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´╗┐Title: Strictures on Nullification
Author: Everett, Alexander Hill
Language: English
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  J. E. Hinckley & Co., Printers, 14 Water Street.



The discontents on the subject of the Tariff, which have so long existed
in several of the Southern States, and particularly in South Carolina,
have at length reached a crisis. As soon as it was ascertained that the
party in favor of Nullification had prevailed in that State at the late
elections, the Governor immediately summoned an extraordinary session of
the Legislature, which was held accordingly at Columbia, on the 22d of
October. In calling together the new Legislature before the end of the
current political year, as generally understood, the Governor exercised
an authority, which may perhaps be fairly considered as doubtful,
although it appears to have been sanctioned by the highest judicial
authority of the State. This, however, is a secondary question, upon
which we shall not enlarge. In the message which he transmitted to the
Legislature at the opening of the extraordinary session, the Governor
recommended to them to pass an act authorizing the meeting of a
Convention, to deliberate upon the measures to be taken by the State for
the purpose of obtaining relief from the operation of the Tariff. The
act was accordingly passed by large majorities,--two thirds being
required by the Constitution;--and the Convention, which was chosen in
pursuance of it, opened its session at Columbia on the 19th of

This body proceeded at once and without much discussion to adopt what
they call an 'Ordinance to nullify' the Revenue laws of the country,
which we propose to copy in the course of our remarks. Having published
this act, with an accompanying exposition of their motives in passing
it, and addresses to the people of the United States and of South
Carolina, the Convention adjourned without delay, leaving it in charge
to a committee appointed for that purpose to summon another meeting, if
it should appear expedient. The composition of the Ordinance is
attributed to Chancellor Harper; that of the exposition accompanying it
to Mr. McDuffie; and that of the addresses to the people of the United
States and of South Carolina respectively to General Hayne and Mr.
Turnbull. The Legislature of the State have since assembled, and,
agreeably to the tenor of the Ordinance, will doubtless pass such laws
as may be thought necessary for carrying the measure into full effect.

These proceedings constitute a very serious crisis,--the most serious
that has occurred in the history of our country since the establishment
of the Government, with the exception of that which attended the close
of the last war with Great Britain, and from which, by the fortunate
intervention of the Peace, we escaped without injury. In the present
instance, there seems to be no prospect of evading the difficulty in any
such way. We must meet it in front, and either overcome it, or submit to
all its consequences.

The general principles by which the statesmen of South Carolina
undertake to support their views, have been already very fully discussed
in various quarters. But, considering the great importance and urgent
interest of the subject, it may not be wholly superfluous to take, once
more, a calm, and as far as may be, impartial survey of the ground in
dispute. In doing this, we shall of course leave out of view the topics
of the constitutionality and expediency of the measures of the General
Government, which are the motive or pretext for the present proceedings
in Carolina. Believing, as we do, that the Protecting Policy is founded
in a correct understanding of the principles of the Constitution, and of
the true interest of the country, we still very cheerfully recognise in
our fellow-citizens of all the States, the right to entertain a
different opinion, and to act upon it in a legal and constitutional
way. The precise question now before us is, whether the present
proceedings in South Carolina are legal and constitutional. The most
authentic and elaborate exposition of the arguments that are urged in
defence of them, is to be found in the letter of the Vice-President of
the United States to Governor Hamilton, of August 28, 1832, to which we
shall accordingly refer as the leading authority in their favor.

In the course of our remarks, we shall generally employ the term
_annul_, in preference to the new-fashioned word _nullify_. The meaning
of the two, as given in the dictionaries, is exactly the same, but the
former is in better use, and presents to most minds a more distinct idea
than the latter. It is well known that one of the most frequent sources
of obscurity and confusion in reasoning, is the use of terms which, from
whatever cause, are in any degree vague; and we have very little doubt
that in the present controversy, the error of the Carolina statesmen may
be attributed in part to the unfortunate substitution of the new-fangled
terms _nullify_ and _nullification_, for the corresponding good old
English words _annul_ and _annulling_. Many a professed _nullifier_
would, we suspect, shrink from the assertion that a State has a right to
_annul_ an act of the General Government. Mr. Calhoun seldom employs the
latter term, and states expressly, that he does 'not claim for a State
the right to _abrogate_' an act of the General Government. Now,
according to Johnson, the meaning of _abrogate_ is to _take away from a
law its force_, to _repeal_, to _annul_. To _annul_, according to the
same authority, is to _make void_, to _nullify_, to _reduce to nothing_:
and finally, to _nullify_ is to _annul_, to _make void_. The meaning of
the three words, in correct usage, is exactly the same; and Mr. Calhoun,
in disclaiming the right of a State to _abrogate_ an act of the General
Government, really disclaims the right to _annul_ or _nullify_ such an
act, in any proper sense of those terms, and abandons in a single
sentence the doctrine which he is at so much pains to establish in the
rest of his exposition. In disclaiming the use of the word _abrogate_,
abstaining generally from that of _annul_, and taking refuge in what
Governor Lumpkin very properly calls the _mystical_ terms _nullify_ and
_nullification_, the Vice President has, we think, betrayed a secret
consciousness of the weak point in his cause.

The controversy is, however, not about words, but things. The right
which the Vice-President disclaims under the name of _abrogating_, but
claims for a State under that of _nullifying_ an act of the General
Government, is thus stated by himself in the letter alluded to above.

1. 'A State has a right, in her sovereign capacity in Convention, to
declare an unconstitutional act of Congress to be null and void; and
such declaration is obligatory on her citizens, and conclusive against
the General Government; which would have no right to enforce its
construction of its powers against that of the State.'

2. Upon the exercise of this right by a State, 'it would be the duty of
the General Government to abandon the power, at least as far as the
nullifying State is concerned, and to apply to the States themselves,
according to the form prescribed by the Constitution, to obtain it by a

3. If the power thus applied for be 'granted, acquiescence then would be
a duty on the part of the State; and in that event, the contest would
terminate in converting a doubtful constructive power into one
positively granted: but should it not be granted, no alternative would
remain for the General Government but its permanent abandonment.'

Such are the three leading points in the _doctrine of nullification_, as
laid down by its principal champion. It will be perceived that they
contemplate not a single act, but a long and complex course of
proceedings, involving the agency not only of the nullifying State, but
of the General Government and of all the other States. The discontented
State _nullifies_ an obnoxious act: it then becomes the duty of the
General Government to cease to execute the act within that State, and to
apply to the States for the power in dispute: if the power be obtained,
it is the duty of the nullifying State to acquiesce: if not, the act is
definitively annulled.

Now, if all this be legal and constitutional, why do we find no mention
or hint of any part of it in the Constitution or the laws? As respects
the first and third steps in the proceedings, it may be urged, with some
plausibility, that the Constitution is silent, because it does not
undertake to regulate in any way the action of the States, as bodies
politic, or of their Governments. But what account can be given of the
silence of the Constitution upon the second step in the proceedings?
When a State has exercised the power of annulling an act of Congress,
it then becomes 'the duty of the General Government to abandon the
power, (by which Mr. Calhoun doubtless means to discontinue executing
the act) at least within the limits of the nullifying State, and to
apply to the States themselves in the form prescribed by the
Constitution, to obtain it by a grant.' Here is a two-fold duty of great
delicacy and importance, which, according to the Vice-President,
devolves, in a certain contingency, upon the General Government. The
General Government is bound to discontinue the execution of one of its
laws within a particular State, and the General Government is bound to
apply to the States, in the form prescribed in the Constitution, for a
grant of the power to pass such a law. Of all this the Constitution says
not one word. If the passage which we have quoted from the exposition
stood alone, we should, in fact, be entirely at a loss to know what the
Vice-President means in this place by _the form prescribed in the
Constitution_, as that in which the General Government is to apply to
the States for a grant of new powers: but from other parts of the
document, we gather that he alludes to the clause which prescribes a
form for amending that instrument. Now it is undoubtedly true that the
General Government might, if they should by constitutional majorities
deem it expedient, recommend to the States an amendment, which, if
carried, would have the effect of augmenting their powers; but it is
equally certain that the clause, which provides a form for amending the
Constitution, does not make it the duty of the General Government to
recommend an amendment of this description in the case supposed by the
Vice-President, or in any other. In this as in all its other parts, the
Constitution is entirely silent upon the important duties which are
supposed by the Vice-President to devolve upon the General Government,
in consequence of the exercise by a State of its supposed right to annul
an act of that Government. Are these duties to be imposed, and the
rights and powers necessary to their execution conferred upon the
General Government, by mere construction? Is it not a little singular,
that the advocates of this very liberal construction are precisely the
persons who are most decidedly opposed to all constructive powers, and
whose principal object in all their present proceedings is to reduce, if
necessary by main force, the constructive powers of the General
Government to the narrowest possible compass?

The Constitution, we repeat, is totally silent in regard to the powers
attributed by the theory of nullification to the States and to the
General Government. This fact might, perhaps, fairly be considered as of
itself a sufficient and decisive objection to the whole system. Let us
next inquire, how far these powers are in themselves susceptible of
being exercised. If it shall appear that the duties which, according to
this system, devolve respectively upon the States and the General
Government are not only not prescribed in the Constitution, but are also
physically and morally impracticable, there will arise a pretty strong
presumption that it could not have been the intention of the framers of
the Constitution that any such acts should be performed.

The first step in the process is, as we have said, the annulling by the
discontented State of the obnoxious act of the General Government. The
State declares the act to be null and void, and takes measures to
prevent the execution of it within its limits. How far this will be
found a practicable operation we shall be better able to judge when we
are informed of the proceedings of the Carolina Legislature. For the
present, it may be sufficient to say that the various projects which
have been successively recommended in the newspapers have been so
obviously chimerical and visionary, as to render it altogether probable
that no satisfactory scheme had suggested itself to the leaders, and
very doubtful whether it would be possible to hit upon one. Without,
however, anticipating what the wisdom of the Legislature may bring
forth, let us proceed at once to the second step in the process; viz.
the duties which devolve upon the General Government. This part of the
theory, we may observe, though it has been less adverted to, is, in the
opinion of the Vice-President, not less important and valuable than the
other, and equally essential to the completeness of the system. If it be
found impracticable, the whole theory must be given up.

A State having nullified an act of the General Government, it then
becomes the duty of the General Government to abandon the power (of
passing such an act), and to apply to the States, in the form of
proposing an amendment of the Constitution, for the grant of such a
power. Let us see how far these duties are practicable.

The General Government consists of three branches, the Executive, the
Legislative, and the Judiciary, to each of which its peculiar and
appropriate functions are assigned by the Constitution and the laws.
What then is meant, when it is said that it becomes the duty of the
General Government to abandon the power to pass a certain act, at least
within the limits of a particular State? Is it meant that the
Legislative department of the General Government is bound to repeal the
obnoxious law, as respects that State or the Union at large? This is
obviously impossible, because by the supposition the majority of the
Legislature believe the act to be constitutional and expedient,--and
therefore cannot conscientiously, in the ordinary exercise of the
Legislative power, repeal it.

Is it meant, that the Executive and Judiciary departments of the General
Government shall suspend the execution of the law within the limits of
the State in question? This again is equally impossible. The functions
of the Executive and Judiciary departments are entirely administrative.
The persons entrusted with them have no discretionary power. They are
bound by their oaths of office to execute the laws that are given to
them by the Legislature, and have no more right to augment or diminish
them by one jot or tittle, than they have to declare themselves
dictators of the country. The abandonment by the General Government of
the power to pass the act complained of by the nullifying State is
therefore a thing in itself entirely impracticable. Even the omnipotent
Parliament of England, which, according to Lord Coke, can do any thing
but convert a man into a woman, could not repeal a law which was
sustained by a majority of its members; nor could even the hereditary
executive power of England or any other constitutional monarchy suspend
for a moment the execution of a law, which is still in force. The thing
is in its nature a moral impossibility.

So much for the first part of the two-fold duty, which, according to the
Vice-President, devolves upon the General Government, in the event of
the nullification by a State of a law of the United States. But the
General Government is not only bound to abandon the disputed power, but
also to apply to the States, in the form provided for amending the
Constitution, for a grant of that power. We have seen that the first of
these supposed duties is in its nature impracticable. It is obvious to
the slightest reflection, that the other is not less so. By the General
Government the Vice-President must of course intend, in this connexion,
the Legislative department of the Government, the Executive, as such,
having nothing to do with the process of amendment. Now, independently
of the objection to which we have already adverted, viz. that the
Constitution imposes no such duty on the Legislature, it is plain that
the operation is in itself impracticable, for the same reason which
would prevent the repeal of the obnoxious act. The Legislature cannot
recommend an amendment of the Constitution, giving to itself the power
to pass such an act, for the plain reason, that by the supposition a
majority of the members believe that the Legislature already possess the
power, and that it is consequently impracticable for them to adopt, on
their official responsibility, a measure which implies that they believe
the contrary.

