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Preamble



Document 21

Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1:§§ 459, 462--63, 469--70, 471--76, 482--86, 489, 493--97, 500--501, 506

1833

§ 459. The importance of examining the preamble, for the purpose of expounding the language of a statute, has been long felt, and universally conceded in all juridical discussions. It is an admitted maxim in the ordinary course of the administration of justice, that the preamble of a statute is a key to open the mind of the makers, as to the mischiefs, which are to be remedied, and the objects, which are to be accomplished by the provisions of the statute.

. . . . .

§ 462. And, here, we must guard ourselves against an error, which is too often allowed to creep into the discussions upon this subject. The preamble never can be resorted to, to enlarge the powers confided to the general government, or any of its departments. It cannot confer any power per se; it can never amount, by implication, to an enlargement of any power expressly given. It can never be the legitimate source of any implied power, when otherwise withdrawn from the constitution. Its true office is to expound the nature, and extent, and application of the powers actually conferred by the constitution, and not substantively to create them. . . .

§ 463. We have already had occasion, in considering the nature of the constitution, to dwell upon the terms, in which the preamble is conceived, and the proper conclusion deducible from it. It is an act of the people, and not of the states in their political capacities. It is an ordinance or establishment of government and not a compact, though originating in consent; and it binds as a fundamental law promulgated by the sovereign authority, and not as a compact or treaty entered into and in fieri, between each and all the citizens of the United States, as distinct parties. The language is, "We, the people of the United States," not, We, the states, "do ordain and establish;" not, do contract and enter into a treaty with each other; "this constitution for the United States of America," not this treaty between the several states. And it is, therefore, an unwarrantable assumption, not to call it a most extravagant stretch of interpretation, wholly at variance with the language, to substitute other words and other senses for the words and senses incorporated, in this solemn manner, into the substance of the instrument itself. We have the strongest assurances, that this preamble was not adopted as a mere formulary; but as a solemn promulgation of a fundamental fact, vital to the character and operations of the government. The obvious object was to substitute a government of the people, for a confederacy of states; a constitution for a compact.

. . . . .

§ 469. The constitution, then, was adopted first "to form a more perfect union." Why this was desirable has been in some measure anticipated in considering the defects of the confederation. When the constitution, however, was before the people for ratification, suggestions were frequently made by those, who were opposed to it, that the country was too extensive for a single national government, and ought to be broken up into several distinct confederacies, or sovereignties; and some even went so far, as to doubt, whether it were not, on the whole, best, that each state should retain a separate, independent, and sovereign political existence. Those, who contemplated several confederacies, speculated upon a dismemberment into three great confederacies, one of the northern, another of the middle, and a third of the southern states. The greater probability, certainly, then was of a separation into two confederacies; the one composed of the northern and middle states, and the other of the southern. The reasoning of the Federalist on this subject seems absolutely irresistible. The progress of the population in the western territory, since that period, has materially changed the basis of all that reasoning. There could scarcely now, upon any dismemberment, exist, with a view to local interests, political associations, or public safety, less than three confederacies, and most probably four. And it is more than probable, that the line of division would be traced out by geographical boundaries, which would separate the slave-holding from the non-slave-holding states. Such a distinction in government is so fraught with causes of irritation and alarm, that no honest patriot could contemplate it without many painful and distressing fears.

§ 470. But the material consideration, which should be kept steadily in view, is, that under such circumstances a national government, clothed with powers at least equally extensive with those given by the constitution, would be indispensable for the preservation of each separate confederacy. Nay, it cannot be doubted, that much larger powers, and much heavier expenditures would be necessary. No nation could long maintain its public liberties, surrounded by powerful and vigilant neighbours, unless it possessed a government clothed with powers of great efficiency, prompt to act, and able to repel every invasion of its rights. Nor would it afford the slightest security, that all the confederacies were composed of a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, and possessing similar manners, habits, and customs. If it be true, that these circumstances would not be sufficient to hold them in a bond of peace and union, when forming one government, acting for the interests, and as the representatives of the rights of the whole; how could a better fate be expected, when the interests and the representation were separate; and ambition, and local interests, and feelings, and peculiarities of climate, and products, and institutions, and imaginary or real aggressions and grievances, and the rivalries of commerce, and the jealousies of dominion, should spread themselves over the distinct councils, which would regulate their concerns by independent legislation? The experience of the whole world is against any reliance for security and peace between neighbouring nations, under such circumstances. . . .

