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, derstood, he would state that his proposition was in the words of the Virginia resolution, as follows:— “That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties, as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact, as no further valid than they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that, in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers not granted by the same compact, the states who are parties thereto have the right and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining, within their respective limits, the authorities, rights, and liberties pertaining to them.”] Mr. WEBSTER resumed:—e I am quite aware, Mr. President, of the existence of the resolution which the gentleman read, and has now repeated, and that he relies on it as his authority. I know the source, too, from which it is undertsood to have proceeded. I need not say, that I have much respect for the constitutional opinions of Mr. Madison; they would weigh greatly with me, always. But, before the authority of his opinion be vouched for the gentleman's proposition, it will be proper to consider what is the fair interpretation of that resolution, to which Mr. Madison is understood to have given his sanction. As the gentleman construes it, it is an authority for him. Possibly he may not have adopted the right construction. That resolution declares, that in the case of the dangerous exercise of powers not granted by the general government, the states may interpose to arrest the progress of the evil. But how interpose? and what does this declaration purport? Does it mean no more than that there may be extreme cases in which the people, in any mode of assembling, may resist usurpation, and relieve themselves from a tyrannical govern. ment? No one will deny this. Such resistance is not only acknowledged to be just in America, but in England also. Blackstone admits as much, in the theory and practice, too, of the English constitution. We, sir, who oppose the Carolina doctrine, do not deny that the people may, if they choose, throw off any government, when it becomes oppressive and intolerable, and erect a better in its stead. We all know that civil institutions are established for the public benefit, and that, when they cease to answer the ends of their existence they may be changed. But I do not understand the doctrine now contended for to be that which, for the sake of distinctness, we may call the right of revolution. I understand the gentleman to maintain, that without revolution, without civil commotion, without rebellion, a remedy for supposed abuse and transgression of the powers of the general government lies in a direct appeal to the interfer. ence of the state governments. [Mr. HAYNE here rose: He did not contend, he said, for the mere right of revolution, but for the right of constitu. tional resistance. What he maintained was, that, in case of a plain, palpable violation of the constitution by the general government, a state may interpose; and that this interposition is constitutional.] Mr. WEBSTER resumed:— So, sir, I understood the gentleman, and am happy to find that I did not misunderstand him. What he contends for is, that it is constitutional to interrupt the administration of the constitution itself, in the hands of those who are chosen and sworn to administer it, by the direct interference, in form of law, of the states, in virtue of their sovereign capacity. The inherent right in
she people to reform their government I do not deny; and that they have another right, and that is, to resist unconstitutional laws without overturning the government. It is no doctrine of mine, that unconstitutional laws bind
the people. The great question is, Whose prerogative is it to decide on the Y
constitutionality or unconstitutionality of the laws? On that the main debate hinges. The proposition that, in case of a supposed violation of the constitution by Congress, the states have a constitutional right to interfere, and annul the law of Congress, is the proposition of the gentleman; I do not admit it. If the gentleman had intended no more than to assert the right of revolution for justifiable cause, he would have said only what all agree to. — But I cannot conceive that there can be a middle course between submission to the laws, when regularly pronounced constitutional, on the one hand, and open resistance, which is revolution or rebellion, on the other. I say the right of a state to annul a law of Congress cannot be maintained but on the ground of the unalienable right of man to resist oppression; that is to say, upon the ground of revolution. I admit that there is no ultimate violent remedy, above the constitution, and in defiance of the constitution, which may be resorted to, when a revolution is to be justified. But I do not admit that under the constitution, and in conformity with it, there is any mode in which a state government, as a member of the Union, can interfere and stop the pro
gress of the general government, by force of her own laws, under any cir- ×
cumstances whatever. This leads us to inquire into the origin of this government, and the source of its power. Whose agent is it? Is it the creature of the state legislatures, or the creature of the people? If the government of the United States be the agent of the state governments, then they may control it, provided they can agree in the manner of controlling it; if it is the agent of the people, then the people alone can control it, restrain it, modify or reform it. It is observable enough, that the doctrine for which the honorable gentleman contends leads him to the necessity of maintaining, not only that this general government is the creature of the states, but that it is the creature of each of the states severally; so that each may assert the power, for itself, of determining whether it acts within the limits of its authority. It is the servant of four and twenty masters, of different wills and different purposes; and yet bound to obey all. This absurdity (for it seems no less) arises from a misconception as to the origin of this government, and its true character. It is, sir, the people's constitution, the people's government; made for the people; made by the