1884 numbers of the Bay state monthlyBe the first and subjects of first 10 volumes and List of por.

The Granite monthly, a New Hampshire magazine, devoted to literature, history, and state progress (Volume 53) online

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years, into an instrument of the
highest utility and importance. One
by one, in a sympathetic court, a re-
luctant Senate, or the wider forum of
the people, Mr. Webster undertook
the great problems of construction
and carried them to a wise and per-
manent solution.

If it was difficult to formulate a
fundamental law out of comprom-
ises, it was next to impossible to in-
terpret it correctly. This task could
only be performed, we may be ex-
cused for believing, upon a back-
ground of birth, education and in-
tellectual power and aptitude such as
the "great expounder of the Consti-
tution" alone possessed.

New Hampshire, conspicuous in the
events that led up to the Constitu-
tion, faithful in the convention that
framed it, timely in its ratification
and eminent in its interpretation,
may well celebrate this day as an
anniversary of one of the greatest
achievements of the world.

Following the address of the pres-
ident, Mrs. Rolfe and Miss Martha
L. James sang as a duet, "Good
Night," by Moore, after which, in
felicitous terms, the president intro-
duced the orator of the day.

He said : I have known the orator
of the day for many years. I long
practiced law with him as a member
of the same bar. Sometimes we were
associated in the trial of cases. Much



416



THE GRANITE MONTHLY



more frequently, however, we were
opposed to each other in that gentle
exercise. 1 have followed his career
in public as well as private life and I
have learned to respect him for his
character and to admire him for his
ability. I am sorry that because of
his preference, already expressed, I
shall not have the privilege of again
supporting him as my candidate to
represent the first district of New
Hampshire in the Congress of the
United States. I present the Hon-
orable Sherman E. Burroughs.

Mr. Burrough's Address.

It is indeed singularly fitting and
appropriate that this New Hamp-




Hon. Sherman E. Burroughs, M. C.

shire Society of the Sons of the
American Revolution should ob-
serve this day. No State in the
Union has a more splendid record
in connection with the establish-
ment and maintenance of constitu-
tional government in America than
the State of New Hampshire. It
was here that the earliest expres-
sion of the growing sentiment
for independence was proclaimed.



Here was committed the first act of
open defiance, of armed resistance,
to the pretensions of British rule.
It was here that the first constitu-
tution known in America for the
government of a free people was
formulated and established. Here,
too, within a few feet of where we
are now assembled, was taken the
momentous action that made certain
the adoption of the Federal Consti-
tution, and the consequent develop-
ment in territory and population
and wealth and power and glory of
the Great Republic. Nor should it
be forgotten that when the great
principle of nationality, supposed
to have been written into this Con-
stitution, was challenged in the great
forum of the Nation, it was a son
of New Hampshire whose luminous
and eloquent exposition gave form
and expression to the national senti-
ment of his people. As the Marseil-
laise, in words and music, burned
with the spirit of the French Rev-
olution and inspired the armies
which swept over Europe, so the
loic and eloquence of the Great Ex-
pounder of the Constitution were
heard again in the deep roar of the
Union guns from Sumter to Appo-
mattox.

When the New Hampshire Con-
vention, on June 21, 1788, voted to
ratify the new constitution, the de-
cisive step was taken toward the
formation of "a more perfect Union"
between the States. Few realized
the full significance of what had
been done. Nine states had volun-
tarily withdrawn from one govern-
ment and transferred their allegiance
to another. Two others soon did
likewise, but Rhode Island and
North Carolina refused to give their
assent to the Constitution and until
June, 1790, remained outside the
Constitution as sovereign, independ-
ent .states. The articles of Confeder-
ation had purported to be "Articles
of Perpetual Union" and might be
amended only by the unanimous ac-