§ 471. The same reasoning would apply with augmented force to the case of a dismemberment, when each state should by itself constitute a nation. The very inequalities in the size, the revenues, the population, the products, the interests, and even in the institutions and laws of each, would occasion a perpetual petty warfare of legislation, of border aggressions and violations, and of political and personal animosities, which, first or last, would terminate in the subjugation of the weaker to the arms of the stronger. In our further observations on this subject, it is not proposed to distinguish the case of several confederacies from that of a complete separation of all the states; as in a general sense the remarks apply with irresistible, if not with uniform, force to each.

§ 472. Does, then, the extent of our territory form any solid objection against forming "this more perfect union?" This question, so far as respects the original territory included within the boundaries of the United States by treaty of peace of 1783, seems almost settled by the experience of the last forty years. It is no longer a matter of conjecture, how far the government is capable (all other things being equal) of being practically applied to the whole of that territory. The distance between the utmost limits of our present population, and the diversity of interests among the whole, seem to have presented no obstacles under the beneficent administration of the general government, to the most perfect harmony and general advancement of all. Perhaps it has been demonstrated, (so far as our limited experience goes,) that the increased facilities of intercourse, the uniformity of regulations and laws, the common protection, the mutual sacrifices of local interests, when incompatible with that of all, and the pride and confidence in a government, in which all are represented, and all are equal in rights and privileges; perhaps, we say, it has been demonstrated, that these effects of the Union have promoted, in a higher degree, the prosperity of every state, than could have been attained by any single state, standing alone, in the freest exercise of all its intelligence, its resources, and its institutions, without any check or obstruction during the same period. The great change, which has been made in our internal condition, as well as in our territorial power, by the acquisition of Louisiana and Florida, have, indeed, given rise to many serious reflections, whether such an expansion of our empire may not hereafter endanger the original system. But time alone can solve this question; and to time it is the part of wisdom and patriotism to leave it.

§ 473. When, however, the constitution was before the people for adoption, objections, as has been already suggested, were strenuously urged against a general government, founded upon the then extent of our territory. And the authority of Montesquieu was relied on in support of the objections. It is not a little surprising, that Montesquieu should have been relied on for this purpose. He obviously had in view, when he recommends a moderate extent of territory, as best suited to a republic, small states, whose dimensions were far less than the limits of one half of those in the Union; so that upon strictly following out his suggestions, the latter ought to have been divided. But he suggests the appropriate remedy of a confederate republic, (the very form adopted in the constitution,) as the proper means of at once securing safety and liberty with extensive territory. The truth is, that what size is safe for a nation, with a view to the protection of its rights and liberties, is a question, which admits of no universal solution. Much depends upon its local position, its neighbours, its resources, the facilities of invasion, and of repelling invasion, the general state of the world, the means and weapons of warfare, the interests of other nations in preserving or destroying it, and other circumstances, which scarcely admit of enumeration. How far a republican government can, in a confederated form, be extended, and be at once efficient abroad and at home, can ensure general happiness to its own citizens, and perpetuate the principles of liberty, and preserve the substance of justice, is a great problem in the theory of government, which America is now endeavouring to unfold, and which, by the blessing of God, we must all earnestly hope, that she may successfully demonstrate.

