever adopted in America, of which the following is a copy. The few alterations made by the convention, which adopted it unanimously on the twelfth day of June, 1776, and made it a part of the constitution of Virginia, where it yet remains, are noted. This declaration contains principles more extensive, and much more perspicuously expressed than any then to be found in the supposed analogous instruments of any other age or country.

The English magna charta was, strictly speaking, a contract between an assemblage of feudal lords and a king, not a declaration of the rights of man, and the fundamental principles on which all government should rest. “It was not so much their intention to secure the liberties of the people at large, as to establish the privileges of a few individuals. A great tyrant On the one side, and a set of petty tyrants on the other, seem to have divided the kingdom; and the great body of the people, disregarded and oppressed on all hands, were beholden for any privileges bestowed upon them, to the jealousy of their masters; who, by limiting the authority of each other over their dependents, produced a reciprocal diminution of their power.”

The articles drawn up by the Spanish junta, in the year 1522, under the guidance of the celebrated Padilly, are much more distinct and popular in their provisions than those of the English magna charta. But, although it is admitted, that the principles of liberty were ably defended, and better understood, at that time in Spain, than they were for more than a century after, in England, the power of Charles Jth proved to be irresistible, the people failed in their attempt to bridle his prerogative, and their liberties were finally crushed.

The famous English bill of rights sanctioned by William and Mary on their ascending the throne, and which, under the name of the petition of rights, appears to have been projected many years before by that profound lawyer, sir Edward Coke, like magna charta, and the articles of the Spanish junta, is a contract with nobility and royalty, a compromise with despotism, in which the voice of the people is heard in a tone of disturbed supplication and prayer. But in this declaration of Mason’s, man seems to stand erect in all the majesty of his nature —to assert the inalienable rights and equality with which he has been endowed by his Creator, and to declare the fundamental principles by which all rulers should be controled, and on which all governments should rest. The contrast is striking, the difference prodigious. And when I read, at the foot of this curious original, the assertion of its author, that “This Declaration of Rights was the first in America;” I see a manly mind indulging its feelings under a consciousness of having done an act so permanently and extensively useful. And what feeling can be so exquisitely delightful? what pride more truly virtuous and noble?

The principles of liberty filled and warmed the bosom of this venerable patriot in that last hour, which is an awful, and an honest one to us all; in his last will, he speaks in his dying hour, and charges his sons, on a father’s blessing, to be true to freedom and their country. He was indeed and in truth one of the fathers of this nation. Therefore, let every son of free America, as he enters upon the busy scenes of life, hear and solemnly beseech Heaven to fortify him in the faithful observance of this sacred charge of one of the most worthy fathers of this country.

DECLARATION OF RIGHTS.

(Copy of the first draught by George Mason.)

A declaration of rights made by the representatives of the good people of Virginia, assembled in full and free convention ; which rights do pertain to them and their posterity, as the basis and foundation of government, unanimously adopted by the convention of Virginia, June 12th, 1776.

1. That all men are created equally free and independent, and have certain inherent natural rights of which, they cannot, by any compact, deprive, or divest their posterity; (a) among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. – a. That all power is by God and nature vested in and consequently derived from the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.

3. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people, nation or community. Of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of administration; and that whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable indefeasible right, to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

4. That no man, or set of men, are entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; which not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator, or judge, to be hereditary.

5. That the legislative and executive powers of the state should be separate and distinct from the judicial; and that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression, by feeling and participating the burdens of the people, they should, at fixed periods, be reduced to a private station, and return unto that body from which they were originally taken, and vacancies be supplied by frequent, certain and regular election, (a)—

6. That elections of members, to serve as representatives of the people in the legislature, ought to be free, and that all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to the community, have the right of suffrage; and cannot be taxed, or deprived of their property for public uses without their own consent, or that of their representatives so elected, nor bound by any law to which they have not, in like manner, assented for the common good.

7. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.

8. That in all capital or criminal prosecutions, a man hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence in his favor, and to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage, without unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty, nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself; and that no man be deprived of his liberty, except by the law of the land, or the judgment of his peers.

9. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

10. (This article was inserted by the convention.)

11. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other, and ought to be held sacred.

12. That the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.

13. That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that standing armies in time of peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by the civil power.

14. (This article also was inserted by the convention.)

15. That no free government, or the blessing of liberty, can be preserved to any people,  but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and, therefore that all men should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience, unpunished and unrestrained by the magistrate; unless under color of religion, any man disturb the peace, the happiness, or the safety of society. And that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.

“This declaration of rights was the first in America; it received few alterations or additions in the Virginia convention, (some of them not for the better,) and was afterwards closely imitated by the other United States.”

georgemasonstatue2The foregoing was copied verbatim from the original, the hand-writing of the author, col. George Mason, of Virginia, left in the possession of his son, gen. John Mason of Georgetown. In order to facilitate the comparison of it with that which was adopted by the convention, and is still in force, it has been thought proper to number the articles as in the adopted declaration, omitting the tenth and fourteenth which were inserted entire by the convention; and to place those words in italics, which were either expunged or altered, and to put a caret where others were added.

Letter From George Mason.

“Virginia, Gunston-hall, 1778.

“My dear sir.—It gave me great pleasure, upon receipt of your favor of the 23d of April, (by Mr. Digges) to hear that you are alive and well, in a country, where you can spend your time agreeably; not having heard a word from you, or of you, for two years before. I am much obliged, by the friendly concern you take in my domestic affairs, and your kind enquiry after my family; great alterations have happened in it. About four years ago I had the misfortune to lose my wife: to you, who knew her, and the happy manner in which we lived, I will not attempt to describe my feelings: I was scarce able to bear the first shock, a depression of spirits, a settled melancholy followed, from which I never expect, or desire to recover. I determined to spend the remainder of my days in privacy and retirement with my children, from whose society alone, I could expect comfort. Some of them are now grown up to men and women; and I have the satisfaction to see them free from vices, good-natured, obliging and dutiful: they all still live with me, and remain single, except my second daughter, who is lately married to my neighbor son. My eldest daughter (who is blessed with her mother’s amiable disposition) is mistress of my family, and manages my little domestic matters, with a degree of prudence far above her years. My eldest son engaged early in the American cause, and was chosen ensign of the first independent company formed in Virginia, or indeed on the continent; it was commanded by the present general Washington as captain, and consisted entirely of gentlemen. In the year 1775, he was appointed a captain of foot, in one of the first minute-regiments raised here; but was soon obliged to quit the service, by a violent rheumatic disorder; which has followed him ever since, and, I believe will force him to try the climate of France or Italy. My other sons have not yet finished their education: as soon as they do, if the war continues, they seem strongly inclined to take an active part.

In the summer of’ 75, I was, much against my inclination, drag’d out of my retirement, by the people of my county and sent a delegate to the general convention at Richmond; where I was appointed a member of the first committee of safety; and have since, at different times, been chosen a member of the privy-council, and of the American congress; but have constantly declined acting in any other public character than that of an independent representative of the people, in the house of delegates; where I still remain, from a consciousness of being able to do my country more service there, than in any other department, and have ever since devoted most of my time to public business; to the no small neglect and injury of my private fortune; but if I can only live to see the American union firmly fixed, and free governments well established in our western world, and can leave to my children but a crust of bread and liberty, I shall die satisfied; and say, with the psalmist, “Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.” —To show you that I have not been an idle spectator of this great contest, and to amuse you with the sentiments of an old friend upon an important subject, I enclose you a copy of the first draft of the declaration of rights, just as it was drawn and presented by me, to the Virginia convention, where it received few alterations; some of them I think not for the better: this was the first thing of the kind upon the continent, and has been closely imitated by all the states. There is a remarkable sameness in all the forms of government throughout the American union, except in the states of South Carolina and Pennsylvania; the first having three branches of legislature, and the last only one; all the other states have two: this difference has given general disgust, and it is probable an alteration will take place, to assimilate these to the constitutions of the other states. We have laid our new government upon a broad foundation, and have endeavored to provide the most effectual securities for the essential rights of human nature, both in civil and religious liberty; the people become every day more and more attached to it; and I trust that neither the power of Great Britain, nor the power of hell will be able to prevail against it.

There never was an idler or a falser notion, than that which the British ministry have imposed upon the nation, that this great revolution has been the work of a faction, of a junto of ambitious men against the sense of the people of America. On the contrary, nothing has been done without the approbation of the people, who have indeed outrun their leaders: so that.no capital measure hath been adopted until they called loudly for it: to any one who knows mankind, there needs no greater proof than the cordial manner in which they have cooperated, and the patience and perseverance with which they have struggled under their sufferings ; which have been greater than you, at a distance can conceive, or I describe. Equally false is the assertion that independence was originally designed here: things have gone such lengths, that it is a matter of moonshine to us, whether independence was at first intended, or not, and therefore we may now be believed. The truth is, we have been forced into it, as the only means of self-preservation, to guard our country and posterity from the greatest of all evils, such another infernal government (if it deserves the name of government) as the provinces groaned under, in the latter ages of the Roman commonwealth. To talk of replacing us in the situation of 1763, as we first asked, is to the last degree absurd, and impossible: they obstinately refused it, while it was in their power, and now, that it is out of their power, they offer it. Can they raise our cities out of their ashes? Can they replace, in ease and affluence; the thousands of families whom they have ruined? Can they restore the husband to the widow, the child to the parent, or the father to the orphan? In a word, can they reanimate the dead?—Our country has been made a scene of desolation and blood—enormities and cruelties have been committed here, which not only disgrace the British name, but dishonor the human kind, we can never again trust a people who have thus used us; human nature revolts at the idea !— The die is cast—the Rubicon is passed—and a reconciliation with Great Britain, upon the terms of returning to her government is impossible.

No man was more warmly attached to the Hanover family and the Whig interest of England, than I was, and few men had stronger prejudices in favor of that form of government under which I was born and bred, or a greater aversion to changing it; it was ever my opinion that no good man would wish to try so dangerous an experiment upon any speculative notions whatsoever, without an absolute necessity.

The ancient poets, in their elegant manner of expression, have made a kind of being of necessity, and tell us that the Gods themselves are obliged to yield to her. When I was first a member of the convention, I exerted myself to prevent a confiscation of the and although I was for putting the country immediately into a state of defence, and preparing for the worst; yet as long as we had any well founded hopes of reconciliation, I opposed to the utmost of my power, all violent measures, and such as might shut the door to it; but when reconciliation became a lost hope, when unconditional submission, or effectual resistance were the only alternatives left us, when the last dutiful and humble petition from congress received no other answer than declaring us rebels, and out of the king’s protection, I, from that moment, looked forward to a revolution and independence, as the only means of salvation; and will risk the last penny of my fortune, and the last drop of my blood upon the issue: for to imagine that we could resist the efforts of Great Britain, still professing ourselves her subjects, or support a defensive war against a powerful nation, without the reins of government in the hands of America (whatever our pretended friends in Great Britain may say of it) is too childish and futile an idea to enter into the head of any man of sense. I am not singular in my opinions; these arc the sentiments of more than nine tenths of the best men in America.

God has been pleased to bless our endeavors, in a just cause, with remarkable success. To us upon the spot, who have seen step by step the progress of this great contest, who know the defenseless state of America in the beginning, and the numberless difficulties we have , had to struggle with, taking a retrospective j view of what is passed, we seem to have been treading upon enchanted ground. The case is now altered. American prospects brighten, and appearances are strongly in our favor. The British ministry must and will acknowledge us independent states.”

georgemasonstatue3George Mason To A Friend.

Extract of a letter from colonel George Mason, of Virginia (while serving in the general convention), to a friend in that state.

Philadelphia, June, 1787.

“The idea I formerly mentioned to you, before the convention met, of a great national council, consisting of two branches of the legislature, a judiciary and an executive, upon the principle of fair representation in the legislature, with powers adapted to the great objects of the union, and consequently a control in these instances, on the state legislatures, is still the prevalent one. Virginia has had the honor of presenting the outlines of the plan, upon which the convention is proceeding; but so slowly, that it is impossible to judge when the business will be finished; most probably not before August—festina lente (Make Haste Slowly) may very well be called our motto. When I first came here, judging from casual conversations with gentlemen from the different states, I was very apprehensive that, soured and disgusted with the unexpected evils we had experienced from the democratic principles of our governments, we should be apt to run into the opposite extreme, and in endeavoring to steer too far from Scylla, we might be drawn into the vortex of Charybdis, of which I still think, there is some danger; though I have the pleasure to find in the convention, many men of fine republican principles: America has certainly, upon this occasion, drawn forth her first characters; there are upon this convention many gentlemen of the most respectable abilities; and, so far as I can yet discover, of the purest intentions; the eyes of the United States are turned upon this assembly, and their expectations raised to a very anxious degree.

“May God grant, we may be able to gratify them by establishing a wise and just government. For my own part, I never before felt myself in such a situation; and declare, I would not, upon pecuniary motives, serve in this convention for a thousand pounds per day. The revolt from Great Britain, and the formations of our new governments at that time, were nothing compared with the great business now before us; there was then a certain degree of enthusiasm, which inspired and supported the mind; but to view, through the calm sedate medium of reason, the influence which the establishments now proposed may have upon the happiness or misery of millions yet unborn, is an object of such magnitude, as absorbs, and in a manner suspends the operations of the human understanding.”

“P. S. All communications of the proceedings are forbidden during the sitting of the convention; this I think was a necessary precaution to prevent misrepresentations or mistakes; there being a material difference between the appearance of a subject in its first crude and indigested shape, and after it shall have been properly matured and arranged.”

An Extract From The Last Will And Testament Of Colonel George Mason, Of Virginia.

“I recommend it to my sons, from my own experience in life, to prefer the happiness of independence and a private station to the troubles and vexation of public business: but if either their own inclinations or the necessity of the times should engage them in public affairs, I charge them on a father’s blessing, never to let the motives of private interest or ambition induce them to betray, nor the terrors of poverty and disgrace, or the fear of danger or of death, deter them from asserting the liberty of their country, and endeavoring to transmit to their posterity those sacred rights to which themselves were born.”

Source: Principles and Acts of the Revolution in America. By Hezekiah Niles published 1822

The Importance of the Freedom of the Press; by Senator Ebenezer Mack (1791-1849)

bill-of-rights-01.jpgWhen contemplating the liberties, freedoms and protections afforded United States Citizens by the Constitution and Bill of Rights: Remember the Free Exercise of Religion was the first to be protected by the Framers; the Freedom of Speech and of the Press, Right of Assembly, Petition to Government, were meant to protect and promote the Free Exercise of Religion! The Freedom of the Press was meant to insure against the abuse of the government and those in power of all the other rights of man.

Remember also when one right, liberty, or freedom is under attack, they are all under attack, when one is in jeopardy, they are all in jeopardy! The Second Amendment is meant to guarantee the First Amendment!

A dissertation by Senator Ebenezer Mack who was a printer, and co-published the Owego Gazette from 1815 to 1816, and the Ithaca American Journal from 1817 to 1823. He later became a Senator in New York State. Oration was given on 37th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence before the New York Typographical Society.

Brethren, Friends, And Fellow-citizens!

Again are we assembled beneath the wide-spread branches of the tree of liberty.

Although as an association, we have nothing to do with political concerns; yet, as American citizens, do we not, in common with others, feel an interest in every event which affects our country? And as men—as philanthropists—can we remain unmoved amidst the agitations of the civilized world?

To review the past, contemplate the present, and anticipate the future, is ever pleasing, ever instructive. Happy is it for mankind, that the Art Of Printing furnishes us records of times which are no more! Shall we not, then, improve the privilege? It is a proper moment. Let us cast our eyes, in grateful remembrance, to the days of danger, the hours of trial. Let us pay to the heroes of our revolution—the fathers of that freedom we now enjoy—the just tribute of recalling this day to our memories, their patriotism, their perils, their sufferings, and their achievements. And let their deeds and their motives, animate us, at least, to think of glory! Nay—shall we not extend farther back our retrospective views? Time, indeed, will not permit an historical particularization of events—yet, cannot the quick conception of your minds comprehend at one glance, more than the confined powers of limited oratory could convey?

1How changed, indeed, is the vast American continent from the time of its first discovery—when Columbus and his followers first kissed the sod of St. Salvador—when Americus Vespucius, following the path of that hero, in quest of gain, stole a bright wreath from the laurels of his brow, by giving his own name to the land which Columbus discovered. Then—all was desolate and dreary. Now, we behold a happy contrast.

What has contributed to a change so unexampled, and so important? Liberty—Liberty-—which has ever been the guardian goddess of Columbia. Animated by a love of liberty, our fathers left the lands of oppression, and sought an asylum in the western wilds. How dark, how gloomy, were the prospects before them! Surrounded on every side by a savage foe—few in number, feeble, worn down with toil, often emaciated by hunger—what were their hopes, and what should save them from threatening destruction ? Yet, their guardian angel did not forsake them. She enlivened their prospects—inspired them with perseverance. Before the brightness of her countenance, mountains of difficulties melted away—by the strength of her arm, she overthrew powerful obstacles. She promised her followers the noblest reward in life, and smiled upon them in the agonies of death!

Long, indeed, were their struggles with adversity—many were their toils and discouragements. How can we conceive, how shall we describe them ? Could the transitory life of man realize the reward of so much labor ? No ! they toiled for posterity. Theirs was the satisfaction to behold a budding wilderness, which should soon ” blossom like the rose”—to plant a vineyard, which their sons should reap. They beheld, beneath their hands, dreary deserts transformed to cultured fields—towns and hamlets arising, which were to prove the foundations of opulent cities. These were their rewards—these the console of their declining days. Blessing the inheritance to their children, they sunk beneath the soil; and the stone themselves had laid—the corner-stone of a mighty temple, covered their mouldering ashes!

To them succeeded a race, nowise inferior to their fathers. The same vigor braced their limbs; the same perseverance marked their labors, and the same spirit animated their bosoms.

Invited by their success, many of the oppressed of Europe sought a sanctuary among them, to enjoy the glorious privileges of conscience—of political and religious freedom. Growing in strength, in* creasing in numbers, they enlarged their views—extending themselves into the interior, and along the coast, to the east, to the south, and forming those colonies, which are now component parts of the great American republic.

These infant colonies were separated from Europe by a wide ocean. Nevertheless, there was still a (perhaps necessary) connection. Ere the marrow of their bones were full—ere the sinews of their joints were knit together—they sought, or submitted to, the protection of a foreign power. Great Britain, (like all corrupt governments) ever ready to succor the weak, when it tends to advance her power, and subserve her interest, adopted them as her children, and became their mother.

But the iron chain hung yet loose about their necks—the fetters were unrivetted, which bound them in slavery.

Too poor for plunder—too weak for oppression—the colonies were suffered to enjoy partial privileges, and grew daily in strength, commerce, and opulence. They built ships, and wafted their products to every clime; and “their fame spread abroad among the nations.” Their maritime skill, their persevering success in agriculture and in trade, bade fair to outrival the boasted splendor of the mother country.

Could Britain behold their rising power without an eye of jealousy? Could she not foresee their rapid approach to independence? And, if left to gain a prospect of that heavenly summit, that the connexion which bound them to her control, would be broken forever! Britain saw—she felt—she feared all this. Should she reject, then, the allurements of Interest, even when Justice plead against her? It was not in her nature—not her policy! The young lion must be slain in his slumbers—the infant Hercules smothered in his cradle—the Eagle must be caught unfledged!

Fellow-citizens!

We will recall, though we pass but slightly over this eventful period.

Now was America doomed to be the victim of ambition—the scourge of tyranny. The burden was increased—the oppressive chain was drawn with an iron hand, and stronger fetters were forged to be rivetted upon her.

At first, the colonies resorted to remonstrance. Through numerous embassies and petitions, they exercised the privilege of complaint. And of what did they complain? Indeed, the recital of their wrongs would prove too tedious—the catalog of oppressions were too extensive. But are they not written in the book? Yes! and the flood of ages will not wash them out! Denied the right of representation—commercial restrictions—oppressive taxes—partial administration, and corrupt government—these were among the most prominent acts of motherly chastisement.

Were these wrongs to be borne by men inured to perils, and inspired from their birth with a love of liberty? No! When all remonstrance had proved vain—when the faintest hope of obtaining justice had fled, they arose in their might, burst the chains which bound them, and declared themselves “Free, Sovereign, and Independent.”

What a sublime moment—what a daring measure, was this ! A few petty colonies, of scattered population, the acknowledged dependencies of a powerful kingdom, whose thousand ships covered the ocean, and whose numerous disciplined armies carried triumph in their progress, and terror in their name! How dare these colonies to forswear their allegiance, and how could they maintain a declaration so perilous? But, our fathers chose to be branded as rebels, rather than as cowards; to die free, rather than live in slavery. Though few though undisciplined, they were brave—Though wanting in arms and ammunitions—they trusted in the God of Justice, and made powerful use of those in their possession. They were indeed few, compared with their oppressors—Their resources were small, compared with those of England. No organized government—no disciplined army, no confidential leaders! Yet Liberty—their guardian Liberty—inspired both their inventive and their executive faculties. At her animating voice, warriors and statesmen arose, whose deeds—whose measures, would not disgrace the proudest heroes of boasted antiquity. They found a WASHINGTON to direct their armies; and in the cabinet, a Franklin, a Hancock, an Adams, and numerous others, whose names need no recital to bear them in remembrance.

And while we pay a tribute to these worthies—while the names of Washington, Warren, Greene, Montgomery, and Gates, are echoed in plaudits of our festivals-—shall we forget their more humble followers, who shared in their toils; who assisted them in all their plans of wisdom and bravery?

“Though high in honor, yet of humble birth,
Their names may perish with them from the earth;
But Time’s rude progress Memory shall defy—
Their glorious deeds shall never—never die!”

Yes—we will record them in our bosoms, and cherish them with the wannest gratitude.

The scenes of our revolution—are they not familiar to us all? Not too sufficiently so. Then, to refresh our memories, shall we point to the field of Lexington, where the first link was broken? to Bunker’s Hill, which stands, a proud monument of American bravery? Follow Montgomery to the walls of Quebec—behold that hero expiring in the arms of Liberty, his faintest breath whispering wishes for his country, and his ardent prayers for her safety ascending with his sainted spirit to Heaven? Shall we review the field of Bennington—where the brave Stark reaped immortal honors? And the plains of Saratoga, where the proud forces of Burgoyne yielded to those of the gallant Gates?

washington-prayerRugged, indeed, was the road our fathers trod to independence. It was a path of danger, and a path of death—but it was a path of glory! Whether we follow them, with Sullivan and Wayne, through the western wilderness, to chastise the murderous savage—where their deeds are rung amidst the wilds of Ohio and Susquehanna— or trace them by the blood of their feet over frozen ground from White Marsh to Valley-Forge—we must every where admire their valor, their fortitude, and their constancy.

It was not to this, nor to that quarter, that their trials were confined. We behold them in the cold regions of Canada, and the sultry Carolina. At Charleston—at Camden—in the Jerseys—at Princeton—at Monmouth—often amidst ill-success, when victory was against them, and their cause seemed dark and gloomy. We do not take a pleasure-excursion to Harlem, nor to admire the green fields of Long Island, but we behold the sacred spots where heroes’ bones have mouldered—the verdant soil, once stained with patriots’ gore! Even, perhaps, the spot of earth over which we are now assembled, has been drenched with the blood of our fathers!

O! Liberty! Heaven-born Liberty! how great is the power of thy inspiration! Thou didst animate the heroes of Greece and of Rome, to deeds of never-dying glory. It is thou that dost inspire the Brutuses, the Kosciuskoes, and the Tells of every country, and of every age. Thou didst rule in the breast of the immortal De Kalb; who nobly fell at the battle of Camden, fighting in a stranger’s land, in thy cause, covered with eleven wounds, amidst a mountain of thy foes! Yes, Liberty! whether on the banks of the Ganges or of the Hudson—amid the wilds of Kamchatka, or the fair regions of Columbia—in the abodes of the great, or the dwellings of the humble— thou dost soften every toil, and sweeten every enjoyment!

It was this spirit, fellow-citizens, that upheld the heroes of our revolution—that sustained them amidst the weight of their sufferings. She washed their wounds with healing balm; soothed the doubts that hung around them; watched over their scattered repose—smiled upon them amidst the broken visions of night, and guided them through the devious contests of the day. When poverty and want darkened around them, she chased away the fiend Despair; and pointed forward, with an exalted hope, to that bright hour, when they should sit beneath their own vines and their own fig-trees, “with none to make them afraid.”

Even the fair daughters of Columbia, catching the hallowed fire, bowed before her shrine as to the temple of Vesta, and became the angelic attendants of celestial Liberty. While still retaining all their natural delicacy, the native tenderness of their hearts—their soft hands were often subjected to the most rugged toils. Their fervent wishes were with their brave defenders in the field of battle, and they even joined their assisting efforts in the field of daily labor. Instancing thus, the sympathy of beauty and bravery—the unison of Liberty and Love.

Yet who, my fellow-citizens, who shall describe the sufferings and the trials amidst which our revolutionary contest progressed? Often may we conceive, what we cannot express. Where the faculties of th.e faltering tongue would fail, the heart may render justice. Inch by inch were our rights contested, till the deciding battle of YorkTown put an end to the struggle, and Confirmed the Declaration of our Independence. Then we arose as a nation. By the united efforts of wisdom and bravery, Columbia was placed upon a rock— her constitution, the rock of Freedom—so firm, that the tempest of Tyranny may rave, and the billows of Time may beat around—yet, while her sons remember the deeds, and cherish the spirit of their fathers, she shall never—never be overwhelmed.

But, the heroes of our revolution—where are they? Look around! Alas! many of them have passed away. They have followed their leader Washington, to realms of glorious immortality! Few—very few, remain behind. Their hoary heads are fast blossoming for the grave! they are ripening for eternity! Soon will it be said of them, as of the patriarchs of old, “they slept with their fathers, and their sons ruled in their stead.”

Let not their sons, then, tarnish their glory! We have enjoyed the blessings of peace and commerce. We have become rich in resources, and strengthened by numbers. We know the price, the value of Liberty. America once more is involved in a contest with the very power from whose chains she has been emancipated. Is this contest right—is it just on our part? Is it not a contest to Maintain those rights, that liberty, which our forefathers Acquired? Far be it from me on this occasion to pursue the inquiry. I will not prolong the subject, which has presented itself in the course of events, nor enter into an examination of its merits—lest some of you should whisper me the old proverb, “Let thine own business engage thy attention—leave the affairs of the state to the governors thereof!” Have we, then, no interest in these important concerns? As freemen, we have the happy privilege of enjoying our private opinions. As patriots, too, we may this day rejoice in those victories and those successes which tend to promote the honor and prosperity of our country. We may also regret whatever we conceive has a contrary effect. It were wise, indeed, for every American, at this crisis—a crisis which involves the dearest interests of our country—to dispel the spirit of party, which, under different names, and in different shapes, blinds the eyes of its followers. It were wise to make the reason of our hearts the standard of our principles. Thinking and acting thus, from honorable motives, conscience would direct to pursue our country’s good; and we should then remain worthy of the blood-bought privileges we enjoy.

in-the-age-of-tyrannyShall we forget the deeds of Decatur, of Hull, of Jones, and of Bainbridge? Shall we forget the death of Lawrence, of Ludlow, and of Pike? Surely, the cause in which such men fought—the cause in which such men fell—is worthy to inspire a spirit in the bosom of every freeman!

Injustice to the living brave, shall the voice of praise resound— In remembrance of those heroes fallen—shall a manly tear moisten the eye, and the heart beat with emulous, with ecstatic gratitude.

There is not in human nature a character more exalted than that of the Patriot—the man who, disregarding his own immediate individual interest, labors for that of his country. When foes—when dangers surround—he does not so much inquire, “Are they self provoked, or unmerited?” as, “how shall we meet them? how shall they be repelled?” Is he high in society—his merits shall sweeten, adorn, and dignify his station. Is he poor and humble—the attributes of his character shall raise him far above the proudest eminence of ambitious fortune. Through life, he is honored and respected, and the blessings of a whole community attend him to the grave.

Whatever may have produced the present war, is not a speedy and an honorable peace desired by every patriotic American? And should every American unite, in sentiments and efforts, to attain that grand object, would it not soon be ensured?

“From chains to save his country—to repel
Her ruthless foes, and save a threatened state—
A glorious spirit stimulates the brave,
Whose lofty purpose is the pledge of triumph!”

Would we learn to estimate the favors with which, under Divine Providence, our country has been blessed? Turn our eyes to Europe—the happiest spot of devoted Europe! There hell-born Despotism reigns in iron sway! Ambition, with giant tread, stalks o’er the fields, spreading desolation around, and drenching the earth in blood. Liberty has fled—she has no spot for a foot-stool. Religion, civilization and science, are about to follow. Her subjects are degraded to the condition of beasts—her rulers, exalted to the sublime preeminence of Destroying Demons! To what may we ascribe this state of things? To corrupt systems of government—where one or a few individuals bear sway, seeking personal power and aggrandizement, disregardful of the general welfare! O, Europe! Humanity weeps for thee! she weeps for thy crimes, thy follies and thy sufferings; but turns with disgust from the scenes of thy degradation! She directs her eyes (with mingled pleasure and anxiety) to Columbia! Here, her hopes are centered—Here shall they flourish, sacred to Freedom, to science, and to virtue.

Who, grown prophetic from a knowledge of past ages, by the examples of Greece and of Rome, shall predict a subversion of American liberties? What similitude do they discover in the origin, the local condition, or the governments of ancient republics and our own, which warrants such a prediction? We are not sprung from “a lace of outlaws, begotten of ravished Sabines”—We cannot look back to the time when our fathers were a horde of uncivilized barbarians! We have arisen amidst the light of civilization. Ours, from the beginning, has been the liberty of reason, unalloyed by licentiousness. We have no privileged orders—no constitutional division line between the rich and the poor—no plebeians—no patricians. Though great was the glory of Greece and of Rome, which lives through the remembrance of their heroes and sages—yet were not their civil institutions far from being perfect? Were they established upon just principles of equity? Indeed, the then rude, ignorant, and contentious state of general society, rendered the formation of such governments impossible. Though a dazzling fame is left behind— their existence—their splendor, has passed away like a rush-light. America has not built upon their systems—and so long as she maintains her original purity of government, can have no fear of their fate. Yet a cautious watchfulness is at all times necessary. From the experience of ages past, we may learn the mutability of all human institutions. Guarding, then, our union, our rights and liberties, with a jealous eye, from outward or internal innovations—neither growing giddy upon the eminence of success, nor despairingly blind amidst threatening dangers—American glory shall never fade, but brighten through the most distant period of revolving time.

When we contemplate—my indulgent friends ! when we contemplate the rise and progress of the Art of Printing, we find, that it has every where assisted Religion, Civilization, and Science, and been promotive—nay, essential to the existence, of civil Liberty.

What was the condition of man, in the first stages of society? Blest with rational faculties—with the powers of language—he could, indeed, communicate his thoughts and sentiments orally to his fellow. But they could not be perpetuated—they would not extend beyond the time and place in which they were uttered. With distant friends he had no communication, and remained ignorant of most transactions, except in his immediate presence. Wandering alone, and in the fields —when he beheld the scenes of nature which surrounded him—his mind was filled with the sublimest contemplations. But they came, and passed away—they glided over his memory, like the transitory rays of a falling star. As the first essay of his invention, he resorted to imitative figures, carved upon tables of stone or wood, representing in shape the object of his ideas. Here commenced the era of symbolic writing, practiced to this day among many eastern nations. Behold the first sages, the astronomers of Egypt, roaming the banks of the Nile and the Niger, gazing in silent wonder at the heavenly system—and tracing, in rude figures, their signs and their circles upon the sands of the shore, etching them upon the rocks of the desert, or upon the rough and unpolished skins of animals.

But soon, amidst progressive genius, arose a nobler art—the invention of letters. We will not stop to inquire, to whom belongs the honor of this invention—whether to Thaut the Egyptian, or Thaut the Phoenician—or whether it was of Divine origin.

The art of writing was indeed slow in progressing—irregular in its system.

Even at its greatest perfection among the ancients, how dull was the advancement of Science. The little splendor which it emitted, was owing to the general darkness by which it was surrounded.

