The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster

Part 10 out of 25

be given. The simple fact, while it requires no comment to enforce it,
defies all argument to refute it. I could refer to the speeches of
another Southern gentleman, in years before, of the same general
character, and to the same effect, as that which has been quoted; but I
will not consume the time of the Senate by the reading of them.

So then, Sir, New England is guiltless of the policy of retarding
Western population, and of all envy and jealousy of the growth of the
new States. Whatever there be of that policy in the country, no part of
it is hers. If it has a local habitation, the honorable member has
probably seen by this time where to look for it; and if it now has
received a name, he has himself christened it.

We approach, at length, Sir, to a more important part of the honorable
gentleman's observations. Since it does not accord with my views of
justice and policy to give away the public lands altogether, as a mere
matter of gratuity, I am asked by the honorable gentleman on what ground
it is that I consent to vote them away in particular instances. How, he
inquires, do I reconcile with these professed sentiments, my support of
measures appropriating portions of the lands to particular roads,
particular canals, particular rivers, and particular institutions of
education in the West? This leads, Sir, to the real and wide difference
in political opinion between the honorable gentleman and myself. On my
part, I look upon all these objects as connected with the common good,
fairly embraced in its object and its terms; he, on the contrary, deems
them all, if good at all, only local good. This is our difference. The
interrogatory which he proceeded to put at once explains this
difference. "What interest," asks he, "has South Carolina in a canal in
Ohio?" Sir, this very question is full of significance. It develops the
gentleman's whole political system; and its answer expounds mine. Here
we differ. I look upon a road over the Alleghanies, a canal round the
falls of the Ohio, or a canal or railway from the Atlantic to the
Western waters, as being an object large and extensive enough to be
fairly said to be for the common benefit. The gentleman thinks
otherwise, and this is the key to his construction of the powers of the
government. He may well ask what interest has South Carolina in a canal
in Ohio. On his system, it is true, she has no interest. On that system,
Ohio and Carolina are different governments, and different countries;
connected here, it is true, by some slight and ill-defined bond of
union, but in all main respects separate and diverse. On that system,
Carolina has no more interest in a canal in Ohio than in Mexico. The
gentleman, therefore, only follows out his own principles; he does no
more than arrive at the natural conclusions of his own doctrines; he
only announces the true results of that creed which he has adopted
himself, and would persuade others to adopt, when he thus declares that
South Carolina has no interest in a public work in Ohio.

Sir, we narrow-minded people of New England do not reason thus. Our
_notion_ of things is entirely different. We look upon the States, not
as separated, but as united. We love to dwell on that union, and on the
mutual happiness which it has so much promoted, and the common renown
which it has so greatly contributed to acquire. In our contemplation,
Carolina and Ohio are parts of the same country; States, united under
the same general government, having interests, common, associated,
intermingled. In whatever is within the proper sphere of the
constitutional power of this government, we look upon the States as one.
We do not impose geographical limits to our patriotic feeling or regard;
we do not follow rivers and mountains, and lines of latitude, to find
boundaries, beyond which public improvements do not benefit us. We who
come here, as agents and representatives of these narrow-minded and
selfish men of New England, consider ourselves as bound to regard with
an equal eye the good of the whole, in whatever is within our powers of
legislation. Sir, if a railroad or canal, beginning in South Carolina
and ending in South Carolina, appeared to me to be of national
importance and national magnitude, believing, as I do, that the power of
government extends to the encouragement of works of that description, if
I were to stand up here and ask, What interest has Massachusetts in a
railroad in South Carolina? I should not be willing to face my
constituents. These same narrow-minded men would tell me, that they had
sent me to act for the whole country, and that one who possessed too
little comprehension, either of intellect or feeling, one who was not
large enough, both in mind and in heart, to embrace the whole, was not
fit to be intrusted with the interest of any part.

Sir, I do not desire to enlarge the powers of the government by
unjustifiable construction, nor to exercise any not within a fair
interpretation. But when it is believed that a power does exist, then it
is, in my judgment, to be exercised for the general benefit of the
whole. So far as respects the exercise of such a power, the States are
one. It was the very object of the Constitution to create unity of
interests to the extent of the powers of the general government. In war
and peace we are one; in commerce, one; because the authority of the
general government reaches to war and peace, and to the regulation of
commerce. I have never seen any more difficulty in erecting light-houses
on the lakes, than on the ocean; in improving the harbors of inland
seas, than if they were within the ebb and flow of the tide; or in
removing obstructions in the vast streams of the West, more than in any
work to facilitate commerce on the Atlantic coast. If there be any power
for one, there is power also for the other; and they are all and equally
for the common good of the country.

There are other objects, apparently more local, or the benefit of which
is less general, towards which, nevertheless, I have concurred with
others, to give aid by donations of land. It is proposed to construct a
road, in or through one of the new States, in which this government
possesses large quantities of land. Have the United States no right, or,
as a great and untaxed proprietor, are they under no obligation to
contribute to an object thus calculated to promote the common good of
all the proprietors, themselves included? And even with respect to
education, which is the extreme case, let the question be considered. In
the first place, as we have seen, it was made matter of compact with
these States, that they should do their part to promote education. In
the next place, our whole system of land laws proceeds on the idea that
education is for the common good; because, in every division, a certain
portion is uniformly reserved and appropriated for the use of schools.
And, finally, have not these new States singularly strong claims,
founded on the ground already stated, that the government is a great
untaxed proprietor, in the ownership of the soil? It is a consideration
of great importance, that probably there is in no part of the country,
or of the world, so great call for the means of education, as in these
new States, owing to the vast numbers of persons within those ages in
which education and instruction are usually received, if received at
all. This is the natural consequence of recency of settlement and rapid
increase. The census of these States shows how great a proportion of the
whole population occupies the classes between infancy and manhood. These
are the wide fields, and here is the deep and quick soil for the seeds
of knowledge and virtue; and this is the favored season, the very
spring-time for sowing them. Let them be disseminated without stint. Let
them be scattered with a bountiful hand, broadcast. Whatever the
government can fairly do towards these objects, in my opinion, ought to
be done.

These, Sir, are the grounds, succinctly stated, on which my votes for
grants of lands for particular objects rest; while I maintain, at the
same time, that it is all a common fund, for the common benefit. And
reasons like these, I presume, have influenced the votes of other
gentlemen from New England. Those who have a different view of the
powers of the government, of course, come to different conclusions, on
these, as on other questions. I observed, when speaking on this subject
before, that if we looked to any measure, whether for a road, a canal,
or any thing else, intended for the improvement of the West, it would be
found that, if the New England _ayes_ were struck out of the lists of
votes, the Southern _noes_ would always have rejected the measure. The
truth of this has not been denied, and cannot be denied. In stating
this, I thought it just to ascribe it to the constitutional scruples of
the South, rather than to any other less favorable or less charitable
cause. But no sooner had I done this, than the honorable gentleman asks
if I reproach him and his friends with their constitutional scruples.
Sir, I reproach nobody. I stated a fact, and gave the most respectful
reason for it that occurred to me. The gentleman cannot deny the fact;
he may, if he choose, disclaim the reason. It is not long since I had
occasion, in presenting a petition from his own State, to account for
its being intrusted to my hands, by saying, that the constitutional
opinions of the gentleman and his worthy colleague prevented them from
supporting it. Sir, did I state this as matter of reproach? Far from it.
Did I attempt to find any other cause than an honest one for these
scruples? Sir, I did not. It did not become me to doubt or to insinuate
that the gentleman had either changed his sentiments, or that he had
made up a set of constitutional opinions accommodated to any particular
combination of political occurrences. Had I done so, I should have felt,
that, while I was entitled to little credit in thus questioning other
people's motives, I justified the whole world in suspecting my own. But
how has the gentleman returned this respect for others' opinions? His
own candor and justice, how have they been exhibited towards the motives
of others, while he has been at so much pains to maintain, what nobody
has disputed, the purity of his own? Why, Sir, he has asked _when_, and
_how_, and _why_ New England votes were found going for measures
favorable to the West. He has demanded to be informed whether all this
did not begin in 1825, and while the election of President was still

Sir, to these questions retort would be justified; and it is both cogent
and at hand. Nevertheless, I will answer the inquiry, not by retort, but
by facts. I will tell the gentleman _when_, and _how_, and _why_ New
England has supported measures favorable to the West. I have already
referred to the early history of the government, to the first
acquisition of the lands, to the original laws for disposing of them,
and for governing the territories where they lie; and have shown the
influence of New England men and New England principles in all these
leading measures. I should not be pardoned were I to go over that ground
again. Coming to more recent times, and to measures of a less general
character, I have endeavored to prove that every thing of this kind,
designed for Western improvement, has depended on the votes of New
England; all this is true beyond the power of contradiction. And now,
Sir, there are two measures to which I will refer, not so ancient as to
belong to the early history of the public lands, and not so recent as to
be on this side of the period when the gentleman charitably imagines a
new direction may have been given to New England feeling and New England
votes. These measures, and the New England votes in support of them, may
be taken as samples and specimens of all the rest.

In 1820 (observe, Mr. President, in 1820) the people of the West
besought Congress for a reduction in the price of lands. In favor of
that reduction, New England, with a delegation of forty members in the
other house, gave thirty-three votes, and one only against it. The four
Southern States, with more than fifty members, gave thirty-two votes for
it, and seven against it. Again, in 1821, (observe again, Sir, the
time,) the law passed for the relief of the purchasers of the public
lands. This was a measure of vital importance to the West, and more
especially to the Southwest. It authorized the relinquishment of
contracts for lands which had been entered into at high prices, and a
reduction in other cases of not less than thirty-seven and a half per
cent on the purchase-money. Many millions of dollars, six or seven, I
believe, probably much more, were relinquished by this law. On this
bill, New England, with her forty members, gave more affirmative votes
than the four Southern States, with their fifty-two or fifty-three
members. These two are far the most important general measures
respecting the public lands which have been adopted within the last
twenty years. They took place in 1820 and 1821. That is the time _when_.

As to the manner _how_, the gentleman already sees that it was by voting
in solid column for the required relief; and, lastly, as to the cause
_why_, I tell the gentleman it was because the members from New England
thought the measures just and salutary; because they entertained towards
the West neither envy, hatred, nor malice; because they deemed it
becoming them, as just and enlightened public men, to meet the exigency
which had arisen in the West with the appropriate measure of relief;
because they felt it due to their own characters, and the characters of
their New England predecessors in this government, to act towards the
new States in the spirit of a liberal, patronizing, magnanimous policy.
So much, Sir, for the cause _why_; and I hope that by this time, Sir,
the honorable gentleman is satisfied; if not, I do not know _when_, or
_how_, or _why_ he ever will be.

Having recurred to these two important measures, in answer to the
gentleman's inquiries, I must now beg permission to go back to a period
somewhat earlier, for the purpose of still further showing how much, or
rather how little, reason there is for the gentleman's insinuation that
political hopes or fears, or party associations, were the grounds of
these New England votes. And after what has been said, I hope it may be
forgiven me if I allude to some political opinions and votes of my own,
of very little public importance certainly, but which, from the time at
which they were given and expressed, may pass for good witnesses on this

This government, Mr. President, from its origin to the peace of 1815,
had been too much engrossed with various other important concerns to be
able to turn its thoughts inward, and look to the development of its
vast internal resources. In the early part of President Washington's
administration, it was fully occupied with completing its own
organization, providing for the public debt, defending the frontiers,
and maintaining domestic peace. Before the termination of that
administration, the fires of the French Revolution blazed forth, as
from a new-opened volcano, and the whole breadth of the ocean did not
secure us from its effects. The smoke and the cinders reached us, though
not the burning lava. Difficult and agitating questions, embarrassing to
government and dividing public opinion, sprung out of the new state of
our foreign relations, and were succeeded by others, and yet again by
others, equally embarrassing and equally exciting division and discord,
through the long series of twenty years, till they finally issued in the
war with England. Down to the close of that war, no distinct, marked,
and deliberate attention had been given, or could have been given, to
the internal condition of the country, its capacities of improvement, or
the constitutional power of the government in regard to objects
connected with such improvement.