§ 474. In the mean time, the following considerations may serve to cheer our hopes, and dispel our fears. First, (1.) that extent of territory is not incompatible with a just spirit of patriotism; (2.) nor with a general representation of all the interests and population within it; (3.) nor with a due regard to the peculiar local advantages or disadvantages of any part; (4.) nor with a rapid and convenient circulation of information useful to all, whether they are rulers or people. On the other hand, it has some advantages of a very important nature. (1.) It can afford greater protection against foreign enemies. (2.) It can give a wider range to enterprize and commerce. (3.) It can secure more thoroughly national independence to all the great interests of society, agriculture, commerce, manufactures, literature, learning, religion. (4.) It can more readily disarm and tranquillize domestic factions in a single state. (5.) It can administer justice more completely and perfectly. (6.) It can command larger revenues for public objects without oppression or heavy taxation. (7.) It can economise more in all its internal arrangements, whenever necessary. In short, as has been said, with equal truth and force: "One government can collect and avail itself of the talents and experience of the ablest men, in whatever part of the Union they may be found. It can move on uniform principles of policy. It can harmonize, assimilate, and protect the several parts and members, and extend the benefit of its foresight and precautions to each. In the formation of treaties, it will regard the interests of the whole, and the particular interests of the parts, as connected with that of the whole. It can apply the revenues of the whole to the defence of any particular part, and that more easily and expediciously, than state governments or separate confederacies can possibly do, for want of concert, and unity of system." Upon some of these topics, we may enlarge hereafter.

§ 475. The union of these states, "the more perfect union" is, then, and must for ever be invaluable to all, in respect both to foreign and domestic concerns. It will prevent some of the causes of war, that scourge of the human race, by enabling the general government, not only to negotiate suitable treaties for the protection of the rights and interests of all, but by compelling a general obedience to them, and a general respect for the obligations of the law of nations. It is notorious, that even under the confederation, the obligations of treaty stipulations, were openly violated, or silently disregarded; and the peace of the whole confederacy was at the mercy of the majority of any single state. If the states were separated, they would, or might, form separate and independent treaties with different nations, according to their peculiar interests. These treaties would, or might, involve jealousies and rivalries at home, as well as abroad, and introduce conflicts between nations struggling for a monoply of the trade with each state. Retaliatory or evasive stipulations would be made, to counteract the injurious system of a neighbouring or distant state, and thus the scene be again acted over with renewed violence, which succeeded the peace of 1783, when the common interests were forgotten in the general struggle for superiority. It would manifestly be the interest of foreign nations to promote these animosities and jealousies, that, in the general weakness, the states might seek their protection by an undue sacrifice of their interests, or fall an easy prey to their arms.

§ 476. The dangers, too, to all the states, in case of division, from foreign wars and invasion, must be imminent, independent of those from the neighbourhood of the colonies and dependencies of other governments on this continent. Their very weakness would invite aggression. The ambition of the European governments, to obtain a mastery of power in colonies and distant possessions, would be perpetually involving them in embarrassing negotiations or conflicts, however peaceable might be their own conduct, and however inoffensive their own pursuits, and objects. America, as of old, would become the theatre of warlike operations, in which she had no interests; and with a view to their own security, the states would be compelled to fall back into a general colonial submission, or sink into dependencies of such of the great European powers, as might be most favourable to their interests, or most commanding over their resources.

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§ 482. But not to dwell farther on these important inducements "to form a more perfect union," let us pass to the next object, which is to "establish justice." This must for ever be one of the great ends of every wise government; and even in arbitrary governments it must, to a great extent, be practised, at least in respect to private persons, as the only security against rebellion, private vengeance, and popular cruelty. But in a free government it lies at the very basis of all its institutions. Without justice being freely, fully, and impartially administered, neither our persons, nor our rights, nor our property, can be protected. And if these, or either of them, are regulated by no certain laws, and are subject to no certain principles, and are held by no certain tenure, and are redressed, when violated, by no certain remedies, society fails of all its value; and men may as well return to a state of savage and barbarous independence. No one can doubt, therefore, that the establishment of justice must be one main object of all our state governments. Why, then, may it be asked, should it form so prominent a motive in the establishment of the national government?