It is only necessary to consider for a moment how the plan would work in
detail, in order to be convinced that it is utterly impracticable. It
becomes the duty of the General Government, by which we will suppose the
Vice-President to mean the Legislature, to apply to the States for a
grant of the disputed power. But what is the Legislature? The
Legislature is a complex being, composed of the President and two
elective assemblies, comprehending two hundred and eighty-five persons.
It is the duty, it seems, of these two hundred and eighty-five persons,
in their political capacity, to apply to the States for a grant of new
powers. But who is to move? What is the business of every body is the
business of nobody. Shall it be the President? The Constitution makes it
the duty of the President to recommend from time to time to the
consideration of Congress such measures, as he shall judge necessary and
expedient. But the President, by the supposition, believes that the
General Government already possess the power in question. It is
impossible, therefore, that he should recommend to Congress to propose
an amendment conferring this power. For the same reason, the proposition
cannot be made in Congress by a member of the majority of either House.
The duty, such as it is, of making the proposition, might no doubt be
performed by some member of the minority of one of the two branches. But
how are the majority to vote for a proposition which they do not
approve? How is the President to approve a law which he does not
approve? Individuals occasionally support or oppose measures for
particular reasons, which have no reference to their own opinion upon
their merits; but in arguing on general principles, it must of course be
assumed that the members of the Government can only act on principle.
The operation supposed is therefore in its nature essentially

Indeed the supposition that it can in any case be the duty of one or
more individuals to do an act which, if done by them at all, must be
done in pursuance of their own free and unbiased belief in its
expediency, is so obviously incongruous, that we really wonder how an
acute logician, as the Vice-President unquestionably is, could have been
led by any prepossession or political hallucination to admit it for a
moment. If it be really the duty, under the Constitution, of the
Legislature or of any branch or member of it to perform a particular
act, there is no room for the exercise of discretion. The thing must be
done. Thus it is the duty of the House to choose their speaker and other
officers. This is accordingly done at the opening of every new Congress,
as a matter of course, and it would be unconstitutional even to debate
upon the propriety of so doing. But a proposition to amend the
Constitution or any act performed in the ordinary exercise of the
Legislative power, must be, from its nature, the result of the free and
conscientious judgment of the President and a majority of the two Houses
of Congress upon its merits; and it is impossible that it can be their
duty, in any case, to decide in favor of a particular measure without
reference to its merits, when their own free and conscientious judgment
upon its merits is the precise and only rule which they are bound to
follow, in the decision of every question that is brought before them.

The process of nullification is therefore, in its most important points,
absolutely impracticable. This being the case, any consideration of its
constitutionality or expediency is superfluous. It is unnecessary to
inquire whether a plan, which cannot in the nature of things be carried
into execution, would or would not be constitutional or expedient if it
could. But the respect which we sincerely entertain for the talents and
character of many of the citizens who are engaged in this project, seems
to render it proper that it should be viewed under all its different
aspects. Let us therefore suppose, for the sake of argument, that the
project is practicable, and look at it in reference to its expediency.
Passing over as before the first step in the process, the effect of
which is less certain because the precise form in which it will be taken
is not yet known, let us as before proceed at once to the second, and
inquire how it will operate in the case immediately in question.

Let us suppose, then, that the State of South Carolina annuls the
Tariff. On the theory of the Vice-President, it will then become the
duty of the General Government to refrain from enforcing the Tariff
within the limits of South Carolina, and to apply to the States for a
grant of power to pass laws for the protection of domestic industry. We
have shown that both parts of this duty are wholly impracticable; but
let us imagine that they could be performed, and see what would be the
result. Let us suppose that the General Government, at the present
session of Congress, in defiance of their own opinion of the
constitutionality and expediency of the Protecting Policy and of the
express provision of the Constitution that all duties, imposts and
excises shall be uniform throughout the United States, suspend the
execution of the Tariff law within the limits of South Carolina.--Let us
also suppose that the General Government, conscientiously believing, as
they do, that they possess the power to pass laws for the protection of
domestic industry, shall yet assure the people that they believe they do
not possess it, and recommend an amendment of the Constitution which
shall give it to them. What will be the result?

The suspension of the Tariff law, within the limits of South Carolina,
would of course render the ports of that State entirely free. As soon as
this fact became generally known at home and abroad, the whole foreign
commerce of the country would centre in these ports, and the receipts of
the custom-houses, which constitute nearly the whole revenue of the
country, would be reduced at once to nothing. In the mean time, the
process of amending the Constitution is notoriously a very slow one. We
have supposed that the General Government, at the same session of
Congress, at which they suspend the execution of the Tariff law in
Carolina, propose to the States to adopt the amendment in question. The
recommendation goes out to the Governors of the States, and is laid by
them before their several Legislatures, as they come into session at
various times in the course of the following year. Some of these
Legislatures act upon it at once; some lay it on their tables never to
take it up again; others refer it, as they habitually do all questions
of an embarrassing description, to their next following session. In this
way the affair drags along for a number of years, and it is even very
doubtful whether any returns at all would ever be received from half
the States. Let us suppose, however, that in process of time, say in
five years from the date of the proposal by the General Government,
returns are received from all the States, and let it be granted for
argument's sake, that the proposed amendment is not sanctioned by the
number of States necessary under the Constitution to give it effect,
which is three-fourths of the whole:--this is the supposition most
favorable to the views of the Vice-President. What follows? Is the great
object of settling the construction of the Constitution attained? Quite
the contrary. Not a single step has been yet taken towards the
attainment of it. The refusal of the States to sanction the proposed
amendment, far from proving that the General Government does not,
according to their construction of the Constitution, possess the
disputed power, might be, and in many cases undoubtedly would be, the
result of their belief that the General Government already possesses it.
How, for example, could Pennsylvania, where the Legislature unanimously
believe that the General Government possesses the power to protect
domestic industry, sanction the proposal of an amendment intended to
confer that power? The refusal of the States to sanction the amendment
would therefore prove nothing at all as to their opinion upon the
meaning of the Constitution, and would leave the whole subject exactly
as it stood before. The Vice-President tells us, it is true, that if the
proposed amendment were not sanctioned by the requisite number of
States, no alternative would remain for the General Government, but the
permanent abandonment of the disputed power. But, with all due deference
to the judgment of Mr. Calhoun, we must be permitted to say that this is
a conclusion entirely without premises, or, in less technical language,
a naked assertion without proof, and we may add without even the
appearance of plausibility. If the States refuse to amend the
Constitution, it remains of course as it was before; and it is the duty
of the General Government, as it was before, to act upon their own
construction of its meaning, which is, by the supposition, in favor of
the reality of the contested power. As honest men, acting on their
official responsibility, they cannot possibly do otherwise; they would
be obliged to re-enact the law which, by the supposition, had been
repealed in reference to the nullifying State, and things would
proceed exactly as they did before. At the end of the process,
therefore,--supposing it even to result in the manner most favorable to
the Vice-President's view,--the whole subject would remain precisely as
it stood at the beginning. The affair would afford a new example of what
a foreign writer has called the system of _All Action and No Go_.

In the mean time, what would have been the state of the country during
the five years which have been devoted to this tedious, complicated and
ineffectual attempt to settle the construction of the Constitution? The
revenue would have declined almost to nothing, and there would have been
of course an annual deficit of nearly the whole amount necessary to
defray the expenses of the Government, and pay the interest and
principal of the debt. How would this have been covered? The ordinary
resource in cases of deficit is a loan, but it may well be doubted
whether, under the circumstances supposed, the credit of the Government
would be particularly good. If loans could be obtained, which is the
most favorable supposition, we should be saddled with a debt of about a
hundred millions, probably at exorbitant interest, as the cost of this
political experiment. Were this the only inconvenience, most judicious
citizens would be disposed to say, with the Grecian philosopher who was
offered, at a pretty high price, the favors of a frail beauty of some
celebrity,--that they did not choose to buy repentance so dear. But this
debt of a hundred millions would be the least part of the mischief. The
importation of foreign goods free of duty for five years would of course
destroy all our domestic manufactures, and ruin that part of our
population which is employed in them. The value of the manufactures
annually produced in this country is estimated by Mr. Gallatin at about
$150,000,000,--probably a very low computation. Supposing the ordinary
rate of profit in this branch of industry to be at from six to seven per
cent., this amount of annual products represents a capital of a thousand
million dollars, which would be swept at once into nothing. This is
another trifling item to be added to the cost and charges of
nullification. Omitting all consideration of the effect upon the
happiness of the six or seven hundred thousand persons who depend for
subsistence upon these manufactures, and looking merely at the financial
results, we must needs say that this is a most expensive, as well as in
our opinion unsatisfactory, mode of expounding the Constitution. And
these, as we have said, are the results of the process on the most
favorable supposition; for if loans could not be obtained, which is a
more probable one, the immediate consequence would be a national
bankruptcy, which would of course be followed instantaneously by
domestic convulsions, a complete breaking up of the Government, and a
dissolution of the Union.

Such, if the process of nullification, which, as we have seen, would be
found utterly impracticable at every step, could be carried into effect,
would be its practical results. Such would be its results, supposing it
to proceed without opposition from any quarter, and to operate
throughout in the manner most agreeable to the views set forth in Mr.
Calhoun's exposition. Is it possible that a statesman of distinguished
talents and patriotic feelings,--that a large majority of the citizens
of a high-minded, generous and intelligent State, can look forward to
such results with satisfaction?--that they can consider a course of
measures which, waving any question of its constitutionality or
practicability, and supposing it to go into quiet operation without
opposition in any quarter, and to work to their heart's content in every
particular, could still produce nothing better than the results which we
have described,--as _expedient_?--Is it not more probable that the
Vice-President and his political friends, by confining their attention
exclusively to one partial view of the subject, and employing with
fanatical earnestness all their energies in recommending this one view
to the public favor, have entirely lost sight of all others, and are
rushing forward, without even realizing its existence, to a precipice
which is accurately and distinctly laid down by themselves in their own
political charts?

However this may be, it is plain from the most cursory survey of the
doctrine of nullification, that it is wholly unsanctioned by the
Constitution, although it contemplates important proceedings, not only
by the States but by the General Government, which of course can only
act under constitutional authority: that it is in all its important
points utterly impracticable, and that could it even be carried into
effect, and that in the manner most agreeable to the views of its
partisans, it would at once break up the Government, and spread
desolation and ruin through the country. We now proceed to examine some
of the arguments, by which this enormous political heresy is supported
in the document before us. We have already quoted the passages
containing the statement of the doctrine in Mr. Calhoun's own language.
The leading argument by which he sustains it is as follows.

1. The General Government is an agent with limited powers, constituted
by the States as principals to execute their joint will, expressed in
the Constitution.

2. But in private affairs, a principal has a right to revoke or modify
the powers of his agent at discretion, to put his own construction upon
them, and to disavow and annul any acts done by the agent upon a
mistaken construction of his powers; while the agent, on his part, has
no right to enforce his construction against that of his principal.

3. In the same way, _any one State_ has a right to put its own
construction upon the Constitution, by which the States create the
General Government their common agent, and to disavow and annul any acts
done by the General Government upon a mistaken construction of these
powers, while the General Government, on its part, has no right to
enforce its own construction of the Constitution against that of its

The correctness of this reasoning, says the Vice-President, in its
application 'to the ordinary transactions of life, no one will doubt,
_nor can it be possible to assign a reason, why it is not as applicable
to the case of a Government as to that of individuals_.' Not
anticipating the nature of the objections that may be made to his
reasoning, the Vice-President of course does not attempt to refute them,
nor does he think it necessary to illustrate, explain or enforce his own
theory, but, under the comfortable assurance that in its application to
the ordinary transactions of life _no one will doubt it_, and that it
_cannot be possible_ to assign a reason why it should not be applied in
the case of Governments, he jumps at once to his conclusion, that it is
and ought to be applicable to that of the United States. Now it is
obvious to us, that this reasoning, far from commanding the universal
assent which the Vice-President seems to expect for it, will be
considered by most intelligent and unprejudiced readers as open to
various weighty and decisive objections. Admitting that the General
Government may, in a certain sense of the term, be properly described as
the agent of the States, the other proposition, that a principal has an
unlimited right to construe the powers and disavow the acts of his agent
is, even in private affairs, far from being equally clear; and were this
even true in private affairs, it would by no means follow that _any one
State_ has an equally good right to annul at discretion the acts of the
General Government. We shall enlarge a little upon each of these points.

1. It is not true that a principal has, in the ordinary transactions of
life, an unlimited right to construe the powers and disavow the acts of
his agent. Although an agent may have construed his powers in a
different manner from that in which his principal intended that they
should be understood, yet if he can make it appear that he has exercised
ordinary diligence and acted with good faith, he has a right to enforce
his construction against that of his principal, and the law will sustain
him in it. A merchant, for example, addresses a letter of instructions
to a shipmaster or supercargo, and the latter in consequence makes
contracts which the principal did not intend that he should make; the
principal will nevertheless be bound by them, unless he can show that
the agent has been guilty of neglect or fraud; for it is his own fault
if he has not made his instructions intelligible, or has chosen his
agent so badly that he cannot understand plain language.

The argument from analogy, and it is the only one by which the
Vice-President undertakes to support his main position, therefore fails
entirely. If the attitude of the General Government toward the States be
the same as that of an agent in relation to his principal, it then
follows that the General Government has a right to enforce its
construction of the Constitution against that of the States, provided
always that it act with good faith, and in the exercise of all the
diligence and attention which the case requires.

2. But admitting even that, in private affairs, a principal has an
unlimited right to construe the powers and disavow the acts of his
agent, we cannot agree with the Vice-President, that it is impossible to
assign a reason why _any single State_ has not an equally good right to
annul at discretion the acts of the General Government. We think that at
least two very sufficient reasons may be given, why this conclusion
would not follow.

The first reason is that the General Government, if it be regarded as an
agency, is an agency for a joint concern, comprehending four and twenty
principals. Now if we admit that principals have an unlimited right to
construe the powers and disavow the acts of their agents, it is quite
obvious that, in the case of a joint concern, this right cannot belong
to any one of the partners acting separately from the others, but must
belong to the whole firm, expressing their intentions for this purpose
through the organs and in the form which they habitually employ for all
other purposes. But the proposition of the Vice-President is, that any
one State has a right, without consulting the other States, to nullify
at discretion any act of the General Government. That is, that any one
partner in the joint concern has a right, without even consulting his
co-partners, to construe the powers of the common agent in his own way,
and to assume or avoid, at discretion, his share of responsibility for
the acts which an agent may have performed in the name of the firm.

It is almost needless to say that this is not the principle on which
partnership concerns are generally managed, and that a partnership
concern, which should be managed on this principle, would not be likely
to possess unlimited credit or to carry on for any length of time a very
lucrative business.

