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all the powers of self-government and transfer them to a general and consolidated government, without regard to the special delegations and reservations solemnly agreed to in that compact, is not for the peace, happiness or prosperity of these States; and that therefore this commonwealth is determined, as it doubts not its co-States are, to submit to undelegated, and consequently unlimited powers in no man, or body of men on earth : that in cases of an abuse of the delegated powers, the members of the general government, being chosen by the people, a change by the people would be the constitutional remedy; but, where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy: that every State has a natural right in cases not within the compact, (casus non fæderis,) to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits : that without this right, they would be under the dominion, absolute and unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment for them: that nevertheless, this commonwealth, from motives of regard and respect for its co-States, has wished to communicate with them on the subject: that with them alone it is proper to communicate, they alone being parties to the compact, and solely authorized to judge in the last resort of the powers exercised under it, Congress being not a party, but merely the creature of the compact, and subject as to its assumptions of power to the final judgment of those by whom, and for whose use itself and its powers were all created and modified : that if the acts before specified should stand, these conclusions would flow from them ; that the general government may place any act they think proper on the list of crimes, and punish it themselves whether enumerated or not enumerated by the constitution as cognizable by them: that they may transfer its cognizance to the President, or any other person, who may himself be the accuser, counsel, judge and jury, whose suspicions may be the evidence, his order the sentence, his officer the executioner, and his breast the sole record of the transaction: that a very numerous and valuable description of the inhabitants of these States being, by this precedent, reduced, as outlaws, to the absolute dominion of one man, and the barrier of the Constitution thus swept away from us all, no rampart now remains against the passions and the powers of a majority in Congress to protect from a like exportation, or other more grievous punishment, the minority of the same body, the legislatures, judges, governors and counsellors of the States, nor their other peaceable inhabitants, who may venture to reclaim the constitutional rights and liberties of the States and people, or who for other causes, good or bad, may be obnoxious to the views, or marked by the suspicions of the President, or be thought dangerous to his or their election, or other interests, public or personal: that the friendless alien has indeed been selected as the safest subject of a first experiment; but the citizen will soon follow, or rather, has already followed, for already has a sedition act marked him as its prey: that these and successive acts of the same character, unless arrested at the threshold, necessarily drive these States into revolution and blood, and will furnish new calumnies against republican government, and new pretexts for those who wish it to be believed that man cannot be governed but by a rod of iron : that it would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism-free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence ; it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power: that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further, our confidence may go; and let the honest advocate of confidence read the Alien and Sedition acts, and say if the Constitution has not been wise in fixing limits to the government it created, and whether we should be wise in destroying those limits. Let him say what the government is, if it be not a tyranny, which the men of our choice have conferred on our President, and the President of our choice has assented to, and accepted over the friendly strangers to whom the mild spirit of our country and its laws have pledged hospitality and protection : that the men of our choice have more respected the bare suspicions of the President, than the solid right of innocence, the claims of justification, the sacred force of truth, and the forms
and substance of law and justice. In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution. That this commonwealth does therefore call on its co-States for an expression of their sentiments on the acts concerning aliens, and for the punishment of certain crimes herein before specified, plainly declaring whether these acts are or are not authorized by the federal compact. And it doubts not that their sense will be so announced as to prove their attachment unaltered to limited government, whether general or particular. And that the rights and liberties of their co-States will be exposed to no dangers by remaining embarked in a common bottom with their own. That they will concur with this commonwealth in considering the said acts as so palpably against the Constitution as to amount to an undisguised declaration that that compact is not meant to be the measure of the powers of the General Government, but that it will proceed in the exercise over these States, of all powers whatsoever: that they will view this as seizing the rights of the States, and consolidating them in the hands of the General Government, with a power assumed to bind the States, (not merely as the cases made federal, (casus fæderis,) but) in all cases whatsoever, by laws made, not with their consent, but by others against their consent : that this would be to surrender the form of government we have chosen, and live under one deriving its powers from its own will, and not from our authority; and that the co-States, recurring to their natural right in cases not made federal, will concur in declaring these acts void, and of no force, and will each take measures of its own for providing that neither these acts, nor any others of the General Government not plainly and intentionally authorized by the Constitution, shall be exercised within their respective territories.