people; and answerable to the people. The people of the United States have declared that this constitution shall be the supreme law. We must either admit the proposition, or dispute their authority. The states are unquestionably sovereign, so far as their sovereignty is not affected by this supreme law. The state legislatures, as political bodies, however sovereign, are yet not sovereign over the people. So far as the people have given power to the general government, so far the grant is unquestionably good, and the government holds of the people, and not of the state governments. We are all agents of the same supreme power, the people. The general government and the state governments derive their authority from the same source. Neither can, in relation to the other, be called primary; though one is definite and restricted, and the other general and residuary. The national government possesses those powers which it can be shown the people have conferred on it, and no more. All the rest belongs to the state governments, or to the people themselves. So far as the people have restrain
ed state sovereignty by the expression of their will, in the constitution of the United States, so far, it must be admitted, state sovereignty is effectually controlled. I do not contend that it is, or ought to be, controlled further. The sentiment to which I have referred propounds that state sovereignty is only to be controlled by its own “feelings of justice;” that is to say, it is not to be controlled at all; for one who is to follow his feelings, is ander no legal control. Now, however men may think this ought to be, the fact is, that the people of the United States have chosen to impose control on state sovereignties. The constitution has ordered the matter ditferently from what this opinion an
To make war, for instance, is an exercise of sovereignty; but the constitution declares that no state shall make war. To coin money is another exercise of sovereign power; but no state is at liberty to coin money. Again: the constitution says, that no sovereign state shall be so sovereign as to make a treaty. These prohibitions, it must be confessed, are a control on the state sovereignty of South Carolina, as well as of the other states, which does not arise “ from feelings of honorable justice.” Such an opinion, therefore, is in defiance of the plainest provisions of the constitution.
There are other proceedings of public bodies which have already been alluded to, and to which I refer again for the purpose of ascertaining more fully what is the length and breadth of that doctrine, denominated the Carolina doctrine, which the honorable member has now stood up on this floor to maintain. In one of them I find it resolved that “ the tariff of 1828, and every
other tariff designed to promote one branch of industry at the expense of others, is contrary to the meaning and intention of the federal compact; and as such a dangerous, palpable, and deliberate usurpation of power, by a determined majority, wielding the general government beyond the limits of its delegated powers, as calls upon the states which compose the suffering minority, in their sovereign capacity, to exercise the powers which, as sovereigns, necessarily devolve upon them, when their compact is violated.” Observe, sir, that this resolution holds the tariff of 1828, and every
other tariff, designed to promote one branch of industry at the expense of another, to be such a dangerous, palpable, and deliberate usurpation of power, as calls upon the states, in their sovereign capacity, to interfere, by their own power. This denunciation, Mr. President, you will please to observe, includes our old tariff of 1816, as well as all others; because that was established to promote the interest of the manufacturers of cotton, to the manifest and admitted injury of the Calcutta cotton trade. Observe, again, that all the qualifications are here rehearsed, and charged upon the tariff, which are necessary to bring the case within the gentleman's proposition. The tariff is a usurpation; it is a dangerous usurpation; it is a palpable usurpation; it is a deliberate usurpation. It is such a usurpation as calls upon the states to exercise their right of interferance. Here is a case, then, within the gentleman's principles, and all his qualifications of his principles. It is a case for action. The constitution is plainly, dangerously, palpably, and deliberately violated; and the states must interpose their own authority to arrest the law. Let us suppose the state of South Carolina to express this same opinion, by the voice of her legislature. That would be very imposing; but what then? Is the voice of one state conclusive? It so happens that, at the very moment when South Carolina resolves that the tariff laws are unconstitutional, Pennsylvania ana Kentucky resolve exactly the reverse. They hold those laws to be both bighby proper and strictly constitutional. And now, sir, how does the honorable
member propose to deal with this case? How does he get out of this difficulty, upon any principle of his ? His construction gets us into it; how does he propose to get us out?
In Carolina, the tariff is a palpable, deliberate usurpation; Carolina, therefore, may nullify it, and refuse to pay the duties. In Pennsylvania, it is both clearly constitutional and highly expedient; and there the duties are to be paid. And yet we live under a government of uniform laws, and under a constitution, too, which contains an express provision, as it happens, that all duties shall be equal in all the states ! Does not this approach absurdity?
If there be no power to settle such questions, independent of either of the states, is not the whole Union a rope of sand? Are we not thrown back again precisely upon the old confederation ?
It is too plain to be argued. Four and twenty interpreters of constitutional law, each with a power to decide for itself
, and none with authority to bind anybody else, and this constitutional law the only bond of their union! What is such a state of things but a mere connection during pleasure, or, to use the
hraseology of the times, during feeling? And that feeling, too, not the feeling of the people who established the constitution, but the feeling of the state governments.