The Vice-President anticipates this objection, and for the purpose of
meeting it has introduced the second and third points in his theory, as
stated at the commencement of this article. As the manner in which he
treats this part of the subject is quite curious, we shall quote his own

  'It may, however, be proper to notice a distinction between the case
  of a single principal and his agent, and that of several principals
  and their joint agent, which might otherwise cause some confusion.
  In both cases, as between the agent and a principal, the
  construction of the principal, whether he be a single principal, or
  one of several, is equally conclusive; but, in the latter case, both
  the principal and the agent bear a relation to the other principals,
  which must be taken into the estimate, in order to understand fully
  all the results which may grow out of the contest for power between
  them. Though the construction of the principal is conclusive against
  the joint agent, as between them, such is not the case between him
  and his associates. They both have an equal right of construction,
  and it would be the duty of the agent to bring the subject before
  the principal to be adjusted according to the terms of the
  instrument of association; and of the principal to submit to such
  adjustment. In such cases, the contract itself is the law, which
  must determine the relative rights and powers of the parties to it.
  The General Government is a case of joint agency,--the joint agent
  of the twenty-four sovereign States. It would be its duty, according
  to the principles established in such cases, instead of attempting
  to enforce its construction of its powers against that of the State,
  to bring the subject before the States themselves, in the only form
  in which, according to the provisions of the Constitution, it can
  be, by a proposition to amend, in the manner prescribed in the
  instrument, to be acted on by them in the only mode they can
  rightfully pursue, by expressly granting or withholding the
  contested power. Against this conclusion there can be raised but one
  objection, that the States have surrendered or transferred the right
  in question. If such be the fact, there ought to be no difficulty in
  establishing it.'

It seems from these remarks that, according to the Vice-President's
notion of the proper mode of proceeding in a joint concern, if one of
the principals suspect that the common agent is exceeding his powers, it
forthwith becomes the duty--not of the principal, but--of the agent to
submit the doubtful question in regard to the construction of his own
powers, to the consideration of the other principals. The discontented
partner begins by disclaiming publicly his share of responsibility for
the acts of the agent. The agent then consults the other partners: if a
majority of them approve the proceedings of the agent, the discontented
partner is bound to submit: if not, the agent ceases to exercise the
disputed power. Thus, when the President and Directors of the Bank of
the United States employed Mr. Sergeant to perform a certain service for
them at London, if one of the Directors had happened to hear that that
gentleman was exceeding his powers, according to the construction put
upon them by this Director, it would have been the duty of the latter to
publish the fact in the newspapers, and to give notice to all the world
that he, as one of the Directors, would not hold himself responsible for
Mr. Sergeant's proceedings. The newspaper containing this notice would
in process of time have reached London, and Mr. Sergeant on reading it
would have been bound to write to the President of the Bank, informing
him that he had seen a notice to a certain effect in a Philadelphia
paper, and inquiring whether he had or had not mistaken the meaning of
his instructions. The President, on receiving Mr. Sergeant's letter,
would have been bound to call together the Board of Directors, and
submit the subject to their consideration. If the Board, proceeding in
the usual form of transacting business, had decided that Mr. Sergeant
had not exceeded his powers, it would have been the duty of the
discontented Director to withdraw his objections, and to give public
notice that he was ready to resume his share of responsibility. On the
other supposition, Mr. Sergeant would have ceased to exercise the
disputed power.

Such is the notion entertained by the Vice-President of the proper and
usual mode of proceeding in a partnership concern. Our readers, who are
at all familiar with business, will, we think, agree with us in the
opinion that he has mistaken the matter entirely. In the case supposed,
a Director of the Bank, who had heard of any facts which led him to
suppose that Mr. Sergeant was exceeding his powers, instead of
publishing the intelligence in the newspapers, and making it an occasion
for open scandal, would have gone quietly to the Bank, and mentioned
what he had heard in private to the President. The President would have
submitted the facts to the Directors at their next meeting. If the
Board, represented by the necessary number of members, were satisfied
that Mr. Sergeant was in fact exceeding his powers, the President would
have written to him to that effect, and the Board would have taken the
proper measures for remedying any mischief that might have resulted from
his mistake. In the other event, the discontented Director would have
been relieved from his apprehensions. In either case, the affair would
have passed off quietly, without scandal, and, according to our
apprehension, in the ordinary and regular way of transacting business.

Reasoning therefore analogically, from the relation between an agent and
his principal in a partnership concern,--the only semblance of an
argument which the Vice-President offers in support of his main
position,--we should draw a conclusion of a directly opposite character,
viz. that instead of proceeding at once to _nullify_ and throwing upon
the General Government the responsibility of bringing the subject before
the other States, it would be the duty of a discontented State to begin
by addressing herself in the way of consultation to the other States,
her co-partners in the great political firm of the Union. We have
already shown that it would be wholly impracticable from the nature of
the case for the General Government, believing itself, as it does by the
supposition, to possess the disputed power, to adopt any measure
implying a contrary opinion. We have shown that the General Government
has no authority under the Constitution to adopt such a measure. But
admitting that it were both constitutional and practicable, what
propriety would there be in it? If Carolina conceive that she has a
right to complain of the proceedings of the common agent of the
political partnership to which she belongs, and think that her partners
ought also to attend to the subject, is she not perfectly capable of
saying to them herself all that is necessary or proper on the occasion?
Is it not obvious that the agent, who is supposed to be in fault, is the
very last person who can be depended on to bring the question before the
tribunal which is to decide upon it? Is it reasonable to expect that he
will intermeddle in a matter in which he has really no concern, for the
mere purpose of denouncing himself as a usurper of power, not granted by
his commission? Is there not a wanton and almost ludicrous absurdity in
the very idea of such a proceeding? And independently of all this, how
ungraceful in the General Government to apply for an augmentation of its
own powers, and this too at the very moment when it is accused of
exceeding them! Is it not apparent, that such an application would come
with infinitely greater propriety from any other quarter? We can hardly
believe that, on cool reflection, the Vice-President himself would
sanction with his final judgment a theory pregnant with so many and such
various incongruities.

It would therefore be the duty of the discontented State, instead of
proceeding to _nullify_ and throwing upon the General Government the
responsibility of bringing the subject before the other States, to
_begin_ by addressing herself directly to the other States in the way of
consultation. But in what form is this to be done? The Vice-President
tells us, that the subject must be brought before the States 'in the
only form in which according to the Constitution it can be, by a
proposition to amend in the manner prescribed by that instrument.' But
how does it appear, that this is the only or the proper form in which
the business can be done? The object is to _ascertain the meaning_ of
the Constitution. Why resort for this purpose to a process intended for
a totally different one, and, as we have seen, wholly unsuitable and
ineffectual for this? Suppose that all the insuperable preliminary
objections to which we have adverted are overcome;--that the General
Government has applied for a grant of the disputed power, and that the
States, as the Vice-President would of course desire, have refused the
application;--how would the case then stand? Precisely as it does now.
The question would still be, what is the meaning of the Constitution as
it is? And after all that had taken place, it would still be just as far
from a solution as before. Instead of resorting to a process intended
for another purpose, and wholly ineffectual for this, why not employ the
one which the Constitution provided and organized for this special
object? 'The judicial power,' says the Constitution, 'shall extend to
all cases in law and equity arising under this Constitution, the laws of
the United States and the treaties made or which shall be made under
their authority.' Why not submit the question at once to the Supreme
Court? This is the method by which the States, when they established the
Constitution, intended that all questions respecting the construction
of it should be decided. Nor does a resort to this method involve, as
some suppose, the inconvenience of making the General Government the
judge of its own powers. The Judiciary department, though nominally a
branch of the General Government, is, and was for this express purpose
meant and made to be, wholly independent of the other branches of that
Government. It is properly a separate agency, established for specific
purposes by the same authority which for other purposes established the
Executive and Legislative branches. It has no community of interest,
direct or indirect, with these branches, and is in all respects the most
competent and capable, as it is the proper constitutional judge of the
extent of their powers, as defined by the great charter of the Union.

But waving this point, upon which we are aware that the Vice-President's
views would not agree with ours, and admitting for the moment and for
argument's sake, that the Supreme Court is not the proper tribunal to
decide in this case, the question still returns, Why resort to the form
provided for making amendments? This is a form, in which the States act
for a certain purpose within the pale of the Constitution. But this
whole process of _nullification_,--if not, as we believe it to be,
_unconstitutional_,--is at least, and is admitted to be by those who
approve it, _extra-constitutional_. The State of Carolina throws herself
back, (such is the received phrase) upon her _reserved rights_, and
undertakes to decide, in her capacity as an independent State and a
party to the Union, which she considers as a confederacy of independent
States, whether the compact has been faithfully observed. She satisfies
herself that it has been violated, and she now wishes to ascertain
whether the other States agree with her in opinion. But how are these
States to be consulted and to act in this matter? Obviously in the same
capacity in which Carolina proposes it. She appears in this affair as a
sovereign and independent power; as such she must address herself to the
other States, and it is only in their capacity as sovereign and
independent powers, resting on their reserved rights, that they
can receive and act upon her communication. The whole affair,
reasoning of course on the principles of the Vice-President, is
_extra-constitutional_. Why then resort to a process, intended for the
direction of the States while acting within the pale of the Constitution
for its ordinary purposes? The Vice-President, in proposing this course,
obviously forgets his own principles. The true one, on his system,
would be very different. Having taken her stand upon her reserved rights
and assumed the attitude of a sovereign power, Carolina should exhibit a
little more of the lion port and awe-commanding face. Instead of
resorting to a paltry humiliating process, which supposes throughout the
subordination of all the parties concerned in it to the common authority
of the Union, our _soi-disant_ sovereign, in order to be consistent,
should send ambassadors to all the other States to communicate the
business in hand. These again, being thus called on, must in like manner
throw themselves back upon their reserved rights, and assume, for the
time, the attitude of independent States. If a consultative meeting be
deemed expedient, it must be a congress of ambassadors held by
arrangement among the States, and in which they will appear by their
ministers as independent powers. At such a meeting, the rule of deciding
questions according to the opinion of the majority has of course no
application. Although three-fourths or even all the States, except
Carolina, should agree that the compact had not been violated, she would
still be at liberty as a sovereign power to adhere to her own
construction, and to hold herself in future exempt from the obligation
imposed by the articles of union. Such, as we conceive, is the only
process consistent with the theory of nullification, which the
Vice-President, with submission to his better judgment, does not follow
out to its proper and natural conclusion. We find accordingly that
Georgia, who, although she has said but little about nullification, has,
to do her justice, practised it for two or three years past with a vigor
and consistency that rather put to shame the Carolina doctors of the
science,--having thought proper to consult the other Southern States
upon the propriety of assembling an anti-Tariff Convention,--instead of
depending upon the General Government to bring the subject before them
in the form provided for amending the Constitution, forthwith despatches
her ambassadors to their several seats of Government to communicate her
sovereign intentions, where, for aught we know to the contrary, they
have been carrying on their negotiations up to this day.

So much for the first reason, why the doctrine, that a principal has, in
ordinary cases, an unlimited right to construe the powers, and disavow
the acts of his agent,--were it even true, as we have shown that it is
not,--would in no way help the Vice-President's argument. Carolina is
one of a number of principals, composing a partnership concern; and if
she have any doubts about the propriety of the proceedings of the common
agent, her only course is to consult with her co-partners, and to
acquiesce in the opinion of the majority. But there is another reason
still more substantial, why the doctrine in question, even if true,
would be of no service to the Vice-President:--a reason leading at once
to the heart of the whole argument, of which the matters thus far
touched upon are merely the 'limbs and outward flourishes;' and that is,
that a Government, although it may in a certain sense be called an
agency, is an agency of a peculiar kind, carrying with it rights and
obligations, of which the nature and extent cannot be deduced by analogy
from those which are incident to the relation of agent and principal in
private life, and can only be determined by a correct analysis of the
structure of society and the original principles of the human

That the Government of the United States, though described as an agency,
is to all intents and purposes a real _Government_, is frankly admitted
by the Vice-President himself. 'In applying the term agent to the
General Government, I do not intend to derogate in any degree from its
character as a Government. _It is as truly and properly a Government as
are the State Governments themselves._ I have applied it simply because
it strictly belongs to the relation between the General Government and
the States, _as in fact it does also to that between a State and its own
Government_. Indeed, according to our theory, _Governments are in their
nature but trusts, and those appointed to administer them trustees or
agents to execute the trust powers_. The sovereignty resides
elsewhere,--in the people, and not in the Government.' 'The Constitution
of the United States, with the Government it created, is truly and
strictly the Constitution of each State, as much so as its own
particular Constitution and Government, ratified by the same authority
in the same mode, and having, as far as its citizens are concerned, its
powers and obligations from the same source.'

