The Dead Hand -- By: G. Frederick Wright

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 063:249 (Jan 1906)
Article: The Dead Hand
Author: G. Frederick Wright


The Dead Hand

G. Frederick Wright

Rome, Italy

Republics need a constitution as much as monarchies do. A written constitution is a striking witness to the lack of confidence which the wisest men have in themselves. A constitution imposes the sober judgment of one generation upon the actions of succeeding generations, and acts in restraint of their liberties.

In the United States the Supreme Court is above all the legislative departments of the government. In vain does Congress endeavor to secure its object through the enactment of specific laws if the Supreme Court declares them unconstitutional.

It is curious to see how helplessly Congress is struggling to remedy many gross evils which find ready protection under the plain letter of the Constitution. It would seem desirable that Congress should be able to regulate railroad rates throughout the United States, but it is pre vented from doing so, except in indirect ways, by the rights which were reserved to the States in the Constitution; while the means of amending the Constitution are so cumbersome that it is almost impossible to secure any further extensive changes.

It would seem desirable to abolish polygamy throughout the United States. But the “dead hand “of our Revolutionary fathers refused to delegate to the Central Government the regulation of marriages. So fearful are many of the States that the General Government might legalize marriages between blacks and whites, that it will probably be impossible, for centuries

to come, to persuade the required number of States to relinquish this right so as to make it possible to have uniform marriage and divorce laws throughout the Union.

In the sovereignty of her statehood, Utah may make such laws as she pleases concerning polygamy; or, at any rate, may, at her own sweet will, neglect to enforce any laws against polygamy which may stand upon her statute-books.

If it be said that this is still the rule of the majority, it is sufficient to call attention to the great inequality between the States of the Union. Nevada does not contain as much population as some of the smaller counties in many of the Eastern States; it would take fifty Delawares to equal New York or Pennsylvania in population. Yet these small States have the same representative power in the Senate that the larger ones do, and each one can present as effective opposition to a Constitutional amendment as the most populous of the larger States can do. And so the State of Connecticut, for instance, by a constitution adopted a hundred years ago, prevents any present equality of representation by giving to every township an equality in the...

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