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their support and execution ; but to do this only in compliance with law, and with decisions of the tribu. nals. With a constitutional and efficient head of the government, with an administration really and truly in favor of the constitution, the country can grapple with nullification. By the force of reason ; by the progress of enlightened opinion ; by the natural, gen. uine patriotism of the country, and by the steady and well-sustained operations of law, the progress of disorganization may be successfully checked, and the Union maintained.”
Mr. Madison had urged similar views in the Convention :
"Any government for the United States, formed on the supposed practicability of using force against even the unconstitutional proceedings of the States, would prove visionary and fallacious."
And so had Mr. Mason, in the following forcible inquiry :
What, would you use military force to compel the observance of a social compact ? It is destructive to the rights of the people. Do you expect the militia will do it, or do you mean a standing army ?!
I have dwelt upon this point, because it proves, beyond the reach of cavil, that it never entered into the mind of this convention to establish a general govern. ment which should have legal power to break down the individuality and sovereignty of the States. The proposition to use military force against a State was only twice incidentally mentioned during the whole session of the convention, and then simply in the form of resolutions, which were not seconded, but which were speedily negatived. Not a single speech was made in favor of such a proposition, but many were made against it.
In the Convention, when Mr. Charles Pinckney, of South Carolina, moved to add to the powers of Con. gress this passage : “ To negative all laws passed by
the several States interfering, in the opinion of the legislature, with the general interests and harmony of the Union.” Mr. Rutledge, from the same State, said : “ If nothing else, this alone would damn, and ought to damn the constitution. Will any State ever agree to be bound hand and foot in this manner ?” The motion was withdrawn.
The extracts which I have given from the constitutional debates show that the authors of the constitution regarded the proposition to form a consolidated national government, in which the States would lose their local sovereignty, not only as an impracticable, but as an impossible thing.
Such a proposition, sent out by them to the people, would have led not only to the speedy dissolving of the convention, but to the disrupture of the Union.
So jealous were the States of the new constitution, lest it might somehow be construed to establish a consolidated national government, instead of one of con. federated States, that every part of it had to undergo the most thorough scrutiny on this point in the con. ventions of all the States, before they would consent to accept it.
Indeed, the whole point at issue is embraced in this question : “Does the constitution reduce the people of the States into one mass, under a consolidated govern. ment, as in the monarchies of the old world ? or, Does it constitute a confederacy of States ?”
Besides the mass of evidence I have already presented to you on this subject, we have the direct testi. mony of the men who formed the constitution.
Mr. Madison said :
“ The constitution will not be a national, but a federal act. That it will be a federal, and not a national act, as these terms are understood by the objectors, the act of the people, as forming so many independent States,
not as forming one aggregate nation, is obvious from this single consideration, that it is the result neither of the decision of a majority of the people of the Union, nor that of a majority of the States. It must result from the unanimous assent of the several States that are parties to it. Were tie people regarded in the transaction as forming one nation, the will of the majority of the whole people of the United States would bind the minority. Each State, in ratifying the consti. tution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own volun. tary act.”
Alexander Hamilton said :
6. The rule that all authorities of which the States are explicitly divested in favor of the Union, remain with them in full vigor, is not only a theoretical consequence of that division, but is clearly admitted by the whole tenor of the instrument, which contains the articles of the constitution. It may safely be received as axicm in cur political system, that the State govern. ments will, in all possible contingencies, afford corn. plete security against invasions of the public liberty by national authority. In a confederacy, the people, without exaggeration, may be said to be entirely masters of their own fate."
There can be no misunderstanding this languagethere cannot be two opinions about it and there can be no higher authority than the testimony of those great men who helped make the constitution.
They supposed that they were not constructing a consolidated central government of all the people, but were perfecting a compact between sovereign States.
Compact, and not consolidated, was the word they used.
Hear Mr. Madison :
“ A compact between independent sovereigns, found. ed on acts of legislative authority, can pretend to no higher validity than a league or treaty between the parties. It is an established doctrine on the subject of treaties, that all the articles are mutually conditions of
each other ; that a breach of any one article is a breach of the whole treaty ; and that a breach committed by cither of the parties absolves the others, and authorizes them, if they please, to pronounce the compact violated and void.” Where resort can be had to no tribunal superior to the authority of the parties, the parties themselves must be the judges, in the last resort, whether the bargain made has been pursued or violated. The constitution of the United States was formed by the sanction of the States, given by each in its sovereign capacity. It adds to its stability and dignity, as well as to the authority of the constitution, that it rests on this legitimate and solid foundation. The States, then, being the parties to the constitutional compact, and in their sovereign capacity, it follows of necessity that there can be no tribunal above their authority to decide, in the last resort, whether the compact made by them be violated, and consequenily that, as the parties to it, they must themselves decide, in the last resort, such questions as may be of sufficient magni. tude to require their interposition."
On this subject of compact, Daniel Webster said, at a later day :
If the constitution be not observed in all its parts, the whole of it ceases to be binding..... I have not hesitated to say, and I repeat, that if the Northern States refuse willfully and deliberately to carry into effect that part of the constitution which respects the restoration of fugitive slaves, and Congress provide no remedy, the South would no longer be bound to observe the compact. A bargain cannot be broken on one side, and still be binding on the other side.”
It is a historical fact that not a single State adopted the constitution, until a thorough discussion of every part of it satisficd them that the constitution left the States in full possession of their ancient state sovereignty.
In the Massachusetts convention, which was called for the purpose of ratifying or rejecting the constitu. tion, we find the following preamble and resolution, passed on the 6th February, 1788 :
“ And as it is the opinion of this convention, that certain amendments and alterations in the said consti. tution would remove the fears, and quiet the apprehensions of many of the good people of this commonwealth, and more effectually guard against an undue administration of the federal government, the convention do therefore recommend, that the following resolutions and provisions be introduced into the said constitution :ist. That it be explicitly declared that all powers not expressly delegated by the aforesaid constitution, are reserved to the several States, to be by them exercised.”
This convention suggested eight other amendments or additions to the constitution, for the purpose of * removing the fears of the good people, and guarding against the undue administration of the federal govern. ment.”
In all the States, similar debates took place. In the convention of Virginia, Patrick Henry combated the friends of the constitution with great power for twenty consecutive days.
His sole objection was, that the sovereignty of the States was endangered by the constitution.
Henry was answered by Jefferson, Madison, Lee, and Innis, that such fears were entirely groundless— that, by the constitution, the State had not surrendered or given up any power whatever-it had only delegated powers, which it would have a right to resume, when. ever the federal government became destructive of the ends for which it was established,
States," said Jefferson, can wholly withdraw their delegated powers."
But to quiet the alarm of men like Patrick Henry, he caused the following amendment to be made to the constitution : “ The powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”