In these principles we fully concur, but in laying them down in this
distinct and unequivocal manner, the Vice-President has, as we humbly
conceive, conceded the whole matter in controversy, and given up every
inch of ground which he had to stand upon. If it could be made out that
the two Houses of Congress, the President, and the various executive and
judicial officers acting under them, are not a proper Government, but a
mere agency constituted by four and twenty mutually independent States
for certain specific objects, it would follow, not precisely that the
theory of nullification is true, for this, as we have seen, is, at least
as stated by the Vice-President in the document before us, not merely
unconstitutional, but in itself essentially impracticable, incongruous
and absurd:--but that any State which might be, for any or no reason,
tired of the arrangement, would have a perfect right, after such
consultation and advisement with the other parties as might be necessary
to secure their interests, to revoke its powers. But the moment it is
admitted that the two Houses of Congress, the President and the
executive and judicial officers acting under them,--by whatever name
they may be called,--are a _real Government_:--that the instrument by
which they hold their powers is a _real Constitution_, the case changes.
By the _Constitution of Government_, is meant, in every community, the
great _social compact_ which binds together the individual members into
one body politic or political society. Whatever may be its form,
character, or origin,--whether it be written or unwritten;--free,
limited, or despotic;--whether founded in force, fraud, or voluntary
association;--whether created by a number of previously independent
States or by a number of previously independent individuals, so long as
it is and is admitted to be a real _Constitution of Government_, it
carries with it certain incidents which belong to it as such, and which
are inseparable from its nature. Of these incidents, essential
properties or characteristics of the _social compact_, the first in
order are that the parties to it have not a moral right to withdraw from
it at discretion, or to construe at discretion the powers of the
Government created by it, but are bound to remain parties to it, and to
acquiesce in the acts of the Government created by it, excepting in
those extreme cases which justify open rebellion. These are principles
universally acknowledged. No one has ever questioned them; no one has
ever undertaken to maintain that the members of a political society have
a right to withdraw from it at discretion, or that the laws of the land
are not in ordinary cases binding on the citizens. The principle is
equally true under all forms of government, as the Vice-President
himself very correctly intimates, when he states that the relation
between the General Government and the States is the same with that
between the States and their own Governments, or in general between all
Governments and the societies in which they are established.

Such are the principles which, by _universal acknowledgment_, determine
the relations between Governments and the political societies in which
they exist. When therefore the Vice-President fully and formally admits
that the two Houses of Congress, the President, and the executive and
judicial officers acting under them are a _real Government_;--that the
instrument by virtue of which they hold their powers is a real
_Constitution_ or _social compact_, he admits,--if he choose at the same
time to describe them as an agency,--that they are an agency which the
parties that constituted it, whether States or individuals, have not a
right to revoke at discretion; an agency which construes its own powers,
and has a right to enforce its own construction of them upon its
principals, excepting in the extreme cases which justify a _violent
resistance to the law_: he admits that nullification is either wholly
unjustifiable or justifiable only as _resistance_: he admits, in a word,
that nullification, if it have any proper and intelligible meaning at
all, is only another name for _rebellion_. This is, in fact, the real
truth of the whole business.

And this being the case, it is apparent that, even if the acts which the
nullifiers propose to perform were justifiable, it would be on
principles other than those which they profess; that their theory would
still be erroneous, and their language incongruous and absurd. In
certain extreme cases, the citizen is justified in resisting the
execution of the law; but even then he has neither the right nor the
power to _annul_ or _repeal_ it. This is an operation, which from its
nature can only be performed by the same authority which enacted the
law, viz: the Government of the country. The supposition made by the
nullifiers, that in certain cases a citizen or a certain number of
citizens have a right to annul or repeal the law of the land, is not
merely an error, but a manifest absurdity, involving a contradiction in
terms. In the cases which justify resistance, the principle upon which
the citizen proceeds, is not that he has a legal or constitutional right
to annul or repeal the offensive law,--which is the doctrine of the
nullifiers,--but that he has a right, which he admits to be illegal and
unconstitutional, but which he claims as a natural one, to make a
violent opposition to its execution.

Such is the second reason, why the doctrine that a principal has, in
ordinary cases, an unlimited right to construe the powers and disavow
the acts of his agent,--were it even true, as we have shown that it is
not,--would in no way help the Vice-President's argument. The General
Government, if it be an agency, is an agency of a peculiar kind, which,
from its nature, is not revocable at the discretion of the parties that
constituted it, which construes its own powers, and which has a right to
enforce its construction of them against that of its principals,
excepting in those extreme cases that authorize rebellion.

This, as we have said, is the principal and leading consideration which
governs the whole subject. Once admit, what the Vice-President fully
recognises, and what no man in his senses can deny, that the General
Government, call it agency or what you will, is a real Government;--that
the instrument from which it derives its power is a real _Constitution_
or _social compact_, and the argument is brought to a close; there is
not a word more to be said about the matter. The acts of the Government
are, as such, the law of the land. This results from the nature of the
case, and is also affirmed in the Constitution, which, in order to avoid
all doubt or difficulty about the point immediately in controversy in
the present instance, expressly provides that the acts of the General
Government shall be the Supreme Law of the land, _any thing in the
Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding_. But
to say that a citizen, or any number of citizens, can _annul_ or
_repeal_ the law of the land, is, we repeat, a manifest absurdity.
_Resist_ it they _can_, and in certain extreme cases _may_: but that
they should _annul_ or _repeal_ it, is a thing not illegal or
unconstitutional, but impossible and unimaginable. The repeal of a law
is as much an exercise of legislative power as the enactment of it, and
from its very nature cannot be performed, unless by some person or
persons invested with that power, in other words, by the Government. To
assert the contrary, is in substance to assert that the same person can
be sovereign and subject, or in a free State, in and out of office, at
one and the same time.

We have thus endeavored, by a few plain considerations, to show, first,
that the doctrine of nullification is not only unsanctioned by the
Constitution, but wholly impracticable, and that its results, if it
could be carried into effect, would be of the most disastrous
character:--secondly, that the only semblance of argument, by which the
Vice-President attempts to sustain it in the document before us, is
entirely without foundation. It follows from the view which we have
taken of the subject, that the controversy respecting the origin of the
Constitution, which has been often agitated in connexion with this
question, is in a great measure foreign to it. Whether the General
Government had its origin in the will of the State Governments, of the
_people_ of the States, or of the _people_ of the United States is a
point of no importance in the present inquiry, for those who admit that
it is the real and rightful _Government of the country_. For those, if
any such there be, who wish to establish the proposition that the Union
is a confederacy of independent States, _subject to no common
Government_, the question of the origin of the Constitution is an
essential one, because it is in the circumstances attending it, that
they must look for the proofs of their theory. But for those who believe
that that instrument is a _social compact_, and the Government created
by it a real Government, it is unnecessary, for the present purpose, to
go beyond that fact, which proves, of itself, that its acts are the law
of the land, and that in respect to them there is no middle course
between obedience and rebellion.

As respects the origin of the Constitution, we will therefore merely
remark, without enlarging on the subject, that we agree with the
Vice-President in the opinion that it derives its authority from the
States acting as distinct communities, and not from the aggregate mass
of the people of the United States. The latter theory receives some
countenance from the opening words of the preamble:--_We the people of
the United States_;--but is obviously inconsistent with the facts
attending the formation and adoption of the Constitution. Throughout the
whole proceedings, the States appeared as distinct communities. Those
States, which did not at first approve the Constitution, considered
themselves and were considered by the other States as at liberty to
remain without the pale, and actually did so remain for some years. This
could not have happened if all the States had previously constituted one
people, that is, one body politic. In that case the decision of the
body, in whatever form it might have been collected, must have been
obligatory upon all the members. Indeed, the preceding instrument of
Union, commonly called the Old Confederation, expressly recognises the
sovereignty and independence of the States, and describes the Union as a
league. The Congress which assembled under this Confederation was not a
General Government, but a meeting of delegates or ambassadors, in which
each State had an equal vote, and which merely recommended to the States
the adoption of certain measures, which being adopted by them and in
that case only, obtained the character and force of _laws_. It is
obviously impossible to reconcile this condition of things with the
theory, that the States, at the period immediately preceding the
adoption of the Constitution, constituted one people. We find
accordingly, that President J. Q. Adams, who, in his late Fourth of July
Oration, professes the doctrine that the acts of Union which preceded
the declaration of Independence combined the States into one people, and
that they never existed as separate sovereignties, treats the old
Confederation as a temporary departure from the true political system of
the country. In other words, he admits that the character of it is
inconsistent with his theory. But this Confederation, whatever may be
thought of its value, undoubtedly determined for the time being the
_actual_ relation of the parties to it. There is reason to suppose, from
the tenor of another late publication by Mr. Adams, that he considers
the union of Great Britain and Ireland as a departure from the true
political system of those countries; but he would probably not think of
maintaining, as a consequence of that opinion, that Ireland is at this
moment an independent State. On our view of the subject, therefore, the
States, from the period of the Declaration of Independence to that of
the establishment of the Constitution, existed, in form at least, as
distinct communities, independent of each other, and, though
confederated for certain purposes, not subject to a common Government.
The Constitution, by which they subjected themselves to a common
Government, was the act which gave them the character of _one people_.
The form of distinct communities, under which they existed during the
period alluded to, may have been, as we agree with President Adams that
it was, an unfortunate expression of the substantial condition of the
population of this continent; but this is a question not of substance
but of form, and such undoubtedly was, for the time being, the form of
their political existence.

We are therefore disposed to agree with the Vice-President in the
opinion, that the parties to the great social compact, entitled the
Constitution, were not the individual citizens composing the whole
people of the United States, but the several distinct communities into
which they are divided, and which were at that time,--to use the
ordinary language,--sovereign and independent States. We may remark _en
passant_ that the phrase _Sovereign State_, which certain persons employ
so frequently and appear to consider as pregnant with important
political conclusions, though it may, perhaps, be sufficiently
authorized by usage to be received as good English, is not, in the
strict and proper use of language, admissible, and is therefore better
avoided in all precise and scientific discussion. The word _sovereign_
has the same etymology with _supreme_, of which it is another form, and
properly implies, as that does, comparison with something else. Thus the
_Supreme_ Being is the highest of all beings: the _Supreme_ Court is the
highest of all the Courts: the _Sovereign_ power in a State is the
highest political authority. But States, being as such politically
independent of each other, cannot in the nature of things stand towards
each other in the relation of superiority or inferiority, and can of
course be neither _sovereign_ nor _subject_. We find, accordingly, that
in the Declaration of Independence,--a document remarkable throughout
for great propriety in the use of language,--although it was once quoted
by Governor Hamilton, on some public occasion, as saying that the United
Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free, sovereign and independent
States, the word _sovereign_ is not employed. The language used is that
the colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.
As applied to States, the word _sovereign_, if it have any meaning at
all, can only mean _independent_. In this sense it is no longer
applicable to the several States composing the Union, which, since the
adoption of a common Government, are not politically independent of each
other. This is not a merely verbal criticism. Words are things; and we
strongly suspect that the frequent use of this incorrect, ambiguous,
and,--to recur again to the language of Governor Lumpkin,--_mystical_
phrase _Sovereign State_, has created a good deal of embarrassment,
which the substitution of the more correct and intelligible term
_independent_ would have in part prevented.

To return, however, from this digression:--although we agree with the
Vice-President in the opinion, that the Constitution had its origin in
the will of the States acting as distinct communities, we cannot
acquiesce in the conclusions which he deduces from this fact, or admit
that, for the present purpose, it makes any difference whatever in the
case. Independent States may form themselves into a body politic, as
well as independent individuals. Such is in fact the historical origin
of most of the communities now existing throughout the world. They are
in general aggregations of smaller communities, previously existing in
an independent form. Where the States, so forming themselves into one
body politic, retain for certain purposes a distinct name and character,
their position in the body politic, of which they form a part, is
precisely the same with that of the individual citizens in an ordinary
community. This, as we have seen, is fully and distinctly admitted by
Mr. Calhoun himself. He admits that the General Government is as fully
and properly a Government as are the State Governments themselves, and
that the relation between the General Government and the States is
precisely the same with that between the Governments and citizens of the
States, or in general between the Governments and citizens of any other
community. How then can he possibly claim for the States a right of
annulling the acts of the General Government, when he certainly would
not think of claiming such a right for the citizens of the several
States, or of any other political societies, in reference to their
respective Governments?

It may be true, as Mr. Calhoun intimates, that a State Government has no
right to enforce its construction of the Constitution of the State
against the people of the State, appearing in their sovereign capacity;
or, more generally, that in our theories of government the people of any
country, acting in their sovereign capacity, have a right to construe,
alter or totally destroy the Constitution at discretion. But supposing
this to be true, would it follow that every individual citizen has a
right to annul the Constitution, or any part of it, at discretion?
Would Mr. Calhoun himself think of drawing such a conclusion, in
reference to the individual citizens of the States, or of other
communities?--Undoubtedly not. How then can he with the least regard for
consistency draw it in reference to the individual States, which, as he
tells us himself, stand in precisely the same relation to the General
Government, in which the individual citizens of the States and of other
communities stand in relation to their respective Governments?

The right claimed for the States of annulling the Constitution and laws
of the United States, must, says the Vice-President, belong to them,
unless they have expressly surrendered or transferred it. We have
already seen, that no member of a body politic, whether composed of
States or individuals, does or can possess a right to annul or repeal
the law; and that the contrary proposition involves a contradiction in
terms. Were the Constitution wholly silent on the subject, the mere fact
that they had formed themselves, by a solemn social compact, into one
great people, subject to a common Government, though retaining, as
distinct communities, no inconsiderable share of the legislative
power,--this fact alone, we say, would have carried with it a peremptory
obligation upon the States to obey the law as construed by the courts of
justice, excepting in the extreme cases that justify resistance. It
would, however, be natural enough for independent States, in forming a
compact of this description, to introduce an expression of this
obligation; and it may be a matter of curiosity to consider for a moment
what language could have been used, in order to express the idea in the
most direct and unequivocal manner. To one who was seeking for such an
expression, some such phrase as the following would probably occur. _No
State shall have a right, either in the exercise of the sovereign
(constitution-making) or the ordinary legislative (law-making) power, to
annul or arrest the execution of this Constitution, or any law made in
pursuance of it by the General Government._ This, we say, or something
like it would probably be the language, which would occur to any one who
was seeking for the most direct and unequivocal expression of the idea,
that the States have no right to set up their authority against that of
the General Government. Now the language of the Constitution on this
subject is still more decisive, because it expresses the same ideas
conveyed by that here supposed in two forms, the one positive and the
other negative. _This Constitution, and the laws of the United States
which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made or which
shall be made under the authority of the United States, shall be the
supreme law of the land._ This positive declaration carries with it, as
we have said, by implication, the full import of the negative one which
we have supposed above: but in order to make assurance _doubly_ sure,
the framers of the Constitution added a negative declaration, which,
though more concise than the one we have supposed, is of precisely the
same meaning; _and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any
thing in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary
notwithstanding_. This declaration, we repeat, though more concise, is
equivalent in meaning to the more extended expression of the same idea,
which we have imagined as the most direct and unequivocal that could
possibly be used.--_Any thing in the laws of any State to the contrary
notwithstanding._--No State, in the exercise of its ordinary law-making
power, shall have a right to annul or arrest the execution of this
Constitution, or the laws made in pursuance thereof by the United
States. _Any thing in the Constitution of any State to the contrary
notwithstanding._--No State, in the exercise of her sovereign or
constitution-making power; no State, acting in her sovereign capacity,
shall have a right to annul or arrest the execution of this
Constitution, or the laws made in pursuance thereof by the United
States. Any act that may be done for this purpose is to be, _ipso
facto_, null and void. _The judges shall not be bound by it._ Will the
Vice-President or any person of plain common sense undertake to say,
that this is not a correct paraphrase of the negative clause in the
Constitution? If it be admitted that it is, will the Vice-President or
any man of plain common sense undertake to say, that if the framers of
the Constitution had employed the language of this paraphrase instead of
the concise equivalent phrase which they used, there could be any doubt
respecting the character of the present proceedings in Carolina? There
is, in fact, no doubt about it.

