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THE principal design of this book is to place within the reach of the youth of our country, the means of learning and understanding the Constitution of the United States.
To carry this design into effect, it was necessary to give a brief historical account of the causes which led to the union of the states under one government; to show what were the political maxims and sentiments of our fathers when our national Independence was first declared; to exhibit the form of government of which the country first made trial, the defects of that government in its operation; and the causes and manner the formation of the government which now exists under the Constitution.
The arrangement of the work is, accordingly, historical. The first chapter traces
the origin of the Union; the second contains the Declaration of Independence, the third, the Articles of Confederation; and and the fourth, the Constitution of the United States. The student will thus observe the leading events of our general government in the order of time in which they occurred. This is indispensably necessary for understanding the Constitution in its true spirit. Without knowing what precedes, we cannot comprehend what follows. Without a knowledge of the old Confederation, and of the evils which then afflicted the country, we can neither understand nor appreciate the remedy which was provided for them by the adoption of the Constitution.
To suit the work to the convenience both of the instructor and pupil, Questions are appended to each chapter, interspersed with Remarks and Explanations.
Questions are essential in order to direct the attention of the learner to the points which he ought to learn. Let him first read the lesson carefully. Then, let him observe what the questions are, and search
in the chapter to which they belong, for their appropriate answers. Answers which cannot be found in the body of the chapters are inserted in immediate connection with the questions. It is not in such cases intended that the scholar should be required to commit the answer to memory in its exact words; if he can give the spirit of it, it is sufficient.
The Remarks, the scholar should be instructed to read carefully. To ascertain if he has done so, and if he understands them, the instructor should propose to him such questions as they suggest.
Most of the difficult terms which occur are explained. Should any still be found which the scholar does not understand, the instructor will of course see the necessity of explaining them.
The intelligent instructor will carry out at greater length from his own knowledge and ingenuity, many illustrations and examples of which only the first elements, or hints could here be given.
The book is designed for youth of some maturity of understanding. Such youth, if
they faithfully study it under the guidance of a competent and faithful teacher, will not only have the Constitution of their country firmly fixed in their memories, but understand it, learn to admire it as replete with wisdom, and to regard it as the preserver of the rights of the people, and the great fountain, under divine providence, of our national prosperity.
This Constitution derives its force from a formal expression of the will of the people. It is written in plain and definite terms. The people made it, and the people can, if they will, easily know what it is. They can determine whether the rulers of the nation obey or violate it, and they can act accordingly. They can see if it accomplishes the purposes for which it was made, and if it does not, they can alter it.
The people are its ultimate guardians and its only final preserver.
Every American citizen is as it were stationed upon a watch-tower, whence he ought to behold the rulers of the country administering the government under the Constitution, and to descry every deviation
from its rules.
How will he be able to discharge the duties of such a trust, if he knows not wHAT THE CONSTITUTION IS?
Every American citizen is a sentinel stationed on the outposts, not only of the liberties of his country, but of the great rights and liberties of the whole human family. The Constitution of the United States is the PALLADIUM of these rights and liberties. How shall he know when danger is approaching this sacred PALLADIUM, if he knows not WHAT IT IS?
But should the watchman and the sentinel become corrupt, alas for the Constitution! It is founded in the virtue of the people. While this foundation remains broad and deep and uncorrupted, the edifice has nothing to fear. The angry winds of political controversy may blow upon it, the waves of political parties may dash against it, it will not fall. Should it be broken or suffer damage, a renovating efficacy resides in the bosoms of the people, and will surely be applied.
Let therefore, every parent and teacher inculcate upon his children and his pupils