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BEFORE entering upon the narrative of the events which rapidly followed upon the opening of the XXXVI Congress, (2d Session,) which assembled Dec. 3d, we must pause to introduce the opinions of the founders of the Constitution and of its most eminent expounders, on the question of Union. It is only by having their views, of the right of a State to secede, that we can form a just estimate of the position which parties soon assumed on the question of disunion.
Chief of all comes WashOpinions of President ington. In his Farewell Address, we have at once his warning and his encouragement. The Union, one and indivisible, is his prayer and his adjuration. Did he sadly foresee, with the prescience of his patriot spirit, the circumstances of 1861, when he wrote that immaculate document? It says:
indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts. For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affection."
Upon the benignant character of the Constitution, and its provision for all needed amendment, the Address says:—
"To the efficacy and permanency of your Union a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts, can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances, in all times, have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate Union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and "The unity of government, which constitutes you unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real inde- distribution of its powers uniting security with enpendence; the support of your tranquility at home,ergy, and containing within itself a provision for its your peace abroad; of your safety; of your pros own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence perity; of that very liberty which you so highly and your support. Respect for its authority, comprize. But, as it is easy to foresee that, from differ-pliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, cat causes and from different quarters, much pains are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken, true liberty. in your minds, the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insiduously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your National Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can, in any event, be abandoned; and
"If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be, in any particular, wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment, in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation.
"The basis of our political systems is, the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government pre-supposes the duty of every individual to obey the established
Against rebellion to its authority. the Fa- as a pretext for the introduction of the "highly ther of his Country said :
"All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle [of liberty] and of fatal tendency."
And this reproof was administered to those factionists who arrogated the right of States to supremacy rather than concede to the Federal Government its needed centralization of power :
"And remember especially that, for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property."
Truly these words seemed to have been penned in a prophetic spirit. But they were those of wisdom-of disinterested patriotism -of Christian faith and manly dignity,-virtues, alas! to which the factionists of the year 1860 were strangers.*
Chief-Justice John MarOpinions of Chief-Jus- shall, of Virginia, one of the
ablest and purest justices who ever adorned the United States Supreme Court, was a devoted supporter of the system of the Federal Union. When, in 1798, Madison introduced his Nullification Resolutions into the Virginia Assembly, consequent on the passage of the Alien and Sedition laws, Judge Marshall wrote to Washington, (January 8th, 1799,) that the laws served but
* This precious heir-loom of the whole American
people was the combined wisdom of Washington and Hamilton, both of whom labored upon its production. It also passed under the critical legal inspection of Judge Jay, and had his endorsement. See 'An Inquiry into the Formation of Washington's Farewell Address,' by Horace Binney, of Philadelphia; 8vo. Parry & MacMillan, Publishers. 1859.'
dangerous" resolutions, in that, had they never passed Congress, the resolutions would have found some other pretext for their virulence, which was aimed at the dominant party-the Federalists-rather than at particular measures. He then referred to the papers introduced by Colonel Taylor, (in the Virginia Assembly,) and Mr. George K. Taylor, on Federal relations. Judge Marshall then says:—
"The debates on these subjects were long and animated. In the course of them sentiments were declared and (in my judgment) views were developed of a very serious and alarming extent. To me it seems that there are men who will hold power by any means rather than not hold it, and who would prefer a dissolution of the Union to the continuance of the administration not of their own party. They will risk all the ills which may result from the most dangerous experiments rather than permit that happiness to be enjoyed which is dispensed by other hands than their own. It is more than ever essential to make great exertions at the next election, and I am persuaded that by making them we obtain à Legislature, if not federal, so divided as to be mode
"I feel with increased force the obligations of duty to make sacrifices and exertions for the preservation of American union and independence, as I am more convinced of the reality of the danger which threatens them."
Thomas Jefferson, the "Father of Democracy," an implacable adversary of the Federalists, as a partisan leader who considered that any means would justify the ends of their overthrow, penned
and secretly despatched to Opinions of Jefferson. Kentucky those celebrated resolutions which make him the Father of Nullification; yet, as a true patriot, he could but openly oppose the scheme of a separate Confederacy proposed by Colonel Taylor, (referred to in Judge Marshall's letter, quoted from above,) to be composed of Virginia and North Carolina. He thus expressed his un"secer qualified dissent to the idea of
"In every free and deliberating society, there must from the nature of man, be opposite parties and vio lent dissensions and discords; and one of these, for the most part, must prevail over the other for a longer or shorter time. Perhaps this party division
VIEWS OF STATESMEN ON DIS UNION..