Time would not allow us to trace the progress of Science, in all its different vicissitudes, through the intricacies of obscure ages—even if the speaker were competent to the task. Often have we beheld it bursting forth with brightness, like a meteor of night; and like a nightly meteor, sinking in darkness, leaving behind no traces of its splendor. When Liberty and Science flourished together in Greece and in Rome, a general ignorance nevertheless prevailed. Her sages and philosophers were considered as more than mortal; and even their absurdities were recorded as oracles. But their names and their works have descended, even to enlighten modern ages—many, indeed, which would sink into obscurity, had they not the airy merits of antiquity to buoy them up. The difficulty of obtaining education.in those periods, put it entirely beyond the reach of the common people. Pew—very few, could claim the privilege of becoming learned, and learning was shackled by ostentation and bigotry. Books were seldom seen except in the libraries of the wealthy. If an author committed his productions to writing, it was for the use of himself or his friends. A single transcript would have cost more than the printing of a whole edition, perhaps, at the present day. It was the custom for great men to deliver their effusions orally, often extempore, in public. To this we may, in some degree, ascribe the perfection of oratory among the Greeks and Romans. In the time of Henry the 2nd, of England, the manner of publishing the works of authors, was to have them read over for three days successively, by order of the universities, or judges appointed by the public; and if they met with approbation, copies of them were then permitted to be taken.

Instead of printers, scribes were in those periods employed. All could not then recur to a newspaper, and obtain a correct history of every passing event. They could not apply to a bookstore, and receive the most celebrated and valuable work for a mere trifle. What would be thought now, were a Concordance to cost five hundred dollars? or were two hundred dollars to be given for a common octavo volume? Yet such, we are told, was the rate at which books were sold previous to the discovery of Printing. They were also transferred from one to another, by bond or deed, as we now convey real or landed estate.

Amidst this state of things, how was it possible that science should extensively flourish? What was Greece, in its brightest moments, and Rome, in its Augustan splendor, but dark lanterns, beaming brightly within, yet spreading no radiance around them? Far distant ages were to reap the benefit of their researches; and when they themselves were sunk in darkness, to walk in the reflection of their glory! With means of diffusion so confined, how could infant science withstand the clouds of superstition and ignorance, when ambition and tyranny united against her? When Liberty—amidst those revolutions which history has recorded—again took her flight, Science accompanied her from the earth. And for many centuries we behold her, in different regions, like an electric flash, emit, at intervals, a lurid ray—and like an electric flash, as suddenly disappear!

But the Art of Printing arose as a sun, which should dispel the clouds of Ignorance and Superstition, and shine with a steady luster, enlightening ages, till it should set with the world, in the night of eternity!

We are told that printing, by characters carved on blocks of wood, had been for ages practiced among the Chinese. This invention has never, perhaps, been traced to its origin; and should be called stamping, rather than printing. Had their knowledge of the art tended to enlighten the Chinese ? What advantages have they reaped from it ? Even at the present day, they experience no salutary effects from that divine art, which has tended (where left free to the course of its nature) to enlighten other parts of the world. And how is it possible that they should, when we consider, that they are superstitiously bigoted against every innovation upon ancient custom, and that the alphabet is composed of eighty thousand different characters!

It was the genius of FAUST, which in the fifteenth century unfolded the Art of Printing as at present practiced. Justly was it ranked as the greatest of human inventions. By the ignorant of that age, its source was considered supernatural. When Faust printed his first edition of the Bible, and exposed it for sale in the streets of Paris, he was imprisoned as a necromancer. They were offered as written transcripts. The cheapness at which he sold them, and the fairness —the regularity of the characters—determined at once that he dealt with the devil. And he would have suffered the punishment, inflicted by the pious priestcraft in such cases, had he not divulged the art, which he before had endeavored to conceal.

From that period it began gradually to spread—through different parts of the continent—to England—diffusing beams of light, and chasing before it the clouds of bigotry and ignorance. Genius and Wisdom welcomed its appearance, and hailed it as the star of Jacob— the Art Divine. Religion, Literature, and Science, soon owned its resuscitating power. Truth arose, with renovated vigor—wielding the Press—a powerful engine. At its approach, Superstition trembled, in her dark palace of cruelty and crimes! She could not withstand its force—and Error shrank from the rays of its searching radiance. Here commenced a new era. Learning would no longer be monopolized by a few bigoted, superstitious, designing monks. The effusions of former ages—the discoveries and improvements in the Arts and the Sciences—the moral and metaphysical works of ancient philosophers, were brought forth from the grave of obscurity. Their musty parchments and mouldering inscriptions—dim from the rust of ages, and dark in their signification—were explained in simple terms; stamped in fair and legible characters, and diffused to enlighten a world of inquirers.

But what elucidations are now necessary to convince mankind of the transcendent usefulness of this art? Compare the past with the present. I cannot attempt to pass upon it a merited eulogium; nor will the occasion allow minutely to trace its progress and effects.

What was England, previous to the introduction of printing into that kingdom? Comparatively speaking, a horde of barbarians. It waa there cultivated, hotvever, with greater assiduity than in the country from which it emanated—which is produced as one instance, among many, that genius is seldom rewarded—seldom flourishes, in its native soil. By the wise and the powerful was it patronised; and men of genius, education and wealth, were proud to become its professors. The Press was introduced into universities—established by literary associations, and every where held in the highest veneration. Soon did they perceive the benefit of its encouragement. The means of obtaining knowledge being rendered easy, and brought within the reach of all, the majority became gradually more enlightened. The shackles which bound the mind, and the veil which blinded the eyes of mankind, were rent asunder. They were led to behold the errors which surrounded science—the arts, the bigotry and superstitions which veiled Religion, which perverted that pure fountain into a deadly pool, more pestiferous than the Lake of Sodom; changed the mild breath of peace into the wasting winds which sweep the plains of Java! It was then that designing priestcraft exclaimed, “We must root out printing, or printing will root out us.” But printing was too firmly established. We must, then, said they, “set up learning against learning.” This they did, perhaps with more, but with limited success—for their opponents were armed with Truth and Reason.

Thus too, amidst enlightened inquiry, the original rights of man are unfolded. He learns his own strength—his attributes—the power of his faculties. He perceives the injustice, and despises the oppression of despotism. He catches the spirit of Liberty, and longs for personal —for rational freedom.

jm-tyrannyAlthough the old world has beheld the dawnings of many revolutions, tyranny still maintains its ascendency. By tyranny, the light has been withheld—it has not been suffered to become general. The generous few have yielded, with the ignorant many, to the chains and darkness of designing despots. Their efforts, though they must still await the happy period of a general emancipation—may nevertheless boast of glorious ameliorations. Instance England—Not only as regards literary and scientific acquirements—also, her reformation of government. Not but that her constitutional government is imperfectHot but that it is often grossly perverted in its administration. Yet consider its purity, as compared with former eras. In promoting these, the Art of Printing stands conspicuous. Her historians acknowledge it, and the world bears witness.

But is it not the interest of tyrants to destroy the press? Has it not ever been their policy? France affords a conspicuous example.. There printing has been practised in much perfection. For a while, as relates to science, she had experienced its happy effects. From the same source, Liberty was about to crown her with a glorious blessing. Yet now, we behold a gloomy reverse. The despot who rules her destinies—did he not know that where the Press was left free to enlighten the mind, personal thraldom would not long be submitted to? Yes! And for his decree alone—setting aside his other characteristics, which the speaker would neither depreciate nor overvalue—for his decree alone which destroys the liberty of the Press, he deserves the execration of every virtuous man.

Tyranny, we must ever abhor. It is still tyranny—whether reigning in adverse darkness, or amidst delusive and guilty splendor. And shall we not feel for Fiance, as for the rest of enslaved Europe? How long shall it be thus? Is there not still a spark of that Divine fire, which shall never be extinguished? Soon may it burst forth, and spread its light through every darkened nation! Thus will we hope, as we ardently desire. We would wish them—not a change of oppressors; but a thorough emancipation from every kind of oppression.

Turn once more to America. To the Art of Printing it is, that she in a measure owes her present exalted condition. Perhaps, too, it was the effects of this art, which taught Columbus, that the broadbeaming sun, which seemed to quench its splendor in the western ocean, descended but to light another land.

Our honest forefathers—ever revered be their memories! did they not for a time inherit a portion of ignorance? Did they not sometimes burn a witch, and sometimes suspend a quaker? And shall we not ascribe this to ignorance rather than to wickedness? With few opportunities to discover—with confined means to disseminate it, they still indicated a disposition to encourage truth. Welcome were the first rays of reviving knowledge which shone upon them from the antient world. Now and then a wandering spark from the fire of Science, in the character of eminent exiles, descended among them. These kindled up a flame, which, at no distant period, was to illumine a mighty realm, eminent for genius and learning.

Printing, on its early introduction into this country, met with every encouragement which could have been expected. The Press was considered as an oracle, more – famous than that of ancient Delphi. But far different were its attributes and effects from those of that oracle. It was the province of the Press—not to’ mislead ignorance and confirm folly—but to subserve the cause of truth, to remove error and superstition, to enlighten the mind by every species of knowledge which should exalt it from tlie dust—from the darkness in which it was buried.

Jefferson-Freedom-of-PressIn the records of our Revolution, the Press stands pre-eminent for promoting the cause of Independence. Prom this fountain flowed the pure effusions—the doctrines of freedom, of our heroes and sages. These inspired the American people with a sense of their original rights and privileges as men. These opened the pores of the soul to the infusion of that ardent spirit of Liberty, which was to urge them to the contest, and animate them through the glorious struggle, till it should end in success.

It is not, then, at the power of arms alone that tyranny has to tremble. No! It is the enlightened mind, which knows and feels the dignity of human nature—which scorns to bow beneath the yoke of oppression. Knowing that liberty—rational liberty, is the bequest of God—and that “in his wrath,” as a curse only, did he first place a king upon earth—the man thus enlightened, thus dignified with a sense of feeling and understanding, would sooner yield to death, than submit to the galling chains of slavery.

Science is the sister of Liberty; and Printing, though of later birth, is the guardian of both : They are co-existent and coessential: They are inseparable companions, and can prosper but together. Liberty must preside o’er the Press, and the Press be the watch-tower of Liberty. By Science must the Press be illuminated, and the Press shall disseminate the rays of Science.

Where is the country—where the people, blest with this glorious combination? Let them cherish it, as the core of their heart—for it shall preserve them through every revolution of destroying time. It shall preserve them unmoved, amidst falling kingdoms and dissolving empires; and exalt them to the proudest eminence of happiness and glory! Where, then, shall we turn our eyes? To Europe?— They thence revolt, with indignant disappointment; nor will again recross the ocean. But here—here in our own Columbia, we behold that favorite of heaven. Here, the Press has flourished free, advancing Liberty and Science. And here may it ever—ever remain unshackled!

In America, we enjoy the Freedom Op The Press in its greatest purity. Who would contract its limits, or rob it of a privilege? But, does it not at times border upon licentiousness? Shall it be left free, then, to pervert truth, and subserve the cause of falsehood—to disseminate false doctrines in religion and politics? What! would we, that the sun were extinguished from the firmament, because the serpent basks as freely in its beams as the swallow?—because it Warms alike to vegetation the noxious weed as the nutritious plant? Would we, that the dews of heaven should cease to fall, because they moisten alike the Bohon Upas, as the fragrant bosom of the rose? No! with the antidote before us, why should we fear the poison? A free privilege of inquiry, and unbiassed judgment where the mind is thus enlightened, Truth will ever, in the end, prevail. The constituted laws of our country define and punish libellous and treasonable publications: With all other discussions, they have no right to interfere. And the first blow which is aimed at the Freedom of the American Press, would be the step by which a tyrant would attempt an ascent to power. But it would prove a stumbling block, which would for ever prostrate him in the dust.

Look round upon our country. We behold learning every where encouraged. Not only the wealthy, but the poor partake of its blessings. Although young in existence, America transcends in general knowledge, if not in classical literature and useful science, every other nation upon the face of the earth. If America can boast of few literary productions—if her writers, her poets, her philosophers, her artists, have not arisen to superior eminence, it has not been from a poverty of genius. It may be ascribed to other causes. Having a wide field open before them, they do not confine themselves, (as did antient researches) to a particular branch of the arts or sciences. Probably, too, in a nation so young, where an equality prevails, and a general improvement is the prominent object, emulation does not so much exist. Shining talents are more seldom brought forward, and perhaps too little encouraged. But, who shall say that America is without native genius? We will produce Rittenhouse, and the whole celestial system shall bear witness. We will mention West, and Nature herself shall appear in his behalf. We will point out FRANKLIN, and the lightning of heaven shall descend to convince them! A Paine, a Barlow, and a Rush, have lately sought the tomb, whose worth—whose works shall stand recorded to ages. We have, also, many living instances of native genius. We will not name them. They speak for themselves, and to the honor of their country.

The encouragement given to common schools, and to periodical publications, does honor to the American people. It tends to hasten them, by a dignified advancement, to a glorious pre-eminence—a preeminence to which they may justly aspire. In every village—in every country town—and often amidst the dark wilderness, where culture has scarce lopped the branches of the pine to admit the light of heaven—we behold temples arising, dedicated to Knowledge. In more populous places, and in cities, are charitable institutions, for instructing the poor and the orphan. Seminaries, also, for the higher branches of education, the eminence of which would not disgrace the proudest countries of the old world, where the arts and the sciences have flourished for ages.

Throughout almost every part of the United States, where population will insure patronage, newspapers are established, whose columns “blend amusement with instruction”—which convey occasional literary morceaus, with political and miscellaneous information.

We have also numerous periodical publications, devoted exclusively to literature, science, and the arts. Many of these possess a spirit and purity, which does honor to the abilities of their conductors and to the genius and literary character of the nation. But, do these meet with merited encouragement ? We might venture to affirm, that they are no where too extensively patronized—not too well rewarded.

These, my friends, are the blessings of Freedom—purified by science, diffused through the Divine medium of the Press.

It will not be supposed that America can yet boast extensive practical or mechanical improvement in the Art of Printing. She is, indeed, making rapid advancements. American materials will be found, perhaps, inferior to none in elegance, if not in durability. The typefounderies of New York and Philadelphia have produced specimens, both plain and fancy letter, which will long remain unrivalled. Amidst the disk of inexperience which has shrouded our firmament, we have beheld bright Stars appearing. Like day-stars, they forebode increasing light, a meridian splendor to American typographic-mechanical geniMS. Many works have lately issued from the American Press, unsurpassed in neatness and correctness of execution. And the sons of Faust, of Franklin and of Freedom, may look forward with pride to a no distant period, when that Press shall be as distinguished for the mechanical elegance, as for the truth and chasteness of its emanations. For Science and the Arts have declared, that “where Liberty dwells, there is our Country.”

Respected Brethren!

Thus has the speaker essayed to discharge the duty assigned him. To sum up the substance or intent of his discourse, you have but to repeat this motto: “Printing, the source of Knowledge.” We may then add, “The Press, the cradle of Science, the nurse of Genius, and the shield of Liberty.” Considering, then, ourselves as a profession, we have one prominent duty to perform: That is, to emulate, .as far as we are able, the examples of our great prototype, our American father, Franklin. Next to love and to serve our country, his first maxim was, “Honor thy profession.” Unlike many who presume to advise, he ever practised the duties he inculcated. Often has he exemplified the words of the good Plutarch, who was once a street scavenger in his native village: “It is not the station which dignifies the man; but the man which dignifies a station.”

As a Society, therefore, let our pride be, to preserve our existence. Let us endeavor by all honorable means to extend our influence, and to promote the objects for which we are united. Associations, when originating in laudable motives, are ever commendable. Such an origin this Society may boast. We would not estimate its merits by the miser’s standard, the weight of its treasury-box: In this balance, it would not be “found wanting.” Perhaps it may not be altogether perfect in its nature. It might more extensively embrace literary and other improvements, and promote various interests of our profession. It may be capable of much improvement. To whom shall it look, then, but to those who are already its members, and to those whose duty it is to unite their efforts? Brethren of the art—you whose names are not found upon the records of this Society—by what incitement shall I address you? Having no private motives, my words shall be few, yet spoken in sincerity. The-warm hand of fellowship is tendered. Do„you want arguments to convince your reason—invitations and appeals to prompt your decision? Have we not all one common interest? And by our united zeal, cannot that interest be successfully promoted, extended and ennobled?

An aged sire, who was fast approaching to dissolution, called his seven sons around him. He gave them a bundle of rods, which he desired them to break, They took them—tried in succession—but as one could effect it. “Give them to me,” said the father. Separating the rods, he took them singly, and soon acomplished the object. “Thus, (said the venerable sage) while you remain united in the bonds of brotherly love, you may defy the frowns of fortune, and the power of your enemies. But by division, by contending passions and adverse interests, you invite misfortune, are exposed to the malice of the world, and incur destruction.”

This is an antient allegory. Apply it as we will—either to our own little professional community, or to the more high and important relations of the republic.

Here will I leave each portion of the subject. May our own dictates—the emotions of our bosoms, inspire to worthy conduct, and ensure happiness and prosperity.

My Friends!

The speaker will now render his acknowledgments for your indulgence. To this occasion he has not done justice. He feels—he knows it. But, he has not addressed you from motives of personal fame—not for popular applause—but to subserve an immediate duty of the day. Youth—inexperience—want of health, genius, or abilities—or whatever has tended to retard that fire and that eloquence which should distinguish an orator—he oners no excuse in extenuation. He were even satisfied with meriting your charity. It is the irst time he has spoken in public—It will be the last time, perhaps, he shall have the honor of addressing any of this assembly. But often, he hopes, we may meet to perpetuate this anniversary, under prospects more auspicious to all individually, and to our country. And when we shall pass away—when posterity shall walk, if not weep, over our graves—may the liberties we inherit be transmitted bright and unimpaired to our descendants, till the sun shall cease to shine, and the world itself shall dissolve.

Soon, brethren, are we to assemble in the hall of festivity. There, while the wine sparkles in the glass, and the song and the toast resound—may good humor preside o’er the scene, and brighten every countenance. May we remember, that it is not for ourselves alone that we rejoice. May the sentiments of our hearts unite, and the affections of our bosoms expand rejoicing, with harmony, as becomes friends—with reason, as becomes men—with freedom, as becomes Americans!

See also: Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God
Political Evils and the Remedy for them by Noah Webster 1834
LIBERTY OF THE PRESS by Senator Edward D. Baker 1811-1861
The Doctrine of Fascism, Fascism Defined by Benito Mussolini
The Failure of Marxism and Socialism

THE LIBERTY OF THE PRESS by Charles F. Partington 1836

Amendment 1; United States Constitution – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

printing-press-tyrants-foe

When contemplating the liberties, freedoms and protections afforded United States Citizens by the Constitution and Bill of Rights: Remember the Free Exercise of Religion was the first to be protected by the Framers. The Religion Clause in the First Amendment was meant to keep government out of religion, not to keep religion out of the public square or government.

Remember also when one right, liberty, or freedom is under attack, they are all under attack, when one is in jeopardy, they are all in jeopardy! The Second Amendment is meant to guarantee the First Amendment!

THE LIBERTY OF THE PRESS by Charles F. Partington 1836

Censorship
This great bulwark of national as well as individual freedom is now better understood, and its rights admitted, than at any previous period in the history of the world. Properly speaking, it means the right that every man possesses to print whatever he chooses, though without at all taking from the laws the power of punishing him for the abuse of that liberty.

To make the liberty of the press real, two things are essential; 1, that the laws against its licentiousness should be precise and clear; 2, that they should only punish what is really injurious to the public welfare.

The laws against treason under Tiberius, against heresy under the inquisition, against irreverence under Catharine II., against conspiracy under the convention, against infringements of the royal dignity, and contempt of government in various states, are very indefinite, and allow the greatest tyranny.

The laws for punishing abuses of the press are generally directed against attacks upon the government or its officers, upon the reputation of individuals, and upon good morals and religion. The latitude allowed to the press of course will vary with circumstances. A discussion will be permitted in England which would be punished in Austria. Discussions of certain religious topics are considered in one age blasphemous, while another age esteems them innocent. As to charges affecting the character of governments and individuals, we may observe that the freer a government is, the less sensitive it is, and the less sensitive are the people who live under it. No governments arc so indifferent to being publicly spoken of as the British and American, whilst the Prussian code contains many laws against verbal offenses. As the liberty of speech is unquestioned, and printing only gives permanence and circulation to what might be freely spoken (newspapers, for instance, take the place of speeches and conversations in the forums of the petty states of antiquity), the right of printing rests on the same abstract grounds as the right of speech; and it might seem strange to a man unacquainted with history, that printing should be subjected to a previous censorship, as it is in most states, any more than speaking, and that the liberty of the press should be expressly provided for in the constitutions of most free states. But when we look to history, we find the origin of this, as of many other legislative anomalies, in periods when politics, religion, and individual rights were confusedly intermingled. It is only since men’s views of the just limits of government have become clearer, that the liberty of the press has been recognized as a right j and to this country is the world mainly indebted for the establishment of this principle, as of so many other bulwarks of freedom, though the Netherlands preceded us in the actual enjoyment of the liberty of the. press.

When we consider the practical effect of a censorship, it is no more defensible on that ground than on the ground of abstract right. In what times and countries have morals and religion, and the reputation of individuals, been more outrageously attacked through the press, than in those in which the censorship was established? We are far from considering the liberty of the press as without evil consequences ; but the censorship does not prevent these consequences, while it destroys the numberless benefits of an unshackled press. But the liberty of the press, properly considered, is not to be treated as a mere question of political expediency. Liberty of conscience and liberty of thought are rights superior in importance to any objects which fall under the head of expediency.

Representative governments are empty forms without the liberty of the press. The free discussion of all political measures, and of the character of public officers, is of much more consequence than the freedom of debate in legislative assemblies. A parliament would be a comparatively small chock upon a government, were it not for the liberty of the press. In fact, it might easily be made an instrument for enforcing oppressive measures; since a government would find little difficulty in gaining over a majority of such a body by the motives of ambition and avarice, were it not for the control exercised over legislative bodies by a free press. Without this, publicity of discussion in legislative assemblies would be of little avail. In fact, representative governments, without the liberty of the press, are a mockery. This liberty is, indeed, the great safeguard of all others; and a whole dynasty was lately prostrated in a struggle with this formidable power. Polignac’s Report, which caused the revolution in France of 1830, will ever be memorable in the history of the liberty of the press, as proving the difficulty or impossibility of a minister’s ruling in opposition to public opinion in a country where the press is free. In this country, the liberty of the press, soon after printing was introduced, was regulated by the king’s proclamation?, prohibitions, charters of licence, &c, and, finally, by the court of star-chamber. The long parliament, after their rupture with Charles I., assumed the same power. The government of Charles II. imitated their ordinances, and the press did not really become free till the expiration of the statutes restricting it in 1694, after which it was found impossible to pass new laws in restraint of it, and it has remained free ever since. A licence is required both in France and this country. Here it is easily obtained; but a late law in France, since the revolution of July, 1830 has required very high security.

See also: LIBERTY OF THE PRESS by Senator Edward D. Baker 1811-1861

ELEMENTS OF OUR AMERICAN PROSPERITY by Professor Steven H. Carpenter 1876

Professor Stephen H Carpenter

Professor Stephen H Carpenter

ELEMENTS OF OUR [American] PROSPERITY An Oration By Steven H. Carpenter, LLD., Professor In The University Of Wisconsin. Delivered At Madison, Wisconsin, July 4th, 1876.

Fellow-citizens—We are met to day to celebrate the demonstration of a great truth; the truth that Liberty is not the baseless dream of visionary enthusiasts; that a government by the People may be stable and lasting. Tried by the vicissitudes of a century, this Republic has withstood every shock, and has passed from a dimly-seen hope to a magnificent reality. It has gathered under its protection men of every language, and proved that Freedom is the Right of man by uniting them into one People, by the firm bond of loyalty to the same great truth.

Youth has no Past. Its active energy sees only the Present. Age has a past, to which it fondly looks, when its waning strength seeks solace in recalling the prowess of its early years, and boasts of deeds no longer possible to its lessened vigor. We have no musty records to search, no far-reaching history to recall. Our heroic age has hardly passed. Our golden youth has not yet stiffened into the harshness of an iron present. The memory of those still living holds the fresh records of our progress. Men whose natural force has not yet abated have seen our weakness grow to power, have seen the wilderness transformed into a blooming garden, and stately cities rise as by the enchanter’s wand from the untamed soil. But shall not youth glory in his strength? Shall a just pride not lay hold of present achievement as well as past glory? Behind us are gathered the materials for our heroic history. Age is hastening after us, and to-day we turn the first century of our national existence.

There is a power in Antiquity—in the feeling that behind us is a long line of noble ancestors, a solid inheritance in the glories of the Past. It curbs the wayward strength of youth, and adds dignity to the compacted vigor of manhood. This advantage is rapidly coming to us. We have a common inheritance in the heroism of the Revolution.

On an occasion like this when we stand at the summit of a century of unbroken success, our minds alternately follow the lead of Memory casting her proud glance backward over the brilliant past, and Hope casting her confident gaze into a future full of greater promise. “We look backward over the slow receding years of the century just closed, and we see a little band of heroes, jealous of their God given rights, seeing not the weakness of their numbers, but only the strength of their cause, with a sublime confidence in the ultimate victory of right, resolutely facing the foremost power of the world. Looking out into the deepening darkness that shrouded the coming years of almost hopeless struggle, they boldly, almost defiantly proclaimed not merely their own right to liberty, but the right of man to self-government. They struck a blow for humanity.

That contest was not the mere shock of contending armies; it was the fiercer shock of contending ideas. It was not the maneuvering of legions on the field of battle; it was the marshaling of principles in a struggle that should determine whether the world should go forward, and offer a new field for the enlarging powers of man, or whether it should stagnate on the dead level of old ideas, stupidly satisfied with the good it had gained.

At last, after eight years of struggle, of alternate victory and defeat, Freedom was secured, but their allotted work was not yet done. A nation was to be formed out of the discordant elements which the pressure of necessity had forced into a temporary union. Statesmanship was to complete the work of generalship, and unite into a compact whole the fragments thus far held together by a loose cohesion. Our revolutionary fathers proved equal to the task, and by this victory over passion, by succeeding where all other men had failed, they placed the world under everlasting obligation. Other patriots had fought as bravely, had endured as heroically; but no other patriots so conquered self, so vanquished prejudice, so laid the foundations of a nation in mutual concession for the general good.

God is a prompt paymaster. The reward was not long deferred. The period of unexampled prosperity followed. All the world claimed the privilege of sharing the benefit of our sacrifices. They swarmed in upon us from every nation of Europe, attracted by a fertile soil, a healthy climate, and the more alluring promise of a free government. At the close of the Revolution the entire population of the United States numbered but three millions. They were mostly confined to the narrow strip between the Allegheny Mountains and the sea. Here and there adventurous bands had crossed, over into the fertile plains beyond, only to find their advance stubbornly contested by the Indians who refused to leave, without a struggle, the hunting-grounds of their fathers. The valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi were still an unbroken wilderness, except where French traders or Missionaries had established their posts to seek the goods or the good of the red man, or where sturdy pioneers had made their precarious settlements. The great Lakes were almost unexplored, and the districts adjoining were still more unknown. Marquette, Allouez and La Salle, had pushed their daring discoveries into this remote region, but theirs was the genius of discovery, not of settlement. The French could discover and subdue, but they could not organize.

It is but eighty years since this vast region, stretching from the Allegheny Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, was opened to settlement. Men now living have seen the western line of civilization creep timidly from the boundaries of New York and Pennsylvania, push steadily westward through the forests of Ohio, cross the fertile prairies of Indiana and Illinois, sweep with hardly a perceptible check beyond the Mississippi, strike boldly across the vast plains of the West, climb the heights of the mountains, descend the further slope of the Sierras, to meet a resistless barrier only on the distant shores of the Pacific Ocean. Men now living have seen this waste wilderness converted into a blooming garden, covered with fruitful harvests, and dotted with the peaceful homes of more than ten millions of people. The Indian has retreated before his fate; barbarism has yielded to civilization. The niggardly gifts of Nature have been replaced by the wealth that plenty pours with a full hand into the lap of industry. Labor here reigns king, unvexed by any rival. The air hums with the busy whirr of machinery. The engine flashes by, weaving, like a gigantic shuttle, the bonds that bind distant States in one community of interest.

Let us not stand mute in stupid admiration of our present greatness, but let us in the spirit of true philosophy seek to discover the basis upon which our prosperity rests, and the laws and controlling forces by which our success has been wrought out. A true civilization rests upon a moral basis. The civilization of the old world had made physical well-being its highest ideal, but it did not prove capable of indefinite expansion: it could not rise; it could not advance. Here civilization laid hold of moral forces, and pressed forward with a power well-nigh resistless. Physical good soon reaches its limit. Even that art that aims only at material beauty soon attains its highest ideal, and falls back upon itself to minister to passion and to hasten the ruin of the glittering culture which it has created, that conception of the true nature of man that considers him as a moral force, and not a mere intelligent machine, that looks at nature from its spiritual side, that fixes the ideal of civilization not on the low level of mere physical improvement, but on the higher plane of intellectual and moral culture, that aims at perfect manhood, and rates birth or wealth below character, affords the only ground for a safe and steady advance. This great truth was emphasized on every battle-field of our late war. The idea of freedom won. That conception of human society that graded men according to physical accidents yielded to the superior power of that idea which, ignoring all physical differences, upon the broad basis of human equality, organized society according to the theory of equal rights and equal and exact justice to all.

Three steps led to our present unexampled prosperity.

Declaration of Independence

The first was the Declaration of Independence which first distinctly enunciated to the world the doctrine of Equal Rights. It was a decided step in advance to ignore all accidental differences, and to unify all mankind on the single principle of absolute equality. The Declaration was a defiant challenge of the old theory of government; it called in question principles quietly acquiesced in for centuries. To assert the rights of the people was a great step, but it was a step that might lead downwards to anarchy, and through anarchy to despotism, as in France, as well as upward to Liberty and free government. The other half of the truth must be told in the equally definite assertion of the absolute and inherent need of government—thus accurately adjusting the political relations of the citizen. Man demands government no less imperatively than liberty; he demands government, because only through it can he secure liberty.

The presence of a common enemy, and the manifest need of union held the States together until the close of the revolutionary war. When the compulsion of this necessity was no longer felt, the need of a closer bond—one originating from within, and knit from well-defined principles, securing a union by the recognition of ends yet to be gained in common, beyond the mere acquisition of liberty—soon became evident. Liberty is only a condition of good government rendering it possible; it is not a cause compelling it. The yoke of foreign domination had been thrown off; the yoke of self-government must yet be put on. The need for something more than had yet been gained was shown by a loss of public respect for the general government, disordered finance, depreciated currency, with all the evils incident, mutual jealousies, conflict of jurisdiction between the States themselves; between States and the general government, threats of armed collision; the most alarming systems of anarchy threatened the public weal, until all that had been gained by eight years of war seemed on the point of being lost for want of a far-sighted statesmanship to resolutely grapple with and solve the problem now presented. There was but one way out of these difficulties—to go forward, to assert as clearly the right of the nation to protection against anarchy as the Declaration had asserted the right of man to protection against tyranny; to build upon the foundation that had been so heroically laid in times of war and trial; to sow the vacant field with ideas that promised a fruitful harvest, and no longer leave it to grow up to thorns that promised only increasing irritation. Happily for us, the men of that day were not wanting in the great crisis. Upon the firm basis of Equal Rights as laid down in the Declaration of Independence, they built the solid superstructure of Constitutional government. From scattered, discordant fragments, they compacted a new nation.

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather QuillThe second step towards the prosperity of this people was taken in the adoption of the Constitution in 1787. This was not simply an alliance between States. That had already been secured by the Articles of Confederation, the utter inadequacy of which could no longer be concealed. This was a union of the people—the birth of a nation—an assertion of the right of man to government, as the Declaration of Independence was an assertion of his right to liberty.

The greatest victories of those days that “tried men’s souls” were not won on the field of battle, where man meets man in the rude shock of brute force, but in the senate chamber, where mind meets mind in the conflict of principles, where inveterate prejudice gives way to the calm pressure of reason, where narrow selfishness yields to the demands of enlarged patriotism. The adoption of the Constitution was such a triumph. To have been the first to take this step in advance is glory enough for any nation. Speaking of the Constitution, Lord Brougham says: “The regulation of such a union upon pre-established principles, the formation of a system of government and legislation in which the different subjects shall not be individuals, but States, the application of legislative principles to such a body of States, and the devising means for keeping its integrity as a [Con]Federacy, while the rights and powers of the individual States are maintained entire, is the very greatest refinement in social policy to which any state of circumstances has ever given rise, or to which any age has ever given birth.” Says De Tocqueville: This theory was wholly novel, and may be considered as a great discovery in modern political science. It was not only because she had championed the Rights of Man that America placed the world under lasting obligation; it was also because she established Freedom upon rational principles, had harmonized Liberty and Law, and thus made a durable democracy possible, that the world looks to her example to learn the way to lasting liberty.

