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influence, by which the General Government is confined to its proper sphere, be withdrawn, then that department of the Government from which he has withheld the right of judging of its own powers (the Executive) will, so far from being excluded, become the sole interpreter of the powers of the Government. It is the armed interpreter, with powers to execute its own construction, and without the aid of which the construction of the other departments will be impotent.

But I contend that the States have a far clearer right to the sole construction of their powers than any of the departments of the Federal Government can have. This


is expressly reserved, as I have stated on another occasion, not only against the several departments of the General Government, but against the United States themselves. I will not repeat the arguments which I then offered on this point, and which remain unanswered, but I must be permitted to offer strong additional proof of the views then taken, and which, if I am not mistaken, are conclusive on this point. It is drawn from the ratification of the Constitution by Virginia, and is in the following words:

We, the delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the General Assembly, and now met in Convention, having fully and freely investigated and discussed the proceedings of the Federal Convention, and being prepared, as well as the most mature deliberation hath enabled us, to decide thereon, do, in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression, and that every power not granted thereby remains with them, and at their will; that, therefore, no right of any denomination can be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified by the Congress, by the Senate or House of Representatives, acting in any capacity, by the President or any department or officer of the United States, except in those instances in which power is given by the Constitution for those purposes; and that, among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified by any authority of the United States. With these impressions, with a solemn appeal to the searcher of all hearts for the purity of our intentions, and under the conviction that whatsoever imperfections may exist in the Constitution ought rather to be examined in the mode prescribed therein, than to bring the Union in danger by a delay, with the hope of obtaining amendments previous to the ratification we, the said delegates, in the name and in the behalf of the people of Virginia, do by these presents, assent to and ratify the Constitution recommended on the 17th day of September, 1787, by the Federal Convention, for the government of the United States, hereby announcing to all those whom it may concern, that the said Constitution is binding upon the said people, according to an authentic copy hereto annexed, in the words following, etc.

It thus appears that this sagacious State (I fear, however, that her sagacity is not so sharp-sighted now as formerly) ratified the Constitution, with an explanation as to her reserved powers; that they were powers subject to her own will, and reserved against every department of the General Government — legislative, executive, and judicial - as if she had a prophetic knowledge of the attempts now made to impair and destroy them: which explanation can be considered in no other light than as containing a condition on which she ratified, and, in fact, making part of the Constitution of the United States — extending as well to the other States as herself. I am no lawyer and it may appear to be presumption in me to lay down the rule of law which governs in such cases, in a controversy with so distinguished an advocate as the Senator from Massachusetts. But I shall venture to lay it down as a rule in such cases, which I have no fear that the gentleman will contradict, that, in case of a contract between several partners, if the entrance of one on condition be admitted, the condition enures to the benefit of all the partners. But I do not rest the argument simply upon this view: Virginia proposed the tenth amended article, the one in question, and her ratification must be at least received as the highest evidence of its true meaning and interpretation. ...

I have now, I trust, shown satisfactorily that there is no provision in the Constitution to authorize the General Government, through any of its departments, to control the action of a State within the sphere of its reserved powers, and that, of course, according to the principle laid down by the Senator from Massachusetts himself, the Government of the States, as well as the General Government, has the right to determine the extent of their respective powers, without the right on the part of either to control the other. The necessary result is the veto, to which he so much objects; and to get clear of which, he informs us, was the object for which the present Constitution was formed. I know not whence he has derived his information, but my impression is very different as to the immediate motives which led to the formation of that instrument. I have always understood that the principle was, to give to Congress the power to regulate commerce, to lay impost duties, and to raise a revenue for the payment of the public debt and the expenses of the Government; and to subject the action of the citizens individually to the operation of the laws, as a substitute for force. If the object had been to get clear of the veto of the States, as the Senator states, the Convention certainly performed their work in a most bungling manner. There was unquestionably a large party in that body, headed by men of distinguished talents and influence, who commenced early and worked earnestly to the last, to deprive the States

- not directly, for that would have been too bold an attempt - but indirectly — of the veto. The good sense of the Convention, however, put down every effort, however

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disguised and perseveringly made. I do not deem it necessary to give, from the journals, the history of these various and unsuccessful attempts — though it would afford a very instructive lesson. It is sufficient to say that it was attempted by proposing to give Congress power to annul the acts of the States which they might deem inconsistent with the Constitution; to give to the President the power of appointing the governors of the States, with a view of vetoing state laws through his authority; and, finally, to give to the judiciary the power to decide controversies between the States and the General Government: all of which failed

fortunately for the liberty of the country — utterly and entirely failed; and in their failure we have the strongest evidence that it was not the intention of the Convention to deprive the States of the veto power. Had the attempt to deprive them of this power been directly made, and failed, every one would have seen and felt that it would furnish conclusive evidence in favor of its existence. Now, I would ask, What possible difference can it make in what form this attempt was made? whether by attempting to confer on the General Government a power incompatible with the exercise of the veto on the part of the States, or by attempting directly to deprive them of the right to exercise it? We have thus direct and strong proof that, in the opinion of the Convention, the States, unless deprived of it, possess the veto power

or, what is another name for the same thing, the right of nullification. I know that there is a diversity of opinion among the friends of State Rights in regard to this power, which I regret, as I cannot but consider it as a power essential to the protection of the minor and local interests of the community, and the liberty and the union of the country. It is the very shield of State Rights, and the only power by which that system of injustice against which we have contended for more than thirteen years can


be arrested: a system of hostile legislation - of plundering by law, which must necessarily lead to a conflict of arms if not prevented.

But I rest the right of a State to judge of the extent of its reserved powers, in the last resort, on higher grounds that the Constitution is a compact, to which the States are parties in their sovereign capacity; and that, as in all other cases of compact between parties having no common umpire, each has a right to judge for itself. To the truth of this proposition the Senator from Massachusetts has himself assented, if the Constitution itself be a compact - and that it is, I have shown, I trust, beyond the possibility of a doubt. Having established this point, I now claim, as I stated I would do in the course of the discussion, the admissions of the Senator, and, among them, the right of secession and nullification, which he conceded would necessarily follow if the Constitution be indeed a compact.

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