Page:The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 Volume 3.djvu/378

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was not ratified by law,’ was explicitly rejected. He allowed this to be much more precise than any evidence drawn from the debates in the Convention, or resting on the memory of individuals. But admitting the case to be as stated, of which he had no doubt, although he had no recollection of it, and admitting the record of the Convention to be the oracle that ought to decide the true meaning of the Constitution, what did this abstract vote amount to? Did it condemn the doctrine of the majority? So far from it, that, as he understood their doctrine, they must have voted as the Convention did; for they do not contend that no Treaty shall be operative without a law to sanction it; on the contrary, they admit that some Treaties will operate without this sanction; and that it is no further applicable in any case than where Legislative objects are embraced by Treaties. The term ‘ratify’ also deserved some attention; for, although of loose signification in general, it had a technical meaning different from the agency claimed by the House on the subject of Treaties.[1]

But, after all, whatever veneration might be entertained for the body of men who formed our Constitution, the sense of that body could never be regarded as the oracular guide in expounding the Constitution. As the instrument came from them it was nothing more than the draft of a plan, nothing but a dead letter, until life and validity were breathed into it by the voice of the people, speaking through the several State Conventions. If we were to look, therefore, for the meaning of the instrument beyond the face of the instrument, we must look for it, not in the General Convention, which proposed, but in the State Conventions, which accepted and ratified the Constitution.

… He should limit himself, therefore, to two observations. The first was, that if the spirit of amity and mutual concession from which the Constitution resulted was to be consulted on expounding it, that construction ought to be favored which would preserve the mutual control between the Senate and House of Representatives, rather than that which gave powers to the Senate not controllable by, and paramount over those of the House of Representatives, whilst the House of Representatives could in no instance exercise their powers without the participation and control of the Senate. The second observation was, that, whatever jealousy might unhappily have prevailed between the smaller and larger States, as they had most weight in one or the other branch of Government, it was a fact, for which he appealed to the Journals of the old Congress,

  1. See ⅭⅭⅬⅩⅩⅣ above.