Ordinance_of_1787The last, and no less important step, was taken when the Ordinance of 1787 was adopted for the government of the North-west territory.. The adoption of this Ordinance antedates the adoption of the Constitution, but its influence in national affairs was subsequent to the immediate influence of that instrument. This document shows an enlarged and advanced view of the powers and duties of government. It enunciates several principles which were also incorporated into the Constitution of the United States. It laid down the broad and then quite novel principle of absolute religious toleration; it asserted the inviolability of contracts, thus placing the authority of integrity above that of legislatures; it first clearly uttered the sentiment now so familiar that “Religion, Morality and Knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged;” it insisted upon keeping good faith with all men, and demanded justice even for the Indians, who had for ten years been waging a cruel and bloody war against the settlers in this very territory; it at once and forever prohibited slavery, and thus led the way to its final eradication from this country.

We need trace our history no further. Here we find the grand secret of this unexampled prosperity and the conditions of our future success. In this triple recognition of the rights of man, the just limits of government, and the paramount claims of Religion, Morality and Education, we find an ample explanation. Upon the foundation of Equal Rights, as laid in the Declaration of Independence, a Constitutional government was erected upon the immovable pillars of Religion, Morality and Knowledge, based not on arbitrary enactment and secured by force, but resting still more firmly in the conscientious regard of the people. We have no religion defined by the State and enforced by law; we have what is better, Religion voluntarily practiced by the people. We do not have an education thrust upon the people by compulsion; we have what is better, a people who do not need the coarse stimulus of this coercion. In the recognition of these moral forces as determining the condition of mankind, we may find the reason why we have succeeded in securing at the same time liberty for the people and stability for the government. Until taught by our example, the world believed that liberty was but another name for license and lawless anarchy; that stability was the prerogative of despotism. But the tottering thrones and fleeing kings of the Old World have proved that the arm of Force is not strong enough to hold a kingdom stable, and that the government is most firmly seated that rests upon conceded rights, and guards the rights of the people with a sleepless jealousy.

The nations of the world are met in the City of Peace to offer us their heartfelt congratulations, bringing the accumulated treasures of art and industry to grace this glad occasion. Fit place for such a gathering, fit occasion for such a celebration! It is the Festival of Peace, as well as the birthday of Freedom. Industry bends its tireless energies to lighten the pressure of wearisome labor. Art, hand in hand with Toil, brings her treasures to grace our holiday. Even grim-visaged War puts on the garb of Peace, and with an awkward smile displays his death-dealing enginery in bloodless repose. The sword-girt, mail-clad warrior is no longer the world’s hero. The conqueror is no longer the ideal man. The hero of to-day is the Inventor who elevates mind by freeing muscle, who bends his blest endeavors to lift the yoke of labor from the bowed necks of the toiling millions.

The nations are all here, and this friendly gathering utters anew the greeting of Heaven, “Peace on Earth, goodwill to Men.” We do not celebrate this day alone. Others share in our joy. Every nation on the globe above the lowest level of barbarism gives us a hearty God-speed, for there is not a people that does not feel the beneficent impulse which our example has given the world. Liberty has a new meaning since man has proved that a king is not a necessary evil; that the majesty of right is above the majesty of man; that the sway of justice is more enduring than the rule of force. This grand truth, first proclaimed by the heroes of the elder days, first demonstrated by our convincing example, has been wrought into the convictions of men by the steady pressure of our advancing prosperity. Well may the world join us in celebrating this peaceful triumph, for all men have part in our glory and share our gain. Our Declaration of Independence gave a voice to the half-formed thoughts of humanity, and brought to man a-knowledge of his inalienable rights. Our Constitution has made true liberty possible not only for this nation, but for all mankind.

RevWarVetMarkerThe Dead too are here:—not dead, but living in the deeds which they wrought and in the affectionate remembrance of their fellowmen. Their immortal spirits see the fruits of their labors, and today they rejoice with us. From Concord, Lexington, Bunker Hill; from the stubborn contest with cold and hunger at Valley Forge; from Cowpens, King’s Mountain; from Saratoga and Yorktown; from every nameless battle-field of the Revolution; from the fresher graves of our last and sternest war, their jubilant spirits throng in upon us to-day, and join in the gladness of the grand chorus of praise that swells up before the throne of the God of Nations. The sea, too, gives up its dead. From every ocean grave, from the quiet depths of Erie and Champlain, those who sunk to their peaceful rest amidst the noise and tumult of battle rise to join us in the celebration of this day which their valor and devotion bequeathed to us. They are all here: I need not speak their names. Time would fail me to mention the surrounding cloud of exulting witnesses. The Golden Gates stand wide open to-day, and well may Heaven join Earth in celebrating a day like this. We do not exult over the blood-stained triumphs of War; we rejoice in the victories of Peace. We boast not of conquest; we glory in Freedom. We count not the struggle; we see the gain.

Then let us celebrate this day with glad rejoicing, for it is a day fit to be remembered through all time. Through a frail infancy, through a wayward youth, Freedom has passed forward to the full strength and the maturer powers of a vigorous manhood. The nation has attained its majority. Let all the World join in our rejoicing. Let all Nature, from the heights of Summer, crowned with her most gorgeous beauty, with every inarticulate symbol, voice the universal joy, as she joins man in his jubilant chorus of praise to the Giver of all good.

See also: 
The Consequence of Bad Legal Precedent in American Legislation
THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876
AMERICAN FREE INSTITUTIONS; THE JOY AND GLORY OF MANKIND by Dr. J. Sellman 1876
BENEFITS OF THE REPUBLICAN EXPERIMENT IN AMERICA by Thomas G. Alvord 1810- 1897
THE HAND OF GOD IN AMERICAN HISTORY by Rev Morgan Dix July 4th 1876 NYC
THE MEANING OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE by Col Robert G Ingersoll
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
WHAT HISTORY TEACHES US ABOUT AMERICAN DIPLOMACY Addressed in 1876
AMERICA OUR SUCCESS OUR FUTURE! by John P. Gulliver July 4th 1876 NYC
RISE OF CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY by Dr. Richard Salter Storrs July 4 1876
The Betrayal Of ‘We The American People’ Our Nation! Our Birthright!
Public Servants Who Fasten Themselves on the Public Treasury Like Leeches
OUR REPUBLIC! By Jeremiah Taylor at Providence, R. I., July 4th 1876
THE PERPETUITY OF THE REPUBLIC by Joseph Kidder July 4th 1876
OUR NOBLE HERITAGE by Hon. George W. Curtis (1824 –1892)
THE GENIUS OF AMERICA by Hon. Dr. Felix R. Brunot July 4, 1876
THE COST OF POPULAR LIBERTY by Brooks Adams July 4th 1876
DANIEL WEBSTER AND OUR AMERICAN FLAG

AMERICA AND JUDAISM by Rabbi N. I. Benson, Mississippi, 1876

www.isjl.org

http://www.isjl.org

AMERICA AND JUDAISM An Address By Rabbi N. I. Benson, D. D. Delivered At The Jewish Temple, Jackson, Mississippi, July 4, 1876.

When the hoary hand of time passed the hour of midnight in the preceding day, America had passed a century, and entered upon a new one; and in consequence the same enthusiastic millions of people inhabiting its free soil and enjoying the liberty and energy’s reward sent forth to the King of all kings, Ruler of all nations, a thanksgiving which was appropriate for past dispensations, and an earnest solicitation for future grace. The enthusiasm manifested to-day by America’s children is one of no idle clamor or noisy shouting—it is the voice of the people, acknowledging the gifts of their divine Ruler. If anything in the wide world should call forth a national, and in fact, a universal enthusiasm, it is the celebration of this anniversary, in which a grateful people can behold the realization of what were but hopes, one hundred years ago. The grievances stated by a suffering people in the Declaration of Independence, one of which alone were sufficient to impede the progress and cultivation of any class of people, when the freedom of speech was not tolerated, when the chains of despotism were around their necks, when the yoke of oppression by the tyrannical laws of an unscrupulous tyrant, as the then King of Great Britain was, where the germs of greatness could not be developed, —then I say it was a time to revolt-and throw off the yoke of oppression, and to endeavor to show to that tyrannical monarch, that man has no master, save one, their Creator. And they rallied! they harmonized! and with one unanimous voice the representatives of 40,000,000 people proclaimed themselves free and independent. With one unanimous struggle they threw off the yoke of despotism, and laid before the world their pent-up grievances which gave cause to their revolt. And they succeeded! and what, my friends, think you was the cause of their success? – Perhaps you may think it was physical strength which produced these wonders! Oh no! for we are well aware that the English army outnumbered the Americans vastly in equipments, in regularity, in military tactics and maneuvers. What then was the secret spring of success? Ah, my friends, it was right against might! Yes, my friends, America had a most noble ally right in its ranks; that ally was right arrayed against might; and thank God, in this instance, right won the day. Behold, was it not Providential during the war, where a handful of ragged men drives out from its soil a well-regulated army! Yes, my friends, it was the hand of God. and America is much likened to my beloved creed Judaism. For behold, were we not slaves in Egypt under a tyrannical Pharaoh, and by the goodness of the Almighty God, He sent unto us Moses, who carried out the word of God according to revelation. Even so was America in bondage to Britain’s despotic monarch, and God hearing the voice of the oppressed, sent unto you George Washington, America’s Moses, who, inspired by God, led the ragged and suffering men entrusted to him by Congress, to the field of glory and triumph; and as the children of Israel went out of the land of Egypt unto perpetual liberty, and finally entered into the promised land in glory and triumph, even so did Washington by his patriotism finally and eventually conquer his opponents, and America became the beacon of perpetual liberty, the wonder of the world, a land which we may indeed call the land of milk and honey.

In no country is labor so highly respected, and so well remunerated as in the United States; and in none therefore are the laboring class so happy, and we may add enlightened. No restrictions are laid on industry; political privileges are extended to all. and the humblest citizen may raise himself to the proudest position in the Republic.

Our mechanics have brought a high degree of ingenuity as well as skill to their work; and through their means America has become justly famous for her inventions and improvements. Among a host of things that might be mentioned, it is undeniable that the best locks, life-boats, printing presses and agricultural implements, come from America.

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The labor of building up the resources of a new country has as yet left the people of the United States little time and opportunity for cultivating literature and the arts. Yet we point with pride to our meta-physician Edwards; our lexicographer, Noah Webster; our mathematicians, Bodwitch and Rittenhouse; our naturalists, the Audubon’s; our novelists, Irving and Cooper; our poets, Bryant and Longfellow; our sculptors, Powers and Greenough; our painters, Copely, Stuart, Trumbull, Vanderlyn, Allston, Peale and Sully. If there is one thing on which, more than all others, America may pride herself, and found high hopes of stability for her glorious institutions, it is her system of common schools ; she offers the advantage of education to the young without money and without price, convinced that their enlightenment is her best safeguard. Now, having thus enumerated the results of a hundred years’ growth, let us see what could be the cause of this prosperity. In reviewing back the history of other nations, we cannot behold the same results. Instead of progress and amelioration, decay and strife hath proved its career. The secret upon which these noble results are based, is framed in a very few words in the Constitution, wherein is quoted the following words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” Ah, noble words! upon these rests the progress of the nation. To how many countries has the non-observance of these words proved a downfall and ruin? How many millions of people have been put to death in the universe on account of the non-adoption of this noble principle; but America, prosperous and fortunate country, thou hast taken unto thee a precept which will eventually develop itself; and the world will look upon thee with admiration and respect. Never will there be in this soil a governor as Appeles, in the days of the Maccabees, who endeavored to enforce conformity in the religious observances and to abolish the laws of Moses; nor will there nestle in thy bosom tyrants like Syro Grecians, [Syrian-Greek mix] who having discovered the fact that the Jews would not use any arms on the Sabbath, even in self-defense, and taking advantage of this scrupulous observance of the holy day of the Lord, attacked a cave near Jerusalem wherein secreted themselves a thousand pious worshippers of God, and slaughtered them without mercy ; nor will there ever be on this soil a madman like Antiochus, who, because they would not renounce their ancestral faith caused, a mother and her seven sons to be put to a death the most ignominious by tortures the most revolting.

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The spirit of liberty—liberty of conscience, liberty of thought and speech, the inalienable right of man, has made rapid progress upon the free soil of this vast and blessed Republic, which has been inhabited by human beings hailing hither from all parts of the globe; and Israelites too have sought and found shelter and protection under the banner of the stars and stripes, and settled themselves also in the State of Mississippi. Pursuing the annals of this State we discover traces of Jewish steps in your midst as far back as at least a half a century ago. Most of the early Jewish inhabitants of this State have already long since departed from this world of sorrow and woe for the unknown regions of eternity. But some of them by their constant adherence to the laws of equity and justice, of loyalty and benevolence, left behind them imprints more lasting than monuments of cold marble, and which will never be erased from the memory of Jew or Gentile.

Judaism teaches the equality of person and universal salvation. And it is but just to acknowledge that you, my Christian friends, have tacitly expressed your acknowledgment that the Jew is as good as any other man, that we all have but one Father; one God created us all; and by that acknowledgment, which to us speaks louder than words, you have expressed your belief that in the kingdom of Heaven, there is no distinction made between the Jew and Gentile.

1Then indeed, may I uplift my hands to Providence and thank Him, upon this anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, that He, in his benign grace, caused the day to dawn at last, when Jew and Gentile shall walk hand in hand in life, to see at last, that they are indispensable to each other, and I trust that the Creator of the Universe shall strengthen and cement these filial bonds of brotherhood, that when our children shall celebrate one hundred years hence, that this bond of brotherhood shall have become so strong and mutual, that no false doctrines, nor sectarian dogmas, shall be able to sever not even the smallest link.

See also: The Wisdom and Love of God as Shown by His Creation by Noah Webster
Constitution of the United States and it’s Governmental Operations (In Plain English)
Christianity and the Founding of the United States the Simple Truth
Advice to Young People from Noah Webster Father of American Education
THE DUTY AND VALUE OF PATRIOTISM by John Ireland 1894
PATRIOT SONS OF PATRIOT SIRES by Rev. Samuel Francis Smith 1808-1895

THE MEANING OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE by Col Robert G Ingersoll

IngersollTHE MEANING OF THE DECLARATION An Oration By Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, Delivered At The Centennial Celebration At Peoria, Illinois, July 4, 1876.

Fellow-citizens.—You have just heard read the grandest, the bravest, and the profoundest political document that was ever signed by man. It is the embodiment of physical and moral courage and of political wisdom. I say of physical courage, because it was a declaration of war against the most powerful nation then on the globe; a declaration of war by thirteen weak, unorganized colonies; a declaration of war by a few people, without military stores, without wealth, without strength, against the most powerful kingdom on the earth; a declaration of war made when the British navy, at that day the mistress of every sea, was hovering along the coast of America, looking after defenseless towns and villages to ravage and destroy. It was made when thousands of English soldiers were upon our soil, and when the principal cities of America were in the possession of the enemy. And so, I say, all things considered, it was the bravest political document ever signed by man. And if it was physically brave, the moral courage of the document is almost infinitely beyond the physical. They had the courage not only, but they had the almost infinite wisdom to declare that all men are created equal. Such things had occasionally been said by some political enthusiasts in the olden time, but for the first time in the history of the world, the representatives of a nation, the representatives of a real living, breathing, hoping people, declared that all men are created equal. With one blow, with one stroke of the pen, they struck down all the cruel, heartless barriers that aristocracy, that priestcraft, that kingcraft had raised between man and man. They struck down with one immortal blow, that infamous spirit of caste that makes a god almost a beast, and a beast almost a god. With one word, with one blow, they wiped away and utterly destroyed all that had been done by centuries of war—centuries of hypocrisy—centuries of injustice.

“What more did they do? They then declared that each man has a right to live. And what does that mean? It means that he has the right to make his living. It means that he has the right to breathe the air, to work the land, that he stands the equal of every other human being beneath the shining stars; entitled to the product of his labor—the labor of his hand and of his brain.

What more? That every man has the right; to pursue his own happiness in his own way. Grander words than these have never been spoken by man.

And what more did these men say? They laid down the doctrine, that governments were instituted among men for the purpose of preserving the rights of the people. The old idea was that people existed solely for the benefit of the state—that is to say, for kings and nobles.

And what more? That the people are the source of political power. That was not only a revelation, but it was a revolution. It changed the ideas of the people with regard to the source of political power. For the first time it made human beings men. What was the old idea? The old idea was that no political power came from, nor in any manner belonged to, the people. The old idea was that the political power came from the clouds; that the political power came in some miraculous way from heaven; that it came down to kings, and queens, and robbers. That was the old idea. The nobles lived upon the labor of the people; the people had no rights; the nobles stole what they had and divided with the kings, and the kings pretended to divide what they stole with God Almighty. The source, then, of political power was from above. The people were responsible to the nobles, the nobles to the kings, and the people had no political rights whatever, no more than the wild beasts of the forest. The kings were responsible to God: not to the people. The kings were responsible to the clouds; not to the toiling millions they robbed and plundered.

And our forefathers, in this declaration of independence, reversed this thing, and said, No; the people, they are the source of political power, and their rulers, these presidents, these kings, are but the agents and servants of the great, sublime people. For the first time, really, in the history of the world, the king was made to get off the throne and the people were royally seated thereon. The people became the sovereigns, and the old sovereigns became the servants and the agents of the people. It is hard for you and me now to imagine even the immense results of that change. It is hard for you and for me at this day to understand how thoroughly it had been ingrained in the brain of almost every man, that the king had some wonderful right over him; that in some strange way the king owned him; that in some miraculous manner he belonged, body and soul, to somebody who rode on a horse, with epaulettes on his shoulders and a tinsel crown upon his brainless head.

Ingersoll1Our forefathers had been educated in that idea, and when they first landed on American shores they believed it. They thought they belonged to somebody, and that they must be loyal to some thief, who could trace his pedigree back to antiquity’s most successful robber.

It took a long time for them to get that idea out of their heads and hearts. They were three thousand miles away from the despotisms of the old world, and every wave of the sea was an assistant to them. The distance helped to disenchant their minds of that infamous belief, and every mile between them and the pomp and glory of monarchy helped to put republican ideas and thoughts into their minds. Besides that, when they came to this country, when the savage was in the forest and three thousand miles of waves on the other side, menaced by barbarians on the one side and by famine on the other, they learned that a man who had courage, a man who had thought, was as good as any other man in the world, and they built up, as it were, in spite of themselves, little republics. And the man that had the most nerve and heart was the best man, whether he had any noble blood in his veins or not.

It has been a favorite idea with me that our forefathers were educated by Nature; that they grew grand as the continent upon which they landed; that the great rivers—the wide plains—the splendid lakes—the lonely forests—the sublime mountains—that all these things stole into and became a part of their being, and they grew great as the country in which they lived. They began to hate the narrow, contracted views of Europe. They were educated by their surroundings, and every little colony had to be, to a certain extent, a republic. The kings of the old world endeavored to parcel out this land to their favorites. But there were too many Indians. There was too much courage required for them to take and keep it, and so men had to come here who were dissatisfied with the old country, who were dissatisfied with England, with France, with Germany, with Ireland and Holland. The kings’ favorites stayed at home. Men came here for liberty, and on account of certain principles they entertained and held dearer than life. And they were willing to work, willing to fell the forests, to fight the savages, willing to go through all the hardships, perils and dangers of a new country, of a new land, and the consequence was that our country was settled by brave and adventurous spirits; by men who had opinions of their own and were willing to live in the wild forest for the sake of expressing those opinions, even if they expressed them only to trees, rocks, and savage men. The best blood of the old world came to the new.

When they first came over they did not have a great deal of political philosophy, not the best ideas of liberty. “We might as well tell the truth. When the Puritans first came, they were narrow. They did not understand what liberty meant—what religious liberty, what political liberty, was; but they found out in a few years. There was one feeling among them that rises to their eternal honor like a white shaft to the clouds—they were in favor of universal education. Wherever they went they built school houses, introduced books, and ideas of literature. They believed that every man should know how to read and how to write, and should find out all that his capacity allowed him to comprehend. That is the glory of the Puritan fathers.

They forgot in a little while what they had suffered, and they forgot to apply the principal of universal liberty—of toleration. Some of the colonies did not forget it, and I want to give credit where credit should be given. The Catholics of Maryland were the first people on the new continent to declare universal religious toleration. Let this be remembered to their eternal

honor. Let this be remembered to the disgrace of the Protestant government of England, that it caused this grand law to be repealed. And to the honor and credit of the Catholics of Maryland let it be remembered that the moment they got back into power they re-enacted the old law. The Baptists of Rhode Island also, led by Roger Williams, were in favor of universal religious liberty. And these were the only colonies that were in favor of religious freedom. Yet it may truthfully be said that they did not understand the idea of religious liberty as we understand it, to-day.

But the people finally met in congress in the old city of Philadelphia. They had become tired of being colonists—of writing and reading and signing petitions, and presenting them on their bended knees, to an idiot king. They began to have an aspiration to form a new nation, to be citizens of a new republic instead of subjects of an old monarchy. They had the idea—the Puritans, the Catholics, the Episcopalians, the Baptists, the Quakers, and a few Free Thinkers, all had the idea—that they would like to form a new nation.

Now, do not understand that all of our fathers were in favor of independence. Do not understand that they were all like Jefferson; that they were all like Adams or Lee; that they were all like Thomas Paine or John Hancock. There were thousands and thousands of them who were opposed to American independence. There were thousands and thousands who said, “When you say men are created equal, it is a lie; when you say the political power resides in the great body of the people, it is false.” Thousands and thousands of them said, “We prefer Great Britain.” But the men who were in favor of independence, the men who knew that a new nation must be born, went on in full hope and courage, and nothing could daunt or stop or stay these heroic, fearless men.

They met in Philadelphia; and the resolution was moved by Lee of Virginia, that the colonies ought to be independent states, and ought to dissolve their political connection with Great Britain.

They made up their minds that a new nation must be formed. All nations had been, so to speak, the wards of some church. The religious idea as to the source of power had been at the foundation of all governments, and had been the bane and curse of man.

Happily for us, there was no church strong enough to dictate to the rest. Fortunately for us, the colonists not only, but the colonies differed widely- in their religious views. There were the Puritans who hated the Episcopalians, and Episcopalians who hated the Catholics, and the Catholics who hated both, while the Quakers held them all in contempt. There they were, of every sort, and color, and kind, and how was it that they came together? They had a common aspiration. They wanted to form a new nation. More than that, most of them cordially hated Great Britain; and they pledged each other to forget these religious prejudices, for a time at least, and agreed that there should be only one religion until they got through, and that was the religion of patriotism. They solemnly agreed that the new nation should not belong to any particular church, but that it should secure the rights of all.

Our fathers founded the first secular government that was ever founded in this world. Recollect that. The first secular government; the first government that said every church has exactly the same rights, and no more; every religion has the same rights, and no more. In other words, our fathers were the first men who had the sense, had the genius, to know that no church should be allowed to have a sword; that it should be allowed only to exert its moral influence. You might as well have a state united by force with art or with property, or with oratory, as with religion. Religion should have the influence upon mankind that its goodness, that its morality, its justice, its charity, its reason, and its argument give it, and no more. Religion should have the effect upon mankind that it necessarily has, and no more. The religion that has to be supported by law is without value, not only, but a fraud and curse. The argument that has to be supported by a musket, is no argument. A prayer that must have a cannon behind it, had better never be uttered.

So, our fathers said, ” We will form a secular government, and under the flag with which we are going to enrich the air we will allow every man to worship God as he thinks best. They said, “Religion is an individual thing between each man and his Creator, and he can worship as he pleases and as he desires.” And why did they do this? The history of the world warned them that the liberty of man was not safe in the clutch and grasp of any church. They had read of and seen the thumb-screws, the racks and the dungeons of the inquisition. They knew all about the hypocrisy of the olden time. They knew that the church had stood side by side with the throne; that the high priests were hypocrites, and that kings were robbers. They also knew that if they gave to any church power, that power would corrupt the best church in the world. And so they said, power must not reside in a church or in a sect, in a few or in a nobility, but power must be wherever humanity is, in the great body of the people; and the officers and servants of the people must be responsible to them. And so I say again, as I said in the commencement, this is the wisest, the profoundest, the bravest political document that ever was written and signed by man. They turned, as I tell you, everything squarely about. They derived all their authority from the people. They did away forever with the theological idea of government.

And what more did they say? They said that whenever the rulers abused this authority, this power, incapable of destruction, returned to the people. How did they come to say this? I will tell you. They were pushed into it. How? They felt that they were oppressed; and whenever a man feels that he is the subject of injustice, his perception of right and wrong is wonderfully quickened. Nobody was ever in prison wrongfully who did not believe in the writ of habeas corpus. Nobody ever suffered wrongfully without instantly having ideas of justice.

And they began to inquire what rights the king of Great Britain had. They began to search for the charter of his authority. They began to investigate and dig down to the bed rock upon which society must be founded, and when they got down there, forced thereto by their oppressors, forced against their own prejudices and education, they found at the bottom of things, not lords, not nobles, not pulpits, not thrones, but humanity and the rights of men. And so they said we are men; we are men. They found out they were men. And the next thing they said, was, we will be free men; we have got weary of being colonists; we are tired of being subjects; we are men; and these colonies ought to be states; and these states ought to be a nation; and that nation ought to drive the last British soldier into the sea. And so they signed that brave Declaration of Independence.

I thank every one of them from the bottom of my heart for signing that sublime declaration. I thank them for their courage —for their patriotism—for their wisdom—for the splendid confidence in themselves and in the human race. I thank them for what they were, and for what we are—for what they did and, for what we have received—for what they suffered, and for what we enjoy.

What would we have been if we had remained colonists and subjects? What would we have been to-day? Nobodies,—ready to get down on our knees and crawl in the very dust at the sight of somebody that was supposed to have in him some drop of blood that flowed in the veins of that mailed marauder— that royal robber, William the Conqueror.

They signed that Declaration of Independence, although they knew that it would produce a long, terrible, and bloody war. They looked forward and saw poverty, deprivation, gloom, and death. But they also saw on the wrecked clouds of war, the beautiful bow of freedom. These grand men were enthusiasts; and the world has only been raised by enthusiasts. In every country there have been a few enthusiasts who have always given a national aspiration to the people. The enthusiasts of 1776 were the builders and framers of this great and splendid government; and the enthusiasts there saw, although others did not, the golden fringe of the mantle of glory that will finally cover this world. They knew it and they felt it; and they said, notwithstanding the horrors of war, notwithstanding the privations of war, we will give a new constellation to the political heavens ; we will make the Americans a grand people,—grand as the continent upon which they live.

The war commenced. There was no money, no credit. The new nation had no means and but few friends. To a great extent each soldier of freedom had to clothe and feed himself.

What did the soldier leave when he went? He left his wife and and children. Did he leave them in a beautiful home, surrounded by civilization, in the security of a great and powerful republic? No. He left his wife and children on the edge, on the fringe of the boundless forest, in which crouched and crept the red savage, who was at that time the ally of the still more savage Briton. He left his wife to defend herself, and he left the prattling babes to be defended by their mother and by nature. The mother made the living; she planted the corn and the potatoes, and hoed them in the sun, raised the children, and in the darkness of night, told them upon what a sacred expedition their brave father had gone.

The soldiers of 1776 did not march away with music and banners. They went in silence, looked at and gazed after by eyes filled with tears. They went not to meet an equal, but a superior —to fight five times their number—to make a desperate stand—to stop the advance of the enemy, and then, when their ammunition gave out, seek the protection of rocks, of rivers and of hills.

Let me say here: The greatest test of courage on the earth is to bear defeat without losing heart. That army is the bravest, that can be whipped the greatest number of times and fight again.

Over the entire territory, so to speak, then settled by our forefathers, they were driven again and again. Now and then they would meet the English with something like equal numbers, and then the eagle of victory would proudly perch upon the stripes and stars. And so they went on as best they could, hoping and fighting until they came to the dark and somber gloom of Valley Forge. There were very few hearts then beneath that flag that did not begin to think that the struggle was useless; that all the blood and treasure had been spent in vain. But there were some men gifted with that wonderful prophecy that fulfills itself, and with that wonderful magnetic power that makes heroes of everybody they come in contact with.

And so our fathers went through the gloom of that terrible time, and still fought on. Brave men wrote grand words, cheering the despondent, brave men did brave deeds, the rich man gave his wealth, the poor man gave his life, until at last, by the victory at Yorktown, the old banner won its place in the air, and became glorious forever.

Seven long years of war—fighting for what? For the principle that all men are created equal—a truth that nobody ever disputed except a scoundrel; nobody, nobody in the entire history of this

world. No man ever denied that truth who was not a rascal, and at heart a thief, never, never, and never will. What else were they fighting for? Simply that in America every man should have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nobody ever denied that except a villain; never, never. It has been denied by kings—they were thieves. It has been denied by statesmen— they were liars. It has been denied by priests, by clergymen, by cardinals, by bishops and by popes—they were hypocrite’s.

What else were they fighting for? For the idea that all political power is vested in the great body of the people. The great body of the people make all the money; do all the work. They plow the land, cut down the forests; they produce everything that is produced. Then who shall say what shall be done with what is produced except the producer? Ts it the non-producing thief, sitting on a throne, surrounded by vermin?

Those were the things they were fighting for; and that is all they were fighting for. They fought to build up a new, a great nation; to establish an asylum for the oppressed of the world everywhere. They knew the history of this world. They knew the history of human slavery.

The history of civilization is the history of the slow and painful enfranchisement of the human race. In the olden times the family was a monarchy, the father being the monarch. The mother and children were the veriest slaves. The will of the father was the supreme law. He had the power of life and death. It took thousands of years to civilize this father, thousands of years to make the condition of wife and mother and child even tolerable. A few families constituted a tribe; the tribe had a chief; the chief was a tyrant; a few tribes formed a nation; the nation was governed by a king, who was also a tyrant. A strong nation robbed, plundered, and took captive the weaker ones. This was the commencement of human slavery.

It is not possible for the human imagination to conceive of the horrors of slavery. It.has left no possible crime uncommitted, no .possible cruelty unperpetrated. It has been practiced and defended by all nations in some form. It has been upheld by all religions. It has been defended by nearly every pulpit. From the profits derived from the slave trade churches have been built, cathedrals reared and priests paid. Slavery has been blessed by bishop, by cardinal and by pope. It has received the sanction of statesmen, of kings and of queens. It has been defended by the throne, the pulpit and the bench. Monarchs have shared in the profits. Clergymen have taken their part of the spoil, reciting passage of scripture in its defense at the same time, and judges have taken their portion in the name of equity and law.

Only a few years ago our ancestors were slaves. Only a few years ago they passed with and belonged to the soil, like coal under it and rocks on it. Only a few years ago they were treated like beasts of burden, worse far than we treat our animals at the present day. Only a few years ago it was a crime in England for a man to have a Bible in his house, a crime for which men were hanged, and their bodies afterwards burned. Only a few years ago fathers could and did sell their children. Only a few years ago our ancestors were not allowed to speak or write their thoughts that being a crime. Only a few years ago to be honest, at least in the expression of your ideas, was a felony. To do right was a capital offense; and in those days chains and whips were the incentives to labor, and the preventives of thought. Honesty was a vagrant, justice a fugitive, and liberty in chains.

As soon as our ancestors began to get free, they began to enslave others. With an inconsistency that defies explanation, they practiced upon others the same outrages that had been perpetrated upon them. As soon as white slavery began to be abolished, black slavery commenced. In this infamous traffic nearly every nation of Europe embarked. Fortunes were quickly realized; the avarice and cupidity of Europe were excited; all ideas of justice were discarded; pity fled from the human breast; a few good, brave men recited the horrors of the trade; avarice was deaf; religion refused to hear; the trade went on; the governments of Europe upheld it in the name of commerce—in the name of civilization and of religion.

Our fathers knew the history of caste. They knew that in the despotisms of the old world it was a disgrace to be useful. They knew that a mechanic was esteemed as hardly the equal of a hound, and far below a blooded horse. They knew that a nobleman held a son of labor in contempt—that he had no rights the royal loafers were bound to respect. The world has changed.

