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which the human mind and manners are susceptible in a civilized state as far as sentiments and intentions such as these can aid the fulfilment of my duty, they will be a resource which cannot fail me.
It is my good fortune, moreover, to have the path in which I am to tread, lighted by examples of illustrious services, successfully rendered in the most trying difficulties, by those who have marched before me. OF those of my immediate predecessor, it might least become me here to speak; I may, however, be pardoned for not suppressing the sympathy, with which my heart is full, in the rich reward he enjoys in the benedictions of a beloved country, gratefully bestowed for exalted talents, zealously devoted, through a long career, to the advancement of its highest interest and happiness. But the source to which I look for the aids, which alone can supply my deficiences, is in the well tried intelligence and virtue of my fellow-citizens, and in the councils of those representing them in the other departments associated in the care of the national interests. In these, my confidence will, under every difficulty, be best placed; next to that, we have all been encouraged to feel in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being, whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this rising republic, and to whom we are bound to address our devout gratitude for the past, as well as out fervent supplications and best hopes for the future.
SPEECH OF JOSIAH QUINCY,
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED
STATES JANUARY 14, 1811,
On the passage of the bill to enable the people of the territory of
Orleans, to form a constitution and state government ; and for the admission of such state into the union.
MR. SPEAKER, I ADDRESS you, sir, with an anxiety and distress of mind, with me, wholly unprecedented. The friends of this bill seem to consider it as the exercise of a common power; as an ordinary affair; a mere municipal regulation, which they expect to see pass without other questions than those concerning details. But, sir, the principle of this bill materially affects the liberties and rights of the whole people of the United States. To me it appears, that it would justify a revolution in this country; and that, in no great length of time, may produce it. When I see the zeal and perseverance, with which this bill has been urged along its parliamentary path, when I know the local interests and associated projects, which combine to promote its success, all Opp0sition to it seems manifestly unavailing. I am almost tempted to leave, without a struggle, my country to its fate. But, sir, while there is life, there is hope. So long as the fatal shaft has not yet sped, if heaven so will, the bow may be broken and the vigor of the mischief-meditating arm withered. If there be a man in this House or nation, who cherishes the constitution, under which we are assembled, as the chief stay of his hope, as the light which is destined to gladden his own day, and to soften even the gloom of the grave, by the prospect it sheds over his children, I fall not behind him, in such sentiments. I will yield to no man, in attachment to this constitution, in veneration for the sages, who laid its foundations in devotion to those principles, which form its cement and constitute its proportions. What then must be my feelings; what ought to be the feelings of a man, cherishing such sentiments, when he sees an act contemplated, which lays ruin at the root of all these hopes? When he sees a principle of action about to be usurped, before the operation of which, the bands of this constitution are no more than flax before the fire, or stubble before the whirlwind. When this bill passes, such an act is done; and such a principle usurped.)
Mr. Speaker, there is a great rule of human conduct, which he who honestly observes, cannot err widely from the path of his sought duty. It is, to be very scrupulous concerning the principles you select as the test of your rights and obligations; to be very faithful in noticing the result of their application; and to be very fearless in tracing and exposing their immediate effects and distant consequences. Under the sanction of this rule of conduct, I am compelled to declare it as my deliberate opinion, that, if this bill passes, the bonds of this union are, virtually, dissolved : that the states, which compose it, are free from their moral obligations, and that as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some to prepare, definitely, for a separation : amicably, if they can, violently, if they must
[Mr. Quincy was here called to order by Mr. Poindexter, delegate from the Mississippi territory, for the words in italics. After it was decided, upon an appeal to the House, that Mr. Quincy was in order, he proceeded.]
I rejoice, Mr. Speaker, at the result of this appeal. Not from any personal consideration, but from the respect paid to the essential rights of the people, in one of their representatives. When I spoke of the separation of the states, as resulting from the violation of the constitution, contemplated in this bill, I spoke of it as a necessity, deeply to be deprecated; but as resulting from causes so certain and obvious, as to be absolutely inevitable, when the effect of the principle is practically experienced.' It is to preserve, to guard the constitution of my country, that I denounce this attempt. I would rouse the attention of gentlemen from the apathy, with which they seem beset. These observations are not made in a corner; there is no low intrigue; no secret machination. I am on the people's own ground; to them I appeal, concerning their own rights, their own liberties, their own intent, in adopting this constitution. The voice I have uttered, at which gentlemen startle with such agitation, is no
nfriendly voice. I intended it as a voice of warning. By this people, and by the event, if this bill passes, I am willing to be judged, whether it be not a voice of wisdom.
The bill which is now proposed to be passed, has this assumed principle for its basis; that the three branches of this national government, without recurrence to conventions of the people in the states, or to the legislatures of the states, are authorized to admit new partners to a share of the political power, in countries out of the original limits of the United States. Now, this assumed principle, I maintain to be altogether without any sanction in the constitution. I declare it to be a manifest and atrocious usurpation of power; of a nature, dissolving, according to undeniable principles of moral law, the obligations of our national compact; and leading to all the awful consequences, which flow from such a state of things. Concerning this assumed principle, which is the basis of this bill, this is the general position, on which I rest my argument; that if the authority, now proposed to be exercised, be delegated to the three branches of the government by virtue of the constitution, it results either from its general nature, or from its particular provisions. I shall consider distinctly both these sources, in relation to this pretended power.
Touching the general nature of the instrument call
ed the constitution of the United States, there is no obscurity; it has no fabled descent, like the palladium of ancient Troy, from the heavens. Its origin is not confused by the mists of time, or hidden by the darkness of passed, unexplored ages; it is the fabric of our day. Some now living, had a share in its construction; all of us stood by, and saw the rising of the edifice. There can be no doubt about its nature. It is a political compact. By whom? And about what? The
preamble to the instrument will answer these questions.
“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution, for the United States of America."
It is, we the people of the United States, for ourselves and our posterity; not for the people of Louisiana; nor for the people of New Orleans or of Canada. None of these enter into the scope of the instrument; it embraces only “ the United States of America.” Who these are, it may seem strange in this place to inquire. But truly, sir, our imaginations have, of late, been so accustomed to wander after new settlements to the very ends of the earth, that it will not be time ill spent to inquire what this phrase means, and what it includes. These are not terms adopted at hazard; they have reference to a state of things existing anterior to the constitution. When the people of the present United States began to contemplate a severance from their parent state, it was a long time before they fixed definitively the name, by which they would be designated. In 1774, they called themselves 6 the Colonies and Provinces of North America.” In 1775," the representatives of the United Colonies of North America.” In the declaration of independence “ the representatives of the United States of America.” And finally, in the articles of confederation, the style of