§ 483. This is now proposed to be shown in a concise manner. In the administration of justice, foreign nations, and foreign individuals, as well as citizens, have a deep stake; but the former have not always as complete means of redress as the latter; for it may be presumed, that the state laws will always provide adequate tribunals to redress the grievances and sustain the rights of their own citizens. But this would be a very imperfect view of the subject. Citizens of contiguous states have a very deep interest in the administration of justice in each state; and even those, which are most distant, but belonging to the same confederacy, cannot but be affected by every inequality in the provisions, or the actual operations of the laws of each other. While every state remains at full liberty to legislate upon the subject of rights, preferences, contracts, and remedies, as it may please, it is scarcely to be expected, that they will all concur in the same general system of policy. The natural tendency of every government is to favour its own citizens; and unjust preferences, not only in the administration of justice, but in the very structure of the laws, may reasonably be expected to arise. Popular prejudices, or passions, supposed or real injuries, the predominance of home pursuits and feelings over the comprehensive views of a liberal jurisprudence, will readily achieve the most mischievous projects for this purpose. And these, again, by a natural reaction, will introduce correspondent regulations, and retaliatory measures in other states.

§ 483 [sic]. Now, exactly what this course of reasoning has led us to presume as probable, has been demonstrated by experience to be true in respect to our own confederacy during the short period of its existence, and under circumstances well calculated to induce each state to sacrifice many of its own objects for the general good. Nay, even when we were colonies, dependent upon the authority of the mother country, these inequalities were observable in the local legislation of several of the states, and produced heart-burnings and discontents, which were not easily appeased.

§ 484. First, in respect to foreign nations. After the confederacy was formed, and we had assumed the general rights of war as a sovereign belligerent nation, authority to make captures, and to bring in ships and cargoes for adjudication naturally flowed from the proper exercise of these rights by the law of nations. The states respectively retained the power of appointing prize tribunals, to take cognizance of these matters in the first instance; and thus thirteen distinct jurisdictions were established, which acted entirely independent of each other. It is true, that the articles of confederation had delegated to the general government the authority of establishing courts for receiving and determining, finally, appeals in all cases of captures. Congress accordingly instituted proper appellate tribunals, to which the state courts were subordinate, and, upon constitutional principles, were bound to yield obedience. But it is notorious, that the decisions of the appellate tribunals were disregarded, and treated as mere nullities, for no power to enforce them was lodged in congress. They operated, therefore, merely by moral influence and requisition, and, as such, soon sunk into insignificance. Neutral individuals, as well as neutral nations, were left wholly without any adequate redress for the most inexcusable injustice, and the confederacy subjected to imminent hazards. And until the constitution of the United States was established, no remedy was ever effectually administered. Treaties, too, were formed by congress with various nations; and above all, the treaty of peace of 1783, which gave complete stability to our independence against Great Britain. These treaties were, by the theory of the confederation, absolutely obligatory upon all the states. Yet their provisions were notoriously violated both by state legislation and state judicial tribunals. The non-fulfilment of the stipulations of the British treaty on our part more than once threatened to involve the whole country again in war. And the provision in that treaty for the payment of British debts was practically disregarded in many, if not in all, the state courts. These debts never were enforced, until the constitution gave them a direct and adequate sanction, independently of state legislation and state courts.

§ 485. Besides the debts due to foreigners, and the obligations to pay the same, the public debt of the United States was left utterly unprovided for; and the officers and soldiers of the revolution, who had achieved our independence, were, as we have had occasion to notice, suffered to languish in want, and their just demands evaded, or passed by with indifference. No efficient system to pay the public creditors was ever carried into operation, until the constitution was adopted; and, notwithstanding the increase of the public debt, occasioned by intermediate wars, it is now on the very eve of a total extinguishment.

