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absurd and irrational, it had in it the nature of a constitution.
The Greeks and Romans of ancient times enjoyed constitutional governments. The history and structure of these form an interesting branch of study. The British constitution has been referred to as a remarkable modern example. Others might be named of more or less note. But the example, confessedly the most remarkable that the world affords, is the constitution of the United States. It is remarkable from its nearer approach to perfection than other national compacts have made, and its consequent marking of an era in the history of human improvement. It is remarkable, too, from the manner of its adoption. Other constitutions, often the best features of them, have been the result of convulsion, and their progress has been marked with slaughter and blood. But the United States constitution was a work of peace. Not a sword or a musket was put in requisition. Not a single military movement was made. The whole was a spontaneous movement of the people, acting by their delegates in a peaceful convention. And it is remarkable for having been produced at once, whole and entire, with the exception of a few amendments, adopted according to its own provisions, and the embodying of the whole in a single document, forming a separate state paper. In all these respects it is without precedent in the annals of mankind. And in view of the privileges it confers, and the corresponding obligations it imposes, it becomes a matter of prime importance that it should be carefully studied. If the mechanic should serve an apprenticeship with an accomplished master; if the farmer should understand the value of different soils, and
What examples, ancient and modern, of constitutional governments? What is the most remarkable example in the world? For what is it remarkable? In what view does it become a matter of importance that it should be carefully studied? What similes from the mechanic, farmer, etc.?
the best method of turning them to good account; if the merchant should know the value of merchandise, and the principles of trade; if the lawyer should store his mind with legal science; if the physician should acquaint himself with anatomy, physiology, and materia medica; and if the preacher of the gospel should be versed in theology; then, for equally cogent reasons, not only should every United States officer, in each department, be familiar with the constitution, but every freeman should also be thoroughly instructed in it. And public opinion should pronounce that man unfit to go to the polls, who is unacquainted with the structure of his government, and with the powers and duties of public officers. And for this purpose, some plain exposition of the constitution ought to be a text-book in every primary school. Every school-boy should be able to repeat the substance of it by the time he is old enough to study grammar. The science of government should be a leading branch of instruction in all our high schools. And it should form a separate department in all our colleges. If, as an eminent writer says, "the science of government is the last acquisition of man," surely all these precautions thrown around our government would be none too much to show a suitable affection for it, to hand down our free institutions uncontaminated to posterity, and to crush that miserable quackery in politics which so deplorably disfigures our history.
Instead of this, even here, even in New England and the western states, where the maxim is especially taught that "all power is in the people," the most enlarged charity can but admit that the public mind is greatly uninformed, both with regard to the extent of popular power, and the reasons why it was lodged where it is. To say nothing of the thousands of for
What should public opinion pronounce? What is necessary for this purpose? What must the most enlarged charity admit?
eigners annually pouring upon our coast, bringing with them not only total ignorance of our institutions, but principles and habits of feeling and thinking radically hostile to them, multitudes of native citizens-numbers sufficient to hold the balance between any two parties that ever divided our national councils-know no more about our constitution than they do about the Talmud and if they should find it any where without its heading, they would probably be at a loss what it might be. And yet such men are often among the most busy partisans,-active at elections,-running and riding, securing votes, and getting "great victories." They wield weapons of great power, it is true; but they know not where or for what to strike; they see nothing distinctly, yet they lay about them, and cut right and left, with all the valor of Don Quixote fighting the wine-skins in his sleep and with his eyes shut. In this way the most grave questions are determined, or may be determined; hence an electioneering campaign becomes, not an endeavor to convince the understandings of the well-informed, but a scramble to secure the votes of the ignorant. The low means to which partisans descend for this purpose need not be detailed. He that succeeds is the best fellow; he has gained his point, and got a lucrative office; and little does he care for the opinions of the wise.
To prevent such perversions of the trust reposed in every freeman, the author would be glad to contribute. And the only way to do it is properly to enlighten the public mind. This would undoubtedly effect the object. There is virtue enough in the people to secure the permanency of our free institutions, if they were informed how they might do it. The ignorant are prejudiced, but prejudices would vanish sufficiently for
What do foreigners bring with them? What is said of multitudes of native citizens? How do such often conduct at elections?
For what is there virtue enough in the people? Who are prejudiced?
self-preservation, by proper instruction. Light is convincing. Ignorance is the strong-hold both of error and despotism. And no despotism is more ruthless and absolute than that which is practised under the guise of democracy, and attended with vehement protestations of deference to the people. And when such subjects are up, and call for action, as banks, tariffs, and treasuries; revenue, protection, and post-office laws; Texas, Oregon, and slavery; it is the duty of every voter to be able to give a reason for his vote, and to show that that reason is in accordance with the constitution and genius of our government.
Of what is ignorance the strong hold? What despotism is as ruthless and absolute as any other? What subjects are named as requir ing a voter to have a reason for his vote?
In order to a proper view of the nature and powers of the United States' government, the following subjects are necessary to be brought to view :
1. The British Constitution;
2. The old Confederation;
3. The history of the Convention of 1787; and 4. The Constitution of the United States. Under this head it will be proper to take occasional notice of the principles of other governments; the arguments and authorities depended on by the Convention for their guidance; and in a few instances the questions in practice which have arisen under the United States' Constitution.
What subjects are necessary to be brought to view?