Page images
PDF
EPUB

ful arbitration of the point in issue, by the decision of a Convention, composed of all the parties to the compact, or take the inevitable alternative of a dissolution of the Union, which would result either from the victory or defeat of the General Government; the first making it by the force of its triumph, either a government of unlimited powers, or a sanguinary despotism-the last by robbing it of all authority and respect. Do not these consequences inevitably show the beneficence and harmony of our political system-that for the legitimate ends of the compact, the government is omnipotent, and absolutely powerless for the purpose of coercive usurpation? If this, then, be the true theory of our confederacy, have we not attained the desideratum which rendered fruitless the leagues of antiquity-by establishing a confederate form of Government, whose actions would be paralized precisely where its just powers should end?

Here we are willing to close the argument, and would terminate all that we have to say on the topics which it has suggested, if a few incidental considerations, which Mr. Webster has himself thrown out, did not require from us a brief notice.

With much triumph and in a tone of obvious self-gratulation, he affirms: "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."

Before we join issue with Mr. Webster, let us ascertain what is the full scope and meaning of the "Carolina doctrine." It is that the tariff, taxing the industry of one portion of the Union, for the purpose of raising bounties to protect the industry of another portion, is an usurpation, and that as a sovereign state, she has a right to make void, in her sovereign capacity, the collection of such a tax within her limits, by arming her courts and juries with the requisite power. These doctrines have no further extent than this. Now, we will cite for that gentleman's especial consideration, the authority of one, before whose gigantic intellect, the blossoms of Mr. Webster's rhetoric would have "exbaled into thin air." The late Chief Justice Parsons, (then Mr. Parsons) a delegate from Newburyport, in the Convention of Massachusetts, held for the adoption of the Federal Constitution, after discussing several of the provisions of the new Constitution, in the masterly manner with which he invaVOL. V. NO. 11.

25

riably treated every subject which came under his investigation, said, "the honourable gentleman from Boston, has stated at large, most of the checks the people have against usurpation and the abuse of power, under the proposed Constitution; but, from the abundance of his matter, he has, in my opinion, omitted two or three, which I shall mention. The oath, the several legislative, executive and judicial officers of the several States, take to support the Federal Constitution, is as effectual a security against the usurpation of the General Government, as it is against the encroachments of the State Governments. For an increase of the powers by usurpation, is as clearly a violation of the Federal Constitution, as a diminution of these powers, by private encroachment-and that oath obliges the officers of the several States, as vigorously to oppose the one as the other. But there is another check, founded in the nature of the Union, superior to all the parchment checks that can be invented. If there should be an usurpation, it will not be upon the farmer and merchant, employed and attentive only to their several occupations, it will be upon thirteen legislatures, completely organized, possessed of the confidence of the people, and having the means as well as inclination, successfully to oppose it. Under these circumstances, none but madmen would attempt an usurpation. But, sir, the people themselves, have it in their power effectually to resist usurpation, without being driven to an appeal to arms. An act of usurpation is not obligatory, it is not law, and any man may be justified in his resistance. Let him be considered as a criminal by the General Government, yet only his own fellow-citizens can convict him; they are his jury, and if they pronounce him innocent, not all the powers of Congress can hurt him; and innocent they certainly will find him, if the supposed law he resisted, was an act of usurpation."

We shall leave this extract with no other comment than this-Judge Parsons goes far enough for us-and we may fairly submit, whether this eminent jurist, has not gone to the extent of "putting forth (something very like) such a doctrine as this Carolina doctrine.'' To meet the case he makes, do we not maintain that, according to the public sense of South-Carolina, the tariff is an "usurpation!" Has she not so declared it in all the authentic forms by which her public opinions can be expressed, through the highest of her constituted authorities? Is it any answer to this, to say, that the tariff is not a violation of the express words of the compact. The violations of a written Constitution are never perpetrated by flagrant and manifest infractions of its text; they will always be insinuated through the more subtle forms

of implication and construction-a process of usurpation, far inore alarming and dangerous to the integrity of the original

contract.

"But," says Mr. Webster, "did Massachusetts propose the Carolina remedy during the embargo-did she threaten to interfere by State interference, and by State authority to annul the laws of the Union?" This was scarcely necessary when the embargo laws were nullified by the force of public opinion, and when not a conviction, we believe, could have been obtained, in cases of their violation, in her courts. To have nullified under such circumstances, would not only have been an act of supererogation, but an act of folly in incurring useless hazards. But did not Massachusetts declare an act of Congress, passed "in pursuance of the Constitution," placing her militia, by requisition of the President, under the command of the officers of the United States army, null? And did she not make this nullification good, by keeping these troops in the field, under the command of her own officers? Did she not, moreover, declare the embargo laws void, as it respected her coasting trade? It is well known that during the continuance of these laws, Massachusetts had just as much trade as could escape the small naval force the government had upon her coast, which force, in fact, furnished scarcely any means of preventing the illicit intercourse which she carried on with the enemy, with an unblushing boldness, which neither sought concealment or feared reproach. That at this period, and at a more exigent one, (during the war) the abstract principle was maintained by her public men and by her constituted authorities, that unconstitutional laws were, ipso facto, void, and that a State had a right to declare them so, are points too notorious to be denied, from the facts we have just stated. If she did not put her veto, in toto, on the embargo and non-intercouse acts, it was because these laws, as far as she was concerned, were repealed by her own measures within her limits. From her coterminous territory, she carried on a lucrative trade with the enemy, and she was so far at peace with him as to make no effort to recover a part even of her own soil, which he had, in violation of the spirit of concord subsisting between them, ungenerously filched away. To have nullified the war, would have been a bootless effort, for it was nullified, as far as Massachusetts was concerned, within her limits. Nullification would not have compelled the other States to make peace.

