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[88]

The Union formed.

Eleven years later, when the men of ‘76 stood around the cradle of the present Union in the convention of 1787, the same principle, rechristened under the name of State sovereignty, dominated their counsels and moulded the form of the infant government, which, wrapped in the folds of the Constitution, they presented to the States for their several acceptance or rejection. The whole manner and form of its presentation, as well as its adoption, and the conditions attached thereto, demonstrate beyond controversy that it was but a piece of written parchment, an inanimate body, a lifeless thing, until the States by their acts of sovereign and creative power gave it vitality and force, as God, in the creation of man, breathed into a clod of earth the breath of life. In the moral and material world it may be stated as an axiom that the creature can never exchange functions with the Creator, but in the realm of politics it seems that every natural law may be reversed and every question of right determined by the inexorable law of might.

As a condition precedent to a Union under the present Constitution, it was provided that it should be ratified by at least nine of the thirteen States composing the old confederation. But so slow and cautious were the States in ratifying, that more than two years elapsed before the last of them gave in its adhesion. One by one, in single file and in open order, they came forward to take their places under the banner of the Union, upon whose azure field was placed for each a star which glittered there by virtue of its own radiance while contributing at the same time to the common glory of the American constellation.

Each State had carefully considered the Constitution as it had come from the hands of its framers, and more than one of them expressed the apprehension that the delegated powers of the general government might be perverted to their injury. The great State of New York, for example, incorporated in her resolutions of ratification this clear and forcible exposition of the doctrine of State rights: ‘That the powers of government may be reassumed by the people when-so-ever it may become necessary to their happiness; that every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by the Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States * * * remain to the people of the several States, or to their respective State governments to which they may have granted the same.’

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