"Have they said, We, the States? Have they made a proposal of a compact between States? If they had, this would be a Confederation; it is, otherwise, most clearly a consolidated Government. The whole question turns, Sir, on that poor, little thing, the expression, We, the People,' instead of the States,' of America.”
is necessary to induce each to watch and to report | called to ratify or to reject the organic instruto the people the proceedings of the other. But if. on a temporary superiority of the one party, the other is to resort to a scission of the Union, no Federal Government can ever exist. If to rid ourselves of the present rule of Massachusetts and Connecticut. we break the Union, will the evil stop there? Sup: pose the New England States alone cut off, will our nature be changed? Are we not men still to the South of that, and with all the passions of men? Immediately we shall see a Pennsylvania and a Virginia party arise in the residuary Confederacy, and the public mind will be distracted by the same party spirit. What a game, too, will the one party have in their hands by eternally threatening the other that unless they do so and so they will join their Northern neighbors. If we reduce our Union to Virginia and North Carolina, immediately the conflict will be established between the representatives of these two States, and they will end by breaking into their simple units. Seeing, therefore, that an association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry-seeing that we must have somebody to quarrel with, I had rather keep our New England associates for that purpose, than to see our bickerings transferred to others."
Chancellor Kent adverts. to the necessities which impelled the adoption of the Constitution as a substitute for the old Articles of the Confederation, in these terms:
Well would it have been for the patriot's reputation for candor and consistency, if, after penning such statesman-like views, he had not to father those incendiary resolves which afforded South Carolina a precedent for her conduct in 1832.
Hamilton, in his FederalHamilton's Views. ist, devoted all his intellectual resources to an elimination of the nature and powers of the Constitution. Having then to meet the question of State rights as superior to the rights of the Commonwealth, he said :—
"However gross a heresy it may be to maintain that a party to a compact has a right to revoke that compact, the doctrine has had respectable advo cates. The possibility of such a question shows the necessity of laying the foundation of our national government deeper than in the mere sanction of delegated authority. The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of the consent of the people."
"The great and fundamental defect of the Confederation of 1781, which led to its eventual overthrow, was, that, in imitation of all former Confederacies, it carried the decrees of the Federal Council to the States in their sovereign capacity. The great and incurable defect of all former Federal Governments, such as the Amphictyonic, Achæan, and Lycian Confederacies, and the Germanic, Helvetic, Hanseatic and Dutch Republics, is, that they were sovereignties over sovereignties. The first effort to relieve the people of the country from this state of national degradation and ruin came from Virginia. The General Convention afterwards met at Philadelphia in May, 1787. The plan was
Chief Justice Story's
submitted to a convention of delegates chosen by
bors in Committee and in open Convention served to give the instrument the impress of his mind and his principles. When he came forward in the Virginia Assembly (1798) with his resolutions of nullification, he was actuated, unquestionably, by the motive ascribed by Judge Marshall-that of creating an issue to overthrow the Federalists. When, in 1830, Mr. Madison was appealed to, by Mr. Calhoun, as the author of the idea of nullification, he feelingly denied the truth of any such construction being placed upon his resolutions, or the address which he sent out with them to the States. Mr. Everett, referring to this position of Mr. Madison, says :—.
"It was repeatedly and emphatically declared by Mr. Madison, the author of the resolutions, that they were intended to claim, not for an individual State, but for the United States, by whom the Constitution
was ordained and established, the right of remedying
its abuses by constitutional ways, such as united protest, repeal, or amendment of the Constitution. Incidentally to the discussion of nullification, he denied, over and over again, the right of peaceable secession, and this fact was well known to some of the members of the late Convention at Richmond.