§ 486. These evils, whatever might be their magnitude, did not create so universal a distress, or so much private discontent, as others of a more domestic nature, which were subversive of the first principles of justice. Independent of the unjustifiable preferences, which were fostered in favour of citizens of the state over those belonging to other states, which were not few nor slight, there were certain calamities inflicted by the common course of legislation in most of the states, which went to the prostration of all public faith and all private credit. Laws were constantly made by the state legislatures violating, with more or less degrees of aggravation, the sacredness of private contracts. Laws compelling the receipt of a depreciated and depreciating paper currency in payment of debts were generally, if not universally, prevalent. Laws authorizing the payment of debts by instalments, at periods differing entirely from the original terms of the contract; laws suspending, for a limited or uncertain period, the remedies to recover debts in the ordinary course of legal proceedings; laws authorizing the delivery of any sort of property, however unproductive or undesirable, in payment of debts upon an arbitrary or friendly appraisement; laws shutting up the courts for certain periods and under certain circumstances, were not infrequent upon the statute books of many of the states now composing the Union. In the rear of all these came the systems of general insolvent laws, some of which were of a permanent nature, and others again were adopted upon the spur of the occasion, like a sort of gaol delivery under the Lords' acts in England, which had so few guards against frauds of every kind by the debtor, that in practice they amounted to an absolute discharge from any debt, without any thing more than a nominal dividend; and sometimes even this vain mockery was dispensed with. In short, by the operations of paper currency, tender laws, installment laws, suspension laws, appraisement laws, and insolvent laws, contrived with all the dexterous ingenuity of men oppressed by debt, and popular by the very extent of private embarrassments, the states were almost universally plunged into a ruinous poverty, distrust, debility, and indifference to justice. The local tribunals were bound to obey the legislative will; and in the few instances, in which it was resisted, the independence of the judges was sacrificed to the temper of the times. It is well known, that Shays's rebellion in Massachusetts took its origin from this source. The object was to prostrate the regular administration of justice by a system of terror, which should prevent the recovery of debts and taxes.

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§ 489. The next clause in the preamble is "to ensure domestic tranquillity." The illustrations appropriate to this head have been in a great measure anticipated in our previous observations. The security of the states against foreign influence, domestic dissensions, commercial rivalries, legislative retaliations, territorial disputes, and the petty irritations of a border warfare for privileges, exemptions, and smuggling, have been already noticed. The very habits of intercourse, to which the states were accustomed with each other during their colonial state, would, as has been justly remarked, give a keener edge to every discontent excited by any inequalities, preferences, or exclusions, growing out of the public policy of any of them. These, however, are not the only evils. In small communities domestic factions may well be expected to arise, which, when honest, may lead to the most pernicious public measures; and when corrupt, to domestic insurrections, and even to an overthrow of the government. The dangers to a republican government from this source have been dwelt upon by the advocates of arbitrary government with much exultation; and it must be confessed, that the history of free governments has furnished but too many examples to apologize for, though not to justify their arguments, drawn not only against the forms of republican government, but against the principles of civil liberty.

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§ 493. One of the ordinary results of disunion among neighbouring states is the necessity of creating and keeping up standing armies, and other institutions unfavourable to liberty. The immediate dangers from sudden inroads and invasions, and the perpetual jealousies and discords incident to their local position, compel them to resort to the establishment of armed forces, either disproportionate to their means, or inadequate for their defence. Either alternative is fraught with public mischiefs. If they do not possess an adequate military force to repel invasion, they have no security against aggression and insult. If they possess an adequate military force, there is much reason to dread, that it may, in the hands of aspiring or corrupt men, become the means of their subjugation. There is no other refuge in such cases, but to seek an alliance always unequal, and to be obtained only by important concessions to some powerful nation, or to form a confederacy with other states, and thus to secure the cooperation and the terror of numbers. Nothing has so strong a tendency to suppress hostile enterprises, as the consciousness, that they will not be easily successful. Nothing is so sure to produce moderation, as the consciousness, that resistance will steadily maintain the dictates of justice. Summary, nay, even arbitrary authority, must be granted, where the safety of a state cannot await the slow measures of ordinary legislation to protect it. That government is, therefore, most safe in its liberties, as well as in its domestic peace, whose numbers constitute a preventive guard against all internal, as well as external attacks.

