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In such a book as I have prepared, and designed, as it is, for general use, and put forward to meet the wants of the millions, it is not intended to advocate or condemn any doctrine in an offensive manner. My own views of the government were formed after an examination of all the lights accessible to me, from 1830 to 1834. The doctrines of Nullification, or the right of a State to nullify, declare void, and resist a single law of the United States, and yet, as to all other laws, to be in harmony with the Union, were then the issues. From my Southern stand-point, I was compelled to examine the doctrines with all the prejudices of intelligent surroundings and motives of interest in favor of the Southern view. Opposition to a protective tariff ; State pride; the apprehensions upon the subject of negro slavery, which the Missouri restriction had left, and the incipiency of abolitionism foreshadowed, naturally inclined all ardent young men to embrace the doctrines of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, and the inviting school of “States Rights." But, on the other hand, we had the most prominent author of these reports and resolutions, and, indeed, the chief architect of the Constitution itself (Mr. MADISON), telling us that
Nullification and Secession had the same poisonous root.” And we had the weight and power of GENERAL JACKSON's name and his iron will, standing upon the doctrines of that great expounder, DANIEL WEBSTER. I was obliged to take my position as a lawyer, as well as a lover of my country, with those who held that the Constitution had created a government, not a mere agency or compact; an enduring union, not a league dissoluble at the pleasure of any State ; a government of limited powers, to be sure, but yet having all the inherent powers necessary to protect, defend, and perpetuate the Union. These views have been greatly strengthened by a life-long study of the principles and practical workings of the government. And they carried along my convictions, that, as a citizen of the United States, I owed my first and paramount allegiance to the nation, and not to the State of Georgia, where I was born, and came to the bar, nor to the States of Arkansas and Texas, where I afterward chanced to reside, and which have been the theaters of the little which has marked my unambitious public career; nor yet to New York, where now I exercise my profession.
I can most simply illustrate these views by the example of Texas. That Republic, from 1836 to 1846, was independent and sovereign. It possessed the powers of national taxation, commerce, coining money, granting patents, punishing piracies, enforcing admiralty, declaring war, raising and supporting armies and navies, making treaties, forming alliances and confederations, being represented by ministers abroad, and changing the republic to a dynasty, with princes and orders of nobility. In fact, Texas had the lawful right to do all that free, independent, and sovereign States may do. But by annexation these people became citizens of the United States. As a government, they surrendered or merged every vestige of nationality. They lost these rights to regulate commerce; to coin money and prescribe tenders; to declare war and make peace; to naturalize foreigners; to decitizenize any citizen of the United States, and to exercise every enumerated and non-enumerated national power. In consideration of this surrender of power, all Texans, of whatever nationality, became citizens of the United States, entitled to all the benefits, privileges, immunities, protection, and blessings of the Union. And, when compared to the previous impoverished State of Texas, these blessings were incalculable.
With these convictions, both as to principle and policy, I could never view the ordinances of secession in any other light than as revolution-resistance to lawfully constituted authority, without any appreciable justification. In anticipation of the mad, because excited effort, I prepared a treatise upon the doctrines of secession. But the crash was so sudden, that it smothered my effort before it reached the public eye. None shaken in my views, with the commencement of the terrible civil war, the fearful consequences of which I publicly foretold, not in any spirit of prophecy, but because they were the legitimate fruits of the efforts to sever such a government, I sat down to compile the “ANNOTATED DIGEST”
T” upon the laws of Texas, and the Spanish laws, upon which many land-titles within half the area of the Union rested. I selected a provincial work, because long years of practice had forced me to collect the materials. The Constitution of the United States formed a single chapter; and because FREDERICK W. BRIGHTLEY, Esq., had kindly permitted me to use his exhaustive notes, my annotations were not the most labored chapter in the book. I did little more than add to his very accurate references, bringing the notes down to 1865, re-arrange, number, and “cross-note" them, so as to connect the subjects with other kindred matter in my own digest. Yet I have received so many high testimonials of the convenience of arrangement and the great value and accuracy of the references, that I have determined to put forth this little volume upon the same plan of the “Annotated Digest,” with the commendations and approval of which I have had so many reasons to be proud.
Upon the suggestions of some popular school-men, the plan of authoritative definitions and side questions has been adopted. While then the work will be an exhaustive reference-book for the lawyer, the judge, the statesman, the publicist, the editor, and the political writer (who should always have such a work upon their tables), it is hoped that it may also prove a popular text-book for all our schools; or, if this fond anticipation shall fail, I trust that some more experienced hand may be led to prepare a text-book which may become as popular in its appropriate place as was ever Webster's spelling-book.
Let us remember that we have four millions of freemen who have been constitutionally made citizens of the
United States, in whose behalf the fundamental charter has been amended, few of whom can yet read the instrument which guaranteed their liberties, in common with others of their fellow-citizens. We have three hundred thousand lovers of liberty coming every year to our shores; and we have millions of native-born children, in rural districts and in cities, to whom the Constitution is not accessible. The course of safety, and of the preservation and perpetuation of liberty, would demand that Congress should adopt some well-arranged Manual upon the Constitution, and distribute it among the people. None occurs to the author as better than that which defines every phrase, and points to every higher authority which has discussed it, and which has an index so copious that none can be misled.
I beg all readers to believe that the political bias herein before expressed has had no influence in the preparation of the notes. They have been given, honestly, as they were found in the authorities. If any light has been overlooked, it has been accidental, and the omission will be repaired in the future editions.
There are some great facts which the strongest prejudices cannot overlook. The efforts to establish the doctrines of secession in the name of State sovereignty have tested the strength of the Union; and whether doubtful powers have been rightfully or wrongfully exercised, they have been so exercised as to become estoppels upon the whole people. The Southern school started upon the theory that the common de