CONSTITUTION DAY



417



tion of all the Confederated States ;
hence this action of the eleven states
in making radical revision of the
Constitution and excluding their as-
sociates for refusal to assent, was
revolution pure and simple. It could
be justified only upon the the ground
of the urgent necessity of the case,
and was in fact placed upon that
ground by Hamilton, Madison and
others. Hamilton had in truth stat-
ed the case none too strongly when
he said that we "had reached almost
the last step of national humiliation.
Constant and unblushing violation
of the most sacred obligations; im-
portant posts in the possession of a
foreign power which ought long
since to have been surrendered and
neither troops, treasury nor govern-
ment adequate even to remonstrate
with dignity; excluded from a free
participation in the navigation of the
Mississippi river to which by nature
and compact we were entitled ; pub-
lic credit gone, commerce at the low-
est point of declension, our embassa-
dors abroad the mere pageant of
mimic sovereignity," those are a few
only of the particulars in what Ham-
ilton calls the dark catalogue of our
public misfortunes. What wonder
then that he boldly declared that
something was "necessary to be
done to rescue us from impending
anarchy." These, too must have
been some of the things in the mind
of John Quincy Adams, when he said
at a later time that the Constitution
"had been extorted from the grind-
ing necessities of a reluctant
people."

Eleven vears after the colonies
declared their independence ; twenty-
six years after James Otis in the
Superior Court at Boston, speaking
in opposition to Writs of Assistance,
delivered the oration wherein, John
Adams declared, "American inde-
pendence was born" ; twenty-two
years after the passage of the Stamp
Act, when Patrick Henry in the Vir-
ginia House of Burgesses, hurled



back at the British King the defiance
of these colonies ; one hundred and
thirty-four years ago today, the pres-
ent Constitution of the United States
was adopted at Philadelphia. The
deliberations of the convention there
assembled were begun nearly four
months earlier when the delegates
from seven States had organized and
chosen George Washington as their
president. The convention was in
session one hundred days.

Of the fifty-five delegates com-
prising its membership, twenty-nine
were university men, graduates of
Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton,
Oxford and Edinburgh. Washing-
ton and Franklin, for supreme in-
telligence and distinguished service
to the patriot cause, were easily at
the head. Washington , to whose
earnest efforts the Convention was
largely due, was then 55 years old ;
Franklin was 81. The two most
profound and original thinkers were
yet young men. Hamilton was 30,
Madison 36. The delegates from
New Hampshire were John Lang-
don and Nicholas Gilman, the latter
at 25 being the youngest member of
the Convention, and the former al-
ready known as one of the two most
influential citizens of the state, and
later to be its Governor and first
United States Senator. Among
others in the Convention who pos-
sessed force, learning and ability
were Elbridge Gerry of Massachu-
setts, the two Morrises from Penn-
sylvania, and John Randolph and
George Mason from Virginia. Al-
together it was the most remarka-
ble group of men ever associated in
any governmental activity. James
Madison, who knew intimately al-
most every member of the Conven-
tion, who was never absent even for
a single day from its meetings and
whose journal is the only authori-
tative record of its proceedings, near
the close of his life thus wrote of its
membership :

"I feel it my duty to express my



418



THE GRANITE MONTHLY



solemn conviction, derived from my
intimate opportunity of observing
and appreciating the views of the
convention, that there never was an
assembly of men, charged with a
great and arduous trust who were
more pure in their motives or more
anxiously devoted to the object
committed to them than were the
members of the Federal Conven-
tion of 1787."

The utmost anxiety attended the
meeting of the delegates, many of
them were slow to arrive. It was a
week after the day fixed before even
seven of the thirteen States were rep-
resented. Members who came ap-
peared anxious and apprehensive.
They realized fully that the wi irk
they were undertaking was vitally
important and of tremendous diffi-
culty. Indeed the difficulties to be
overcome .seemed Insurmountable.
The Confederacy had failed. Its
requisitions had been refused by the
States. Commercial rivalry and dis-
cord w-ere pronounced . Open re-
bellion had appeared, treaties had
been violated and some of the States
were threatening foreign alliances.

Confidence grew in the Conven-
tion, however, with conference and
debate. Evidences of impending an-
archy drew the delegates together.
There was great divergence of opin-
ion, but there was also complete
singleness of purpose. Compromise
ended every serious disagreement.
The wonder is not that differences
existed, but that concessions on such
great issues should have been so
easily obtained. No other assem-
bly of like character in all history
ever exhibited greater wisdom, mod-
eration, courage or more unselfish
patriotism.

