Press enter after choosing selection

Right Of Petition

Right Of Petition image
Parent Issue
Public Domain
OCR Text

Thk RionT of Petitiow- sa much talked about - chatis il? Lel us eee; - t will tske but a moment. At the formalion of the Qon6titution, oo law existed, Iimiiing thjsiight. The Constitution, iniending to keep it unlimi'.ed, forbids Cüngrcss moking any faw "abridg ioe" it. The right of petition, not origio auno; in government - nor emanating from government, but lying back of all forme of political orgnnization; existing before and inclependent of thein, in our very nature jus! as the .right to use our longues, our nrms, or our legs - all that our Government (our Consiilulion) has attempted to do in relatitn to it, is to secure t from uny, from every violation by (Congress) the body that was to be influeuced by its exercise. There was no danger from any other quarter. It was intended ns arier of defence for the people against tho power of the Legislat.urè. For the Legislatura (Congres?) to makc a breach n it at any ojie point, is to mske it useless as a barrier; it is in effect, lo surrendei1 to the adverfary, power over all that t was intonded to secure. No: C'jngxess can.r nol touch the right of petition, without wrongfully tresspassing; for it is forbidden to abridge it; and ït ís incapablo of enlargement, becauso already unlimited.- Congressmay mültiply and cleanse the channels by which the right may be more conveniently exercised; bul as tochoosing the subjects on which it toay be exercised, Congress have nothing tu do wiih tha; except to let it alune. That beiongstoihe people; it is their "peculiar instiiution," and they will duly altend to it. For, if Congress be permitted lo say, on what subjects they will recette the petitions of the people, where is the iught of the latlei? H is not abridged. No. - But it is destroyed: yes; totally: and the most ignorant men on earth, withbut half an eve, cannot fail of 6eeing it.Notwithstanding, and here lies the frauduleni tnake belicve; petitioniog may still go on. But what a legisiative farce! where the body to be atled on, by the pstition, prescribes what the petition shall be! For if, e.g. a majority of ihe House of RepresenLatives may select a subject for iheir setitioning co(sthuent9, and it have a eweeuide and a bitter side lo thut major ty, wiil thcy notalso confine the pelitioHers to the furmer? It ie quite nalural they ebould; and equally as reasormble as ihat hcy should prescribe ihe subject. In this state of things, would an anti lariff mtjorty receive pelilions praying for a protec-, ive tariff? No one would expect it. Again; if a mnjority in Congrese may receive only such petitions as a releasing" o them; inasmuch as a majorily in Conress, according to the theory of our governtnent, represent a mnjority of the peo)lej where is the use ot petuioning at all? The represeniaiite majority n execuiing heir own will, but execule the will of the cotistituettt majority. They are, in fact, dentical. It would, then, be as safe, and as right, too, for a legislativo majority to do what ihey want to do, without a petition aa with it. By thia theory, and it ie essentially the tleory of all who uphold the right of Congress not to receive petitions on any one subject, petition ing is made superfluous, and th.e right to petition rcducedto nothiog. But in all this, what becomes of the right of the miuority ; to secure and. protect which and which alone, the right of etition waa incorporated in the Constitutiun and so caréfully hedged about? - They are fergutten, overlooked or tramped on. It ie tlie mihority ahvays who jetition. Tha majürity need no petition. Their represeutatives, the majority in the fegislature, will of course, attend to their wanta without petitions, Petuioning is a mode; and the moet peaccable one; by which a minority becomes the raajority. It is most public manner of muking iheir "grievances" and the reasons for removing them, known to their fellow oitizens. A legislativo mnjority ihat suppreses the publication of grievances, and the reusons for their removal, not only wrengs the petitioner8, but wrongs every other citizen of the republic - for every citizen? as participatiug, directly or indirectly in the leg8lation of the country, is entitled to be informed concerning the grievances of his fellow-citizens, with a view to their redrese. But may not a mnjority in Congress say, lhey will not receive a petition which asks Cotigress to do what it "manifestly" has no right todo? I, at once, answer, no. Such an assumption is in direct antagonism lo[the fióle theory of our political iastitutions. "Manifestly" may be dismissed ; it is ntroduced for effect, but infsuch an iovestigation as this, it has no weight - it is surplusage. A nrmjority, no matter how wrong soever .their grDund may seem to othere, always think they are right - say they aro right, and, if necessary, "manifestly" right; away, then, with "manifestly." The true thoory of our government; the only Eertsible and consistent ene, is, that the people mean to pelition only fur what is constitutional. If, according to the views f a CongreBsional majority, they ask for what is tmconstitutional, ought it notto be ascribed to inadvertence - to wantoffull information, raiher than to intentioni In such a caso, what ought Congress to do? Comprohensively, overy thing that tends to preserve quiet; to promote harmony. - Ce.rtalnly, not to villify the petitioners ;not to impute toihcm base and unworthy mo tives; notto brand as fanatics and traitor8 the very constituency who have placed the Representatives where they are, and who, it may be supposed, have, at least,as deep an interest in upholding the integrity of the Consiitution as they have : h!1 this, we say, tends to any thing but quiet and harmony. But ngain; in such a case what ought Congress to do? Purticularly - reply, respectfully reply, by tho most intelligent and sober-minded of their number, showing the petitionera the error into which they have fallen. Treating them thusjand surely no man will say thai, in this country especially, any purtion of the people oughl to be treated otherwise ; - Congress secures, in return, a respectful considera tion of ts arguments by the petitioners themselves. If the arguments are sound and unanswerable, they will, in all likelihood produce their legitímate efieets on them. ifnol; if they remain perverse, olhers, yetunseduced by the error, will be Sived from embracing it; public opinión will be a barrier lo its funher progoess, and the evil will be stayed till u die a natural denth. But if Congress suppress the particular obj.ects of the petitioners; ifihey treat the petitioners ihemselves with contempt;ifthey doggedly refuse to answer their reasonings; thus leaving the commu nity unenlightened as to their duty, they, in effect, contribule 10 the most rapid circulatioa of the virus without any thing to counteract it, and Iw'.prescntly are they amazed that the whole body of their constituont8 are contaminated, and that they araong them who do, are beginning togive out, with bold clamor, ihat such things are t:o longer endurable. Although Congress are nol the authori tative expounders of the constiluAion, yet the iheory of our government supposes, that they, selected frora the mass of the jeoplejare better informed,as to legislulive and consiituiional limits, than the mass from which they are selected. What, then, can be more appropriate to the relation of Congress-man and constituent, than that the former ehould correct; and do it respectfully, too; any error inlo which the latter may fall; especially, when it is sought to be made the ground of legislativo act ion? This theory also sttpposes that there exists at all times, an amicable relation botween our legislators and theirconstituents. [f it become otherwise from any cause ; especially if it become so, because ihe latter iro insulted and flnuted at, and refused to e reasoned with, or even answered by their own servants when spoken to; it will o hard if such legislators do not fare ill n the long run.