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performing, among other duties, that of also prohibitions on the states. Some auelecting a governor. Is the government of thority must therefore necessarily exist, the state on that account not a popular having the ultimate jurisdiction to fix and government? This government, sir, is the ascertain the interpretation of these grants, independent offspring of the popular will. restrictions and prohibitions. The constiIt is not the creature of state legislatures ; tution has itself pointed out, ordained, and nay, more, if the whole truth must be told, established that authority. How has it the people brought it into existence, es- accomplished this great and essential end? tablished it, and have hitherto supported By declaring, sir, that “the constitution and it, for the very purpose, amongst others, of the laws of the United States, made in pur imposing certain salutary restraints on state suance thereof, shall be the supreme law of sovereignties. The states cannot now make the land, any thing in the constitution of war; they cannot contract alliances; they laws of any state to the contrary notwithcannot make, each for itself, separate reg- standing.” ulations of commerce; they cannot lay im This, sir, was the first great step. By posts ; they cannot coin money. If this this, the supremacy of the constitution and constitution, sir, be the creature of state laws of the United States is declared. The legislatures, it must be admitted that it people so will it. No state law is to be has obtained a strange control over the valid which comes in conflict with the convolition of its creators.
stitution or any law of the United States. The people then, sir, erected this govern. But who shall decide this question of interment. They gave it a constitution, and in ference? To whom lies the last appeal! that constitution they have enumerated the This, sir, the constitution itself decides also, powers which they bestow on it. They by declaring “that the judicial power shall have made it a limited government. They extend to all cases arising under the constihave defined its authority. They have re- tution and lars of the United States." strained it to the exercise of such powers These two provisions, sir, cover the whole as are granted; and all others, they declare, ground. They are, in truth, the keystone are reserved to the states or the people. of the arch. With these it is a governBut, sir, they have not stopped here. If ment; without them it is a confederacy. they had, they would have accomplished in pursuance of these clear and express but half their work. No definition can be provisions, Congress established, at its very so clear as to avoid possibility of doubt; no first session, in the judicial act, a mode for limitation so precise as to exclude all un- carrying them into full effect, and for certainty. Who, then, shall construe this bringing all questions of constitutional grant of the people? Who shall interpret power to the final decision of the Supreme their will, where it may be supposed they Court
. It then, sir, became a government. have left it doubtful? With whom do they It then had the means of self-protection; leave this ultimate right of deciding on the and but for this, it would, in all probapowers of the government? Sir, they have bility, have been now among things which settled all this in the fullest manner. They are passed. Having constituted the gove have left it with the government itself, in ernment, and declared its powers, the peoits appropriate branches. Sir, the very ple have further said, that since somebody chief end, the main design for which the must decide on the extent of these powers, whole constitution was framed and adopt- the government shall itself decide-subject ed, was to establish a government that always like other popular governments, to should not be obliged to act through state its responsibility to the people. And now, agency, or depend on state opinion and sir, I repeat, how is it that a state legisladiscretion. The people had had quite ture acquires any right to interfere? Who, enough of that kind of government under or what, gives them the right to say to the the confederacy. Under that system, the people, “We, who are your agents and serlegal action-the application of law to vants for one purpose, will undertake to individuals—belonged exclusively to the decide, that your other agents and servants, states. Congress could only recommend— appointed by you for another purpose, hare their acts were not of binding force till the transcended the authority you gave them'? states had adopted and sanctioned them. The reply would be, I think, not impertiAre we in that condition still? Are we yet nent, “Who made you a judge over anothat the mercy of state discretion and state er's servants. To their own masters they construction? Sir, if we are, then vain stand or fall.” will be our attempt to maintain the consti Sir, I deny this power of state legisla. tution under which we sit.
