FOR THE USE OF SCHOOLS.
by ARTHUR J. STANSBURY
HILLIARD, GRAY, LITTLE, AND WILKINS
DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS, TO WIT:
District Clerk's Office.
BE IT REMEMBERED, that on the 3d day of November, A.D. in the
fifty-second year of the Independence of the United States of
America, Milliard, Gray, Little, and Wilkins, of the said district,
have deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof
they claim as proprietors, in the words following, to wit:
"Elementary Catechism on the Constitution of the United States. For
the Use of Schools.By Arthur J. Stansbury."In conformity to the act
of the Congress of the United States, entitled, "An act for the
encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts,
and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies during the
times therein mentioned", and also to an act, entitled "An act
supplementary to an act, entitled, 'An act for the encouragement of
learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the
authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein
mentioned', and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of
designing, engraving, and etching historical and other prints."
JNO. W. DAVIS,
Clerk of the District of Massachusetts,
J. B. Russell, Printer
That a people living under a free government which they have
themselves originated should be well acquainted with the instrument
which contains it, needs not to be proved.Were the system, indeed,
very cumbrous and extensive, running into minute detail, and hard to
be retained in the memory, even this would be no good reason why
pains should not be taken to understand and to imprint it upon the
mind; but when its principles are simple, its feature plain and
obvious, and its brevity surpassing all example, it is certainly a
most reprehensible negligence to remain in ignorance of it. Yet how
small a portion of the citizens of this Republic have even a
tolerable acquaintance with their own Constitution? It has appeared
to the author of the following sheets that this culpable want of
acquaintance with what is of such deep interest to us all, is to be
traced to the omission of an important part of what ought to be an
American education, viz. the study of the civil institutions of our
country. We prize them, it is true, and are quite enough in the
habit of boasting about them; would it be well to teach their
elements to those whose best inheritance they are. The following
work has been prepared with a view to such an experiment. It is
written expressly for the use of boys, and it has been the aim and
effort of the writer to bring down the subject completely to a level
with their capacity to understand it. Whether he has succeeded the
trial must show. He has purposely avoided all abstruse questions,
and has confined himself to a simple, common-sense explanation of
each article. It is very possible some inaccuracies may be
discovered; and should this be the case, they shall be carefully
corrected, should the work be so far approved as to reach another
In the mean time he cannot but indulge the hope, that in laying this
little offering upon the altar of our country, he has rendered her
an acceptable service.
Question . In what country do you live?
Answer . In the United States of America.
Q. Why is this country called the 'United States of America'?
A. Because it is made up of a number of States which were once
separate, but afterwards agreed to unite together.
Q. What do you mean by a State?
A. I mean any district of country whose people are all under one
Q. Had then the different States which united together, each a
government of its own?
A. Yes; but they agreed to put themselves all under one general
Q. Why did they do this?
A. Because it would promote their general welfare.
Q. Is some government necessary in every country?
A. Certainly; without it nobody would be safe: not only our
property, but our lives would be in danger.
Q. Cannot all the people of a country govern themselves?
A. If every man was perfectly virtuous, and knew what would be best
for himself and others, they might. But this is far from being the
case; and therefore the people of every country are and must be
Q. How is this done?
A. Laws are made which all must obey; whoever disobeys them is
Q. Who makes these laws?
A. They are made in different ways, under different governments. In
some countries a single man make the laws according to his own
Q. What is such a government called?
A. A Despotism, or absolute monarchy: and the person who thus rules
is a Despot, or absolute monarch. In other states a certain number
of persons belonging to ancient or wealthy families make the laws.
Q. What is such a government styled?
A. An Aristocracy or oligarchy. In other cases the people themselves
meet to make the laws. This is called a pure Democracy.
Q. A state must be very small where all the people can meet in one
A. This form of government is only suited to a small city, or rather
village, and can never take place in a state of any extent. One
other form remains; that is, where the people, too numerous to meet,
themselves, choose certain of their own number to meet for them.
This is called a REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT, because those who meet
represent all the rest. It is also called a REPUBLIC.
Q. Which of these ways of governing a nation is the best?
A. The last. A country thus ruled is said to be free, or to enjoy
liberty: but where a single man may make what laws he pleases, and
all the rest must obey him, the people are no better than slaves.
Q. Why do they obey him?
A. Because he has an army of soldiers whom he pays, and who force
the people to obedience.
Q. Cannot they raise an army too, and resist him?
A. This has sometimes been done, and after much bloodshed and
confusion, the people have partially succeeded; but they have more
frequently failed, and then they were more oppressed than before.
Q. How is this country governed?
A. It is a Republic, and is governed by persons whom the people
choose from time to time to make the laws.
Q. Was it always a Republic?
A. No. The states were formerly Colonies.
Q. What do you mean by Colonies?
A. When a part of the people of a nation remove to some distant
place, where they settle, but still continue to be governed by the
nation from which they came out, these new settlements are called
Colonies, and the country which governs them is called the mother
Q. By what nation were the American Colonies governed?
A. By Great Britain. Most of the people who first settled this
country came from England,Scotland or Ireland, (which three
countries make up Great Britain) and long after they had settled
here, continued to be governed by laws, most of which were made in
Q. Were these laws good and wise?
A. Many of them were; and for a time the colonies were perhaps
better off than if they had entirely governed themselves, because,
though Great Britain did rule them, she also gave them protection by
her fleets, and did many things for their advantage. But afterwards
very unwise and unjust laws were made, and such as threatened to
destroy all liberty in the colonies.
Q. What did the colonies do then?
A. They made complaints, and reasoned for a long time with Great
Britain, trying to persuade her to act more justly.
Q. Did Great Britain listen to their complaints and repeal those bad
A. No but instead of that sent over ships and soldiers to force us
to obey them.
Q. And did we obey?
A. No; the people of the colonies consulted with each other what was
to be done, and at length took up arms, raised such armies as they
could, and though they had few soldiers,no experienced officers, and
but little money, they carried on a war against the whole power of
Great Britain, and having (with aid from France) forced two British
armies to lay down their arms and surrender themselves prisoners,
they at length compelled Great Britain to acknowledge their
Q. What do you mean by that?
A. I mean that she was compelled to consent that all those colonies,
which had before been governed by laws made for them by her, should
after that have liberty to make laws for themselves, and obey her no
Q. When we speak of this war, what do we call it?
A. We call it the American Revolution.
Q. What do you mean by a Revolution?
A. A revolution means some great change of government; and we ought
ever to remember ours with ardent gratitude to God for so great a
blessing, and with lasting love and reverence for those good, wise,
and brave men, who went through such dangers and sufferings that
their country might be free.
Q. When and where did the war of the revolution begin?
A. At Lexington and Concord, villages near Boston in Massachusetts,
on the 19th of April, 1775.
Q. How long did the struggle continue?
A. More than seven years.
Q. When did it end?
A. On the 21st of January, 1783 when a treaty was signed at Paris
acknowledging the independence of the United States.
Q. Why is the 4th of July kept with such public rejoicing through
all parts of the United States?
A. Because on the 4th of July, 1776, the Colonies first declared
themselves free and independent; from that day the independence of
the country is reckoned in all our public proceedings; though it was
not acknowledged by Great Britain until 1783.
Q. What was the change produced by the Revolution?
A. The different Colonies became each a free STATE, having power to
govern itself in any way it should think proper.
Q. Had not one state any power over the other?
A. None at all and the several states might have remained entirely
distinct countries, as much as France and Spain.
Q. Did they?
A. No. Having been led to unite together to help each other in the
war, they soon began to find that it would be much better for each
of them that they should all continue united in its farther
prosecution, and accordingly they entered into an agreement (which
was called a Confederation) in which they made some laws which they
all agreed to obey; but after their independence was obtained,
finding the defects of this plan, they called a Convention in which
they laid a complete plan for uniting all the states under one
GENERAL GOVERNMENT; this plan is called THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION. On
this great plan, or Constitution, the safety and happiness of the
United States does, under Almighty God, mainly depend: all our laws
are made by its direction or authority;whoever goes contrary to it
injures and betrays his country, injures you, injures me, betrays us
all, and is deserving of the heaviest punishment. Whoever, on the
contrary,loves and keeps it sacred, is his country's friend, secures
his own safety, and furthers the happiness of all around him. Let
every American learn, from his earliest years, to love,cherish and
obey the Constitution. Without this he can neither be a great or a
good citizen; without this his name will never be engraved with
honor in the pages of our history, nor transmitted, like that of
Washington, with praises and blessings to a late posterity.
Q. You say that in a republic the laws are made by certain persons
whom the people choose for that purpose: who make the laws in our
A. The laws which concern only one of the states are made by persons
chosen by the people of that state, and who, when met, are called
the Legislature, the General Assembly, or the General Court, of that
particular state. Those, for instance, who make laws which concern
only the state of New York, are called the Legislature of the state
of New York; those who make laws which concern only the state
of Massachusetts, are called the General Court of Massachusetts. But
laws which concern all the states or more states than one are made
by the CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES.
Q. But if even the Congress itself should make a law which is
contrary to the Constitution, must the people obey it?
Q. Who is to determine whether any law is contrary to the
Constitution or no, the people themselves?
A. No: but certain persons whom they have appointed, [called Judges
of the Supreme Court of the United States.]
Q. Do the members of the Congress of the United States all meet
together in one assembly, when they make the laws?
A. No: they meet in two separate assemblies, one of which is called
THE SENATE, and the other is called THE HOUSE of REPRESENTATIVES.
Q. Who chooses the persons who shall be members of the House of
A. The people of all the different states: because the laws of
Congress concern all the states, and must be obeyed by all the
people of this Republic.
Q. Have boys a right to choose them?
A. No, boys are too young.
Q. Are any other persons unfit?
Q. How is it determined who may, and who may not choose them?
A. By the laws of each state. Whoever is allowed to choose the
members of the Legislature of any state, is also allowed by the
Constitution to choose members of the House of Representatives of
the United States. Some states allow one class of persons to choose
and other states allow a different class each state acts as it
thinks best. This choice is called an Election.