In another of the South Carolina addresses, having premised that the crisis requires all the concentrated energy of passion,” an attitude of open resistance to the laws of the Union is advised. Open resistance to the laws, then, is the constitutional remedy, the conservative power of the state, which the South Carolna doctrines teach for the redress of political evils, real or imaginary. And its authors further say that, appealing with confidence to the constitution itself to justify their opinions
, they cannot consent to try their accuracy by the courts of justice. In one sense, indeed, sir, this is assuming an attitude of
open resistance in favor of liberty. But what sort of liberty? The liberty of establishing their own opinions, in defiance of the opinions of all others; the liberty of judging and of deciding exclusively themselves, in a matter in which others have as much right to judge and decide as they; the liberty of placing their opinions above the judgment of all others, above the laws, and above the constitution. This is their liberty, and this is the fair result of the proposition contended for by the honorable gentleinan. Or it may be more properly said, it is identical with it, rather than a result from it. In the same publication we find the following: “ Previously to our revolution, when the arm of oppression was stretched over New England, where did our northern brethren meet with a braver sympathy than that which sprung from the bosom of Carolinians? We had no extortion, no oppression, no collision with the king's ministers, no navigation interests springing up, in envious rivalry of England.”
This seems extraordinary language. South Carolina no collision with the king's ministers in 1775! no extortion! no oppression ! Eut, sir, it is also most significant language. Does any man doubt the purpose for which it was penned? Can any one fail to see that it was designed to raise in the reader's mind the question, whether, at this time, – that is to say, in 1828,South Carolina bas any collision with the king's ministers, any oppression, or extortion, to fear from England ? whether, in short, England is not as naturally the friend of South Carolina as New England, with her navigation interests springing up in envious rivalry of England ?
Is ii not strange, sir, that an intelligent man in South Carolina, in 1828, should thus labor to prove, that in 1775, there was no hostility, no cause of
wal, between South Carolina and England? that she had no occasion, in reference to her own interest, or from a regard to her own welfare, to take up arms in the revolutionary contest? Can any one account for the expression of such strange sentiments, and their circulation through the state, otherwise than by supposing the object to be, what I have already intimated, to raise the question, if they had no “collision” (mark the expression) with the ministers of King George the Third, in 1775, what collision have they, in 1828, with the ministers of King George the Fourth What is there now, in the existing state of things, to separate Carolina from Old, more, or rather less, than from New England? Resolutions, sir, have been recently passed by the legislature of South Carolina. I need not refer to them; they go no further than the honorable gentleman himself has gone — and I hope not so far. I content myself therefore, with debating the matter with him. And now, sir, what I have first to say on this subject is, that at no time, and under no circumstances, has New England, or any state in New England, or any respectable body of persons in New England, or any public man of standing in New England, put forth such a doctrine as this Carolina doctrine. The gentleman has found no case—he can find none—to support his own opinions by New England authority. New England has studied the constitution in other schools, and under other teachers. She looks upon it with other regards, and deems more highly and reverently, both of its just authority and its utility and excellence. The history of her legislative proceedings may be traced—the ephemeral effusions of temporary bodies, called together by the excitement of the occasion, may be hunted up — they have been hunted up. The opinions and votes of her public men, in and out of Congress, may be explored—it will all be in vain. The Carolina doctrine can derive from her neither countenance nor support. She rejects it now; she always did reject it. The honorable member has referred to expressions on the subject of the embargo law, made in this place by an honorable and venerable gentleman (MR HILLHouse) now favoring us with his presence. He quotes that distinguished senator as saying, that in his judgment the embargo law was unconstitutional, and that, therefore, in his opinion, the people were not bound to obey it. - in. sir, is perfectly constitutional language. As unconstitutional law is not binding; but then it does not rest with a resolution or a law of a state legislature to decide whether an act of Congress be or be not constitutional. An unconstitutional act of Congress would not bind the people of this District although they have no legislature to interfere in their behalf; and, on the other hand, a constitutional law of Congress does bind the citizens of every state, although all their legislatures should undertake to anuul it, by act or resolution. The venerable Connecticut senator is a constitutional lawyer, of sound principles and enlarged knowledge; a statesman practiced and experienced, bred in the company of Washington, and holding just views upon the nature of our governments. He believed the embargo unconstitutional, and so did others; but what then? Who did he suppose was to decide that question ? The state legislature? Certainly not. No such sentiment ever escaped his lips. Let us follow up, sir, this New England opposition to the embargo laws; let us trace it, till we discern the principle which controlled and governed New England throughout the whole course of that opposition We shall then see what similarity there is between the New England school of constitutional opinions and this modern Carolina school. The gentleman,