§ 494. We now proceed to the next clause in the preamble, to "provide for the common defence." And many of the considerations already stated apply with still greater force under this head. One of the surest means of preserving peace is said to be, by being always prepared for war. But a still more sure means is the power to repel, with effect, every aggression. That power can scarcely be attained without a wide extent of population, and at least a moderate extent of territory. A country, which is large in its limits, even if thinly peopled, is not easily subdued. Its variety of soil and climate, its natural and artificial defences, nay, its very poverty and scantiness of supplies, make it difficult to gain, or to secure a permanent conquest. It is far easier to overrun, than to subdue it. Armies must be divided, distant posts must be maintained, and channels of supplies kept constantly open. But where the territory is not only large, but populous, permanent conquest can rarely occur, unless (which is not our case) there are very powerful neighbours on every side, having a common interest to assist each other, and to subjugate their enemy. It is far otherwise, where there are many rival and independent states, having no common union of government or interests. They are half subdued by their own dissensions, jealousies, and resentments before the conflict is begun. They are easily made to act a part in the destruction of each other, or easily fall a prey for want of proper concert and energy of operations.

§ 495. Besides;--The resources of a confederacy must be far greater than those of any single state belonging to it, both for peace and war. It can command a wider range of revenue, of military power, of naval armaments, and of productive industry. It is more independent in its employments, in its capacities, and in its influences. In the present state of the world, a few great powers possess the command of commerce, both on land and at sea. In war, they trample upon the rights of neutrals who are feeble; for their weakness furnishes an excuse both for servility and disdain. In peace, they control the pursuits of the rest of the world, and force their trade into every channel by the activity of their enterprise, their extensive navigation, and their flourishing manufactures. They little regard the complaints of those, who are sub[di]vided into petty states with varying interests; and use them only as instruments to annoy or check the enterprise of each other. Such states are not formidable in peace or in war. To secure their rights and maintain their independence they must become a confederated nation, and speak with the force of numbers, as well as the eloquence of truth. The navy or army, which could be maintained by any single state in the Union, would be scarcely formidable to any second rate power in Europe. It would be a grievous public burthen, and exhaust the whole resources of the state. But a navy or army for all the purposes of home defence, or protection upon the ocean, is within the compass of the resources of the general government, without any severe exaction. And with the growing strength of the Union must be at once more safe for us, and more formidable to foreign nations. The means, therefore, to provide for the common defence are ample; and they can only be rendered inert and inadequate by a division among the states, and a want of unity of operations.

§ 496. We pass, in the next place, to the clause to "promote the general welfare." And it may be asked, as the state governments are formed for the same purpose by the people, why should this be set forth, as a peculiar or prominent object of the constitution of the United States? To such an inquiry two general answers may be given. The states, separately, would not possess the means. If they did possess the means, they would not possess the power to carry the appropriate measures into operation.

§ 497. First, in respect to means. It is obvious, that from the local position and size of several of the states, they must for ever possess but a moderate revenue, not more than what is indispensable for their own wants, and, in the strictest sense, for domestic improvements. In relation to others more favourably situated for commerce and navigation, the revenues from taxation may be larger; but the main reliance must be placed upon the taxation by way of imposts upon importations. Now, it is obvious, from the remarks already made, that no permanent revenue can be raised from this source, when the states are separated. The evasions of the laws, which will constantly take place from the rivalries, and various interests of the neighbouring states; the facilities afforded by the numerous harbours, rivers, and bays, which indent and intersect our coasts; the strong interest of foreigners to promote smuggling; the want of uniformity in the duties laid by the different states; the means of intercourse along the internal territorial boundaries of the commercial states; these, and many other causes, would inevitably lead to a very feeble administration of any local revenue system, and would make its returns moderate and unsatisfactory. What could New-York do with a single sea-port, surrounded on each side by jealous maritime neighbours with numerous ports? What could Massachusetts, or Connecticut do with the intermediate territory of Rhode-Island, running into the heart of the states by water communications admirably adapted for the security of illicit trade? What could Maryland or Virginia do with the broad Chesapeake between them with its thousand landing places? What could Pennsylvania oppose to the keen resentments, or the facile policy of her weaker neighbour, Delaware? What could any single state on the Mississippi do to force a steady trade for itself with adequate protecting duties? In short, turn to whichever part of the continent we may, the difficulties of maintaining an adequate system of revenue would be insurmountable, and the expenses of collecting it enormous. After some few struggles for uniformity, and co-operation for mutual support, each state would sink back into listless indifference or gloomy despondency; and rely, principally, upon direct taxation for its ordinary supplies. The experience of the few years succeeding the peace of 1783 fully justifies the worst apprehensions on this head.