9th. Resolved, That the said committee be authorized to communicate by writing or personal conferences, at any times or places whatever, with any person or persons who may be appointed by any one or more co-States to correspond or confer with them; and that they lay their proceedings before the next session of Assembly.
Dr. Stevens' case.* June 12th, 1804. I consider the annual act which appropriates a given sum to the expenses of intercourse with foreign nations, as a sufficient authority to the President (the constitutional organ of foreign intercourse) to expend that sum for the purposes of foreign intercourse at his discretion. If he abuses that discretion, he is responsible for it in a constitutional way. The legal restrictions on this power are, 1. That for outfit or compensation for personal services and expenses to certain specified grades (which are those chiefly used by the United States), not more than specified sums shall be allowed. 2. That the whole expenses shall not exceed the sum appropriated. 3. That an account of the expenditure shall be rendered. The sum on which these restrictions leave the executive discretion to act, is too small to excite any rational jealousy, or to render it useful to restrict it further by rigorous and unusual constructions. The executive, therefore, is believed to be free to make allowance to the specified grades for any object than those (for personal services and expenses), and to employ any unspecified grade on such salary and allowance as he thinks proper within the limits of the whole appropriation. Nor is any law, or principle of law known, which would forbid the superadding these agencies and allowances for them to the ordinary functions of a court minister, &c. I consider the appointment, therefore, and allowance to Dr. Stevens to have been within the limits of the Executive authority.
June 12th, 1804. MR. GALLATIN,—On the subject of Dr. Stevens' case, I had, before receiving your letter, endeavored to form as correct a judgment as I could, and had made some notes, keeping them open till I might see whether anything further should be added. I have this morning put them into some form. Of the purity of the motives of your objections, it was impossible I should ever entertain a moment's doubt. Of my opinion of their solidity, you will see a proof in the conclusions I have drawn, and which will probably condemn more than the half of Dr. Stevens' claims. I enclose you a copy of my opinion on the subject, which may serve as the direction of the Department of State to the comptroller. Accept my affectionate salutations.
Whenever it is agreed between two parties that certain services shall be performed by the one for the other, and no special compensation is stipulated, the law understands their intention to be that a quantum meruit, or a reasonable compensation shall be allowed. Such an agreement will therefore be implied by law in the case of Dr. Stevens. What is that reasonable compensation? Not his expenses, however extravagant, even if a contract could be proved that his expenses were to be paid. The law understands such a promise to mean his reasonable expenses only. His functions were in a certain degree of a diplomatic nature. Yet the government to which he was sent, not being independent, he could not be invested formally with any diplomatic grade. If we place him, therefore, on the level of the lowest grade, that of a chargé des affaires, and make that the measure of his quantum meruit, we shall do him full justice. No circumstance justifies his assuming a higher place.
But shall he be considered as a permanent agent, and therefore entitled to an outfit, or only as an occasional one to be allowed the reasonable expenses of his passage, which is the rule with occasional diplomatic agents? His not having been nominated to the Senate clearly excludes him from the character of a permanent agent, if it does not take from him all legal character after their first session following his appointment. To draw such a line as will admit the Executive, during the recess of the Senate, to despatch a special agent for a particular purpose without awaiting their approbation, and yet not enable him, by continuing that agent permanently, to evade the constitutional approbation of the Senate, and to keep up a separate corps of diplomacy of his own, will require great consideration, caution and candor, and until it be done, great attention in the Executive to keep within unquestionable bounds. I do not think, however, that the right of Dr. Stevens ought to depend on that definition. An individual who is employed by the highest public functionary to do a public service within the line of his authority, is bound to consider him as acting with legal powers, and as alone charged with all the responsibility if he transcends his powers. Dr. Stevens had a right to expect the Executive would nominate him