Even if the right of revolution is conceded, in what practical form does it exist under our institutions?
If by revolution is meant overthrowing the existing government and setting up another by military force, this is no political right. In this form, the same right exists to revolutionize for monarchy as for republicanism. It can only be a natural and physical right, the right of minorities as well as majorities. It exists in every despotic or monarchical government.
It was proclaimed in the Declaration--looking, however, to a new source of sovereignty in the people. A revolution in government, not like that of 1688, which was only a revolution in men and dynasties. But in the American system, in opposition to the European, the moral was first combined with the physical and natural right to resist oppression. It became a voting as well as a fighting right. "It is the right of the people to alter or to abolish government, and to institute new government."
The Confederation of 1777 left the right of revolution in each State, except so far as limited by the pledge of perpetual union, and prohibiting each State from engaging in war without the consent of Congress. The Constitution of the United States went farther. It explained and reduced to practice the right of change of government recognized in the Declaration. It secured the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to keep and bear arms. It left to them all rights not conceded. It gave to Congress the power of calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection and repel invasion, and to declare war; but no State to engage in war unless invaded. It required the United States to guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government, and protect each of them against invasion, and (on application of the Legislature, &c.,) against "domestic violence."
[THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO ESTABLISH FORMS OF GOVERNMENT. MR HALLETT'S ARGUMENT IN THE RHODE ISLAND CAUSES, BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES January,..... 1848. NO. 14. MARTIN LUTHER vs. LUTHER M. BORDEN AND OTHERS. NO. 77. RACHAEL LUTHER vs. THE SAME. BOSTON: PRINTED BY BEALS & GREENE. 1848. Pg. 52, 53]