« AnteriorContinuar »
THE FORMATION OF A CONSTITUTION.
A State Constitution is a set of rules made by the people to regulate their government. It is the supreme law for the State. It is the highest State authority. It is a document which also gives to the different departments of the State their authority. The laws of a State consist of the Constitution and the acts of the Legislature. The courts do not make laws, but determine what the law is. If we are unable to understand what is intended by the wording of the law, the courts interpret for what purpose the law was enacted. If the laws given us were perfectly plain and absolutely capable of but one interpretation, there would be no need of lawyers or courts. It is impossible to do without the Judicial Department of Government, for no two people think exactly alike any more than two people who look at the same landscape see precisely the same objects. This difference of opinion as to the meaning of the law makes the legal profession a possibility and the courts a necessity.
We not only make our laws, but place judges over us who shall translate where we cannot read. How did we acquire the power and authority? This first step to civil liberty dates back to the time of King John, in 1215, when a document called the Magna Charta, the Great Charter, was issued. This guaranteed to the English freemen liberties not before enjoyed. The kings exercised all the legislative power and gradually liberty approached serfdom through abuses and usurpations on the part of kingly authority. This Magna Charta is one of our most precious historical documents and is the foundation of our common law. It guaranteed to the freemen no imprisonment unless "by the lawful judgment of his peers or the law of the land." It further stated that “we will sell to no man, we will not deny to any man either Justice or Right.”
Charles I in 1629 assented to the Petition of Right which made taxation only possible by an Act of Parliament, and stated that no man could be imprisoned without due process of law.
The Habeas Corpus Act was passed in 1679, during the reign of Charles II. This act further protected those who were unlawfully imprisoned. It demanded that the authorities permit the accused to appear in open court in person (hence the term “thou mayest have the body'), and know why he was arrested. Then came the Bill of Rights, under William and Mary in 1689. This bill carried with it the better security of the right of life, liberty and property. It provided against cruel punishment, obtaining money for the use of the Crown without the consent of Parliament, the raising of a standing army in time of peace and the quartering of soldiers contrary to law, excessive bail and fines and impeachment for the freedom of speech.
The Colonial people of our country brought with them from England the ideas embraced in these four documents and the Declaration of Independence was based upon the rights so given to them through their forefathers.
These people believed that they were entitled to the same protection and privileges as were granted them before coming to this country. They believed that the mother country violated her laws when she taxed them without representation, when she arrested and tried them without due process of law, when she kept up a standing army in time of peace and when she denied them the freedom of the press. Founded on the belief of this usurpation of rights the Declaration of Independence was written and the Revolution was fought.
The rights which the Parliament and the English Government had given to her people were retained by her colonists after they had severed their connection with the parent country. They waged war to establish and regain the privileges contained in the sacred charters of 1215, 1629, 1679
and 1689. The document of July 4, 1776, declaring our independence not only recites the grievances against England but declares what the rights were as previously granted. “We hold these truths self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of those governed.
That these United States are and of right ought to be free and independent States.
* and that as free and independent States they have the full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce and do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do."
In order to obtain these inalienable rights and to exercise the power of free and independent States The Articles of Confederation were drawn and put in force 1776-1778. The document was written in 1776, but could not be put into effect until all the States signed it, and Virginia was the last one to sign in 1778. These articles formed a compact between the thirteen States. They gave the Government new powers and established interstate relations which did not before exist. A citizen of one State enjoyed the privileges of any of the other States. The grave error in this document was that while it gave to the citizens the power to assess the States for money it gave no authority to collect the revenue. Power was given to Congress to make new laws, but no provision was made to enforce them. There was no Chief Magistrate to enforce the laws, no Judiciary to interpret them. The Government was no more than an advisory board, without any power of putting into action the advice given. Congress was left at the mercy of the States. If they did not see proper to pay the amount taxed, they did not pay. There was no power to force them to action, and for this reason the Confederation failed. What they needed was one central Government in place of the thirteen separate ones. The States had been jealous of a central Government and limited its authority to such a degree that it was powerless.
The Constitution of the United States was a result of the failure of the Articles of Confederation. It was adopted in 1787 at Philadelphia after a stormy session of four months. The defects of the Articles of Confederation were remedied and authority was given to Congress not only to enact laws but full power to provide for their enforcement. The Constitution protected the central Government and at the same time shielded the State authorities. It established the three departments of government, the Executive, Judicial and Legislative. This was a new creation in the world of government. This trinity of authority is the stronghold of our National and State Constitutions. There was no Bill of Rights in the original Constitution. Some of the States were afraid that this central Government created with new powers might usurp some of these fundamental rights of the people, and before they would sign the Constitution amendments were made in the form of Bill of Rights. These amendments, I to X, limited and restricted the powers of Congress. The States were to be under the authority of the Federal Government, yet there was a desire to have limitation placed upon its power by these amendments. No chances were to be taken that State rights given by the Constitution might at a future day be wrested from them by Congressional action. The Constitution as adopted with its amendments is the supreme law of the land. If Congress passes acts that are inconsistent with the provisions set forth in the Constitution these acts are not laws, but unconstitutional enactments, and are void. (The Judiciary decides if an act is constitutional or unconstitutional, and by the decision rendered through this court the enactment is made a law or declared unconstitutional. No act, however, is passed upon unless some actual case in controversy comes before the court for final determination.)
The State of Wyoming was formed through the authority granted Congress by Article IV, Section 3, Clause I, of the United States Constitution. “New States
be admitted into the Union by the Congress." No part of our State Constitution is, or could be, in conflict with the Federal Constitution. We must be governed first of all by the law contained in our National Constitution, and must formulate our State laws in harmony with its provisions. All acts of our Legislature are regulated by our State Constitution. If these acts conform to conditions of the State Constitution, they become laws, but if contrary to these conditions, the enactments are without force and are declared unconstitutional.
There are written and unwritten Constitutions. England's Constitution is called unwritten because it is not embodied in any one separate document, and is largely a matter of long-established customs and precedents. Yet her Constitution may be found in a large degree in the written documents upon which we based our Constitution. The leading idea in America is that the power to change the Constitution must rest with the people. We cannot all meet in one gathering and enact laws, hence the Constitution was written delegating powers that could be used by those who represent us, but beyond the provisions of the Constitution they cannot go. If time changes conditions and the provisions of the Constitution no longer best meet the needs of the people amendments are made. These amendments can only be made through the people in the same manner in which the Constitution was adopted.
Our State Constitution consists of three distinct parts: (1) The Declaration of Rights, (2) The Frame of Government, (3) The Schedule. There is also the Preface, or