. . . . .

§ 500. But if the means were completely within the power of the several states, it is obvious, that the jurisdiction would be wanting to carry into effect any great or comprehensive plan for the welfare of the whole. The idea of a permanent and zealous co-operation of thirteen (and now of twenty-four) distinct governments in any scheme for the common welfare, is of itself a visionary notion. In the first place, laying aside all local jealousies and accidental jars, there is no plan for the benefit of the whole, which would not bear unequally upon some particular parts. Is it a regulation of commerce or mutual intercourse, which is proposed? Who does not see, that the agricultural, the manufacturing, and the navigating states, may have a real or supposed difference of interest in its adoption. If a system of regulations, on the other hand, is prepared by a general government, the inequalities of one part may, and ordinarily will, under the guidance of wise councils, correct and meliorate those of another. The necessity of a sacrifice of one for the benefit of all may not, and probably will not, be felt at the moment by the state called upon to make it. But in a general government, representing the interests of all, the sacrifice, though first opposed, will, in the end, be found adequately recompensed by other substantial good. Agriculture, commerce, manufactures, may, each in turn, be compelled to yield something of their peculiar benefits, and yet, on the whole, be still each a gainer by the general system. The very power of thus redressing the evils, felt by each in its intercourse with foreign nations, by prohibitory regulations, or countervailing duties, may secure permanent privileges of an incalculable value. And the fact has been, as theoretical reasoning would lead us to suppose. The navigation and commerce, the agriculture and manufactures of all the states, have received an advancement in every direction by the union, which has far exceeded the most sanguine expectation of its warmest friends.

§ 501. But the fact alone of an unlimited intercourse, without duty or restriction, between all the states, is of itself a blessing of almost inconceivable value. It makes it an object with each permanently to look to the interests of all, and to withdraw its operations from the narrow sphere of its own exclusive territory. Without entering here into the inquiry, how far the general government possesses the power to make, or aid the making of roads, canals, and other general improvements, which will properly arise in our future discussions, it is clear, that if there were no general government, the interest of each state to undertake, or to promote in its own legislation any such project, would be far less strong, than it now is; since there would be no certainty, as to the value or duration of such improvements, looking beyond the boundaries of the state. The consciousness, that the union of the states is permanent, and will not be broken up by rivalries, or conflicts of policy, that caprice, or resentment, will not divert any state from its proper duties, as a member of the Union, will give a solid character to all improvements. Independent of the exercise of any authority by the general government for this purpose, it was justly foreseen, that roads would be every where shortened and kept in better order; accommodations for travellers would be multiplied and meliorated; an interior navigation on our eastern side would be opened throughout the whole extent of our coast; and, by canals and improvements in river navigation, a boundless field opened to enterprise and emigration, to commerce and products, through the interior states, to the farthest limits of our western territories.

. . . . .

§ 506. The last clause in the preamble is to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." And surely no object could be more worthy of the wisdom and ambition of the best men in any age.


The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Preamble, Document 21
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The University of Chicago Press

Story, Joseph. Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States. 3 vols. Boston, 1833.

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