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Jensen, Merrill (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut
(1978)

VI. The Connecticut Convention, 3-9 January 1788,   pp. 535-562


Page 553

instance the city of New York, which is, and long has been, an im-
portant part of that state. It has been found beneficial; its powers
and privileges have not clashed with the state. The city of London
contains three or four times as many inhabitants as the whole state
of Connecticut. It has extensive powers of government, and yet it
makes no interference with the general government of the kingdom.
This Constitution defines the extent of the powers of the general
government. If the general legislature should at any time overleap
their limits, the judicial department is a constitutional check. If
the United States go beyond their powers, if they make a law which
the Constitution does not authorize, it is void; and the judicial power,
the national judges, who to secure their impartiality are to be
made independent, will declare it to be void. On the other hand, if
the states go beyond their limits, if they make a law which is an usur-
pation upon the general government, the law is void;. and upright,
independent judges will declare it to be so. Still, however, if the
United States and the individual states will quarrel, if they want to
fight, they may do it, and no frame of government, can possibly
prevent it. It is sufficient for this Constitution that, so far from
laying them under a necessity of contending, it provides every reason-
able check against it. But, perhaps at some time or other, there will
be a contest; the states may rise against the general government. If
this does take place, if all the states combine, if all oppose, the whole
will not eat up the members, but the measure which is opposed to the
sense of the people will prove abortive. In republics, it is a funda-
mental principle that the majority govern, and that the minority
comply with the general voice. How contrary then to republican
principles, how humiliating is our present situation. A single -state
can rise up and put a veto upon the most important public measures.
We have seen this actually take place; a single state has controlled
the general voice of the Union-a minority, a very small minority
has governed us. So far is this from being consistent with republican
principles, that it is, in effect, the worse species of monarchy.
Hence we see, how necessary for the Union is a coercive principle.
No man pretends the contrary. We all see and feel this necessity.
The only question is, shall it be a coercion of law or a coercion of
arms? There is no other possible alternative. Where will those who
oppose a coercion of law come out? Where will they end? A neces-
sary consequence of their principles is a war of the states, one against
another. I am for coercion by law, that coercion which acts only upon
delinquent individuals. This Constitution does not attempt to coerce
sovereign bodies, states in their political capacity. No coercion is
applicable to such bodies., but that of an armed force. If we should
VI. CONVENTION
553


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