The other day there came shoemakers, potters, workers in wood and iron from France, and they were received in the city of New York as though they had been princes. They had been sent by the great republic of France to examine into the arts and manufactures of the great republic of America. They looked a thousand times better to me than the Edward Alberts and Albert Edwards—the royal vermin, that live on the body politic. And I would think much more of our government if it would fete and feast them, instead of wining and dining the miserable imbeciles of a rotten royal line.

Our fathers devoted their lives and fortunes to the grand work of founding a government for the protection of the rights of man. The theological idea as to the source of political power had poisoned the web and woof of every government in the world, and our fathers banished it from this continent forever.

What we want to-day is what our fathers wrote down. They did not attain to their ideal; we approach it nearer, but have not reached it yet. We want, not only the independence of a State, not only the independence of a nation, but something far more glorious—the absolute independence of the individual. That is what we want. I want it so that I, one of the children of Nature, can stand on an equality with the rest; that I can say this is my air, my sunshine, my earth, and that I have a right to live, and hope, and aspire, and labor, and enjoy the fruit of that labor, as much as any individual or any nation on the face of the globe.

We want every American to make to-day, on this hundredth anniversary, a declaration of individual independence. Let each man enjoy his liberty to the utmost—enjoy all he can; but be sure it is not at the expense of another. The French convention gave the best definition of liberty I have ever read: “The liberty of one citizen ceases only where the liberty of another citizen commences.”‘ I know of no better definition. I ask you to-«lay to make a declaration of individual independence. And if you are independent, be just. Allow everybody else to make his declaration of individual! independence. Allow your wife, allow your husband, allow your children to make theirs. Let everybody be absolutely free and! independent, knowing only the sacred obligation of honesty and affection. Let us be independent of party, independent- of everybody and everything except our own consciences and our own brains. Do not belong to any clique. Have the clear title deeds in fee simple to yourselves, without any mortgage on the premises to anybody in the world.

Only a few days ago I stood in Independence Hall—in that little room where was signed the immortal paper. A little room, like any other; and it did not seem possible that from that room went forth ideas, like cherubim and seraphim, spreading their wings over a continent, and touching, as with holy fire, the hearts of men.

In a few moments I was in the park, where are gathered the accomplishments of a century. Our fathers never dreamed of the things I saw. There were hundreds of locomotives, with their nerves of steel and breath of flame—every kind of machine, with whirling wheels and curious cogs and cranks, and the myriad thoughts of men that have been wrought in iron, brass, and steel. And going out from one little building were wires in the air, stretching to every civilized nation, and they could send a shining messenger in a moment to any part of the world, and it would go sweeping under the waves of the sea with thoughts and words within its glowing heart. I saw all that had been achieved by this nation, and I wished that the signers of the Declaration—the soldiers of the revolution—could see what a century of freedom has produced. That they could see the fields we cultivate—the rivers we navigate—the railroads running over the Alleghenies, far into what was then the unknown forest—on over the broad prairies— on over the vast plains—away over the mountains of the West, to the Golden Gate of the Pacific.

All this is the result of a hundred years of freedom.

Are you not more than glad that in 1776 was announced the sublime principle that political power resides with the people? That our fathers then made up their minds nevermore to be colonists and subjects, but,that they would be free and independent -citizens of America?

I will not name any of the grand men who fought for liberty. All should be named, or none. I feel that the unknown soldier who was shot down without even his name being remembered—who was included only in a report of “a hundred killed,” or “a hundred missing,” nobody knowing even the number that attached to his august corpse—is entitled to as deep and heartfelt thanks as the titled leader who fell at the head of the host.

Standing here amid the sacred memories of the first, on the golden threshold of the second, I ask: Will the second century be as grand as the first? I believe it will, because we are growing more and more humane. I believe there is more human kindness, more real, sweet human sympathy, a greater desire to help one another, in the United States, than in all the world besides.

We must progress. We are just at the commencement of invention. The steam engine—the telegraph—these are but the toys with which science has been amused. Wait; there will be grander things; there will be wider and higher culture—a grander standard of character, of literature, and art.

We have now half as many millions of people as we have years, and many of us will live until a hundred million stand beneath the flag. We are getting more real solid sense. The school-house is the finest building in the village. We are writing and reading more books, we are painting and buying more pictures; we are struggling more and more to get at the philosophy of life, of things —trying more and more to answer the questions of the eternal sphinx; we are looking in every direction—investigating ; in short, we are thinking and working. Besides all this, 1 believe the people are nearer honest than ever before. A few years ago we were willing to live upon the labor of four million slaves. Was that honest? At last, we have a national conscience. At last, we have carried out the Declaration of Independence. Our fathers wrote it—we have accomplished it. The black man was a slave—we made him a citizen. We found four million human beings in manacles, and now the hands of a race are held up in the free air, to-day, without a chain.

I have had the supreme pleasure- of seeing a man—once a slave —sitting in the seat of his former master in the Congress of the United States. I have had that pleasure, and when I saw it, my eyes were filled with tears. I felt that we had carried out the Declaration of Independence,—that we had given reality to it, and breathed the breath of life into its every word. I felt that our flag would float over and protect the colored man and his little children—standing straight in the sun, just the same as though he were white and worth a million. I would protect him more, because the rich white man can protect himself.

All who stand beneath our flag are free. Ours is the only flag that has in reality written upon it: Liberty, Fraternity, Equality —the three grandest words in all the languages of men.

Liberty: Give to every man the fruit of his own labor—the labor of his hands and of his brain.

Fraternity: Every man in the right is my brother.

Equality: The rights of all are equ«il: Justice, poised and balanced in eternal calm, will shake from the golden scales, in which are weighed the acts of men, the very dust of prejudice and caste: No race, no color, no previous condition, can change the rights of men.

The Declaration of Independence has been carried out in letter and in spirit.

The second century will be grander than the first.

Fifty millions of people are celebrating this day. To-day, the black man looks upon his child and says: The avenues to distinction are open to you—upon your brow may fall the civic wreath—this day belongs to you.

We are celebrating the courage and wisdom of our fathers, and the glad shout of a free people, the anthem of a grand nation, commencing at the Atlantic, is following the sun to the Pacific, across a continent of happy homes.

We are a great people. Three millions have increased to fifty —thirteen States to thirty-eight. We have better homes, better clothes, better food and more of it, and mjre of the conveniences of life, than any other people upon the globe.

The farmers of Peoria county live better than did the kings and princes two hundred years ago—and they have twice as much sense and heart. Liberty and labor have given us all. I want every person here to believe in the dignity of labor—to know that the respectable man is the useful man—the man who produces or helps others to produce something of value, whether thought of the brain or work of the hand.

I want you to go,away with an eternal hatred in your breast of injustice, of aristocracy, of caste, of the idea that one man has more rights than another because he has better clothes, more land, more money, because he owns a railroad, or is famous and in high position. Remember that all men have equal rights. Remember that the man who acts best his part—who loves his friends tho best— is most willing to help others—truest to the discharge of obligation —who has the best heart—the most feeling—the deepest sympathies—and who freely gives to others the rights that he claims for himself, is the best man. I am willing to swear to this.

What has made this country? I say again, liberty and labor. What would we be without labor? I want every farmer, when plowing the rustling corn of June—while mowing in the perfumed fields—to feel that he is adding to the wealth and glory of the United States. I want every mechanic—every man of toil, to know and feel that he is keeping the cars running, the telegraph wires in the air; that he is making the statues and painting the pictures; that he is writing and printing the books; that he is helping to fill the world with honor, with happiness, with love and law.

Remember that our country is founded upon the dignity of labor and the equality of man. Remember this, and the second century will be grander than the first.

The Betrayal Of ‘We The American People’ Our Nation! Our Birthright!

tyranny_-_montesquieuDEMOCRACY IN DANGER! An Address By Rev. R. A. Holland. Delivered In Christ Church, St. Louis, Missouri. July 4th, 1876

A note from me: It is truly interesting how history continues to repeat itself, “to the victor belong the spoils” indeed. This concept has no place in America, American politics, nor American society. Too many times we have seen the president being given the crooks he wants to aid in his plundering, pilfering, binding and blinding of WE the American People! Too many times congress votes to confirm a presidential nominee, simply because that is the way it is normally done, and the president gets what he wants. It is time for our Senators in the Senate Chamber and Representatives in the House look at what aids in the liberty, prosperity and happiness of We The American People, than at what the president, the special interest groups, the celebrities, and the lobbyist want. It is time for them to finally listen to what We The American People, the heirs of the American Republic, the Sovereigns of the Nation are telling them.

There are two kinds of patriotism—one of instinct, the other of reason. Patriotism of instinct is attachment to a spot of ground, familiar scenes, inherited customs, a geographical name. It is the love of the fox for his hole, the fowl for her nest. In war a sort of magic, mobilizing men into instant armies reckless of death, in peace it encourages abuses and invites usurpations by defending every evil that may be done in the sacred name of country. “My country, right or wrong,” is its confession of faith, and for fetish it worships a flag.

Not in this spirit have we assembled to-day to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of our republic, but rather in the spirit of that more rational patriotism which loving truth, right, humanity first, loves country only in so far as these supreme ideas are or may be organized and administered in its policy. For governments are not an end to themselves, but means for achieving an end which is higher, broader, more enduring. They exist for man, not man for them. The method by which he attempts to realize social aims, they change in form as one form after another fails of its task. Even if the form should be perfect in its adaptation to a particular stage of national growth.

jm-tyrannyA Particular Stage Of National Growth:

The continuance of such a growth would by and by require a change to suit its enlarging needs. And whatever may be the fate of individual nations, whether or not their law is to mature and decay, the growth of the race is constant and imparts its gains of experience to all institutions that are vital enough to assimilate them. Accordingly, experiments in government have not been without an order of succession and a certain utility of failure. Failure warns against exact repetition. Men are not likely to go back to feudalism or despotism, the reign of one or of a few, for the models of future society. When only the few had knowledge and wealth, it was well that the few should govern; but knowledge has now become common, and wealth diffuse. There are no longer in our civilization lord and vassal separated by an impassable gulf. The gulf has been closed by a middle class nobler in intelligence and richer in estate than baronage. The rabble, as it was once called, has by co-operation, risen likewise in consciousness of power and stands before wealth and rank, with bare arms that on provocation might toss them both out of its way. One would have to bind one’s eyes with fold on fold of prejudice not to see that the tendency of these changes is towards democracy; that, indeed, by peoples who have graduated from a state of pupilage and know their manhood, no other kind of government will be tolerated long unless in evident transition towards democracy.

Within the present century we have seen Great Britain admit multitudes to a partnership in her crown, Spain elect a monarch who rules by popular consent, Italy unite under a scepter wrought of suffrage and stronger than the keys of St. Peter, Russia emancipate her serfs, and France stunned by the horror of the first revolution and reeling between throne and tribune as if unable to collect her senses, finally ascend the latter with firm step and proclaim the republic of peace.

jefferson_liberty_vs_tyrannyThe Republic Of Peace:

And still the tendency of governments sets in the same direction, and gains impetuosity as it goes. Men have not to be harangued any more about liberty, equality, fraternity. These ere-while abstractions are household words defined by the heart. Liberty—the right of every man to be himself so far as his self-hood does not trench upon the same right in others; equality—the level on which all men stand before the law, none born to rank or rule, each exercising the authority he obeys, sovereign that he may be subject, and subject that he may be sovereign; and fraternity, which is identity of interest, abolition of caste, every man being as jealous of the rights of every other as of his own, and the strongest and wisest willing to bear vexation or hardship that the weak and ignorant may qualify themselves for self-government by the use of rights which, even when least understood, foster self-respect, independence and a lively concern in affairs of state, and thus serve for a moral education.

The question is not whether democracy be the cheapest form of government, or the shrewdest, or the most facile, or the stoutest against inner or outer foes—in all which qualities superiority may be conceded to despotism; but whether in spite of extravagance, blunders, caprice, it is not the best for man as man, worth its excess of cost in money and toil and sense of danger.

Did monarchy impose small taxes, stimulate trade, render speedy and sure the process of law and lighten every load of government, the government would still weigh heavy on a shoulder that felt itself the bearer of a compulsory benefit. There is nothing in the power of government to bestow so precious as man’s right to rule himself—a right which democracy simply admits and leaves free to take whatever form it will. Better manhood with liberty, though liberty run risk of license; better manhood with equality, though equality sway to transient rule of ignorance and vice; better manhood with fraternity, though fraternity may run for awhile into the clannish hate and envy of the commune; better universal suffrage with all its drawbacks and dangers than any limitation of it that bars the birthright of the soul.

in-the-age-of-tyrannyThe Birthright Of the Soul:

Sooner or later, by the very discipline which their errors, with right of the the consequent sufferings, enforce, men will learn the art of self-government; and the secret of that are when learned, will be little else than the wiser head and warmer heart and more helpful hand of a developed manhood.

Nor is it mere moony vision or spread-eagle rapture to anticipate a democracy as vast as civilization. Be it for good or evil, the peoples will not rest until they have tried the experiment and tried it more than once. The might is theirs and they will exert it; theirs is the right and it will justify the utmost exertion to throw off the yoke of titled accidents; and if progress be the law of humanity, as it is of all things else, might and right must grow with time into graces of unity, peace and concord. Otherwise humanity is a predestined failure, and the ethics of its hope a lie.

For what else is democracy in the purest notion of it but the religion of politics. It means faith in man and in his destiny; it means that there is more of good than of evil in his nature, and that in the conflict between them the good shall triumph at last; it means the supremacy of conscience over force, and of reason over prejudice and passion; it means that men shall love their neighbors as themselves, and so adopts the golden rule for a civil constitution and charters the brotherhood of the race.

This, I say, is the ideal state of society. Perhaps not to be attained for ages, it will yet be steadily approached by the advance of civilization. The possibility of its attainment is bound up with no particular form of administration. Different forms may be wanted for different people, all forms will change with changing epochs ; but throughout differences and changes the spirit of democracy shall live and wax strong, healing whatever suspicions, discords, strifes afflict the body that grows meanwhile towards the fulness of the stature of a perfect man.

But why these truisms about democracy? For truisms they appear to the American mind. Is it necessary after a hundred years of democratic government to argue its utility and prophesy its permanence? Yes, and therein is the saddest reflection of our Centennial holiday. Time was when the American people believed in their institutions as an article of religion. To doubt their beneficence was heresy, as to fear for their perpetuity was treason. Such faith may have been child-like, but it was the substance of things hoped for. Its simplicity was justified by the rare auspices under which the experiment of free government began. There were no old customs and traditions to cast away. The nation was new-born. No enemies threatened its young life. Oceans made a moat between it and foreign harm. A continent gave it room and its forthgoings of enterprise were but an athlete’s pastime. It had a presentiment of high destiny, of some august mission to the world, and was exalted by that day-dream above everything mean and sordid. Here, it said, in this new world of nature, there shall be a new world of society. The old world is faint under oppression. The heaped up evil of a thousand years lies upon its breast, like Aetna on Enceladus, and the Titan’s unrest only heaves the mountain it cannot remove. Let us begin afresh. Let the oppressed of every land come hither for asylum. There is room enough and to spare. There shall be no distinction of class, no alienage of race, no barrier of religion. As one people equal and free, we will enact our own laws, elect our own officers to administer them in trust and call no man master. The old world looking hither shall see our glory and wonder as at a sunrise in the west.

tyranny-slavesA Sunrise In The West:

It was the invitation of youth, but there were many young hearts that heeded it. They flocked hither on the winds. Cities were extemporized to shelter them, states multiplied by a kind of segmentation, habitations sprang up in the desert, and the wilderness and the solitary places were glad with surprise. Rough, perhaps, the people were, unsophisticated and grotesquely proud of their prerogative, but they had virtues which more than offset these defects. They were as devoted to the principles of their government as the Parsee to his sacred fire. These principles they talked over by fireside and church door, on the road, behind the plough, in the smithy and across the counter. With heads bowed over the published reports of Congress, they listened to every word of its debates attentively enough to learn them almost by heart. By their very rights they were apprenticed to statesmanship, and the statesmanship they studied was that of Hamilton, of Jefferson, of Adams, of Madison, of Webster, of Calhoun—prophets whose mantle caught by no worthy successor, has fallen in the dust Those were the poetic days of our politics; bribery, stock-jobbing and embezzlement were unknown in high places; the least suspicion soiled a public name; official honor was as delicate and sensitive as virginity. Then the benefits of democracy were a truism, and only discoursed of in panegyric.

But those days are no more. What contributed most to preserve their purity was the freshness of the ideas which engaged the minds of the people and which the people were striving to embody in their institutions. A great idea transfigures whatever it informs, whether an individual, a state or a church, and turns the coarsest tissue of organism through which it shines into radiance “exceeding white as snow.” And such ideas are involved in the questions that engrossed the first thought of the nation. Was it to be a mere fasces of states, bound about an axe of common defence, or a nation indeed? Was it to be self-blockaded for the protection of a guild, or open in trade to the world that its citizens might have .the benefit of the world’s competition in its markets?

Was it to be restricted or universal in suffrage? The answers to these questions created parties, but they were parties breathed into by earnest thought and by such breath of life made living souls. They had a faith and a purpose, and sought to fix that faith and purpose in the framework of the republic. But the issues that divided them are now settled or ignored; the great ideas that organized them have passed from thought into fact, or oblivion; still the parties remain—remain without a soul. How can they be other than corrupt when they are but the carcasses of themselves. They use the old names for purposes wholly strange to their significance. They contend without hostility of opinion. They present the same statement of principles, each trying, however, in the artifice of it to construct the more tempting trap for votes. Both are in favor of economical government, of low tariff, of correcting abuses, of kindness to widows and orphans of dead soldiers, and of putting everybody in a good humor. Both avoid any declaration of belief that might cause a change of lines and the disruption of their compact and subservient organizations—organizations so compact and subservient as to belong to a set of men called bosses, who make a business of driving and trading their herded souls, which are too dull to hear the crack of the caucus whip or too tame to bolt from under it.

party-bossesA Set Of Men Called Bosses:

Every honest man must feel, even if he does not acknowledge, the dishonesty of such organizations, and whenever felt, and not renounced, that dishonesty is tainting his character. Hence the prevalent compromise between partisanship and virtue—a partition put into the conscience that one side may be kept clean for the ordinary duties of life, while the other is fouled by the use of party. Violation of the ballot is condemned in the abstract as an assault on the republic’s life, but covered up or excused when done for the sake of one’s party. Fraud is an abomination, and ought to be tied hand and foot and thrown into jail, but may be given a softer name and treated more tenderly—possibly allowed to escape and honored for its zeal when acting as the agent of one’s party.

Nevertheless, dishonesty is dishonesty; dishonesty with one’s self glides easily into dishonesty with others—dishonesty of allegiance into dishonesty of broken trusts. It is no worse to steal the people’s money than to steal their votes. If party can connive at one, party may apologize for the other and defend it. Hence theft with arms elbow-deep in the treasury of cities; theft shaking empty the overturned coffers of states; theft of hard-earned savings from freedmen; theft of dole from half-naked and half starved Indians; theft of wages from soldiers on the frontier; theft from the graves of the nation’s heroic dead; theft of revenue, of customs, of appropriations to lay out public grounds, erect public edifices, build ships of war, carry mails, pave iron thoroughfares across the continent; theft promoted in the name of civil-service reform, and given charge of the nation’s exchequer. And why not? Who cares but the opposite party, itself as slow to discover and as quick to condone the sins of its own adherents. No tremendous shock, no vast flaming up of indignation follows the exposure of the wholesale roguery. Certainly not; the roughs are high-toned rogues.

Mark TwainHigh Toned Rogues:

Gentlemen of the first class, eminent respectabilities—judges, are they, and governors and generals, and chairmen of congressional committees and senators, and ambassadors to foreign courts, and advisers of the president’s council, who have stolen handsomely by tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands, and not like a low-bred felon. Let them off, your excellency, for the sake of their wives who have not hoarded the ill-gotten gain selfishly. but turned it into diamonds to decorate the drawing-rooms of the capital. Mollify their sentence, your honor, in consideration of their wealth, which should have kept them above temptation; their age, which, sinned not from impulse, but with veteran deliberation; their influence, which spreads all the further the corruption of a bad example. Has not justice ever demanded that punishment should be severe according to the distress, inexperience and obscurity of the culprit? And you, gentlemen of the jury, acquit, by all means acquit; innocent or guilty, still acquit any whom to convict would be to graze, if not to pierce, the head of the nation.

I trust that those who hear me will not think that in these words I wish to aid one party by branding the other. I am not a partisan. I have never cast a partisan vote. I have uo preference for Democrat or Republican, as such. I have no reason to believe that the party now out of power would withstand the temptations of fifteen years of absolute sway more successfully than the party has done which still controls the emoluments of the administration. Both parties seem to me notionless, without aim beyond the getting or keeping of power by any sort of clap-trap, and therefore, morally dead, their activity being the activity of rot. What boots the promise of reform from men who, to fulfill that promise, must padlock their own hands? The pledges of a national convention, are they worth any more than the pledges of such men? Is not the convention itself a huge trick? Pretending to represent the people, it represents, with few exceptions, a class whom the people ought to detest as mountebanks. The primary meetings which elect the delegates are packed by bummers, who take their cue from local bosses, and the delegates nearly all are office-holders or office-seekers, who in turn are wire-pulled by a clique that prepares their work in advance, and prompts every detail of it. Before the convention assembles, traffic has been going on between aspirants and those who have part in the privilege of nomination; if not traffic in coin, traffic in promises of office, for promises of support, which is bribery as real and as gross. Whew the convention organizes, it organizes for any other object than to> deliberate and choose as becomes the pretending representatives of half a nation ; deliberation is confounded by hired shouts and’ hisses of clans that strive for their respective favorites, and’ choice waits impatient on a signal to desert its real favorite for the ranks of the winning chief. And this body of politicians who hope by electing their candidate for the presidency to elect themselves to a share of his patronage, this body which is spurious from its earliest conception in a ward-meeting to its expiring resolve, would cozen the people again and again with oaths of reform. Reform, indeed! Will it reform itself out of existence? When votes are not sought for the maintenance of a principle, what other motive can explain the zeal, the expense, the labor with which they are solicited? Not the excellence of candidates, since candidates are never chosen for their excellence, but for their availability in pushing the ends of party; not the enthusiasm of the party’s rank and file, which are apathetic until up-roused by the appeals of interested leaders who urge on the canvass. What then but greed for place, power, perquisites?—the fenris wolf whose jaws it is the first duty of reform to gag and split asunder! Reform, therefore, is impossible by parties so long as they exist in their present organizations, and the civil service of the country is labelled with the motto: “To the victors belong the spoils.”

jacksonspoils To The Victors Belong The Spoils:

In this service are thousands of offices that have no relation to questions of civil polity. The assessment and collection of taxes, the stamping of money, award of patents, distribution of mails, arrest, prosecution and punishment of criminals, are simply wheels and bands in the machinery of government, and should move the same under all changes of administration. As well dismiss all notaries public, or teachers of public schools, or officers of the army with every turn of an election as the persons engaged in this equally routine work. Yet, however faithful and expert, they must retire when another party than that to which they belong marches into possession of the nation’s offices, for “to the victors belong the spoils.” Even while in office they hang there on the pleasure of their patron, and may be cut off at any hour; competency counts for nothing unless it be competency to further his schemes. Flunkeyism is the most profitable type of character. Salaries are paid less for service to the country than for service against it. These salaries are then docked by the dispensers of patronage, who chastise complaint with forfeiture of the office itself; and so the nation’s work is neglected, her interests betrayed, her revenues squandered, her industry stricken prone that “to the victors may belong the spoils.”

Said one high in position, who lost his official hand by thrusting it into this soul-grinding machine to check some of its operations: “No sooner is a man in place than his rivals or enemies are on his track, ready to prove that he was the most unfit person that could be chosen, and that the party will be utterly demoralized if he is not instantly removed and his place given to another. If a month or two were all that is wasted in this employment it would be bad enough; but the truth is, that by far the larger part of the time of the president and all the members of his cabinet is occupied by this worse than useless drudgery during the whole term of his office, and it forms literally and absolutely the staple of their work. It is, therefore, no figure of speech to say that administering the government means the distribution of its offices, and that its diplomacy, finance, military, naval and internal administration are the minor affairs which the settled policy of the country has relegated to such odds and ends )f time as may be snatched from the greater cares of office.” —Hon. J. D. Cox.

Think you then that a party, of its own free will and accord, will surrender the hope of these spoils so dear, which hope alone holds it together from commander-in-chief down to the corporal of the curbstone who drums up recruits with a dram of whiskey? No. Never will that hope be surrendered except at, the demand of the people breaking loose from party and bent on deliverance from wrongs which have been suffered until they become insufferable. And the man who leads that uprising to victory, will save the republic from a greater peril than threatened its life in civil war. Has the hour come, and the man?

JeffersonTyrannyAnother Danger To Democracy:

But there is another danger to Democracy. The country has grown rich with almost magic suddenness. Its great extent of soil, inexhaustible mineral resources, universal opportunity of profitable labor, together with the rapid influx of population which these attract, have made the pursuit of wealth a mania.

It is as if money had been showering from the sky, and men had postponed all other thought than to pick up a fortune before the miracle was over. Thus, the very ease with which the republic prospered has been an injury to its permanent welfare; since that ease gave quiet to patriotism and excited avarice. As a result avarice is to-day the ruling passion of Americans. More with us than with any other nation does money regulate the scale of society. Money is our rank, our morality; in the hand hushes all inquest as to how it was got—commands like omnipotence. In our haste to be rich honest work for moderate wages is despised. Speculation runs mad. The activity of commerce exceeds its material. Values are fictitious and fluctuate every hour. Business gambles in contingencies and banks heavily on the future. Mutual sense of risk in all transactions tenders off-hand compromise to debt, and, debt freed from its awe of obligation rushes into extravagance; and extravagance is the quicksand where through contracts made not to be kept, mendacity, disregard of the rights of others, manhood, sinks towards utter loss of self-respect, at once its death and burial. But self-respect is the very spirit of democracy, and the spirit gone, nothing remains but the rule of the mob; insanest of tyrannies! Again, out of our haste to be rich have risen numerous corporations which mass the capital of many in one giant stock with a giant’s grasp. By such combinations the evils of individual avarice are aggravated. Division of responsibility among the members of a board and the impersonal nature of their operations renders them more unscrupulous and fearless than they each would be in a solitary enterprise. Having no existence but for money-making, the corporation regards all other existence from that stand-point. Soulless itself, it is without faculty to recognize the soul. It looks upon laws as commodities and those who enact and execute them as commission-brokers. Life, labor, commerce, art, politics and religion seem to it various phases of a melee whose prizes are for the strongest, and the corporation is the strongest. Individuals must die, corporations may be perpetual. Individual estates must dissolve and mingle again with the current wealth; the estates of corporations may stay entire and increase age after age. Already among us are some of these giants, yet in their youth, that own cities, hold liens on States, step off their acreage to the width of a continent and wear county-courts, common councils, legislatures and congress on their ring fingers. Compare their bold predatory course with the halt and blind policy of the parties which have charge of our institutions and answer if their continued aggrandizement does not bode ill to democracy.

cartoon-acron-voter-fraudA More Serious Danger Yet:

But there is a more serious danger yet. Old parties may corrupt, but their corruption is decay, and from that decay new parties will spring into life; corporations, while buying  special legislation, aid in developing the wealth of the country and are sure to incur popular wrath whenever their exorbitancies gall—provided the ballot remains pure and efficient. It is by the ballot that the people think, repent, resolve, and carry their, mind into conduct. They may think slowly, but by errors they will at last learn truth; they may repent late, but the later the repentance the sorer the conscious need of reform; they may hesitate long to act, but the hesitation sharpens the exigency that will spur them to swifter and more irresistible action when they start. Thus the ballot may educate them through evil into habits of forethought, of vigilance, of prompt exertion. But without purity and efficiency the ballot is worse than useless—it is an imposition. The people do not govern themselves, but are governed by unknown usurpers. Safer a Caesar crowned for services to the state, or the weak heir of a name constrained by the glare of a kingdom’s eyes—

“That fierce light which beats upon a throne,
And blackens every blot—”

Than these despots of the dark. What the ark was to Israel the ballot should be to the American people, and their love of liberty should act like a divine presence to palsy the hand that profanes it. Nor is such profanation menaced, as some apprehend, chiefly by ignorance. Ignorance may be reverent and cautious as well as rash. Besides, who are the ignorant of a nation? Capitalists are ignorant as well as workingmen. Students of one branch of knowledge are ignorant of many other branches. The most learned think of themselves as learners still. There are no standard textbooks of government, acquaintance with which may be demanded as a necessary qualification for suffrage, nor is any distinction valid between those who hold different theories of government and those who hold no theory at all. It was Milton who rebuked the grammarian, and said: “Whosoever he be, though from among the dregs of the common people, that you are so keen upon, whosoever, I say, has sucked in this principle, that he was not born for his prince but for God and his country—he deserves the reputation of a learned and an honest and a wise man more, and is of greater use in the world, than yourself.” Moreover in the people wise and unwise are mixed together, and the difference between them melts away with time. The philosophy of one generation is the proverb of the next. Before Adam Smith had been dead a century there was a realm of Adam Smiths. A word of fire went forth from a private citizen of Boston, and a score of years afterwards, he heard its effect in the cannonade of armies and the clank of a million falling chains.

No, the danger to democracy is not so much in ignorance as in indifference. The poor man loves his franchise for the sense of equality with the richest which it confers, and the villain is as sure to vote as a hawker to cry his wares. It is the men of culture who least esteem the privilege and therefore are most apt to neglect it. They feel degraded in an occupation which cheapens their culture to a par with boorishness and venality. Considering themselves the few, and the base and unlettered the many, they think of the rule of the majority as inevitably a rule of ignorance and vice— the inversion of social order. And their despondency would be reasonable, their indifference blameless, if the functions and duties of the ballot were confined to the mere depositing of votes. But the ballot includes all the mental and moral forces that enlighten the judgment and influence the will of the voters. In that work the few are not necessarily a minority; intelligence has sway equal to its worth, and character is more than a multitude. Howbeit, character needs time to count itself. The fool can say his folly in a minute, but the speech of understanding is slow. By acting on these principles in certain crises of state, character has demonstrated its supremacy. But why wait for crises to do what might be better done and with less fatigue by steady work? Is it because such work seems a disproportionate task for the few? Nature everywhere joins rare responsibility to rare endowments. The most favored citizens are by their very condition detailed to stand guard for the rest. They must watch while others sleep. Tyranny is an insidious thing, and it is for them to detect its crawl in the slightest abuse and transfix the snake before it raises its head to strike.

political-plunderBaffle The Hope Of Plunder:

When majorities begin to corrupt, they should be the first to revolt, and by concerted action baffle the hope of plunder and confuse the discipline of party. The wretch who interferes with the ballot they should lynch with their scorn as one who had attempted to garrote Liberty herself for debauchment.

Gentlemen, churchmen, does your conscience acknowledge the high obligation? Then, as men of conscience, to your duty. The dilettantism that pleads refinement in a neglect of duty is cowardice, as mean a vice as any that begrimes the riff-raff it would shun. “Wherever citizens meet to discuss public interests, you should be seen and heard and felt. Wherever place-hunters plot in caucus against the commonwealth you should not shrink from going to spy out their mischief that it may be brought to judgment. Least of all can you afford to countenance or even seem to wink at the pettiest falsehood, or fraud, or meddling with the perfect candor of the people’s choice. And when the hour of darkness falls and men’s hearts are failing them for fear—who, if not you, shall be the forlorn hope of the republic and rally its discouraged forces? Liberty has many sons and loves them all; but some know her only by the look of cheer that blesses their toil, and others by the hand-clasp that has led them into opportunities of wealth and honor; and others by her sentinel step around the altar-places of the soul, its love of truth and freedom of worship; while to a few she has confided her whole heart, her good intentions to men, and anxiety lest men should mar their fulfillment by distrust, and all her lifelong dream of a perfect race. Who of these sons should love her most? And if these who should love most because most trusted with love, betray, is there any treason that can be likened to their treachery?