It is painful to see a person so distinguished for talent, and, as we
have hitherto been willing to believe, for uprightness of purpose, as
Mr. Calhoun is, attempting to escape by a side path from the plain and
obvious meaning of this clause, which he shrinks from meeting in the
face. He alludes to several propositions that had previously been
submitted to the Convention which framed the Constitution, for the
purpose of making the acts of the General Government paramount to those
of the States; and because these were rejected, he concludes, that the
one which was adopted is not to be carried into effect according to its
plain and natural sense. Is this fair argument? Is it even plausible? It
is impossible, within the narrow compass of an article, to go fully
into every part of this vast subject; but any one, who will take the
trouble to examine the proceedings of the Convention, will readily see
why they rejected the first propositions, and why they adopted the last.
As the States retain a very considerable portion of the legislative
power, and remain, for many purposes, distinct communities, it was
thought important that, in regard to the exercise of the powers so
retained, they should not be under the formal control of the General
Government:--in other words, that so far as they were sovereign, they
should not be subject. Hence the rejection of the proposal of General
Hamilton to give the President a negative on all State laws; and hence
subsequently the amendment of the Constitution, by which it was ordained
that no State should be sued at law. This was all perfectly proper: but
it was also essential that the paramount authority of the acts of the
General Government should be secured, and the object was attained by the
proposition finally adopted, which declares distinctly, both in a
positive and negative form, that such is the understanding of the
Convention, and leaves it to _the Courts of Justice_ to enforce the
provision. This plan is just as effectual as the other would have been,
because the decisions of the courts may and must be sustained, if the
occasion require it, by the whole military force of the country; while
at the same time it removes the possibility of any actual collision
between the two law-giving powers, in the regular performance of their
functions. Each exercises a complete and uncontrolled discretion as to
the objects and extent of its own legislation;--puts its own
construction upon its own powers;--passes, in short, any laws which it
deems constitutional and expedient. Neither, in this form of action, has
any control over the proceedings of the other.--The General Government
has no more right to annul an act of the State of South Carolina, than
the State of South Carolina has to annul an act of the General
Government. But when the proceedings of the two powers come into
collision,--as it may well be supposed that, under such circumstances,
they occasionally will,--the silent operation of the Courts of Justice
gives the ascendancy, where the Constitution declares that it belongs,
to those of the General Government. The provision, like most others in
the Constitution, is obviously the simplest and best that could have
been adopted. The rejection of other propositions of similar tendency
only proves that the Convention considered the subject very maturely,
and successively laid aside the several imperfect and inexpedient
methods of effecting the great object in question, which were proposed
to them, until they finally hit upon one that was satisfactory.

In alluding to this decisive clause in the Constitution, the
Vice-President omits entirely the negative part of it, and quotes it in
the following form:--_This Constitution and the laws made in pursuance
thereof shall be the supreme law of the land._ He then adds that he
shall not go into a minute examination of its effect, the subject having
been already so frequently and so ably investigated, that he deems it
unnecessary. This might have been a good reason for not discussing it at
all; but if it was expedient to discuss it at all, it seems hardly
proper that the most material point in the argument should be passed
over in silence. The omission looks very much like conscious weakness.
For ourselves, we have met with no suggestion, whether made on this or
any former occasion, which, according to our views, has thrown even the
shadow of a doubt upon the meaning of the passage. The pretext for a
question would probably be sought in the qualification, _made in
pursuance of the Constitution_. It may be said that, under this
qualification, laws not made in pursuance of the Constitution are not
paramount to those of the States. But this phrase has obviously no
bearing on the point in question. The meaning is, that the Constitution
and the laws of the United States, made _in the manner prescribed by
it_, or _for the purpose of carrying it into effect_, shall be the
paramount law of the land, just as in the other part of the phrase it is
said, that treaties made _under the authority of the United States_
shall also form a part of this paramount law. In both cases, there is no
reference to the question, whether the law or the treaty has been made
in a rightful or wrongful exercise of the legislative or treaty-making
power. It is merely affirmed that the acts of the General Government,
performed in the exercise of their powers under the Constitution, are
paramount to those of the States. The same language is used in the
Ordinance of Nullification, which declares that 'this Ordinance and the
laws _made in pursuance thereof_ by the legislative power of the State,
shall be binding on the citizens.' It is obviously not intended, that
the citizen shall judge for himself whether the laws so made are or are
not agreeable to the tenor of the Ordinance, but merely that the laws
which the assembly,--acting under this Ordinance or in consequence of
the recommendation contained in this Ordinance,--may pass, shall be

This qualification, which has sometimes, we believe, been regarded as
very significant, has therefore no bearing on the point in question, nor
is it, as Mr. Calhoun imagines, by the clause conferring on the Supreme
Court the power of deciding in all cases arising under the Constitution,
that the States are supposed to be deprived of their right of putting
their own construction upon the powers of the General Government. The
right of deciding on the constitutionality of the laws of the United
States, belongs, from the nature of the case, to the courts, and is
expressly given to the Supreme Court by the Constitution; but the
possession of this right by the courts does not carry with it that of
deciding, that an act of the General Government is of paramount
authority to one of a State. On this subject, we are quite surprised at
the looseness of the Vice-President's reasoning, and its apparent
inconsistency with the general scope of his doctrine. 'Where there are
two sets of rules,' he remarks, 'prescribed in reference to the same
subject, _one by a higher and the other by an inferior authority_, the
judicial tribunal called on to decide the case, must unavoidably
determine, should they conflict, which is the law; and that necessarily
compels it to decide that the rule prescribed by the _inferior power_,
if, in its opinion, inconsistent with that of the higher, is
void.'--This doctrine is strange indeed in the mouth of the Prince of
nullifiers and great champion of State Sovereignty. Where, we would ask,
has the Vice-President learned that the State Governments are inferior
and the General Government a superior power?--We must inform him, that
without being nullifiers, and without believing in the doctrine of State
Sovereignty, we make no such admission for Massachusetts. The State and
General Governments, each of which exercises, independently of the
other, a portion of the sovereign or legislative power of the people,
are neither superior nor inferior to each other: they are precisely on a
level. The right of deciding on the constitutionality of the acts of the
General Government would no more of itself authorize the judges to
decide that they are paramount to those of the States, than it would
authorize them to decide that the acts of the States are paramount to
those of the General Government. The two Governments, considered as
distinct legislative powers, are on a footing of perfect equality. The
question, which shall prevail when their acts come into collision, must
be decided by the nature of the case, and by the specific provisions of
the Constitution. It follows, from the nature of the case, that the acts
of the General Government, which represents the body politic of which
all the States are members, must have an authority paramount to any
other existing in the community; and this conclusion is confirmed by the
letter of the Constitution, which expressly declares, in so many words,
that the acts of the General Government are paramount to those of the
States. It was by forming themselves into one body politic, and by
expressly stipulating with each other in the compact by which this body
politic was formed, that the acts of the General Government representing
it should be paramount to their own, that the States surrendered the
right of putting their own construction on the powers of the General
Government; and this is the foundation of the authority possessed by the
judges, when, by virtue of a different clause, they take cognisance of
cases arising under the Constitution, to decide, as they undoubtedly
must and would do, that any act of a State, whether in its sovereign or
legislative capacity, pretending to annul an act of the General
Government, is of itself, _ipso facto_, null and void.

Finally, says the Vice-President, 'it belongs to the authority which
imposes an obligation, to declare its extent, as far as those are
concerned on whom the obligation is placed. The obligation upon the
individual citizens of the United States to obey the laws, results from
the acts of their respective States, by which they became parties to the
Union; and a similar act of the same authority declaring the extent of
the obligation must be of equal authority, and of course releases the
citizen from the obligation which he came under, by the effect of the
former one.'

This is a point of great importance. It is here admitted, that the
individual citizens are under an obligation to obey the law which the
State is attempting to annul; but it is affirmed, that they may be
discharged from this obligation by an act of the State annulling the
law, _because_ the same authority which imposed the obligation upon them
has a right to release them from it. It is a matter of high concern for
all who wish to know, and knowing, mean to perform their _duties_, to
inquire how far this principle is true, or, if true, applicable to the
present case.

_The same authority which imposes an obligation must of necessity
possess the right of dispensing with it, or declaring its extent._ This
principle, properly explained, may be received as true. But what is the
authority which imposes the obligation,--for example, to execute a
contract? Does the Vice-President suppose that it is the _will_ of the
parties who make the contract, and that the same will which brought each
of them under the obligation, can, at any time, release him from it?
Does he suppose, for example, that it is the will of the two parties to
a contract of marriage which imposes upon them the obligations incident
to that contract, and that either party can, by a mere act of the will,
exempt him or herself from these obligations? We are quite sure, that
Mr. Calhoun would not himself think of maintaining a doctrine so
monstrous. What then is the authority which imposes the obligation? The
answer is plain. The authority imposing the obligation is the one which
makes the law, from which the obligation results. In ordinary cases,
when the obligation results from the laws of the land, the authority
imposing it is the Government of the country. In the case of contracts
between parties not subject to the same Government, the obligation
results from the moral law, and is imposed by the will of the great
Lawgiver of the Universe. The present is the case of an obligation
resulting from the law of the land. The citizens of South Carolina are
bound to pay the duties required by the existing Tariff, because it is a
part of the law of the land. They were brought under the obligation to
obey the laws of the United States, by the act of the State of South
Carolina, by which she and twelve other States formed themselves into
one body politic, under a common Government, just as an individual is
brought under the obligations resulting from a contract of marriage, by
his own will to enter into it. But the authority imposing the obligation
is in both cases not the will of the party, but the Government of the
country. The Government has the same right to repeal or alter the law
which it had to enact it, and in this sense the principle is true, that
the same authority which imposes the obligation, has a right to dispense
with it or to declare its extent. But the citizens of South Carolina,
whether in their individual or joint capacity, have no more right to
exempt themselves, by any act of their own, from the obligation to obey
the laws which they have come under by adopting the Constitution, or to
declare its extent, than they have to exempt themselves by their own act
from the obligation to support their wives and children, which they have
come under by entering into contracts of marriage. Nor does it make
any difference that the act, by which the citizens of Carolina became
parties to the social compact, was performed by them in their joint and
not in their individual capacity. There are many cases, in which
individuals are brought under obligations of various kinds by acts
partly or entirely independent of their own will. A child is brought
under the obligations which he owes to his parents by an act of theirs,
over which he had no control. Will it be pretended that they have a
right to relieve him from these obligations, or to determine their
extent? A husband is liable for his wife's debts,--a principal is bound
by the acts of his agents,--a ward by those of his guardian:--will it be
pretended that the wife, the agent, the guardian has, either in law or
morals, a dispensing or interpreting power over the obligations which
they have brought upon other individuals by their acts? No person of
sound mind could hazard so extravagant an assertion. Just as
preposterous would it be to imagine, that because the citizens of
Carolina were brought under their obligation to obey the laws by an act
of the State, that is, of themselves in their joint capacity, they have
therefore a right, acting in their joint capacity, to exempt themselves
individually from this obligation. Common sense revolts at the
suggestion. It is really wonderful, that principles so palpably
erroneous should be depended on by a man like Mr. Calhoun, as a
justification for measures of such transcendent importance and fearful

The principle that the same authority which imposes an obligation may
dispense with or determine its extent is therefore, rightly understood,
a true and salutary one: but instead of sustaining the Vice-President's
doctrine, it completely refutes the very point which it was employed to
establish. The authority which imposes upon the citizen the obligation
to pay the duties is the Government of the country; and the same
authority only can, by repealing or modifying the law, release him from
this obligation, or in any way affect its character.

