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reëxamined. Whatever in it is dark, or ambiguous, or equivocal, or susceptible of being rendered so, will be made plain and luminous, so that ignorance itself will not hereafter be able to profane its sacred decalogue. The action of the Government, in all its departments, will be reviewed and scrutinized ; past aberrations and infringements, will be pronounced upon, and what are, and are not, the duties of the Government; what are, and are not, its powers, be finally and forever settled.
With such a view of the doctrine of State interposition, who is there but must see its beneficent nature,—its safe and efficacious operation? What an innate embodiment it holds with the very vitals of the Constitution! How inseparably connected with its whole theory and practical operation. What a safe and abiding sheet-anchor it supplies to the vessel of state, against the fluctuations, the circumvolving eddyings, and the storms of political interests and passions ! How, and with what salvatory awe, like the sword at the gate of Paradise, it flashes around the Constitution, and preserves its sacred soil from trespass and desecration! The elective franchise, and the ballot-box, may change the policy and expediency of governmental measures ; State interposition heals and preserves the governmental charter; and banishes the very names of insurrection and revolution, to those lands where prescription, and divine right, have subjugated the genius of Liberty, and fixed him down in bondage and chains.
We are at a loss to understand the arguments that are employed in confutation of this doctrine, safe, sound, conservative and constitutional, as we conceive it to be, in its origin and action. They certainly possess neither relevancy nor force.
To object to it because the annulling power may be abused, is to associate it with all wise and beneficent doctrines and principles, for they have been all objected to, and opposed, on the same grounds. But, the true reply to such objections, consists in asking : Is it probable, in the reason and nature of things, that the power will be abused ? Was the Government created by the people for any thing but their own benefit; and does it come within the
range of human reason, does it consist with the dictates of common sense, or the results of common experience, to suppose that the Government, while pursuing a fair and legitimate course to attain this end, will be impeded and circumvented by those whose interests alone are at stake? To say that State interposition is “revolutionary," is absurd. Revolutionary! Can sovereign power revolt? Against whom? Against itself? The objection is an abuse of language, and a misintelligence of principles. It has also been asked: “Can any thing be conceived more preposterous, than that any State should have the power to nullify the proceedings of the General Government respecting peace and war? When war is declared by a law of Congress, can a single State nullify that law, and remain at peace ? And yet, she may nullify that law, as well as any other. If the President and Senate make peace, may one State continue the war ? And yet, if she can nullify a law, she may quite as well nullify a treaty."*
To all these questions we answer, No! None but a political madman would affirm them. No advocate of State sovereignty ever claimed, or ever dreamed, that a State would, or could, while it existed a member of the Union, nullify any such law,—unless, with regard to treaties, the President and the Senate should form a treaty with a foreign power, which should violate the Federal Constitution, or invade the reserved rights of the States. But, the questions are false questions,—they rest on false premises, false hypothecations,—and the inferences drawn from them are false. State sovereignty claims for no State the right, or the power, to annul a law or act of the General Government, which clearly and plainly rests on an express grant of the Constitution. All such laws and acts are beyond the reach of the annulling power,—wholly intangible to it. A system which should uphold such claims would suppose a state of barbarian hordeship,—a savage turbatur in agris,-a political chaos. No! State Sovereignty prefers no such claims. It claims no more than to defend the rights of the States, and the rights of the Constitution, from the dangers of constructive legislation; to hedge in the federal tiger from committing ravages on peaceful villages, and confine him to the range of his own sunderbunds; it claims to annul laws, which, resting on an equivocal constitutional base, and under the shield of a
* Vide Mr. Webster's controversy in the Senate, with Mr. Calhoun.
disguising and fraudulent caption, trench in on the reserved rights, or prostrate the popular interests or welfare, of one or more of the constituent Sovereign Democracies : It claims to keep the Constitution holy and intact, to preserve and defend our sublime Parthenon from the mutilations and defilements, as well of disguised as of open foes.