tures altogether. It cannot stand the test But, sir, the people have wisely provided, of examination. Gentlemen may say, that, in the constitution itself, a proper, suitable in an extreme case, a state government mode and tribunal for settling questions of might protect the people from intolerable constitutional law. There are, in the con- oppression. Sir, in such a case the people stitution, grants of powers to Congress, and might protect themselves, without the aid restrictions on those powers. There are l of the state governments. Such a case
warrants revolution. It must make, when And now, Mr. President, let me run the it comes, a law for itself. A nullifying act honorable gentleman's doctrine a little into of a state legislature cannot alter the case, its practical application. Let us look at oor make resistance any more lawful. In his probable modus operandi. If a thing maintaining these sentiments, sir, I am can be done, an ingenious man can tell but asserting the rights of the people. I how it is to be done. Now, I wish to be state what they have declared, and insist informed how this state interference is to on their right to declare it. They have be put in practice. We will take the ex. chosen to repose this power in the general isting case of the tariff law. South Carogovernment, and I think it my duty to sup- lina is said to have made up her opinion port it, like other constitutional powers. upon it. If we do not repeal it, (as wo For myself
, sir, I doubt the jurisdiction probably shall not,) she will then apply to of South Carolina, or any other state, to the case the remedy of her doctrine. She prescribe my constitutional duty, or to will, we must suppose, pass a law of her settle, between me and the people, the va- legislature, declaring the several acts of lidity of laws of Congress for which I have Congress, usually called the tariff laws, voted. I decline her umpirage. I have null and void, so far as they respect South not sworn to support the constitution ac- Carolina, or the citizens thereof. So far, cording to her construction of its clauses. all is a paper transaction, and easy enough. I have not stipulated, by my oath of office But the collector at Charleston is collector otherwise, to come under any responsi- ing the duties imposed by these tariff
' laws bility, except to the people and those whom -he, therefore, must be stopped. The they have appointed to pass upon the ques-collector will seize the goods if the tariff tion, whether the laws, supported by my duties are not paid. The state authorities votes, conform to the constitution of the will undertake their rescue: the marshal, country. And, sir, if we look to the gen- with his posse, will come to the collector's eral nature of the case, could any thing aid; and here the contest begins. The bave been more preposterous than to have militia of the state will be called out to 'made a government for the whole Union, sustain the nullifying act.
They will and yet left its powers subject, not to one march, sir, under a very gallant leader; interpretation, but to thirteen or twenty- for I believe the honorable member him four interpretations? Instead of one tribu- self commands the militia of that part of nal, established by all, responsible to all, the state. He will raise the NULLIFYING with power to decide for all, shall constitu- act on his standard, and spread it out as tional questions be left to four and twenty his banner. It will have a preamble, bearpopular bodies, each at liberty to decide ing that the tariff laws are palpable, defor itself, and none bound to respect the liberate, and dangerous violations of the decisions of others; and each at liberty, constitution. He will proceed, with his oo, to give a new construction, on every banner flying, to the custom house in new election of its own members? Would Charleston,any thing, with such a principle in it, or rather with such a destitution of all prin
Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds." ciple, be fit to be called a government? No, sir. It should not be denominated a Arrived at the custom house, he will tell constitution. It should be called, rather, the collector that he must collect no more a collection of topics for everlasting con- duties under any of the tariff laws. This troversy; heads of debate for a disputatious he will be somewhat puzzled to say, by the people. It would not be a government. It way, with a grave countenance, consider: would not be adequate to any practical ing what hand South Carolina herself had good, nor fit for any country to live under. in that of 1816. But, sir, the collector To avoid all possibility of being misunder- would, probably, not desist at his bidding. stood, allow me to repeat again, in the full- Here would ensue a pause; for they say, est manner, that I claim no powers for the that a certain stillness precedes the temgovernment by forced or unfair construc-pest. Before this military array should tion. I admit that it is a government of fall on custom house, collector, clerks, and strictly limited powers, of enumerated, all, it is very probable some of those comspecified, and particularized powers; and posing it would request of their gallant that whatsoever is not granted is withheld. commander-in-chief to be informed a little But, notwithstanding all this, and however upon the point of law; for they have the grant of powers may be expressed, its doubtless a just respect for his opinion as limits and extent may yet, in some cases, a lawyer, as well as for his bravery as a admit of doubt; and the general govern- soldier. They know he has read Blackment would be good for nothing, it would stone and the constitution, as well as Tube incapable of long existence, if some renne and Vauban. They would ask him, mode had not been provided in which therefore, something concerning their those doubts, as they should arise, might rights in this matter. They would inquire be peaceably, but not authoritatively solved. whether it was not somewhat dangerous to
“ all the while