We have thus adverted, somewhat in detail, to the principal points in
the Vice-President's exposition, and have endeavored to show that the
doctrine of nullification is, upon the face of it, unconstitutional,
impracticable and of ruinous tendency, and that there is no solid
foundation for the few considerations of an argumentative character, by
which Mr. Calhoun has endeavored to support it. Before taking leave of
the subject, it may be proper to notice some views of a rather more
general description which occupy a considerable portion of his letter,
and are evidently regarded by its author as highly interesting and

It has often been objected, and as we conceive with great justice, to
the pretensions of the Carolina politicians, that they contradict the
acknowledged principle of republican Government, that the will of the
majority should govern. That one State should undertake to annul the
proceedings of the whole twenty-four, is a thing plainly at variance
with this received and salutary axiom. In attempting to reply to this
objection, the Vice-President takes a distinction between what he calls
_absolute_ and _concurring majorities_. By the former, he understands
the numerical majority of the citizens taken in the aggregate; by the
latter, a majority of the different sections, classes or interests into
which they are divided. The absolute majority has, as he conceives, a
constant disposition to encroach upon the rights of the minority; and in
order to protect the sections or interests of which the minority is
composed, it is important that each of these sections or interests
should have a voice, as such, in the administration of the Government.
In this country the distinct sections or interests are chiefly the
States; and the doctrine of nullification, in authorizing a single State
to arrest the action of all the rest, although it contravenes the
principle of the absolute, is in perfect accordance with that of the
concurring majority. This latter principle is recognised, according to
the Vice-President, in the political institutions of most of the free
States of all periods. He cites particularly the case of Rome, where the
tribunes, representing the Plebeian class, had a negative upon the acts
of the Senate. In this country, he conceives it to have been the
intention of the framers of the Constitution, that the principle of the
absolute majority should prevail in the ordinary business of
administration, and that of the concurring majority in all questions
belonging to the formation, amendment or construction of the
Constitution. This is the great secret of the 'solidity and beauty of
our admirable system;' and the doctrine of nullification, which proceeds
upon this principle, instead of having a tendency to weaken this system,
on the contrary confirms and carries it into effect in one of its most
essential and salutary provisions.

To reasoning of this kind,--were it even more specious and plausible
than this in our opinion is,--it would be a sufficient answer, that it
is entirely of an abstract and speculative character, and affords of
course no proper basis for important political action. It is, in fact,
one of the most curious circumstances in this affair, that the leading
Southern politicians have throughout founded their pretensions, and
predicated the measures they recommend on principles, economical and
political, not only wholly theoretical and vague, but before unheard of,
broached by themselves for the first time, and repugnant to the received
opinions of the whole practical and scientific world. Such is their
doctrine, that the producer and not the consumer pays the taxes:--such
is this of absolute and concurring majorities. The very language
employed is entirely new. The phrase _concurring majority_, which, taken
separately, is wholly unintelligible, and when explained as it is,
involves a contradiction in terms, was, as far as we are informed,
invented by Mr. Calhoun. Now we put it in perfect sincerity to the
conscience of that gentleman and his political friends to say, whether
it is fair and reasonable to expect, that the people of the United
States will adopt instantaneously as a rule of action in the most
important concerns, the new theories that may occur to a few citizens,
however distinguished, in their abstract speculations on the sciences of
politics and political economy. We cheerfully give full credit to the
discoverers of these hitherto unheard of principles, for their talents,
ingenuity and research, and should always listen with great attention to
the suggestions they might make; but we cannot consent to receive them
at once, and without reflection or examination, as infallible guides for
conduct or even opinion. Before an abstract principle, however plausible
it may appear, can be safely adopted as a basis of action in important
matters, whether public or private, it must for a long time be
canvassed, examined, opposed and defended, until it is finally admitted
into the number of acknowledged and popular truths. We find,
accordingly, that in the British Parliament, which affords the most
illustrious example of deliberative legislation, no appeal is ever made
to abstract principles, even such as are generally admitted. The
argument turns entirely upon precedent and plain common sense. During
the last fifteen or twenty years, propositions have been repeatedly made
in the House of Commons of measures predicated on the pretended
discoveries of Malthus, in regard to the law of population. But,
although the belief in his doctrines was at one time nearly universal,
and was probably shared by most of the members of Parliament, no
measures predicated upon them could ever be got through. The event has
fully justified this caution, the doctrine in question being now almost
as universally rejected as it was at one time admitted. In the French
Chambers, there is a greater disposition to abstract speculations, but
the reference is always, in form at least, to acknowledged and received
principles. No individual, as far as we are informed, ever undertook
even there to broach an entirely new theory upon any subject, and
demand, at the same moment, that it should be made the basis of
immediate proceedings of the highest moment. To do this was reserved for
the statesmen of the Carolina school, and they have done it at every
stage in the progress of this business. At the very outset, Mr. McDuffie
one fine morning rises in the House of Representatives, and, after
entertaining his colleagues with a dissertation on the abstract
principles of political economy, concludes by saying to
them,--'Gentlemen, all this is entirely new: nobody ever heard of it
before; it is directly opposed to all the received opinions on this
subject; Adam Smith, Say, Ricardo, Hamilton, Gallatin know nothing about
it, but so it is;--_ipse dixi_;--I have said it, and you will of course
act upon it, and change at once the whole basis of your economical
legislation.' The majority, as might naturally have been expected,
decline complying with this polite proposal. This refusal is the
intolerable grievance, of which the Carolina gentlemen are now
complaining. What shall be the remedy?--At this point Mr. Calhoun in his
turn takes the field, with an entirely new theory on the principles of
the Constitution; for the very statement of which he is obliged to
invent new forms of language, and which goes to nothing less than giving
to one member of the body politic a right of controlling the action of
all the rest. Novel, dangerous as, on the face of it, it is, this
speculation too must be made the basis of immediate action: and sorry we
are to say, that its author has found, in his own State, a majority of
the community prepared to act upon it. For ourselves, we cannot
recognise such a mode of proceeding as judicious, customary, or at all
admissible in the practical administration of a wise and great people.

This being the true answer to this part of Mr. Calhoun's argument, it is
unnecessary to go at length into an examination of the doctrine of
absolute and concurring majorities. We shall therefore merely remark
that it is, as far as we have considered it, as incorrect and
unsubstantial, as it is novel. It is important, no doubt, that the
respective interests of the various territorial, professional, religious
and other sections of society should be, as far as may be convenient,
represented in the administration of the Government. This was the first
rude form, in which the great modern discovery of the principle of
_Representation_ in Government dawned upon the minds of our European
ancestors. The idea was acted upon in the political assemblies of the
middle ages, denominated States General and Parliaments, in which the
nobles, the clergy, the cities, the commons, and in some cases the
peasants had each a separate representation. But in these and all other
similar cases, the object was to obtain a concurrence of the different
classes of society in _making_ the law: nor do we believe that any
example can be produced, either from ancient or modern history, with
perhaps the single exception of the _Confederations_ of Poland, in which
the Constitution, written or unwritten, that is, the form prescribed by
express agreement or usage for _making_ the law, expressly authorizes
any individual citizen or class of citizens to _break_ the law. The idea
is obviously self-contradictory and absurd. The case of the tribunes at
Rome, to which the Vice-President alludes, is not in point. The tribunes
possessed, by law, a negative upon the acts of the Senate, precisely as
the President of the United States and the Governors of all the States
possess a qualified negative upon the acts of Congress, and the State
Legislatures. An act of the Roman Senate, which was negatived by a
tribune, never became a law, and of course could not be _nullified_.

In our Constitution, the idea of representing different interests in the
machinery for making the law, has been retained in favor of the States.
These, independently of their representation on the principle of the
numerical amount of their population in the House of Representatives,
have a distinct representation on a footing of perfect equality in the
Senate. A bill, which has obtained the sanction of the two Houses of
Congress, has _ipso facto_ been approved by a representation of the
_absolute majority_ of the whole people of the Union, and of what the
Vice-President is pleased to call the _concurring majority_, that is, a
majority of the representatives of the States, considered as distinct
communities. The arrangement is one, which the Vice-President, reasoning
consistently upon his own theory, ought to consider as perfect. But
this does not satisfy him. Not content with obtaining for each of and
all the States a full representation, on the principle both of the
absolute and concurring majorities,--the very thing which he professes
to wish for,--he insists that each shall have _in addition_ for itself a
right to _break_ the law, which it has itself concurred in making:--that
each State, after co-operating by its presence in imposing upon the
other States the obligations resulting from a law, has a right to exempt
itself by its own separate act from bearing its own share of these
burdens; and,--as the rights of all the States in this respect are of
course the same,--that the law, which is in form binding upon every
body, is in fact and in reality binding upon nobody, since each of the
parties supposed to be bound by it possesses individually a right to
break it.--A right to break the law!

This is really too extravagant, and were it not for the respect which we
have heretofore been disposed to entertain for the talents and character
of Mr. Calhoun, we should find some difficulty in believing that he can
be honest in expressing such opinions. The case furnishes a very strong
example of the extent, to which party feeling and disappointed personal
ambition can bewilder the conceptions of a naturally acute and powerful
mind. If the Vice-President will review his principles, with only a
small portion of the sagacity and correctness of judgment which he could
bring to any other subject, he will see at once that the right which he
claims for the States, is not that of being represented as distinct
interests in the making of the law, (which they are by the Constitution)
but that of _resisting_ the execution of it, when made; and that the
proceedings in which he is engaged, whether justifiable or not, are
essentially _revolutionary_.

The Vice-President indulges in another course of remarks of considerable
extent, which, though not directly applicable to the leading points of
the argument, are of too serious a cast to be passed over without
notice. He undertakes to show, that the Government of the Union would
not be authorized to employ force against a State which should annul one
of their acts; and, anticipating the objection that nullification is
equivalent to a secession from the Union, which would place the seceding
State in the attitude of a foreign one, he proceeds to reply to it by
pointing out what he considers the distinction between _nullification_
and _secession_. Secession is the actual retirement of one of the
partners to a common concern; nullification is the refusal of the same
partner to be bound by an act of the common agent. The object of the
former is to dissolve the partnership,--of the latter, to confine it to
its proper object. The right to secede, that is, to avoid the obligation
of all the acts of the partnership, supposes the right to nullify, that
is, to avoid the obligation of one: and there is therefore an obvious
inconsistency in the theory of those, who, as the Vice-President tells
us is the case with many persons, admit the former and deny the latter.
For himself, he liberally concedes both: a State, according to him, has
a right at discretion either to exempt itself by its own act from the
obligation to obey any particular act of the General Government, or to
nullify the whole, Constitution and all, at one fell swoop, and secede
entirely from the Union.

Presented in this crude, unsophisticated and unqualified shape, the
system of the Vice-President becomes almost ludicrous; but when we
recollect the respectability of the quarter from which it proceeds, and
the serious aspect which the practice upon it is assuming at the South,
a painful feeling irresistibly predominates. Did Mr. Calhoun, when he
was entering on these forbidden speculations, recollect the impressive
language in which the Father of his country, forty years ago, pointed
out their danger? 'It is of infinite moment, that you should properly
estimate the value of your national Union to your collective and
individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual and
immoveable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak
of it as the palladium of your political safety and prosperity;
_discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in
any event he abandoned_; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning
of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest,
or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together its various
parts.' Is it _discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion
that the Union can in any event be abandoned_, to affirm explicitly and
without qualification, that every State has a right at its own
discretion to secede from the Union? Is it _frowning indignantly upon
the first dawning of every attempt to enfeeble the sacred ties which
link together the United States_, to maintain that these links are a
mere cobweb, which any one of the States has a right to break through or
shake off at its own discretion? Is this a fit and proper lesson to come
from the high places of the Federal Government, from the second in
rank of the citizens who have been selected from the whole country, as
the immediate executors of the great charter of the Union? We agree with
Mr. Calhoun, that of the two heresies to which he alludes, the greater
includes and supposes the less:--that it would be inconsistent for any
one, who admits the right of nullifying at once, by secession, the
Constitution and all the laws, to deny the right of nullifying one; but
we utterly deny that either can be reconciled with the letter or spirit
of the Constitution. The social compact,--like the contract of
marriage,--is one in which the parties take each other for better or
worse, for sickness or health, for life and for death. It is one from
which they have no right to retire at discretion. They can have no
right, as States or individuals, to avoid, either wholly or in part, the
obligations of this compact, and the laws made under it, for the plain
and unanswerable reason, that this compact and the laws made under it
are the rule which determines for them what is right, and that
opposition to the rule of right must of course be wrong. Extreme cases
may undoubtedly occur, in which the obligation may, either wholly or in
part, be innocently avoided; but they cannot, from the nature of the
subject, be either contemplated in or reconciled with the law. The
patriot shrinks from dwelling upon the circumstances under which they
would happen, as he would from imagining a case, that should justify him
in lifting his hand against his own father. His heart sickens at the
thought that any such contingency can possibly occur. If forced to meet
it, he makes no vain attempt to reconcile his conduct with the rule
which he violates; no pretension to obey and break the law at one and
the same time:--he boldly avows that his act is unconstitutional, and
appeals for its justification to the Supreme Governor of the Universe,
who has engraved upon the heart of man a law which, in some extreme
cases, he is permitted to regard as paramount to every other.

We have now finished what we thought it necessary to say in the way of
direct commentary upon Mr. Calhoun's exposition. On the leading points
of the question, we have argued chiefly from his admission, which is
made in the fullest and most explicit manner, that the United States are
under a common Government, holding the same relation towards them that
the Governments of the several States and all others hold to the
communities over which they are respectively established. From the
fact thus admitted, it follows, of necessity, as we have repeatedly
remarked, that the Constitution is not a league or treaty, but a social
compact, and that the Union is not a cluster of twenty-four independent
States, but one body politic composed of twenty-four members,--each
exercising a certain portion of the legislative or sovereign power, but
having no pretension to independence. If this admission had been made
unguardedly by Mr. Calhoun, and were not assented to by other champions
of the same creed, it would be unfair to take advantage of it in the
argument; but this is not the case. This exposition by the
Vice-President is recognised by the nullifiers as the most authentic
statement that has yet appeared of their sentiments, and is constantly
referred to as the standard and symbol of the true nullifying faith.
Other writers of high authority on the same subject hold the same
language with the Vice-President, particularly the authors of the
addresses issued by the late Columbia Convention. The Report, attributed
to Mr. McDuffie, declares that 'the States entered into a _solemn
compact_ with each other, by which they established a _General
Government_,' and quotes in support of his position the remark of Mr.
Jefferson, that the States, by a _compact_, under the style and title of
the Constitution of the United States, constituted a _General
Government_. In like manner Mr. Turnbull, in his address to the people
of South Carolina, tells them that 'the Constitution of the United
States is admitted by contemporaneous writers to be a _compact_ between
(formed by) sovereign States, and that the subject matter (object) of
that compact was a _Government_.' Finally, General Hayne, in the address
to the people of the United States, remarks that the 'Constitution is a
_compact_ formed between the several States, acting as distinct
communities, and that the _Government_ created by it is a joint agency
of the States.' They all pursue the same line of reasoning with the
Vice-President, frequently quote his language, and evidently consider
his writings as the creed of the party.

