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necessary, that of amendments proposed by congress. In this mode twelve amendments have already been incorporated into the constitution. The guards, too, against the too hasty exercise of the power, under temporary discontents or excitements, are apparently sufficient. Two thirds of congress, or of the legislatures of the states, must concur in proposing, or requiring amendments to be proposed; and three fourths of the states must ratify them. Time is thus allowed, and ample time, for deliberation, both in proposing and ratifying amendments. They cannot be carried by surprise, or intrigue, or artifice. Indeed, years may elapse before a deliberate judgment may be passed upon them, unless some pressing emergency calls for instant action. An amendment, which has the deliberate judgment of two-thirds of congress, and of three fourths of the states, can scarcely be deemed unsuited to the prosperity, or security of the republic. It must combine as much wisdom and experience in its favour, as ordinarily can belong to the management of any human concerns. In England the supreme power of the nation resides in parliament; and, in a legal sense, it is so omnipotent, that it has authority to change the whole structure of the constitution, without resort to any confirmation of the people. There is, indeed, little danger, that it will so do, as long as the people are fairly represented in it. But still it does, theoretically speaking, possess the power; and it has actually exercised it so far, as to change the succession to the crown, and mould to its will some portions of the internal structure of the constitution.

§ 960. Upon the subject of the national constitution, we may adopt without hesitation the language of a learned commentator. "Nor," says he, "can we

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too much applaud a constitution, which thus provides a safe and peaceable remedy for its own defects, as they may, from time to time, be discovered. A change of government in other countries is almost always attended with convulsions, which threaten its entire dissolution; and with scenes of horror, which deter mankind from every attempt to correct abuses, or remove oppressions, until they have become altogether intolerable. In America we may reasonably hope, that neither of these evils need be apprehended. Nor is there any reason to fear, that this provision in the constitution will produce any instability in the government. The mode, both of originating and ratifying amendments, (in either mode, which the constitution directs,) must necessarily be attended with such obstacles and delays, as must prove a sufficient bar against light or frequent innovations. And, as a further security against them, the same article further provides, that no amendment, which may be made prior to the year 1808, shall, in any manner affect those clauses of the ninth section of the first article, which relate to the migration or importation of such persons, as the states may think proper to allow; and to the manner, in which direct taxes shall be laid; and that no state shall, without its consent, be deprived of its equal suffrage in the senate.”

CHAPTER XLII.

PUBLIC DEBTS

SUPREMACY OF CONSTITUTION

AND LAWS.

§ 961. THE next clause of the sixth article of the constitution is: "All debts contracted, and engage"ments entered into before the adoption of this consti"tution, shall be as valid against the United States, "under this constitution, as under the confederation."

§ 962. This can be considered in no other light, than as a declaratory proposition, resulting from the law of nations, and the moral obligations of society. Nothing is more clear upon reason or general law, than the doctrine, that revolutions in government have, or rather ought to have, no effect whatsoever upon private rights, and contracts, or upon the public obligations of nations. It results from the first principles of moral duty, and responsibility, deducible from the law of nature, and applied to the intercourse and social relations of nations. A change in the political form of a society ought to have no power to produce a dissolution of any of its moral obligations.

§ 963. This declaration was probably inserted in the constitution, not only as a solemn recognition of the obligations of the government resulting from national law; but for the more complete satisfaction and security of the public creditors, foreign as well as domestic. The articles of confederation contained a similar stipulation in respect to the bills of credit emitted, monies borrowed, and debts contracted, by or under the authority of congress, before the ratification of the confederation.

964. The next clause is, "This constitution, "and the laws of the United States, which shall be "made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or "which shall be made, under the authority of the United "States, shall be the supreme law of the land. And "the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding."

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§ 965. The propriety of this clause would seem to result from the very nature of the constitution. If it was to establish a national government, that government ought, to the extent of its powers and rights, to be supreme. It would be a perfect solecism to affirm, that, a national government should exist with certain powers; and yet, that in the exercise of those powers it should not be supreme. What other inference could have been drawn, than of their supremacy, if the constitution had been totally silent? And surely a positive affirmance of that, which is necessarily implied, cannot in a case of such vital importance be deemed unimportant. The very circumstance, that a question might be made, would irresistibly lead to the conclusion, that it ought not to be left to inference. A law, by the very meaning of the term, includes supremacy. It is a rule, which those, to whom it is prescribed, are bound to observe. This results from every political association. If individuals enter into a state of society, the laws of that society must be the supreme regulator of their conduct. If a number of political societies enter into a larger political society, the laws, which the latter may enact, pursuant to the powers entrusted to it by its constitution, must necessarily be supreme over those societies, and the individuals, of whom they are composed. It would otherwise be a mere treaty, depend

ent upon the good faith of the parties, and not a government, which is only another name for political power and supremacy. But it will not follow, that acts of the larger society, which are not pursuant to its constitutional powers, but which are invasions of the residuary authorities of the smaller societies, will become the supreme law of the land. They will be merely acts of usurpation, and will deserve to be treated as such. Hence we perceive, that the above clause only declares a truth, which flows immediately and necessarily from the institution of a national government. It will be observed, that the supremacy of the laws is attached to those only, which are made in pursuance of the constitution; a caution very proper in itself, but in fact the limitation would have arisen by irrisistible implication, if it had not been expressed.

It is,

§ 966. In regard to treaties, there is equal reason, why they should be held, when made, to be the supreme law of the land. It is to be considered, that treaties constitute solemn compacts of binding obligation among nations; and unless they are scrupulously obeyed, and enforced, no foreign nation would consent to negotiate with us; or if it did, any want of strict fidelity on our part in the discharge of the treaty stipulations would be visited by reprisals, or war. therefore, indispensable, that they should have the obligation and force of a law, that they may be executed by the judicial power, and be obeyed like other laws. This will not prevent them from being cancelled or abrogated by the nation upon grave and suitable occasions; for it will not be disputed, that they are subject to the legislative power, and may be repealed, like other laws, at its pleasure; or they may be varied by new treaties. Still, while they do subsist, they ought to

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