The peace, Mr. President, brought about an entirely new and a most
interesting state of things; it opened to us other prospects and
suggested other duties. We ourselves were changed, and the whole world
was changed. The pacification of Europe, after June, 1815, assumed a
firm and permanent aspect. The nations evidently manifested that they
were disposed for peace. Some agitation of the waves might be expected,
even after the storm had subsided; but the tendency was, strongly and
rapidly, towards settled repose.

It so happened, Sir, that I was at that time a member of Congress, and,
like others, naturally turned my thoughts to the contemplation of the
recently altered condition of the country and of the world. It appeared
plainly enough to me, as well as to wiser and more experienced men, that
the policy of the government would naturally take a start in a new
direction; because new directions would necessarily be given to the
pursuits and occupations of the people. We had pushed our commerce far
and fast, under the advantage of a neutral flag. But there were now no
longer flags, either neutral or belligerent. The harvest of neutrality
had been great, but we had gathered it all. With the peace of Europe, it
was obvious there would spring up in her circle of nations a revived and
invigorated spirit of trade, and a new activity in all the business and
objects of civilized life. Hereafter, our commercial gains were to be
earned only by success in a close and intense competition. Other nations
would produce for themselves, and carry for themselves, and manufacture
for themselves, to the full extent of their abilities. The crops of our
plains would no longer sustain European armies, nor our ships longer
supply those whom war had rendered unable to supply themselves. It was
obvious, that, under these circumstances, the country would begin to
survey itself, and to estimate its own capacity of improvement.

And this improvement,--how was it to be accomplished, and who was to
accomplish it? We were ten or twelve millions of people, spread over
almost half a world. We were more than twenty States, some stretching
along the same seaboard, some along the same line of inland frontier,
and others on opposite banks of the same vast rivers. Two considerations
at once presented themselves with great force, in looking at this state
of things. One was, that that great branch of improvement which
consisted in furnishing new facilities of intercourse necessarily ran
into different States in every leading instance, and would benefit the
citizens of all such States. No one State, therefore, in such cases,
would assume the whole expense, nor was the co-operation of several
States to be expected. Take the instance of the Delaware breakwater. It
will cost several millions of money. Would Pennsylvania alone ever have
constructed it? Certainly never, while this Union lasts, because it is
not for her sole benefit. Would Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware
have united to accomplish it at their joint expense? Certainly not, for
the same reason. It could not be done, therefore, but by the general
government. The same may be said of the large inland undertakings,
except that, in them, government, instead of bearing the whole expense,
co-operates with others who bear a part. The other consideration is,
that the United States have the means. They enjoy the revenues derived
from commerce, and the States have no abundant and easy sources of
public income. The custom-houses fill the general treasury, while the
States have scanty resources, except by resort to heavy direct taxes.

Under this view of things, I thought it necessary to settle, at least
for myself, some definite notions with respect to the powers of the
government in regard to internal affairs. It may not savor too much of
self-commendation to remark, that, with this object, I considered the
Constitution, its judicial construction, its contemporaneous exposition,
and the whole history of the legislation of Congress under it; and I
arrived at the conclusion, that government had power to accomplish
sundry objects, or aid in their accomplishment, which are now commonly
spoken of as INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS. That conclusion, Sir, may have been
right, or it may have been wrong. I am not about to argue the grounds of
it at large. I say only, that it was adopted and acted on even so early
as in 1816. Yes, Mr. President, I made up my opinion, and determined on
my intended course of political conduct, on these subjects, in the
Fourteenth Congress, in 1816. And now, Mr. President, I have further to
say, that I made up these opinions, and entered on this course of
political conduct, _Teucro duce_.[2] Yes, Sir, I pursued in all this a
South Carolina track on the doctrines of internal improvement. South
Carolina, as she was then represented in the other house, set forth in
1816 under a fresh and leading breeze, and I was among the followers.
But if my leader sees new lights and turns a sharp corner, unless I see
new lights also, I keep straight on in the same path. I repeat, that
leading gentlemen from South Carolina were first and foremost in behalf
of the doctrines of internal improvements, when those doctrines came
first to be considered and acted upon in Congress. The debate on the
bank question, on the tariff of 1816, and on the direct tax, will show
who was who, and what was what, at that time.

The tariff of 1816, (one of the plain cases of oppression and
usurpation, from which, if the government does not recede, individual
States may justly secede from the government,) is, Sir, in truth, a
South Carolina tariff, supported by South Carolina votes. But for those
votes, it could not have passed in the form in which it did pass;
whereas, if it had depended on Massachusetts votes, it would have been
lost. Does not the honorable gentleman well know all this? There are
certainly those who do, full well, know it all. I do not say this to
reproach South Carolina. I only state the fact; and I think it will
appear to be true, that among the earliest and boldest advocates of the
tariff, as a measure of protection, and on the express ground of
protection, were leading gentlemen of South Carolina in Congress. I did
not then, and cannot now, understand their language in any other sense.
While this tariff of 1816 was under discussion in the House of
Representatives, an honorable gentleman from Georgia, now of this
house,[3] moved to reduce the proposed duty on cotton. He failed, by
four votes, South Carolina giving three votes (enough to have turned the
scale) against his motion. The act, Sir, then passed, and received on
its passage the support of a majority of the Representatives of South
Carolina present and voting. This act is the first in the order of those
now denounced as plain usurpations. We see it daily in the list, by the
side of those of 1824 and 1828, as a case of manifest oppression,
justifying disunion. I put it home to the honorable member from South
Carolina, that his own State was not only "art and part" in this
measure, but the _causa causans_. Without her aid, this seminal
principle of mischief, this root of Upas, could not have been planted. I
have already said, and it is true, that this act proceeded on the ground
of protection. It interfered directly with existing interests of great
value and amount. It cut up the Calcutta cotton trade by the roots; but
it passed, nevertheless, and it passed on the principle of protecting
manufactures, on the principle against free trade, on the principle
opposed to that _which lets us alone_.

Such, Mr. President, were the opinions of important and leading
gentlemen from South Carolina, on the subject of internal improvement,
in 1816. I went out of Congress the next year, and, returning again in
1823, thought I found South Carolina where I had left her. I really
supposed that all things remained as they were, and that the South
Carolina doctrine of internal improvements would be defended by the same
eloquent voices, and the same strong arms, as formerly. In the lapse of
these six years, it is true, political associations had assumed a new
aspect and new divisions. A strong party had arisen in the South hostile
to the doctrine of internal improvements. Anti-consolidation was the
flag under which this party fought; and its supporters inveighed against
internal improvements, much after the manner in which the honorable
gentleman has now inveighed against them, as part and parcel of the
system of consolidation. Whether this party arose in South Carolina
itself, or in the neighborhood, is more than I know. I think the latter.
However that may have been, there were those found in South Carolina
ready to make war upon it, and who did make intrepid war upon it. Names
being regarded as things in such controversies, they bestowed on the
anti-improvement gentlemen the appellation of Radicals. Yes, Sir, the
appellation of Radicals, as a term of distinction applicable and applied
to those who denied the liberal doctrines of internal improvement,
originated, according to the best of my recollection, somewhere between
North Carolina and Georgia. Well, Sir, these mischievous Radicals were
to be put down, and the strong arm of South Carolina was stretched out
to put them down. About this time I returned to Congress. The battle
with the Radicals had been fought, and our South Carolina champions of
the doctrines of internal improvement had nobly maintained their ground,
and were understood to have achieved a victory. We looked upon them as
conquerors. They had driven back the enemy with discomfiture, a thing,
by the way, Sir, which is not always performed when it is promised. A
gentleman to whom I have already referred in this debate had come into
Congress, during my absence from it, from South Carolina, and had
brought with him a high reputation for ability. He came from a school
with which we had been acquainted, _et noscitur a sociis_. I hold in my
hand, Sir, a printed speech of this distinguished gentleman,[4] "ON
INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS," delivered about the period to which I now refer,
and printed with a few introductory remarks upon _consolidation_; in
which, Sir, I think he quite consolidated the arguments of his
opponents, the Radicals, if to _crush_ be to consolidate. I give you a
short but significant quotation from these remarks. He is speaking of a
pamphlet, then recently published, entitled "Consolidation"; and, having
alluded to the question of renewing the charter of the former Bank of
the United States, he says:--

"Moreover, in the early history of parties, and when Mr. Crawford
advocated a renewal of the old charter, it was considered a Federal
measure; which internal improvement _never was_, as this author
erroneously states. This latter measure originated in the
administration of Mr. Jefferson, with the appropriation for the
Cumberland Road; and was first proposed, _as a system_, by Mr.
Calhoun, and carried through the House of Representatives by a
large majority of the Republicans, including almost every one of
the leading men who carried us through the late war."

So, then, internal improvement is not one of the Federal heresies. One
paragraph more, Sir:--

"The author in question, not content with denouncing as
Federalists, General Jackson, Mr. Adams, Mr. Calhoun, and the
majority of the South Carolina delegation in Congress, modestly
extends the denunciation to Mr. Monroe and the whole Republican
party. Here are his words: 'During the administration of Mr. Monroe
much has passed which the Republican party would be glad to approve
if they could!! But the principal feature, and that which has
chiefly elicited these observations, is the renewal of the SYSTEM
OF INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS.' Now this measure was adopted by a vote
of 115 to 86 of a Republican Congress, and sanctioned by a
Republican President. Who, then, is this author, who assumes the
high prerogative of denouncing, in the name of the Republican
party, the Republican administration of the country? A denunciation
including within its sweep _Calhoun, Lowndes, and Cheves_, men who
will be regarded as the brightest ornaments of South Carolina, and
the strongest pillars of the Republican party, as long as the late
war shall be remembered, and talents and patriotism shall be
regarded as the proper objects of the admiration and gratitude of a
free people!!"

Such are the opinions, Sir, which were maintained by South Carolina
gentlemen, in the House of Representatives, on the subject of internal
improvements, when I took my seat there as a member from Massachusetts
in 1823. But this is not all. We had a bill before us, and passed it in
that house, entitled, "An Act to procure the necessary surveys, plans,
and estimates upon the subject of roads and canals." It authorized the
President to cause surveys and estimates to be made of the routes of
such roads and canals as he might deem of national importance in a
commercial or military point of view, or for the transportation of the
mail, and appropriated thirty thousand dollars out of the treasury to
defray the expense. This act, though preliminary in its nature, covered
the whole ground. It took for granted the complete power of internal
improvement, as far as any of its advocates had ever contended for it.
Having passed the other house, the bill came up to the Senate, and was
here considered and debated in April, 1824. The honorable member from
South Carolina was a member of the Senate at that time. While the bill
was under consideration here, a motion was made to add the following
proviso: "_Provided_, That nothing herein contained shall be construed
to affirm _or admit_ a power in Congress, on their own authority, to
make roads or canals within any of the States of the Union." The yeas
and nays were taken on this proviso, and the honorable member voted _in
the negative_! The proviso failed.

