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and for maintaining within their respective limits the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them."
In addition to the above resolution, the General Assembly of Virginia “appealed to the other States, in the confidence that they would concur with that commonwealth, that the acts aforesaid (the alien and sedition laws) are unconstitutional, and that the necessary and proper measures would be taken by each for coöperating with Virginia in maintaining unimpaired the authorities, rights, and liberties reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” *
But, sir, our authorities do not stop here. The State of Kentucky responded to Virginia, and on the roth of November, 1798, adopted those celebrated resolutions, well known to have been penned by the author of the Declaration of American Independence. In those resolutions, the Legislature of Kentucky declare, “that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the power delegated to itself, since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among parties having no common judge, each party has
an equal right to judge for itself as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.”
Sir, at that day the whole country was divided on this very question. It formed the line of demarcation between the federal and republican parties; and the great political revolution which then took place turned upon the very questions involved in these resolutions. That question was decided by the people, and by that decision the Constitution was, in the emphatic language of Mr. Jefferson, "saved at its last gasp.” I should suppose, sir, it would require more self-respect than any gentleman here would be willing to assume, to treat lightly doctrines derived from such high sources. Resting on authority like this, I will ask, gentlemen, whether South Carolina has not manifested a high regard for the Union, when, under a tyranny ten times more grievous than the alien and sedition laws, she has hitherto gone no further than to petition, remonstrate, and to solemnly protest against a series of measures which she believes to be wholly unconstitutional and utterly destructive of her interests. Sir, South Carolina has not gone one step further than Mr. Jefferson himself was disposed to
go, in relation to the present subject of our present complaints-not a step further than the statesmen from New England were disposed to go under similar circumstances; no further than the Senator from Massachusetts himself once considered as within “the limits of a constitutional opposition." The doctrine that it is the right of a State to judge of the violations of the Constitution on the part of the Federal Government, and to protect her citizens from the operations of unconstitional laws, was held by the enlightened citizens of Boston, who assembled in Faneuil Hall, on the 25th of January, 1809." They state, in that celebrated memorial, that “they looked only to the State Legislature, which was competent to devise relief against the unconstitutional acts of the General Government. That your power (say they) is adequate to that object, is evident from the organization of the confederacy."
Thus it will be seen, Mr. President, that the South Carolina doctrine is the Republican doctrine of '98,--that it was promulgated by the fathers of the faith,—that it was maintained by Virginia and Kentucky in the worst of times,—that it constituted the very pivot on which the political revolution of that day
turned,—that it embraces the very principles, the triumph of which, at that time, saved the Constitution at its last gasp, and which New England statesmen were not unwilling to adopt when they believed themselves to be the victims of unconstitutional legislation. Sir, as to the doctrine that the Federal Government is the exclusive judge of the extent as well as the limitations of its power, it seems to me to be utterly subversive of the sovereignty and independence of the States. It makes but little difference, in my estimation, whether Congress or the Supreme Court are invested with this power. If the Federal Government, in all, or any, of its departments, is to prescribe the limits of its own authority, and the States are bound to submit to the decision, and are not to be allowed to examine and decide for themselves when the barriers of the Constitution shall be overleaped, this is practically “a government without limitation of powers." The States are at once reduced to mere petty corporations, and the people are entirely at your mercy. I have but one word more to add. In all the efforts that have been made by South Carolina to resist the unconstitutional laws which Congress has extended over them,
she has kept steadily in view the preservation of the Union, by the only means by which she believes it can be long preserved—a firm, manly, and steady resistance against usurpation. The measures of the Federal Government have, it is true, prostrated her interests, and will soon involve the whole South in irretrievable ruin. But even this evil, great as it is, is not the chief ground of our complaints. It is the principle involved in the contest-a principle which, substituting the discretion of Congress for the limitations of the Constitution, brings the States and the people to the feet of the Federal Government, and leaves them nothing they can call their own. Sir, if the measures of the Federal Government were less oppressive, we should still strive against this usurpation. The South is acting on a principle she has always held sacred-resistance to unauthorized taxation. These, sir, are the principles which induced the immortal Hampden to resist the payment of a tax of twenty shillings. Would twenty shillings have ruined his fortune ? No! but the payment of half of twenty shillings, on the principle on which it was demanded, would have made him a slave." Sir, if acting on these high motives—if animated by that ardent love