Q. How is it conducted?
A. On a day fixed beforehand, and publicly known, the people who are
to choose, and who are called voters, meet at certain places called
the Polls: here persons sit called Inspectors, who have certain
boxes called ballot boxes before them, and each person who votes
puts into a hole in the top of these boxes a piece of paper with the
names of the persons whom he chooses written or printed on it. These
pieces of paper are afterwards examined and counted by the
Inspectors, who keep a written account of the names voted for, and
the number of votes given by the people for each. The persons having
the greatest number of votes are chosen. There are some slight
differences in the mode of holding elections in the different
states, but it is the same in every important particular.
Q. Are the times, places, and manner of holding these elections
fixed by Congress?
A. No: They have, thus far, been left to be regulated by each state
for itself, but Congress may fix them if it thinks fit.
Q. Suppose a dispute should arise concerning an election, and one
person shall declare that he has been fairly chosen, while another
denies it, and insists that he himself has been chosen;who has power
to settle the dispute?
A. A dispute between persons who claim a seat in the House of
Representatives can be determined only by the House of
Representatives; a dispute between persons claiming a seat in the
Senate can be settled by the Senate only. Such disputes frequently
Q. When a person is chosen to be a Member of the House of
Representatives, how long does he continue so?
A. For two years.
Q. When the two years have expired, may he be chosen again?
Q. Suppose he dies before the time is out?
A. Another is chosen in his stead, for the rest of the time.
Q. How old must a person be before he can be chosen a Member of the
House of Representatives?
A. Twenty-five years old.
Q. May a person be chosen who has just come into the United States,
and who is a subject of some other country (that means, who is bound
to obey the laws of some other country)?
A. No. Any person, to be chosen a Member of our House of
Representatives, must either have been born in the United States, or
must have been naturalized seven years before he is chosen.
Q. Naturalized? What does that mean?
A. A person who was born in another country and comes to live in
this, is not owned as a citizen of the United States till he has
lived among us a certain time; and then, (after knowing something of
our laws and customs), has taken a solemn oath to obey the
government. He is then admitted as a citizen of our republic. This
is called his naturalization; and when once naturalized, he is
allowed to choose the rulers, and do all other things, the same as
if he had been born among us.
Q. May the people of one State choose a person who is an inhabitant
of another State to be a Member of the House of Representatives?
A. No; he must live in the State where he is chosen.
Q. How many persons may be chosen by each State, as Members of the
House of Representatives?
A. The number of Representatives of any State is in proportion to
the number of people in that State. At present every forty thousand
people send one Representative; but this has been, and may be,
altered, with the increase of the number of people.
Q. Some of the States have large numbers of slaves living in them,
and others have many Indians; are these counted in making up the
A. No; three fifths of the number of slaves is allowed, that is
every five slaves are counted as if they were three free persons:
those Indians who pay taxes, (that is, who pay money for the
expenses of governing and defending us) are counted; those who do
not pay taxes are not counted.
Q.How is it known what number of people each State contains?
A. Certain persons are appointed to count the people and take a
written list of them. Such a counting is called a census, and it
takes place once in every ten years. [In the year 1790 the United
States contained 3,929,326; in 1800, 5,309,758; in 1810, 7,239,903;
and in 1820, 9,638,166.]
Q. When the Members of the House of Representatives meet to make the
laws, are they all equal, or does any one preside over them?
A. They choose one of their own number, whose duty it is to preside
over them while they are met to do business, and to see that they
proceed in a regular and orderly manner in doing their public duty.
He is called their Speaker. They also choose a person who is not one
of their own number to keep a written account, from day to day, of
all that is done by them while assembled. That written account is
called a Journal of the House of Representatives, and the person who
keeps it is called the Clerk of the House. They also choose another
person who is called their Sergeant-at-Arms and who may, when so
ordered by the House, seize any Member who disobeys the rules, or
who is charged by the House with any crime, and imprison him. They
also choose another person as their Door Keeper who is to take care
that no person be admitted into the hall where the Representatives
are sitting, but such as are permitted by law. These several
persons, thus chosen, are called the Officers of the House of
Representatives, and remain in office two years.
Q. Who choose the Members of the SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES?
A. The Legislature of each State chooses the Senators for that
Q. How many Senators may there be?
A. Two from each State.
Q. When a citizen is chosen by the Legislature of his own State to
be a Member of the Senate of the United States, how long does he
continue such duty?
A. For six years. If he dies before the expiration of that time, or
resigns his office, (that is,if he declares it to be his wish not to
be a Senator any longer) another is appointed in his place.
Q. Are all the Senators chosen at the same time, as Members of the
House of Representatives are?
A. No. Only one third are chosen at once two years afterward another
third is chosen and two years after that, another third, so that
every two years one third part of the Senators go out of office; but
the same persons may again be chosen if the Legislatures who chose
them before wish to send them again; if not, they send others in
Q. How old must a person be before he can be chosen a Senator of the
A. Thirty years old.
Q. Can he be chosen if he has not been born in the United States?
A. Yes, if he has become a citizen by being naturalized, and has
been a citizen for nine years.*
Q. Can a Senator for one State be chosen by the Legislature of
A.No. The Legislature of each State must choose its own Senators,
from persons residing in its own bounds.
Q. Does the Senate choose a Speaker, as the House of Representatives
A. No. The person who is chosen by the people to be Vice President
of the United States,is made, by the Constitution, President of the
Senate; his duties are like those of the Speaker of the House of
Representatives, except that he is not obliged to keep order in
debate. Their other officers are the same in all respects, as those
of the House of Representatives, and are chosen by the Senators in
the same manner.
Q. Do the Senators ever sit as Judges?
A. Yes. When any civil officer of the United States (that is, not an
officer of the army,) is guilty of a violation of his public duty,
he is accused, or charged, by the House of Representatives, and
tried by the Senate, Such an accusation is called an Impeachment.
Q. What do you mean by his being tried by the Senate?
A. The Senators take a solemn oath that they will carefully attend
to the proof that shall be brought before them, and according to
that proof declare the accused person innocent or guilty, as the
case may be. The House of Representatives appoint some of their own
Members to lay the proof before the Senate, and afterwards the
accused person lays before them the proofs in his defence; when both
have been heard, the Members of the Senate vote, that is, each one
declares his opinion; and if two thirds of all the Senators who are
present declare the accused person to be guilty, he is adjudged
guilty; if not, he is declared not guilty.
Q. Cannot the Senate, in like manner, impeach that is, solemnly
charge an officer before the House of Representatives?
A. No. None can bring an impeachment but the House of
Representatives, and none can try an impeachment but the Senate.
Q. What is the consequence if the Senate declare an officer of the
United States to be guilty?
A. He may be turned out of office, and prevented from ever again
holding any office of honor, trust, or profit, under the United
Q. May he be further punished?
A. Not by the Senate. He may afterwards be tried before a Court of
Law, and punished in the same manner as any other criminal for
offences against the law.
Q. May ever the President of the United States be thus impeached and
A. Yes. In this free and happy country no man is so great as to be
above the law. The laws are supreme; to them all persons, from the
President of the United States to the poorest and the meanest
beggar, must alike submit. This is our glory. Let every youthful
American exult that he has no master but the law; let him mark the
man who would change this happy state of things as the enemy of his
country; and above all let him remember that as soon as he himself
breaks the law, he becomes himself that enemy.Whoever violates the
law helps to weaken its force, and, as far as he disobeys, does what
in him lies to destroy it: but he who honors and obeys the law
strengthens the law, and thereby helps to preserve the freedom and
happiness of his country. In some governments it is held that "the
king can do no wrong", here we know no king but the law, no monarch
but the constitution: we hold that every man may do wrong; that the
higher he is in office,the more reason there is that he be obliged
to answer for his conduct; and that as a great officer, if
treacherous, is a great criminal, so he ought to be made to suffer a
great and exemplary punishment.
Q. How often does Congress meet?
A. It must meet once, at least, in every year; but may meet oftener
Q. Is any day fixed for its meeting?
A. Yes; the first Monday in December; but it has power to alter that
to some other fixed day. When Congress ceases to meet, it is said to
Q. Suppose all the members of the Senate, or all the members of the
House of Representatives do not attend a meeting, can those who do
attend make laws without them?
A. If more than one half are present, they have in most cases power
to do whatever the whole number could have done. More than one half
are called a Majority, less than one half are called a Minority. As
many as are necessary to do business are called a Quorum.
Q. Supposing less than one half should attend, can they do nothing?
A. Yes, they have power to send for the others and compel them to
attend. If they do not choose to do this, they have power to adjourn
till the next day; (that is, they may separate after agreeing to
meet the next day;) and so they may continue to do till a Quorum
shall be present to do business.
Q. Are there any fixed rules for doing business in Congress?
A. Certainly, every thing is done by settled rules, called Rules of
Q. Who settles what these rules shall be?
A. The Rules for the Senate are made by the Senate; the Rules for
the House of Representatives are made by the House of
Representatives. Each House has power to alter its own Rules of
Order; or to suspend them, that is to say, a particular rule may be
disobeyed for a certain time; after which it is again in force.
Q. Suppose a Member refuses to attend, or behaves, when he does
attend, in a disorderly manner?
A. He may be punished in any way the other Members think proper.
Q. May he be even expelled from the House? that is, turned out of
A.Yes, but not unless two thirds of all the Members think he
Q. You said that the Clerk of the House of Representatives keeps a
written Journal of all that is done in that House; is a Journal kept
in like manner by the Secretary of the Senate?
Q. Are these Journals published, that is, printed and sold?
A. Yes; excepting such parts as either House of Congress may think
proper to keep secret for a time, when the public good requires it.
Q. Does the Congress ever sit in secret?
A. Yes. Whenever they are engaged in business which it will be
better for the public good to keep secret for a time, they close
their doors. At other times they sit in public, and everybody who
can get into the gallery may see and hear all that is done.
Q. Does the Journal show how each Member voted in every case that
came to be considered?
