Imatges de pàgina

resume and modify the powers granted by them to the state or general governments for their own benefit, does not, surely, remain to be settled in this country. The same sovereign powers which had separately established the state gove ernments, united with each other in forming a paramount sovereignty, and establishing a supreme government. For this purpose each yielded a portion of its individual sovereignty, and modified its state constitution, by rendering it subordinate to the Federal power. Their authority to do this cannot for a moment be seriously doubted. Much more, indeed, might the legitimacy of the Federal Government have been questioned, had it been erected by the states to operate upon the individual citizens of the several states. The powers delegated to the state governments were to be ercised by themselves, not by a distinct and independent sovereignty erected by them. To the formation of a league such as the Confederation, the state governments were certainly competent. But when," in order to form a more perfect union," and change that league into an effective government, clothed with high sovereign powers for national objects, and acting directly on the people as individuals, the necessity of referring it to the people themselves, and deriving its powers immediately from them, was universally felt and acknowledged; and the article of the Constitution which provides, as one of the modes for its amendment, a convention of the people of the United States, is conclusive as to the real character of the instrument, and the sense in which it must have been understood.

The Government of the Union, then, is em phatically and truly a government of the people.

In form and substance, it emanates from them; its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them as individuals, and for their common benefit; and can be abrogated only by their consent. This government, however, is acknowledged by all to be a government of enumerated powers. The principle that it can only exercise the powers granted to it is admitted on all hands; but questions respecting the extent of the powers actually granted to it are, as we have seen, perpetually arising, and will probably continue to arise, as long as the system shall exist. In discussing these questions, the conflicting powers of the General and State Governments must be brought into view; and the supremacy of their respective laws, when in opposition to each other, must be settled by that power in the Federal Constitution which was created, among others, for this express purpose. Though limited in its powers, it would seem to result necessarily, from the nature of the General Government, that it should be supreme within its sphere of action. It is the government of all; its powers are delegated by all; it represents all ; and it acts for all, and upon all. Though any one state may be willing to control its operations, no other state is willing that other states should control them. The Nation, on those subjects upon which it can act at all, must necessarily bind its component parts. But the question is not left to mere reason; the people have in express terms decided it, by adopting the clause now under discussion, in conjunction with that requiring the oath to support the Federal Constitution to be taken by every state, as well as Federal officer. And yet we have witnessed an

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attempt on the part of one of the states, not merely to assert and vindicate its own supremacy, in cases of collision with the authority of the Union, and to reject the control and jurisdiction of the SUPREME ARBITER on all constitutional questions, but by its own act to repudiate and nullify an act of Congress, which it took upon itself to pronounce to be contrary to the Constitution, and insisted that its decision was final. This monstrous claim it even pretended to reconcile with the doctrines of the Federal Constitution itself, founding it principally on the amendment which declares that “the powers not delegated to the United States, nor prohibited to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people," and thereby assuming that the power exercised by Congress in passing the law in question was not delegated to the General Government, and that the power claimed by the state was not prohibited to it by the Federal Constitution, which were no other than the very points in controversy.

But this heresy was promptly met and ably refuted by the proclamation issued on the occasion by the President of the United States.* This admirable document, which confers more durable and honourable fame on the name of General Jackson than even the victory of New Orleans, exhibits the true doctrines of the Constitution in strict conformity with those principles of construction which I have endeavoured to explain and enforce. In language becoming the dignity and responsibility of his station, the chief magis

* This celebrated state paper is well known to have been the production of the late Edward Livingston, then Secretary of State. -Vide Appendix E.

trate of the Union reminds the individuals concerned in these proceedings of their paramount obliga. tions as citizens of the United States, and warns them of the treasonable tendency of their acts; and upon his subsequent reference of the subject to the National Legislature, he recommended the adoption of such measures as were necessary to enforce the laws of the Union, and suppress the opposition to their execution, devised by evil councils and authorized in an evil hour, by the State of South Carolina. The act required was passed; and thus has every department of the government concurred in the declaration appro. ved and sanctioned by a vast majority of the people, that the Government of the United States is supreme within its limited jurisdiction, and that its laws in pursuance of the Constitution form the supreme law of the land,“ anything in the Constitution and laws of any state to the contrary not.. withstanding ;” and that the existence and effect of a collision between them must be decided by the general head, and not by any of the members of the Union.

V. The last provision contained in the Constitution for giving efficacy to its powers is that by which effect and operation were given to the system by declaring that “the ratifications of the conventions of nine states should be sufficient for its establishment between the states so ratifying the same.

The express authority of the people alone could give validity to the Constitution; and to have required the unanimous ratification of the people of the several states would have subjected the essential interests of the whole to the caprice or corruption of the smallest minority in any one

tions subsisting between that government and the individuals subjected in either mode to its authority. From the very nature of those relations, nothing can dissolve them but REVOLUTION ; and there can, therefore, be no such thing as secession without revolution. The Constitution establishes a union between the people of the several states, intended to be perpetual. It contains numer. ous provisions founded on that supposition, and among them, one for its own amendment; none for its abandonment. It declares that new states may be admitted into the Union, but not that old states may withdraw from it. The Union is not, like the Confederation, reducible even to a per: petual alliance between the states, much less to a temporary one ; but it is an association of the people of the several states in one mass, under a permanent and paramount constitution of government, operating upon them as individuals, created and assented to by that power in each state which alone had authority to abrogate its particular Constitution, or so far to modify it as to surrender powers to the General Government which had previously been delegated to the state governments. No state, therefore, can undo what the people have done, nor absolve its citizens from their obligations to obey the laws of the Union. It cannot divest them of their paramount rights as citizens of the United States; nor can the members of the state legislatures renounce their own oaths to support the Federal Constitution as the supreme law of the land ; neither can any convention of the people of any state, any more than the people themselves, collectively or individually, dispense with their obligations, or dissolve their allegiance to the United States, unless they

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