Such are some of the most serious dangers that confront American democracy in its hundredth year. Doubtless they have been precipitated and made worse by the war through which it has recently passed. All war is savagery, and to prosecute war, civilization must forget its moral achievements and return to the instincts of the forest and jungle. However righteous the aim of a war, in the fury of strife, it is remembered only to license these instincts which, as soon as let slip, speed to havoc. Since, not the army only, but the whole people fight, we may expect, if the fight is protracted, that the savage instincts of the people will run so wild that morality cannot readily call them back into leash. Ferocity, deceit and lust of pillage having survived the occasion that allowed them, will henceforth seek their prey by the stratagems of peace. Defects of government they will take to for cover and follow the scent of an evil tendency as a jackal noses out distant carrion. Thus, while the late war revealed the nation’s strength, it likewise revealed or prepared the revelation of the nation’s weakness. That strength is the devotion of the masses to the great ideas embodied in our constitution; that weakness is the ease with which the masses are duped by a catch-word of party to intrust their government to men who filch its treasures or waste them in subsidizing corporations which grow fat only to want more, and which in order to get all they want would rob the people of their last liberty, a state of things already so bad that the better class of citizens have begun to lose heart, and by despondency are abetting the evil they deplore. Nevertheless, melancholy as the situation is, I see no cause to despair. The weakness of Democracy seems to me the weakness of strength. Dangers beset all governments and will beset them until men are perfect, and then government shall no longer be needed.

We are not in the millennium that we should throw up our hands at sight of wrong and marvel how it chanced here. Our world is thick with wrongs, and out of them government is to be built the best it may, so placing the tendency of one wrong against the tendency of another as to make, if possible, a fair proportion and a staunch support like the stones of an arch. The only question is, have we the architect in Democracy? I believe we have. I believe that the pressure of abuses will render the people more compact. Resistance, even now, is getting dense among us; parties do not hold the elements of it apart as hitherto. There are enough who desire reform to compel it if they were only pressed into unity of action. The pressure will come, and, with it, the reform.

Moreover a new power has just appeared among the people and reinforced their wisdom and will. It is the independent press. Until yesterday the daily press was the mouthpiece of party. Living on patronage it had to fawn. But wealth gives independence, and thus it happens that the ablest and most extensively read newspapers are those which have broken their alliance with party. They stand apart, unsparing critics of mischievous legislation and malfeasance of office. Parties dread their censure, and to corrupt politicians it is worse than indictment. Their eye is everywhere and their voice fills the land. Many an official whose crime is still secret, sleeps uncomfortably in the fear that some morning he will wake up to hear them shouting his name from city to city with a curse. They may yet prove the people’s trump of doom.

All in all, the republic has reason to be proud of its hundred years. For a hundred years the test of democracy, in spite of drawbacks and dangers, has been favorable. For a hundred years it has shown as much discretion as have contemporary monarchies in dealing with social problems. For a hundred years, with now and then a financial famine such as visits all governments alike, it has rivaled the richest empires in prosperity. And should the outward form of it perish at sunset of this anniversary, the example of democracy working out a hundred years of such order, energy, accumulation of wealth, and union of diverse interests in fealty to a sublime moral sentiment, has spoiled the race for any other form of government. It has insured beyond doubt that though in the end it should fail here, the experiment will be tried elsewhere, and until by an education of trials men have learned to maintain their own and respect each other’s rights.

But I cannot suffer myself to think of failure. The day forbids it, and points to good omens under the cloud. The republic is more closely knit than ever before. The wound of sectional war is well nigh healed. The flowers that fall on graves every spring from hands impartial to the blue and the gray, are flowers of a common hope that our country’s springtime may abound more and more to a far summer. Side by side, the North and South face the future and look into it with the same desire, and shall march against its dangers, and I trust through them with linked pace.

Best sign of all, as it were horses and chariots of fire round about, are the schools of every rural precinct and village and city where the children of rich and poor, cultured and ignorant meet together and by associations as well as by study learn to rule themselves as equal and free and one. Self-preserved by thus training her generations ever to purer and wiser patriotism, may the republic live to celebrate her Century of Centuries.

See also: The Consequence of Bad Legal Precedent in American Legislation
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
Open letter to Speaker Boehner and Republican party
Tea Party Crimes & Sins?
Open Letter to ALL Politicians and Bureaucrats, we’re coming for you
A message for our elected representatives
Liberals and celebrity endorsements
THE COST OF POPULAR LIBERTY by Brooks Adams July 4th 1876
THE POWER OF HISTORY by Horatio Seymour (1810–1886)
DANIEL WEBSTER AND OUR AMERICAN FLAG
WHAT HISTORY TEACHES US ABOUT AMERICAN DIPLOMACY Addressed in 1876
BENEFITS OF THE REPUBLICAN EXPERIMENT IN AMERICA by Thomas G. Alvord 1810- 1897
THE HAND OF GOD IN AMERICAN HISTORY by Rev Morgan Dix July 4th 1876 NYC
 THE DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC by Lewis W. Clark 1876 New Hampshire
The Practical Advance Of Human Freedom Under The Trumpet Call Made In 1776 by Charles F Adams
THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876

A RESUME OF AMERICAN HISTORY by Lawrence A. Gobright , Esq., (1816-1881)

A RESUME OF AMERICAN HISTORY, An Oration by Lawrence A. Gobright , Esq., (1816-1881) Delivered At  Washington D.C., (Ford’s Opera House),  July 4th, 1876.

Ladies And Gentlemen, Fellow-members Of The Oldest Inhabitants Association, And Soldiers Of The War Of 1812:— Time was with some of us when on the Fourth of July revolutionary soldiers adorned the platform, and were objects of curiosity, but they have all passed away, leaving their works as our inheritance. At first they fought for their rights as British subjects, but these being denied, the Continental Congress in 1776 meditated a separation from British rule, and on the 7th of June, Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, introduced the following resolution:

Resolved that these united Colonies are, and of right ought to be. free and independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Before the final discussion a committee, consisting of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert C. Livingston, was appointed to draft a Declaration of Independence. The Declaration having been reported to Congress by the committee, the resolution itself was taken up and debated on the first day of July, and again on the 2nd, on which latter day it was agreed to and adopted. Having thus passed the main resolution, Congress proceeded to consider the reported draft of the Declaration. It was discussed on the second, third, and fourth days of the month, and on the last of those days received the final approbation and sanction of Congress. It was ordered at the same time that copies be sent to the several States, and that it be proclaimed at the head of the army. The Declaration thus published did not bear the names of the members, for as yet it had not been signed by them. It was authenticated, like other papers of the Congress, by the signatures of the President and the Secretary. On the 19th of July, as appears by the Secret Journal, Congress resolved that the Declaration passed on the 4th be fairly engrossed on parchment, with the title and style of “The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America,” and the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress; and the 2nd day of August following, the Declaration being engrossed and compared with the original, was signed by the members.

Absent members afterwards signed as they came in, and it bears the names of some who were not chosen members of Congress until after the 4th of July.

We must be unanimous,” said Hancock; “there must be no pulling different ways; we must all hang together.” “Yes.” replied Franklin, “we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.

On the 9th of July Washington caused the Declaration to be read at the head of each brigade of the army, “The General hopes,” he said in his orders, “that this important event will serve as a fresh incentive to every officer and soldier to act with fidelity, as knowing that now the peace and safety of the country depend, under God, solely on the success of our arms, and that he is now in the service of a State possessed of sufficient power to reward his merit and advance him to the highest honors of a free country.

The people of the City of New York not only indulged themselves in the usual demonstrations of joy by the ringing of bells and the like, but also concluded that the leaden statue of his Majesty, George the Third, in the Bowling Green, might now be turned to good account. They therefore pulled down the statue, and the lead was run into bullets for the good cause.

Everywhere throughout the country the Declaration was hailed with joy. Processions were formed, bells were rung, cannon fired, orations delivered, and in every practicable way the popular approbation was manifested.

The causes which led to the Revolutionary War are sufficiently set forth in the Declaration of Independence, which has just been read in your hearing, and therefore need no elaboration. The result of the conflict is stated in the treaty of peace—1783— in which his Majesty the King of Great Britain acknowledges the American Colonies as free, sovereign, and independent States; “treats with them as such for himself, his heirs, and successors, and relinquishes all claims to the Government, proprietary and territorial rights of the same, and any part thereof.” After coming through the night of the Revolution,

“Our ancestors, with Joy, beheld’  the rays of freedom pour
O’er every nation, race, and clime—on every sea and shore;
Such glories as the patriarch viewed, when, ‘mid the darkest skies,
He saw, above a ruined world, the bow of promise rise.”

With a view of maintaining the Declaration of Independence a resolution was passed making an appropriation to the committee of safety for a supply of gun flints for the troops at New York, and the secret committee were instructed to “order the gun flints belonging to the continent and then at Rhode Island, to the commanding general at New York.” An agent was also sent to Orange county, New York, for a supply of flint-stone, and a board was empowered to “employ such number of men as they should think necessary to manufacture flints for the continent.”

Additional measures were also taken to arm the militia, provide flying camps, and to procure lead, to build ships, make powder, to manufacture cannon and small arms, and provide generally for vigorous warfare.

washington-prayerColonel Washington had been appointed Commander-in-chief of the American forces in June, 1775, by the unanimous voice of the colonies. In accepting the trust, he declared, “with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command with which I am honored.” His modesty, perhaps, gentlemen, would not suit the fashion of the present time.

It is necessary merely to allude to the present appliances of war in contrast with the means then accessible, namely, the monster cannon; the giant powder, with shot and shell in proportion to the explosive power; the mailed ship, propelled by steam; the perfected rifle, with its percussion caps and longer range than the musket, and no anxiety about a plentiful supply of flints, such as exercised our patriotic sires.

american-eagle-and-flagEver since 1776 the subject of the Declaration has afforded fourth of July orators an opportunity to glorify the Eagle as the symbol of America.

You have often been told of the victory of this same American eagle over the British Lion, in a kind of allegorical description. But this was more poetic than historic. In the common-sense moments of the youngest as well as of the “oldest inhabitants,” we should not think the contest between two such forces exactly equal!

Tobias Smollett, the English novelist, reconciles the Lion with the Eagle thus:

Thy spirit Independence let me share,
Lord of the Lion heart and Eagle eye.
Thy steps I follow with my bosom bare,
Nor heed the storm that howls along the sky.

EagleThe eagle, no matter what may be said of his predatory habits, and of the scriptural expression that “where the carcass is there will the eagle be gathered together,” triumphs. He is seen on the buttons of our warriors, on our coin, and the seal of the United States, the last-named designed by a committee consisting of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Wilson, the American ornithologist, says of the bird: “Formed by nature for braving the severest cold, feeding equally on the produce of the sea and of the land, possessing powers of flight capable of outstripping even the tempests themselves, unawed by anything but man, and from the ethereal heights from which he soars, looking abroad at one glance on an immeasurable expanse of forests, fields, lakes, and ocean deep below him, he appears indifferent to the localities of change of seasons, as in a few minutes he can pass from summer to winter, from the lower to the higher regions of the atmosphere, and thence descend at will to the arctic, the abode of eternal cold, or to the torrid regions of the earth.

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Gentlemen, our Government has such veneration for the proud bird that it has three fine live specimens in our own Franklin Square, in a cage for public admiration! The eagle is one of our institutions, and therefore has our enforced respect.

UniteOrDieThe eagle, however, was not the only symbol recognized by our ancestors. The rattlesnake was displayed on many of their banners. One of the arrangements was a rattlesnake divided in thirteen parts, with the initial letters of the colonies to each, and the motto “Unite or Die!” And another, the rattlesnake, in the act of striking, the motto being, “Don’t tread on me!” The rattles were thirteen in number. This device, stranger than that of ” Excelsior,“was a favorite with the colonists, and was meant to signify retaliation for the wrong upon America:

“The snake was ready with his rattle.
To warning give of coming battle.”

DontTreadOnMeSomething may here be said about the American flag, the one that has taken the place of all others. It was not till the 14th of June, 1777, that the design of the flag was formally adopted by the Continental Congress, although it is said a similar flag flew over the headquarters at Cambridge more than a year before that time. The act of Congress thus described it: “The flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, the Union thirteen stars, white, in a blue field, representing a new constellation.

dont_tread_me_flagThis continued to be the flag until two new States were admitted into the Union, namely, Vermont, in March, 1791, and . Kentucky, in June, 1792, when Congress passed an act, June 13, 1794, making an alteration in the flag, which provided that from and after the first day of May, 1795, the flag of the United States shall be fifteen stripes, with fifteen stars. There seems to have been no further agitation of the subject until 1816, when a bill was introduced making another alteration in the flag. The number of stripes were restored to thirteen, the stars to correspond to the number of States in the Union, a new star to be added to the flag whenever a new State should be admitted, the star to be placed there on the 4th day of July thereafter.

Among the reasons for altering the flag was that “There was a prospect at no distant period that the number of States would be considerably multiplied, and this rendered it highly inexpedient to increase the number of stripes on each flag, which must be limited in size.” As a consequence of this arrangement we have now thirty-seven stars, with room for many more on the azure field; and additional brightness will be added this centennial year to our constellation by the silver beams of Colorado.

This flag has for it century “braved the battle and the breeze;”
A blazing light upon the land, a beacon on seas.

It would be a mistake to suppose that our forefathers conquered Great Britain. The question might be put in this way: Great Britain did not conquer them. She found, after experience, that, having to transport, at enormous expense, large bodies of troops across the ocean—three thousand miles, in sailing vessels—was very unprofitable, as they did not accomplish the desired object, namely, the subjugation of the Colonists, who, of determined spirit, and having resolved to be free and independent of British rule, were not to be frightened from their patriotic purpose by coats of red, typical of the fire that boomed from their unfriendly cannon, and, besides, Holland having joined the belligerents against England, and England having been humiliated by the crowning battle of the contest—the surrender of Cornwallis—she departed from our soil, leaving the Colonists in full possession.

bald_eagle_in_flight_denali_national_park_alaskaIt was not until 1789 that the General or Federal Government went into full operation. At that time the population was supposed to be three millions, but in the eighty-seven years past it has, from various causes, increased to forty millions. The American eagle, which could fly over our original country without stopping to drink or to rest, finds that he cannot now without frequent stoppages on his course for refreshments, owing to enlarged limits, accomplish the distance from ocean to ocean without complaining, in his own natural way, of a weary wing.

A hundred years ago the people never thought of railroads, the steam engine and the electric telegraph—those great revolutionizes in everything that pertains to individual and national comfort—or if they did, there is no record of the fact. The traveling was on horseback, in gigs, and wagons, and carryalls, and sailing vessels, and row boats. And think: the time between England and America was from six weeks to two months, the duration of the voyage depending upon the state of the weather and the temper of the sea. Steam now propels the magnificent steamer across the Atlantic in eight or nine days— 3,000 miles—and the same distance is traveled from Washington to the Pacific Ocean, by railroad, in seven days. An experimental trip recently showed that the journey from New York to San Francisco could be made in eighty-three hours and thirtyfour minutes, or at the rate of one thousand miles a day! And, instead of waiting for weeks or months to receive intelligence from remote parts of our own country, and the world at large, the path of the subtle fluid, electricity, affords an instantaneous means of intercommunication, and thus annihilates space!

DoIIf our Revolutionary sires could reappear on earth, and see these wondrous things, together with the results of inventive genius, and progression in the arts and sciences, their expressions of surprise would be equal to, if they did not exceed, those of the hero of the Catskill mountains—but in a more agreeable sense—when he awoke from his long slumber, to be startled by the actual changes which meanwhile had taken place! We ourselves can scarcely realize the growth of the infant Republic, from its cradle in Independence Hall to the present time, when it stands forth in the pride of manhood with unconquerable strength!

It may here be appropriately mentioned that the first voyage across the Atlantic in a steam vessel was performed by the steamship Savannah in 1819. She was built in New York the year previous. On nearing Liverpool she was discerned from a lookout, and, as nothing of that kind had been seen there before, supposing a ship was on fire, one of the King’s cruisers was sent to her relief.

An item of the past will not be uninteresting in connection with the subject of locomotion. The Pennsylvania Gazette, of Philadelphia, January 3, 1776, had the “latest dates,” namely: ten days from Boston, and five days from New York. The “freshest” foreign dates from London were sixty days old, and these contained “an humble address of the House of Commons to the King,” in which they say:

No other use has been made of the moderation and forbearance of your Majesty and your Parliament but to strengthen the preparations of this desperate conspiracy, and that the rebellious war now levied is become more general, and manifestly carried on for the purpose of establishing an independent empire; and we hope and trust that we shall, by the blessing of God, put such strength and force into your Majesty’s hands as may soon defeat and suppress this rebellion, and enable your Majesty to accomplish your gracious wish of restoring order tranquility, and happiness through all the parts of your united empire.

The King graciously returned his fervent thanks for this loyal address, saying: “I promise myself the most happy consequences from the dutiful and affectionate assurances of the support of my faithful Commons on this great and important conjuncture, and I have a firm confidence that by the blessing of God and the justice of the cause, and by the assistance of my Parliament, I shall be enabled to suppress this dangerous rebellion, and to attain the most desirable end of restoring my subjects in America to the free and happy condition and to the peace and prosperity which they enjoyed in their constitutional dependence before the breaking out of these unhappy disorders.

The King and Commons not being as successful as they anticipated, his Majesty sent to this country Admiral Viscount Howe and General William Howe, general of his Majesty’s forces, as a commissioner in the interests of peace, and it is somewhat singular that their flag-ship bore the name of our national symbol the Eagle(1)—off the coast of the Province of Massachusetts. He declared the purpose of the King “to deliver all his subjects from the calamities of war and other oppressions they now undergo, and restore the colonies to peace;” and he was authorized by the King to “grant his free and general pardon to all those who in the tumult and disorders of the times may have deviated from their first allegiance, and who are willing by a speedy return to their duty to reap the benefits of the royal favor.”

But the Colonists or “conspirators” were not desirous of thus “reaping.” The seed they had themselves sown was to mature to a more precious harvest. They turned their plowshares into swords, and their pruning-hooks into spears, with the result of a fruitage beneficial to all mankind!

JohnQuincyAdamsJohn Quincy Adams, in his oration delivered July 4, 1831, said “Frederick the First of Brunswick constituted himself King of Prussia, by putting a crown upon his own head. Napoleon Bonaparte invested his brows with the crown of Lombardy, and declared himself King of Italy. The Declaration of Independence was the crown with which the people of united America, rising in gigantic stature as one man, encircled their brows, and there it remains. There, long as this globe shall be inhabited by human beings, may it remain a crown of imperishable glory.”

My friends, it is a solemn truth that there is not now on earth an intelligent person who lived on the Fourth of July, 1776. We read of the heroic struggles of the Continental army; their want of discipline and poverty, and the scarcity of money with which to purchase the needed supplies, and of the many sacrifices they made in the cause to which the best men that ever lived consecrated their lives and fortunes, and all else they held’ dear of ease and comfort; men who set the world an example in the straggle for freedom, which they eventually established. Their Constitution and the laws they passed to put it into operation attest their wisdom and the knowledge of the needs of the people in their new condition.

My friends, in what condition will our country be one hundred years hence?—the fourth of July, 1976? Will the same form of government we now have be preserved? Will it afford the same protection of personal freedom, property and human rights? Will the proud banner still wave over a united and prosperous people V These are questions to be answered by succeeding generations. If they are true to the teachings and examples of our Revolutionary sires the Republic will endure. If not, than the bright, and we might say this haughty Republic will pass into history with that of Rome, and for similar causes. There can be no republic that is not founded on the virtue, intelligence, and assent of the people. Enforced government belongs to tyranny.

We have additional cause of rejoicing in the fact, that, although national encounters have cursed the world ever since nations have had an existence, there is now no war between any nations. This is an era of peace. Even the oldest nations, including China and Japan, and others of the East, come will those of Europe to the happy centennial greeting. They bring with them, to exhibit near our own, their useful and ornamental products; all compatible with peace, and calculated to stimulate a beneficial rivalry.

Not far from where we are assembled lie the ashes of one whose character the entire world admires.

His name is seldom heard, excepting when it is uttered to designate the city which he founded. There was a time when it was more publicly honored than it is now; but still his memory is cherished by many patriotic hearts. Whatever may be the mutations in public affairs—whosoever may, for the time being, occupy the larger share of public attention, either as a warrior or as a statesman, the name of Washington, with its patriotic associations, will always be precious to the lover of liberty. But, alas! his teachings are too often disregarded, and we have not yet completed the monument to his memory. We may, however, without a dissenting voice, on this Centennial day, the first that we have seen, and the last that We shall ever see, recall a few words from his Farewell Address, although it was written eighty years ago. He said:

The unity of government which constitutes us one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence; the support of your tranquility at home, and your peace abroad; of your safety, of your prosperity;- of that very liberty which you so highly prize.

And the Father of his Country further advised “his friends and fellow-citizens” to “indignantly frown upon the first dawning of every attempt, to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

He counseled: “Towards the preservation of your Government and the permanency of your present happy State, it is requisite not only that you steadily discountenance irregular opposition to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretext.

And again: “It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free government . Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric. Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

US flag and bible crossMy friends, let us cherish the heavenly principle of “Peace on earth, good will to man,” and by word and example endeavor to cultivate in the hearts of those who are taking our places in the active scenes of life a love for law and liberty—a respect for the institutions of others, while preferring our own— and the enforcement of the duty of elevating the best men only to office, those who will see that the Republic suffers no detriment, for the acts of the public agent should be the reflex of the will of the constituency. A few should not plunder the many. To permit such practices is to sanction them. And let all wrongdoers be punished either by public opinion or by the criminal court, and public agents remember that the Government is for the people and not for themselves.

It was said aforetime, “Power is always stealing from the many to the few;” therefore if we would continue free we must guard against every encroachment on our liberties. And then there can be no doubt the Republic will endure, strengthened in population with the corresponding prosperity, presenting an example to the world at large for emulation, and conferring the richest blessings on the entire human race!

Footnote (1)  September 7, 1776 – Turtle Sinks Eagle
In the wee hours of the morning in New York Harbor, an explosion tore through the hull of the HMS Eagle, Admiral Richard Howe’s flagship. Though carpenters and crew rushed to save the vessel, it sank, carrying twenty-five men with it while the rest fled to shore and nearby ships. The British suspected an accident with the stored gunpowder, but two more explosions sank ships the next night. Eventually word came from old notes provided by a Loyalist spy that the Americans had a sort of “sub-marine” attack ship.
The Turtle had been invented by the young Yale student David Bushnell. While a freshman, he had begun experiments with underwater explosives, proving that gunpowder exploded underwater. He sought help from Isaac Doolittle, a New Haven clockmaker, and created the first time bomb. To implement the explosive on the hulls of ships, Bushnell designed a boat that could dive under the water. Something like an upturned clam, the one-man boat was made of two steel-reinforced wooden shells covered in tar. A hand pump and bilge tank allowed the intake and expulsion of water, thus increasing or decreasing the density of the craft and allowing it to sink. Six small windows allowed for bearings along with a compass lit by the bio luminescence of foxfire from fungus on cork.
Called the Turtle, the boat was manned by Sergeant Ezra Lee, who would later become part of Washington’s secret service. Dodging the iron plate at the Eagle’s rudder, Lee was able to secure the bomb and sneak away before spotted by soldiers. As the watch increased around the panicked British fleet, the Turtle was too easily discovered, so Washington set Bushnell on the task of improvements. The general referred to the craft as “an effort of genius” that had much promise for the future.
See also: Patrick Henry Lion of Liberty! greatest American Statesman
Founders & forefathers pledged their Sacred Honor, what did they mean?
THE POWER OF HISTORY by Horatio Seymour (1810–1886)
RISE OF CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY by Dr. Richard Salter Storrs July 4 1876
Christianity and the Founding of the United States the Simple Truth
The Consequence of Bad Legal Precedent in American Legislation
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
THE FIRST CENTURY OF THE REPUBLIC by Judge Isaac W Smith 1876
THE PERPETUITY OF THE REPUBLIC by Joseph Kidder July 4th 1876
Open Letter to ALL Politicians and Bureaucrats, we’re coming for you
THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876 
THE DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC by Lewis W. Clark 1876 New Hampshire
THE COST OF POPULAR LIBERTY by Brooks Adams July 4th 1876
The Practical Advance Of Human Freedom Under The Trumpet Call Made In 1776 by Charles F Adams
THE GRAND MISSION OF AMERICA by Joseph H. Twitchell, July 4, 1876
Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God
Constitution of the United States and it’s Governmental Operations (In Plain English so even Politicians, Lawyers and Bureaucrats can understand)
RestoreTheConstitutionDotCom

THE TRIUMPHS OF THE REPUBLIC! by Hon. Theodore Bacon, New York 1876

RestoreTheConstitutionDotComTHE TRIUMPHS OF THE REPUBLIC! An Oration by Honorable Theodore Bacon, (1834-1900) of Rochester, New York. Delivered At The Centennial Celebration At Palmyra, New York, July 4th, 1876.

The occasion which we commemorate to-day, familiar as it is to us by its annual recurrence—fixed as it is in our national life—is in its very conception distinctive and American. It is not the birth-day of a reigning prince, however beloved; it is not the holiday of a patron saint, however revered; it is simply the the festival of our national existence. Unimaginative as we are, we have impersonated an idea—the idea of nationality; and the festival of that idea, instead of a man or a demi-god, we celebrate to-day.

And we do right to celebrate it. The fact of this national existence is a great fact. The act which first declared the nation’s right to exist was a great act—a brave act. If it was not indeed, as we have been ready enough to assert, a pivotal epoch in the world’s history, it was beyond question a decisive event in our own history. If it was not the birth-day of the nation— for the nation was born long before—it was the day the still growing youth became conscious of its young maturity, asserted its personality, and entered on equal terms into the community of nations. And whatever errors there may have been in our methods—whatever follies of mere deafening or nerve-distracting noise—whatever mad recklessness with deadly explosives, such as will make to-morrow’s newspapers like the returns of a great battle—whatever flatulence of vain glorious boasting from ten thousand platforms such as this—it is none the less a goodly and an honorable thing, that the one universal festival of this great nation should be the festival of its nationality alone. This, and this only, is the meaning of our being together to-day; that we are glad, and joyful, and grateful, that we are a nation; and that in unison with more than two-score millions of people, throughout the vast expanse of our imperial domains, we may give utterance to the joyful and thankful thought, “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.

It is well then, to celebrate and rejoice. The many reasons we have for joy and pride are familiar enough to you. If there were any danger of your forgetting them, they are recalled annually to your remembrance. by addresses such as you have honored me by calling on me to deliver here to-day. And in considering how I could best respond to your request, in the few moments which you can spare from your better occupation of the day, I have thought it superfluous to repeat to you those glories of which your minds are already so full, deeming it a better service to you, and worthier of the day, I suggest certain imitations upon national self-laudation.

Let me recount to you summarily, the familiar and ordinary grounds of our boasting on such days as this. Then go over them with me, one by one; consider them soberly; and see whether we are in any danger of exalting ourselves unduly by reason of them.

1. We conquered our independence.

2. We govern ourselves.

3. We have enormously multiplied our numbers, and extended our boundaries.

4. We have enormously increased our material wealth, and subdued the forces of nature.

5. Education and intelligence are in an unequaled degree diffused throughout our population.

6. To crown all, we have but just now subdued a gigantic rebellion, and in doing so have incidentally suppressed the great national shame of human slavery.

Consider them:

RevolutionaryWar1. We conquered our independence.

Beyond doubt, this was a grand thing to do, even in view of all the advantages that aided our fathers, and of all the difficulties that burdened their enemies. It was not, indeed, except in a certain limited and qualified sense, what it is commonly misnamed, a revolution. It was rather a movement of conservatism—of resistance to an innovating despotism, seeking to impose the bonds of distant authority on those who were free-born, and who had always governed themselves. This resistance to ministerial novelties was in the interest of all Englishmen, and, until this very day one hundred years ago, was in the name of King George himself, whom we still recognized as our rightful monarch, after more than a year of flagrant war against his troops. It was (do not forget) war of defence, against an invader from the paralyzing distance of 3,000 miles; yet that invader was the most powerful nation in Europe. It enlisted (remember) the active alliance of France, and stirred up Spain and Holland to separate wars against our enemy; yet even with these great helps, the persistency of the struggle, the hardships and discouragements through which it was maintained to its final success, were enough to justify the honor in which we hold the assertors of our national independence.

2. We govern ourselves.

We have inherited, it is true, by a descent through many generations, certain principles of government which recognize the people as the source of authority over the people. Yet not even the founders of this federal republic—far less ourselves, their century remote descendants, could claim the glory either of inventing these eternal principles or of first applying them in practice. Before Jefferson were Plato, and Milton, and Locke, and Rousseau. Before Philadelphia were Athens, and pre-Augustan Rome; Florence and Geneva; Ghent and Leydon; the Swiss Republics and the Commonwealth of England. Before the United States of America were the Achaean League, the Hanseatic League, and—closest pattern and exemplar—the United Provinces of the Low Countries. Beyond doubt, however, it is something to be glad of that our ancestors began the century which closes to-day, upon the solid foundations of a faith in the right of self-government, when so many other nations of the earth were to be compelled to labor and study toward the acceptance of that faith, or to legislate and fight and revolutionize toward the embodiment of it in institutions. But whether that prodigious advantage with which we began the century should be now the occasion of pride or of some different emotion, might depend on other questions: Whether, for example, that advantage has enabled us to maintain to this day the pre-eminence over other nations which it gave us a hundred years ago; whether, as they have advanced, we have only held our own, or gone backward; whether our ten talents, the magnificent capital with which we were entrusted, have been hid in a napkin and buried, while the one poor talent of another has been multiplied a hundred fold by diligence and skill. It is a great thing, no doubt, for a nation to govern itself, whether well or ill; but it is a thing to be proud of only when its self-government is capable and just. Let us look for a moment at the relative positions in this respect of our own and other nations a hundred years ago, and now.

GreatExperimentA century since, the idea of parliamentary or representative government, primitive as that idea had been in the earliest Teutonic communities, and embalmed as it might still be in the reveries of philosophers, had no living form outside of these colonies, and of that fatherland from which their institutions were derived, and with which they were at war. In Great Britain itself, a sodden conservatism, refusing to adapt institutions to changing circumstances, had suffered them to become distorted with inequalities; so that the House of Commons, while it still stood for the English People, and was already beginning to feel the strength which has now made it the supreme power in the nation, was so befouled with rotten boroughs and pocket boroughs, that ministers easily managed it with places, and pensions, and money. The whole continent of Western Europe was subjected to great or little autocrats, claiming to rule by divine right, uttering by decrees their sovereign wills for laws, despising even the pretense of asking the concurrence of the governed. In France, an absolute despot, a brilliant court, a gorgeous and vicious civilization of the few, were superposed upon a wretched, naked, underfed peasantry; tithe-oppressed, tax-ridden; crushed with feudal burdens upon the soil, or dragged from it to be slaughtered in foreign wars for matters they never heard of. Germany was either parceled out, like Italy, among countless princelings, maintaining every one his disproportionate army, and court, and harem, and squeezing out taxes and blood from his people utterly without responsibility; or was crushed beneath the iron despotism of the Great Frederick in the North, or of the less capable Empire in the South. To the East, the great plains of Russia were an unknown darkness, where a shameless fury maintained an Asiatic reign of force and terror. Here and there a philosophical recluse was evolving from his books and his invention, systems of government which denied and antagonized the claims of divine right on which every dynasty in Europe was founded; yet so remote from any practical application did these speculations seem that the most absolute monarchs took pride in sharing them and fostering them. There were, indeed, things called “republics;” there were the despotic aristocracies of Venice and Genoa; there were their High Mightinesses, the estates of the United Provinces; there were the confederated cantons of Switzerland, fenced in their mountain strongholds, but without influence upon European thoughts or institutions .