A. No. But if one fifth of the Members present when any measure is
proposed, require that the names of those who voted for and against
it, be put down in the Journal, it must be done.
Q. After Congress has met, may either House adjourn (that is, cease
to meet) for more than three days at a time, without the consent of
the other House?
Q. Do the two Houses, that is, the Senate and House of
Representatives, meet in the same building?
Q. May either House remove to any other place?
A. No, not unless the other House removes too.
Q. Do Members of Congress receive any thing for doing the business
of the public?
A. Their chief and best reward is the honor of serving their
country; but as many of them cannot afford to leave their own
business so often and so long without having the loss in some
measure made up to them, the Constitution says that they shall be
allowed a compensation to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the
Treasury of the United States.
Q. Who fixes the rate of compensation, that is, how much the Members
A. It is fixed by Congress.
Q. Ought they to be allowed to fix their own wages?
A. It cannot be avoided; the rate must be fixed by law, and there is
none who have power to make law for this country but the Congress
Q. May Members of Congress be arrested, (that is, seized by a
sheriff or constable) for debts they owe, while they are attending
to their public duty?
A. Their duty is of so much value to us all that the Constitution
will not allow them to be arrested while going and returning from
their home to the place where Congress meets,nor while they are
attending there, except in three cases.
Q. What are these?
A. If they have been guilty of treason, felony, or breach of the
Q. When is a person guilty of treason?
A. When he makes war against the United States (that is, when he
endeavors by force to overturn or to resist the Government,) or when
he helps or comforts others who are making war against them. [But
this must be proved by at least two witnesses, who have both seen
him do some act of treason. The crime is punished in any way
Congress thinks fit; and they have determined that it shall be
punished by death.]
Q. If Members of Congress while engaged in debate, that is, in
arguing about any law that is proposed to be made, shall sat any
thing offensive to another Member, may he be sued for it by the
other in a Court of Law?
A. No (lest this should destroy the freedom of debate, and make the
Members afraid of speaking their thoughts with honesty and plainness
in matters for the public good,) a Member cannot be called to
account in any other place for any thing he says upon the floor of
Q. May Members of Congress be appointed to any civil office under
the United States?
A. Not while they continue to be Members; if they are appointed to
any office and wish to accept the appointment, they must give up
their seats in Congress; nor can they be chosen Members again while
they hold the office.Q, Supposing Congress creates any new office,
(that is, appoint some public duty to be done and allow the person
who does it a compensation) or shall increase the pay before allowed
for doing the duties of any office, that is already established, may
any Member of the Congress which did this be appointed to such
A. No, not till the whole time for which he was chosen a Member
shall have expired.
Q. How does Congress proceed in making the laws of the land?
A. A Member usually proposes that some other Members, called a
Committee, shall consider whether it will not be proper to make a
law for some particular matter, which he explains. If a majority of
the Members think it will be best to consider of the matter, they
order certain Members to do so. These Members, or Committees, meet
together, and having considered the proposal, determine whether it
is proper to advise the Members of the House to make a law
respecting it. If they think it is they put down in writing the
words of such a law as it will be best to make. This writing is
called a Bill. They then return to the House, and either in writing
or by word of mouth, declare what they have done, and state the
reasons for it. Such, a statement is called a Committee's Report.
The Bill is then read twice. The Member who first proposed the
matter now farther proposes,(or Moves, as it is called) that this
Bill be considered by all the Members. If this is agreed to, the
Bill is then taken under consideration. Every Member has an
opportunity to propose such alterations in it, as he pleases; and
every Member may give reasons why such a law ought or ought not to
be made. If any alterations are made, the Bill as altered is written
over again and read a third time; when, after full consideration, it
is Passed, that is, finally agreed to.
Q. Is it now a law?
A. By no means. The Bill thus passed by one House is then sent to
the other House.There it is again considered, and, if the House
thinks proper, is further altered. It is then returned to the House
where it began. If this House disapproves of the alterations made by
the other, it sends the Bill back, that that House may give up the
alterations but if they will not give them up, then a Committee of
Conference is appointed; that is, certain Members are sent from each
House to meet together, and try to bring the matter into such a form
that both Houses will agree to it; if they succeed, and the Houses
agree, the Bill is then Engrossed, (that is, copied in a fair hand)
on parchment, and signed by the President and Secretary of the
Senate, and by the Speaker and Clerk of the House of
Q. Is it now a law?
A. Not yet. The engrossed Bill is then sent to the President of the
United States for his approbation; if he approves it, he signs and
returns it; the Bill then is called an ACT, and becomes the law of
Q. What if he does not approve it?
A. If he does not approve it, he must return the Bill together with
his objections, in writing, to the House in which it began; that
House must copy the whole of these objections into their Journal,
and then consider the Bill once more. When they have done this, if
two-thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, they must
send it, together with the President's objections to it, to the
other House. There the Bill must, in like manner, be reconsidered;
and if two thirds of this House also agree to pass it, it becomes a
Law. But in all such cases, the names of all the Members of each
House who voted for and against the Bill, must be put down in the
Q. Suppose the President of the United States should neglect to sign
and return a Bill sent to him by Congress?
A. If he does not sign or return any Bill within ten days after it
is sent to him (not counting Sundays), it becomes a Law, unless in
that time Congress shall have ceased to sit.
Q. Is not this a better way of making the laws of the Country, than
either of those we first considered?
A. It is hard to conceive how greater care could be taken that no
wicked, unjust,oppressive, hasty, or unwise Law should pass. There
is full time to consider whatever is proposed; such fair opportunity
to oppose it, if wrong, and improve it, if imperfect; so many
persons, and from so wide a space of country must agree in approving
it, that it is scarcely possible any thing very injurious can be
enacted; or, at least, if it is, that a different form of Government
would hare prevented it.
Q. Are there not some evils which attend this mode?
A. Nothing of human contrivance is wholly free from some defect or
other; and, in time of war, when the public danger is great, and it
is needful that Government should act, not only wisely, but rapidly;
some disadvantage may be found to arise from so deliberate a method
of passing every Law. But it is far better to put up with this, than
to lose the precious blessing of so free and safe a mode of
Q. You have said that no Laws can be made for the United States, but
by Congress; may Congress make any Laws they please?
A. No. Their power is limited by the Constitution; that is, they
have no power, but what the Constitution says they have. It must
always be remembered, that the States, when they united to form the
General Government, had full power to govern themselves; and that
they gave up only a part of their power, for the general welfare.
Whatever power,therefore, is not given by the Constitution to the
General Government, still belongs either to the State Governments,
or to the people of the United States.
Q. What power is given to Congress, by the Constitution?
A.Congress has power to do the following things: It may "lay and
collect Taxes, Duties,Imposts, and Excises."
Q. What do you mean by these different terms: What is a Tax?
A. A Tax means a sum of money which the people are directed to pay,
to support the Government, and defense of the Country.
Q. What are Duties?
A.Duties are sums of money, which must be paid by persons who bring
goods of any kind from another country, into the United States, and
which are in proportion to the quantity or value of such goods. It
is paid at certain places called Custom-houses, and is sent from
these to the Treasury of the United States.
Q. What are Imposts?
A. Imposts are sums of money which must be paid to the Government,
by persons owning vessels, which enter the harbors of the United
States, in proportion to the size of the vessels. An Impost is a
duty on vessels.
Q. What are Excises?
A. Excises are sums of money which must be paid to the Government,
by persons who make certain articles within the United States, in
proportion to the quantity or value of the articles manufactured.
Q.What do you mean by laying these, and what by collecting them?
A. Laying a Tax, is determining how much it shall be; and collecting
a Tax, is obliging the people to pay it.
Q. Could any Government long exist without this?
A. No. Every Government must have large sums of money, to use for
the public good,and this is the proper way of getting it.
Q. Ought the people to complain of having to pay Taxes and Duties?
A. Certainly not; because they all receive the benefit. If nobody
would pay Taxes,nobody could be defended by armies, fleets, or
forts; nobody could be paid, for making or for executing the laws;
the whole country would soon be without law, safety, or order;and we
should all be miserable. Whoever, therefore, cheats the Government
of its duties,does in reality cheat himself and his neighbor, and
acts like the enemy of his country.
Q. May one part of the United States be required to pay at a greater
rate than the rest?
A. No; all Duties, Imposts, and Excises must be uniform throughout
the United States.
Q. What other power has Congress?
A. To borrow money on the credit of the United States
Q. What do you mean by that expression, "on the credit of the United
A. It means that the people of the United States are bound to pay
whatever money Congress borrows for their use. [Such money is called
a Loan; and whoever lends it to the Government, receives a printed
paper, acknowledging that such a sum has been lent,and promising to
pay a smaller sum yearly, as Interest for the use of it. Such
printed certificates are called Stock; they may be bought and sold
the same as any other article,and whoever holds them when the
interest becomes due, may demand, and must receive,it. If the
printed paper promises to pay six dollars a year for every hundred
dollars borrowed, it is called "United States six per cent Stock";
if it promises to pay four dollars a year for every hundred, then it
is called "United States four percent Stock".]
Q. What other power does Congress possess?
A. It may make rules according to which the Commerce of the citizens
of the United States with other nations (that is the exchange of our
goods for theirs, or for money, by means of vessels or other
conveyances) shall be carried on; also the commerce of one of the
states with another, and that of the different states, or of the
United States, with the Indian tribes. [Some persons believe that
the power to regulate Commerce among the several states includes the
power to make Roads and Canals from one state to another; others
Q. What is the next power given to Congress by the Constitution?
A. You recollect what was before said about naturalization, which
means the admitting of a foreigner (that is, a native of some other
country) to become a citizen of the United States: Congress has
power to make one uniform rule according to which this shall be done
throughout the country. It may also make uniform Laws for the whole
Union on the subject of Bankruptcy.
Q. What is bankruptcy?
A. When a man has not money or goods enough to pay his debts, he is
a Bankrupt; and the being in that situation is Bankruptcy. The
object of Laws on this subject is to compel such a man to give up
all he has got to the people he owes, and to fix the terms on which
he may be set free from the debts he cannot pay.