resist a law of the United States. What extent of its own powers, whether that would be the nature of their offence, they right of judging be in Congress or the 30would wish to learn, if they, by military preme Court, it equally subverts state force and array, resisted the execution in sovereignty. “This the gentleman sees, or Carolina of a law of the United States, and thinks he sees, although he cannot perit should turn out, after all, that the law ceive how the right of judging in this matwas constitutional. He would answer, ofter, if left to the exercise of state legislacourse, treason. No lawyer could give any tures, has any tendency to subvert the other answer. John Fries, he would tell government of the Union. The gentle them, had learned that some years ago. man's opinion may be that the right ought How, then, they would ask, do you propose not to have been lodged with the general to defend us ? 'We are not afraid of bullets, government; he may like better such a but treason has a way of taking people off constitution as we should have under the that we do not much relish. How do you right of state interference; but I ask him propose to defend us? “Look at my floating to meet me on the plain matter of fact-I banner,” he would reply; “ see there the ask him to meet me on the constitution itnullifying law !” Is it your opinion, gal- self-I ask him if the power is not there lant commander, they would then say, that clearly and visibly found there. if we should be indicted for treason, that But, sir, what is this danger, and what same floating banner of yours would make the grounds of it? Let it be remembered, a good plea in bar? “South Carolina is a that the constitution of the United States sovereign state,” he would reply. That is is not unalterable. It is to continue in its true; but would the judge adınit our plea? present form no longer than the people “ These tariff laws,” he would repeat,“ are who established it shall choose to continue unconstitutional, palpably, deliberately, it. If they shall become convinced that dangerously.” That all may be so; but if they have made an injudicious or inexpethe tribunals should not happen to be of dient partition and distribution of power that opinion, shall we swing for it? We between the state governments and the are ready to die for our country, but it is general government, they can alter that rather an awkward business, this dying distribution at will. without touching the ground. After all, If anything be found in the national this is a sort of hemp-tax, worse than any constitution, either by original provision part of the tariff.
or subsequent interpretation, which ought Mr. President, the honorable gentleman not to be in it, the people know how to get would be in a dilemma like that of another rid of it. If any construction be established, great general. He would have a knot be unacceptable to them, so as to become, fore him which he could not untie. He practically, a part of the constitution, they must cut it with his sword. He must say will amend it at their own sovereign pleato his followers, Defend yourselves with sure. But while the people choose to main. your bayonets; and this is war-civil war. tain it as it is, while they are satisfied with
Direct collision, therefore, between force it, and refuse to change it, who has given, and force, is the unavoidable result of that or who can give, to the state legislatures a remedy for the revision of unconstitutional right to alter it, either by interference, laws which the gentleman contends for. construction, or otherwise? Gentlemen It must happen in the very first case to do not seem to recollect that the people which it is applied. Is not this the plain have any power to do anything for themresult? To resist, by force, the execution selves; they imagine there is no safety for of a law, generally, is treason. Can the them any longer than they are under the courts of the United States take notice of close guardianship of the state legislatures. the indulgence of a state to commit trea- Sir, the people have not trusted their son? The common saying, that a state safety, in regard to the general constitucannot commit treason herself, is nothing tion, to these hands they have required to the purpose. Can it authorize others to other security, and taken other bonds. do it? If John Fries had produced an act They have chosen to trust themselves, first of Pennsylvania, annulling the law of Con- to the plain words of the instrument, and gress, would it have helped his case? Talk to such construction as the government itabout it as we will, these doctrines go the self, in doubtful cases, should put on its length of revolution. They are incompa- own powers, under their oaths of office, tible with any peaceable administration of and subject to their responsibility to them; the government. They lead directly to just as the people of a state trust their own disunion and civil commotion; and there state governments with a similar power. fore it is, that at the commencement, when Secondly, they have reposed their trust in they are first found to be maintained by the efficacy of frequent elections, and in respectable men, and in a tangible form, that their own power to remove their own serI enter my public protest against them all. vants and agents
, whenever they see cause. The honorable gentleman argues, that if Thirdly, they have reposed trust in the this government be the sole judge of the judicial power, which, in order that it might
be trustworthy, they have made as respect- our consideration and dignity abroad. It able, as disinterested, and as independent is to that Union we are chiefly indehted as practicable. Fourthly, they have seen for whatever makes us most proud of our fit to rely, in case of necessity, or high ex- country. That Union we reached only by pediency, on their known and admitted the discipline of our virtues in the severe power to alter or amend the constitution, school of adversity. It had its origin in peaceably and quietly, whenever experi- the necessities of disordered finance, prosence shall point out defects or imperfec- trate commerce, and ruined credit. Under tions. And finally, the people of the its benign influences, these great interests United States have at no time, in no way, immediately awoke, as from the dead, and directly or indirectly, authorized any state sprang forth with newness of life. Every legislature to construe or interpret their year of its duration has teemed with fresh instrument of government; much less to proofs of its utility and its blessings; and interfere, by their own power, to arrest its although our territory has stretched out. course and operation.