A motion was then made to add this proviso, viz.: "_Provided_, That the
faith of the United States is hereby pledged, that no money shall ever
be expended for roads or canals, except it shall be among the several
States, and in the same proportion as direct taxes are laid and assessed
by the provisions of the Constitution." The honorable member voted
_against this proviso_ also, and it failed. The bill was then put on its
passage, and the honorable member voted _for it_, and it passed, and
became a law.

Now, it strikes me, Sir, that there is no maintaining these votes, but
upon the power of internal improvement, in its broadest sense. In truth,
these bills for surveys and estimates have always been considered as
test questions; they show who is for and who against internal
improvement. This law itself went the whole length, and assumed the full
and complete power. The gentleman's votes sustained that power, in every
form in which the various propositions to amend presented it. He went
for the entire and unrestrained authority, without consulting the
States, and without agreeing to any proportionate distribution. And now
suffer me to remind you, Mr. President, that it is this very same power,
thus sanctioned, in every form, by the gentleman's own opinion, which is
so plain and manifest a usurpation, that the State of South Carolina is
supposed to be justified in refusing submission to any laws carrying the
power into effect. Truly, Sir, is not this a little too hard? May we not
crave some mercy, under favor and protection of the gentleman's own
authority? Admitting that a road, or a canal, must be written down flat
usurpation as was ever committed, may we find no mitigation in our
respect for his place, and his vote, as one that knows the law?

The tariff, which South Carolina had an efficient hand in establishing,
in 1816, and this asserted power of internal improvement, advanced by
her in the same year, and, as we have seen, approved and sanctioned by
her Representatives in 1824,--these two measures are the great grounds
on which she is now thought to be justified in breaking up the Union, if
she sees fit to break it up!

I may now safely say, I think, that we have had the authority of leading
and distinguished gentlemen from South Carolina in support of the
doctrine of internal improvement. I repeat, that, up to 1824, I for one
followed South Carolina; but when that star, in its ascension, veered
off in an unexpected direction, I relied on its light no longer.

Here the Vice-President said, "Does the chair understand the
gentleman from Massachusetts to say that the person now occupying
the chair of the Senate has changed his opinions on the subject of
internal improvements?"

From nothing ever said to me, Sir, have I had reason to know of any
change in the opinions of the person filling the chair of the Senate. If
such change has taken place, I regret it. I speak generally of the State
of South Carolina. Individuals we know there are who hold opinions
favorable to the power. An application for its exercise, in behalf of a
public work in South Carolina itself, is now pending, I believe, in the
other house, presented by members from that State.

I have thus, Sir, perhaps not without some tediousness of detail, shown,
if I am in error on the subject of internal improvement, how, and in
what company, I fell into that error. If I am wrong, it is apparent who
misled me.

I go to other remarks of the honorable member; and I have to complain of
an entire misapprehension of what I said on the subject of the national
debt, though I can hardly perceive how any one could misunderstand me.
What I said was, not that I wished to put off the payment of the debt,
but, on the contrary, that I had always voted for every measure for its
reduction, as uniformly as the gentleman himself. He seems to claim the
exclusive merit of a disposition to reduce the public charge. I do not
allow it to him. As a debt, I was, I am for paying it, because it is a
charge on our finances, and on the industry of the country. But I
observed, that I thought I perceived a morbid fervor on that subject, an
excessive anxiety to pay off the debt, not so much because it is a debt
simply, as because, while it lasts, it furnishes one objection to
disunion. It is, while it continues, a tie of common interest. I did not
impute such motives to the honorable member himself, but that there is
such a feeling in existence I have not a particle of doubt. The most I
said was, that, if one effect of the debt was to strengthen our Union,
that effect itself was not regretted by me, however much others might
regret it. The gentleman has not seen how to reply to this, otherwise
than by supposing me to have advanced the doctrine that a national debt
is a national blessing. Others, I must hope, will find much less
difficulty in understanding me. I distinctly and pointedly cautioned the
honorable member not to understand me as expressing an opinion favorable
to the continuance of the debt. I repeated this caution, and repeated it
more than once; but it was thrown away.

On yet another point, I was still more unaccountably misunderstood. The
gentleman had harangued against "consolidation." I told him, in reply,
that there was one kind of consolidation to which I was attached, and
that was the consolidation of our Union; that this was precisely that
consolidation to which I feared others were not attached, and that such
consolidation was the very end of the Constitution, the leading object,
as they had informed us themselves, which its framers had kept in view.
I turned to their communication,[5] and read their very words, "the
consolidation of the Union," and expressed my devotion to this sort of
consolidation. I said, in terms, that I wished not in the slightest
degree to augment the powers of this government; that my object was to
preserve, not to enlarge; and that by consolidating the Union I
understood no more than the strengthening of the Union, and perpetuating
it. Having been thus explicit, having thus read from the printed book
the precise words which I adopted, as expressing my own sentiments, it
passes comprehension how any man could understand me as contending for
an extension of the powers of the government, or for consolidation in
that odious sense in which it means an accumulation, in the federal
government, of the powers properly belonging to the States.

I repeat, Sir, that, in adopting the sentiment of the framers of the
Constitution, I read their language audibly, and word for word; and I
pointed out the distinction, just as fully as I have now done, between
the consolidation of the Union and that other obnoxious consolidation
which I disclaimed. And yet the honorable member misunderstood me. The
gentleman had said that he wished for no fixed revenue,--not a shilling.
If by a word he could convert the Capitol into gold, he would not do it.
Why all this fear of revenue? Why, Sir, because, as the gentleman told
us, it tends to consolidation. Now this can mean neither more nor less
than that a common revenue is a common interest, and that all common
interests tend to preserve the union of the States. I confess I like
that tendency; if the gentleman dislikes it, he is right in deprecating
a shilling of fixed revenue. So much, Sir, for consolidation.

As well as I recollect the course of his remarks, the honorable
gentleman next recurred to the subject of the tariff. He did not doubt
the word must be of unpleasant sound to me, and proceeded, with an
effort neither new nor attended with new success, to involve me and my
votes in inconsistency and contradiction. I am happy the honorable
gentleman has furnished me an opportunity of a timely remark or two on
that subject. I was glad he approached it, for it is a question I enter
upon without fear from anybody. The strenuous toil of the gentleman has
been to raise an inconsistency between my dissent to the tariff in 1824,
and my vote in 1828. It is labor lost. He pays undeserved compliment to
my speech in 1824; but this is to raise me high, that my fall, as he
would have it, in 1828, may be more signal. Sir, there was no fall.
Between the ground I stood on in 1824 and that I took in 1828, there was
not only no precipice, but no declivity. It was a change of position to
meet new circumstances, but on the same level. A plain tale explains the
whole matter. In 1816 I had not acquiesced in the tariff, then supported
by South Carolina. To some parts of it, especially, I felt and expressed
great repugnance. I held the same opinions in 1820, at the meeting in
Faneuil Hall, to which the gentleman has alluded. I said then, and say
now, that, as an original question, the authority of Congress to
exercise the revenue power, with direct reference to the protection of
manufactures, is a questionable authority, far more questionable, in my
judgment, than the power of internal improvements. I must confess, Sir,
that in one respect some impression has been made on my opinions lately.
Mr. Madison's publication has put the power in a very strong light. He
has placed it, I must acknowledge, upon grounds of construction and
argument which seem impregnable. But even if the power were doubtful, on
the face of the Constitution itself, it had been assumed and asserted in
the first revenue law ever passed under that same Constitution and on
this ground, as a matter settled by contemporaneous practice, I had
refrained from expressing the opinion that the tariff laws transcended
constitutional limits, as the gentleman supposes. What I did say at
Faneuil Hall, as far as I now remember, was, that this was originally
matter of doubtful construction. The gentleman himself, I suppose,
thinks there is no doubt about it, and that the laws are plainly against
the Constitution. Mr. Madison's letters, already referred to, contain,
in my judgment, by far the most able exposition extant of this part of
the Constitution. He has satisfied me, so far as the practice of the
government had left it an open question.

With a great majority of the Representatives of Massachusetts, I voted
against the tariff of 1824. My reasons were then given, and I will not
now repeat them. But, notwithstanding our dissent, the great States of
New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky went for the bill, in almost
unbroken column, and it passed. Congress and the President sanctioned
it, and it became the law of the land. What, then, were we to do? Our
only option was, either to fall in with this settled course of public
policy, and accommodate ourselves to it as well as we could, or to
embrace the South Carolina doctrine, and talk of nullifying the statute
by State interference.

This last alternative did not suit our principles, and of course we
adopted the former. In 1827, the subject came again before Congress, on
a proposition to afford some relief to the branch of wool and woollens.
We looked upon the system of protection as being fixed and settled. The
law of 1824 remained. It had gone into full operation, and, in regard to
some objects intended by it, perhaps most of them, had produced all its
expected effects. No man proposed to repeal it; no man attempted to
renew the general contest on its principle. But, owing to subsequent and
unforeseen occurrences, the benefit intended by it to wool and woollen
fabrics had not been realized. Events not known here when the law passed
had taken place, which defeated its object in that particular respect. A
measure was accordingly brought forward to meet this precise deficiency,
to remedy this particular defect. It was limited to wool and woollens.
Was ever any thing more reasonable? If the policy of the tariff laws had
become established in principle, as the permanent policy of the
government, should they not be revised and amended, and made equal, like
other laws, as exigencies should arise, or justice require? Because we
had doubted about adopting the system, were we to refuse to cure its
manifest defects, after it had been adopted, and when no one attempted
its repeal? And this, Sir, is the inconsistency so much bruited. I had
voted against the tariff of 1824, but it passed; and in 1827 and 1828 I
voted to amend it, in a point essential to the interest of my
constituents. Where is the inconsistency? Could I do otherwise? Sir,
does political consistency consist in always giving negative votes? Does
it require of a public man to refuse to concur in amending laws, because
they passed against his consent? Having voted against the tariff
originally, does consistency demand that I should do all in my power to
maintain an unequal tariff, burdensome to my own constituents in many
respects, favorable in none? To consistency of that sort, I lay no
claim. And there is another sort to which I lay as little, and that is,
a kind of consistency by which persons feel themselves as much bound to
oppose a proposition after it has become a law of the land as before.

The bill of 1827, limited, as I have said, to the single object in which
the tariff of 1824 had manifestly failed in its effect, passed the House
of Representatives, but was lost here. We had then the act of 1828. I
need not recur to the history of a measure so recent. Its enemies spiced
it with whatsoever they thought would render it distasteful; its friends
took it, drugged as it was. Vast amounts of property, many millions, had
been invested in manufactures, under the inducements of the act of 1824.
Events called loudly, as I thought, for further regulation to secure the
degree of protection intended by that act. I was disposed to vote for
such regulation, and desired nothing more; but certainly was not to be
bantered out of my purpose by a threatened augmentation of duty on
molasses, put into the bill for the avowed purpose of making it
obnoxious. The vote may have been right or wrong, wise or unwise; but
it is little less than absurd to allege against it an inconsistency with
opposition to the former law.

Sir, as to the general subject of the tariff, I have little now to say.
Another opportunity may be presented. I remarked the other day, that
this policy did not begin with us in New England; and yet, Sir, New
England is charged with vehemence as being favorable, or charged with
equal vehemence as being unfavorable, to the tariff policy, just as best
suits the time, place, and occasion for making some charge against her.
The credulity of the public has been put to its extreme capacity of
false impression relative to her conduct in this particular. Through all
the South, during the late contest, it was New England policy and a New
England administration that were afflicting the country with a tariff
beyond all endurance; while on the other side of the Alleghanies even
the act of 1828 itself, the very sublimated essence of oppression,
according to Southern opinions, was pronounced to be one of those
blessings for which the West was indebted to the "generous South."

