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to be unconstitutional, repealed by the authority of a small majority of the voters of a single State. Here is a provision of the Constitution, which is solemnly abrogated by the same authority.
On such expositions and reasonings, the ordinance grounds not only an assertion of the right to annul the laws, of which it complains, but to enforce it by a threat of seceding from the Union, if any attempt is made to execute them.
This right to secede is deduced from the nature of the Constitution, which they say is a compact between sovereign States, who have preserved their whole sovereignty, and therefore are subject to no superior; that because they made the compact, they can break it, when, in their opinion, it has been departed from by other States. Fallacious as this course of reasoning is, it enlists State pride, and finds advocates in the honest prejudices of those who have not studied the nature of our government sufficiently to see the radical error on which it rests.
The people of the United States formed the Constitution, acting through the State Legislatures in forming the compact, to meet and discuss its provisions, and acting in separate conventions when they ratified those provisions; but the terms used in its construction show it to be a government in which the people of all the States collectively are represented. We are one people in the choice of President and Vice-President. Here the States have no other agency than to direct the mode in which the votes shall be given. The candidates having a majority of all the votes are chosen. The electors of a majority of States may have given their votes for one candidate, and yet another may be chosen. The people, then, and not the States, are represented in the executive branch.
In the House of Representatives there is this difference: that the people of one State do not, as in the case of President and Vice-President, all vote for the same officers. The people of all the States do not vote for all the members, each State electing only its own Representatives. But this creates no national distinction. chosen, they are all Representatives of the United States, not representatives of the particular State from whence
they come. They are paid by the United States, not by the State; nor are they accountable to it for any act done in the performance of their legislative functions; and however they may, in practice, as it is their duty to do, consult and prefer the interests of their particular constituents, when they come in conflict with any other partial or local interest, yet it is the first and highest duty of a Representative of the United States to promote the general good.
The Constitution of the United States, then, forms a government, not a league; and whether it be formed by compact between the States, or in any other manner, its character is the same. It is a government in which all the people are represented, which operates directly on the people individually, not upon the States; they retained all the power they did not grant. But each State having expressly parted with so many powers, as to constitute jointly with the other States a single nation, can not, from that period, possess any right to secede, because such secession does not break a league, but destroys the unity of a nation; and any injury to that unity is not only a breach, which would result from the contravention of a compact, but it is an offense against the whole Union. To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union, is to say that the United States are not a nation; because it would be a solecism to contend, that any part of a nation might dissolve its connection with the other parts, to their injury or ruin, without committing any offense. Secession, like any other revolutionary act, may be morally justified by the extremity of oppression; but to call it a constitutional right is confounding the meaning of the terms; and can only be done through gross error, or to deceive those who are willing to assert a right, but would pause before they made a revolution, or incur the penalties consequent on a failure.
Because the Union was formed by compact, it is said the parties to that compact may, when they fee themselves aggrieved, depart from it; but it is precisely because it is a compact that they can not. A compact is an agreement or binding obligation. It may, by its terms,
have a sanction or penalty for its breach, or it may not. If it contains no sanction, it may be broken, with no other consequences than moral guilt; if it have a sanction, then the breach incurs the designated or implied penalty. A league between independent nations generally has no sanction other than a moral one; or, if it should contain a penalty, as there is no common superior, it can not be enforced. A government, on the contrary, always has a sanction, express or implied; and, in our case, it is both necessarily implied and expressly given. An attempt, by force of arms, to destroy a government, is an offense, by whatever means the constitutional compact may have been formed; and such government has the right, by the law of self-defense, to pass acts for punishing the offender, unless that right is modified, restrained, or resumed by the constitutional act. In our system, although it is modified in the case of treason, yet authority is expressly given to pass all laws necessary to carry its powers into effect; and, under this grant, provision has beeen made for punishing acts which obstruct the due administration of the laws.