Over against that Europe of 1776, set the Europe of to-day. Nation after nation—call off their names: observe their systems of government, and say, when you have completed the tale, how many sovereigns there are who rest their title to supremacy upon divine right by inheritance; how many governments there are whose daily continuance—how many whose very birth and origin, are derived avowedly from no other source than “the consent of the governed.” There are indeed crowned heads to-day; heads wearing crowns which have descended by but two or three degrees from the most confident assertors of “the right divine of kings to govern wrong;“—right royal men and women—nay more, right manly men and right womanly women: yet of all these there is hardly one who pretends to be more than the mere executive of the national will, expressed through a representative legislature. The England which our fathers denounced as tyrant, and foe of freedom—let us not commit the anachronism of confounding her with the England of to-day. Ruled by a National Assembly chosen by a suffrage little short of universal, exercising final and absolute legislative authority with the merest advisory concurrence of an hereditary Senate; its executive body little more than a standing committee of the House of Commons, removable in an instant by a mere expression of the will of the House; and all under the nominal presidency of a quiet matron, to whom even the external ceremonies of her position are irksome; with a system of local and municipal administration, which, however its defects, may well invite our admiration and study; tho sturdiest proclaimer of the doctrines of our “Declaration” could hardly have figured to himself a future America which should more fully embody those doctrines than the realm of George the Third has come to embody them under his granddaughter. If we look across the channel, we find all Western Europe, from the Polar Sea to the Mediterranean, the undisputed domain of constitutional representative, elective government. It the name and state of King or Emperor are maintained, it is in effect but as a convenient instrument for the performance of necessary functions in the great, public organism, and with a tacit, or even an express acknowledgement on the part of the crown that” tho consent of the governed ” is the true source of its own authority. Over the feudal France which I have but just now pictured to you, has swept a flood which not only destroyed institutions, but extirpated their immemorial foundations; which not only leveled the hideous inequalities of medievalism, but leveled upward the Gallic mind itself; so that hardly less than the American citizen—far more than the British subject—is the Frenchman of to-day penetrated by the consciousness of the equal rights of all men before the law. His form of supreme administration may vary from time to time, in name, or even in substance; but for fifty years it has stood upon the basis of the public consent, or, when it has failed so to stand, has fallen. The France of Richelieu—the France of that Louis XIV who dared to say of the State, “It is I,” is the France whose latest king called himself no longer King of France, but King of the French; whose latest Emperor claimed no right to rule but from a popular election by universal suffrage—boasted of being “The Elect of seven millions“—and styled himself in the most solemn instruments, “By the Grace of God and the Will of the People, Emperor of the French;” and which now, dispensing with even the fiction of a Sovereign, administers its affairs with a prudence, wisdom and economy which have drawn the admiration of neighboring nations. In United Italy—in the two great empires which share between them Germany and Hungary—in the Scandinavian Kingdoms—and at last even in Spain, so long the distracted prey of hierarchy and absolutism, the autocracy of an hereditary monarch has given way to parliamentary government and ministerial responsibility. The successor of Catharine the Second, by conferring spontaneously upon the half-civilized subjects of his vast empire not only personal freedom, but such local autonomy as they are capable of, is educating them toward a higher participation in affairs. And now, most marvelous testimony to the prevalence of those opinions upon which our own institutions are based, the world has seen within a month, a new Sultan, a new chief of Islam, announced to Europe as succeeding to the chair and the sword of Mahomet, “by the unanimous will of the Turkish people!

Christian republicLet us be quite sure, my fellow-citizens, before we boast oarselves immeasurably above other nations by reason of the excellence of our political institutions, not only that they are better than all others in the world, but that we have done something in these hundred years towards making them better; or at least that we have not suffered ours to become debased and corrupt, while those of other nations have been growing better and purer. Is our law-making and our conduct of affairs —national, state, and local—abler and honester now than then? Is the ballot-box cleaner, and a surer reflection of the public mind upon public men and measures? Or are we still in some small degree hampered by the tricks of politicians, so that we find ourselves voting into offices men whom we despise—giving support to measures which we abominate? Has public opinion grown so in that sensitive honor “which feels a stain like a wound,” that it compels public men to be not only above reproach, but above suspicion? Or has it rather come to content itself with weighing evidence, and balancing probabilities, and continuing its favor to any against whom the proofs may fall short of absolute conviction of felony? Is the vast organization of our public business contrived and controlled, as it is in every other civilized country, and as in every successful private business it must be, for the sole end of doing that business efficiently and cheaply? Or has it become a vast system for the reward of party services by public moneys—a vast mechanism for the perpetuation of party power by suppressing the popular will—with the secondary purpose of doing the public work as well as may be consistent with the main design? Have we, through dullness or feebleness, suffered methods to become customary in our public service, which if, attempted in the British post-office or custom-house, would overthrow a ministry in a fortnight—if in the French, might bring on a revolution? My fellow-citizens, I offer you no answers to these questions. I only ask them; and leave unasked many others which these might suggest. But when we have found answers to our satisfaction, we shall know better how far to exalt ourselves above the other nations of the earth.

3. We have enormously multiplied our numbers, and extended our boundaries.

A more indisputable support for national pride may be found, perhaps in our unquestioned and enormous multiplication of numbers and expansion of territory.

These have certainly been marvelous: perhaps unparalleled. It is a great thing that four millions of human beings, occupying in 1776 a certain expanse of territory, should be succeeded in 1876 by forty millions, occupying ten times that expanse. But let us be quite sure how much the increase of numbers is a necessary result of natural laws of propagation, working unrestrained in a land of amazing productiveness, unscourged by famine or pestilence, and burdened by but one great war during three generations of men; how much to the prodigious importation of involuntary immigrants from Africa during the last century, and of voluntary colonists, induced by high rewards for labor and enterprise, during this; and how much to any special virtue in our ancestors or ourselves. Let us be sure what degree and quality of glory it may be which a nation lays claim to for the extension of boundaries by mere mercantile bargain and purchase, or by strong armed conquest from its weaker neighbors. Let us remember, withal, that great as has been our growth in population and extent over this vacant continent which offered such unlimited scope for enlargement, other nations have not stood still. A century ago there was a little sub-alpine monarchy of two or three million subjects, which within these twenty years has so expanded itself by honorable warfare and the voluntary accession of neighboring provinces, that it now comprehends all the twenty-five millions of the Italian people. A century ago there was a little Prussian monarchy of three or four million subjects, which, sparing to us meanwhile millions of its increasing numbers, has grown until it has become the vast and powerful German Empire of forty millions. And, while we take a just pride in the marvelous growth of New York and Philadelphia, and the meteoric rise of Chicago and St. Louis, it is well not to forget that within the same century London has added three millions to its numbers; Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Glasgow, have sprung from insignificance into the second rank of cities; and that dull Prussian town, which, as the Great Frederick’s capital, boasted but 100,000 inhabitants, has become a vast metropolis of nearly a million people, doubling its numbers in the last quarter of that period. If our own increase of population has indeed surpassed these marvelous examples—if our territorial expansion has in fact been larger and swifter than that of the Russian Empire in Europe and Asia, or of the British Empire in India, America and Australia, then the more are we justified in that manner of pride which is natural to the youth grown to a healthy maturity of strength and stature.

4. We have enormously increased our material wealth, and subdued the forces of nature.

Thus also, if we have not greatly surpassed the rest of the world in our growth in material wealth, and in our subjugation of natural forces to human use, we may fairly claim at least to have kept in the van of progress. Yet here, too, while we have great and just cause for pride, let us not err by confounding the positive merits of our nation with the adventitious advantages which have stimulated or created its successes. It has been a different task, though perhaps not an easier one, to take from the fresh fields and virgin soil of this vast continent, fruitful in all that is most useful for human food and raiment, the wealth that has been the sure reward of steadfast industry—from the task of stimulating the productive powers of lands exhausted by thousands of years of crop bearing, up to that exquisite fertility that makes an English wheat-field an astonishment even to a Western New York farmer. It is indeed a singular fortune which ours has been that every decade of years has revealed beneath our feet some new surprise of mineral wealth; the iron everywhere; the anthracite of Pennsylvania; the copper of Lake Superior; the gold of California; the bituminous coal of the western coal fields; the petroleum which now illuminates the world; and finally, the silver which has deluged and deranged the trade of the Orient. Let us not be slow to remember that such natural advantages impose obligations, rather than justify pride in comparison with those old countries where nature has spoken long ago her last word of discovery, and where labor and science can but glean in the fields already harvested. And when we look with wonder upon the vast public works, not disproportionate to the vastness of our territory, which the last half-century especially has seen constructed, let us not forget that the industry and frugality which gathered the capital that built our railroad system—not all of which certainly, was American capital—the trained intellect of the engineers who designed and constructed its countless parts—are a greater honor to any people than 70,000 miles of track: that the patient ingenuity of Fitch and Fulton are more to be boasted of than the ownership of the steam navies of the world: the scientific culture and genius of Morse, than 200,000 miles of telegraphic wire.

ReligionRepublic5. Education and intelligence are in an unequaled degree diffused throughout our population.

If I have thought it needless to enlarge upon other subjects, familiar upon such occasions, for public congratulation, especially will it be superfluous to remind such an audience as this how broad and general is the diffusion of intelligence and education through large portions of our country. But let us not be so dazzled by the sunlight which irradiates us here in New York, as to forget the darkness of illiteracy which overwhelms vast regions of our common country; that if New York, and Massachusetts, and Ohio, offer to all their children opportunities of learning, there exists in many states a numerous peasantry, both white and black, of besotted ignorance, and struggling but feebly, almost without aid or opportunity, toward some small enlightenment. Let us not overlook the fact, in our complacency, that while we, in these favored communities, content ourselves with offering education to those whom we leave free to become sovereign citizens in abject ignorance, other nations have gone beyond us in enforcing universal education; in not only throwing open the feast of reason, but in going into the highways and hedges, and compelling them to come in.

6. To crown all, we have but just now subdued a gigantic rebellion, and in doing so have incidentally suppressed the great national shame of human slavery.

Coming to the last of the familiar sources of national pride which I have suggested, we may fairly say that the emotions with which a patriot looks back upon the conclusions of the period beginning in 1860 must be of a most varied and conflicting sort. The glory of successful war must be tempered by shame that red-handed rebellion should ever have raised its head in a constitutional nation. If it was not permitted to a Roman general, so it is not becoming to us, to triumph over conquered fellow-citizens. If we rejoice, as the whole world does rejoice, that the conflict which, for four years distracted us, ended in the restoration of four million slaves to the rights of free manhood, the remembrance that neither our national conscience nor our statesmanship had found a better way out of the bondage of Egypt than through a Red Sea of blood, may well qualify our reasonable pride; the question, how these millions and their masters are yet to be lifted up into fitness for their new sovereignty over themselves and over us, may well sober our exultation.

If I have departed from the common usage of this occasion, in assuming that you know, quite as well as I do, the infinite causes that exist for pride, and joy, and common congratulation in being American citizens, I beg leave before I close to suggest one further reason for the emotions which are natural to all our hearts to-day. It has been common to us and to other nations, —to our friends alike and our detractors,—to speak of the institutions under which we live, as new, experimental, and of questionable permanency. Fellow-citizens, if we can learn nothing else from the comparative view of other nations to which I have been hastily recommending you, this fact at least presses itself home upon us: that of all the nations of the earth which are under the light of Christian and European civilization, the institutions of America are those which the vicissitudes of a century have left most unchanged; that, tested by the history of those hundred years, and by the experience of every such nation republican democracy, means permanency, not revolution; wise conservatism, not destruction; and that all other institutions are as unstable as water in comparison.

I believe that to-day this American “experiment” is the most ancient system in Christendom. Not a constitution in Europe but exists by grace of a revolution of far later date than the framing of our constitution, which stands now, immortal monument to the wisdom of its founders, almost unchanged from its pristine shape and substance. If the stable British monarchy seems to you an exception, reflect upon the silent revolution which in that time has annulled the power of the crown, and almost subverted its influence; remember the suppression of the Irish Parliament, the removal of the Catholic disabilities which for a century and a half had been a foundation stone of the constitution; remember the Reform Bill which prostrated the power of the aristocracy; the repeal of the Corn Laws, which reversed the economic policy of a thousand years; look at the audacious legislation which within two years has destroyed even the names of that judicial system which is identified with English monarchy—-at that which within a few weeks has dared to add a flimsy glitter to the immemorial title of the sovereign herself—and you may well be proud of the solidity and permanence of our institutions compared with the swift-dissolving forms of European systems.

We know, however, that institutions, even the best of them, cannot long exist without change. As in physical life, there must be either growth or decay; when growth has ceased, decay cannot long be postponed. How shall it be with those institutions which a noble ancestry has bequeathed to us, and in which we rejoice to-day? Let us not forget that the day is the beginning of a new century, as well, as the close of an old one. Not one of us is to see the close of the coming age, as none of us saw the opening of the last. And while it is given to none to discern the future, we know well that institutions, whether civil or social, cannot long continue better than the people who enjoy them. Be it ours, therefore, so far as lies in us, to perpetuate for our remote offspring the benefits which have come own from our ancestors. Let us cultivate in ourselves—let us teach to our children—those virtues which alone make our free institutions possible or desirable. Thus, and only thus, shall we make this day not merely the commemoration of departed glories, but the portal to that Golden Age which has been the dream of poets and the promise of prophets, and toward which, as we dare to hope, the event which we now celebrate has so mightily impelled mankind. Our eyes shall not behold it; but woe to us if we cease to hope for it and to labor towards it It may be hard—it is hard—for us, surrounded by the green graves and the desolated homes which within a dozen years a ghastly civil war has made in this religious and enlightened nation,— for us here, in the very presence of the tattered yet venerated symbols of that strife,(1) to believe that the day can ever shine upon the earth

When the war-drum throbs no longer, and the battle-fags are furled
In the parliament of man, the federation of the world:
When the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall dumber, lapt in universal law.

The reign of ” Peace on Earth—Good Will towards Men”— the dominion of Reason and Justice over Force and Fraud—it may be far off, but it shall surely come.

Down the dark future, through long generations,
The sounds of strife grow fainter, and then cease;
And like a bell, in solemn, sweet vibrations,
I hear once more the voice of Christ say,” Peace!”
Peace! and no longer from its ‘brazen portals,
The blast of war’s great organ shakes the skies:
But, beautiful as songs of the immortals,
The holy melodies of Love arise.

Footnote(s): 1. The worn-out regimental colors of the 33d New York Volunteers, a regiment which went to the war from Wayne County, were carried in the procession and set up in front of the speaker’s stand.

See also: Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God
OUR NOBLE HERITAGE by Hon. George W. Curtis (1824 –1892)
THE POWER OF HISTORY by Horatio Seymour (1810–1886)
AMERICA OUR SUCCESS OUR FUTURE! by John P. Gulliver July 4th 1876 NYC
AMERICA! FAIREST OF FREEDOM’S DAUGHTERS by Jeremiah E. Rankin 1828-1903
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
BENEFITS OF THE REPUBLICAN EXPERIMENT IN AMERICA by Thomas G. Alvord 1810- 1897
THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876

AMERICA OUR SUCCESS OUR FUTURE! by John P. Gulliver July 4th 1876 NYC

AFBetsyross1776America! Our Success-Our Future! An Oration By Rev. John P. Gulliver, D.D., Delivered At Binghampton, New York, July 4, 1876.

We celebrate to-day one hundred years of Democratic Government. We flatter ourselves, not without some show of reason, that our experiment has been, on the whole, a successful one.

See also: 
BENEFITS OF THE REPUBLICAN EXPERIMENT IN AMERICA by Thomas G. Alvord 1810- 1897
THE HAND OF GOD IN AMERICAN HISTORY by Rev Morgan Dix July 4th 1876 NYC
Constitution of the United States and it’s Governmental Operations (In Plain English)
THE POWER OF HISTORY by Horatio Seymour (1810–1886)
POLITICAL CONSTITUTIONS by Johannes Von Muller (1832)
OUR NOBLE HERITAGE by Hon. George W. Curtis (1824 –1892)

It is true that in other days “the name of commonwealth has past and gone,” over many “fractions of this groaning globe.” It is true that our Republic has only attained the slight venerableness of a single century. It is true that other democracies, far more ancient have at last “deigned to own a scepter and endure a purple robe.” Still we live, and we console ourselves with the thought that our one century has been equal in actual development to many centuries of Venice or Rome.

It is true we have had our enemies, foreign and domestic, and we may have them again. But in two wars, one of them of vast proportions, we have not only gained victory, but increased strength, while in the war of 1812, we certainly lost nothing. We have now convinced the world, what our best friends in Europe have seriously doubted, that a democracy is capable of being converted, in a day, into a military despotism, as effective for all warlike purposes, as the citizen-soldiery of Germany or the soldier-tenantry of Russia. A government, however loose it may seem to the eye of a monarchist, which out of a nation of civilians, can summon more than a million of men into the field at one time, which can create a navy at call, and in so doing, can revolutionize the whole system of maritime and defensive warfare, which can originate amidst the confusion of a struggle for national existence, such improvements in firearms as to make obsolete the arsenals of the civilized world, and, in four years can terminate in complete success, a struggle whose dimensions parallel the Napoleonic wars of Europe—a democracy capable of such a military metamorphosis, is at least not to be despised as an unwieldy and ungovernable mob.

It is true that our own body politic has not been at any time in a state of perfect health. As a democracy, it has had its diseases, some hereditary and chronic and some the result of temporary indiscretions and excesses. We began our republican organization with a large infusion of the ideas of class-aristocracy from the Northern Colonies, with all the institutions and social usages of a race aristocracy at the South, and with the crude, wild doctrines of French Red Republicanism strangely mingled with both. Our history during the century has been almost exclusively the record of the throes of the Republic under the antagonism of these morbid agents. The extraordinary force of vitality which our democracy has developed in eliminating these internal tendencies to disease and dissolution, is not the least among the occasions of our solemn exultation today. Our remedies have, some of them, been constitutional and gentle; others of them, heroic and painful. But they certainly have been efficacious. We have diseases still. But just at this moment they are of the prurient, disgusting sort, mortifying and annoying enough, but only skin deep.

PrecedentSurely a nation that found means to eradicate the slow consumption of social aristocracy, to quell the fiery fever of a brigand communism, and to cut out the cancer of slavery, will contrive some method of exterminating the insect parasites that are now burrowing over our whole civil service. If the heart of the Republic is sound, we need not greatly fear for its cuticle. Only, fellow-citizens, let us be prompt in our treatment, for the disease is contagious, and it is very irritating!

Besides the ills we have or have had, there maybe latent tendencies to disease and decay, that we know not of. But we will borrow no trouble to-day. We will hope that the same constitutional vigor, and the same skill of treatment which have served us so well in the past, will, by God’s blessing, prove sufficient for our future needs. Only let us draw largely upon the sources of national nourishment—let us keep in vigorous exercise all our organic functions; let us become a manly nation, instinct in every part with the highest attributes of national life; then we may defy the inroads of disease; then the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, shall grow into a perfect state—a state which God shall honor and man shall fear. We rejoice in the health of the Nation on its hundredth birthday!

It is also true, to change our figure, that there has been not a little occasion for anxiety concerning the frame-work of our Ship of State. The model of a ship and the adjustment of its various parts to each other, the balance between its breadth of beam and its length of spars, tho ratio to be observed between steadiness and crankness, the precise point where the “clump” may blend into the “clipper,” is a great nautical problem. The blending of all our local sovereignties, from the school district and the town meeting, through the counties and the states, into one national sovereignty, while yet each retains its distinct and characteristic autonomy, I have often compared, in my own mind, to that admirable and exquisitely beautiful adjustment, which, before the prosaic age of steam, gave us the many-winged birds of the ocean—the swift eagles of commerce—skimming every sea, and nestling in every harbor. You have seen them, with their pyramid of sails, rising with geometrical exactness from main to royal, swelling in rounding lines from the foremost jib to the outmost point of the studding-sail boom, and retreating again, pear-shaped, to the stern, each holding to its full capacity the forceful breeze, all drawing in harmony, and yet each hanging by its own spar, and each under the instant control of the master on the deck. Behold, I have said, the Ship of a Republican State! What absolute independence of parts! What perfect harmony of all! What defined distinction of function! What complete unity of action! What an unrestricted individual freedom! What a steady contribution of all to the general result! and as the graceful hull, courteously bending in response to the multifarious impulse, has ploughed proudly through the waters, the exclamation has risen to my lips, “Liberty and Union; now and forever; one and inseparable!

But the actual existence of this exact balance between the National and local Governments, was not always as well established as it is to-day. At the very outset the Southern States, from the fear that the National Government would forbid a protective tariff, denied the supremacy of the National over the State Government, except during the consent of the latter.

In the later days of Calhoun, by one of the strangest transmutations ever known in politics, the same doctrine was maintained,by the same States.for the purpose of resisting a protective tariff. Throttled by the strong hand of Andrew Jackson, at that time, the monster drew back into his den, only to appear under the feeble administration of Buchanan as the champion of slavery. The doctrine that the National Government may be left at any moment, a floating hulk without canvas, rigging or rudder, the statesmanship which would launch a nation into the great ocean of human affairs, under the command of some two score of independent local governments, may now be laid away in our cabinets of moral monstrosities, as a fossil of the past. De Tocqueville, the philosopher of Democracy, prophesied forty years ago, in this wise: “It appears to me unquestionable, that if any portion of the Union seriously desired to separate itself from the other States, they would not be able, nor indeed would they attempt to prevent it, and that the present Union will last only as long as the States which compose it choose to remain members of the confederation.” That this sagacious and most friendly writer on American institutions has in this case proved to be a false prophet, is not the least among our many causes for congratulation to-day.

AmericanFlagAndCrossA century of rapid movement and of revolution; a century which has changed the political condition of nearly every nation on the face of the earth; a century during which we have twice met the whole power of the British Empire in arms, and once sustained the shock of assault from the combined power of slavery at home and in Europe; a century during which we have eliminated from the body politic the most insidious and dangerous diseases; a century during which we have determined questions concerning the relations and functions of our concentric cluster of independent democracies of the most radical and vital nature; a century during which our population has grown from three millions to fifty millions, our area of territory extended from one million to four millions of square miles, our manufactures advanced from twenty millions to forty-two hundred millions, our agriculture, mining and commerce increased in a ratio which sets all figures at defiance; a century which has raised us from insignificance, to a position as the fifth of the great empires of the world; a century which in educational and religions progress has more than kept pace with our material advancement, giving us a proportion of church members to the whole population four times greater than it was at the close of the Revolution, and a much larger increase in the ratio of liberally educated and well-educated persons; such a century we celebrate to-day. Who shall say that we do not well to rejoice. Who can fail to exclaim with devout and fervent gratification, What hath God wrought?

What Does The Future Promise? But we should make an unworthy use of this great occasion should we confine ourselves to a mere childish exultation over accomplished facts. A great future is extending out before us. What does this experiment prove, and how much does it promise? It is a time for study and thought. This centennial year, with its accomplished past just rolling out of view, with its present exciting and absorbing duty in the election of a chief magistrate, with an immediate future promising an unexampled reaction of prosperity, should be a year in which men should make great progress in the science of society and government.

We must not fail therefore to note and to admit freely, that our experiment has been in some respects an indecisive one. It does not prove that a Democratic form of government is necessarily and everywhere the best form. We are isolated from all the leading powers of the world by the intervention of great oceans. We entered upon an unoccupied continent. The rivalries of mankind, and their strifes have been adjusted upon other fields. While Russia, our comrade and contemporary in national growth, has been advancing upon the line of effete human civilizations, we have assailed only the forces of the wilderness. She has fought with men, we with nature. She has conquered by the sword; we by the plowshare. She has flourished by diplomacy; we by enterprise. She is a consolidated military despotism; we an extended Democratic Republic. Yet a philosophical statesmanship has often declared that we are approaching the same goal of empire and power. The comparison is full of interest and challenges our closest scrutiny. Russia, primarily the soldier, never out of uniform, her villages but military camps, her cities vast garrisons, her railroads and chausses only lines of army communication, is yet an inventing, manufacturing, agricultural and emphatically a commercial nation. America, primarily a land of peace and thrift, has been transformed in a day, into one vast battle field, and its rustic as well as its civic population have left the shop and furrow at night to appear in the morning assembled in armies of Titanic size, armed with the weapons of the Titans, while the thunder of their encounter has shaken the astonished world. Russia has exalted autocracy and punished democracy as a crime against God and man. America has proclaimed universal liberty and held the despot to be the enemy of the human race. Yet within the shell of imperial absolution, Russia holds to-day, as its inheritance from the depths of a Slavic antiquity, a communal organization which is almost a facsimile of a New England township; while America, beneath its outward freedom of thought, speech and act, covers a force of public opinion, both national and local, which few men have the courage to defy, and still fewer the strength to resist.

Under these curiously opposite conditions is the problem of the State being wrought out, for the Golden Age which is to come. From these diametrically opposite stand points, are the two most youthful nations of mankind advancing to the possession of the Earth.

freedomThe Democratic idea and the Democratic ideal. Such a comparison between two opposite civilizations serves to show us that democracy, as a form of government may or may not contain the elements of  freedom and the assurance of stability. In other words, the democratic idea, as men have conceived it and embodied it in governments, may or may not accord with the democratic ideal as it is enunciated in the royal law of Christ, and as it will one day be seen, embodied in the governments of men. Democracies may hide within themselves the seeds of despotism. Autocracies may nourish the germs of liberty. A democracy, which is administered in the interests of individuals, or of a party, or one in which the majority deprive the minority of freedom of speech and act, through the action of law or the terrorism of public opinion, is essentially despotic. There is despotism enough exercised within the Republic to-day, which if it had occurred in a monarchy would have cost a king his throne, and perhaps his life. On the other hand absolutionism may be so administered that the highest good of every subject shall be sought, and all his rights secured, according to the law. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart and thy neighbor as thyself.

There is then a political democracy, and there is a moral democracy. The slow and reluctant translation of the abstract ideal into the actual idea, and its expression in governmental institutions, is of surpassing interest and importance.

The Question of the Day. It is this history which concerns us on this centennial anniversary. The inquiries which are being discussed to-day from ten thousand rostrums, and which are pressing upon the thoughts of millions of men are these and such as these.

What is democracy, as distinct alike from the mob and the despot? What is liberty, as limited by law, and contrasted with license?

What progress had been made up to the fourth of July, 1776, in translating this ideal democracy into the thoughts and institutions of men?

What did the assembly over which John Hancock presided, on that memorable morning, achieve for this great thought of the ages?

How has this imperial gem, inherited from our fathers—the Koh-i-noor of our political treasures—been cared for by us?

US flag and bible crossOur first answer to these questionings is a radical and sweeping answer.

We assert that this perfect ideal of liberty, this basal principle of a Democratic State, this Minerva embodying all temporal good for man, sprang full armed and perfect from Christianity.

In the image of God made He man, male and female created He them,” was the first announcement of this seed principle of political and social happiness. While the rights and needs of the sexes vary, as do those of all individual men and of all classes of men, the image of God gives a grandeur of dignity and consequence to every human being, be his descent, or rank, or abilities what they may. While the king inscribes upon the seal of his authority, “By the grace of God, a monarch over men,” while the magistrate, the parent, the master, the wife, the husband, and child, may each claim a special divine statute as the basis of his rights; the man, as a man, wears the very signet of Jehovah. Like the incarnate Son, he has “on his vesture and on his thigh ” a name written: A King among kings is he, a Lord among lords.

The inference is direct and clear. A man despised, is God blasphemed. A man enslaved, is the glory of God changed into a thing of wood, or stone, or into a beast, or creeping thing. A man wronged, is God insulted. To hold a man in ignorance, is the crime of not retaining God in the knowledge. “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, my brethren, ye did it not to me,” is the malediction, written by an invisible hand upon all the banners of war, and over the bloodred skies of every battle-field of history. This is the answer to the question, “Whence comes wars and fightings among yon?” The Nemesis of the nations has been no other than the loving Father of all, avenging his outraged children who have cried day and night unto him. “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily” is the interpretation given by the Son of God himself to the dispensations of war, and agonies, and, blood, which has been to wondering philanthropists only a mystery of iniquity, from the first murder to the last battle. To the ideal humanity, to the man stamped with the divine image, God declares, “The nation and the kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish; yea it shall be utterly wasted;” and in that word is the whole philosophy of the civil state. The state that God perpetuates and blesses is not the state that merely worships God, but it is the state that also honors the image of God in man. Devotion without humanity may be found in every idol temple and Mohammedan mosque on earth. But devotion without humanity never exalted a nation or saved a single human being. The hell of perished nations, like the hell of lost souls, is crowded with the peoples who have cried “Lord, Lord,” who have even prophesied in his name, and reared their temples like the trees of the forest, and sent up their orisons like the sons of the forest birds; but because a man was ahungered and they gave him no land, because a man thirsted and they gave him no springs of water, because man was a stranger and they made him a slave, because a man was naked and they kept back his wages by fraud, because a man was sick and they left him, as the North American savage leaves his worn out father, to perish by the roadside, because a man was in prison and they visited him only to add scorn to his sorrow, for these things, and such as these, the sentence has gone out against the nations—among them, some of the grandest and greatest, ” Depart from me, ye cursed!”

A True Democracy. What then is a true Democracy? It is the Government which honors man as man. It is the Government which protects all his God-given rights—the right to do right, as God may teach him, the right to do good, as God may give him opportunity, the right to be good, as God may give him grace, and the right to be happy, as God may bestow the means of happiness.

It is a Government which avenges all his wrongs—the wrong oft attempted of forcing him into sin; the wrong of forbidding him to do good in the name of Christ; the wrong of leading him, in self-defence, into all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor; the wrong of robbing him of his Heavenly Father’s gifts and excluding him from the Heavenly Father’s home.

It is the Government which provides for the development of all his faculties, which educates him, not merely so that he may be a money maker, a wages earner, but to be as much of a man as God-like a man as he is able and willing to become.

It is the Government which recognizes and honors all his capacities for happiness in every feasible way, making this earth beautiful for him, filling his cup with innocent pleasures, uncontaminated by vileness and sin.

It is the Government which writes on all its banners, which engraves on its seal of State, which re-enacts in the legislative hall and administers in the court of justice, the great law of human weal. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself.

And “Liberty,” what is that? It is full encouragement, both by negative permission and positive aid, to do that which is God-like, and it is equally the utmost possible restraint upon whatever is degrading and evil. Any other liberty is the liberty given to a child to burn itself in the fire. It is the license which is the worst form of cruelty and slavery.

1God’s plan in history. This is the work of God in history. Toward such a democracy has all the discipline of the race been tending. De Tocqueville says, “The development of equality of conditions, is a providential fact, and it possesses all the characteristics of a Divine decree. My book (Democracy in America) he adds, has been written under the impression of a kind of religious dread, in contemplation of so irresistible a revolution. To attempt to check democracy would be to resist the will of God.

Steadily, though often slowly, has the race been led on to this grand consummation. This is the meeting of war, and conquest and revolution. The progress of democracy has in it the might of omnipotence. The gravitation of matter which directs rivers in their courses, is a feeble agent, compared with the gravitation of love, which directs all the streams of human society toward the great ocean of universal order and purity and joy.

The history of the gradual introduction of this conception of government into men’s minds and of its consolidation into actual institutions must be followed by the careful student in the quiet of private investigation.

Suffice it here to say that the first governments of which we have any knowledge, were constructed for protection and restraint. They took a defensive attitude against evil rather than a positive position in the promotion of good. This defensive and aggressive idea has followed government in the family and in the State, and very largely in the church down to our day. Its gradual elimination and the substitution of the Christian thought, that evil should be prevented rather than punished, that men need to be encouraged to be good, rather than be restrained from becoming bad, has proved to be one of the most difficult lessons which the race has had to learn.

Primitive Government. We know little of society before the flood. It was probably, however, a grand experiment of the power of mere law and authority in conflict with evil The chief impression which survived the deluge seems to have been that the wickedness of man was great on earth. The history of liberty through these decades of centuries which followed seems to be the record of a series of struggles to relax the unjust and cruel rigor with which this system of resistance to evil was pursued. In these struggles the subject was in a state of chronic rebellion against the sovereign, the plebeian against the patrician. Each dynasty and each class, as it gained power, used it for itself. Little by little humanity asserted its rights. The introduction of the Mosaic code was an immense advance which we now fail fully to appreciate. Its democratic features were in fact the chief study of the founders of this Republic in political science.

FlagsBibleThe American Republic. The institutions under which we are now living were slowly elaborated, in the devout study of the word of God, long before the separation from the mother country occurred. The Church of Christ, as founded by the Apostles, was strongly democratic, and the whole spirit of its administration tended powerfully to a revolution in civil government. Its doctrines all went to exalt the responsibility and dignity of the individual soul. Their religion gradually undermined, in the case of our fathers, their preconceived ideas of social order and civil government . When the new circumstances of their colonial condition compelled them to act on new lines. They found their convictions antagonism with their prejudices. It is said that the compact of the Mayflower seemed almost the result of an accident. The ideas of the colonists were strongly aristocratic and inclined them to put the whole power into the hands of a few. But the men of muscle saw that now they were of as much consequence as the men of brains and of culture and gentle birth. They firmly put in their claims and the leaders, considering the demand, saw that it was just. Set the spirit of the infant colonies was-strongly aristocratic. In manners this was seen much more plainly than in laws. The story of the punctilious etiquette which was observed in the court (as it was called) of Washington, the seating of the New England congregations according to social rank, and numerous quaint and almost ludicrous customs of the same sort show sufficiently the spirit of the age.

