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Again, what can be more sure and convincing than such plain reasoning as this :
“ I maintain, that, between submission to the decision of the constituted tribunals, and revolution, or disunion, there is no middle ground—there is no ambiguous condi. tion, half allegiance, and half rebellion.' And, Sir, how futile, how very futile it is, to admit the right of state interference, and then attempt to save it from the character of unlawful resistance, by adding terms of qualification to the causes, and occasions, leaving all these qualifications, like the case itself, in the discretion of the state governments. It must be a clear case, it is said, a deliberate case ; a palpable case ; a dangerous case. But then the state is still left at liberty to decide for herself, what is clear, what is deliberate, what is palpable, what is dangerous. Do adjectives and epithets avail any thing? Sir, the human mind is so constituted, that the merits of both sides of a controversy appear very clear, and very palpable, to those who re. spectively espouse them; and both sides usually grow clearer as the controversy advances. South Carolina sees unconstitutionality in the tariff; she sees oppression there, also; and she sees danger. Pennsylvania, with a vision not less sharp, looks at the same tariff, and sees no such thing in it-she sees it all constitutional, all useful, all safe. The faith of South Carolina is strengthened by opposition, and she now not only sees, but resolves, that the tariff is palpably unconstitutional, oppressive and dangerous : but Pennsylvania, not to be behind her neighbors, and equally willing to strengthen her own faith by a confident asseveration, resolves, also, and gives to every warm affirmative of South Carolina, a plain, downright, Pennsylvania negative. South Carolina, to show the strength and unity of her opinion, brings her assembly to a unanimity, within seven voices; Pennsylvania, not to be outdone in this respect more than others, reduces her dissentient fraction to a single vote. Now, Sir, again, I ask the gentleman, what is to be done? Are these states both right? Is he bound to consider them both right? If not, which is in the wrong ?-or rather, which has the best right to decide ? And if he, and if I, are not to know what the constitution means, and what it is, till those two state legislatures, and the twenty-two others, shall agree in its construction, what have we sworn to, when we have sworn to main. tain it? I was forcibly struck, Sir, with one reflection, as the gentleman went on in his speech. He quoted Mr. Madison's resolution, to prove that a state may interfere, in a case of deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of a power not granted. The honorable member supposes the tariff law to be such an exercise of power ; and that, consequently, a case has arisen in which the state may, if it see fit, interfere by its own law. Now, it so happens, nevertheless, that Mr. Madison deems this same tariff law quite constitutional. Instead of a clear and palpable violation, it is, in his judgment, no violation at all. So that, while they use his authority for a hypothetical case, they reject it in the very case before them. All this, Sir, shows the inherentfutility-I had almost used a stronger word-of conceding this power of interference to the states, and then attempting to secure it from abusc by imposing qualifications, of which the states themselves are to judge. One of two things is true; either the laws of the Union are beyond the discretion, and beyond the control of the states ; or else we have no constitution of general government, and are thrust back again to the days of the confederacy." Pp. 416, 417.
This is a striking fact about Mr. Madison ; but one still more striking occurred after the publication of the speech. His great name and authority had been constantly and confidently appealed to, not only in this debate, by General Hayne, but, on previous occasions, by other favorers of the South Carolina doctrines, until at last it began to be almost feared, that Mr. Madison sustained the positions of the nullifiers. But as he had already shown that the tariff law was quite constitutional, so, now, with no less promptness and power, he came out against the whole doctrine of nullification, and showed that his resolutions of 1798, on which its friends had rested the wild fabric of their argument, as its main pillars, had nothing to do with it; and thus, in conjunction with what had been done in the Senate, brought down the whole tem
ple they had built with such pains and cost, upon the heads of their úncircumcised presumption and extravagance. His letter, indeed, on this subject, is one of the most characteristic efforts of his great wisdom, and one of the most important results of this discussion, since it took from the advocates of nullification all the support of his authority--the magni nominis umbra—the shade and shelter of his great name.
But to return to Mr. Webster; the general tone of the last half of his speech is uncommonly grave and imposing ; but there is one passage in which a lighter accent is assumed. It is that in which he runs out General Hayne's nullifying doctrise into practice, and sets him, as a military man, to execute his own nullifying law. The argument of this passage is the more efficacious, because it is concealed under so much wit and good-humor.
