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they come. They are paid by the United States, not by the State; nor are they accountable to it for any act done in the performance of their legislative functions, and however they may, in practice, as it is their duty to do, consult and prefer the interests of their particular constituents, when they come in conflict with any other partial or local interest, yet it is the first and highest duty of a Representative of the United States to promote the general good.
The Constitution of the United States, then, forms a government, not a league; and whether it be formed by compact between the States, or in any other manner, its character is the same. It is a government in which all the people are represented, which operates directly on the people individually, not upon the States; they retained all the power they did not grant. But each State having expressly parted with so many powers, as to constitute jointly with the other States a single nation, can not, from that period, possess any right to secede, because such secession does not break a league, but destroys the unity of a nation; and any injury to that unity is not only a breach, which would result from the contravention of a compact, but it is an offense against the whole Union. To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union, is to say that the United States are not a nation; because it would be a solecism to contend, that any part of a nation might dissolve its connection with the other parts, to their injury or ruin, without committing any offense. Secession, like any other revolutionary act, may be morally justified by the extremity of oppression; but to call it a constitutional right is confounding the meaning of the terms; and can only be done through gross error, or to deceive those who are willing to assert a right, but would pause before they made a revolution, or incur the penalties consequent on a failure.
Because the Union was formed by compact, it is said the parties to that compact may, when they feel therselves aggrieved, depart from it; but it is precisely because it is a compact that they can not. A compact is an agreement or binding obligation. It may, by its terms, have a sanction or penalty for its breach, or it may not. If it contains no sanction, it may be broken, with no other consequences than moral guilt, if it have a sanction, then the breach incurs the designated or implied penalty. A league between independent nations generally has no sanction other than a moral ope; or, if it should contain a penalty, as there is no common superior, it can not be enforced. A government, on the contrary, always has a sanction, express or implied; and, in our case, it is both nocessarily implied and expressly given. An attempt, by force of arms, to destroy a government, is an offense, by whatever means the constitutional compact may have been formed; and such government has the right, by the law of self-defense, to pass acts for punishing the offender, unless that right is modified, restrained, or resumed by the constitutional act. In our system, although it is modified in the case of treason, yet authority is expressly given to pass all laws necessary to carry its powers into effect; and, under this grant, provision has beeen made for pun. ishing acts which obstruct the due administration of the laws.
It would seem superfluous to add any thing to show the nature of that Union which connects us; but as erroneous opinions on this subject are the foundation of doctrines the most destructive to our peace, I must give further development to my views on this subject. No one, fellowcitizens, has a higher reverence for the reserved rights of the States than the magistrate who now addresses you; no one would make greater personal sacrifices or official exertion to defend them from violation; but equal care must be taken to prevent, on their part, an improper interference with, or resumption of, the rights they have vested in the nation. The line has not been so distinctly drawn as to avoid doubts, in some cases, of the exercise of power. Men of the best intentions and soundest views may differ in their construction of some parts of the Constitution; but there are others on which dispassionate reflection can leave no doubt. Of this nature appears to be the assumed right of secession. It rests, as we have seen, on the alleged undivided sovereignty of the States, and on their
having formed, in this sovereign capacity, a compact, which is called the Constitution, from which, because they made it, they have the right to secede. Both of these positions are erroneous, and some of the arguments to prove them so have been anticipated.
The States severally have not retained their entire sov. ereignty. It has been shown that, in becoming parts of a nation, not members of a league, they surrendered many of their essential parts of sovereignty. The right to make treaties, declare war, levy taxes, exercise exclusive judicial and legislative powers, were, all of them, functions of sov. ereigo power.