With large investments in manufacturing establishments, and many and
various interests connected with and dependent on them, it is not to be
expected that New England, any more than other portions of the country,
will now consent to any measure destructive or highly dangerous. The
duty of the government, at the present moment, would seem to be to
preserve, not to destroy; to maintain the position which it has assumed;
and, for one, I shall feel it an indispensable obligation to hold it
steady, as far as in my power, to that degree of protection which it has
undertaken to bestow. No more of the tariff.

Professing to be provoked by what he chose to consider a charge made by
me against South Carolina, the honorable member, Mr. President, has
taken up a new crusade against New England. Leaving altogether the
subject of the public lands, in which his success, perhaps, had been
neither distinguished nor satisfactory, and letting go, also, of the
topic of the tariff, he sallied forth in a general assault on the
opinions, politics, and parties of New England, as they have been
exhibited in the last thirty years. This is natural. The "narrow policy"
of the public lands had proved a legal settlement in South Carolina, and
was not to be removed. The "accursed policy" of the tariff, also, had
established the fact of its birth and parentage in the same State. No
wonder, therefore, the gentleman wished to carry the war, as he
expressed it, into the enemy's country. Prudently willing to quit these
subjects, he was, doubtless, desirous of fastening on others, which
could not be transferred south of Mason and Dixon's line. The politics
of New England became his theme; and it was in this part of his speech,
I think, that he menaced me with such sore discomfiture. Discomfiture!
Why, Sir, when he attacks any thing which I maintain, and overthrows it,
when he turns the right or left of any position which I take up, when he
drives me from any ground I choose to occupy, he may then talk of
discomfiture, but not till that distant day. What has he done? Has he
maintained his own charges? Has he proved what he alleged? Has he
sustained himself in his attack on the government, and on the history of
the North, in the matter of the public lands? Has he disproved a fact,
refuted a proposition, weakened an argument, maintained by me? Has he
come within beat of drum of any position of mine? O, no; but he has
"carried the war into the enemy's country"! Carried the war into the
enemy's country! Yes, Sir, and what sort of a war has he made of it?
Why, Sir, he has stretched a drag-net over the whole surface of perished
pamphlets, indiscreet sermons, frothy paragraphs, and fuming popular
addresses,--over whatever the pulpit in its moments of alarm, the press
in its heats, and parties in their extravagance, have severally thrown
off in times of general excitement and violence. He has thus swept
together a mass of such things as, but that they are now old and cold,
the public health would have required him rather to leave in their
state of dispersion. For a good long hour or two, we had the unbroken
pleasure of listening to the honorable member, while he recited with his
usual grace and spirit, and with evident high gusto, speeches,
pamphlets, addresses, and all the _et caeteras_ of the political press,
such as warm heads produce in warm times; and such as it would be
"discomfiture" indeed for any one, whose taste did not delight in that
sort of reading, to be obliged to peruse. This is his war. This it is to
carry war into the enemy's country. It is in an invasion of this sort,
that he flatters himself with the expectation of gaining laurels fit to
adorn a Senator's brow!

Mr. President, I shall not, it will not, I trust, be expected that I
should, either now or at any time, separate this farrago into parts, and
answer and examine its components. I shall barely bestow upon it all a
general remark or two. In the run of forty years, Sir, under this
Constitution, we have experienced sundry successive violent party
contests. Party arose, indeed, with the Constitution itself, and, in
some form or other, has attended it through the greater part of its
history. Whether any other constitution than the old Articles of
Confederation was desirable, was itself a question on which parties
divided; if a new constitution were framed, what powers should be given
to it was another question; and when it had been formed, what was, in
fact, the just extent of the powers actually conferred was a third.
Parties, as we know, existed under the first administration, as
distinctly marked as those which have manifested themselves at any
subsequent period. The contest immediately preceding the political
change in 1801, and that, again, which existed at the commencement of
the late war, are other instances of party excitement, of something more
than usual strength and intensity. In all these conflicts there was, no
doubt, much of violence on both and all sides. It would be impossible,
if one had a fancy for such employment, to adjust the relative _quantum_
of violence between these contending parties. There was enough in each,
as must always be expected in popular governments. With a great deal of
popular and decorous discussion, there was mingled a great deal, also,
of declamation, virulence, crimination, and abuse. In regard to any
party, probably, at one of the leading epochs in the history of parties,
enough may be found to make out another inflamed exhibition, not unlike
that with which the honorable member has edified us. For myself, Sir, I
shall not rake among the rubbish of bygone times, to see what I can
find, or whether I cannot find something by which I can fix a blot on
the escutcheon of any State, any party, or any part of the country.
General Washington's administration was steadily and zealously
maintained, as we all know, by New England. It was violently opposed
elsewhere. We know in what quarter he had the most earnest, constant,
and persevering support, in all his great and leading measures. We know
where his private and personal character was held in the highest degree
of attachment and veneration; and we know, too, where his measures were
opposed, his services slighted, and his character vilified. We know, or
we might know, if we turned to the journals, who expressed respect,
gratitude, and regret, when he retired from the chief magistracy, and
who refused to express either respect, gratitude, or regret. I shall not
open those journals. Publications more abusive or scurrilous never saw
the light, than were sent forth against Washington, and all his leading
measures, from presses south of New England. But I shall not look them
up. I employ no scavengers, no one is in attendance on me, furnishing
such means of retaliation; and if there were, with an ass's load of
them, with a bulk as huge as that which the gentleman himself has
produced, I would not touch one of them. I see enough of the violence of
our own times, to be no way anxious to rescue from forgetfulness the
extravagances of times past.

Besides, what is all this to the present purpose? It has nothing to do
with the public lands, in regard to which the attack was begun; and it
has nothing to do with those sentiments and opinions which, I have
thought, tend to disunion and all of which the honorable member seems to
have adopted himself, and undertaken to defend. New England has, at
times, so argues the gentleman, held opinions as dangerous as those
which he now holds. Suppose this were so; why should _he_ therefore
abuse New England? If he finds himself countenanced by acts of hers, how
is it that, while he relies on these acts, he covers, or seeks to cover,
their authors with reproach? But, Sir, if, in the course of forty years,
there have been undue effervescences of party in New England, has the
same thing happened nowhere else? Party animosity and party outrage, not
in New England, but elsewhere, denounced President Washington, not only
as a Federalist, but as a Tory, a British agent, a man who, in his high
office, sanctioned corruption. But does the honorable member suppose, if
I had a tender here who should put such an effusion of wickedness and
folly into my hand, that I would stand up and read it against the South?
Parties ran into great heats again in 1799 and 1800. What was said, Sir,
or rather what was not said, in those years, against John Adams, one of
the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence, and its
admitted ablest defender on the floor of Congress? If the gentleman
wishes to increase his stores of party abuse and frothy violence, if he
has a determined proclivity to such pursuits, there are treasures of
that sort south of the Potomac, much to his taste, yet untouched. I
shall not touch them.

The parties which divided the country at the commencement of the late
war were violent. But then there was violence on both sides, and
violence in every State. Minorities and majorities were equally violent.
There was no more violence against the war in New England, than in other
States; nor any more appearance of violence, except that, owing to a
dense population, greater facility of assembling, and more presses,
there may have been more in quantity spoken and printed there than in
some other places. In the article of sermons, too, New England is
somewhat more abundant than South Carolina; and for that reason the
chance of finding here and there an exceptionable one may be greater. I
hope, too, there are more good ones. Opposition may have been more
formidable in New England, as it embraced a larger portion of the whole
population; but it was no more unrestrained in principle, or violent in
manner. The minorities dealt quite as harshly with their own State
governments as the majorities dealt with the administration here. There
were presses on both sides, popular meetings on both sides, ay, and
pulpits on both sides also. The gentleman's purveyors have only catered
for him among the productions of one side. I certainly shall not supply
the deficiency by furnishing samples of the other. I leave to him, and
to them, the whole concern.

It is enough for me to say, that if, in any part of this their grateful
occupation, if, in all their researches, they find any thing in the
history of Massachusetts, or New England, or in the proceedings of any
legislative or other public body, disloyal to the Union, speaking
slightingly of its value, proposing to break it up, or recommending
non-intercourse with neighboring States, on account of difference of
political opinion, then, Sir, I give them all up to the honorable
gentleman's unrestrained rebuke; expecting, however, that he will extend
his buffetings in like manner _to all similar proceedings, wherever else

The gentleman, Sir, has spoken at large of former parties, now no longer
in being, by their received appellations, and has undertaken to instruct
us, not only in the knowledge of their principles, but of their
respective pedigrees also. He has ascended to their origin, and run out
their genealogies. With most exemplary modesty, he speaks of the party
to which he professes to have himself belonged, as the true Pure, the
only honest, patriotic party, derived by regular descent, from father to
son, from the time of the virtuous Romans! Spreading before us the
_family tree_ of political parties, he takes especial care to show
himself snugly perched on a popular bough! He is wakeful to the
expediency of adopting such rules of descent as shall bring him in, to
the exclusion of others, as an heir to the inheritance of all public
virtue, and all true political principle. His party and his opinions are
sure to be orthodox; heterodoxy is confined to his opponents. He spoke,
Sir, of the Federalists, and I thought I saw some eyes begin to open and
stare a little, when he ventured on that ground. I expected he would
draw his sketches rather lightly, when he looked on the circle round
him, and especially if he should cast his thoughts to the high places
out of the Senate. Nevertheless, he went back to Rome, _ad annum urbis
conditae_, and found the fathers of the Federalists in the primeval
aristocrats of that renowned city! He traced the flow of Federal blood
down through successive ages and centuries, till he brought it into the
veins of the American Tories, of whom, by the way, there were twenty in
the Carolinas for one in Massachusetts. From the Tories he followed it
to the Federalists; and, as the Federal party was broken up, and there
was no possibility of transmitting it further on this side the Atlantic,
he seems to have discovered that it has gone off collaterally, though
against all the canons of descent, into the Ultras of France, and
finally become extinguished, like exploded gas, among the adherents of
Don Miguel! This, Sir, is an abstract of the gentleman's history of
Federalism. I am not about to controvert it. It is not, at present,
worth the pains of refutation; because, Sir, if at this day any one
feels the sin of Federalism lying heavily on his conscience, he can
easily procure remission. He may even obtain an indulgence, if he be
desirous of repeating the same transgression. It is an affair of no
difficulty to get into this same right line of patriotic descent. A man
now-a-days is at liberty to choose his political parentage. He may elect
his own father. Federalist or not, he may, if he choose, claim to belong
to the favored stock, and his claim will be allowed. He may carry back
his pretensions just as far as the honorable gentleman himself; nay, he
may make himself out the honorable gentleman's cousin, and prove,
satisfactorily, that he is descended from the same political
great-grandfather. All this is allowable. We all know a process, Sir, by
which the whole Essex Junto could, in one hour, be all washed white from
their ancient Federalism, and come out, every one of them, original
Democrats, dyed in the wool! Some of them have actually undergone the
operation, and they say it is quite easy. The only inconvenience it
occasions, as they tell us, is a slight tendency of the blood to the
face, a soft suffusion, which, however, is very transient, since nothing
is said by those whom they join calculated to deepen the red on the
cheek, but a prudent silence is observed in regard to all the past.
Indeed, Sir, some smiles of approbation have been bestowed, and some
crumbs of comfort have fallen, not a thousand miles from the door of the
Hartford Convention itself. And if the author of the Ordinance of 1787
possessed the other requisite qualifications, there is no knowing,
notwithstanding his Federalism, to what heights of favor he might not
yet attain.