Admirable as the Constitution is, it is not altogether perfect: one of its chief defects consists in not containing all the guaranties of which it is susceptible, for its own preservation, and against the abuse of power. There is a provision, which, had it been engrafted among the clauses, would have kept the Government steady on its proper line of flotation; and have prevented all the misunderstandings and abuses which have taken place, and are still existent, in the legislative action. This provision results from the nature of the Government, and the elements which compose it: to unmask our meaning, we remark :
That all legislative measures are to be viewed under two aspects, viz :- 1st. Their constitutional fitness ;-2d. Their political expediency; and that before they can be politically expedient, they must be constitutionally legal. In all disputed or doubtful cases as to the latter, they ought to be tried by a certain test, and according to the result of this test they will be constitutional or the reverse : This test is a vote by States. To illustrate our meaning more fully, we will take up the bank question once more: A bill is reported in the House of Representatives to incorporate a bank. It is objected, that the power to incorporate does not exist in the Constitution, and that being a prerogative of the sovereignty, a power of the first class, it cannot be associated with the incidental powers. To determine this point, the bill is subjected to the test referred to,-a vote by States: each State having one vote,-a majority of the representatives of each State constituting this vote,-and three fourths of the States constituting the requisite majority. If the bill receive the sanction of this scrutiny, then it is a constitutional measure, and Congress may forthwith proceed to discuss and act on it as a matter of policy or expediency; if it receive not this sanction, then it is not a constitutional measure, and Congress must stay all future action in regard to it.
Considering the multiplied sources from which the Constitution flowed; the wide-spread communities of this Union, and their peculiar and diverse habits, principles, prejudices and interests; with the strong probability that these would become more complicated, heterogeneous, and divergent with the lapse of time, and the increase of the popular masses; and that as the States filled up, and the industries of the people became diversified and multiplied in degrees coördinate with the extension of the population, rival and antipodal interests and passions would be engendered, affecting to influence the legislation of the country, and drive it from its rectilinear course; it is strange that some safeguard of this nature was not incorporated into the Constitution to secure its steady, equal, and impartial action, and to protect the Government from bias and aberration ! Power, also, it is to be remarked, loves freedom. By a native penchant it seeks to rend all restrictive ligaments; and when once disengaged from its trammels, in vain do laws, in vain do reason and history, the voice of perished nations and defunct ages proclaim their precepts and their warnings. In the inebriation of success, with a volition regulated by no limitation but its own discretion, and with a circle of vision which no moral radins can measure, it vaults into the seat of ambition, and rides on, blazing in the caparisons and flaunts of popular majorities, which it has tampered with and mastered, over the necks of local interests and chartered rights. To hedge in power, then, ab initio, by every secure guaranty; to construct around it circumvallations deep, broad, and high, so that liberty, in all future time, may safely and quietly repose under its own vine and fig tree, should be the object of primary aim.
The principle of the provision above elucidated is founded on the doctrine already developed, viz: that the Constitution was formed by the people, acting as States; that, as States, the people are represented in the Government; and that in all disputed and ambiguous cases, as to constitutional power, their representatives should act as they themselves acted, when they instituted the Government. That such a provision incorporated into the Constitution could have exerted a saving influence on the Union, and would have served as a safe and abiding surety of peace and good government for the future, cannot, we think, be doubted.
One question more, remains to be considered. The States having formed a compact; having created, adopted and ratified the Constitution, as the attestation, seal and signature of their accession to that compact ; can one, or more of them, voluntarily, sponte sua, secede from it? This is a solemn and momentous question. The modern Federalists,—the arch Consolidationists, with Messrs. Adams and Webster at their head,-maintain that they cannot, under any circumstances, secede without revolution. We know not what these statesmen mean by revolution, when applied to sovereign States: the connection produces a topsy-turvy confusion of ideas and principles, which involves the matter, to our conception, in the most caliginous obscurity. The answer, nevertheless, can, we think, be dispatched in few words.
Compacts are binding, so long as the conditions on which they are founded, are observed,-so long as the objects, for which they were established, are accomplished. They imply two things, viz. : service and consideration;service stipulated to be rendered by one party, for consideration granted by the other party. It is a quid pro quo transaction, in which the benefit must be received, or be in a course of reception, in order to render obligatory the equivalent stipulated to be rendered. In the case of the federal compact, the parties were the several States, seriatim, on the one side, and all the other States on the other side. The service stipulated to be given by one State, to all the other States, was, adhesion to the compact or Union; and, the consideration stipulated to be given by all the other States, to that one State, was, that the Constitution should establish justice in said State, insure its domestic tranquillity, provide for its defence, promote its welfare, and secure its liberty, in all time to come. The Constitution was an instrument of a definite and fixed meaning. This meaning it bore when it was formed, and this meaning it must carry, unaltered and unalterable, except it be altered by the mutual concurrence of the contracting parties. So long, then, as the conditions of the contract are fulfilled, so long as the Constitution works on the principles on