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cible draft or conscription"; and the enlistment of minors without the consent of their parents or guardians. Finally, the federal government should act in such a way that the states concerned "may, separately or in concert, be empowered to assume upon themselves the defense of their territory against the enemy." To this end, a part of the federal taxes should flow into the treasuries of the states. This resolution then recommended the legislatures to reciprocally pledge themselves to help each other with a part of their militia, or volunteer regiments raised especially for this purpose, or their regular troops, in order to repel invasion.
In these last-mentioned resolutions the absurd notion of a separate league reached its highest point. Further practical results were not to be attributed to the little league of three states in opposition to the federal government. The dissolution of the Union was of course thought about, but only as perhaps desirable in the future. If this conviction was arrived at, then the separation "should, if possible, be the work of peaceable times and deliberate consent. . . But a severance of the Union by one or more states against the will of the rest, and especially in time of war, can be justified only by absolute necessity." These "objections against precipitate measures tending to disunite the states must, it is believed, be deem
The form of these sentences was so skillfully selected that it cannot be said with certainty whether the convention deduced from the nature of the Union a positive right in the individual states to withdraw from the Union, or whether it claimed only a moral justification for revolu tion. It was prudent enough in the declaration of its position on the constitutional question not to venture beyond vague, double-meaning expressions, except so far as it could appeal to its opponents. But it went just far enough to repeat almost verbatim the declaration of
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CONVENTION.
faith laid down in the Kentucky resolutions of 1798. If the members of the convention, and those in sympathy with them, were "Maratists," they could claim that they had become so in the school of Madison and Jefferson. They had learned from Madison that a state had not only the right but the duty to "interpose its authority" as a shield between its citizens and the federal powers; and Jefferson had taught them that the fundamental principle of the autocratic right of deciding in strifes between parties without a common umpire applied to the relation of the states to the Union.1
The report was adopted by the legislatures of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Both these states thus formally declared their acceptance of the constitutional theories maintained in it as their own. American historians have laid only little weight upon this. They have almost wholly limited themselves to giving the proof or repelling the assertion that the originators and the members of the convention had plans which were inimical to their fatherland, or thoroughly treasonable. They have pushed the sentimental and moral side of the question so far into the foreground that they have thus lost the proper point of view whence its political significance is especially to be sought.
1 The passage bearing on this point in the report of the convention reads: It does not, however, consist with the respect and forbearance due from a confederate state towards the general government to fly to open resistance upon every infraction of the constitution. The mode and the energy of the opposition should always conform to the nature of the violation, the intention of its authors, the extent of the injury inflicted, the determination manifested to persist in it, and the danger of delay. But in cases of deliberate, dangerous, and palpable infractions of the constitution, affecting the sovereignty of a state and the liberties of the people, it is not only the right but the duty of such a state to interpose its authority for their protection in the manner best calculated to secure that end. When emergencies occur which are either beyond the reach of the judicial tribunals, or too pressing to admit of the delay incident to their forms, states which have no common umpire must be their own judges and execute their own decisions."
The convention and its resolutions are of weight only so far as they were not simply the product of a few scattered "Catalinarian existences," but gave expression to the beliefs and ideas living in an important fraction of the people, or in the whole people. If the convention had been, as historians of Democratic tendencies make it out to be, a quite exceptional bit of infamy, it would have been simply meaningless. If the Hartford convention had not been the culmination of the inner struggle from 1801 to 1815, it would be mentioned, like the proposal made almost half a century later by Fernando Wood, that the city of New York should cut loose from the Union and constitute itself an independent state, as an entertaining historic anecdote.
Hate of England and admiration of France did not allow the domineering south to attribute an equal share of the guilt of infringing neutral rights to each of the belligerant powers. Ignorance of the laws which govern industrial life drove it into a policy of defense which was practically a policy of reckless attack upon the commercial interests of its own country. Long-cherished prejudices against the commercial interests and the peculiarly commercial states and a misjudgment of the intimate connection of these with the other economic interests of the whole country, made it stray ever deeper into these unfortunate politics, until party policy made return impossible. Wholly unprepared for war, the party had to adopt the war policy which its few young and ambitious leaders dictated to it. The declared aim of the war was the vindication of the rights, the infringement of which was especially injurious to the interests of the commercial states. But the latter persuaded themselves that the dominant party had tried, under a false mask, to injure the commercial interests from the beginning. They expected only an aggravation of the evils from the war with England and condemned the way of conducting the war as the crowning
CHARACTER OF THE OPPOSITION TO THE WAR. 271
of a reprehensible policy, directed by sectional spirit. The stronger this conviction became, the more decided was their reaction. Thus they themselves constantly gave the struggle a more marked sectional character. They fought the fight not as a national party, but as an isolated geographical section, the well-being of which depended upon commerce and the opposition of which was therefore a struggle against ruin, because the rest of the Union systematically, and perhaps, indeed, on principle, made war upon this interest. On this account they did not limit themselves to making representations and presenting protests as states, but they tried to form a formal league with each other which would have made them a union within the Union. And all these steps were not justified by the iron law of necessity, but were put on the ground of a positive constitutional right. The threat of revolution was not made, but acting on the principle of the sovereignty of the states, an ultimatum was reserved in the utterances of the founders of the opposition party and of the originators of its confession of faith.
In these last sentences I have condensed the true meaning of the strife which reached its culmination in the Hartford convention and came to a sudden end by the conclusion of peace with England. The convention consisted of delegates from three state legislatures and the state legislatures represented not only legally, but actually, the majority of the population of the states, for the latter had had repeated opportunities to choose men of other opinions.] And a very strong minority in several other states entertained the same or similar views. It is therefore laugha-1 ¡ble folly to consider the convention as a gathering of brainsick conspirators, although it must be admitted that the leaders of the party formed its radical wing. But the programme of the convention was always a party programme, and this party programme adopted, on the fundamental constitutional question, the position first chosen by the
radical wing of the opposite party. Ultra-Federalists and ultra-Republicans met on a principle of constitutional law, the logical result of which was the dependence of the existence of the Union upon the free will of every single state. If the practical application of this principle in a way which would have seriously endangered the existence of the Union was attempted, at the moment, in neither of the two cases, this was only of secondary importance. The one or the other party could sooner or later hold that the time. had come for such an attempt, and neither the one nor the other could oppose the attempt on the ground of positive right, without putting itself into contradiction with its own past.