Mr. President, in carrying his warfare, such as it is, into New England,
the honorable gentleman all along professes to be acting on the
defensive. He chooses to consider me as having assailed South Carolina,
and insists that he comes forth only as her champion, and in her
defence. Sir, I do not admit that I made any attack whatever on South
Carolina. Nothing like it. The honorable member, in his first speech,
expressed opinions, in regard to revenue and some other topics, which I
heard both with pain and with surprise. I told the gentleman I was aware
that such sentiments were entertained _out_ of the government, but had
not expected to find them advanced in it; that I knew there were persons
in the South who speak of our Union with indifference or doubt, taking
pains to magnify its evils, and to say nothing of its benefits; that
the honorable member himself, I was sure, could never be one of these;
and I regretted the expression of such opinions as he had avowed,
because I thought their obvious tendency was to encourage feelings of
disrespect to the Union, and to impair its strength. This, Sir, is the
sum and substance of all I said on the subject. And this constitutes the
attack which called on the chivalry of the gentleman, in his own
opinion, to harry us with such a foray among the party pamphlets and
party proceedings of Massachusetts! If he means that I spoke with
dissatisfaction or disrespect of the ebullitions of individuals in South
Carolina, it is true. But if he means that I assailed the character of
the State, her honor, or patriotism, that I reflected on her history or
her conduct, he has not the slightest ground for any such assumption. I
did not even refer, I think, in my observations, to any collection of
individuals. I said nothing of the recent conventions. I spoke in the
most guarded and careful manner, and only expressed my regret for the
publication of opinions, which I presumed the honorable member
disapproved as much as myself. In this, it seems, I was mistaken. I do
not remember that the gentleman has disclaimed any sentiment, or any
opinion, of a supposed anti-union tendency, which on all or any of the
recent occasions has been expressed. The whole drift of his speech has
been rather to prove, that, in divers times and manners, sentiments
equally liable to my objection have been avowed in New England. And one
would suppose that his object, in this reference to Massachusetts, was
to find a precedent to justify proceedings in the South, were it not for
the reproach and contumely with which he labors, all along, to load
these his own chosen precedents. By way of defending South Carolina from
what he chooses to think an attack on her, he first quotes the example
of Massachusetts, and then denounces that example in good set terms.
This twofold purpose, not very consistent, one would think, with itself,
was exhibited more than once in the course of his speech. He referred,
for instance, to the Hartford Convention. Did he do this for authority,
or for a topic of reproach? Apparently for both, for he told us that he
should find no fault with the mere fact of holding such a convention,
and considering and discussing such questions as he supposes were then
and there discussed; but what rendered it obnoxious was its being held
at the time, and under the circumstances of the country then existing.
We were in a war, he said, and the country needed all our aid: the hand
of government required to be strengthened, not weakened; and patriotism
should have postponed such proceedings to another day. The thing itself,
then, is a precedent; the time and manner of it only, a subject of

Now, Sir, I go much further, on this point, than the honorable member.
Supposing, as the gentleman seems to do, that the Hartford Convention
assembled for any such purpose as breaking up the Union, because they
thought unconstitutional laws had been passed, or to consult on that
subject, or _to calculate the value of the Union_; supposing this to be
their purpose, or any part of it, then I say the meeting itself was
disloyal, and was obnoxious to censure, whether held in time of peace or
time of war, or under whatever circumstances. The material question is
the _object_. Is dissolution the _object_? If it be, external
circumstances may make it a more or less aggravated case, but cannot
affect the principle. I do not hold, therefore, Sir, that the Hartford
Convention was pardonable, even to the extent of the gentleman's
admission, if its objects were really such as have been imputed to it.
Sir, there never was a time, under any degree of excitement, in which
the Hartford Convention, or any other convention, could have maintained
itself one moment in New England, if assembled for any such purpose as
the gentleman says would have been an allowable purpose. To hold
conventions to decide constitutional law! To try the binding validity of
statutes by votes in a convention! Sir, the Hartford Convention, I
presume, would not desire that the honorable gentleman should be their
defender or advocate, if he puts their case upon such untenable and
extravagant grounds.

Then, Sir, the gentleman has no fault to find with these recently
promulgated South Carolina opinions. And certainly he need have none;
for his own sentiments, as now advanced, and advanced on reflection, as
far as I have been able to comprehend them, go the full length of all
these opinions. I propose, Sir, to say something on these, and to
consider how far they are just and constitutional. Before doing that,
however, let me observe that the eulogium pronounced by the honorable
gentleman on the character of the State of South Carolina, for her
Revolutionary and other merits, meets my hearty concurrence. I shall not
acknowledge that the honorable member goes before me in regard for
whatever of distinguished talent, or distinguished character, South
Carolina has produced. I claim part of the honor, I partake in the
pride, of her great names. I claim them for countrymen, one and all, the
Laurenses, the Rutledges, the Pinckneys, the Sumpters, the Marions,
Americans all, whose fame is no more to be hemmed in by State lines,
than their talents and patriotism were capable of being circumscribed
within the same narrow limits. In their day and generation, they served
and honored the country, and the whole country; and their renown is of
the treasures of the whole country. Him whose honored name the gentleman
himself bears,--does he esteem me less capable of gratitude for his
patriotism, or sympathy for his sufferings, than if his eyes had first
opened upon the light of Massachusetts, instead of South Carolina? Sir,
does he suppose it in his power to exhibit a Carolina name so bright as
to produce envy in my bosom? No, Sir, increased gratification and
delight, rather. I thank God, that, if I am gifted with little of the
spirit which is able to raise mortals to the skies, I have yet none, as
I trust, of that other spirit, which would drag angels down. When I
shall be found, Sir, in my place here in the Senate, or elsewhere, to
sneer at public merit, because it happens to spring up beyond the little
limits of my own State or neighborhood; when I refuse, for any such
cause or for any cause, the homage due to American talent, to elevated
patriotism, to sincere devotion to liberty and the country; or, if I see
an uncommon endowment of Heaven, if I see extraordinary capacity and
virtue, in any son of the South, and if, moved by local prejudice or
gangrened by State jealousy, I get up here to abate the tithe of a hair
from his just character and just fame, may my tongue cleave to the roof
of my mouth!

Sir, let me recur to pleasing recollections; let me indulge in
refreshing remembrance of the past; let me remind you that, in early
times, no States cherished greater harmony, both of principle and
feeling, than Massachusetts and South Carolina. Would to God that
harmony might again return. Shoulder to shoulder they went through the
Revolution, hand in hand they stood round the administration of
Washington, and felt his own great arm lean on them for support. Unkind
feeling, if it exist, alienation, and distrust are the growth, unnatural
to such soils, of false principles since sown. They are weeds, the seeds
of which that same great arm never scattered.

Mr. President, I shall enter on no encomium upon Massachusetts; she
needs none. There she is. Behold her, and judge for yourselves. There is
her history; the world knows it by heart. The past, at least, is secure.
There is Boston, and Concord, and Lexington, and Bunker Hill; and there
they will remain for ever. The bones of her sons, falling in the great
struggle for Independence, now lie mingled with the soil of every State
from New England to Georgia; and there they will lie for ever. And, Sir,
where American Liberty raised its first voice, and where its youth was
nurtured and sustained, there it still lives, in the strength of its
manhood and full of its original spirit. If discord and disunion shall
wound it, if party strife and blind ambition shall hawk at and tear it,
if folly and madness, if uneasiness under salutary and necessary
restraint, shall succeed in separating it from that Union, by which
alone its existence is made sure, it will stand, in the end, by the side
of that cradle in which its infancy was rocked; it will stretch forth
its arm with whatever of vigor it may still retain over the friends who
gather round it; and it will fall at last, if fall it must, amidst the
proudest monuments of its own glory, and on the very spot of its origin.

There yet remains to be performed, Mr. President, by far the most grave
and important duty, which I feel to be devolved on me by this occasion.
It is to state, and to defend, what I conceive to be the true principles
of the Constitution under which we are here assembled. I might well have
desired that so weighty a task should have fallen into other and abler
hands. I could have wished that it should have been executed by those
whose character and experience give weight and influence to their
opinions, such as cannot possibly belong to mine. But, Sir, I have met
the occasion, not sought it; and I shall proceed to state my own
sentiments, without challenging for them any particular regard, with
studied plainness, and as much precision as possible.

I understand the honorable gentleman from South Carolina to maintain,
that it is a right of the State legislatures to interfere, whenever, in
their judgment, this government transcends its constitutional limits,
and to arrest the operation of its laws.

I understand him to maintain this right, as a right existing _under_ the
Constitution, not as a right to overthrow it on the ground of extreme
necessity, such as would justify violent revolution.

I understand him to maintain an authority, on the part of the States,
thus to interfere, for the purpose of correcting the exercise of power
by the general government, of checking it, and of compelling it to
conform to their opinion of the extent of its powers.

I understand him to maintain, that the ultimate power of judging of the
constitutional extent of its own authority is not lodged exclusively in
the general government, or any branch of it; but that, on the contrary,
the States may lawfully decide for themselves, and each State for
itself, whether, in a given case, the act of the general government
transcends its power.

I understand him to insist, that, if the exigency of the case, in the
opinion of any State government, require it, such State government may,
by its own sovereign authority, annul an act of the general government
which it deems plainly and palpably unconstitutional.

This is the sum of what I understand from him to be the South Carolina
doctrine, and the doctrine which he maintains. I propose to consider it,
and compare it with the Constitution. Allow me to say, as a preliminary
remark, that I call this the South Carolina doctrine only because the
gentleman himself has so denominated it. I do not feel at liberty to say
that South Carolina, as a State, has ever advanced these sentiments. I
hope she has not, and never may. That a great majority of her people are
opposed to the tariff laws, is doubtless true. That a majority, somewhat
less than that just mentioned, conscientiously believe these laws
unconstitutional, may probably also be true. But that any majority holds
to the right of direct State interference at State discretion, the right
of nullifying acts of Congress by acts of State legislation, is more
than I know, and what I shall be slow to believe.

That there are individuals besides the honorable gentleman who do
maintain these opinions, is quite certain. I recollect the recent
expression of a sentiment, which circumstances attending its utterance
and publication justify us in supposing was not unpremeditated. "The
sovereignty of the State,--never to be controlled, construed, or decided
on, but by her own feelings of honorable justice."

Mr. Hayne here rose and said, that, for the purpose of being
clearly understood he would state that his proposition was in the
words of the Virginia resolution, as follows:--

"That this assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that
it views the powers of the federal government as resulting from the
compact to which the States are parties, as limited by the plain
sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact, as
no farther valid than they are authorized by the grants enumerated
in that compact; and that, in case of a deliberate, palpable, and
dangerous exercise of other powers not granted by the said compact,
the States who are parties thereto have the right, and are in duty
bound, to interpose, for arresting the progress of the evil, and
for maintaining within their respective limits the authorities,
rights, and liberties appertaining to them."