wider and wider, and our population If sir, the people, in these respects, had spread farther and farther, they have not done otherwise than they have done, their outrun its protection or its benefits. It has constitution could neither have been pre- been to us all a copious fountain of naserved, nor would it have been worth pre- tional, social, personal happiness. I have serving. And if its plain provision shall not allowed myself, sir, to look beyond the now be disregarded, and these new doc- Union, to see what might lie hidden in the trines interpolated in it, it will become as dark recess behind. I have not coolly feeble and helpless a being as enemies, weighed the chances of preserving liberty, whether early or more recent, could pos- when the bonds that unite us together sibly desire. It will exist in every state, shall be broken asunder. I have not acbut as a poor dependant on state permis- customed myself to hang over the precipice sion. It must borrow leave to be, and will of disunion, to see whether, with my short be, no longer than state pleasure, or state sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss discretion, sees fit to grant the indulgence, below; nor could I regard him as a safe and to prolong its poor existence.
counsellor in the affairs of this governBut, sir, although there are fears, there ment, whose thoughts should be mainly are hopes also. The people have preserved bent on considering, not how the Union this, their own chosen constitution, for should be best preserved, but how tolerable forty years, and have seen their happiness, might be the condition of the people when prosperity, and renown grow with its it shall be broken up and destroyed. While growth and strengthen with its strength. the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, They are now, generally, strongly attached gratifying prospects spread out before us, to it. Overthrown by direct assault it can- for us and our children. Beyond that I not be; evaded, undermined, NULLIFIED, seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant it will not be, if we, and those who shall that in my day at least, that curtain may succeed us here, as agents and representa- not rise. God grant that on my vision tives of the people, shall conscientiously never may be opened what lies behind. and vigilantly discharge the two great When my eyes shall be turned to behold, branches of our public trust--faithfully for the last time, the sun in heaven, may to preserve and wisely to administer it. not see him shining on the broken and
Mr. President, I have thus stated the dishonored fragments of a once-glorious reasons of my dissent to the doctrines Union; on states dissevered, discordant, which have been advanced and main- belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, tained. I am conscious of having detained or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood i you, and the Senate, much too long. I was Let their last feeble and lingering glance, drawn into the debate with no previous rather, behold the gorgeous ensign of the deliberation such as is suited to the dis- republic, now known and honored throughcussion of so grave and important a subject. out earth, still full high advanced, its But it is a subject of which my heart is full, arms and trophies streaming in their origi. and I have not been willing to suppress the nal lustre, not a stripe erased or polluted, utterance of its spontaneous sentiments. nor a single star obscured-bearing for its
I cannot, even now, persuade myself to motto no such miserable interrogatory as, relinquish it, without expressing once more, What is all this worth? nor those other my deep, conviction, that since it re- words of delusion and folly, Liberty first, spects nothing less than the union of the and Union afterwards ; but every where, states, it is of most vital and essential im- spread all over in characters of living portance to the public happiness. I pro- light, blazing on all its ample folds as they fess, sir, in my career hitherto, to have float over the sea and over the land, and kept steadily in view the prosperity and in every wind under the whole heavens, honor of the whole country, and the pres- that other sentiment, dear to every true ervation of our Federal Union. It is to American heart—Liberty and Union, now that Union we owe our safety at home and land forever, one and inseparable!