Once when the prospect seemed
dark, Washington, addressing his as-
sociates, said :

"It is possible that no plan that we
propose will be adopted. Perhaps
another dreadful conflict is to be sus-
tained. If to please the people we



offer what we ourselves disapprove,
how can we afterwards defend our
work? Let us here raise a standard
to which the wise and honest can
repair ; the event is in the hand of
God."

Such was the spirit and such the
high resolve of the Convention, and
out of it was born the Constitution.

It will not be expected that I
should attempt a detailed analysis of
the Constitution in this address. A
general characterization will be suf-
ficient.

The great, distinguishing charac-
teristic of our nationality, pro-
claimed in the Declaration of Inde-
pendence and established in the
Constitution, was that all legitimate
power resides in, and is derived
from, the people. This sublime
truth, to us so self-evident, so
simple, so obvious, was before that
time measurably undeveloped in the
history of the world. As has been
well said.

"Philosophers, in their dreams,
had built ideal governments, Plato
had luxuriated in the happiness of
his fanciful republic. Sir Thomas
More had revelled in the bright vis-
ions of his Utopia. The immortal
Milton had uttered his sublime
views on freedom, and the great
Locke had published his profound
speculations on the true principles
of government. But never, until the
establishment of American inde-
pendence, was it, except in very im-
perfect modes, acknowledged by a
nation and made the corner-stone
and foundation of its goverment
that the sovereign power is vested
in the mass."

The makers of the Constitution
set up a democracy and at the same
time created a strong government.
They made the President responsible
to the people, but they gave him
more power than is exercised by
English Kings. They sought always
to secure the free exercise of the
people's will, but at the same time



CONSTITUTION DAY



419



they placed obstacles in the path to
sudden action impelled by passion,
great excitement or deep resent-
ment. They made the will of the
people supreme, but they were care-
ful to provide that their real will and
consided judgment, and not
transient impulse should be ascer-
tained. They had for their oracle
of political philosophy the treat-
ise uf Montesquieu on the Spirit of
Laws, which had been published
anonymously at Geneva forty years
before, and had won its way to an
immense authority on both sides of
the ocean. But these men were not
mere theorists. They knew the
history and experience of the dem-
ocratic movement in Europe, and
they undertook to establish here a
form of government that .should be
practical and workable. They adopt-
ed neither the extreme theory
of liberty nor the extreme theory
of democracy. On the contrary,
they set up barriers against the ex-
cesses of individual liberty on the
one hand, and .still more important,
against the excesses of unrestricted
powers of the majority on the other.
They kept the Executive, legisla-
tive and judicial functions of the
government separate and distinct.
They set up a law making body
with two chambers and gave the
President a limited veto power.
They made the adoption of amend-
ments to the Constitution a slow
and difficult process to prevent
hasty and illconsidered . changes
in our fundamental law. Beyond
question their most unique and orig-
inal work is found in the Supreme
Court, that "peaceful and vener-
able arbitrator" designed to keep
the executive and legislative de-
partments within their consitu-
tional bounds, and to protect the
rights of the people from usurpation
and encroachment. De Tocqueville
said that a more imposing judicial
power than the Supreme Coitrt of



the United States was never consti-
tuted by any people.

It has been said that ours is a
"government of laws and not of
men." This means that no man's
authority, no exercise of power of
any sort shall deprive the citizen
of his life, his liberty, or his pro-
perty without "due process of law."
It denies the right to exercise arbi-
rary power. It places the law
above kings and governors and
presidents above generals and
armies and military power; above
all earthly authority not exercised
under and in accordance with the
Constitution.

Judged by accepted standards our
Constitution is the most scientific
of any ever created. It i.s the
strongest charter of liberty that ever
was written. It has long been the
acknowledged model of fundamental
law. Never before was a system of
government so wisely conceived, so
comprehensive in its scope, so
democratic in its operations, so re-
gardful of the rights of the people,
so adjustable to the progress and
expansion of a great Nation.

Abraham Lincoln said of it :

"A majority held in restraint by
Constitutional checks and limita-
tions, and always changing easily
with deliberate changes of popular
opinion and sentiment is the only
true .sovereign of a free people."