We are quite sure, our readers will pardon us, for not running this parallel out. We seek no justification of the course which South-Carolina now pursues in the conduct which Mas

sachusetts may have adopted when an enemy was thundering on our coasts, firing our towns, and dipping their hands in the blood of our citizens. No-if we can find no other authority for our doctrines, we are content to regard ours as a new case. Mr. Webster may keep his precedents with his versions of the federal compact for Massachusetts, whenever her hour may come again. We want none of them, whilst at the same time, we cannot refrain from pitying the obliquity of that man who can perceive no difference in the attitude of a State declaring her right of resistance to a violation of a compact to which she is a sovereign party, in a particular, vital to her interests, in a period of profound peace, propitious not only to the consideration of her complaints, but to rendering her perfect justice, and the position of a State, during a war levied mainly for the protection of her own rights and interests, who palsies the arm of its common country and nerves the hand of its common enemy. The Hartford Convention may have been "the most august and enlightened assembly" that ever convened, and, if we mistake not, Mr. Webster assisted at its democratic absolution at Salem; if we are in error in this particular, we are quite sure a distinguished jurisconsult of the Supreme Court did. We have no reproaches to make against this body-we know that there were many virtuous and enlightened persons in that assembly, all that we have to remark is, that if we were disposed "to void our rheum" upon its grave, we could say nothing half so bitter, so contumelious, so reproachful as the cold and sardonic cut which Mr. Webster gives to his allies in this Convention; when in the hour of their utmost need he refused even to close the eyes of "the good Darius." The "collects of Abbeville and Colleton" read us no such precepts or furnish us no such examples of the firmness and fidelity of friendshipnor will they, of the moral fitness of holding such assemblies at such a period as marked with a dark shadow the assembly of this memorable convention. When the people of the South hold a convention, no hostile thunder, no hostile step will be heard upon our shores, our banners will wave in the calm sunshine of peace, and when we demand justice at the hands of our oppressors, those hands will not be employed in repelling the invaders of our soil.

Mr. Webster has been pleased to save us an infinity of trouble, by drawing out, for the State of South-Carolin, all the details of nullification. He has sketched these incidents with the miniteness with which the plan of a campaign would have been adjusted in the etat major of Berthier, or Gesnean. The diagram is invested, above all, with "the pomp and circumstance

pith and

of glorious war"-and that nothing might be wanting to its solemnity, he has hung up, as a scarecrow, in the very 66 moment" of the battle, the effigy of John Fries on the gallows, as quite a fitting admonition, to tell us of "the sort of hemp tax, worse than any part of the tariff," we shall pay if we dare to resist the unconstitutional legislation of the unlimited government of which he is the Ajax Telamon. Whenever SouthCarolina nullifies, she will not take her projet from Mr. Webster's draft. With great soberness we might ask Mr. Webster whether he is so badly read in the history of his own country as not to know, that to the rebellion in which Fries figured with so luckless a distinction, the State of Pennsylvania as a State was no party, that it was a mere domestic and tumultuous insurrection of some of her citizens acting under the cover of no law of hers, against an indisputably constitutional law of the Union, and that to put down this insurrection, she sent her own quota of militia into the field? Do we understand Mr. Webster to say, that a citizen acting under a law of his own State, passed in her sovereign capacity, ratified by her courts of justice, if taken in arms for defending her under this law, can be punished for treason against the United States? We know not in what book of international law he has found, that a sovereign State can commit treason or rebellion, or that her citizens, acting under her sovereign will, can commit treason in defending her? He will probably answer, that according to the Constitution, "treason against the United States, consists in levying war against them"-but, how, if the United States levy war first? Do the rights of nature or our allegiance to the Supreme Court require, that we should be shot down like unresisting bullocks in the field, until our "much approved good masters" have expended for our benefit just as much powder and lead as may suit either their humanity or the state of their military chest? Mr. Webster may hang this scarecrow, if he will, wherever the supremacy of the General Government is acknowledged, but we are much mistaken, if it is calculated to produce alarm in those quarters for whose especial amendment and reformation it may have been designed.

We have not considered it necessary to notice Mr. Webster's closing rejoinder to Mr. Hayne, because beyond his seizing on a mere quibble by imputing to his opponent the concession, "that the General Government was a party to the compact," it contains no ground which he did not previously occupy. That the whole debate is creditable to the talents and eloquence of both gentlemen, the most prejudiced political enemy of either will not deny. If we have not more frequently referred to Mr.

« PreviousContinue »