Mr. Webster

I am quite aware, Mr. President, of the existence of the resolution
which the gentleman read, and has now repeated, and that he relies on it
as his authority. I know the source, too, from which it is understood to
have proceeded. I need not say that I have much respect for the
constitutional opinions of Mr. Madison; they would weigh greatly with me
always. But before the authority of his opinion be vouched for the
gentleman's proposition, it will be proper to consider what is the fair
interpretation of that resolution, to which Mr. Madison is understood to
have given his sanction. As the gentleman construes it, it is an
authority for him. Possibly he may not have adopted the right
construction. That resolution declares, that, _in the case of the
dangerous exercise of powers not granted by the general government, the
States may interpose to arrest the progress of the evil_. But how
interpose, and what does this declaration purport? Does it mean no more
than that there may be extreme cases, in which the people, in any mode
of assembling, may resist usurpation, and relieve themselves from a
tyrannical government? No one will deny this. Such resistance is not
only acknowledged to be just in America, but in England also Blackstone
admits as much, in the theory, and practice, too, of the English
constitution. We, Sir, who oppose the Carolina doctrine, do not deny
that the people may, if they choose, throw off any government when it
becomes oppressive and intolerable, and erect a better in its stead. We
all know that civil institutions are established for the public benefit,
and that when they cease to answer the ends of their existence they may
be changed. But I do not understand the doctrine now contended for to be
that, which, for the sake of distinction, we may call the right of
revolution. I understand the gentleman to maintain, that, without
revolution, without civil commotion, without rebellion, a remedy for
supposed abuse and transgression of the powers of the general government
lies in a direct appeal to the interference of the State governments.

Mr. Hayne here rose and said: He did not contend for the mere right
of revolution, but for the right of constitutional resistance. What
he maintained was, that in case of a plain, palpable violation of
the Constitution by the general government, a State may interpose;
and that this interposition is constitutional.

Mr. Webster

So, Sir, I understood the gentleman, and am happy to find that I did not
misunderstand him. What he contends for is, that it is constitutional to
interrupt the administration of the Constitution itself, in the hands of
those who are chosen and sworn to administer it, by the direct
interference, in form of law, of the States, in virtue of their
sovereign capacity. The inherent right in the people to reform their
government I do not deny; and they have another right, and that is, to
resist unconstitutional laws, without overturning the government. It is
no doctrine of mine that unconstitutional laws bind the people. The
great question is, Whose prerogative is it to decide on the
constitutionality or unconstitutionality of the laws? On that, the main
debate hinges. The proposition, that, in case of a supposed violation of
the Constitution by Congress, the States have a constitutional right to
interfere and annul the law of Congress, is the proposition of the
gentleman. I do not admit it. If the gentleman had intended no more than
to assert the right of revolution for justifiable cause, he would have
said only what all agree to. But I cannot conceive that there can be a
middle course, between submission to the laws, when regularly pronounced
constitutional, on the one hand, and open resistance, which is
revolution or rebellion, on the other. I say, the right of a State to
annul a law of Congress cannot be maintained, but on the ground of the
inalienable right of man to resist oppression; that is to say, upon the
ground of revolution. I admit that there is an ultimate violent remedy,
above the Constitution and in defiance of the Constitution, which may be
resorted to when a revolution is to be justified. But I do not admit,
that, under the Constitution and in conformity with it, there is any
mode in which a State government, as a member of the Union, can
interfere and stop the progress of the general government, by force of
her own laws, under any circumstances whatever.

This leads us to inquire into the origin of this government and the
source of its power. Whose agent is it? Is it the creature of the State
legislatures, or the creature of the people? If the government of the
United States be the agent of the State governments, then they may
control it, provided they can agree in the manner of controlling it; if
it be the agent of the people, then the people alone can control it,
restrain it, modify, or reform it. It is observable enough, that the
doctrine for which the honorable gentleman contends leads him to the
necessity of maintaining, not only that this general government is the
creature of the States, but that it is the creature of each of the
States severally, so that each may assert the power for itself of
determining whether it acts within the limits of its authority. It is
the servant of four-and-twenty masters, of different wills and different
purposes, and yet bound to obey all. This absurdity (for it seems no
less) arises from a misconception as to the origin of this government
and its true character. It is, Sir, the people's Constitution, the
people's government, made for the people, made by the people, and
answerable to the people. The people of the United States have declared
that this Constitution shall be the supreme law. We must either admit
the proposition, or dispute their authority. The States are,
unquestionably, sovereign, so far as their sovereignty is not affected
by this supreme law. But the State legislatures, as political bodies,
however sovereign, are yet not sovereign over the people. So far as the
people have given power to the general government, so far the grant is
unquestionably good, and the government holds of the people, and not of
the State governments. We are all agents of the same supreme power, the
people. The general government and the State governments derive their
authority from the same source. Neither can, in relation to the other,
be called primary, though one is definite and restricted, and the other
general and residuary. The national government possesses those powers
which it can be shown the people have conferred on it, and no more. All
the rest belongs to the State governments, or to the people themselves.
So far as the people have restrained State sovereignty, by the
expression of their will, in the Constitution of the United States, so
far, it must be admitted, State sovereignty is effectually controlled. I
do not contend that it is, or ought to be, controlled farther. The
sentiment to which I have referred propounds that State sovereignty is
only to be controlled by its own "feeling of justice"; that is to say,
it is not to be controlled at all, for one who is to follow his own
feelings is under no legal control. Now, however men may think this
ought to be, the fact is, that the people of the United States have
chosen to impose control on State sovereignties. There are those,
doubtless, who wish they had been left without restraint; but the
Constitution has ordered the matter differently. To make war, for
instance, is an exercise of sovereignty; but the Constitution declares
that no State shall make war. To coin money is another exercise of
sovereign power; but no State is at liberty to coin money. Again, the
Constitution says that no sovereign State shall be so sovereign as to
make a treaty. These prohibitions, it must be confessed, are a control
on the State sovereignty of South Carolina, as well as of the other
States, which does not arise "from her own feelings of honorable
justice." The opinion referred to, therefore, is in defiance of the
plainest provisions of the Constitution.

There are other proceedings of public bodies which have already been
alluded to, and to which I refer again for the purpose of ascertaining
more fully what is the length and breadth of that doctrine, denominated
the Carolina doctrine, which the honorable member has now stood up on
this floor to maintain. In one of them I find it resolved, that "the
tariff of 1828, and every other tariff designed to promote one branch of
industry at the expense of others, is contrary to the meaning and
intention of the federal compact; and such a dangerous, palpable, and
deliberate usurpation of power, by a determined majority, wielding the
general government beyond the limits of its delegated powers, as calls
upon the States which compose the suffering minority, in their sovereign
capacity, to exercise the powers which, as sovereigns, necessarily
devolve upon them, when their compact is violated."

Observe, Sir, that this resolution holds the tariff of 1828, and every
other tariff designed to promote one branch of industry at the expense
of another, to be such a dangerous, palpable, and deliberate usurpation
of power, as calls upon the States, in their sovereign capacity, to
interfere by their own authority. This denunciation, Mr. President, you
will please to observe, includes our old tariff of 1816, as well as all
others; because that was established to promote the interest of the
manufacturers of cotton, to the manifest and admitted injury of the
Calcutta cotton trade. Observe, again, that all the qualifications are
here rehearsed and charged upon the tariff, which are necessary to bring
the case within the gentleman's proposition. The tariff is a usurpation;
it is a dangerous usurpation; it is a palpable usurpation; it is a
deliberate usurpation. It is such a usurpation, therefore, as calls upon
the States to exercise their right of interference. Here is a case,
then, within the gentleman's principles, and all his qualifications of
his principles. It is a case for action. The Constitution is plainly,
dangerously, palpably, and deliberately violated; and the States must
interpose their own authority to arrest the law. Let us suppose the
State of South Carolina to express this same opinion, by the voice of
her legislature. That would be very imposing; but what then? Is the
voice of one State conclusive? It so happens that, at the very moment
when South Carolina resolves that the tariff laws are unconstitutional,
Pennsylvania and Kentucky resolve exactly the reverse. _They_ hold those
laws to be both highly proper and strictly constitutional. And now, Sir,
how does the honorable member propose to deal with this case? How does
he relieve us from this difficulty, upon any principle of his? His
construction gets us into it; how does he propose to get us out?

In Carolina, the tariff is a palpable, deliberate usurpation; Carolina,
therefore, may nullify it, and refuse to pay the duties. In
Pennsylvania, it is both clearly constitutional and highly expedient;
and there the duties are to be paid. And yet we live under a government
of uniform laws, and under a Constitution too, which contains an express
provision, as it happens, that all duties shall be equal in all the
States. Does not this approach absurdity?

If there be no power to settle such questions, independent of either of
the States, is not the whole Union a rope of sand? Are we not thrown
back again, precisely, upon the old Confederation?

It is too plain to be argued. Four-and-twenty interpreters of
constitutional law, each with a power to decide for itself, and none
with authority to bind anybody else, and this constitutional law the
only bond of their union! What is such a state of things but a mere
connection during pleasure, or, to use the phraseology of the times,
_during feeling_? And that feeling, too, not the feeling of the people,
who established the Constitution, but the feeling of the State

In another of the South Carolina addresses, having premised that the
crisis requires "all the concentrated energy of passion," an attitude of
open resistance to the laws of the Union is advised. Open resistance to
the laws, then, is the constitutional remedy, the conservative power of
the State, which the South Carolina doctrines teach for the redress of
political evils, real or imaginary. And its authors further say, that,
appealing with confidence to the Constitution itself, to justify their
opinions, they cannot consent to try their accuracy by the courts of
justice. In one sense, indeed, Sir, this is assuming an attitude of open
resistance in favor of liberty. But what sort of liberty? The liberty of
establishing their own opinions, in defiance of the opinions of all
others; the liberty of judging and of deciding exclusively themselves,
in a matter in which others have as much right to judge and decide as
they; the liberty of placing their own opinions above the judgment of
all others, above the laws, and above the Constitution. This is their
liberty, and this is the fair result of the proposition contended for by
the honorable gentleman. Or, it may be more properly said, it is
identical with it, rather than a result from it.

In the same publication we find the following: "Previously to our
Revolution, when the arm of oppression was stretched over New England,
where did our Northern brethren meet with a braver sympathy than that
which sprung from the bosoms of Carolinians? We had no extortion, no
oppression, no collision with the king's ministers, no navigation
interests springing up, in envious rivalry of England."

This seems extraordinary language. South Carolina no collision with the
king's ministers in 1775! No extortion! No oppression! But, Sir, it is
also most significant language. Does any man doubt the purpose for which
it was penned? Can anyone fail to see that it was designed to raise in
the reader's mind the question, whether, _at this time_,--that is to
say, in 1828,--South Carolina has any collision with the king's
ministers, any oppression, or extortion, to fear from England? whether,
in short, England is not as naturally the friend of South Carolina as
New England, with her navigation interests springing up in envious
rivalry of England?

Is it not strange, Sir, that an intelligent man in South Carolina, in
1828, should thus labor to prove that, in 1775, there was no hostility,
no cause of war, between South Carolina and England? That she had no
occasion, in reference to her own interest, or from a regard to her own
welfare, to take up arms in the Revolutionary contest? Can any one
account for the expression of such strange sentiments, and their
circulation through the State, otherwise than by supposing the object to
be what I have already intimated, to raise the question, if they had no
"_collision_" (mark the expression) with the ministers of King George
the Third, in 1775, what _collision_ have they, in 1828, with the
ministers of King George the Fourth? What is there now, in the existing
state of things, to separate Carolina from _Old_, more, or rather, than
from _New_ England?

Resolutions, Sir, have been recently passed by the legislature of South
Carolina. I need not refer to them; they go no farther than the
honorable gentleman himself has gone, and I hope not so far. I content
myself, therefore, with debating the matter with him.

And now, Sir, what I have first to say on this subject is, that at no
time, and under no circumstances, has New England, or any State in New
England, or any respectable body of persons in New England, or any
public man of standing in New England, put forth such a doctrine as this
Carolina doctrine.

