« السابقةمتابعة »
in its place a new form of government. We have seen, that the inefficiency of the old confederation forced the states to surrender the league then existing, and to establish a national constitution. The convention also, which framed the constitution, declared this in the letter accompanying it. "It is obviously impracticable in the federal government of these states," says that letter, "to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all. Individuals entering into society must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest." "In all our deliberations on this subject, we kept steadily in our view that, which appeared to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety, perhaps our national existence." Could this be attained consistently with the notion of an existing treaty or confederacy, which each at its pleasure was at liberty to dissolve?
§ 157. It is also historically known, that one of the objections taken by the opponents of the constitution was, "that it is not a confederation of the states, but a government of individuals." It was, nevertheless, in the solemn instruments of ratification by the people of the several states, assented to, as a constitution. And although many declarations of rights, many propositions of amendments, and many protestations of reserved powers, are to be found accompanying the ratifications of the various conventions, sufficiently evincive of the extreme caution and jealousy of those bodies, and of the people at large, it is remarkable, that there is nowhere to be found the slightest allusion to the instrument, as a confederation or compact of states in their sovereign capacity, and no reservation of any right, on
the part of any state, to dissolve its connexion, or to abrogate its assent, or to suspend the operations of the constitution, as to itself.
§158. So that there is very strong negative testimony against the notion of its being a compact or confederation, founded upon the known history of the times, and the acts of ratification, as well as upon the antecedent articles of confederation. The latter purported on their face to be a mere confederacy. The language of the third article was, "The said states hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other for their common defence, &c. binding themselves to assist each other." And the ratification was by delegates of the state legislatures, who solemnly plighted and engaged the faith of their respective constituents, that they should abide by the determination of the United States in congress assembled on all questions, which by the said confederation, are submitted to them; and that the articles thereof should be inviolably observed by the states they respectively represented.
§ 159. It is not unworthy of observation, that in the debates of the various conventions called to examine and ratify the constitution, this subject did not pass without discussion. The opponents, on many occasions, pressed the objection, that it was a consolidated government, and contrasted it with the confederation. None of its advocates pretended to deny, that its design was to establish a national government, as contradistinguished from a mere league or treaty, however they might oppose the suggestion, that it was a consolidation of the states.
§ 160. The cardinal conclusion, for which this doctrine of a compact has been, with so much ingenuity
and ability, forced into the language of the constitution, (for the latter no where alludes to it,) is avowedly to establish, that in construing the constitution, there is no common umpire; but that each state, nay each department of the government of each state, is the supreme judge for itself, of the powers, and rights, and duties, arising under that instrument.
§ 161. But if it were admitted, that the constitution is a compact, the conclusion, that there is no common arbiter, would neither be a necessary, nor a natural conclusion from that fact standing alone. To decide upon the point, it would still behove us to examine the very terms of the constitution, and the delegation of powers under it. It would be perfectly competent even for confederated states to agree upon, and delegate authority to construe the compact to a common arbiter. The people of the United States had an unquestionable right to confide this power to the government of the United States, or to any department thereof, if they chose so to do. The question is, whether they have done it. If they have, it becomes obligatory and binding upon all the states.
§ 162. It is not, then, by artificial reasoning founded upon theory, but upon a careful survey of the language of the constitution itself, that we are to interpret its powers, and its obligations. We are to treat it, as it purports on its face to be, as a CONSTITUTION of government; and we are to reject all other appellations, and definitions of it, such, as that it is a compact, especially as they may mislead us into false constructions and glosses, and can have no tendency to instruct us in its real objects.
WHO IS THE FINAL JUDGE OR INTERPRETER IN CONSTITUTIONAL CONTROVERSIES.
§ 163. 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.
§ 164. 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. 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. 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 reexamined 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 re-examination in any other tribunal. So the power to make treaties being confided to the president and senate, when a treaty is properly rátified, 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. 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.