“ And now, Mr. President, let me run the honorable gentleman's doctrine a little into its practical application. Let us look at his probable modus operandi. If a thing can be done, an ingenious man can tell how it is to be done. Now, I wish to be in. formed, how this state interference is to be put in practice. We will take the existing case of the tariff law. South Carolina is said to have made up her opinion upon it. If we do not repcal it, (as we probably shall not), she will then apply to the case the remedy of her doctrine. She will, we must suppose, pass a law of her legislature, declaring the several acts of Congress, usually called the Tariff Laws, null and void, so far as they respect South Carolina, or the citizens thereof. So far, all is a paper transaction, and easy enough. But the collector at Charleston, is collecting the duties imposed by these tariff laws—he, therefore, must be stopped. The collector will seize the goods if the tariff duties are not paid. The state authorities will undertake their rescue; the marshal, with his posse, will come to the collector's aid, and here the contest begins. The militia of the state will be called out to sustain the nullifying act. They will march, Sir, under a very gallant leader : for I believe the honor. able member himself commands the militia of that part of the state. He will raisc the Nullifying Act on his standard, and spread it out as his banner. It will have a preamble, bearing that the tariff laws are palpable, deliberate, and dangerous violations of the Constitution. He will proceed, with his banner flying, to the customhouse in Charleston ;
• All the while,
Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds." Arrived at the custom-house, he will tell the collector that he must collect no more duties under any of the tariff laws. This, he will be somewhat puzzled to say, by the way, with a grave countenance, considering what hand South Carolina herself had in that of 1816. But, Sir, the collector would, probably, not desist, at his bidding. He would show him the law of Congress, the treasury instruction, and his own oath of office. He would say, he should perform his duty, come what might. Here would ensue a pause : for they say that a certain stillness precedes the tempest. The trumpeter would hold his breath awhile, and before all this military array should fall on the custom-house, collector, clerks, and all, it is very probable some of those composing it, would request of their gallant commander-in-chief, to be informed a little upon the point of law; for they have, doubtless, a just respect for his opinions as a lawyer, as well as for his bravery as a soldier. They know he has read Blackstone and the Con. stitution, as well as Turenne and Vauban. They would ask him, therefore, something concerning their rights in this matter. They would inquire, whether it was not somewhat dangerous to resist a law of the United States. What would be the nature of their offence, they would wish to learn, if they, by military force and array, resisted the execution in Carolina of a law of the United States, and it should turn out, after all, that the law was constitutional ? He would answer, of course, treason. No law. yer could give any other answer. John Fries, he would tell them, had learned that some years ago. How, then, they would ask, do you propose to defend us? We are not afraid of bullets, but treason has a way of taking people off, that we do not much relish. How do you propose to defend us ? • Look at my floating banner,' he would
reply, see there the nullifying lavo! Is it your opinion, gallant commander, they would then say, that if we should be indicted for treason, that same floating banner of yours would make a good plea in bar ? South Carolina is a sovereign state," he would reply. That is true—but would the judge admit our plea ? These tariff laws,' he would repeat, `are unconstitutional, palpably, deliberately, dangerously. That all
may be so; but if the tribunal should not happen to be of that opinion, shall we swing for it? We are ready to die for our country, but it is rather an awkward busi. ness,
this dying without touching the ground! After all, that is a sort of hemp-tax, worse than any part of the tariff.
“ Mr. President, the honorable gentleman would be in a dilemma, like that of another great general. He would have a knot before him which he could not untie. He must cut it with his sword. He must say to his followers, Defend yourselves with your bayonets;' and this is war-civil war.” pp. 421, 422.
After this his tone becomes even more grave and solemn than before, until, when he approaches the conclusion, he bursts forth with the expression of feelings of attachment to the Union and the Constitution, which it seemed no longer possible for him to suppress.
