The Government Class Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 386 pages of information about The Government Class Book.

Sec.9.  The first Wednesday of January, 1789, was appointed by congress for choosing electors of president in the several states, and the first Wednesday of February for the electors to meet in their respective states to elect the president.  Gen. Washington was unanimously elected, and on the 30th of April was inaugurated president.  Proceedings under the constitution, however, had commenced on the 4th of March preceding.

Chapter XLVI.

Amendments to the Constitution.

Sec.1.  It is remarkable that, during a period of seventy years, the constitution has received so few alterations.  Although twelve articles of amendment, so called, have been adopted, only two, (the 11th and 12th,) have in any manner or degree changed any of its original provisions.  Most of them, it will be seen, are merely declaratory and restrictive.  As the principles which they declare were so generally acknowledged, and as the general government was a government of limited powers, having such only as were expressly authorized by the constitution, the framers deemed these declarations and restrictions unnecessary.  But as several of the state conventions had, at the time of adopting the constitution, expressed a desire that declarations and guaranties of certain rights should be added, in order to prevent misconstruction and abuse, the first congress, at its first session, proposed twelve amendments, ten of which were ratified by the requisite number of states.  Virginia, the last state necessary to make up such number, ratified December 15, 1791.

Sec.2.  Freedom in matters of religion, freedom of speech and of the press, and the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances, guarantied in the first article, are rights so essential to civil liberty, and so evidently just, that it can hardly be presumed that congress would ever have passed laws directly violating these rights, even though such laws had not been prohibited.

Sec.3.  The second article guaranties “the right of people to bear arms.”  Without this right, ambitious men might, by the aid of the regular army, overthrow the liberties of the people, and usurp the powers of government.

Sec.4.  The third article declares, that “no soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”  It is a principle of the common law, that “a man’s house is his own castle.”  Among the grievances enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, was one “for quartering large bodies of armed troops” among the people of the colonies.  To secure the people against intrusions of this kind, is the object of this prohibition.

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