So far, indeed, is the admission to which we have alluded from being
made by the Vice-President unguardedly or unintentionally, that in other
parts of his exposition he in fact goes by necessary implication a great
deal farther. He not only recognises the existence of a common
Government, and consequently of one body politic, but lays it down as
one of the leading points of his doctrine, that this body politic has
_unlimited power_ over its members, the States. Strange as it may
appear to readers who have not looked attentively at the subject, it is
actually one of the leading articles of the nullification creed, as
expounded by the Vice-President in the document before us, that the
United States are a body politic, possessing under the Constitution
unlimited power over all its members. A State nullifies an act of the
General Government; the General Government is then bound to apply to the
States for a grant of the disputed power, in the form prescribed for
amending the Constitution.--If three-fourths of the States grant the
power,--what follows? _The nullifying State is bound to acquiesce._ 'If
granted,' says the Vice-President, 'acquiescence would then become a
duty on the part of the State.' No matter how large the concession,--no
matter how important the alteration made in the character of our
institutions,--should the General Government even claim a right to
exercise all the powers of an unlimited military despotism, let but the
change be proposed and carried through in the form of an amendment of
the Constitution, and the individual States are _bound to acquiesce_!

And yet these States, who have not only formed themselves into one body
politic under a common Government, to which they have delegated the most
important powers that are exercised by other Governments, but who have
bound themselves to each other to acquiesce in any extension of these
powers that may be agreed upon by three-fourths of the number, remain
nevertheless as completely sovereign and independent, since the
conclusion of the compact containing these provisions, as they were

In what way the characters of sovereignty and independence are to be
reconciled with the obligation, not only to obey a Government possessing
certain specified powers, but to acquiesce in any extension of these
powers that may be agreed upon by certain other parties, without the
consent of the supposed sovereign and independent State, neither the
Vice-President, nor Gov. Hamilton, nor Gen. Hayne, nor Mr. McDuffie, nor
Mr. Turnbull, nor any other writer on the subject of nullification has
condescended to inform us. They all freely admit, that the States are
bound in ordinary cases to obey the laws made by the General
Government:--that even in the particular cases where they have a right
to nullify these laws, they are bound to submit to the decision of
three-fourths of the States; and that in general they are bound to
acquiesce in any extension of the powers of the General Government,
that may be agreed upon without or against their consent by
three-fourths of the States; but still maintain with one voice and an
air of honest wonder that any body can differ from them, that each State
is still, to all intents and purposes, as completely sovereign and
independent, as before the adoption of the Constitution. 'The several
States,' says the Report of the Columbia Convention, 'retain their
sovereignty unimpaired.' 'The States are as sovereign now,' says the
address to the people of Carolina, 'as they were prior to entering into
the compact.' It is admitted that 'a _foreign_ or inattentive reader,
(_Qu_: Is Mr. Turnbull a native citizen?) unacquainted with the origin,
progress and history of the Constitution, would be very apt, from the
phraseology of the instrument, (a pretty good ground, one would think,
for argument upon its meaning) to regard the States as having divested
themselves of their sovereignty, and to have become (_regard to have
become_, is not good English, Mr. Turnbull) great corporations,
subordinate to one Supreme Government.' 'But this,' it seems, 'is (would
be) an error.' 'The Federal Constitution is a treaty, a confederation,
an alliance,' the parties to which are 'so many sovereign States.'
General Hayne, in like manner, describes the States, in the address to
the people, as 'the sovereign States of the confederacy.' 'The
Constitution,' says the Vice-President in the exposition before us, 'is
as strictly and as purely a confederation, as the one which it
superseded.' 'The case of a treaty between sovereigns is strictly
analogous to it.' '_At the bottom_ of almost every misconception as to
the relation between the States and the General Government, _lurks the
radical error_ that the latter is a national, and not, as in reality it
is, a confederated Government.'

In other times, when other doctrines were fashionable in South Carolina,
we were told by one of her distinguished statesmen of a very different
_radical_ error, which was _lurking at the bottom_ of a doctrine which
he then thought it his duty to oppose. 'The States, as political
bodies,'--said Mr. McDuffie in his well-known pamphlet, _The Trio_,
published about ten years ago,--'the States, as political bodies, have
no original inherent rights. That they have such rights, is a false,
dangerous and anti-republican assumption, which _lurks at the bottom_ of
all the reasoning in favor of State rights.'--Is there not room to
apprehend that the error, which really lurks at the bottom in both these
cases, is not precisely the one alluded to by either of these
distinguished statesmen, but another which was also signalised by Mr.
McDuffie on the same occasion and in the same pamphlet? 'Ambitious men
of inferior talents, finding that they have no hope to be distinguished
in the councils of the national Government, naturally wish to increase
the power and consequence of the State Governments, the theatres in
which they expect to acquire distinction. It is not, therefore, a regard
for the rights of the people, and a real apprehension that those rights
are in danger, that have caused so much to be said on the subject of
prostrate State sovereignties and consolidated empire. It is the
ambition of that class of politicians who expect to figure only in the
State Councils, and of those States who are too proud to acknowledge any

This quotation was too provokingly apposite to be omitted; but we
frankly own that the question preceding it must, in reference to the
present case, be answered in the negative. The leading nullifiers,
though sufficiently ambitious, are not men 'of inferior talents, who can
have no hope of distinguishing themselves in the councils of the
national Government.' They possess talents of a high order, and had
already reached the most elevated stations in the National Government,
before their judgments, previously sound and acute, had given way to the
strange delusion which has now got possession of them. It is therefore
necessary to look for the motives of their present proceedings in other
quarters. Perhaps we may find them pretty satisfactorily accounted for,
in the following passage of the same publication by Mr. McDuffie. 'He
must have read the lessons of history to little purpose, who does not
perceive that the people of particular States are liable to fall
occasionally into a dangerous and morbid excitement upon particular
subjects; and that, under this excitement, they will impel their rulers
into the adoption of measures in their tendency destructive to the

But without undertaking to scrutinize the motives of the leading
statesmen of South Carolina, we repeat that none of them have yet
condescended to inform us, how they reconcile their admissions as to the
authority of the General Government in ordinary cases, and that of the
United States under the amending clause, with their doctrine of
'unimpaired sovereignty.' Mr. Calhoun, in the document before us,
appears to be aware of the difficulty, but does not meet it in the full
and frank manner which we had a right to expect from a man of his
character. He takes refuge in vague and indefinite forms of language.
'Previous to the adoption of the present Constitution,' says he, 'no
power could be exercised over any State, by any other or all of the
States, without its own consent.' In other words, the States were then
independent of each other, and, in the common phrase, sovereign. How are
they now?--'The present Constitution,' continues Mr. Calhoun, 'has made
in this particular _a most important modification in their condition_. I
allude to the provision which gives validity to amendments of the
Constitution, when ratified by three-fourths of the States, a provision
which has not attracted as much attention as its importance
deserves.'[A] It appears, then, that although the sovereignty of the
States is _unimpaired_, their condition in this particular has undergone
_a most important modification_. Now the long word _modification_,
though it be, like Bardolph's _accommodated_, 'a soldier-like word, and
a word of exceeding good command,' means, with all its six syllables,
neither more nor less than the old-fashioned English monosyllable
_change_.--_Modification_, says Johnson, is the act of _modifying_; and
to _modify_ is to _change_. It seems, then, that the condition of the
States has undergone in this particular a most important _change_. It is
no longer what it was. But they were before independent: of course they
are now not independent. Such appears to be the plain English of the
vague term _modification_.

But to what extent has this modification been carried? Before the
adoption of the Constitution no power could be exercised over a State
without its own consent. Now, by the admission of Mr. Calhoun, the
United States can exercise unlimited power over a State without its own
consent. This is indeed a most important _modification_ of the
sovereignty of the State. Such, however, is the virtue of this valuable
word, that it prevents all the effect that would otherwise ensue to the
sovereignty of the State from the change signified by it. 'To understand
correctly the nature of this _concession_, (the _modification_ is after
all a _concession_,) we must not confound it with the power conferred
upon the General Government, and to be exercised by it as the joint
agent of the States. They are essentially different. The former is in
fact but a modification of the original sovereign power, residing in the
people of the several States.' It seems, then, that this _most important
modification_ is in fact _a modification_. '_Accommodated_ is when a man
is, as they say, _accommodated_, or when a man is being--whereby he may
be thought to be _accommodated_.' 'But,' continues the Vice-President,
'the original sovereign power residing in the people of the several
States, though modified, is not delegated. It still resides in the
States, and is still to be exercised by them, and not by the
Government.' He had just told us, that the condition of the several
States had undergone in this particular a most important modification,
by the concession of power made in the provision for amending the
Constitution:--now there is no delegation,--no concession,--the
sovereignty is modified, but the condition of the State remains as it
was before. Did the Vice-President himself understand exactly what he
meant to say?

'It still resides in the States, and is to be exercised by them, and not
by the Government.' How is this?--Before the adoption of the
Constitution, the whole political power of each State resided in the
State: now, a large portion of it has been transferred, by the provision
for amending the Constitution, to the United States. How then can it be
said, that the whole still resides in the State? Of what consequence is
it whether the power has been conceded to the General Government, or to
the United States? Provided it be gone from the State, it is obvious
that the sovereignty of the State is equally impaired, whether it now
belongs to one or the other. The point which Mr. Calhoun wishes to make
out is, that each State now possesses all the political power which it
possessed before the adoption of the Constitution. It is admitted that a
large concession has been made. But, says Mr. Calhoun, the power thus
granted has been granted to the United States, and not to the General
Government,--therefore, it still remains in the possession of the
granting State! The owner of a tract of land conveys away a part of it
for a valuable consideration; but the sale being made to B. and not to
C., it follows, says Mr. Calhoun, that the whole remains in possession
of A.

If arguments like these were found in a document purporting to be a mere
specimen of forensic ingenuity, or in the speech of a legal advocate
who might be supposed to defend his client, whether he thought his case
a good one or not, we should conclude, at once, that the person
employing them had, from a consciousness of the weakness of his cause,
resorted expressly to ambiguous language, and loose sophistical
reasoning. But the document before us is of a very different character
and consequence. The subject which it treats is a great practical
question. The author,--no less a person than the Vice-President of the
United States,--has placed himself at the head of an enterprise, which,
according to the degree of purity and singleness of heart with which he
engages in it, must be regarded as in him the noblest exercise of
patriotism, or the highest offence known to the law. Such is the
individual, whom we find under such circumstances resorting for his
justification to a sort of language, which, in ordinary cases, would be
received as the obvious resource and undoubted evidence of
_insincerity_. We shrink from characterizing such a course in the way
which appears most natural, and gladly avail ourselves of the pointed
and fearless denunciation of Mr. McDuffie.

'A man, who will contend that our Government is a confederacy of
independent States, whose independent sovereignty was never in any
degree renounced, and that it may be controlled or annulled at the will
of the several independent States or sovereignties, can scarcely be
regarded as belonging to the present generation. The several independent
States control the General Government! this is anarchy itself.'

It is unnecessary, we trust, to pursue this discussion any farther. The
nullifiers, we repeat, scarcely attempt to reconcile their full and
express admissions, that the Constitution is a social compact, by which
the States have formed themselves into a body politic under a common
Government, which body politic possesses, under the amending clause, an
unlimited power over the political condition of its members, with the
assertion, openly and obviously inconsistent with these admissions, that
each State still retains its independence and sovereignty entire and
unimpaired. Their whole argument, such as it is, consists in the eternal
repetition of two ideas. The States were independent at the time when
they made the Constitution,--therefore they are independent now. A. and
B. were single persons at the time when they entered into a contract of
marriage, therefore they are single still. The precise and avowed object
of the contract, in both cases, is to put an end to the relation which
the parties previously held towards each other, and to substitute for
it another and a different one. Yet it is sagely concluded, that because
they held towards each other this relation, which it was intended to
terminate, before, they must of necessity hold it afterwards; and this
is the conclusion which the Vice-President and his followers declare
themselves determined to enforce upon the people of the United States,
if necessary, at the cannon's mouth!

What then, it may be asked, is in fact the situation of the States under
the Constitution? Are they mere corporations, like our cities and towns,
deriving all their powers from the acts of the Government under which
they are placed? Assuredly not. The States are the original parties to
the social compact, and are recognised in it as entitled to exercise a
certain portion of the legislative power. In the exercise of this power,
they are, as we have already remarked, just as independent of the
General Government, as the General Government is of them in the exercise
of the powers with which it is invested by the same Constitution. But
although the General Government has no authority over the State
Governments, the United States, besides the control which they exercise
through the General Government over the citizens of the States, also
possess, under the amending clause of the Constitution, an almost
unlimited control over the political situation of the States themselves.
Under these circumstances, it is obvious, that the States, though
holding, not by law, but by an original right recognised in the
Constitution, the legislative power which they are entitled to exercise,
have yet no pretensions to sovereignty or absolute political
independence, and that, the only sovereign power, recognised in our
institutions is that of the people or body politic of the United States.