Q. What else may Congress do?
A. It may coin money; that is it may mark or stamp certain pieces of
metal in a way which shall make them pass, in buying and selling, at
a set value. It may also fix what shall be the value of coin that
has been marked or stamped in any other country, when it is used in
the United States. It may likewise declare one uniform size for the
weights and measures used throughout our country.
Q. May any persons who please coin money?
A. No, none but those employed to do so by Congress (they work at a
place called the mint).
Q. If any other person shall coin money in his own name, or shall
stamp it so as to resemble that coined at the mint, or that which,
though coined in other countries, is allowed to pass as money in the
United States, may he be punished?
A. Yes; it is a crime, called counterfeiting, and may be punished in
any manner Congress shall appoint.
Q. Suppose they counterfeit not the money of the United States, but
the stock issued by Government?
A. They are punished the same as if they had counterfeited money.
Q. What other power belongs to Congress?
A. They may "establish Post Offices and Post Roads".
Q. What is a Post Office?
A. A place where Letters carried from one part of the country to
another, at the expense of the United States, are received and
Q. And what is a Post Road?
A. A road on which the bag containing these letters (called the
mail), is carried.
Q. What is meant by establishing these?
A. Making a law which directs where the Post Offices shall be, and
by what roads the mail shall be carried. Some persons say that it
includes a power to erect buildings for post offices, and to make
roads where they are wanted; others deny this.
Q. Has Congress any farther powers?
A. It may grant what are termed Patent Rights and Copy Rights.
Q. What does this mean?
A. When a person has found out some new and useful contrivance,
Congress may give him an exclusive right to make and sell what he
has contrived, for a certain number of years; during that time
nobody else may make or sell that article without leave from the man
who contrived it, and if they do they are liable to be punished.
This is called a Patent Right. Whoever writes a book may also have
the exclusive right to print and sell it for a certain time; this is
called a Copy Right.
Q. Can Congress erect Courts? That is, make a Law directing that a
Judge shall sit at certain places, at certain times, before whom
Causes or Criminals shall be tried?
A. Yes, it may appoint as many Courts as it thinks fit; but they
must all be inferior to the great Court of the country, called the
Supreme Court of the United States.
Q. Can it punish Piracy? That is, robbery committed at sea?
A. Yes, and all other crimes committed there; it can also punish
offences against the law of nations.
Q. What do you mean by "the law of nations"?
A. I mean those rules which are agreed upon among all nations
(except those who are savages) to regulate their conduct towards
Q. Has Congress any other power?
A. Yes, it has one most solemn and important power, the power of
Declaring War between the United States and any other nation.
Q. When Congress has declared the United States to be at war with
any particular country, can any of the citizens of the United States
remain at peace with that nation?
A. No; however much they may dislike the war, or love the nation
against whom it is declared, all must, when required, aid in it, by
their money or their services, and bring it as soon as possible to a
successful end. If they attempt to aid the enemy, or forcibly hinder
the success of the war, they commit treason.
Q. When the United States have cause of complaint against another
nation, and yet do not wish at once to go to war, is there any other
measure they can take to compel that nation to do them justice?
A. Yes. Congress may "issue Letters of Marque, and Reprisal".
Q. What are they?
A. They are certain public letters directed to merchants of the
United States, who have been injured, and have been refused redress,
permitting them forcibly to take vessels belonging to the offending
nation, sufficient to make up the loss; but this must be done only
according to certain Rules, fixed by Congress.
Q. You say Congress may declare War; can they raise Armies; that is,
can they hire soldiers to fight for the country?
A. They can; and pay, clothe, and feed them, at the public expense.
Q. Can they make a law, setting apart money enough at one time, to
pay and support the army for more than two years?
A. No, not at one time; lest a wicked Congress might, by keeping up
an army, remain in power beyond the time for which they were chosen,
and so destroy the liberty of their country.
Q. Why was the time limited to two years?
A. Because every two years a new Congress may be chosen.
Q. Can Congress in like manner, provide and maintain a Navy? That
is, buy or build ships of war; and hire, clothe, and feed men to
navigate and fight them?
A.Yes; and make Rules to govern both Army and Navy.
Q. Has the Country no other defense to depend upon but hired
A. Yes, the people themselves, who are of a proper age to bear the
fatigues and hardships of War, are obliged to bear arms and defend
their Country when need requires; they are called the Militia.
Q. When may they be called out, to do this?
A. When they are wanted, to enforce the laws; to overcome any of
their fellow citizens,who are so foolish and wicked as to rebel
against our free and excellent form of government; or to meet and
drive out an enemy who invades; that is, forcibly enters any part of
Q. But as the great mass of the people are ignorant of the art of
War, how is this to be done?
A. Congress has power to provide for their being taught, by
collecting and arranging them in companies, and regiments, under
their own officers; supplying them with arms,and causing them to be
properly exercised in their use.
Q. May Congress command them, or are they to be Commanded by their
own State Governments?
A. The President may command so many of them us are employed in the
service of the United States, the rest are commanded by the States.
Q. Who appoints the Officers of the Militia?
A. The State Governments; they also train, that is, exercise and
instruct the men; but this must be done according to Rules fixed by
Q. Have you mentioned all the powers of Congress?
A. No; they have power to make all the Laws for a certain District,
not more than ten miles square, where Congress meets, and where the
Chief Officers of Government reside.This is called the Seat of
Q. Has this District a Legislature of its own choice, as the States
Q. Is it a part of any State?
A. No. It consists of territory, which the States have given up, for
the express purpose that it might be the seat of the General
Government. The territory at present used for this purpose, is
called the District of Columbia; and has been ceded, (that is, given
up) by the States of Maryland and Virginia, within which it before
Q. Is there any other place in the United States, which is thus
ruled by Congress alone?
A. Yes all Forts, Magazines, (that is, places where powder and other
things used by an army are laid up) Arsenals, (that is, buildings
where arms are kept) and Dock-yards; (that is, places where vessels
of war are built) which belong to the United States, are
governed,not by the Legislatures of the States in which they may be,
but by the General Government alone.
Q. What other power is conferred by the Constitution upon the
Congress of the United States?
A. A very large and general authority, "to make all laws which shall
be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing
powers", (that is, all the powers of which we have been speaking)
"and all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government
of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof".
Thus, for example, when the Constitution says, that Congress may
coin money, that gives Congress power to make all the laws necessary
to determine what the coin shall be how they shall be marked of what
metal they shall be made what shall be their weight what shall be
their value where they shall be made what buildings shall be erected
for the purpose how many persons shall be employed what their duty
shall be what pay they shall receive what account they shall keep
what security they shall give, and how they shall be punished if
they neglect their duty. It is the same with every other power given
by the Constitution; if its execution requires a hundred different
laws, Congress may pass them all.Q, May slaves be imported, that is,
brought into the United States?
A. No, whoever engages in the slave trade is a pirate.
Q. May slaves be held, that is, owned, and made to work by citizens
of the United States?
Q. If they escape from one State into another, may the State into
which they flee set them at liberty?
Q. Suppose any American citizen is seized and put in prison, may he
be kept there as long as those who seized him think fit?
A. No; he may get a writ of Habeas Corpus.
Q. What is that?
A. It is a command from Court, by which the jailor is forced to
allow the prisoner to be brought up before a Judge, that the cause
of his being put in prison may be examined into; in order, that if
there is no law to keep him there, he may immediately be set at
Q. Must this command be given whenever it is applied for?
A. Yes, except at certain times, when this privilege is suspended
(that is, interrupted for a time, but not taken away).
Q. When may this right of having a writ of Habeas Corpus, which
belongs by the Constitution to every citizen, be suspended?
A. Only in cases of rebellion by our own citizens, or invasion of
the country by an enemy; when the public danger is so great as to
require persons to be kept in prison, who might otherwise be set at
liberty. As soon as this extreme danger is past, the right of Habeas
Corpus must be immediately restored.
Q. Is this a very great and important privilege, and ought all
Americans to guard it with the greatest care?
A. It is one of the greatest rights of a freeman and Americans must
never surrender it,under any pretext, if they value and would
preserve their liberty.
Q. May a man's children be punished by law for his offence?
A. In some countries, where a man has been guilty of treason, (that
is, making war against the Government) a law is passed called a bill
of attainder, by which his children are prevented from being, heirs
to him or to any other person; and, if he belonged to what in those
countries is called the nobility, and his children would have
belonged to it too,they are prevented; nor can they nor their
children, nor their children's children, recover this privilege,
till an act is passed for that purpose. No such law can be made in
this country; it is expressly forbidden by the Constitution.
Q. May a citizen of the United States be punished for doing what,
when he did it, was not forbidden by any law, but against which a
law was passed afterwards?
A. No. A law that attempts to punish actions that were done before
the law was made, is called an "ex-post-facto law". This also is
expressly forbidden by the Constitution.
Q. When a direct tax is laid, that is, when Congress orders that a
certain sum of money must be paid by each citizen, for the public
use, what is the rule by which it is to be collected?
A. The census, or public counting of the people.
Q. May any money be required to be paid on goods exported, (that is,
carried out) from any of the States?
Q. May any law be passed giving to the ports of one State, (that is,
the places where vessels arrive and depart with goods) a preference
over those of another, so that goods coming to some ports, shall
have less duties to pay to Government than the same goods coming to
Q. May vessels coming from sea with goods which they wish to deliver
in one State, be obliged to land those goods, or to enter them, that
is, give an account of them at the Custom-house, or to pay the
duties on them in another State?
Q. When a vessel leaves the ports of one State with goods which she
is carrying to sea,can she be obliged to dear those goods, that is,
give an account of them at the Custom-house, in another State?
A. No; each State may carry on its own commerce without the
interference of any other State.
Q. In what way can the money of the United States be drawn out of
the Treasury (or place where it is kept)?
A. It can be drawn out only by authority of a law of Congress; and
such a law is called an Appropriation.