“ Mr. President, (he says) I have thus stated the reasons of my dissent to the doctrines which have been advanced and maintained. I am conscious of having detained you and the Senate much too long. I was drawn into the debate, with no previ. ouş deliberation, such as is suited to the discussion of so grave and important a subject. But it is a subject of which my heart is full, and I have not been willing to suppress the utterance of its spontaneous sentiments. I cannot, even now, persuade myself to relinquish it, without expressing, once more, ny deep conviction, that, since it respects nothing less than the union of the states, it is of most vital and essential importance to the public happiness. I profess, Sir, in my career, hitherto, to have kept steadily in view the prosperity and honor of the whole country, and the preservation of our federal union. It is to that union we owe our safety at home, and our consideration and dignity abroad. It is to that union that we are chiefly indebted for whatever makes us most proud of our country. That union we reached only by the discipline of our virtues in the severe school of adversity. It had its origin in the necessities of disordered finance, prostrate commerce, and ruined credit. Under its benign influences, these great interests immediately awoke, as from the dead, and sprung forth with newness of life. Every year of its duration has teemed with fresh proofs of its utility and its blessings; and, although our territory has stretched out wider and wider, and our population spread farther and farther, they have not outrun its protection or its benefits. It has been to us all a copious fountain of national, social, and personal happiness. I have not allowed myself, Sir, to look beyond the union, to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not coolly weighed the chances of preserving liberty when the bonds that unite us together shall be broken asunder. I have not accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; por could I regard him as a safe counsellor in the affairs of this government, whose thoughts should be mainly bent on considering, not how the union should be best preserved, but how tolerable might be the condition of the people when it shall be broken up and destroyed. While the union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us and our children. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant that, in my day, at least, that curtain may not rise. God grant, that on my vision never may be opened what lies behind.-When my eyes shall be turned to behold, for the last time, the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious union; on states dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in frater. nal blood -Let their last feeble and lingering glance, rather behold the gorgeous en. sign of the republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original lustre, not a stripe erased or polluted, nor a single star obscured-bearing for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory, as What is all this worth? Nor those other words of delusion and folly,
Liberty first, and Union afterwards—but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart-Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable !"
Mr. Hayne replied in a short speech on the constitutional question, which he afterwards expanded in the newspapers into a long one; and Mr. Webster immediately rejoined in the following brief remarks, which for syllogistic exactness and power can hardly be paralleled, and which carry with them all the force and conclusiveness of which moral demonstration is susceptible. No attempt, we believe, has been made to answer them, and though it may be thought expedient or necessary to abuse both the remarks themselves and their distinguished author, we suspect no direct answer will be hazarded, or if any one shall venture it, we neither envy his boldness nor doubt its consequences.
" A few words, Mr. President, on this constitutional argument, which the honora. ble gentleman has labored to reconstruct.
His argument consists of two propositions, and an inference. His propositions “1. That the Constitution is a compact between the States.
“ 2. That a compact between two, with authority reserved to one to interpret its terms, would be a surrender to that one, of all power whatever.
“3. Therefore, (such is his inference) the General Government does not possess the authority to construe its own powers.
“ Now, Sir, who does not see, without the aid of exposition or detection, the utter confusion of ideas, involved in this, so elaborate and systematic argument.
" The Constitution, it is said, is a compact between States ; if so, the States, then, and the States only, are parties to the compact. How comes the General Government itself a party? Upon the honorable gentleman's hypothesis, the General Government is the result of the compact, the creature of the compact, not one of the parties to it. Yet the argument, as the gentleman has now stated it, makes the Government itself one of its own creators. It makes it a party to that compaet, to which it owes its own existence.
" For the purpose of erecting the Constitution on the basis of a compact, the gentleman considers the States as parties to that compact; but as soon as his compact is made, then he chooses to consider the General Government, which is the offspring of that compact, not its offspring, but one of its parties; and so, being a party, has not the power of judging on the terms of compact. Pray, Sir, in what school is such reasoning as this taught?
“ If the whole of the gentleman's main proposition were conceded to him, that is to say—if I admit for the sake of the argument, that the Constitution is a compact be. tween States, the inferences, which he draws from that proposition, are warranted by no just reason. Because, if the Constitution be a compact between States, still, that Constitution, or that compact, has established a Government, with certain pow. ers; and whether it be one of those powers, that it shall construe and interpret for itself, the terms of the compact, in doubtful cases, is a question which can only be decided by looking to the compact, and inquiring what provisions it contains on this point. Without any inconsistency with natural reason, the Government, even thus created, might be trusted with this power of construction. The extent of its powers, therefore, must still be sought for in the instrument itself.
“ If the old Confederation had contained a clause, declaring that resolutions of the Congress should be the supreme law of the land, any state law or constitution to the contrary notwithstanding, and that a committee of Congress, or any other body created by it, should possess judicial powers, extending to all cases arising under resolutions of Congress, then the power of ultimate decision would have been vested in Congress, under the Confederation, although that Confederation was a compact between States; and, for this plain reason : that it would have been competent to the States, who alone were parties to the compact, to agree, who should decide, in cases of dispute arising on the construction of the compact.
