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Should they be able to maintain in their full vigor their reserved rights, liberty and prosperity will be their portion; but if they yield, and permit the stronger interest to consolidate within itself all the powers of the Government, then will its fate be more wretched than that of the aborigines whom they have expelled, or of their slaves. In this great struggle between the delegated and reserved powers, so far from repining that his lot and that of those whom he represented is cast on the side of the latter, he rejoiced that such is the fact; for, though we participate in but few of the advantages of the Government, we are compensated, and more than compensated, in not being so much exposed to its corruption. Nor did he repine that the duty, so difficult to be discharged, as the defence of the reserved powers against, apparently, such fearful odds, had been assigned to them. To discharge successfully this high duty requires the highest qualities, moral and intellectual; and, should you perform it with a zeal and ability in proportion to its magnitude, instead of being mere planters, our section will become distinguished for its patriots and statesmen. But, on the other hand, if we prove unworthy of this high destiny, if we yield to the steady encroachment of power, the severest and most debasing calamity and corruption will overspread the land. Every Southern man, true to the interests of his section, and faithful to the duties which Providence has allotted him, will be forever excluded from the honors and emoluments of this Government, which will be reserved for those only who have qualified themselves, by political prostitution, for admission into the Magdalen Asylum."
Senator Webster denied the derivation of nullification and secession from the Constitution. He said:
"The Constitution does not provide for events which must be preceded by its own destruction. Secession, therefore, since it must bring these consequences with it, is revolutionary. And nullification is equally revolutionary. What is revolution? Why, sir, that is revolution which overturns, or controls, or successfully resists the existing public authority; that which arrests the exercise of the supreme power; that which introduces a new paramount authority into the rule of the State. Now, sir, this is the precise object of nullification. It attempts to supersede the supreme legislative authority. It arrests the arm of the executive magistrate. It interrupts the exercise of the accustomed judicial power. Under the name of an ordi
nance it declares null and void, within the State, all the revenue laws of the United States. Is not this revolutionary? Sir, so soon as this ordinance shall be carried into effect a revolution will have commenced in South Carolina. She will have thrown off the authority to which her citizens have, heretofore, been subject. She will have declared her own opinions and her own will to be above the laws, and above the power of those who are intrusted with their administration. If she makes good these declarations she is revolutionized. As to her, it is as distinctly a change of the supreme power as the American Revolution of 1776. That revolution did not subvert government in all its forms. It did not subvert local laws and municipal administrations. It only threw off the dominion of a power claiming to be superior, and to have a right, in many important respects, to exercise legislative authority. Thinking this authority to have been usurped or abused, the American colonies, now the United States, bade it defiance, and freed themselves from it by means of a revolution. But that revolution left them with their own municipal laws still, and the forms of local government. If Carolina now shall effectually resist the laws of Congress-if she shall be her own judge, take her remedy into her own hands, obey the laws of the Union when she pleases, and disobey them when she pleases-she will relieve herself from a paramount power as distinctly as did the American colonies in 1776. In other words, she will achieve, as to herself, a revolution.
"But, sir, while practical nullification in South Carolina would be, as to herself, actual and distinct revolution, its necessary tendency must also be to spread revolution, and to break up the Constitution as to all the other States. It strikes a deadly blow at the vital principle of the whole Union. To allow State resistance to the laws of Congress to be rightful and proper, to admit nullification in some States and yet not expect to see a dismemberment of the entire Government, appears to me the wildest illusion and the most extravagant folly. The gentleman seems not conscious of the direction or the rapidity of his own course. The current of his opinions sweeps him along, he knows not whither. To begin with nullification, with the avowed intent, nevertheless, not to proceed to secession, dismemberment, and general revolution, is as if one were to take the plunge of Niagara, and cry out that he would stop half-way down. In the one case, as in the other, the rash adventurer must go to the bottom of the dark abyss below, were it not that that abyss has no discovered bottom.