The gentleman has found no case, he can find none, to support his own
opinions by New England authority. New England has studied the
Constitution in other schools, and under other teachers. She looks upon
it with other regards, and deems more highly and reverently both of its
just authority and its utility and excellence. The history of her
legislative proceedings may be traced. The ephemeral effusions of
temporary bodies, called together by the excitement of the occasion, may
be hunted up; they have been hunted up. The opinions and votes of her
public men, in and out of Congress, may be explored. It will all be in
vain. The Carolina doctrine can derive from her neither countenance nor
support. She rejects it now; she always did reject it; and till she
loses her senses, she always will reject it. The honorable member has
referred to expressions on the subject of the embargo law, made in this
place, by an honorable and venerable gentleman,[6] now favoring us with
his presence. He quotes that distinguished Senator as saying, that, in
his judgment, the embargo law was unconstitutional, and that therefore,
in his opinion, the people were not bound to obey it. That, Sir, is
perfectly constitutional language. An unconstitutional law is not
binding; _but then it does not rest with a resolution or a law of a
State legislature to decide whether an act of Congress be or be not
constitutional_. An unconstitutional act of Congress would not bind the
people of this District, although they have no legislature to interfere
in their behalf; and, on the other hand, a constitutional law of
Congress does bind the citizens of every State, although all their
legislatures should undertake to annul it by act or resolution. The
venerable Connecticut Senator is a constitutional lawyer, of sound
principles and enlarged knowledge; a statesman practised and
experienced, bred in the company of Washington, and holding just views
upon the nature of our governments. He believed the embargo
unconstitutional, and so did others; but what then? Who did he suppose
was to decide that question? The State legislatures? Certainly not. No
such sentiment ever escaped his lips.

Let us follow up, Sir, this New England opposition to the embargo laws;
let us trace it, till we discern the principle which controlled and
governed New England throughout the whole course of that opposition. We
shall then see what similarity there is between the New England school
of constitutional opinions, and this modern Carolina school. The
gentleman, I think, read a petition from some single individual
addressed to the legislature of Massachusetts, asserting the Carolina
doctrine; that is, the right of State interference to arrest the laws of
the Union. The fate of that petition shows the sentiment of the
legislature. It met no favor. The opinions of Massachusetts were very
different. They had been expressed in 1798, in answer to the resolutions
of Virginia, and she did not depart from them, nor bend them to the
times. Misgoverned, wronged, oppressed, as she felt herself to be, she
still held fast her integrity to the Union. The gentleman may find in
her proceedings much evidence of dissatisfaction with the measures of
government, and great and deep dislike to the embargo; all this makes
the case so much the stronger for her; for, notwithstanding all this
dissatisfaction and dislike, she still claimed no right to sever the
bonds of the Union. There was heat, and there was anger in her political
feeling. Be it so; but neither her heat nor her anger betrayed her into
infidelity to the government. The gentleman labors to prove that she
disliked the embargo as much as South Carolina dislikes the tariff, and
expressed her dislike as strongly. Be it so; but did she propose the
Carolina remedy? did she threaten to interfere, by State authority, to
annul the laws of the Union? That is the question for the gentleman's

No doubt, Sir, a great majority of the people of New England
conscientiously believed the embargo law of 1807 unconstitutional; as
conscientiously, certainly, as the people of South Carolina hold that
opinion of the tariff. They reasoned thus: Congress has power to
regulate commerce; but here is a law, they said, stopping all commerce,
and stopping it indefinitely. The law is perpetual; that is, it is not
limited in point of time, and must of course continue until it shall be
repealed by some other law. It is as perpetual, therefore, as the law
against treason or murder. Now, is this regulating commerce, or
destroying it? Is it guiding, controlling, giving the rule to commerce,
as a subsisting thing or is it putting an end to it altogether? Nothing
is more certain, than that a majority in New England deemed this law a
violation of the Constitution. The very case required by the gentleman
to justify State interference had then arisen. Massachusetts believed
this law to be "a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of a
power not granted by the Constitution." Deliberate it was, for it was
long continued; palpable she thought it, as no words in the Constitution
gave the power, and only a construction, in her opinion most violent,
raised it; dangerous it was, since it threatened utter ruin to her most
important interests. Here, then, was a Carolina case. How did
Massachusetts deal with it? It was, as she thought, a plain, manifest,
palpable violation of the Constitution, and it brought ruin to her
doors. Thousands of families, and hundreds of thousands of individuals,
were beggared by it. While she saw and felt all this, she saw and felt
also, that, as a measure of national policy, it was perfectly futile;
that the country was no way benefited by that which caused so much
individual distress; that it was efficient only for the production of
evil, and all that evil inflicted on ourselves. In such a case, under
such circumstances, how did Massachusetts demean herself? Sir, she
remonstrated, she memorialized, she addressed herself to the general
government, not exactly "with the concentrated energy of passion," but
with her own strong sense, and the energy of sober conviction. But she
did not interpose the arm of her own power to arrest the law, and break
the embargo. Far from it. Her principles bound her to two things; and
she followed her principles, lead where they might. First, to submit to
every constitutional law of Congress, and secondly, if the
constitutional validity of the law be doubted, to refer that question to
the decision of the proper tribunals. The first principle is vain and
ineffectual without the second. A majority of us in New England believed
the embargo law unconstitutional; but the great question was, and always
will be in such cases, Who is to decide this? Who is to judge between
the people and the government? And, Sir, it is quite plain, that the
Constitution of the United States confers on the government itself, to
be exercised by its appropriate department, and under its own
responsibility to the people, this power of deciding ultimately and
conclusively upon the just extent of its own authority. If this had not
been done, we should not have advanced a single step beyond the old

Being fully of opinion that the embargo law was unconstitutional, the
people of New England were yet equally clear in the opinion, (it was a
matter they did doubt upon,) that the question, after all, must be
decided by the judicial tribunals of the United States. Before those
tribunals, therefore, they brought the question. Under the provisions of
the law, they had given bonds to millions in amount, and which were
alleged to be forfeited. They suffered the bonds to be sued, and thus
raised the question. In the old-fashioned way of settling disputes, they
went to law. The case came to hearing and solemn argument; and he who
espoused their cause, and stood up for them against the validity of the
embargo act, was none other than that great man, of whom the gentleman
has made honorable mention, Samuel Dexter. He was then, Sir, in the
fulness of his knowledge, and the maturity of his strength. He had
retired from long and distinguished public service here, to the renewed
pursuit of professional duties, carrying with him all that enlargement
and expansion, all the new strength and force, which an acquaintance
with the more general subjects discussed in the national councils is
capable of adding to professional attainment, in a mind of true
greatness and comprehension. He was a lawyer, and he was also a
statesman. He had studied the Constitution, when he filled public
station, that he might defend it; he had examined its principles that he
might maintain them. More than all men, or at least as much as any man,
he was attached to the general government and to the union of the
States. His feelings and opinions all ran in that direction. A question
of constitutional law, too, was, of all subjects, that one which was
best suited to his talents and learning. Aloof from technicality, and
unfettered by artificial rule, such a question gave opportunity for that
deep and clear analysis, that mighty grasp of principle, which so much
distinguished his higher efforts. His very statement was argument; his
inference seemed demonstration. The earnestness of his own conviction
wrought conviction in others. One was convinced, and believed, and
assented, because it was gratifying, delightful, to think, and feel, and
believe, in unison with an intellect of such evident superiority.

Mr. Dexter, Sir, such as I have described him, argued the New England
cause. He put into his effort his whole heart, as well as all the powers
of his understanding; for he had avowed, in the most public manner, his
entire concurrence with his neighbors on the point in dispute. He argued
the cause; it was lost, and New England submitted. The established
tribunals pronounced the law constitutional, and New England acquiesced.
Now, Sir, is not this the exact opposite of the doctrine of the
gentleman from South Carolina? According to him, instead of referring to
the judicial tribunals, we should have broken up the embargo by laws of
our own; we should have repealed it, _quoad_ New England; for we had a
strong, palpable, and oppressive case. Sir, we believed the embargo
unconstitutional; but still that was matter of opinion, and who was to
decide it? We thought it a clear case; but, nevertheless, we did not
take the law into our own hands, because we did not wish to bring about
a revolution, nor to break up the Union; for 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 condition,
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
respectively 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 any more
than in 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 maintain
it? I was forcibly struck, Sir, with one reflection, as the gentleman
went on in his speech. He quoted Mr. Madison's resolutions, 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 inherent futility, I had
almost used a stronger word, of conceding this power of interference to
the State, and then attempting to secure it from abuse 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

Let me here say, Sir, that if the gentleman's doctrine had been received
and acted upon in New England, in the times of the embargo and
non-intercourse, we should probably not now have been here. The
government would very likely have gone to pieces, and crumbled into
dust. No stronger case can ever arise than existed under those laws; no
States can ever entertain a clearer conviction than the New England
States then entertained; and if they had been under the influence of
that heresy of opinion, as I must call it, which the honorable member
espouses, this Union would, in all probability, have been scattered to
the four winds. I ask the gentleman, therefore, to apply his principles
to that case; I ask him to come forth and declare, whether, in his
opinion, the New England States would have been justified in interfering
to break up the embargo system under the conscientious opinions which
they held upon it? Had they a right to annul that law? Does he admit or
deny? If what is thought palpably unconstitutional in South Carolina
justifies that State in arresting the progress of the law, tell me
whether that which was thought palpably unconstitutional also in
Massachusetts would have justified her in doing the same thing. Sir, I
deny the whole doctrine. It has not a foot of ground in the Constitution
to stand on. No public man of reputation ever advanced it in
Massachusetts in the warmest times, or could maintain himself upon it
there at any time.

I wish now, Sir, to make a remark upon the Virginia resolutions of 1798.
I cannot undertake to say how these resolutions were understood by those
who passed them. Their language is not a little indefinite. In the case
of the exercise by Congress of a dangerous power not granted to them,
the resolutions assert the right, on the part of the State, to interfere
and arrest the progress of the evil. This is susceptible of more than
one interpretation. It may mean no more than that the States may
interfere by complaint and remonstrance, or by proposing to the people
an alteration of the Federal Constitution. This would all be quite
unobjectionable. Or it may be that no more is meant than to assert the
general right of revolution, as against all governments, in cases of
intolerable oppression. This no one doubts, and this, in my opinion, is
all that he who framed the resolutions could have meant by it; for I
shall not readily believe that he was ever of opinion that a State,
under the Constitution and in conformity with it, could, upon the ground
of her own opinion of its unconstitutionality, however clear and
palpable she might think the case, annul a law of Congress, so far as it
should operate on herself by her own legislative power.

I must now beg to ask, Sir, Whence is this supposed right of the States
derived? Where do they find the power to interfere with the laws of the
Union? Sir, the opinion which the honorable gentleman maintains is a
notion founded in a total misapprehension, in my judgment, of the origin
of this government, and of the foundation on which it stands. I hold it
to be a popular government, erected by the people; those who administer
it, responsible to the people; and itself capable of being amended and
modified, just as the people may choose it should be. It is as popular,
just as truly emanating from the people, as the State governments. It is
created for one purpose; the State governments for another. It has its
own powers; they have theirs. There is no more authority with them to
arrest the operation of a law of Congress, than with Congress to arrest
the operation of their laws. We are here to administer a Constitution
emanating immediately from the people, and trusted by them to our
administration. It is not the creature of the State governments. It is
of no moment to the argument, that certain acts of the State
legislatures are necessary to fill our seats in this body. That is not
one of their original State powers, a part of the sovereignty of the
State. It is a duty which the people, by the Constitution itself, have
imposed on the State legislatures; and which they might have left to be
performed elsewhere, if they had seen fit. So they have left the choice
of President with electors; but all this does not affect the proposition
that this whole government, President, Senate, and House of
Representatives, is a popular government. It leaves it still all its
popular character. The governor of a State (in some of the States) is
chosen, not directly by the people, but by those who are chosen by the
people, for the purpose of performing, among other duties, that of
electing a governor. Is the government of the State, on that account,
not a popular government? This government, Sir, is the independent
offspring of the popular will. It is not the creature of State
legislatures; nay, more, if the whole truth must be told, the people
brought it into existence, established it, and have hitherto supported
it, for the very purpose, amongst others, of imposing certain salutary
restraints on State sovereignties. The States cannot now make war; they
cannot contract alliances; they cannot make, each for itself, separate
regulations of commerce; they cannot lay imposts; they cannot coin
money. If this Constitution, Sir, be the creature of State legislatures,
it must be admitted that it has obtained a strange control over the
volitions of its creators.