But all this was a matter chiefly of taste and decorum. Deep in their hearts these men loved their fellowmen. For humanity and for God, they were ready at any moment to lay down their lives. Their churches were the real morn of the State. These were formed upon the strictest model of the pattern given in the New Testament. They were local democracies of which the motto was “One is your master, and all ye are brethren.” Even churches formed upon the pattern of European usage, caught the same spirit, and became fountains of a real, if not of a nominal democracy.

It was this tendency to a sort of aristocracy, which was the conservative element in the formation of the government. This made us a constitutional Republic instead of a Greek or Polish Democracy. This was the Federalism of the early days, in which the Puritan of New England found himself in hearty sympathy with the Episcopalian of Virginia, and the Presbyterian of New York. This whole party was violently assaulted by the men, whose conception of democracy was that of a government in which every man should have equal authority, instead of one in which every man should be equally protected and cared for. The Republican party (as the ultra Democrats of that day termed themselves,) were bent simply on power for the masses. The Federalists were enlisted, with all their heart and soul, in the effort to secure order, justice, virtue and happiness for the masses.

Republican and Federalist. The contest was intense and bitter beyond any party strife of which we have any recent experience. The Republicans saw in the Federalists a reproduction of their oppressors in Europe. The Federalists saw in their opponents, the devils incarnate, who had just then closed the reign of terror in France. Both were wrong, so wrong that only this tremendous antagonism could have restrained either from making a wreck, of the new ship of state. The result was, that a substantial triumph was with the Federalists, who really created the Constitution, while the seeming victory was with the Republicans, who after the administrations of Washington and Adams gained undisputed possession of the Government. Thenceforward it became an offense akin to treason to question tho perfection of the Constitution, while it was little short of a personal insult for a politician to charge his opponent with having been a Federalist.

It was the fashion fifty years ago to speak of this Constitution as almost a miracle of human wisdom. Of late there seems to be a disposition to regard it a very common place affair. The estimate of fifty years ago is much more nearly correct. It was a miracle not only of human wisdom, but of Divine teaching. It was the fruit of centuries of the teaching and training of mankind. It was the product of no one mind or class of minds. It was the result of Providential circumstances quite as much as of human thought. It was the work of many centuries and of many men. It was the work of God as well as of men. It was the practical embodiment of the great law of love, in the civil state. It was by far the best translation the world had ever seen, or has seen as yet, the great ideal of democracy —the Utopia of Christianity—into actual institutions and practicable government.

The next great advance of democracy in this country is seen in the overthrow of the institution of slavery. If I pass by this whole history with a mere mention here, you will understand that it is because of the familiarity of the subject to the men of our day, and not because it was not a most extraordinary, a most instructive, a most important victory for the rights, both of master and slave, and for the weal and progress of mankind.

Now we stand on the mount of vision. The past extends back, reaching into the farthest depths of history, studded more and more thickly as we approach our modern era, with the monuments of victory for justice, law and freedom. It is a magnificent and an inspiring spectacle. It is well that we celebrate this anniversary of freedom, as John Adams predicted we should do, “with thanksgiving, with festivity, with bonfires and illuminations.

patriotismThe Present Duty.
But we should be unworthy sons of heroic sires, if we did not look about us, in the surroundings of the present, and inquire if there is not something to be done, as well as something to be enjoyed.

Men and brethren, I do but follow the example of the men of a hundred years ago, when I bid you pause in the midst of your rejoicings to-day; when I ask you to consider whether an instant and a deadly peril be not concealed, like a worm in the rose, beneath the fair blossoming of this hour; when I ask you if it is not certain that, unless there be radical, sweeping, uncompromising reform in the administration of our Government, if it is not certain that we are celebrating the first and the last centennial of the American democracy. Such, fellow-citizens, is my profound conviction, and out of the abundance of my heart I speak to you to-day.

The time was, in the days of Washington and the elder Adams, and the same continued to be substantially true to the close of the administration of the younger Adams, that an officer of the Government, employed in its administration, who should actively engage in its construction, through the elections, would have been regarded as guilty of an impropriety—a misdemeanor, a dishonorable unworthy act, similar to that judge in our day who should appear as an advocate or a client in a court over which he presides. Even at so late a date as the impeachment and trial of Andrew Johnson, it was charged as a crime that he had given civil appointments for the purpose of strengthening his own political position.

We look back to the otherwise creditable administration of Andrew Jackson, and find the first open and acknowledged departure from this principle. Adams had refused a re-election on terms which he regarded subsersive of the government. Jackson seems to have yielded with reluctance to a demand which the rapacity of many of his supporters forced upon him with a fury which marked a complete revolution in public feeling. To the horror of all right minded men of all parties, Mr. Marcy, of New York, on the occasion of the nomination of Martin Van Buren as minister to England, declared in his place in the Senate, the revolutionary doctrine, “We practice as we preach. To the victors belong the spoils” The horror of the opposing party and of all good citizens, gradually changed to acquiescence, and on all sides the principle was accepted as a practical necessity.

The heroic struggle with slavery, which lifted the nation to a moral elevation, of the grandest sublimity for the moment, checked this downfall in the lowest slums of knavery and peculation. But with the close of the war came a temptation and an opportunity such as never had been dreamed of, and with them an entire absence both of moral principle and of legal restraint to meet the evil.

How we stand to-day, how humiliated before our own consciences and before mankind, I need not pain you by describing. You know it all, and you feel it deeply.

Now what is to be done? What have I to do, and what have you to do?

The two great parties have so far recognized the evil and the danger, that they have both nominated men who are representatives of honesty and reform.

But neither of them has laid down any principles of reform. It is not their place to do it. Parties can represent and give voice to the principles of the people. But they cannot create them. It is for the pulpit, the press, the school, the private citizen, to solve the problem, and to hand over its execution to the politicians.

What, then, is the solution of this perplexing problem? I hesitate not for an answer. Go back to the ancient traditions of the Republic! Make it a disgrace, and as far as possible a legal misdemeanor, for any officer engaged in administering the Government to interfere with an election. Forbid the legislative and judicial departments to have any voice whatever in the appointment of an officer of the Executive Department, except in a few cases of confirmation by the Senate, acting in its executive capacity.

Make it a high crime and misdemeanor for any executive officer to remove a subordinate, except for cause. Let a man’s politics have nothing to do with the giving or retaining of office. Make it a State’s prison offense for a legislator to engage in any legislation in which his own interests are directly or indirectly concerned.

9781587366543The time is propitious for such a reform. The people are ripe for it. All the indications are that within ten years they will have it. For this let us all labor, Republicans and Democrats alike. We are just entering on a Presidential canvass, under candidates against whom not a word of reproach can be breathed. Let us thank God for so much to-day. It is likely to be a respectable canvass, in which foul-mouthed abuse will be little used.

Let this Centennial year be distinguished for a victory over the most dangerous, but most contemptible foe that ever menaced the Republic. Let the watchword of the next three months be—Honesty! Truth! Patriotism! Down with party machines and machinists! Up with the reign of purity, honor and integrity!

Thus shall the victory of this one hundredth year be worthy of the companionship of the victories, of the birthday of the Republic.

Thus shall the men of this generation stand proudly by the side of the men of 1776 and the men of 1865.

Thus shall the Republic, established by the wisdom and sacrifices of the one, and saved by the heroism and blood of the other, be handed down to our children, to be incorporated with the great empire of liberty and love, which is at last to fill the whole earth.

BENEFITS OF THE REPUBLICAN EXPERIMENT IN AMERICA by Thomas G. Alvord 1810- 1897

bald_eagle_head_and_american_flag1The ideas of the American Republicanism of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America in the History of the World is essentially brand new. Never before in the history of mankind, nor in any other place on the globe has a government been founded on the principles of a government of the people, by the people been attempted. We are unique among nations and among civilizations in the history of mankind. When you hear politicians talk about the “failed policies of the past” they cannot be talking about the policies and principles on which these United States of America were founded. Since they cannot be talking about the policies and principles of our Founders then they must be talking about those that have so apparently failed in our present history.

See more about the failed policies of the past:
The Failure of Marxism and Socialism
Obama’s Nazi Youth Campaign Slogan “Forward”
The Doctrine of Fascism, Fascism Defined by Benito Mussolini

Thomas_Gold_Alvord_IThe United States of America Jubilee An Oration By Hon. Thomas G. Alvord. Delivered At The Centennial Celebration, Syracuse, New York, July 4th 1876.

People Of The City Of Syracuse And County Of Onondaga.— We in common with every portion of our wide extended Union, have come together to recognize with suitable observance and commemoration the solemn act which one hundred years ago, gave form, shape and solidity to our government by declaring us a nation independent, self-reliant and free.

In the performance of this duty we might relate the political history of the unwise legislation, the oppressive execution of tyrannical laws, the coercive power of irresponsible government which compelled our fathers first to passive, next to armed resistance, and finally culminated in a severance of our political dependence on the mother country, and gave to us that Declaration of Independence whose one hundreth anniversary we have met to honor. We might rehearse the names and virtues of the patriots of the revolution in the forum and in the field, the courage, endurance and trials of those who participated in that protracted and bloody controversy which ended in making our Declaration of Independence a perfect deed, indefeasible, guaranteeing forever to those worthy to enjoy it, the rich inheritance of a free government. We might portray the battle fields of the past, brightening the dark gloom of defeat with the view of unflinching courage, indomitable endurance and an undying determination to struggle ever for success, and we might paint victory as it perched on the banner of our fathers with that halo of glory which time has not dimmed, neither will history forget the undying results of which, which in the final triumph (as we use them) may and we trust will endure for the benefit of all mankind, until the last trump shall summons the inhabitants of earth to another world, and this habitation of ours shall pass away forever. We might content ourselves with a plain and simple historical relation of all the events which clustered around, mingled with and made up the panorama of our revolutionary struggle, the intelligence of our people alive to all the minutiae of event, individuality and result of that memorable period, would lend a glow, kindle an ardor and inspire a joy palpable and demonstrative, making bare recital radiant, with all the fire of enthusiasm celebrating with mental and physical rejoicings, the dry record alone.

One of the marked features of this year is to be a full historical record of each town, city and county of the Union, embracing the geographical, municipal and personal history of each; of course more prominently relating of its earlier history, its marked and distinguished men and women—its pre-eminence or prominence in any direction of art, science, intellectual advantages or natural specialty; all these locally preserved in appropriate depositories, are to be duplicated and gathered in one mass at the seat of the general government to be an illuminated column upon which will be inscribed, “the one hundredth mile of our nation’s progress in the race of peoples toward the ultimate goal of humanity.”

The duty of performing our portion of that work has also been imposed upon me, but with the consent and approbation of your Committee, I have deemed best to postpone to another period the historical recital contemplated, and you must be content with my wearying you with an oration rather than history on the present occasion.

I am impressed with the belief that it would be better to treat the subject before us very briefly, but also in a manner different from the common acceptation of the necessities of a Fourth day of July celebration. I would not have us to lack in all or any of the essential demonstrations of a joyful acknowledgment of its great significance, and a ringing acceptation of its glorious results, but let us endeavor by a calm and conscientious consideration of our government and ourselves to learn more and better what there is for us to do, to preserve and keep alive all the benefits and advantages we have derived from the past, transmitting those great blessing undiminished to our immediate successors, aye, not alone to them but also how best we may by precept and example, pave the way to an indefinite prolongation and increased enjoyment, to the latest time of the legitimate results of the solved problem of our national declaration.

We are one hundred years old to-day; true that the mental strife of contention against and antagonism to aggression commenced earlier, true that organized and bloody opposition, antedated this day—April 19, 1775, and Lexington physically declared as July 4th, 1776, politically decreed the independence and freedom of America.

I repeat, we as a distinct people and nation are one hundred years old to-day, we have only to recollect for a moment to find however that while we are jubilant and rejoicing, that our eyes behold this day, yet in the light of the history of the nations of the world, our nation is an infant brought up in a school of our own, and setting forth to find our way among the nations of the earth in a new and untried pathway ; the peculiar and particular form of government which we enjoy, is in every essential particular now on trial for the first time; it is true, that theoretical republicanism, attempts at freedom have existed, but never in all human history has there been any other government so completely the government of the whole people such as ours.

Kingdoms, principalities and powers enduring for centuries have risen, flourished and fallen into decay ; governments to-day powerful and great in territorial extent, in wealth and physical power, have their record of birth in the “Dark Ages”—but we with a breadth of country surpassed by none—with a population in numbers exceeded by few, with an intellectual wealth as diffused and distributed among the masses enjoyed by no other people—with a physical power fearing no foe—we are but of yesterday.

The vivid memories of many still active and alive to the work of the day, reach back almost to the very beginning of our Republic, and here and there on our soil, men and women yet linger whose infant eyes opened to life ere the dawn of our nation’s morning; we depend not as others on tradition, on the lays of minstrels or the sayings of the wise men, to rescue from the shadowy and dim past, our country’s history—it is but of a day, and the scenes in cabinet, council and camp, are as familiar to all as household words.

Should we not then pause here and ask ourselves the significant question, why our fathers were successful in the establishment, and we so far fortunate in the present stability of the government of the people by the people, while a long list of futile attempts and terrible failures mark every spot wherever else the experiment has been tried; we have to-day among the kingdoms of the earth so-called republics, but we know they are so only in name—they lack the essential engredient of equality to all men before the law—their masses want an intelligent appreciation of their rights and duties—subject to popular frenzy or ambitious personal design, the republics of the past and (I am afraid) most of the present have no elements of either right, justice, or endurance.

No ignorant, no indolent, no irreligious people can ever be permanently a free people, and I hold that the foundations of our nation were laid wide and deep, by intelligence, industry and religion, and upon the adherence to and practice of those great cardinal virtues by our people depend wholly the stability and perpetuity of our government.

I do not wish to be understood when speaking of the intelligence, as meaning the mere learning of the school, nor that so far as such education is concerned, all should have the highest attainable—what I mean is, a practical and thorough knowledge of all necessary to make man and women useful—not useless—good citizens, understanding and practicing all the duties incumbent upon them for their own good and as parts of families, communities and States—above all else I would have every American citizen well grounded in a comprehensive knowledge of the theory, principles and by an honest, virtuous and continuous exercise of his knowledge and his duty as one of the government as well as one of the governed, so help to form, mould and cast public opinion—for upon public opinion alone the stability and efficacy of our people, stolidity, strength and endurance to our nation may be enjoyed and perpetuated.

Indolence engenders vice, disease, poverty, death—labor promotes virtue, health, wealth and long life—what is true of the individual holds good applied to the nation—show me a lazy, indolent, shiftless race, and I will show a nation of slaves; if not so practically, yet mentally slaves to vice and strangers to virtue.

Our fathers by hardy toil, by unwearied thought, calculation and invention, wrung from the wilderness the bright land you gaze on to-day—its great, almost miraculous advancement has boen owing to the combined action of intelligence and physical labor, but that labor, whether of the body or the mind has been persistent and unceasing.

The extent of our territory is greater by far than the whole continent of Europe, but our widely scattered population scarcely measures a tithe of its teeming multitudes; natnre while piling up our chains of mountains towards the sky, scooping out the habitations of our inland oceans, and scouring wide and deep throughout our land, our magnificent net-work of water highways, has planted everywhere for the use and enjoyment of educated as well as directed industry in no scanty store, the natural mineral riches of every clime and people, every known vegetable production is either indegenous, or owing to the variety of climate and soil under our control, can be transplanted and made to grow in sufficient abundance to feed the necessities and supply the luxuries of the world.

In this land of ours, with such a present inheritance and future prospect we are not only blessed above all other people, but we have evidently been chosen by an overruling Providence to do the great and final work for man’s elevation to and permanent enjoyment of the highest civilization to which human nature can attain, and it behooves us to shape our action and direct our energies towards the earliest realization and not the retardation of the completion of this evident design.

Independent of and radically separated from all other nations in our governmental policy, seeking no entangling alliance with powers, but opening wide our gates to all people who desire assimilation with us and enjoyment of our privileges,— I bold that we should be, as far as possible,—physically as well as politically,—independent of and separate from all other people, until at least the common right of a common humanity to equality of privilege and position, is universally acknowledged and accorded.

Would we keep our inheritance untarnished? Would we add to its worth the wealth of experience and invention? In this land of ours, where labor ennobles, docs not degrade, where the changes of worldly position depend upon individual action and are as variable as the waves of the restless sea—where the legitimate tendency of labor is to elevate and enlighten, and not to depress and keep down, let us and our children continue to labor to the end, that the blessings following its wise application will endure to the good of ourselves and our country.

Glance for a moment at one of the results of our comparative poverty coupled with our intelligence and willingness to labor —in all countries but ours labor ignorant is impoverished and helpless with us labor educated is well paid and commanding. Other countries through the ignorance of labor are comparatively non-inventive—we by the intelligence and independence of labor are incited to invention, and our record in the field of useful inventions is a prouder one than the annals of all other nations combined can show—it is the outgrowth of our independence of both political and physical need—cherish and foster labor, for it is a precious jewel in the diadem of our people’s sovereignty.

The body perishes—the soul is immortal. In discussing my third proposition—the need of religion in a community for the maintenance of perpetuation of republican institutions, I must be understood as firmly and conscientiously believing that a morality founded upon the belief in a future and higher life of the soul, to be more or less moulded by and dependent upon virtuous action in the body, is a necessary ingredient in the fitness for and possibility of man’s enjoyment of a free government.

I can not conceive what motive, beyond the sensuous enjoyment of the passing hour, with no thought for that higher and better life on earth, ennobling the individual and benefiting his kind, can ever inspire to virtuous deeds or heroic action the man or woman who believes death is an eternal sleep—the beauty and simplicity of our Constitution, which with proper regulations as to the rights of all, leaves to the conscience and judgment of each the matter of religious belief and observance, is one of the grandest and most noble precepts of its text and character—but with no proscription in its requirements, with no sectarian bias in its action, public opinion has so far demanded and had in our legislative halls, in our State and National gatherings upon all great public occasions, the recognition of the need of the countenance and support of an overruling Providence—sad for us, for our children, for our beloved country, will that day be when that “altar to an unknown God,” erected in pagan Athens, shall be overthrown in Christian America.

More than two hundred years ago on the banks of our beautiful lake Onondaga, the first banner of civilization was unfurled to the breeze—it was the banner of the Cross, and I pray that so long as the stars and stripes of our country shall wave over us as a nation, the hearts of our people may ding to the emblems of an immortal life.

I would not mar the pleasure or dampen the joy of this happy hour by any unkind allusion to the more immediate past, but it would seem proper while we are celebrating the birth, we should rejoice also over the preservation of our Union. Our recent internecine strife was a legitimate result of a want of the practical application of the written theory of our Declaration of Independence—in that instrument human rights were made as broad as humanity itself, and no clime, race, color or condition of men were excluded from the broad and sweeping declaration ” All men are created equal.” It was the practical departure from the annunciation of a political axiom which required our return to the allegiance due our creed, through the carnage and waste of civil war—that strife is over—the victory of principle over selfishness, though bloody, is won, and the nation rejoices through its wide extent at the solution is favor of freedom and right, but, like all wars, it has left wounds open, dangerous, unhealed— not, I trust the wounds of embittered and lasting hate between the contending masses, for God in his infinite mercy grant that this anniversary may bind Maine to Georgia.link Virginia with California, not alone with bands of iron, but with bonds of brotherly love and loyal submission to the rights of humanity individualized as well as compacted,and that long before another hundred or even any years shall have passed in oblivion, shall be buried all recolleotion of the struggle to maintain and preserve our Union, save the sweet and undying memory of brave deeds and heroic endurance, and the proud recollection, dear alike to sunny South and the warm-hearted North—our country is undivided and indivisible.

But we are suffering the wounds always inflicted by ruthless war—a lower scale of both public and private morality—an irksome feeling at lawful constraint—a distaste for honest labor —a reckless extravagance in living—a want of recognition of moral responsibility, not alone in the administration of public affairs, but in the transactions of ordinary business life, and in social relations of neighbors and families.

I warn you, my countrymen, that we must return to the primitive virtues of our fathers—education, labor, religion, must again take the places of greed, speculation, corruption, indolence and vice? We may talk of the corruption of our chosen rulers—we may stand at th6 street corners, and publicly proclaim the venality and crime in high places; this availeth not, what we must first do is—” Physician heal thyself,” “Remove the beam from thine own eye ere you cast out the mote from your brother.” “Purify the fountain that the stream may be pure.” Under the theory and practice our system of government, when administered with the spirit and intent of its founders, our rulers are the people’s servants, and if the people are indifferent and corrupt, so likewise will be their rulers—if the constituency is active and honest, the government will reflect it .

A desire by the voter to profit pecuniarly and socially by the prostitution of political principles to personal ends; the indiscriminate trade by all classes in the enactments of municipality, State and nation, engendered by base cupidity either pecuniary or personal—above and beyond all the utter neglect by the enlightened, educated and wealthy of their sacred miner as well as higher political duties—all combine not only to make our politics disreputable—but to demoralize and will finally destroy our government unless we speedily return more nearly to the dimple habits, rigid morality, and conscientious respect to all political duty which characterized our fathers.

I have thus very briefly discussed our position and our duty on this our hundredth anniversary—I have not considered it wise or profitable to rehearse the familiar story of our struggle for and success in the achievement of a national existence. I have not in studied words painted the rapid strides in our progress as a people. You know it all, and memory would not be quickened nor patriotism intensified by any recital of mine.

But I deem it appropriate, before I shall have concluded the discharge of the duty imposed upon me, to address more particularly the people of my city and my native county.

On the 4th of July, 1776, our county was the abode of the hostile savages, an unbroken wilderness, within whose borders no white man had found a home—it remained so until four years after our revolutionary struggle, when the first white settler, Ephraim Webster, sojourned with the Indian, and following in his path others slowly settled within our present borders—while true that no hostile army has ever invaded our soil—no hearths desolated—no roof-tree obliterated—no historic battle-field marked or distinguished our territorial limits, yet still it is sacred ground.

As early as 1792, a grateful State, reserving a small portion of the land adjoining and surrounding our celebrated salt springs, dedicated and allotted the remainder to the surviving soldiers of its contingent in the armies of the Revolution; many of those war-worn veterans with their surviving households found in long, wearisome and dangerous journey their way highther and entered upon the lands alike the recognition of and reward for their services, and the records of not a few of the towns of our county, show to-day among their worthiest citizens, the honored names of their descendants.

“Beating their swords into plough shares—their spears into pruning hooks,” they attacked with the same unyielding courage, determination and endurance of labor, toil and privation, which had marked their struggle for liberty, the native ruggedness of our unbroken soil—the lonely cabin of logs their dwelling—the biased but tangled wood path their highway, they battled with forest-crowned hill and wooden glen, until peaceful pasture and yielding grain-field displaced the lair of the wild beast and the hunting grounds of the wilder savage.

We cannot now linger to detail the progress of each passing year, to name the conspicuous actor in each scene, but we can for a moment contrast the extremes of 1776 and 1876, look at the pictures before us—1776 the wigwam of the savage and his trackless path in the unbroken forest—1876, six score thousand human souls basking in the sunshine of a free civilization enjoying all the social, intellectual and political advantages ever yet allotted to humanity.

Compared with the huts of our fathers—our habitations are palaces—they dot every hill top, they nestle in every valley— they stand in the seried ranks in our beautiful and growing city, and cluster together around the school and the church, in all our smiling and thriving villages—our thrifty husbandmen look upon countless herds of lowing cattle—on seas of waving grain —on graneries bursting with the rich and bounteous yield of their fertile acres; our merchants in their stately marts of commerce gather from the ends of the earth, the produce of every soil—the handiwork of savage and civilized—all creations of nature and art to satisfy the wants or gratify the tastes of our people—the unceasing hum of the manufacturers’ wheel, the continuous blow of the sturdy artisan and stalwart laborer chase solitude from all our borders—our water highways link us with the ocean lakes of our own West, and give us peaceful entrance to that great sea which rolls between us and the land of our father’s fathers—highways of iron rib our country North, West, South, and East—broad avenues run by the door of the humblest, and commerce with its white wings of peace, has blotted out forever the warpath of the savage and the tree-marked way of the hardy pioneer. Religion dwells in more than an hundred temples of beauty dedicated to the service of the living God. Education from the lordly towers of the princely university to the more humble school-house at the cross roads, boasts its many habitations. We are the central county of the Empire State, which ranks first in wealth, first in population, first in representation among her sister States of our Union. Of sixty, our county is seventh in population and wealth, and in the fifth rank in State representation.

The pioneers of our country and their sons have been distinguished on every stage of life in all the years of our history —side by side with them, many who have here sought a new home, a new country, have over and again reflected honor and glory on the home of their adoption. Distinction in the pulpit at the bar, in the forum, on battle field, in the broad field of human endeavor—wherever honor, distinction, wealth and place were to be gained—high rank, deserved places of merit and worth have been won by many whose earliest training for usefulness and busy life, was by the fireside of their homes among the beautiful hills and smiling valleys of our beloved Onondaga.

I cannot speak to-day of battle scenes or individuals, but we know that on many a well stricken field, in many a still and silent city of the dead, lie to-day the mortal remains of hundreds of Onondaga’s bravest sons, who battling for the right, from Bull Run to Appomattox, left their record of bravery and patriotism in all the conflicts of the late struggle for national existence. We rejoice in the life and presence to-day of the brave survivors of that terrible conflict. From the Generals with title won on the field, to the private soldier whose unflinching valor and great endurance fought and won the contest for our second independence—all have reflected honor upon and won undying glory for the country of their nativity and adoption.

Children of the soil—adopted sons and daughters of old Onondaga—is this noble heritage of our fathers, this free and equal government given us to enjoy by the brave, good and wise men of an hundred years ago worth preserving another hundred years? No human being I now address will witness the scene at that celebration; the voice of him who now addresses you will be silent in the grave, the beating hearts and active limbs of this vast multitude will have gone to their last quiet mortal sleep forever. The men of the revolution gave us and our children this day at the cost of suffering and tears, wounds and death. Where are they? The lasb surviving warrior and statesman who stood on the battlements of freedom’s citadel and conquered for us the banded hordes of tyranny and oppression, has gone to join the hosts of heaven’s freemen in another and a better world. Can we not take their finished work—keep and preserve it untarnished, unbroken, beautiful enlarged, and more glorious and endearing, for our children’s children? Though dead in the body yet living in the spirit, we may then hear, mingling with the rejoicings of 1976, and blessings and praise to our names as well as to the deeds of our fathers, in that we have made of the talent committed to our charge other talents of honor, glory and prosperity for our country.

Let us to this end from this day practice economy, industry —cultivate intelligence, make virtue the rule and guide of our private and public life.

Triumphant armies inscribe their banners with the names of their victorious fields of battle. May we give as our legacy to the next great anniversary of our country’s birth, the stars of our nation’s banner undimmed—its stripes untarnished, rightfully inscribing thereon as our faith kept pure and unsullied— our motto, won by our acts—Religion, Education, Free Labor, the only sure foundation on which to build, for perpetuity, Republican Institutions.

See also: THE GENIUS OF AMERICA by Hon. Dr. Felix R. Brunot July 4, 1876
AMERICAN FREE INSTITUTIONS; THE JOY AND GLORY OF MANKIND by Dr. J. Sellman 1876
THE POWER OF HISTORY by Horatio Seymour (1810–1886)
AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP! by Colonel Henry A. Gildersleve July 4th 1876 NYC
THE HAND OF GOD IN AMERICAN HISTORY by Rev Morgan Dix July 4th 1876 NYC
OUR NOBLE HERITAGE by Hon. George W. Curtis (1824 –1892)
Political Evils and the Remedy for them by Noah Webster 1834
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
THE COST OF POPULAR LIBERTY by Brooks Adams July 4th 1876
The Practical Advance Of Human Freedom Under The Trumpet Call Made In 1776 by Charles F Adams
THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876
True American Patriotism Defined by Hon. Curtis Guild and H. F. Kinnerney 1876
The Consequence of Bad Legal Precedent in American Legislation
Power of History2

THE POWER OF HISTORY by Horatio Seymour (1810–1886)

HoriatoSeymourTHE FUTURE OF THE HUMAN RACE, An Oration By Ex-Gov. Horatio Seymour, Delivered At Rome, New York, July 4th, 1876.

The superior man acquaints himself with many sayings of antiquity and many deeds of the past, in order to strengthen his character thereby. ~ John Milton

I Do not come before you merely to take part in a holiday affair, nor to excite a passing interest about the occasion which calls us together. While my theme is the History of the Valley of the Mohawk, in speaking of it the end I have in view is as practical as if I came to talk to you about agriculture, mechanics, commerce or any other business topic.

There is in history a power to lift a people up and make them great and prosperous. The story of a nation’s achievements excites that patriotic pride which is a great element in vigor, boldness and heroism. He who studies with care the jurisprudence of the Old Testament, will see that this feeling of reverence for forefathers and devotion to country is made the subject of positive law in the command that men should honor their fathers and their mothers. But sacred poetry is filled with appeals to these sentiments, and the narratives of the Bible abound with proofs of the great truth, that the days of those who fear them shall be long in the land which God has given them. All history, ancient and modern, proves that national greatness springs in no small degree from pride in their histories, and from the patriotism cherished by their traditions and animated by their examples. This truth shines out in the annals of Greece and Rome. It gives vitality to the power of Britain, France, Germany and other European nations. The instincts of self-preservation led the American people in this centennial year to dwell upon the deeds of their fathers and by their example to excite our people to a purer patriotism, to an unselfish devotion to the public welfare.

The power of history is not confined to civilized races. The traditions of savage tribes have excited them to acts of self sacrifice and heroism, and of bold warfare, which have extorted the admiration of the world. The Valley of the Mohawk gives striking proofs of this. The Iroquois, who lived upon the slopes of the hills which stretch from the Hudson to the shores of Lake Erie, called themselves by a name which asserted that they and their fathers were men excelling all other men. Animated by this faith which grew out of their legends, they became the masters of the vast region stretching from the coast of the Atlantic to the banks of the Mississippi, from north of the great Lakes to the land of the Cherokees.

Unaided by arts, without horses or chariots, or implements of war, save the rudest form of the spear and the arrow, they traversed the solitary forest pathways, and carried their conquests over regions, which in extent have rarely been equaled by civilized nations with all the aids of fleets, or the terrible engines of destruction which science has given to disciplined armies. History gives no other example of such great conquest over so many enemies or difficulties, as were won by the Iroquois, when we take into account their limited numbers. Does any man think that all this would have been true if they had not been stirred up to a savage but noble heroism by the traditions of their tribes?

governorhoratio-seymourThe power of history over our minds and purposes is intensified when we stand amid the scenes of great events. Men cross the ocean and encounter the fatigues, dangers of a journey to the other side of the earth, that they may walk through the streets of Jerusalem, or look out from the hill of Zion, or wander amid sacred places. These scenes bring to* their minds the story of the past in a way that thrills their nerves. Or, if we visit the fields of great battles, the movements of armies, the thunder of artillery, the charge, the repulse, the carnage of war, the ground strewed with dead or dying and slippery with blood, are all presented to our imaginations in a way they can not elsewhere be felt or seen.

If beyond the general interest of history which incites to national patriotism, and in addition to the scenes of events which stir our blood when we move among them, we know that the actors were our fathers whose blood flows in our veins, we then have acting upon us, in its most intense form, the power of the past. Patriotism, and love of the land in which we live; a pious reverence for our fathers, all unite to lift us up upon the highest plane of public and of private virtue.

The men and the women of the valley of the Mohawk meet here to-day not only to celebrate the great events of our country, but to speak more particularly about deeds their ancestors have done on these plains and hillsides, and then to ask themselves if they have been true to their country, to their fathers and themselves by preserving and making known to the dwellers in this valley and to the world at large its grand and varied history. Have they been made household words? Have they shaped the ambitions and virtues of those growing up in the fireside circle? Have they been used to animate all classes in the conduct of public and private affairs?

Just so far as the dwellers in the valley of the Mohawk have failed in these respects, they have cheated and wronged themselves. They have failed to use the most potent influence to elevate their morals, intelligence and virtue. They have not brought themselves within the scope of that promise which religion, reason and experience show, is held out to those who honor their fathers, and incite themselves to acts of patriotism and lives of public and private devotion, by keeping in their minds the conduct of the good and great who have gone before them.