Q. Must a full account be kept of all moneys received into the
Treasury, and paid out of it; and must this account be published,
that is, printed and sold from time to time?
Q. You said that in some countries, a part of the people are called
Nobility; what does that mean?
A. Almost all Europe was once under the power of Rome, and formed
part of what was called the Roman Empire. This Empire was attacked,
overrun, and at last conquered entirely, by a hardy set of people
who came from the north in vast numbers. These people were commanded
by their chiefs or kings; and when the countries which they invaded
gave up fighting, and yielded every thing to the conquerors, the
whole of the land was divided into portions and given by the king to
his chief officers, who divided it again among their followers.
These great officers were called by various names or titles, as
Dukes, Earls, Counts, etc. and when they died, their oldest sons
were called by the same titles; which continued in this manner to
descend in certain great and rich families. It is these families
which are now known in most countries of Europe as Nobles, or the
Nobility and they have great privileges over the other citizens.
Q. Can any families be thus distinguished from the rest in this
A. No; no title of Nobility can be granted here. The only titles
among us, are those which mark a person's trade in the army or navy,
or his office in the State.
Q. May any citizen of the United States receive a title of nobility
from the king, or prince,or government of any other country?
A. The Government does not interfere with private persons but no
person holding any office of profit or trust under the republic can
accept of either a title, sum of money as salary, an office, or even
a present, from any such prince or government, without the express
consent of Congress.
Q. Why is this?
A. To guard against any foreign prince getting influence over those
who are in power among us, by bribery of any kind; a title would be
a better bribe to some men than money.
Q. You said that when the states entered into that agreement by
which they set up a General Government over them all, they had each
a perfect right to govern themselves as free, sovereign and
independent States: and that they gave up a part of their power to
the General Government, and kept the rest of it in their own Lands.
What are the powers which they gave up?
A.The power of making treaties (that is, bargains or agreements with
other nations)alliances, (that is, agreements with some other
country, that the two shall help each other,in something they wish
to accomplish, or in avoiding some common danger); and
confederations (that is agreements among several different countries
that they shall all join together in some object for their common
benefit). None of these acts can now be performed by any one of the
states, separately, but must be done only for the whole by the
Q. What other powers did they give up?
A.The right to grant letters of marque and reprisal: the right to
coin money; (both these have been explained) the right to emit bills
of credit; (that is, issue printed promises to pay certain sums of
money on the credit of the state, the same as a Bank issues Bank
notes), to make any thing but gold and silver a lawful tender in the
payment of debts.
Q. What does that mean?
A. When one man owes another, and goes to him and offers him money
to the full amount of his debt, that is called a tender; (or offer);
and if the money is such as the law says shall pass, it is a lawful
tender; and if the man refuses it, he can never sue the other for
that debt, nor is the debtor obliged to pay it. Now, though money is
commonly made of gold and silver, yet sometimes a Government may
make a law by which certain printed notes are to pass the same as
gold and silver; and after such a law, that kind of printed notes
are a lawful tender to pay debts with. (This kind of paper was
issued by Congress in our revolution). The states, by the
Constitution, gave up the power to do this, and now it can be done
by the General Government only.
Q. Did the states give up any other power?
A. They are forbidden by the Constitution, in the same manner that
Congress is, to pass any bill of attainder, or ex-post-facto law, or
grant any title of nobility, nor can they make any law which shall
"impair the obligation of contracts".
Q. What does that mean?
A. It means that when a bargain has been made between any two
parties, by which one agrees and binds himself to do some particular
thing not then forbidden by law, the state in which this agreement,
or contract, was made shall not afterwards make any law by which the
person who thus bound himself shall be set free from any part of
that bargain without the consent of the other party, with whom he
made the contract.
Q. What else are the states forbidden to do?
A. They cannot lay any duty on exports or imports.
Q. May they not lay enough duty to pay for the expenses of
collecting the duties laid by Congress?
A. Yes, but no more; and if more is received than is wanted for this
use, it must be paid into the Treasury of the United States.
Q. May any of the States lay a tonnage duty; that is, require a sum
of money to be paid by every vessel entering any of the harbors in
Q. May they keep soldiers whom they pay, in time of peace?
Q. May they keep ships of war, in time of peace?
Q. May one State enter into an agreement with another State ?
Q. May they make a treaty or agreement with any other nation ?
Q. May they make war?
A. No; not unless an enemy has entered their bounds, or is in such
danger of entering,that there is no time to wait for the aid of the
Q. Why did the States give up all these powers?
A. Because they could be better protected by one powerful Government
ruling over the mall united than they could have been, if they had
remained separate; and, if they would have such a Government, they
must consent each to give up a part of their own power, in order to
make it; if the General Government had no power, it would be of no
Q. Who executes the laws which Congress have made, that is, who
takes care that every body shall obey the laws?
A. The President of the United States.
Q. Can he make the law?
A. Not at all. These two powers, of making law, and executing law,
are kept by the Constitution, entirely separate; the power that
makes the law cannot execute it, and the power that executes the law
cannot make it. The one of these powers is called the Legislative,
and the other is called the Executive power.
Q. Is there any advantage in this?
A. Certainly; it is the great safeguard of freedom because, if the
one makes oppressive laws, the other may refuse to execute them; or,
if the one wishes to do tyrannical acts, the other may refuse to
make a law for them.
Q. How does any man become President of the United States?
A. He is elected [chosen] by the people of the United States.
Q. How is this done; do the people themselves at once choose the
A. No; this might lead to great confusion. But the people choose the
Legislatures of the different States, these Legislatures appoint
electors, and those electors choose the President.
Q. Explain this more particularly.
A. You know what is meant by the Legislatures of the States; they
consist of persons chosen in each State to make the State laws.
These persons, when met together, appoint,in any way they think
proper, a number of persons who are called Electors, because they
afterwards choose the President.
Q. How many of these Electors of President are appointed in each
A. As many as the state has members in both Houses of Congress. For
instance; a state which is entitled to two Senators and eight
members of the House of Representatives must appoint ten electors of
President; a state which has two Senators and twenty members of the
House of Representatives, must appoint twenty-two electors.
Q. May any person they please be appointed an elector?
A. Not every person may; Senators of the United States, members of
the House of Representatives, and all persons who hold any office of
trust or profit under the United States, are incapable of being
electors of the President.
A. For fear any President of the United States might use improper
means to get himself chosen again when his time of service should
expire. The President has frequent opportunities to see the members
of Congress and persuade them; and as he himself has the appointment
of most persons who hold offices, he might threaten to remove,
or promise to keep them in their places, and thus destroy
their freedom of election.
Q. How do these electors proceed?
A. The electors appointed by each state meet in the states that
appointed them, and vote by ballot for the President, and for
another officer called the Vice President of the United States. The
electors all meet on one and the same day in their several states;
the day is fixed by Congress.
Q. What do you mean by voting by ballot?
A. When it is wished to conceal the manner in which each particular
person voted, and yet to know what is the opinion of the greater
number of voters, the voters instead of speaking their minds, put
each a piece of folded paper into a box; these papers are called
ballots, and when all have voted, these ballots are examined and
Q. May both the persons whom the electors of any state vote for, as
President and Vice President, be natives of that state in which they
are voted for?
A. No; only one of them; the other must be a native of some other
Q. How do they distinguish which of the persons is voted for as
President and which as Vice President?
A. The ballots are taken separately, on different pieces of paper,
and it is besides written on the ballot — whether the person is
voted for as the one or as the other. Separate lists are kept in
which they put down the names of all the persons who are voted for,
either as President or as Vice President, and the number of votes
given for each; these lists are signed by the electors, and then
sealed up and sent to the seat of government directed to the
President of the Senate. For the greater security, two copies are
made, one of them is sent by the mail, and another by a messenger,
sent for the express purpose of carrying it.
Q. What does the President of the Senate do with these lists?
A. He opens them in the presence of the Senate and the House of
Representatives, who are all met in one hall to be present when the
votes are counted. Each House appoints some of its own members who
unite in a committee and count all the votes; when the person having
the greatest number of votes for President is declared to be the
President,and he who has the most votes for Vice President is
declared Vice President of the United States.
Q. Suppose no one person has a majority (that is more than half) of
all the votes for President, is the person who has the most votes
considered as chosen?
Q. What is done in that case?
A. The House of Representatives immediately proceeds to choose, by
ballot, from those persons, not more than three, who stand the
highest on the list of votes for President, one to be President of
the United States.
Q. Are they bound to choose the person who has most votes?
A. No; they may take either one of those three persons who have the
Q. Do they vote, on this occasion, in a different manner from what
they do on all other occasions?
A. Yes; in choosing the President they vote, not by single members,
but by States; that is,each State has one vote only, whether its
Representatives are many or few; and a majority of the whole number
of States is necessary to a choice.
Q. Must all the States vote?
A. All may vote if they are present and desire it; but if only two
thirds of the States vote, the election is good .
Q. Suppose the House of Representatives cannot, or does not, choose
any one, must there be no President?
A. In that case, the Vice President must perform the duty of
Q. If neither of the persons voted for by the Electors as Vice
President has a majority of all their votes, what is done?
A.The Senate then chooses one of the two persons who have the most
votes. A majority of the whole number of Senators is necessary to
the choice, but two thirds of their number is sufficient to vote.
Q. May any person be chosen President of the United States?
A. Not every person; none may be chosen unless he has been born in
the United States, or was a citizen when the Constitution Was agreed
to, nor can such a one be chosen if he is less than thirty-five
years old, or if he has not resided within the United States for
Q. May any person be chosen Vice President?
A. No one may be chosen as Vice President who is forbidden by the
above rule to be chosen as President.
Q. If the President of the United States should die, or should be
put out of office, or should resign his office, or should from any
cause be unable to do the duties which belong to it, what is to be
A. His duties must then be performed by the Vice President.
Q. But suppose the same thing should have happened to the Vice
A. Then the Congress must declare by law who shall perform the
duties till another President is chosen, or till the President is
again able to perform them himself.
