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The Rights of the People

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    CHAPTER III. WHAT IS THE NATION?

    The United States-the nation indeed-is not composed of the States. The original thirteen States did not compose the nation, nor do the forty-four now compose it. The United States, the nation, is that power, that system, that organization, above all the States and distinct from them, which was created to perform, in behalf of the States and the people, what neither the people, nor any of the States, nor yet all the States together, could do for themselves.ROP 68.1

    In the facts and the statements presented in the preceding chapter, it is clear enough that “the United States” before the establishment of the Constitution were not a nation. There was no national power; there was no national action; there was no national character; there was no national spirit. This was seen and expressed by the friends as well as the foes of the country.ROP 68.2

    True, when the thirteen independent States were firmly agreed upon any measure so that they could all act unreservedly together-as in the war for their independence-then they were powerful, and so far in that particular measure displayed somewhat of the characteristics of a nation. But after such united effort had secured their independence, there was literally not a single question upon which there was unanimity of opinion and consequent action, such as could display any of the characteristics of a nation.ROP 68.3

    This is why there were so many “prophecies of the downfall of the United States;” this is why it was that they were “one nation to-day, and thirteen to-morrow;” and this is why it was certainly true that there was no alternative between anarchy and the formation of a national government. James Wilson, of Pennsylvania, a member of the convention which framed the Constitution for the making of the nation, in pleading for the approval of the Constitution by the Pennsylvania convention called for that purpose, stated the case thus:-ROP 68.4

    “By adopting this Constitution we shall become a nation; we are not now one.”-Elliott’s Debates, Vol. II, p. 526, quoted by Bryce. Am. Com., chapter 3, par. 8, note.ROP 69.1

    They must by choice become a nation, or else without their choice they would become nothing. And as by the adoption of the Constitution they would “become a nation;” as with the Constitution there would be a nation, while without it there would be none; it is perfectly clear that the nation is that order of government, that system, that organization, that power, which is defined in the Constitution of the United States.ROP 69.2

    It is also clear that, in truth and in fact, the nation is the United States, and the United States is the nation. The nation is not composed of the States. The thirteen States did not become a nation. The people of the thirteen States created a nation. After the nation had been created, the thirteen States still remained intact as States. The nation is a thing in and of itself, created to perform what could not be performed without it. The nation is a government, and a governmental system, as distinct from the thirteen, or the forty-four, States, as any one of these States is distinct from the others. As respects the States and the nation, they are not one government, nor are they two governments. When the people of the thirteen States in 1787-1789 had created the national government, there was not then only our government in this country, there were more than one. There were then more than thirteen governments—there were fourteen. There was the United States, and besides this there were still the thirteen States; there was the national government, and besides this there were thirteen State governments, making fourteen in all. Now, May, 1895, there is the national government, and besides this there are the forty-four State governments, making forty-five governments in the country. There is the United States, and besides this there are the forty-four States. But the United States, the nation, is ever and always a government in and of itself, distinct from all State governments. This distinction is neatly made by John Fiske in the following pointed sentences:-ROP 69.3

    “From 1776 to 1789 the United States were a confederation. After 1789, it was a federal nation.”-Fiske’s Civil Government, p. 234.ROP 70.1

    The distinction here drawn between the United States were, and it was, tells the whole story.ROP 70.2

    The United States is not as this:- [Illustration of thirteen circles in a circle, each touching the adjacent circles] That is as they were before 1789, while they were a confederacy and not a nation. Nor is the United Sates a governmental band drawn through the existing States to hold them together, as though it were this:- [Repeat of the above illustration of thirteen circles in a circle, each touching the adjacent circles, with an added dark band as a large circle running through all thirteen]ROP 70.3

    The United States is as neither of these. It is as this:- [Illustration of a large circle entitled, The United States, the Nation, inside of which are clustered smaller circles, the States]ROP 72.1

    A much finer conception, and perhaps a much better illustration, is contained in the following view, presented by Bryce: 7My rude and perhaps even crude illustration had been conceived and marked out before I found this illustration of Mr. Bryce’s. I have therefore let it stand, though his is much the better one.ROP 72.2