" For the same reason, Sir, if I were now to concede to the gentleman his principal proposition, viz. that the Constitution is a compact between States, the question would still be, what provision is made, in this compact, to settle points of disputed construc. tion, or contested power, that shall come into controversy ? and this question would still be answered, and conclusively answered, by the Constitution itself
. While the gentleman is contending against construction, he himself is setting up the most loose
and dangerous construction. The Constitution declares, that the laws of Congress shall be the supreme law of the land. No construction is necessary here. It declares, also, with equal plainness and precision, that the Judicial power of the United States shall extend to every case arising under the laws of Congress. This needs no construction. Here is a law, then, which is declared to be supreme; and here is a power cstablished, which is to interpret that law. Now, Sir, how has the gentleman met this ?. Suppose the Constitution to be a compact, yet here are its terms, and how does the gentleman get rid of them ? He cannot argue the seal off the bond, nor the words out of the instrument. Here they are—what an does he give to them ? None in the world, Sir, except that the effect of this would be to place the States in a condition of inferiority; and because it results, from the very nature of things, there being no superior, that the parties must be their own judges! Thus closely and cogently does the honorable gentleman reason on the words of the Constitution. The gentleman says, if there be such a power of final decision in the General Government, he asks for the grant of that power. Well, Sir, I show him the grant- I turn him to the very words I show him that the laws of Congress are made supreme; and that the Judicial power extends, by express words, to the interpretation of these laws. Instead of answering this, he retreats into the general reflection, that it must result from the nature of things, that the States, being parties, must judge for themselves.
“I have admitted, that, if the Constitution were to be considered as the creature of the State Governments, it might be modified, interpreted, or construed, according to their pleasure. But, even in that case, it would be necessary that they should agree. One, alone, could not interpret it conclusively; one, alone, could not construe it; one, alone, could not modify it. Yet the gentleman's doctrine is, that Carolina, alone, may construe and interpret that compact which equally binds all, and gives equal rights to all.
“So then, Sir, even supposing the Constitution to be a compact between the States, the gentleman's doctrine, nevertheless, is not maintainable; because, first, the Gen. eral Government is not a party to that compact, but a Government established by it, and vested by it with the powers of trying and deciding doubtful questions; and, sec. ondly, because, if the Constitution be regarded as a compact, not one State only, but all the States, are parties to that compact, and one can have no right to fix upon it her own peculiar construction.
“So much, Sir, for the argument, even if the premises of the gentleman were granted, or could be proved. But, Sir, the gentleman has failed to maintain his lead. ing proposition. He has not shown, it cannot be shown, that the Constitution is a compact between State Governments. The Constitution itself, in its very front, refutes that idea : it declares that it is ordained and established by the People of the Uni. ted States. So far from saying that it is established by the Governments of the seve. ral States, it does not even say that it is established by the People of the several States ; but it pronounces that it is established by the People of the United States, in the aggregate. The gentleman says, it must mean no more than the People of the several States. Doubtless, the People of the several States, taken collectively, consti. tute the People of the United States; but it is in this, their collective capacity, it is as all the people of the United States, that they establish the Constitution. So they declare ; and words cannot be plainer than the words used.
“When the gentleman says the Constitution is a compact between the States, he uses language exactly applicable to the old confederation. He speaks as if he were in Congress before 1789. He describes fully that old state of things then existing, The confederation was, in strictness, a compact; the States, as States, were parties to it. We had no other General Government. But that was found insufficient, and inadequate to the public exigencies. The people were not satisfied with it, and undertook to establish a better. They undertook to form a General Government, which should stand on a new basis—and a confederacy, not a league, not a compact between states, but a constitution ; a popular government, founded in popular election, directly responsible to the people themselves, and divided into branches, with prescribed limits of power, and prescribed duties. They ordained such a government; they gave it the name of a Constitution, and therein they established a distribution of powers between this, their General Government, and their several State Governments. When they shall become dissatisfied with this distribution, they can alter it. Their own power over their own instrument remains. But until they shall alter it, it must stand as their will, and is equally binding on the General Government and on the States.
" The gentleman, Sir, finds analogy, where I see none. He likens it to the caso