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under a power expressly given by the Constitution to lay and collect imposts; but its constitutionality is drawn in question from the motives of those who passed it. However apparent this purpose may be in the present case, nothing can be more dangerous than to admit the position that an unconstitutional purpose, entertained by the members who assent to a law enacted under constitutional power, shall make the law void: for how is that purpose to be ascertained? How often may bad purposes be falsely imputed-in how many cases are they concealed by false professions-in how many is no declaration of motive made? Admit this doctrine, and you give to the States an uncontrolled right to decide, and every law may be annulled under this pretext. If, therefore, the absurd and dangerous doctrine should be admitted, that a State may annul an unconstitutional law, or one that it deems such, it will not apply to the present case.
The next objection is, that the laws in question operate unequally. This objection may be made with truth to every law that has been or may be passed. The wisdom of man never yet contrived a system of taxation that would operate with perfect equality. If the unequal operation of a law makes it unconstitutional, and if all. laws of that description may be abrogated by any State for that cause, then indeed is the Federal Constitution unworthy the slightest effort for its preservation. We have hitherto relied on it as the perpetual bond of our Union. We have received it as the work of the assembled wisdom of the nation. We have trusted to it as the sheet anchor of our safety in the stormy times of conflict with a foreign or domestic foe. We have looked to it with sacred awe as the palladium of our liberties, and with all the solemnities of religion have pledged to each other our lives and fortunes here, and our hopes of happiness hereafter, in its defense and support. Were we mistaken, my countrymen, in attaching this importance to the Constitution of our country? Was our devotion paid to the wretched, inefficient, clumsy, contrivance which this new doctrine would make it? Did we pledge ourselves to the support of an airy nothing—a bubble, that must be blown away by the
first breath of dissatisfaction? Was this self-destroying, visionary theory, the work of the profound statesmen, the exalted patriots, to whom the task of constitutional reform was intrusted? Did the name of Washington sanction, did the States deliberately ratify such an anamoly in the history of fundamental legislation? No. We were not mistaken. The letter of this great instrument is free from this radical fault; its language directly contradicts the imputation; its spirit--its evident intent, contradicts it. No, we did not err! Our Constitution does not contain the absurdity of giving power to make laws, and another power to resist them. The sages whose memory will always be reverenced, have given us a practical, and, as they hoped, a permanent constitutional compact. The Father of his Country did not affix his revered name to so palpable an absurdity. Nor did the States, when they severally ratified it, do so under the impression that a veto on the laws of the United States, was reserved to them, or that they could exercise it by implication. Search the debates in all their conventions, examine the speeches of the most zealous opposers of federal authority, look at the amendments that were proposed; they are all silent-not a syllable uttered, not a vote given, not a motion made, to correct the explicit supremacy given to the laws of the Union over those of the States, or to show that implication, as is now contended, could defeat it. No, we have not erred! The Constitution is still the object of our reverence, the bond of our Union, our defense in danger, the source of our prosperity in peace; it shall descend as we received it, uncorrupted, by sophistical construction, to our posterity, and the sacrifices of local interest, of State prejudices, of personal animosities, that were made to bring it into existence, will again be patriotically offered for its support.
The two remaining objections made by the ordinance to these laws, are that the sums intended to be raised by them are greater than are required, and that the proceeds will be unconstitutionally employed.
The Constitution has given, expressly, to Congress the right of raising revenue, and of determining the sum the public exigencies will require. The States have no con
trol over the exercise of this right, other than that which results from the power of changing the representatives who abuse it, and thus procure redress. Congress may, undoubtedly, abuse this discretionary power; but the same may be said of others with which they are vested. Yet this discretion must exist somewhere. The Constitution has given it to the representatives of all the people, checked by the representatives of the States and by the executive power. The South Carolina construction gives it to the legislature or the convention of a single State, where neither the people of the different States, nor the States in their separate capacity, nor the chief magistrate elected by the people, have any representation. Which is the most discreet disposition of the power? I do not ask you, fellow-citizens, which is the constitutional disposition; that instrument speaks a language not to be misunderstood. But if you were assembled in general convention, which would you think the safest depository of this discretionary power in the last resort? Would you add a clause giving it to each of the States, or would you sanction the wise provisions already made by your Constitution? If this should be the result of your deliberations when providing for the future, are you, can you be ready to risk all that we hold dear to establish, for a temporary and a local purpose, that which you must acknowledge to be destructive, and even absurd, as a general provision? Carry out the consequences of this right vested in the different States, and you must perceive that the crisis your conduct presents at this day would recur whenever any law of the United States displeased any of the States, and that we should soon cease to be a nation.