The people, then, Sir, erected this government. They gave it a
Constitution, and in that Constitution they have enumerated the powers
which they bestow on it. They have made it a limited government. They
have defined its authority. They have restrained it to the exercise of
such powers as are granted; and all others, they declare, are reserved
to the States or the people. But, Sir, they have not stopped here. If
they had, they would have accomplished but half their work. No
definition can be so clear, as to avoid possibility of doubt; no
limitation so precise as to exclude all uncertainty. Who, then, shall
construe this grant of the people? Who shall interpret their will, where
it may be supposed they have left it doubtful? With whom do they repose
this ultimate right of deciding on the powers of the government? Sir,
they have settled all this in the fullest manner. They have left it with
the government itself, in its appropriate branches. Sir, the very chief
end, the main design, for which the whole Constitution was framed and
adopted, was to establish a government that should not be obliged to act
through State agency, or depend on State opinion and State discretion.
The people had had quite enough of that kind of government under the
Confederation. Under that system, the legal action, the application of
law to individuals, belonged exclusively to the States. Congress could
only recommend; their acts were not of binding force, till the States
had adopted and sanctioned them. Are we in that condition still? Are we
yet at the mercy of State discretion and State construction? Sir, if we
are, then vain will be our attempt to maintain the Constitution under
which we sit.

But, Sir, the people have wisely provided, in the Constitution itself, a
proper, suitable mode and tribunal for settling questions of
constitutional law. There are in the Constitution grants of powers to
Congress, and restrictions on these powers. There are, also,
prohibitions on the States. Some authority must, therefore, necessarily
exist, having the ultimate jurisdiction to fix and ascertain the
interpretation of these grants, restrictions, and prohibitions. The
Constitution has itself pointed out, ordained, and established that
authority. How has it accomplished this great and essential end? By
declaring, Sir, that "_the Constitution, and the laws of the United
States made in pursuance thereof, shall be the supreme law of the land,
any thing in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary

This, Sir, was the first great step. By this the supremacy of the
Constitution and laws of the United States is declared. The people so
will it. No State law is to be valid which comes in conflict with the
Constitution, or any law of the United States passed in pursuance of it.
But who shall decide this question of interference? To whom lies the
last appeal? This, Sir, the Constitution itself decides also, by
declaring, "_that the judicial power shall extend to all cases arising
under the Constitution and laws of the United States_." These two
provisions cover the whole ground. They are, in truth, the keystone of
the arch! With these it is a government; without them it is a
confederation. In pursuance of these clear and express provisions,
Congress established, at its very first session, in the judicial act, a
mode for carrying them into full effect, and for bringing all questions
of constitutional power to the final decision of the Supreme Court. It
then, Sir, became a government. It then had the means of
self-protection; and but for this, it would, in all probability, have
been now among things which are past. Having constituted the government,
and declared its powers, the people have further said, that, since
somebody must decide on the extent of these powers, the government shall
itself decide; subject, always, like other popular governments, to its
responsibility to the people. And now, Sir, I repeat, how is it that a
State legislature acquires any power to interfere? Who, or what, gives
them the right to say to the people, "We, who are your agents and
servants for one purpose, will undertake to decide, that your other
agents and servants, appointed by you for another purpose, have
transcended the authority you gave them!" The reply would be, I think,
not impertinent, "Who made you a judge over another's servants? To their
own masters they stand or fall."

Sir, I deny this power of State legislatures altogether. It cannot stand
the test of examination. Gentlemen may say, that, in an extreme case, a
State government might protect the people from intolerable oppression.
Sir, in such a case, the people might protect themselves, without the
aid of the State governments. Such a case warrants revolution. It must
make, when it comes, a law for itself. A nullifying act of a State
legislature cannot alter the case, nor make resistance any more lawful.
In maintaining these sentiments, Sir, I am but asserting the rights of
the people. I state what they have declared, and insist on their right
to declare it. They have chosen to repose this power in the general
government, and I think it my duty to support it, like other
constitutional powers.

For myself, Sir, I do not admit the competency of South Carolina, or any
other State, to prescribe my constitutional duty; or to settle, between
me and the people, the validity of laws of Congress for which I have
voted. I decline her umpirage. I have not sworn to support the
Constitution according to her construction of its clauses. I have not
stipulated, by my oath of office or otherwise, to come under any
responsibility, except to the people, and those whom they have appointed
to pass upon the question, whether laws, supported by my votes, conform
to the Constitution of the country. And, Sir, if we look to the general
nature of the case, could any thing have been more preposterous, than to
make a government for the whole Union, and yet leave its powers subject,
not to one interpretation, but to thirteen or twenty-four
interpretations? Instead of one tribunal, established by all,
responsible to all, with power to decide for all, shall constitutional
questions be left to four-and-twenty popular bodies, each at liberty to
decide for itself, and none bound to respect the decisions of
others,--and each at liberty, too, to give a new construction on every
new election of its own members? Would any thing, with such a principle
in it, or rather with such a destitution of all principle, be fit to be
called a government? No, Sir. It should not be denominated a
Constitution. It should be called, rather, a collection of topics for
everlasting controversy; heads of debate for a disputatious people. It
would not be a government. It would not be adequate to any practical
good, or fit for any country to live under.

To avoid all possibility of being misunderstood, allow me to repeat
again, in the fullest manner, that I claim no powers for the government
by forced or unfair construction. I admit that it is a government of
strictly limited powers; of enumerated, specified, and particularized
powers; and that whatsoever is not granted, is withheld. But
notwithstanding all this, and however the grant of powers may be
expressed, its limit and extent may yet, in some cases, admit of doubt;
and the general government would be good for nothing, it would be
incapable of long existing, if some mode had not been provided in which
those doubts, as they should arise, might be peaceably, but
authoritatively, solved.

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, and I wish to be informed _how_ this State
interference is to be put in practice, without violence, bloodshed, and
rebellion. 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
repeal 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 honorable member
himself commands the militia of that part of the State. He will raise
the NULLIFYING ACT on his standard, and spread it out as his banner! It
will have a preamble, setting forth that the tariff laws are palpable,
deliberate, and dangerous violations of the Constitution! He will
proceed, with this banner flying, to the custom-house 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 not, probably, 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 come

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 Constitution, 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 lawyer 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 law_!" 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 may all 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 business, this dying without touching the
ground! After all, that is a sort of hemp tax worse than any part of the

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.

Direct collision, therefore, between force and force, is the unavoidable
result of that remedy for the revision of unconstitutional laws which
the gentleman contends for. It must happen in the very first case to
which it is applied. Is not this the plain result? To resist by force
the execution of a law, generally, is treason. Can the courts of the
United States take notice of the indulgence of a State to commit
treason? The common saying, that a State cannot commit treason herself,
is nothing to the purpose. Can she authorize others to do it? If John
Fries had produced an act of Pennsylvania, annulling the law of
Congress, would it have helped his case? Talk about it as we will, these
doctrines go the length of revolution. They are incompatible with any
peaceable administration of the government. They lead directly to
disunion and civil commotion; and therefore it is, that at their
commencement, when they are first found to be maintained by respectable
men, and in a tangible form, I enter my public protest against them all.

The honorable gentleman argues, that, if this government be the sole
judge of the extent of its own powers, whether that right of judging be
in Congress or the Supreme Court, it equally subverts State
sovereignty. This the gentleman sees, or thinks he sees, although he
cannot perceive how the right of judging, in this matter, if left to the
exercise of State legislatures, has any tendency to subvert the
government of the Union. The gentleman's opinion may be, that the right
_ought not_ to have been lodged with the general government; he may like
better such a constitution as we should have under the right of State
interference; but I ask him to meet me on the plain matter of fact. I
ask him to meet me on the Constitution itself. I ask him if the power is
not found there, clearly and visibly found there?

But, Sir, what is this danger, and what are the grounds of it? Let it be
remembered, that the Constitution of the United States is not
unalterable. It is to continue in its present form no longer than the
people who established it shall choose to continue it. If they shall
become convinced that they have made an injudicious or inexpedient
partition and distribution of power between the State governments and
the general government, they can alter that distribution at will.

If any thing be found in the national Constitution, either by original
provision or subsequent interpretation, which ought not to be in it, the
people know how to get rid of it. If any construction, unacceptable to
them, be established, so as to become practically a part of the
Constitution, they will amend it, at their own sovereign pleasure. But
while the people choose to maintain it as it is, while they are
satisfied with it, and refuse to change it, who has given, or who can
give, to the State legislatures a right to alter it, either by
interference, construction, or otherwise? Gentlemen do not seem to
recollect that the people have any power to do any thing for themselves.
They imagine there is no safety for them, any longer than they are under
the close guardianship of the State legislatures. Sir, the people have
not trusted their safety, in regard to the general Constitution, to
these hands. They have required other security, and taken other bonds.
They have chosen to trust themselves, first, to the plain words of the
instrument, and to such construction as the government themselves, in
doubtful cases, should put on their own powers, under their oaths of
office, and subject to their responsibility to them; just as the people
of a State trust their own State governments with a similar power.
Secondly, they have reposed their trust in the efficacy of frequent
elections, and in their own power to remove their own servants and
agents whenever they see cause. Thirdly, they have reposed trust in the
judicial power, which, in order that it might be trustworthy, they have
made as respectable, as disinterested, and as independent as was
practicable. Fourthly, they have seen fit to rely, in case of necessity,
or high expediency, on their known and admitted power to alter or amend
the Constitution, peaceably and quietly, whenever experience shall point
out defects or imperfections. And, finally, the people of the United
States have at no time, in no way, directly or indirectly, authorized
any State legislature to construe or interpret _their_ high instrument
of government; much less, to interfere, by their own power, to arrest
its course and operation.

If, Sir, the people in these respects had done otherwise than they have
done, their Constitution could neither have been preserved, nor would it
have been worth preserving. And if its plain provisions shall now be
disregarded, and these new doctrines interpolated in it, it will become
as feeble and helpless a being as its enemies, whether early or more
recent, could possibly desire. It will exist in every State but as a
poor dependent on State permission. It must borrow leave to be; and will
be, no longer than State pleasure, or State discretion, sees fit to
grant the indulgence, and to prolong its poor existence.

But, Sir, although there are fears, there are hopes also. The people
have preserved this, their own chosen Constitution, for forty years, and
have seen their happiness, prosperity, and renown grow with its growth,
and strengthen with its strength. They are now, generally, strongly
attached to it. Overthrown by direct assault, it cannot be; evaded,
undermined, NULLIFIED, it will not be, if we and those who shall succeed
us here, as agents and representatives of the people, shall
conscientiously and vigilantly discharge the two great branches of our
public trust, faithfully to preserve, and wisely to administer it.

Mr. President, 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 previous 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 my 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 sprang 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; nor 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 may be best preserved, but
how tolerable might be the condition of the people when it should be
broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting,


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