It would seem superfluous to add any thing to show the nature of that Union which connects us; but as erroneous opinions on this subject are the foundation of doctrines the most destructive to our peace, I must give further development to my views on this subject. No one, fellowcitizens, has a higher reverence for the reserved rights of the States than the magistrate who now addresses you; no one would make greater personal sacrifices or official exert-ion to defend them from violation; but equal care must be taken to prevent, on their part, an improper interference with, or resumption of, the rights they have vested in the nation. The line has not been so distinctly drawn as to avoid doubts, in some cases, of the exercise of power. Men of the best intentions and soundest views may differ in their construction of some parts of the Constitution; but there are others on which dispassionate reflection can leave no doubt. Of this nature appears to be the assumed right of secession. It rests, as we have seen, on the alleged undivided sovereignty of the States, and on their
having formed, in this sovereign capacity, a compact, which is called the Constitution, from which, because they made it, they have the right to secede. Both of these positions are erroneous, and some of the arguments to prove them so have been anticipated.
The States severally have not retained their entire sovereignty. It has been shown that, in becoming parts of a nation, not members of a league, they surrendered many of their essential parts of sovereignty. The right to make treaties, declare war, levy taxes, exercise exclusive judicial and legislative powers, were, all of them, functions of sovereign power. The States, then, for all these purposes, were no longer sovereign. The allegiance of their citizens was transferred, in the first instance, to the Government of the United States; they became American citizens, and owed obedience to the Constitution of the United. States, and to laws made in conformity with the powers it vested in Congress. This last position has not been, and can not be, denied. How, then, can that State be said to be sovereign and independent whose citizens owe obedience to laws not made by it, and whose magistrates are sworn to disregard those laws when they come in conflict with those passed by another? What shows conclusively that the States can not be said to have reserved an undivided sovereignty is, that they expressly ceded the right to punish treason-not treason against their separate power, but. treason against the United States. Treason is an offense against sovereignty, and sovereignty must reside with the power to punish it. But the reserved rights of the States are not less sacred because they have, for their common interest, made the General Government the depository of these powers.
The unity of our political character (as has been shown for another purpose) commenced with its very existence. Under the royal government we had no separate character; our opposition to its oppressions began as united colonics. We were the United States, under the Confederation, and the name was perpetuated, and the Union rendered more perfect by the Federal Constitution. In none of these stages did we consider ourselves in any other light than as form
ing one nation. Treaties and alliances were made in the name of all. Troops were raised for the joint defense. How, then, with all these proofs, that, under all changes of our position, we had, for designated purposes, and with defined powers, created national governments; how is it that the most perfect of those several modes of union should now be considered as a mere league, that may be dissolved at pleasure? It is from an abuse of terms. "Compact" is used as synonymous with "league," although the true term is not employed, because it would at once show the fallacy of the reasoning. It would not do to say that our Constitution was only a league; but it is labored to prove it a compact (which in one sense it is), and then to argue that, as a league is a compact, every compact between nations must, of course, be a league, and that from such an engagement every sovereign power has a right to recede. But it has been shown that, in this sense, the States are not sovereign, and that even if they were, and the national Constitution had been formed by compact, there would be no right in any one State to exonerate itself from its obligations.
So obvious are the reasons which forbid this secession, that it is necessary only to allude to them. The Union was formed for the benefit of all. It was produced by mutual sacrifices of interests and opinions. Can those sacrifices be recalled? Can the States, who magnanimously surrender their title to the territories in the West, recall the grant? Will the inhabitants of the inland States agree to pay the duties that may be imposed, without their assent, by those on the Atlantic or the Gulf for their own benefit? Shall there be a free port in one State, and onerous duties in another? No one believes that any right exists, in a single State, to involve the others in these and countless other evils contrary to the engagements solemnly made. Every one must see that the other States, in selfdefense, must oppose it, at all hazards.
These are the alternatives that are presented by the convention: A repeal of all the acts for raising revenue, leaving the Government without the means of support, or an acquiescence in the dissolution of our Union by the