The ordinance, with the same knowledge of the future that characterizes a former objection, tells you that the proceeds of the tax will be unconstitutionally applied. If this could be ascertained with certainty, the objection would, with more propriety, be reserved for the law so applying the proceeds, but surely can not be urged against the laws levying the duty.
These are the allegations contained in the ordinance. Examine them seriously, my fellow-citizens; judge for your
selves. I appeal to you to determine whether they are so clear, so convincing, as to leave no doubt of their correctness; and even if you should come to this conclusion, how far they justify the reckless, destructive course which you are directed to pursue. Review these objections, and the conclusions drawn from them, once more. What are they? Every law, then, for raising revenue, according to the South Carolina ordinance, may be rightfully annulled, unless it be so framed as no law ever will or can be framed. Congress has the right to pass laws for raising a revenue, and each State has a right to oppose their execution-two rights directly opposed to each other; and yet is this absurdity supposed to be contained in an instrument drawn for the express purpose of avoiding collisions between the States and the General Government, by an assembly of the most enlightened statesmen and purest patriots ever embodied for a similar purpose.
In vain have these sages declared that Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises; in vain have they provided that they shall have power to pass laws which shall be necessary and proper to carry those powers into execution; that those laws and that Constitution shall be the " supreme law of the land, and that the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." In vain have the people of the several States solemnly sanctified these provisions, made them their paramount law, and individually sworn to support them whenever they were called on to execute any office. Vain provision ineffectual restrictions! vile profanation of oaths! miserable mockery of legislation! if the bare majority of the voters in any one State may, on a real or supposed knowledge of the intent with which a law has been passed, declare themselves free from its operation-say here it gives too little, there too much, and operates unequally—here it suffers articles to be free that ought to be taxed-there it taxes those that ought to be free-in this case the proceeds are intended to be applied to purposes which we do not approve-in that the amount raised is more than is wanted. Congress, it is true, is invested by the Constitution with
the right of deciding these questions according to their sound discretion;. Congress is composed of the representatives of all the States, and of all the people of all the States; but we, part of the people of one State, to whom the Constitution has given no power on the subject, from whom it has expressly taken it away-we, who have solemnly agreed that this Constitution shall be our law-we, most of whom have sworn to support it—we now abrogate this law, and swear, and force others to swear that it shall not be obeyed; and we do this, not because Congress have no right to pass such laws this we do not allege-but because they have passed them with improper views. They are unconstitutional from the motives of those who passed them, which we can never with certainty know; from their unequal operation, although it is impossible, from the nature of things, that they should be equal; and from the disposition which we presume may be made of their proceeds, although that disposition has not been declared. This is the plain meaning of the ordinance, in relation to laws which it abrogates for alleged unconstitutionality. But it does not stop there. It repeals, in express terms, an important part of the Constitution itself, and of laws passed to give it effect, which have never been alleged to be unconstitutional. The Constitution declares that the judicial powers of the United States extend to cases arising under the laws of the United States; and that such laws, the Constitution and treaties, shall be paramount to the State Constitutions and laws. The judiciary act prescribes the mode by which the case may be brought before a court of the United States by appeal, when a State tribunal shall decide against this provision of the Constitution. The ordinance declares that there shall be no appeal, makes the State law paramount to the Constitution and laws of the United States, forces judges and jurors to swear that they will disregard their provisions, and even makes it penal in a suit to attempt relief by appeal. It further declares that it shall not be lawful for the authorities of the United States, or of that State, to enforce the payment of duties imposed by the revenue laws within its limits.
Here is a law of the United States, not even pretended