Again he said :

"Nowhere in the world is pre-
sented a government of so much
liberty and equality. To the hum-
blest and poorest amongst us are
held out the highest privileges and
positions."

Mr. Gladstone, the greatest Eng-
lish statesman of the last century,
characterized our Constitution as
the "most wonderful work ever
struck off at a given time by the
brain and purpose of man."

Mr. Bryce, author of the best
commentary ever written on Ameri-



420



THE GRANITE MONTHLY



can institutions, said of the Consti-
tution :

"It deserves the veneration with
which the Americans have been ac-
customed to regard it*** After all
deductions, it ranks above every
other written constitution for the
intrinsic excellence of its sememe,
its adaptation to the circumstances
of the people, the simplicity, brevity
and precision of its language, its
judicious mixture of definiteness of
principle with elasticity in details."
Of the government created by the
Constitution he says :

"It is the first true Federal State
founded on a complete and scien-
tific basis."

Heavy responsibilities were as-
sumed and serious dangers con-
fronted in departing from the theory
that government must come from
above, that the .selfishness and
cruelty and lust of mankind can be
successfully controlled by a class
of superior men, qualified experts
in the art of government, bred to
power and trained in its exercise ;
and in adopting in place of it the
idea that the great masses of men
who had always been subject to re-
pression, control and direction,
could be trusted to govern them-
selves ; that by a process of evolu-
tion, through education and prac-
tice, the popular mass would ac-
quire the self-restraint, the sober-
ness of judgment, the loyalty to the
fundamental principles of justice
and liberty necessary to stable and
effective government. There was
widespread belief, even among the
wisest and best of mankind, that the
control of democracy would turn
out to be the tyranny of the mob.

We have been accustomed to flat-
ter ourselves tfhat the great Ameri-
can experiment has been successful.
It has indeed carried the demonstra-
tion of popular capacity of the
people to rule themselves far be-
yond the point which originally
seemed possible to the enemies of



popular government. It is indeed
true that for more than a century
and a quarter peaceful industry,
respect for law and individual free-
dom have been maintained under
popular government in the United
States. It is also true that all this
has been accompanied by extraor-
dinary material prosperity.

Nevertheless, we must not delude
ourselves with the idea that the
Amei ican experiment in govern-
ment is ended or that our task is ac-
complished. Our political system
under the Constitution has proved
successful under comparatively
simple conditions. It still remains
to be seen how it will stand the
strain of the vast complication of
life upon which we are now enter-
ing.

Perhaps never before in our his-
tory has there been so much criti-
cism of the Constitution or so many
attacks upon it as now. In various
forms, with different motives and
from many quarters they come.
There are those who would utter-
ly destroy it. There are others who
would change its essential features
and retain little more than the form.
Perhaps this ought to be expected.

We are living in an era of mighty
changes. The great war has made
a new map of the world. Empires
have fallen. New nations have been
born in a day. Thrones are over-
thrown and their former occupants
have suffered death or fled to exile.
Everywhere the spirit of revolt is
manifest. Everything established
is challenged. Even anarchy is
praised by those who live where
men are free. Restraint, even for
the protection of the poor and weak,
is condemned and defied. Any bar-
rier against selfish aggrandizement
is attacked. Whiile such conditions
exist abroad it is not surprising that
a spirit of protest and revolt should
make itself manifest in our own
country.

Complaints against our Constj-



CONSTITUTION DAY



421



tution are never justified so long as
it is subject to amendment. The
right of amendment is absolute and
extends to every part of the instru-
ment. Any change may be lawfully
made in the Constitution that the
people desire to make. If changes
are not made, it is simply proof
that the people do not desire them.

It is complained that amendments
should be made easier. But it
should be remembered that the
Constitution is our fundamental
law. It is the foundation upon
which the entire governmental
structure rests. It rests upon great
principles ; their abandonment or
their modification should be fully
understood and fully considered.
There are always people who have
theories and desire changes, and
they are more numerous now than
ever before. Over 100 amendments
to the Constitution have been pro-
posed to Congress within the last
three years, involving 27 different
subjects.