Let the events in this valley during the past three centuries now pass in review before us. Its Indian wars, the missionaries’ efforts, animated by religious zeal, which sought to carry religion into its unbroken forests and wild recesses; the march of the armies of France and England, with their savage allies, which for a hundred years made this valley the scenes of warfare and bloodshed; the struggle of the revolution, which brought with it not only all the horrors ever attendant upon war, added to them the barbarities of the savage ferocity that knows no distinction of age, sex or condition, but with horrible impartiality inflicted upon all alike the tortures of the torch and tomahawk. When these clouds had rolled away through the pathways of this valley, began the march of the peaceful armies of civilization which have filled the interior of our country with population, wealth and power. The world has never elsewhere seen a procession of events more varied, more dramatic, more grand in their influences.

The grounds upon which we stand have been wet with the blood of men who perished in civilized and savage war. Its plains and forests have rung with the war cry of the Iroquois, and have echoed back the thunder of artillery. Its air has been filled with the smoke of burning homes, and lighted up by the flames of the products of industry, kindled by the torch of enemies. Let this scene impress your minds while I try to tell the story of the past. With regard to the savages who lived in this valley, I will repeat the statements which I made on a recent occasion, and the evidence which I then produced in regard to their character.

Power of History1We arc inclined to-day to think meanly of the Indian race, and to charge that the dignity and heroism imputed to them was the work of the novelist rather than the proof of authentic history. A just conception of their character is necessary to enable us to understand the causes which shaped our civilization. But for the influence exerted by the early citizens of this place upon the Iroquois, it is doubtful if the English could have held their ground against the French west of the Alleghenies.

In speaking of them the colonial historian Smith says:

These of all those innumerable tribes of savages which inhabit the northern part of America, are of more importance to us and the French, both on account of their vicinity and warlike disposition.

In the correspondence of the French colonial officials with Louis the Great, it is said:

That no people in the world, perhaps, have higher notions than these Indians of military glory. All the surrounding nations have felt the effects of their prowess, and many not only become their tributaries, but are so subjugated to their power, that without their consent they dare not commence either peace or war.

Colden, in his history, printed in London, in 1747, says:

The Five Nations think themselves by nature superior to the rest of mankind, and call themselves “Onguekonwe,” that is, men surpassing all others.

This opinion, which they take care to cultivate in their children, gives them that courage which has been so terrible to all nations of North America, and they have taken such care to impress the same opinion of their people on all their neighbors, that they on all occasions yield the most submissive obedience to them. He adds; I have been told by old men of New England, who remembered the time when the Mohawks made war on their Indians, that as soon as a single Mohawk was discovered in the country, these Indians raised a cry from hill to hill, A Mohawk! a Mohawk! upon which they all fled like sheep before wolves, without attempting to make the least resistance, whatever odds were on their side. All the nations round them have for many years entirely submitted to them, and pay a yearly tribute to them in wampum.

We have many proofs of their skill in oratory and of the clearness and logic of their addresses. Even now, when their power is gone, and their pride broken down, they have many orators among them. I have heard in my official life speeches made by them, and I have also listened to many of the distinguished men of our own lineage. While the untutored man could not arm himself with all the facts and resources at the command of the educated, yet I can say that I have heard from the chiefs of the Five Nations as clear, strong and dignified addresses as any I have listened to in legislative halls or at the bar of our judicial tribunals. Oratory is too subtle in its nature to be described, or I could give to you some of the finest expressions in Indian addresses.

They did not excel merely in arms and oratory, they were a political people. Monsieur D. La Protiere, a Frenchman and an enemy, says in his history of North America:

When we speak of the Five Nations in France, they are thought, by a common mistake, to be mere barbarians, always thirsting for blood, but their characters are very different. They are indeed the fiercest and most formidable people in North America, and at the same time are as politic and judicious as well can be conceived, and this appears from their management of all affairs which they have not only with the French and English but likewise with almost all the Indians of this vast continent.

As to their civil polity, Colden says in 1747:

Each of these nations is an absolute republic by itself, and every castle in each nation is governed in all public affairs by its own sachems or old men. The authority of these rulers is gained by and consists wholly in the opinion the rest of the nation have of their integrity and wisdom. Their great men, both sachems and captains, are generally poorer than the common people, and they affect to give away and distribute all the presents or plunder they get in their treaties or in wars, so as to leave nothing to themselves. There is not a man in the members of the Five Nations who has gained his office otherwise than by merit. There is not the least salary or any sort of profit annexed to any office to tempt the covetous or sordid, but on the contrary every unworthy action is unavoidably attended with the forfeiture of their commissions, for their authority is only the esteem of the people, and ceases the moment that esteem is lost.

In the history of the world there is no other instance where such vast conquests were achieved with such limited numbers without superiority of arms. More than two hundred years ago, when the New England colonies were engaged in King Phillip’s war, commissioners were sent to Albany to secure the friendship of the Mohawks. Again, in 1684, Lord Howard, Governor of Virginia, met the sachems of the Onondagas and Cayugas in the Town Hall of Albany. These councils by the governors and agents of the colonies became almost annual affairs. The power of Colonel Peter Schuyler with the Iroquois at this day was deemed of the utmost importance by the crown. Perhaps no other man in our history exerted so great an influence over the course of events which shaped the destinies of our country. For he was a great man who lived and acted at a time when it was uncertain if French or English civilization, thoughts and customs would govern this continent. He and the chiefs who went with him to England were received with marks of distinction and unusual honor by Queen Anne.

The Hollanders were the first Europeans who were brought in contact with this people.

Before the Pilgrims had landed at Plymouth Rock, they had made a settlement on the Hudson, where the capital of our State now stands. At that time, the most commercial people of the world, their ships visited every sea, and they were accustomed to deal with all forms of civilized and savage life. In pursuit of the fur trade they pushed their way up the stream of the Mohawk, and by their wisdom and prudence made relationship with the Indians along its banks, which was of the utmost importance in the future history of our country.

The influence which the Hollanders gained while they held the territories embraced in New York and New Jersey was exerted in behalf of the British Government, when the New Netherlands, as they were then called, were transferred to that power. In the long contest, running through a century, known as the French war, the Dutch settlers rendered important service to the British crown. The avenues and rivers which they had discovered penetrating the deep forest which overspread the country now became the routes by which the armies of France and England sought to seize and hold the strongholds of our land. The power which could hold Fort Stanwix, the present site of Rome, the carrying place between the Mohawk and the waters which flowed through Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence, would control the great interior plains of this continent. If France could have gained a foothold in this valley, the whole region drained by the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi reaching from the Alleghenies to the Rocky Mountains, would have been her’s. Our history, usages, government and laws would have been changed.

He who will study European events for a hundred years before our revolution will be struck as to the uncertainties, as to the result. For a century the destinies of this continent vibrated with the uncertainties of the battle-fields of Europe. The crisis of our fate was during the reign of Louis the Great, when that ambitious and powerful monarch sought to extend his dominion over two continents. When Marlborough won victories at Blenheim, Ramilies and Malblaquet, or when Prince Eugene swept the French from Italy and crippled the power of France, they did more than they dreamed of. They fought for the purpose of adjusting the balance of the nations of Europe; they shaped the customs, laws and conditions of a continent. But the war was not confined to the Old World.

Standing upon the spot where we now meet we could have seen a long successien of military expeditions made up of painted warriors, of disciplined soldiers, led by brave, adventurous men, pushing their way through deep forest paths or following, with their light vessels and frail canoes, the current of the Mohawk. But arms were not the only power relied upon to gain control.

The missionaries of France, with a religious zeal which outstripped the traders greed for gold, or the soldiers love for glory, traversed this continent far in advance of war or commerce. Seeking rather than shunning martyrdom; they were bold, untiring in their efforts to bring over the savage tribes to the religion to which they were devoted, and to the government to which they were attached. Many suffered tortures and martyrdom, in the interior of our State, and on the banks of the Mohawk. There are not in the world’s history pages of more dramatic interest than those which tell of the efforts of diplomacy, the zeal of religion, or the heroism in arms of this great contest, waged so many years in the wilds of this country. If I could picture all the events that have happened here, they would invest this valley with unfading interest. Its hillsides, its plains, its streams are instinct with interest to the mind of him who knows the story of the past. It should be familiar in every household. But the grand procession of armies did not stop with the extinction of Indian tribes, or of French claims.

When the revolutionary contest began, the very structure of our country made the State of New York the centre of the struggle, and the valleys of the Hudson and the Mohawk, the great avenues through which war swept in its desolating course. It was most destructive here, for it brought all the horrors of Indian warfare. It is said that there was not one home in all this region which did not suffer from the torch or the tomahawk. Fortunately it was inhabited by a brave, hardy and enduring race, trained to meet and overcome the hardships of life. The homes of their fathers had been destroyed in Europe by the armies of France. The Germans brought here by the British Government during the reign of Queen Anne were placed between the English settlements and the savage tribes, because, among other reasons, it was said that their trials and sufferings had fitted them to cope with all the dangers of border life.

When we have thus had passed in review before us the bands of painted savages, the missionary armed only with religious zeal, and shielded alone with the insignia of his sacred calling; the gallant armies of France and Britain; the hasty array of our Revolutionary fathers as they rallied in defence of their liberties, we have then only seen the forerunners of the greatest movement of the human race.

With our independence and the possession and the mastery of this great continent began a struggle unparalleled in the history of the world. Peaceful in its form, it has dwarfed in comparison the mightiest movements of war. Its influence upon the civilization of the people of the earth, has thrown into insignificance all that modern victories and invasions have done. During the past hundred years there has been a conflict between the nations of Europe on the one hand, and our broad land and political freedom on the other- It has been a contest for men and women—for those who could give us labor skill and strength. We count our captives by millions. Not prisoners of war, but prisoners of peace. Not torn by force, but won by the blessings which the God of nature has enabled us to hold out to them in our fertile hills and valleys and plains. What were the hordes of the Persians? What were the array of the crusaders? What the armies of earth’s greatest conquerors, in comparison with the march of the multitudes of immigrants from the Atlantic, States or from Europe who have moved through the valleys of the Hudson and the Mohawk, the very gateways of our country seeking homes in the interior of our continent? Ours is a double victory, unlike war, which kills or enchains. It draws our opponents to our side, and makes them co-workers in building up our greatness and glory. As the men of every civilized race are pouring through our valley, we see before us the mightiest elements which are shaping the future of the human race.

What are all the problems of European diplomacy compared with these movements passing before us? All their recent wars, in the changes they have made are insignificant in comparison with the power we have gained by immigration alone. That procession of events, beginning with Indian warfare, and stretching through three centuries of battles for the possession, and the wars for the independence of our country, grows in importance and magnitude; and we see no end to its column as we look down into the dim future. The courses of the Mohawk and Hudson will ever be its greatest avenues. For here commerce pours its richest streams, and immigration leads its greatest armies. We are bewildered when we try to trace out the growth of the future. Each rolling year adds more than a million; each passing day more than three thousand; each fleeting hour more than one hundred to our numbers. The tide will swell still higher in the future.

I was once asked by a distinguished Englishman if we did not make a mistake when we severed our relationship from the British people? I told him that we were sometimes sorry that we let them go; that our mere increase in twenty-five years would exceed in numbers the population of Great Britain; that the British Isles would make glorious States of our Union; and that we needed them as outposts on the European shores. I was able to say this under the circumstances without violation of courtesy, and it was pleasantly received by a man whose mind was large enough not to take offense at the remark, which served to place the progress of our country in a strong light,

I have thus hastily sketched the interest which attaches to the whole course of the Mohawk Valley, with the view of throwing light upon the question which I put at the outset. Have we who live amid these scenes been true to ourselves, and true to our forefathers, by making this history an animating influence to promote the public welfare; to instill honorable pride in family circles, or quicken the minds with generous thoughts, which otherwise would have been dull and cold and sordid? The characters of men depend upon the current of thoughts which are passing through their minds. If these are ennobling, the man is constantly lifted up; it matters not what his condition may be in other respects.

If these are debasing, he will constantly sink in the scale of morals and intellect; it matters not what wealth or learning he may have. What men think not only in the hours study, but at all times and places, in the field, in the workshop, in the counting-room, makes their characters, their intelligence and their virtue. Men’s thoughts form and shape them. And those which relate to the past are most ennobling. For they are unstained by prejudice, and unweakened by sentiments which incline to detract from merits of living actors. We instinctively think and speak well of the dead. This of itself makes us better men. We can so learn the, histories of this valley, that its scenes shall recall them as clearly and as vividly as the pictures upon our walls. We can so stamp them upon our minds that its hills and plains and streams will be instinct with the actions of those who have gone before us that man has done himself a wrong who can look down upon the Mohawk; and not see the drifting along its current the savage, the missionary, or the soldier of the past. He who dwells upon its traditions; who can point out where men died in the struggles of war, where men suffered martyrdom for their faith—the spot where some bold stand was taken for the the rights of man and the liberties of country; he who feels the full import of the great movements of commerce and of men passing through this valley, certainly has an education that will always lift him up mentally and morally. You can not imagine a people living here with all these events stamped upon their minds, ever present to give food for thought and reflection, who will not be animated by a zeal for the public welfare, by generous impulses, by a self-sacrificing devotion for honor, for religion, for country. There is no teaching so powerful as that which comes invested with the forms of nature. It is that which reaches and tells upon the young and the old, the learned and the unlearned alike. Imagine two men living in this valley, both familiar with all its features, one well informed and the other ignorant of its events; then tell me if you believe that they can be alike in their moral natures or their value as citizens. In view of what I have thus said we can see why history is so potent. We can now see the wisdom, and the mercy too, of that command which tells us to honor our fathers and our mothers, though for many years and through many generations they have slept in their graves.

There are some reasons why the history of New York is not as well-known to the American people as that of other States. It has not excited the interest which justly attaches to it. The first settlers were Hollanders. When the Dutch made their settlement on this continent they were superior to other European nations, in learning, in arts, in commerce, and in just views of civil and religious liberty. Our country is indebted to them for many of the best principles of our goverment. But their language is no longer spoken here. In-comers from other States and nations exceed their descendants in numbers, and many of the traditions and events of its colonial period have been lost. This is true also of the German settlers in the valley of the Mohawk. The settlers who came into our State after the revolution, brought with them the ideas and sentiments of the places from which they came, and which, for a long time, have been cherished with more zeal than has been shown for the history of the State, where they have made their homes. These things created an indifference to the honor of New York. So far from preserving what relates to its past, in many instances old monuments have been destroyed, and names obliterated, which, if they had been preserved, would have recalled to men’s minds the most important incidents in the progress of our country. Nothing could have been more unfortunate than the acts which changed the name of Fort Stanwix to that of Rome, and that of Fort Schuyler to Utica. The old names would have suggested the circumstances of the French and Revolutionary wars. Of themselves they would have educated our people, and would have turned their attention to facts which they ought to know, but which have been thrown into the shade by terms which mislead. The existing designations, with their absurd and incongruous associations, divert the mind from these honorable memories.

The time has come when the people of New York owe it to themselves and to their country to bring forward their records, to incite a just measure of State pride, and to elevate our standard of public and private virtue by the influence of our grand history.

This should be taught in our schools, discussed, in our journals and made the subject of public lectures and addresses. Monuments should be put up to mark the spots where battles were fought and victories won, which have shaped the destinies of our country. When this is done, our own citizens, and the multitudes who traverse our valley, will see that within its limits all forms of warfare—that of Indian barbarism, disciplined armies, and of naval power have occurred within its boundaries. These prove the truth of the remark of General Scott, “that the confluence of the Mohawk and the Hudson has ever been the strategic point in all the wars in which our country has been engaged with foreign powers.

This work of making the details of our history known and felt by our people should begin in the heart of our State, in the valley of the Mohawk. Associations should be formed to preserve records and traditions that will otherwise be lost. Its old churches, which date back to the existence of our government, should be held sacred. The minor incidents of personal adventure, of individual heroism, should be preserved, for these show the character of the men and times in which they occur.

In no other quarter were the rights of the people asserted against the crown more clearly, or at an earlier day. It is not certain if the blood shed in the Revolution commenced at the battle of Lexington, or when the sturdy Germans were beaten down and wounded while defending their liberty pole against Sir John Johnson and his party.

I have refrained from want of time from presenting many facts and incidents which would give more interest to my address than the general statements I have made. Mr. Simms, to whom we are deeply indebted for long-continued and zealous researches into the history of this valley, has frequently given to the public sketches and narratives of great value. I trust the time has come when he and others who have labored in the same direction, will receive the sympathy and applause to which they are entitled.

Shall this centennial year be made the occasion for organizing societies in this valley, with a view, among other things, to the erection of monuments at different points along the Mohawk? I do not urge this as a mere matter of sentiment, but because I believe they will promote material welfare as well as mental activity and moral elevation. For these are ever found in close relationship. This whole region is marked for its fertility. It abounds with the material for varied industry, and is filled with streams with abundant power to drive all forms of machinery. It is in the heart of a great State, close by the leading markets of our country, and with cheap transportation to those of the world. Many millions in search of homes and for places to pursue their varied industry have passed by all these. I believe if we had shown the same pride in our State that has been exhibited elsewhere; if the minds of our people had been quickened, and their patriotism kept bright and burning by the examples of our fathers, that the Mohawk valley today would show a larger measure of power and prosperity than now blesses it. These things make a system of education, in some respects more active and pervading than that of books and schools. Subtle in their influences, they are not easily described, but they are felt and seen in all the aspects of society. Many years ago Congress made a grant to put up a monument over the grave of Herkimer. Attempts have been made to have the Legislature of our own State to mark in some suitable way the battle field of Oriskany. At the last session of the Legislature, the senator from Otsego and other members of that body made efforts to have something done in these directions. For one, I am grateful to them for their patriotism and the interest they have shown in these subjects. They did their duty when we neglected ours. And yet I rejoice in their failure. This pious work should be done by the people of this valley. They should not wait for strangers to come in to honor their fathers. There would be little value in monuments put up by mere legislative action, and at the cost of the State or national treasury. We want on the part of the people the patriotism which prompts, the intelligence which directs, the liberality which constructs such memorials. We want the inspiring influence which springs from the very efforts to honor the characters of those who have gone before us.

We want that which will not only remind us of the glorious acts of the past, but which will incite them in the future. Will the descendants of the Hollanders in the county of Schenectady be indifferent to this subject? Are the men of German descent, living in Montgomery and Herkimer, willing to have the services and sacrifices of their fathers pass into oblivion? Does no honorable pride move them to let our countrymen know that their homes suffered beyond all others, through the Indian wars and revolutionary struggles? Will they not try to keep alive in the minds of their countrymen the fact that the battle of Oriskany, which was the first check given to the British power in the campaign of Burgoyne, was fought by their ancestors and that its shouts and war-cries were uttered in the German language? Have they less public spirit than the Germans who have lately come to our country, and who have put up a monument to Baron Steuben? By doing so they honored one whose relationships to them were comparatively remote. Is it not true that men born in the valley of the Mohawk neglect the graves of their fathers, and forget the battle fields which have been made wet with the blood of those of their own lineage? The county of Oneida bears the name of one of the conquering tribes of the Iroquois. Upon the banks of the upper Mohawk, which flows through its territory, stood Fort Stanwix and Fort Schuyler. The former was for a hundred years during the wars between France and England, and at the time of our national independence, one of the most important military positions in our country. Near by was fought the battle of Oriskany, which was a part of the contest at Saratoga which won our national independence.

It was my purpose to give more value to this address, and to fortify its positions by presenting many incidents of a nature to interest and convince. But my health has not allowed me to refer to the proper books and documents for this purpose. I have therefore been compelled to speak more in general terms than I intended . What I have said is also weakened by the fact that I have not been able to take up and follow out my subject continuously and with clearness.

In particular, I wished to speak at some length of Fort Stanwix, Fort Dayton and Fort Herkimer, but I am unable to do so. Much also could be said about the old church at German Flats. Built before the revolution, for the Germans of the Palatinates, it has associations with the great political and religious struggles of Europe and America. Standing upon the site of a fort still more ancient, for it was built at an early period of the French war, it was for a long time the outpost of the British power on this continent. It has been the scene of Indian warfare; of sudden and secret attack by stealthy savages; of sudden forays which swept away the crops and cattle of feeble settlements; of assaults by the French; of personal conflicts which mark contests on the outskirts of civilization. It was the stronghold of our fathers during the revolution. The missionary and the fur trader more than three hundred years ago floated by its position in bark canoes, and in these later days millions of men and women from our own country and from foreign lands, on canals or railroads, have passed by on their way to build up great cities and States in the hear t of our continent. There is no spot where the historian can place himself with more advantage when he wishes to review in his mind the progress of our country to greatness, than the Old Church at German Flats. Looking from this point his perspectives will be just; all facts will take their due proportions; local prejudices will not discolor his views, and he will be less liable here than elsewhere in falling into the common error of giving undue prominence to some events, while overlooking the full significance of others more important. I hope the subjects of local histories will be taken up by our fellow citizens of this region, and the facts relating to them brought out and made familiar to us all.

I said at the outset that I did not come here to-day merely to appeal to your imaginations, or only to take part in a holiday affair. I come to speak upon subjects which I deem of practical importance to my hearers. If I have succeeded in making myself understood, I am sure, if you will look into these subjects you will find that all history, all jurisprudence, all just reasonings, force us to the conclusion that not only does a Divine command, but that reason and justice call upon us to honor our ancestors, and that there is a great practical truth which concerns the welfare, the prosperity, and the power of all communities in the words, “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

See also: 
The History and Events that Led to the Founding of the United States by Courtlandt Parker 1876
THE HAND OF GOD IN AMERICAN HISTORY by Rev Morgan Dix July 4th 1876 NYC
Non-Revisionist Politically Incorrect History of America from the Ancient Authors Part 1
RISE OF CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY by Dr. Richard Salter Storrs July 4 1876
OUR NOBLE HERITAGE by Hon. George W. Curtis (1824 –1892)
AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP! by Colonel Henry A. Gildersleve July 4th 1876 NYC
The Wisdom and Love of God as Shown by His Creation by Noah Webster
Non-Revisionist Politically Incorrect History of the World With Biblical References Part 1
POLITICAL CONSTITUTIONS by Johannes Von Muller (1832)
American Republic2

OUR NOBLE HERITAGE by Hon. George W. Curtis (1824 –1892)

George_William_CurtisOUR NOBLE HERITAGE! An Oration by the Honorable George William Curtis, Delivered At The Centennial Celebration, Northfield, Staten Island, New York, July 4th, 1876

Mr. President, Fellow-citizens, Neighbors, And Friends:— On the 19th of April, 1775, when Samuel Adams well called the father of the Revolution, heard the first shots of the British upon Lexington Green, he knew that war had at last begun, and full of enthusiasm, of hope, of trust in America, he exclaimed with rapture, “Oh? what a glorious morning.” And there is no fellow-citizen of ours, wherever he may be to-day—whether sailing the remotest seas or wandering among the highest Alps, however far removed, however long separated from his home, who, as his eyes open upon this glorious morning, does not repeat with the same fervor the words of Samuel Adams, and thank God with all his heart, that he too is an American. In imagination he sees infinitely multiplied the very scene that we behold. From every roof and gable, from every door and window of all the myriads of happy American homes from the seaboard to the mountains, and from the mountains still onward to the sea, the splendor of this summer heaven is reflected in the starry beauty of the American flag. From every steeple and tower in crowded cities and towns, from the village belfry, and the school-house and meeting-house on solitary country roads, ring out the joyous peals. From countless thousands of reverend lips ascends the voice of prayer. Everywhere the inspiring words of the great Declaration that we have heard, the charter of our Independence, the scripture of our liberty, is read aloud in eager, in grateful ears. And above all, and under all, pulsing through all the praise and prayer, from the frozen sea to the tropic gulf, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the great heart of a great people beats in fullness of joy, beats with pious exultation, that here at last, upon our soil—here, by the wisdom of our fathers and the bravery of our brothers, is founded a Republic, vast, fraternal, peaceful, upon the divine corner- stone of liberty, justice and equal rights.

There have indeed been other republics, but they were founded upon other principles. There are republics in Switzerland to-day a thousand years old. But Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden are pure democracies not larger than the county in which we live, and wholly unlike our vast, national and representative republic. Athens was a republic, but Marathon and Salamis, battles whose names are melodious in the history of liberty, were won by slaves. Rome was a republic, but slavery degraded it to an empire. Venice, Genoa, Florence, were republican cities, but they were tyrants over subject neighbors, and slaves of aristocrats at home. There were republics in Holland, honorable forever, because from them we received our common schools, the bulwark of American liberty, but they too were republics of classes, not of the people. It was reserved for our fathers to build a republic upon a declaration of the equal rights of men; to make the Government as broad as humanity; to found political institutions upon faith in human nature. “Tho sacred rights of mankind,” fervently exclaimed Alexander Hamilton, “are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records; they are written as with a sunbeam in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of Divinity itself.” That was the sublime faith in which this century began. The world stared and sneered —the difficulties and dangers were colossal. For more than eighty years that Declaration remained only a Declaration of faith. But, fellow-citizens, fortunate beyond all men, our eyes behold its increasing fulfillment. The sublime faith of the fathers is more and more the familiar fact of the children. And the proud flag which floats over America to-day, as it is the bond of indissoluble union, so it is tho seal of ever enlarging equality, and ever surer justice. Could the men of that earlier day, could Samuel Adams and all his associates have lived through this amazing century to see this glorious morning, as they counted these teeming’ and expanding States, as they watched the advance of republican empire from the Alleghenies through a country of golden plenty, passing the snowy Sierras and descending to the western sea of peace, as they saw the little spark of political liberty which they painfully struck, blown by the eager breath of a century into a flame which aspires to heaven and illuminates the earth, they would bow their reverend heads at this moment, as Adams and Jefferson bowed theirs fifty years ago to-day; and the happy burden of their hearts would tremble from their expiring lips, “Now, oh Lord, let thy servants depart in peace, for their eyes have seen thy salvation.

BAmerican Republicut we have learned, by sharp experience, that prosperity is girt with peril. In this hour of exultation we will not scorn the wise voices of warning and censure, the friendly and patriotic voices of the time. We will not forget that the vital condition of national greatness and prosperity is the moral character of the people. It is not vast territory, a temperate climate, exhaustless mines, enormous wealth, amazing inventions, imperial enterprises, magnificent public works, a population miraculously multiplied ; it is not busy shops and humming mills, and flaming forges, and commerce that girdles the globe with the glory of a flag, that makes a nation truly great. These are but opportunities. They are like the health and strength and talents of a man, which are not his character and manhood, but only the means of their development. The test of our national greatness is the use we make of our opportunities. If they breed extravagance, wild riot and license—if they make fraud plausible and corruption easy—if they confuse private morality, and debauch the public conscience, beware, beware! for all our prosperity is then but a Belshazzar’s feast of splendor, and while we sit drunken with wine and crowned with flowers, the walls of our stately palace are flaming and crackling with the terrible words of our doom.

But with all faults confessed, and concessions made, with all dangers acknowledged and difficulties measured, I think we may truly say that, upon the whole, we have used our opportunities well. The commanding political fact of the century that ends to-day, is the transcendent force and the recuperative power of republican institutions. Neither the siren of prosperity, nor the red fury of civil war, has been able to destroy our Government or to weaken our faith in the principles upon which it is founded. We have been proud, and reckless, and defiant; we have sinned, and have justly suffered, but I say, in your hearing, as, had I the voice, I would say in the hearing of the world to-day, . that out of the fiery furnace of our afflictions, America emerges at this moment greater, better, truer, nobler, than ever in its history before.

I do not forget how much is due to the political genius of the race from which we are so largely sprung. Nine-tenths of the revolutionary population of the country was of English stock. The Declaration of Independence was a fruit of Magna Charta, and Magna Charta grew from seed planted before history in the German forest. Our friend, the historian of the island, in the interesting sketch of this town that he read us, tells us that Northfield was the most patriotic town in the county during the Revolution, and that the original settlers were, in great part, of German stock. The two facts naturally go together. The instinct of individual liberty and independence is the germ of the political development of that race from which also our fathers sprung. They came from England to plant, as they believed, a purer England. Their new England was to be a true England. At last they took arms reluctantly to defend England against herself, to maintain the principles and traditions of English liberty. The farmers of Bunker Hill were the Barons of Runnymede in a later day, and the victory at Yorktown was not the seal of a revolution so much as the pledge of continuing English progress. This day dawns upon a common perception of that truth on both sides of the ocean. In no generous heart on either shore lingers any trace of jealousy or hostility. It is a day of peace, of joy, of friendship. Here above my head, and in your presence, side by side with our own flag, hangs the tri-color of France, our earliest friend, and the famous cross of England, our ally in civilization. May our rivalry in all true progress be as inspiring as our kinship is close! In the history of the century, I claim that we have done our share. In real service to humanity, in the diffusion of intelligence, and the lightening of the burden of labor, in beneficent inventions—yes, in the education of the public conscience, and the growth of political morality, of which this very day sees the happy signs, I claim that the act of this day a hundred years ago is justified, and that we have done not less, as an Independent State, than our venerable mother England.

Think what the country was that hundred years ago. Today the State of which we are citizens contains a larger population than that of all the States of the Union when Washington was President . Yet, New York is now but one of thirty eight States, for to-day our youngest sister, Colorado, steps into the national family of the Union. The country of a century ago was our father’s small estate. That of to-day is our noble heritage. Fidelity to the spirit and principles of our fathers will enable us to deliver it enlarged, beautified, ennobled, to our children of the new century. Unwavering faith in the absolute supremacy of the moral law; the clear perception that well-considered, thoroughly-proved, and jealously-guarded institutions, are the chief security of liberty; and an unswerving loyalty to ideas, made the men of the Revolution, and secured American independence. The same faith and the same loyalty will preserve that independence and secure progressive liberty forever. And here and now, upon this sacred centennial altar, let us, at least, swear that we will try public and private men by precisely the same moral standard, and that no man who directly or indirectly connives at corruption or coercion to acquire office or to retain it, or who prostitutes any opportunity or position of public service to his own or another’s advantage, shall have our countenance or our vote.

The one thing that no man in this country is so poor that he cannot own is his vote; and not only is he bound to use it honestly, but intelligently. Good government does not come of itself; it is the result of the skillful co-operation of good and shrewd men. If they will not combine, bad men will; and if they sleep, the devil will sow tares. And as we pledge ourselves to our father’s fidelity, we may well believe that in this hushed hour of noon, their gracious spirits bend over us in benediction. In this sweet summer air, in the strong breath of the ocean that beats upon our southern shore; in the cool winds that blow over the Island from the northern hills; in these young faces and the songs of liberty that murmur from their lips; in the electric sympathy that binds all our hearts with each other, and with those of our brothers and sisters throughout the land, lifting our beloved country as a sacrifice to God, I see, I feel the presence of our fathers: the blithe heroism of Warren, and the unsullied youth of Quincy: the fiery impulse of Otis and Patrick Henry: the serene wisdom of John Jay and the comprehensive grasp of Hamilton: the sturdy and invigorating force of John and of Samuel Adams—and at last, embracing them all, as our eyes .at this moment behold cloud and hill, and roof and tree, and field and river, blent in one perfect picture, so combining and subordinating all the great powers of his great associates, I feel the glory of the presence, I bend my head to the blessing of the ever-living, the immortal Washington.

Benediction by Rev. S. G. Smith, Delivered at the close of the Centennial Celebration, Northfield, Staten Island, New York, July 4th, 1876.

May the blessing of our father’s God now rest upon us. As in time past, so in time to come, may He guard and defend our land. May He crown the coming years with peace and prosperity. May He ever clothe our rulers with righteousness, and give us a future characterized by purity of life and integrity of purpose. May He everywhere shed forth the benign influence of His spirit, and to the present and coming generations vouchsafe the inspiring hopes of His gospel, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

See also: The History and Events that Led to the Founding of the United States by Courtlandt Parker 1876
The Wisdom and Love of God as Shown by His Creation by Noah Webster
Non-Revisionist Politically Incorrect History of the World With Biblical References Part 1
The Excellence of the Christian Religion by Noah Webster Published 1834 Part 1
Why our Forefathers firmly believed that Freedom and Liberty came from God
Non Revisionist Politically Incorrect History of Jesus Christ by Johannes von Müller 1832
Christianity and the Founding of the United States the Simple Truth
Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God
Divine Heredity