Q. Does the President receive any thing for his services?
A. The honor of filling so high and honorable a station by the
choice of a great and free people, and the glory of leaving his name
in their history as the faithful friend and father of his country,
is, of itself, enough to fill the wishes of the most aspiring mind,
and no doubt the place would be sought as eagerly as it now is,
though not a dollar should be given to the man who fills it; but
because his station exposes him to great expenses he is allowed a
salary sufficient to meet them.
Q. What is the amount of the President's salary, that is, the sum of
money paid him by the United States every year?
A. It is at present fixed at twenty-five thousand dollars.
Q. May he receive any other money from the United States, or from
any one State?
A. No; he is expressly forbidden to receive any other sum of money
than his salary.
A. Lest, if any State allowed him money, he might be led to favor
that State more than the others; and lest, if he was suffered to
receive other sums from the United States, he might amass so much
money as should make him a dangerous citizen to a free country.
Q. Does the President take any oath before he enters upon his
Q. What is an oath?
A. It is a solemn calling upon God, who knows the hearts of all men,
and will call everyman to account for his conduct in this world, to
bear witness that what a man says is true,or that what he promises
he means to perform.
Q. What is the President's oath of office?
A. It is in these words "I do solemnly swear, that I will faithfully
execute the office of President of the United States; and will, to
the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the
Constitution of the United States."
Q. What are the powers which belong to the President?
A. He is commander in chief, both of the army and navy; every
officer of both, from the highest to the lowest, is obliged to obey
Q. Are the officers of the militia obliged to obey them?
A. Yes, whenever the militia are called out in the service of the
United States; (at other times they are under the command of the
Governors of their own States).
Q. Has he any other powers?
A. Yes; he may grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the
Q. What is a reprieve?
A. When a person has been tried, found guilty, and condemned to be
punished on a certain day, a reprieve is a putting off of the
punishment to some other time.
Q. What is a pardon?
A. It is the delivering of a condemned person from the punishment of
his offence. A reprieve only delays punishment; a pardon prevents it
Q. May the President do this in all cases of offences against the
A. In all cases, except cases of impeachment.
Q. What other powers has he?
A. He has a very solemn power, that of making Treaties for the
United States with other nations.
Q. Why is this so solemn a power?
A. Because a treaty is the supreme law of the land, and usually
concerns matters of great importance to us all.
Q. Is nobody joined with the President in this power? Or may he make
any agreement he thinks fit, with other nations?
A. This power is so great and weighty, that the Constitution will
entrust it to no one man.Even the President cannot make a treaty
without the consent of the Senate of the United States; nor is it
sufficient that a majority of the Senate agree to it; two thirds of
all the Senators who are present when the vote is taken, must agree
to any treaty, before it is binding on the United States.
Q. Has the President any other power?
A. Yes; powers of nomination and appointment.
Q. What do you mean by this?
A. When persons are to be employed to do the duties of certain great
public offices, none can be so employed but those whom the President
first nominates; that is, proposes to the Senate, and whom the
Senate consent to have employed; and when the Senate has given this
consent, the persons cannot act in their office till they receive
orders to do so from the President; such an order is called their
appointment, and when put in writing it is called their commission.
Q. What officers are appointed in this manner?
A. Ambassadors and foreign Ministers; (that is, persons sent by the
United States to the Government of some other nation, either to
prepare some public treaty, or to reside there as the representative
of this country). Consuls, (persons sent by this country to reside
in the ports of other nations, to protect our commerce; that is, to
see that our vessels, our sailors, and the property of our
merchants, are properly treated there, according to the treaties and
laws of both countries). Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other
officers of the United States, except those who are expressly
ordered by the Constitution to be appointed by some other person
than the President.
Q. May the President appoint any officer without the consent of the
A. Yes, if Congress makes a law giving him the power; but this
applies only to inferior officers, that is, such as have other
officers over them.
Q. May Congress give the appointment of such officers to any other
than the President?
A. Yes; it may give it to the Courts of Law, or to the Heads of
Q. What do you mean by the Heads of Departments?
A. This name is given to certain officers who have the chief care
under the President, of the four great branches of the Government,
called the Executive Departments ; and who are called the Secretary
of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of War, and
the Secretary of the Navy.
Q. Are the duties of these officers declared by the Constitution?
A. No; but by a law of Congress. They are, however, persons of great
importance in our government. The Secretary of State attends to
every thing which concerns our affairs with other nations; and also
to those the General Government with the Governments of the
different States; the Secretary of the Treasury attends to all that
concerns the money of the United States; the Secretary of War
manages the business of the army; and the Secretary of the Navy that
which concerns our vessels of war. All these officers are,however,
under the control of the President; he may require their opinion In
writing on any subject that belongs to their different departments,
but he is not bound by it; he may also dismiss them from office.
Q. Suppose any of the officers whom the President has appointed by
the consent of the Senate should die, or should resign his office,
while the Senate is not sitting; what is to be done?
A. The President may appoint another person in his place who shall
hold the office till the end of the next meeting of the Senate.
Q. What are the duties of the President?
A. He must from time to time give information to Congress of the
state of the United States.
Q. Does he know what is the state of the nation better than the
Members of Congress?
A. Yes; his office is such that he has a better opportunity of
knowing it. Each Member of Congress resides only in one State, but
the President resides at a spot in the middle of them all. It is the
duty of all officers below him, to send reports of the various
affairs in which they are employed, to one or other of the Heads of
Departments, and these lay all the knowledge they thus obtain,
before the President direction and assistance in the many and great
duties he has to perform. He is, therefore, of all other persons,
best acquainted with the general concerns of this nation.
Q. When does he lay this information before Congress?
A. He makes a very full statement of it when they first meet, in
what is usually called the President's Speech; and from time to
time, while the two Houses are met, he sends to each of them
messages, in which he gives more particular statements than he could
do in his first general speech.
Q. Suppose Congress wish to know from the President something which
he has not told them in his speech or messages, may they call upon
him to communicate it?
A. Yes, and if he does not think that the public good requires it to
be kept secret, he always answers the call, and gives them the
knowledge they desired, if he can do so.
Q. Does he do more than communicate information to the Congress?
A. Yes; his duty is also to recommend to them such things as he
thinks will be for the advantage of the country.
Q. Are they obliged to do as he advises?
A. No. They pay respectful attention to what he says to them, and
listen to the reasons he gives in favor of the measures he
recommends, but they are at full liberty to follow their own
judgement in ail cases.
Q. Is it to be desired that Congress should always comply with the
advice of the President?
A. No; for then his advice would, in time, come to have the
authority of a command; it would be the President and not Congress
who made the laws; and the liberty of the country would be in the
greatest danger. There is no more dangerous despot than one who can
make his will obeyed, and yet preserve the forms of a free
government. Augustus Caesar ruled the whole Roman Empire with
absolute sway, yet did every thing by resolves of the Senate, as if
Rome was free.
Q. Suppose some very important matter should happen while Congress
is not met, can the President call them together?
A.Yes. He can call either both Houses, or only one; if any law is to
be made, both Houses must be called; if only a treaty or an
appointment is to be made, the Senate only need be assembled.
Q. Suppose, when both Houses are met, they should find themselves
unable to agree about the time at which they will adjourn, (that is,
cease to meet) can the President end the dispute?
A. Yes, by adjourning both Houses.
Q. In that case, when are they to meet again?
A. At any time the President fixes, when he adjourns them.
Q. What other duty is required of the President?
A. He must receive all ambassadors and foreign ministers; that is,
persons sent by other nations to make treaties with us, or to reside
here as representatives of their own government.
Q. Has he any other duty?
A. Yes, he has one great, general, and constant duty in which all
this power is put at his command, it is to take care that the laws
shall be faithfully executed; that is, that whatever Congress orders
shall be done, and that whoever disobeys the laws shall be punished.
Q. May he be punished himself?
A. We have already seen that every civil officer of the United
States may be impeached by the House of Representatives, tried
before the Senate, and, if guilty, may be turned out of office. The
crimes for which this is done are chiefly treason and bribery.
Treason, we said, is making war against the United States, by
endeavoring to resist or overturn the government; bribery means the
unlawful taking of money by an officer for doing or omitting some
act of his office.
Q. Does not every officer receive money for doing the duties of his
A. Yes, the law allows him a certain sum; but a bribe is something
more than this, given him not by the United States, but by somebody
who wishes him to favor them in the exercise of his power as a
public officer. It is wicked to offer a bribe, it is still worse to
Q. Can there be no bribery but by means of money?
A. Yes; bribes may be offered in various shapes; any benefit or
advantage offered to an officer for an improper end is a bribe.
Q. What do you understand by a Court?
A. A place where a Judge sits to hear and determine causes according
Q. Are Courts necessary?
A. Certainly. Wherever laws are made there must be some way of
determining when they have been disobeyed, and of causing those who
disobey them to be punished. This is the use of a Court and of a
Judge. When one person believes that another has broken the laws, to
his injury, or to the injury of the public, he may cause that person
to appear before a Judge and have it determined by witnesses,
whether he has broken the laws or not; and if he has, he is forced
to suffer such a punishment as the law directs.
Q. Are there Courts in every State of the United States?
A. Yes. Each State appoints Judges of its own to see that its laws
Q. Are there also other Courts belonging to no particular State but
to the United States?
Q. Are all these Courts equal, or is one superior to another?
A. They are not all equal but in each State some of the State Courts
are set over others;and so it is with the Courts of the United
Q. Why are they not all equal?
A. Some are set over others, in order, that if one makes any mistake
it may be corrected by that above it. When a citizen thinks he has
been wronged in a lower Court, he may take his cause to a higher
one; this is called an appeal; and if in this higher Court, he still
thinks he is wronged, he may appeal to a court higher still, until
he has got to the highest Court in his own State.
Q. Can he take his cause from the State Courts to the Courts of the
A. No; not unless his cause has to do with a law made by a State,
which as he supposes is contrary to the Constitution of the United
States. That question can be settled only by the Supreme Court of
the United States.
Q. Suppose his cause has to do with a law of the United States and
not a State law?