Glaring inequalities of condition,
the insolence of wealth, the growth
of luxuries, riotous living, the mis-
use of money and its reckless
squandering on pleasure and pride —
these are doubtless some of the
causes which are contributing to
the feeling of more or less angry
discontent, that looks not to social
reform but to political and social
revolution. Social programs un-
known to the fathers and wholly im-
possible of Constitutional sanction
are pressing for determination. Ob-
jects meritorious in their nature
are being urged, and if the Consti-
tution stands in the way of easy and
early accomplishment, the Consti-
tution is denounced and derided and
declared to be obsolete.

The spirit of unrest consequent
upon and probably the inevitable
result of the war has strengthened
the feeling of injustice which always
abides with the unfortunate and
improvident. The bitter strife



which sometimes awakens between
workmen and their employers is in-
tensified. The continued increase
in the cost of the necessities of life
as well as the increased demands
for those things, heretofore con-
sidered as luxuries, furnishes still
further argument for the destruc-
tive voices that are urging the
overthrow by violence if necessary
of the foundations of .society and
the marvellous civilization it has
taken us centuries to build.

The chairman of a legislative
committee in New York a short
time ago reported that there were
from 300,000 to 500,000 people in
New York alone who were advocat-
ing forcible seizure of private pro-
perty. He said there were 25GO
trained agitators of this propaganda
and no less than 265 publications in
the United States spreading this
revolutionary doctrine abroad.

Now, I am not one of those who
believe that the world has come to
a full period in our institutions.

"I have no dread of what

Is called for by the instinct of

mankind.

Nor think I that God's world

would fall apart

Because we tear a parchment

more or less."

It may well be that changes, pos-
sibly of a fundamental and radical
character should be made in our
political and social structure at the
present time. I do not assert sucii
to be the fact. I .simply state that
if under the greatly changed condi-
tions brought about by the world-
war, modifications in our form of
government and society are found
to be necessarq, it would not be
at all surprising. Certainly the
mere suggestion of change should
not create among us panic or alarm.

John Bright used to say that the
first instinct of an English work-
man on hearing a new idea, was to



422



THE GRANITE MONTHLY



" 'eave 'arf a brick at it". Now, that
is not a safe or a wise attitude to
take towards new ideas. It cer-
tainly never has been the American
attitude. Our custom has been to
welcome them, to examine them
with sympathy, and take from them
whatever of value they had to offer.
Let us not then be afraid of the
new idea. A little examination may
show us it is not new at all. As
President Butler of Columbia Col-
lege has said, it is not the novelty
of the idea but the truth of the
idea that should concern us. Let us
therefore test it. let us examine it,
let us analyze it, let us prove it as
much as we please, but let us not
dismiss it without a hearing. It is
the glory of America that we have
free speech, a free press and a right
of assemblage that make it possible
for us to winnow the chaff from the
grain and save all that is true and
all that is useful in the new idea.

But just as you must have a
yard-stick in order to measure cloth,
just} as you must have a bushel
basket in order to measure grain or
potatoes, so you must have some
definite and fixed standard in order
to measure and determine the de-
gree of truth and' utility of an idea.
Fortunately we have such standards
in those principles of enduring ap-
plication that were wrought into
the great charter of our liberties
and which in more than one hundred
years of our existence as a nation
have made here a great, free and
prosperous commonwealth. What
are those principles? What is the
foundation on which has been
created this great structure?

The very essence of American
Government and American life, is
the political, religious and civil
liberty of the individual citizen —
his right to worship God according
to the dictates of his own con-
science, his right to participate in
a government of his own choice,
his right to acquire, to dispose of



and to possess property. This is
the stone on which the corner of
our national temple stands and
where the heaviest timbers rest.
This is the base without which the
edifice itself must fall. This is the
foundation whose weakness or decay
would bring all the glory standing
over it to ruin and despair. Destroy
this and we will have. wrecked the
constructive work of centuries.
Destroy this and we will have shat-
tered the last hope of humanity in
its age-long struggle against auto-
cratic power. Destroy this and we
will have proved recreant to the
high trust committed to our hands



Online Library1884 numbers of the Bay state monthlyBe the first and subjects of first 10 volumes and List of porThe Granite monthly, a New Hampshire magazine, devoted to literature, history, and state progress (Volume 53) → online text (page 43 of 57)