    “The central or national government and the State governments may be compared to a large building and a set of smaller buildings standing on the same ground, yet distinct from each other. It is a combination sometimes seen where a great church has been erected over more ancient houses of worship. First the soil is covered by a number of small shrines and chapels, built at different times and in different styles of architecture, each complete in itself. Then over them and including all in its spacious fabric there is reared a new pile, with its own loftier roof, its own walls, ... its own internal plan. The identity of the earlier buildings has, however, not been obliterated; and if the later and larger structure were to disappear, a little repair would enable them to keep out wind and weather, and be again what they once were, distinct and separate edifices. So the American States are now all inside the Union, and have become subordinate to it. Yet the Union is more than the aggregate of States, and the States are more than parts of the Union.”-The American Commonwealth, chapter 3, par. 7, edition of February, 1895.ROP 72.3

    The United States-the nation-is a government distinct from all the States, outside of them, and above them, which was created to do for the States and for the people what neither the States nor the people could do for themselves, nor yet for one another. It was not anything within their boundaries that troubled any of the thirteen States; it was altogether those of their interests which reached beyond their boundaries that caused the perplexity. For just as soon as any State attempted to follow up any of its interests which reached beyond its own boundaries, it entered the jurisdiction of another power equally independent with itself; and not only was this other an independent power, but with respect to that particular thing it might be a hostile power as well. Consequently, for the best interests of all, it was essential that there should be formed a government separate and distinct from all, which, in behalf of all, should have jurisdiction of all interests which should extend beyond the boundaries of any State.ROP 73.1

    This, in brief, defines the line that separates between the States and the United States, and between the jurisdiction of the State governments and that of the national government. Wilson, of Pennsylvania, who helped to make the nation, in explaining to the Pennsylvania convention the provisions of the Constitution, clearly defined this line as follows:-ROP 73.2

    “The convention found themselves embarrassed with another difficulty of peculiar delicacy and importance. I mean that of drawing a proper line between the national government and the governments of the several States. Whatever object of government is confined in its operation and effects within the bounds of a particular State, should be considered as belonging to the government of that State. Whatever object of government extends in its operation or effects beyond the bounds of a particular State, should be considered as belonging to the government of the United States.”-Bancroft’s History of the Formation of the Constitution pp. 244, 245.ROP 73.3

    Such was the intention of the framers of the original Constitution. Yet, as it was not distinctly expressed in the Constitution, an amendment respecting the point was required. Consequently, the tenth of the ten amendments that were passed in regular course through the first Congress that ever met under the Constitution, declares as follows:-ROP 74.1

    “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.”ROP 74.2

    Thus in all matters not delegated to the United States, nor prohibited by the Constitution to the States, each State may do fully and freely just as it pleases within its own boundaries; while in any matters so delegated or prohibited it has nothing whatever to do, but the nation in these things has power to fully and freely as it chooses. The nation has nothing whatever to do with any matter the operation and effects of which lie with in the boundaries of any State; and no State has anything what ever to do with any matter the operation or effects of which reach beyond its boundaries. State boundaries are no more a mark of the limits of State jurisdiction, than they are a barrier to the exercise of the national power. Thus stands the line in principle between the States and the United States; and it is described in words in the tenth amendment-that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people-and these powers are to be exercised exclusively by the States or by the people, never by the United States- never by the nation. Abraham Lincoln stated this point thus:-ROP 74.3

    “Each community, or a State, has a right to do exactly as it pleases with all the concerns within that State that interfere with the right of no other State; and the general government, upon principle, has no right to interfere with anything other than that general class of things that does concern the whole.”-Chicago Speech, July 10, 1858, Political Speeches and Debates, p. 83.ROP 75.1

    And Bancroft states this fact as follows:-ROP 75.2

    The United States of America, ... within its own sphere, is supreme and self-supporting. For this end it has its own Legislature to make enactments; its own functionaries to execute them; its own courts; its own treasury; and it alone may have an army and a navy. All sufficient powers are so plainly given that there is no need of striving for more by straining the words in which they are granted, beyond their plain and natural import.ROP 75.3

    “Aside from the sphere of the federal government, each State is in all things supreme, not by grace, but of right. The United States may not interfere with any ordinance or law that begins and ends within a State. This supremacy of the States in the powers which have not been granted, is as essentially a part of the system as the supremacy of the general government in its sphere....ROP 75.4

    “The powers of government are not divided between them; they are distributed; so that there need be no collision in their exercise.”-History of the Constitution, Vol. II, p. 332.ROP 75.5

    Thus “the acceptance of the Constitution of 1789 made the American people a nation.”-Bryce, Am. Com., first sentence of chapter 4. And that thing, that governmental organization, which was created by the people, which is defined and regulated in the Constitution of 1789-that is the nation.ROP 75.6

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