FEDERATION. This word is de rived from the Roman term Foederatus, which was applied by the Romans to States which were connected with the Roman State by a Foedus or treaty. A federal union of sovereign states may be most easily conceived in the following manner:— We will suppose that the sovereign power in any number of independent states is vested in some individual in those several states. These sovereign persons may agree respectively with each other and with all not to exercise certain functions of sovereignty in their several states, and to transfer these functions to be jointly exercised by the contracting sovereign persons. The consequence of such a compact will be that the contract ing sovereign persons in their joint capa city will become sovereign in each state and in all the states. The several sove reign persons having for the tin:e surren dered to the joint body certain powers incident to their several sovereignties, are no longer severally sovereign in their several states. The powers surrendered to the joint body may be determined by written contract, the interpretation of which belongs to the joint body, yet in such a manner that there can be no valid interpretation unless the sovereign per sons are unanimous ; for if any number or majority could bind the rest, they might, by interpretation, deprive the se veral contracting persons of all the powers reserved to them by the contract. It follows also from the terms of the union, that any one party can withdraw from it at pleasure, and, as far as he is concerned, dissolve the union ; for the essence of this union is the continuing consent of all.
This is the simplest possible form of a supreme federal government; one in which the contracting sovereign powers are individuals, and in which the sove reign persons in their aggregate capacity exercise the functions of sovereignty. Such a federation may never have existed, but any federation that does exist or can exist, however complicated it may seem, is reducible to these simple elements.
If the sovereign powers, instead of being in individuals, are in all the people of the respective states, the only differ ence will be that the functions of sove reignty, which in the first case we sup posed to be exercised by the individual sovereigns in their joint capacity, must, in this case, be delegated to individual mem bers of the sovereign body. The citizens
of the several sovereign states must in the first instance of necessity delegate to some of their own body the proper authority for making the federal contract or consti tution ; and they must afterwards appoint persons out of their own body, in the mode prescribed by the federal contract, for executing the powers intrusted by the federal contract to persons so appointed. Thus the individuals who form the fede ral contract act therein severally as the agents of the sovereign states from which they receive their commission ; and the individuals appointed to carry into effect the terms of the federal contract are the ministers and agents of that sovereign power which is composed of the several sovereign states, which again are com posed of all the citizens. By whatever name, of President, Senate, House of Re presentatives, or other name, the ageLts of the sovereign power are denominated, they are only the agents of those in whom the sovereign power resides.
When the sovereign power is so distri buted, the question as to the interpreta tion of the federal contract may in practice be more difficult, but in principle it is the same. No one state can be bound by the interpretation of the rest, for if this were once allowed there would be no assignable limit to the encroachments of the states ex ercising sovereign power in their aggregate capacity. It is a clear consequence of the nature of the compact, whether the several sovereign powers are nations or indivi duals, that each contracting power must exercise its judgment on the interpreta tion of the instrument to which it is a party, and that no interpretation from which any power dissents can, consistently with the nature of the compact, bind that power against its will.