A. He must go at once to the Courts of the United States.
Q. What are these?
A. They consist of one Supreme Court, (the highest of all), and of
such other Courts,under this, as Congress may from time to time
Q. Has Congress established any?
A. Yes it has appointed some which are called Circuit Courts of the
United States; and others, below these, which are called District
Courts of the United States.
Q. What Judges sit in the Circuit Courts of the United States?
A. The Judges of the United States Supreme Court.
Q. What Judges sit in the District Courts of the United States?
A. District Judges.
Q. What kind of causes are tried in the Courts of the United States?
A. Any cause must be tried there in which the dispute is about the
true meaning of any part of the Constitution.
Q. What else?
A. All causes under the laws of the United States.
Q. Any others?
A. Yes; all which depend upon treaties between the United States and
Q. What other causes?
A. All in which Ambassadors or other public Ministers, or Consuls,
sent to the United States by other governments, are parties
Q. What others?
A. All causes which concern the taking or detaining of ships at sea,
and all which concern crimes committed at sea, or in harbors, or
rivers or in forts and dock-yards, belonging to the United States.
Q. What other causes are tried in these Courts?
A. All disputes in which the United States is a party; all disputes
between one State and another State; all in which one of the States
sues any person that is the citizen of another of the States; all in
which a citizen of one State sues a citizen of another State; all in
which citizens of one and the same State lay claim to land under
grants of different States; all in which one of the States sues a
citizen of some foreign country; and all in which citizens of the
United States, and citizens of any other country sue each other. But
not where citizens of one State sue another State; or where citizens
or subjects of a foreign State sue one of the States of the Union.
Q. Must all causes of these several kinds be begun in one of the
inferior courts of the United States, or may any of them be
commenced at once in the Supreme Court?
A. All cases which have to do with ambassadors, public ministers,
and consuls; and all those in which one of the States is a party,
may be begun in the Supreme Court; the others, after being commenced
in the inferior Courts of the United States, may be removed to the
Supreme Court by an appeal; but this is submitted to the regulation
of Congress, who may determine by law when it may be done, and in
Q. How are the Judges of the Courts of the United States appointed?
A. By the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Q. How long do they remain in office?
A. During good behavior; that is, until they resign their office or
are turned out of it for some great offence.
Q. Why are not Judges elected from time to time, like Members of the
House of Representatives and Senators? And why may they not be
removed from their offices unless they are proved to be guilty of
A. If Judges held their places at the mere good pleasure of the
people, they would be greatly tempted to act in a partial and
improper manner in order to please those who chose them to office,
and to keep their favor; but when they know that no man or number of
men can turn them out of office so long as they do their duty, they
administer justice without fear and with an equal regard to all who
Q. Why then should not Legislators hold their office in the same
A. Because they make the laws, while Judges only explain and apply
them; it would be very dangerous to liberty to give our law makers
power for life; they require restraint lest they should become our
tyrants; therefore their time of office is made short, so that if
the people think them unwise or unfaithful they may refuse to give
them the office again.
Q. You said that the use of Courts was to determine when the laws
have been disobeyed,and causing those who have disobeyed them to be
punished. How do Courts answer this end?
A. When a person is charged with having done something to his
neighbor, or to the State,which is forbidden by law, the fact is
judged of by a Jury.
Q. What do you mean by a Jury?
A. A company of citizens, chosen by lot, and who have no interest in
the matter, who listen to the proofs brought against the person
accused, and who then agree among themselves whether the accusation
has been proved or not. When they declare this agreement in opinion,
it is called their verdict; and according to this, the cause is
Q. Is this a wise regulation?
A. Certainly. The trial by jury, is a most precious privilege as it
secures to every man a fair hearing, and is the best safe-guard of
his liberty, property, and life; all which might be taken from him
by a partial or corrupt Judge, if that officer alone had to decide
on the guilt or innocence of those who are tried before him.
Q. Does a Jury decide in civil suits as well as in criminal
A. I do not understand the difference between them.
Q. By a civil suit, I mean one citizen's calling another into court
to answer him for some injury committed against him; by a criminal
prosecution, I mean a citizen's being brought up by a public accuser
for some crime committed against society at large, and for which he
is liable to public punishment.
A. A jury decides in both cases. When an officer of the United
States is impeached, the accuser is the House of Representatives,
and the jury is the Senate; but in ordinary prosecutions and suits,
the jury consists of twelve persons, residing near the place where
the act was committed.
Q. May an accused person be tried in a different State from that
where the criminal act was committed?
Q. Suppose the act was committed at sea, or in some other place not
within any one of the States of the Union, where must the trial be
A. Where Congress shall have appointed by law.
Q. Ought all the public acts of a State, and of all its courts and
officers, to be recorded in writing?
A. Certainly; not only to preserve a remembrance of them, but that
those persons who are affected by these acts may be able to show
proof of them, and if injured, to obtain redress.
Q. When such a record is made in one of the States, and a copy of
it, duly proved, is given, must that record be received as proof by
all the other States?
A. Yes. But Congress may determine by law in what manner the record
shall be proved for this purpose.
Q. When a citizen of one State goes into any other State of the
Union, may he be treated as if he was a foreigner? Or may any
difference be made between his privileges and those of the citizens
of that State?
A.No. He shall enjoy every privilege which they do.
Q. If a person charged with a crime in one State, shall flee from
justice into the bounds of another State is he safe from pursuit and
A. No. If the Governor of the State where the crime was committed
applies to the Governor of the State where he has taken refuge, the
latter shall cause him to be delivered up.
Q. Suppose a slave in one State shall run away from his master, and
flee into another State, does he thereby become free?
A. No. On application of his master, and proof of his being a slave,
he must be given up.
Q. How many States were there which revolted from Great Britain at
Q. Did they all agree to the Federal Constitution at the time it
went into operation?
A. Not all, but the rest came in soon after.
Q. Was it then expected that other States would be formed and join
A. Yes, and provision was made for admitting them.
Q. By whom were they to be admitted?
A. By Congress.
Q. Is their number limited?
Q. Or their population?
A. Not by the Constitution; but Congress has determined that a
district or territory containing sixty thousand inhabitants may be
received into the Union as a State.
Q. Then that number of people in any of the States may be erected
into a new State?
A. No. No new State can be formed within the limits of a State
Q. May two States be united by Congress into one: or parts of two
States be erected into a third State?
A. Not unless the Legislatures of both such States give their
Q. When the Colonies separated from Great Britain was their
territory all peopled?
A. No; large tracts of land in several of the States, remained in
its natural, wild state.
Q. When the States united under the Constitution, what was done with
these wild lands?
A. They were given up by the several States that owned them, and set
apart as common property, for the good of the whole.
Q. Who has power to govern these territories as they become settled?
And to sell the land to settlers?
A. The Congress of the United States.
Q. Have they since been extensively settled?
A. Yes. Many new States have been formed within their limits, and
many more are expected to be. They are in the mean while divided
into several distinct portions called territories, each of which has
a form of government suited to its amount of population,and a
Delegate in Congress with power to speak, but not to vote in that
Q. Has any State the right to set up a monarchical form of
government for itself, that is a government where the supreme power
is in the hands of a king?
A. No. When the Colonies united they were all republics, the new
government they formed for the Union was republican, and they then
secured to every State which had joined or should join the
confederation, a republican form of government.
Q. Who is to see that this regulation is carried into effect?
A. The Congress.
Q. Does Congress secure any other privilege to the different States?
A. Yes. It must protect them from invasion by an enemy. This is one
of the most important benefits of our Union; each State has the
protection of the whole.
Q. Should unruly persons in any of the States attempt by violence to
resist and overturn the State Government, and should they gain such
strength that that State is not able to quell them, must Congress
A. Yes, if applied to by the Governor or Legislature of such State.
But not to prevent a peaceable alteration of the laws attempted in a
regular and proper manner.
Q. The majority of the people of any State may certainly alter its
laws, provided they do not violate the Constitution: but may the
Constitution itself be altered?
A. Yes. The Constitution being nothing more than an expression of
the will of the people of the United States, is at all times within
their own power, and they may change it as they like, but it ought
not to be changed till it is very clearly shown to be the wish of
Q. How is this to be found out?
A. When two thirds of the members both of the Senate and of the
House of Representatives shall agree in opinion that an alteration
would be proper, they may state such alteration and propose it to be
considered by the people of all the States. The alteration must then
be considered by the Legislature of each of the States, or by a
Convention in each State, (which is a meeting of persons chosen by
the people for this particular purpose); and if three fourths of the
States agree to the amendment, it then becomes a part of the
Q. But if three fourths of the States should thus agree to an
amendment which would deprive the remaining States against their
will of their equal vote in the Senate, would such amendment be
A. No. This case is provided against in the Constitution, and one
other (in relation to slaves) which could only happen previous to
the year 1808; but as that year is now past,no farther notice need
be taken of it.
Q. What is the supreme law of the United States?
A. The Constitution itself is supreme; and all laws and treaties
made by Congress and the President, in conformity with it, are
superior to any law made by one of the States, so that if the law of
a State contradicts a law of Congress, the State law is of no force,
and the United States law alone must be obeyed.
Q. What security have we that the Constitution will be observed?
A. The President, the Members of Congress, the Members of all the
State Legislatures,and all public officers of the United States, and
of each one of the States, takes an oath,when they enter upon their
several offices, to obey the Constitution. But the great security
for its observance lies in the wisdom and excellence of the
Constitution itself, and the conviction of the whole people of the
United States, that it is for their true interest to observe it
inviolate. It has been tried for fifty years, and has done more to
render this nation peaceable, powerful and happy than any form of
government that ever existed among men.
Q. You said that the Constitution, however wise or good, might
nevertheless be amended if the people of the United States chose?
A. Yes; the Constitution says so expressly.
Q. Has it ever been amended?
A. Yes, several times.
Q. What was the subject of the first amendment?
A. The subject of religious freedom.
Q. What do you mean by that?
A. I mean the right every man has to worship God in such way as he
thinks fit, without being called to account for his opinions, or
punished for them.
