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The object of this clause is to get rid of a very common but perverse misapplication of a known maxim, that an affirmation of a power in particular cases, implies a negation of it in all other cases; and so, on the other hand, that a negation of a power in some cases, implies an affirmation of it in all others not denied. The maxim, when rightly understood, is perfectly sound and safe; but it has often been abused to purposes injurious to the rights of the people; and therefore the present clause was wisely inserted to prevent any such false interpretations and glosses of the Constitution.
§ 454. The next and last amendment, which has not been already considered, is, "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." This amendment follows out the object of the preceding; and is merely an affirmation of a rule of construction of the Constitution, which, upon any just reasoning, must have existed without it. Still, it is important as a security against two opposite tendencies of opinion, each of which is equally subversive of the true import of the Constitution. The one is to imply all powers, which may be useful to the National Government, which are not expressly prohibited; and the other is, to deny all powers to the National Government, which are not expressly granted. We have already seen, that there are many implied powers necessarily resulting from the nature of the express powers; and it is as clear, that no power can properly arise by implication from a mere prohibition. The Government of the United States is one of limited powers; and no authority exists beyond the prescribed limits, marked out in the instrument itself. Whatever powers are not granted, necessarily belong to the respective States, or to the people of the respective States, if they have not been confided by them to the State Governments.
§ 455. WE have now reviewed all the provisions of the original Constitution of the United States, and all the Amendments, which have been incorporated into it. And here, the task, originally proposed in these Commentaries, is brought to a close. Many reflections naturally crowd upon the mind at such a moment; many grateful recollections of the past; and many anxious thoughts of the future. The past is secure. It is unalterable. The seal of eternity is upon it. The wisdom, which it has displayed, and the blessings, which it has bestowed, cannot be obscured; neither can they be debased by human folly, or by human infirmity. The future, is that, which may well awaken the most earnest solicitude, both for the virtue and the permanence of our Republic The fate of other republies, their rise, their progress, their decline, and their fall, are written but too legibly on the pages of history, if, indeed, they were not continually before us in the startling fragments of their ruins. Those republics have perished; and have perished by their own hands. Prosperity has enervated them; corruption has debased them; and a enal populace has consummated their destruction. The people, alternately the prey of military chieftains at home, and of ambitious invaders from abroad, have been some times cheated out of their liberties by servile demagogues sometimes betrayed into a surrender of them by false patriots; and sometimes they have willingly sold them for a price to the despot, who has bidden highest for his victims. They have disregarded the warning voice of their Dest statesmen; and have persecuted and driven from office their truest friends. They have listened to the councils of fawning sycophants, or base calumniators of the wise and the good. They have reverenced power more in its high abuses and summary movements, than in
its calm and constitutional energy, when it dispensed bles sings with an unseen, but a liberal hand. They have sur rendered to faction, what belonged to the common interests and common rights of the country. Patronage and party, the triumph of an artful popular leader, and the discontents of a day, have outweighed, in their view, all solid principles and institutions of government. Such are the melancholy lessons of the past history of republics down
to our own.
§ 456. It is not my design to detain the reader by any elaborate reflections addressed to his judgement, either by way of admonition or of encouragement. But it may not be wholly without use to glance at one or two considerations, upon which our meditations cannot be too frequently indulged.
§ 457. In the first place, it cannot escape our notice, how exceedingly difficult it is to settle the foundations of any government upon principles, which do not admit of some controversy or question. The very elements, out of which it is to be built, are susceptible of infinite modifications; and theory too often deludes us by the attractive simplicity of its plans, and imagination by the visionary perfection of its speculations. In theory, a government may promise the most perfect harmony of operations in all its various combinations. In practice, the whole machinery may be perpetually retarded, or thrown out of order by accidental mal-adjustments. In theory, a government may seem deficient in unity of design and symmetry of parts; and yet, in practice, it may work with astonishing accuracy and force for the general welfare. Whatever, then, has been found to work well by experience, should rarely be hazarded upon conjectural improvements. Time, and long and steady operation are indispensable to the perfection of all social institutions. To be of any value, these institutions must become cemented with the habits, the feelings, and the pursuits of the people. Every change discomposes for a while the whole arrangements of the system. What is safe, is not always expedient; what is new, is often pregnant with unforeseen evils. or attracts only by imaginary good
§ 458. In the next place, the slighest attention to the history of the National Constitution must satisfy every reflecting mind, how many difficulties attended its formation and adoption, from real or imaginary differences of State interests, sectional feelings, and local institutions. It is an attempt to create a National sovereignty, and yet to preserve the State sovereignties; although it is impossible to assign definite boundaries in all cases to the powers of each. The influence of the disturbing causes, which, more than once in the Convention, were on the point of breaking up the Union, have since immeasurably increased in concentration and vigor. The very inequalities of a government, confessedly founded in a compromise, were then felt with a strong sensibility; and every new source of discontent, whether accidental or permanent, has since added increased activity to the painful sense of these inequalities. The North cannot but perceive, that it has yielded to the South a superiority of Representatives already amounting to twenty-five, beyond its due proportion; and the South imagines, that, with all this preponderance in representation, the other parts of the Union enjoy a more perfect protection of their interests, than its own. The West feels its growing power and weight in the Union; and the Atlantic States begin to learn, that the sceptre must soon, and perhaps forever, depart from them. If, under these circumstances, the Union should once be broken up, it is impossible, that a new Constitution should ever be formed, embracing the whole Territory. We shall be divided into several nations or confederacies, rivals in power, pursuits, and interests; too proud to brook injury, and too near to make retaliation distant or ineffectual. Our very animosities will, like those of all other kindred nations, become more deadly, because our lineage, our laws, and our language are the same. Let the history of the Grecian and Italian republics warn us of our dangers. The National Constitution is our last, and our only security. United we stand; à vided we fall.
§ 459. If this Work shall but inspire the rising gor ration with a more ardent love of their country, an
quenchable thirst for liberty, and a profound reverence for the Constitution and the Union, then it will have accomplished all, that its author ought to desire. Let the American youth never forget, that they possess a noble inheritance, bought by the toils, and sufferings, and blood of their ancestors; and capable, if wisely improved, and faithfully guarded, of transmitting to their latest posterity all the substantial blessings of life, the peaceful enjoyment of liberty, of property, of religion, and of independence. The structure has been erected by architects of consummate skill and fidelity; its foundations are solid; its compartments are beautiful, as well as useful; its arrangements are full of wisdom and order; and its defences are impregnable from without. It has been reared for immor. tality, if the work of man may justly aspire to such a title. It may, nevertheless, perish in an hour, by the folly, or corruption, or negligence of its only keepers, THE PEOPLE. Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, be cause they flatter the people, in order to betray them.