The States, then, for all these purposes, were no longer sovereign. The allegiance of their citi zens was transferred, in the first instance, to the Govern. ment of the United States; they became American citizens, and owed obedience to the Constitution of the United States, and to laws made in conformity with the powers it vested in Congress. This last position has not been, and can not be, denied. How, then, can that State be said to be sovereign and independent whose citizens owe obedience to laws not made by it, and whose magistrates are sworn to disregard those laws when they come in conflict with those passed by another? What shows conclusively that the States can not be said to have reserved an undivided sovereignty is, that they expressly ceded the right to punish treason-not treason against their separate power, but treason against the United States. Treason is an offense against sovereignty, and sovereignty must reside with the power to punish it. But the reserved rights of the States are not less sacred because they have, for their common interest, made the General Government the depository of
The unity of our political character (as has been shown for another purpose) commenced with its very existence. Under the royal government we had no separate character; our opposition to its oppressions began as united colonies. We were the United States, under the Confederation, and the name was perpetuated, and the Union rendered more perfect by the Federal Constitution. In none of these stages did we consider ourselves in any other light than as form
ing one nation. Treaties and alliances were made in the name of all.
Troops were raised for the joint defense. How, then, with all these proofs, that, under all changes of our position, we had, for designated purposes, and with defined powers, created national governments; how is it that the most perfect of those several modes of union should now be considered as a mere league, that may be dissolved at pleasure ?
It is from an abuse of terms. “Compact" is used as synonymous with “league," although the true term is not employed, because it would at once show the fallacy of the reasoning. It would not do to say that our Constitution was only a league; but it is labored to prove it a compact (which in one sense it is), and then to argue that, as a league is a compact, every compact between nations must, of course, be a league, and that from such an engagement every sovereign power has a right to recede. But it has been shown that, in this sense, the States are not sovereign, and that even if they were, and the national Constitution had been formed by compact, there would be no right in any one State to exonerate itself from its obligations.
So obvious are the reasons which forbid this secession, that it is necessary only to allude to them. The Union was formed for the benefit of all. It was produced by mutual sacrifices of interests and opinions. Can those sacrifices be recalled? Can the States, who magnanimously surrender their title to the territories in the West, recall the grant? Will the inhabitants of the inland States agree to pay the duties that may be imposed, without their assent, by those on the Atlantic or the Gulf for their own benefit? Shall there be a free port in one State, and onerous duties in another? No one believes that any right exists, in a single State, to involve the others in these and countless other evils contrary to the engagements solemnly made. Every one must see that the other States, in selfdefense, must oppose it, at all hazards.
These are the alternatives that are presented by the convention: A repeal of all the acts for raising revenue, leaving the Government without the means of support, or en acquiescence in the dissolution of our Union by the secession of one of its members. When the first was proposed, it was known that it could not be listened to for a moment. It was known, if force was applied to oppose the execution of the laws, that it must be repelled by force; that Congress could not, without involving itself in disgrace and the country in ruin, accede to the propo. sition; and yet, if this is not done on a given day, or if any attempt is made to execute the laws, the State is, by the ordinance, declared to be out of the Union. The majority of a convention, assembled for the purpose, have dictated these terms, or rather this rejection of all terms, in the name of the people of South Carolina. It is true that the Governor of the State speaks of the submission of their grievances to a convention of all the States, which, he says, they “sincerely and anxiously seek and desire.' Yet this obvious and constitutional mode of obtaining the sense of the other States, or the construction of the Fedral compact, and amending it if necessary, has never been attempted by those who have urged the State on to this destructive measure. The State might have proposed to call for a general convention of the other States; and Congress, if a sufficient number of them concurred, must have called it. But the first magistrate of South Carolina, when he expressed a hope that, on a review by Congress and the functionaries of the General Government of the merits of the controversy," such a convention will be accorded to them, must have known that neither Congress, nor any functionary of the General Government, has authority to call such a convention, unless it be demanded by two-thirds of the States. This suggestion, then, is another instance of the reckless inattention to the provisions of the Constitution with which this crisis has been madly hurried on; or of the attempt to persuade the people that a constitutional remedy has been sought and refused. If the Legislature of South Carolina “anxio