Q. Is this a sacred right, which ought to be guarded with the
A. Certainly. God alone is the Judge of our religious belief and
service, and no man has aright to interfere with it, so long as it
does not lead us to injure or disturb our neighbor. A great part of
the misery and oppression which has existed in the world, began with
forcing men to do what their conscience disapproved.
Q. What amendment was made in the Constitution on this subject?
A. Congress was forbidden to make any law respecting an
establishment of religion; that is, giving the preference to any one
form of religion above another, and making laws to support it; or
making laws to prevent men from freely holding or observing any
particular form of religious belief and practice.
Q. Was any other subject introduced into the same amendment?
A. Yes; the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press.
Q. What do you understand by these expressions?
A. In a free country like ours, every citizen has a right to express
his opinion of the character and conduct of our rulers, and of the
laws they make for our government; to forbid this, or punish it,
would be highly dangerous to our liberty. If those chosen by their
fellow citizens to rule the State, rule in a foolish or wicked
manner, it ought to be known,that they may be speedily turned out of
office; but if nobody might find fault with them without danger of
punishment, their bad conduct would never be exposed, and they might
continue in power to the great injury of us all. The right to speak
our opinions is the freedom of speech; and the right to print them,
that they may be read by others, is the freedom of the press.
Q. But suppose I say of my rulers what is false and injurious, may I
not be punished?
A. Yes, if they can prove in a court of justice that what you have
said is false, and that your saying or publishing it has injured
them. So may any of your fellow citizens. But you are still at
liberty to speak and to print, being liable to the consequences if
you abuse your liberty.
Q. If the people shall be of opinion that any of the acts of their
rulers have been wrong,may they meet together to petition, that is
publicly to ask, that these acts may be altered?
A. Yes, if they meet peaceably; but if they behave in a riotous or
disorderly manner, they may, and ought to be punished.
Q. May they meet with arms in their hands?
A. Yes; the right to keep and to carry arms is one which belongs to
the citizens at all times; but arms must not be used except to
support the laws or to resist the enemy.
Q. As the public safety requires that the Government should employ
hired soldiers, as well as the militia, may these soldiers be sent
to live in the house of any citizen and at his expense, without his
A. Never, when the nation is at peace. When it is at war, it may
often be necessary to do this; but the Constitution declares that
even then, it must only be done according to law ;not according to
the mere good pleasure of an officer of the army, but in a manner
which the Representatives of the people shall lay down.
Q. Has the Government power to enter the house of a citizen and
search it, and to take him, and his papers, and his property, at any
time it thinks fit?
A. No. It is sometimes necessary and proper to seize a man's person
and property, and to search his papers; but this may never be done,
until some of his fellow citizens charge him with some offence which
would require this to be done, make it appear probable that he is
guilty, and swear to what they declare against him. Then a Judge
gives to an officer a warrant to search or to seize ; but the
warrant must say particularly what places are to be searched, and
what persons or property is to be seized. Otherwise no man would be
Q. Suppose I am accused by my neighbor of some crime which is
punished with death,(these are called capital crimes) or which would
render me infamous in society; must I be seized and tried because he
has accused me?
A. No. You must be either confined or in another manner prevented
from going away,until his accusation is laid before a number of your
fellow citizens, called a Grand Jury,who swear to act fairly in the
case. They hear your accuser and all the proof he has to bring
against you, and if they think that he is wrong in supposing you
guilty, and that his proof is not sufficient, they refuse to have
you tried, and you are set at liberty. But if they think his proof
is such that you ought to be tried, they deliver to the Court what
is called a Bill of Indictment; that is, a paper setting forth the
crime you are said to have done, and according to this you are
tried. So that no man can be put on his trial, till many impartial
men think and swear that there is reason to believe he is guilty.
Q. Does what you have now said, apply to soldiers and sailors in the
army and the fleet?
A. No; they are tried according to certain rules and regulations,
called articles of war, to which they swear to submit when they
become soldiers or sailors.
Q. Does it apply to citizens who are in the militia?
A. No, not when engaged in actual service, in time of war or public
danger; they are then subject to the articles of war. It applies to
them at all other times.
Q. What other rights are secured to an accused person?
A. Whoever is accused of a criminal offence, (that means an offence
for which he is to be tried by the State) shall have a speedy and
public trial. He may not be kept confined longer than is necessary,
nor may he be tried in a secret place, but openly before all who
choose to attend. And he shall have a Jury of impartial men to try
him. (The trial by Jury has been already explained). The men who
compose his jury must be of the same State,and of the same district
where the offence is said to have been committed. He must be fully
informed of the nature of the charge brought against him, and how it
came to be made.
Q. Suppose he knows of persons who could prove him not guilty of the
charge, but they live far off, or are unwilling to attend his trial,
can he force them to come?
A. Yes. The Court will grant him a certain paper called a Writ of
Subpoena, and send it by an officer, to every person he wants as a
witness in his favor; and such persons are obliged to come, or be
Q. Has he any other privilege?
A. Yes, he has a right to have the advice of a lawyer to aid him in
his defence, and to plead his cause.
Q. Can he be forced to bear witness against himself?
Q. If he is once tried and not found guilty, may he be again tried
for the same offence?
A. If it is an offence, which if proved against him, would put him
in danger of losing his life, or suffering any bodily injury, he may
Q. Are my life, liberty, and property guarded by the Constitution,
so that no man is allowed to touch either of them, except according
to the laws of the land?
A. They are.
Q. But if my property is wanted for a useful public object, may it
not be taken from me?
A. Yes, but you must be paid the full value of it in money.
Q. Suppose I am sued by my neighbor, about some property, am I to
have a Jury to try the cause?
A. Yes, if the amount in dispute is more than twenty dollars.
Q. You said that when a person is charged with a criminal offence,
he must be confined,or otherwise prevented from going away, till a
Grand Jury has heard the accusation and proof against him. How else
can he be restrained from going off, but by confining him?
A. By obliging him to bring forward persons who will become his
Bail; that means, who will agree to forfeit a certain sum of money
if he goes away and does not return to be tried.
Q. Who has power to say how much money they shall agree to forfeit?
A. The Judge, before whom the man is accused.
Q. May he fix any sum he pleases?
A. No. The sum is to be according to the nature of the crime, and
the danger of the accused man's running away, but it may not be made
so great as to be cruel or unjust.
Q. Are offences ever punished by a fine; that is, by obliging the
offender to pay a sum of money?
A. Yes, but here the same rule applies. The sum must not be made out
of proportion to the offence, and the circumstances of the offender.
Q. May a Judge contrive new punishments out of his own head, or
order such as are not in common use for such offence as has been
Q. Because the Constitution only speaks of certain rights belonging
to citizens of the United States, does it follow that the citizens
have no rights but these?
A. By no means.
Q. Has the United States Government any power but such as is
contained in the Constitution?
Q. Have the different States of the Union all the powers which
rightfully belong to a State, except those which are denied to them
by the Constitution?
A. Yes. When the States united to form a constitution for their
General Government, they agreed to give up to that government some
of the powers they had before, and they set down in the Constitution
what these powers were. All other powers they keep. The same thing
is true respecting the people. All the powers they have not given up
to the State Governments or to the General Government, they keep in
their own hands.
AND now, my young friends, having gone through a short, and I hope,
clear and intelligible view of this Constitution, I have a few
parting words to say to each one of you.
In the first place, consider how happy and how highly favored is our
country, in having a system of government so wisely calculated to
secure the life, liberty, and happiness of all its citizens. Had you
lived or travelled in other parts of the world, you would be much
more sensible of this, than you can possibly be without such an
opportunity of comparing our lot with that of others. But, as your
reading increases, particularly in history and in travels, you will
be able to form a more just estimate of what you enjoy. When you
read of the oppression which has been, and still is exercised, I do
not say in Africa and Asia,whose inhabitants are but partially
civilized but even in the most enlightened countries of Europe;
under absolute monarchs, a proud and haughty nobility a worldly,
selfish, and ambitious priesthood a vast and rapacious standing
army, and a host of greedy officers of government; and then turn
your eyes on your own happy home, a land where none of these evils
has any place where the people first make the laws and then obey
them where they can be oppressed by none, but where every man's
person, property, and privileges are surrounded by the law, and
sacred from every thing but justice and the public good;how can you
be sufficiently grateful to a beneficent Providence, which has thus
endowed our country with blessings equally rich and rare?
In the next place, remember that this precious Constitution, thus
wise, thus just, is your birth-right. It has been earned for
you by your fathers, who counselled much, labored long, and shed
their dearest blood, to win it for their children. To them, it was
the fruit of toil and danger to you, it is a gift. Do not slight it
on that account, but prize it as you ought. It is yours, no human
power can deprive you of it, but your own folly and wickedness. To
undervalue, is one of the surest ways to lose it. Take pains to know
what the Constitution is the more you study, the higher you will
esteem it. The better you understand your own rights, the more
likely you will be to preserve and guard them.
And, in the last place, my beloved young countrymen, your country's
hope, her treasure,and one day to be her pride and her defense;
remember that a constitution which gives to the people so much
freedom, and entrusts them with so much power, rests for its
permanency, on their knowledge and virtue. An ignorant people are
easily betrayed, and a wicked people can never be ruled by the mild
influence of their own laws. If you would be free if you would see
your country grow in all that constitutes true greatness cultivate
knowledge flee from vice. The virtuous citizen is the true noble. He
who enlightens his understanding controls his passions feels for his
country's honor rejoices in her prosperity steps forth to aid her in
the hour of danger devotes to her advancement the fruits of his
mind, and consecrates to her cause, his time, his property, and his
noblest powers, such a man is one of God's nobility; he needs
neither riband, nor star; his country knows and remembers his name;
nor could any title add to its honor, or to his reward. We have seen
such men among us; we hope to see many more.
And though the glory of giving to their country a Constitution as
this, is what none but they have been so blessed as to enjoy, yet
you succeed to a task, but one degree removed from it, that of
preserving what they have committed to your virtue, unsullied and