Adams, Livingston, Jay, Franklin, Robert Morris, Randolph, Pendleton-all entertained similar opinions to those expressed in the Farewell Address, and gave their wisdom to preserve the word of the great Bond at once of our nationality and our prosperity from the perversions and demoralization of the faction which preferred State to country. The generation which followed them embraced such men as Clay, Webster, and Benton, whose opinions of the Constitu- . tion all harmonised on the one principle of its national supremacy, to defy which was treason. Webster's opinions are so frequently cited as to be familiar to all. In his truly sublime defence of the Constitution against the rhetoric of Mr. Hayne, and the logic of Mr. Calhoun, he became known as the "Great Defender." At as late a day as March 7th, 1850, he was called upon to speak of “ secession." We quote:
I hear with distress and anguish the word "secession," especially when it falls from the lips of those who are patriotic, and known to the country, and known all over the world for their political services. Secession! Peaceable Secession! Sir, your eyes and mine are never destined to see that miracle. The dismemberment of this vast country without convulsion! The breaking up of the fountains of the great deep without ruffling the surface! Who is so foolish-I beg everybody's pardon-as to ex
No effort was spared by the leaders of the nullification school to draw from him even a qualified assent to their theories. But in vain. He not only refused to admit their soundness, but he devoted his time and energies for three laborious years to the preparation of essays and letters, of which the object was to demonstrate that his resolutions and report did not, and could not, bear the Carolina interpreta-pect to see any such thing? Sir, he who sees these tion."
The separate independence and individual sovereignty of the several States were never thought of by the enlightened band of patriots who framed the Declaration of Independence. The several States are not even mentioned by name in any part of it, as if it was intended to impress this maxim on America, that our freedom and independence arose from our Union, and that without it we could neither be free nor independent. Let us, then, consider all attempts to weaken the Union, by maintaining that each State is separately and individually independent, as a species of political heresy which can never benefit us, and may bring on us the most serious distresses."
States now revolving in harmony round a common centre, and expects to see them quit their places and fly off without convulsion, may look the next hour to see the heavenly bodies rush from their spheres and jostle against each other in the realms of space, without causing the wreck of the universe." Henry Clay fairly abhorred the name of "Secessionist." In the Senate, (1850,) he thus referred to Mr. Rhett, who acted a leading part in the revolutionary proceedings of 1860–61:
Henry Clay's Senti
"If he pronounced a sentiment attributed to him, raising the standard of disunion and of resistance to the common government, whatever he has been, if he follows up that declaration by corresponding overt acts, he will be a traitor, and I hope he will
meet the fate of a traitor."
That he held his duty as a citizen of the United States paramount to his duty as a
THE POWERS OF THE CONSTITUTION.
citizen of Kentucky, we see from these re- | Fillmore, Judge Holt, Amos Kendall, Reverdy markable expressions:—
Johnson, ex-President Van Buren, it is unne"I have heard with pain and regret a confirmation cessary to refer to. They have all denounced of the remark I made, that the sentiment of disu- disunion-have declared secession to be revonion is becoming familiar. I hope it is confined in lution. We cannot, however, refrain from South Carolina. I do not regard as my duty what placing on record the opinions of Howell the honorable Senator seems to regard as his. If Cobb, who withdrew from Mr. Buchanan's Kentucky to-morrow unfurls the banner of resistance cabinet to give his influence unjustly, I never will fight under that banner. I owe at home to the secession a paramount allegiance to the whole Union--a sumovement. In 1851, in a bordinate one to my own State. When my State is right—when it has cause for resistance-when ty himself on the right of a State to withdraw, letter to citizens of Macon, he thus expressed
ranny, and wrong, and oppression insufferable arise
at will, from the Union :
"When asked to concede the right of a State to secede at pleasure from the Union, with or without just cause, we are called upon to admit that the framers of the Constitution did that which was never
His ideas of the indissoluble nature of the
done by any other people possessed of their good
"I said that I thought that there was no right on
now and forever.
"Like another of the great relations of private life, it was a marriage that no human authority can dissolve or divorce the parties from; and, if I may be allowed to refer to this same example in private life, let us say what man and wife say to each other: We have mutual faults; nothing in the form of human beings can be perfect; let us, then, be kind to each other, forbearing, conceding; let us live in happiness and peace.
"Mr. President, I have said what I solemnly believe
The Union sentiments of such men as
In view of this unanimity of sentiment among those best qualified to speak on the question, it is impossible to arrive at any other than the following conclusions, in regard to
THE POWERS OF THE CONSTITUTION.
1. That the Union is a permanent one, unless dissolved by the people. The ENACTING CLAUSE of the Constitution reads:
"We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
2. That the Constitution is the SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND, to which all State laws are in subjection. Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution prescribes that Congress shall have power to lay and collect duties, imposts and excises; to provide for the common de