Juhn C. Calhoun on the Rights of the terpose for arresting the progress of the
evil, and for maintaining, within their reDelivered July 26, 1831.
spective limits, the authorities, rights, and The question of the relation which the liberties appertaining to them.” This states and general government bear to each right of interposition thus solemnly asother, is not one of recent origin. From the serted by the state of Virginia, be it called commencement of our system, it has divi- what it may-state right, veto, nullificaded public sentiment. Even in the con
tion, or by any other name—I conceive to vention, while the Constitution was strug- be the fundamental principle of our sysgling into existence, there were two par- tem, resting on facts, historically as certain ties, as to what this relation should be, as our revolution itself, and deductions as whose different sentiments constituted no simple and demonstrative as that of any small impediment in forming that instru- political or moral truth whatever; and I ment. After the general government went firmly believe that on its recognition deinto operation, experience soon proved pends the stability and safety of our polithat the question had not terminated with tical institutions. the labors of the convention. The great
I am not ignorant that those opposed to struggle that preceded the political revo- the doctrine have always, now and forlution of 1801, which brought Mr. Jeffer- merly, regarded it in a very different light, son into power, turned essentially on it; and as anarchical and revolutionary. Could I the doctrines and arguments on both sides believe such in fact to be its tendency, to were embodied and ably sustained ; on the me it would be no recommendation. I one, in the Virginia and Kentucky resolu- yield to none, I trust, in a deep and sin. tions and the report to the Virginia legis- cere attachment to our political institulature; and on the other, in the replies of tions, and the union of these states. I the legislature of Massachusetts and some never breathed an opposite sentiment; but, of the other states. These resolutions and on the contrary, I have ever considered this report, with the decision of the Su- them the great instruments of preserving preme Court of Pennsylvania about the our liberty, and promoting the happiness same time (particularly in the case of Cob- of ourselves and our posterity; and next to bett, delivered by Chief Justice McKean, these, I have ever held them most dear. and concurred in by the whole bench), Nearly half my life has passed in the sercontain what I believe to be the true doc- vice of the Union, and whatever public retrine on this important subject. I refer to putation I have acquired, is indissolubly them in order to avoid the necessity of identified with it. To be too national has, presenting my views, with the reasons in indeed, been considered, by many, even of support of them in detail.
my friends, to be my greatest political As my object is simply to state my fault. With these strong feelings of atopinions, I might pause with this refer- tachment, I have examined, with the utence to documents that so fully and ably most care, the bearing of the doctrine in state all the points immediately connected question; and so far from anarchical or rewith this deeply important subject; but as volutionary, I solemnly believe it to be the there are many who may not have the op- only solid foundation of our system, and of portunity or leisure to refer to them, and, the Union itself, and that the opposite as it is possible, however clear they may doctrine, which denies to the states the be, that different persons may place differ- right of protecting their reserved powers, ent interpretations on their meaning, I and which would vest in the general gove will, in order that my sentiments may be ernment (it matters not through what defully known, and to avoid all ambiguity, partment) the right of determining excluproceed to state, summarily, the doctrines sively, and finally the powers delegated to which I conceive they embrace.
it, is incompatible with the sovereignty of The great and leading principle is, that the states, and of the Constitution itself, the general government emanated from the considered as the basis of a Federal Union. people of the several states, forming dis- As strong as this language is, it is not tinct political communities, and acting in stronger than that used by the illustrious their separate and sovereign capacity, and Jefferson, who said, to give to the general not from all of the people forming one ag- government the final and exclusive right to gregate political community; that the Con- judge of its powers, is to make “its discrestitution of the United States is in fact a tion and not the Constitution the measure compact, to which each state is a party, in of its powers ;” and that " in all cases of the character already described ; and that compact between parties having no comthe several states, or parties, have a right mon judge, each party has an equal right to judge of its infractions, and in case of a to judge for itself, as well of the operation, deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exer
as of the mode and measure of redress.” cise of power not delegated, they have the Language cannot be more explicit ; nor right, in the last resort, to use the lan can higher authority be adduced. guage of the Virginia resolutions; "to in That different opinions are entertained