"Nullification, if successful, arrests the power of the law, absolves citizens from their duty, subverts the foundation both of protection and obedience, dispenses with oaths and obligations of allegiance, and elevates another authority to supreme command. Is not this revolution? And it raises to supreme command four-and-twenty distinct powers, each professing to be under a general government, and yet each setting its laws at defiance at pleasure. Is not this anarchy, as well as revolution? Sir, the Constitution of the United States was received as a whole, and for the whole country. If it cannot stand altogether it cannot stand in parts; and if the laws cannot be executed everywhere they cannot long be executed anywhere. The gentleman very well knows that all duties and imposts must be uniform throughout the country. He knows that we cannot have one rule or one law for South Carolina, and another for other States. He must see, therefore, and does see-every man seesthat the only alternative is a repeal of the laws throughout the whole Union, or their execution in Carolina as well as elsewhere. And this repeal is demanded because a single State interposes her veto and threatens resistance! The result of the gentleman's opinions, or, rather, the very text of his doctrine, is, that no act of Congress can bind all the States, the constitutionality of which is not admitted by all; or, in other words, that no single State is bound, against its own dissent, by a law of imposts. This was precisely the evil experienced under the old Confederation, and for remedy of which this Constitution was adopted. The articles of confederation, as to purposes of revenue and finance, were nearly a dead letter. The country sought to escape from this condition, at once feeble and disgraceful, by constituting a Government which should have power of itself to lay duties and taxes, and to pay the public debt, and provide for the general welfare; and to lay these duties and taxes in all the States without asking the consent of the State governments. This was the very power on which the new Constitution was to depend for all its ability to do good; and, without it, it can be no Government, now or at any time. Yet, sir, it is precisely against this power, so absolutely indispensable to the very being of the Government, that South Carolina directs her ordinance. She attacks the Government in its authority to raise revenue, the very mainspring of the whole system; and, if she succeed, every movement of that system must inevitably cease. It is of no avail that she declares that she does not resist the law as a revenue law, but as a law for protecting manufactures. It is a revenue law; it is the very law by force of which the revenue is
collected; if it be arrested in any State the revenue ceases in that State; it is, in a word, the sole reliance of the Government for the means of maintaining itself and performing its duties."
Senator Webster condensed into four brief and pointed propositions his opinion of the nature of our Federal Government, as being a union in contradistinction to a league, and as acting upon individuals in contradistinction to States, and as being, in these features, discriminated from the old Confederation.
"1. That the Constitution of the United States is not a league, confederacy, or compact, between the people of the several States in their sovereign capacities; but a government proper, founded on the adoption of the people, and creating direct relations between itself and individuals.
"2. That no State authority has power to dissolve these relations; that nothing can dissolve them but revolution; and that, consequently, there can be no such thing as secession without revolution.
"3. That there is a supreme law, consisting of the Constitution of the United States, acts of Congress passed in pursuance of it, and treaties; and that, in cases not capable of assuming the character of a suit in law or equity, Congress must judge of, and finally interpret, this supreme law, so often as it has occasion to pass acts of legislation; and, in cases capable of assuming, and actually assuming, the character of a suit, the Supreme Court of the United States is the final interpreter.
"4. That an attempt by a State to abrogate, annul, or nullify an act of Congress, or to arrest its operation within her limits on the ground that, in her opinion, such law is unconstitutional, is a direct usurpation on the just powers of the general Government, and on the equal rights of other States; a plain violation of the Constitution, and a proceeding essentially revolutionary in its character and tendency."
Senator Webster concluded thus:
"Sir, the world will scarcely believe that this whole controversy, and all the desperate measures which its support requires, have no other foundation than a difference of opinion upon a provision of the Constitution between a majority of the people of South Carolina, on one side, and a vast majority of the whole people of the United States on the other. It will not credit
the fact, it will not admit the possibility, that, in an enlightened age, in a free, popular republic, under a government where the people govern, as they must always govern, under such systems, by majorities, at a time of unprecedented happiness, without practical oppression, without evils, such as may not only be pretended, but felt and experienced; evils not slight or temporary, but deep, permanent, and intolerable; a single State should rush into conflict with all the rest, attempt to put down the power of the Union by her own laws, and to support those laws by her military power, and thus break up and destroy the world's last hope. And well the world may be incredulous. We, who hear and see it, can ourselves hardly yet believe it. Even after all that had preceded it, this ordinance struck the country with amazement. It was incredible and inconceivable that South Carolina should thus plunge headlong into resistance to the laws, on a matter of opinion, and on a question in which the preponderance of opinion, both of the present day and of all past time, was so overwhelmingly against her. The ordinance declares that Congress has exceeded its just power by laying duties on imports, intended for the protection of manufactures. This is the opinion of South Carolina; and on the strength of that opinion she nullifies the laws. Yet has the rest of the country no right to its opinions also? Is one State to sit sole arbitress? She maintains that those laws are plain, deliberate, and palpable violations of the Constitution; that she has a sovereign right to decide this matter; and that, having so decided, she is authorized to resist their execution by her own sovereign power; and she declares that she will resist it, though such resistance should shatter the Union into atoms."
After the passage of the bill Senator Calhoun said:
"It would be idle to attempt to disguise that the bill will be a practical assertion of one theory of the Constitution against another the theory advocated by the supporters of the bill, that ours is a consolidated government, in which the States have no rights, and in which, in fact, they bear the same relation to the whole community as the counties do to the States; and against that view of the Constitution which considers it as a compact formed by the States as separate communities, and binding between the States, and not between the individual citizens. No man of candor, who admits that our Constitution is a compact, and was formed and is binding in the manner he had just stated, but must acknowledge that this bill utterly over