In the quotations which we have made from the pamphlet of Mr. McDuffie,
we have employed to a very moderate extent the _argumentum ad hominem_,
which, as our readers are aware, might be carried without difficulty a
great deal farther. There have probably been very few cases, in the
history of this or any other country,--especially relating to matters of
so much importance,--in which individuals have placed themselves before
the public, in a position so diametrically opposite to that which they
occupied but a short time before. Their inconsistency is equally glaring
in reference to the nature of the evil of which they complain, and the
means by which they propose to remedy it. But a few years ago, these
very persons not only supported and professed to believe in the policy
of protecting domestic industry, but actually originated the plan, and
employed the whole weight of their talents and influence in carrying it
through Congress. At the same time, they denounced the claim of a right
in the States to annul the acts of the General Government, as anarchy
itself. Now, the protecting policy is not only not advantageous but
utterly ruinous to the country; and not only ruinous but
unconstitutional, and not only unconstitutional but so plainly and
palpably unconstitutional, as to justify a resort to the most desperate
extremities to get rid of it. Now, the right of the States to annul at
discretion the acts of the General Government is not only not anarchy
itself, but is the simplest and most beautiful part of the whole
machinery of our political institutions. It would be easy to collect
from the writings and speeches of these gentlemen at the two periods
alluded to, whole pages of passages, presenting, on the same authority,
exactly the _pro_ and _con_ of every prominent point in the argument.
This has in fact been done to a considerable extent by Mr. Carey, and if
the subject were not a serious one, the contrast would be irresistibly
amusing. Our limits will not permit us to enlarge upon this point, and
the strength of the direct argument renders it unnecessary. In general,
we are not disposed to insist too rigorously upon formal party
consistency, and are willing to allow to political men a reasonable
latitude in reconsidering their opinions, and adapting their abstract
principles to the circumstances under which they are called to act. But
in a case so very peculiar as this, where the party is so clearly bound
to put himself in the right in the great court of public opinion, he
certainly gives his opponents a fearful advantage when he enables them,
on every leading point, to _condemn_ him unequivocally and peremptorily
_out of his own mouth_.

Is it in fact to be endured, that men of talents, reputation, commanding
stations in society, shall denounce as inexpedient, unconstitutional,
intolerably oppressive, as furnishing legitimate motives for resistance,
measures, which not ten years ago they openly supported, nay, themselves
originated and pressed upon the country? That they shall claim and
insist upon, as their dearest and most essential rights, pretensions,
which not ten years ago they denounced as chimerical, unconstitutional,
anarchical, involving in practice the destruction of all government? Can
the people of the United States believe, that the persons by whom these
diametrically opposite opinions have been successively maintained with
equal warmth and zeal, have been perfectly sincere in both? Or if, in
the exercise of a perhaps excessive charity, they believe them to have
been sincere, will they consider them as persons of a sufficiently sound
and cool judgment to be followed with safety, through the dangerous
paths into which they would lead us,--over the unfathomable precipices,
to the brink of which they have already brought their deluded
retainers?--We think not.

We have left ourselves but little room for direct remark upon the
Ordinance of the Carolina Convention; and if the views which we take of
its operation and character be correct, it does not necessarily call for
any extended commentary. We copy the entire document, as a sort of
political curiosity, and shall annex a few observations.

  '_An Ordinance to nullify certain Acts of the Congress of the United
  States, purporting to be laws laying duties and imposts on the
  Importation of Foreign Commodities._

  Whereas the Congress of the United States, by various Acts,
  purporting to be Acts laying duties and imposts on foreign imports,
  but in reality intended for the protection of Domestic Manufactures,
  and the giving of bounties to classes and individuals engaged in
  particular employments, at the expense and to the injury and
  oppression of other classes and individuals, by wholly exempting
  from taxation certain foreign commodities, such as are not produced
  or manufactured in the United States, to afford a pretext for
  imposing higher and excessive duties on articles similar to those
  intended to be protected, hath exceeded its just powers under the
  Constitution, which confers on it no authority to afford such
  protection, and hath violated the true meaning and intent of the
  Constitution, which provides for equality in imposing the
  burdens of taxation upon the several States and portions of the
  Confederacy;--And, whereas the said Congress, exceeding its just
  power to impose taxes and collect revenue for the purpose of
  effecting and accomplishing the specific objects and purposes which
  the Constitution of the United States authorized it to effect and
  accomplish, hath raised and collected unnecessary revenues, for
  objects unauthorized by the Constitution:--

  We, therefore, the People of the State of South Carolina in
  Convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby
  declared and ordained, that the several Acts and parts of Acts of
  the Congress of the United States, purporting to be laws for the
  imposing of duties and imposts on the importations of the States,
  and more especially an Act entitled "an Act in alteration of the
  several Acts imposing duties on imports," approved on the 19th day
  of May, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight, and also an Act
  entitled "an Act to alter and amend the several Acts imposing duties
  on imports," approved on the 14th day of July, one thousand eight
  hundred and thirty-two, are unauthorized by the Constitution of the
  United States, and violate the true meaning thereof, and are null,
  void, and no law, nor binding upon this State, its officers or
  citizens; and all promises, contracts and obligations made or
  entered into, or to be made or entered into, with the purpose to
  secure the duties imposed by the said Acts, and all judicial
  proceedings which shall be hereafter had in affirmance thereof are
  and shall be held utterly null and void.

  And it is further ordained, That it shall not be lawful for any of
  the constituted authorities, whether of this State or of the United
  States, to enforce the payment of duties imposed by the said Acts
  within the limits of this State; but that it shall be the duty of
  the Legislature to adopt such Acts as may be necessary to give full
  effect to this Ordinance, and to prevent the enforcement and arrest
  the operation of the said Acts and parts of Acts of the Congress of
  the United States within the limits of this State, from and after
  the 1st day of February next, and the duty of all other constituted
  authorities, and of all persons residing or being within the limits
  of this State, and they are hereby required and enjoined to obey and
  give effect to this Ordinance, and such Acts and measures of the
  Legislature as may be passed or adopted in obedience thereto.

  And it is further ordained, That in no case of law or equity,
  decided in the Courts of this State, wherein shall be drawn in
  question the authority of this Ordinance, or the validity of such
  Act or Acts of the Legislature as may be passed for the purpose of
  giving effect thereto, or the validity of the aforesaid Acts of
  Congress, imposing duties, shall any appeal be taken, or allowed, to
  the Supreme Court of the United States, nor shall any copy of the
  record be permitted or allowed for that purpose; and if any such
  appeal shall be attempted to be taken, the Courts of this State
  shall proceed to execute and enforce their judgments, according to
  the laws and usages of the State, without reference to such
  attempted appeal; and the person or persons attempting to take such
  appeal, may be dealt with for a contempt of the Court.

  And it is further ordained, That all persons now holding any office
  of honor, profit or trust, civil or military, under this State,
  shall, within such time as the Legislature shall prescribe, take, in
  such manner as the Legislature may direct, an oath well and truly to
  obey, execute and enforce this Ordinance, and such Act or Acts of
  the Legislature as may be passed in pursuance thereof, according to
  the true intent and meaning of the same; and on the neglect or
  omission of any such person or persons so to do, his or their office
  or offices shall be forthwith vacated, and shall be filled up, as if
  such person or persons were dead or had resigned; and no person,
  hereafter elected to any office of honor, profit or trust, civil or
  military, shall, until the Legislature shall otherwise provide and
  direct, enter on the execution of his office, or be in any respect
  competent to discharge the duties thereof, until he shall, in like
  manner, have taken a similar oath; and no juror shall be impannelled
  in any of the Courts of this State, in any cause in which shall be
  in question this Ordinance, or any Act of the Legislature passed in
  pursuance thereof, unless he shall first, in addition to the usual
  oath, have taken an oath, that he will well and truly obey, execute
  and enforce this Ordinance, and such Act or Acts of the Legislature
  as may be passed to carry the same into operation and effect,
  according to the true intent and meaning thereof.

  And we, the People of South Carolina, to the end that it may be
  fully understood by the Government of the United States, and the
  People of the co-States, that we are determined to maintain this,
  our Ordinance and Declaration, at every hazard,--do further declare,
  that we will not submit to the application of force, on the part of
  the Federal Government, to reduce this State to obedience; but that
  we will consider the passage, by Congress, of any Act authorizing
  the employment of any military or naval force against the State of
  South Carolina, her constituted authorities or citizens, or any Act
  abolishing or closing the ports of this State, or any of them, or
  otherwise obstructing the free ingress and egress of vessels, to and
  from the said ports, or any other Act on the part of the Federal
  Government to coerce the State, shut up her ports, destroy her
  commerce, or to enforce the acts hereby declared to be null and
  void, otherwise than through the civil tribunals of the country, as
  inconsistent with the longer continuance of South Carolina in the
  Union: and that the people of this State will thenceforth hold
  themselves absolved from all further obligation to maintain or
  preserve their political connexion with the people of other States,
  and will forthwith proceed to organize a separate Government, and do
  all other acts and things, which sovereign and independent States
  may of right do.'

If, in a matter so serious as this, it were worth while to pay much
attention to forms of expression, the language of this document would
afford ample room for criticism. To begin with the very title: _an
Ordinance_. It has been well observed, that the Convention could hardly
have given to the paper expressing their intentions a less auspicious
name, than this obsolete vestige of the French _ancien regime_, the last
example of which, known to us in this country, was the celebrated
Ordinance to nullify the liberty of the press and the right of suffrage.
The result of this attempt at nullification by Charles X. was hardly
such as to encourage imitation, or to bring the phraseology employed by
him into very good odor.--_An Ordinance to nullify_,--why substitute the
affected term _nullify_, of which no one knows the real meaning, for the
standard English word _annul_, which every body understands? Obviously
for no other purpose, than to _mystify_ the good people of Carolina into
a course, which, if the true character of it were honestly presented to
them, they would shrink from with horror. The use of this term is an
improvement, at the suggestion of Mr. Turnbull, upon the title as
originally reported by Mr. Harper, which ran thus:--_an Ordinance to
provide for arresting the operation of certain acts, &c._ This was at
least intelligible. Again: _an Ordinance to nullify certain acts of
Congress purporting to be laws_. Why _purporting_ to be laws?--They are
laws. The Acts of the General Government are, as such, laws. They may be
inexpedient, oppressive, unconstitutional,--but they are still _laws_.
This is their appropriate name as Acts of the Government, and has no
connexion with the question of their validity. The phraseology of the
first sentence of the Ordinance is still more singular:--_Whereas the
Congress of the United States, by various Acts purporting to be Acts
laying duties and imposts on foreign imports, but in reality intended
for the protection of domestic manufactures._ Purporting to be acts
laying duties and imposts on foreign imports! Can any one doubt that
they are Acts laying duties on foreign imports? The objection to them
is, that they lay duties for a purpose not recognised by the
Constitution; but no man in his senses can pretend to doubt, that they
do in fact lay duties on foreign imports.

The rest of the Ordinance is about as correctly drawn, as the title and
the first sentence: but, without enlarging on mere phraseology, let us
proceed to considerations of a more substantial character. The questions
that naturally suggest themselves on a perusal of this extraordinary
document are, What is its immediate operation? What measures will it
call for, on the part of the General Government? What will be its
ultimate effect upon the political situation of the country?

1. _What is its immediate operation?_ In the view which we take of it,
the Ordinance, standing by itself, is entirely inoperative. It pretends
to release the citizens of South Carolina from the obligation to obey
the Revenue laws, but it leaves the Government of the United States in
possession of all the means which they had before to enforce them. If
the importer refuse to pay the duties and give the usual bonds, the
goods will of course be seized and sold without farther process. If he
give bonds and refuse to pay them when due, the usual legal process will
be had in the District Court; and, as the jurors serving in that Court
are not called on to take the oath to obey the Ordinance, there will be
no appearance even of a conflict of obligations. The Judge, whose duty
it is to instruct the jury in the law, will of course tell them that the
Ordinance, as far as it contradicts the laws of the United States, has
no legal effect, and they will give their verdict accordingly. If, in
some cases, juries, under the influence of the popular excitement,
should undertake to judge of the law for themselves, and give verdicts
in clear cases against the Government, there would be, no doubt, some
practical inconvenience, but in theory the law would still have its
course. There would be no collision between the authority of the General
and State Governments, and no occasion for any interposition of force by
the former. The situation of things would be substantially the same as
it was in this city during the last war with Great Britain, where the
juries habitually gave verdicts against the Government, in cases where
the right was clearly on its side. Still the law ostensibly had its
course, and the public peace was not broken. The Ordinance, therefore,
standing by itself, is a mere dead letter.

2. _What measures does it call for, on the part of the General
Government?_ The Ordinance, being entirely inoperative, and having no
legal or practical effect which the Government can or ought to notice,
of course calls for no measures in the way of counteraction. Considered
as an indication of the state of the public feeling in South Carolina,
it calls undoubtedly for measures of precaution against the occurrence
of a future state of things, which the adoption of this Ordinance by the
Convention renders probable, and which would require the interposition
of the military power of the Government. The Ordinance makes it 'the
duty of the Legislature to adopt such measures and pass such acts, as
may be necessary to give full effect to the Ordinance, and to prevent
the enforcement and arrest the operation of the Revenue laws.' The
Legislature will probably do something in pursuance of this direction;
and upon the character of the measures which they may adopt will depend,
of course, the character of those with which the Government of the
United States will be called on to meet them. Should they pass an act,
making it penal for the officers of the General Government to perform
their duties, and attempt to enforce it upon the person of the Marshal,
there would then be a case of open insurrection against the Government
of the country. In ordinary cases, the Marshal, when obstructed in the
execution of his duty, calls for aid on the bystanders; but if this
resource prove ineffectual, or if circumstances render it inexpedient to
depend upon it, the particulars of the case are communicated in the form
of a certificate from the District Judge to the President, who
immediately employs the military force of the country, either the
regular army or the militia, at his discretion, to suppress the
insurrection, as he is authorized to do by the letter of the
Constitution and various statutes. The militia would of course not be
resorted to, unless the regular military and naval force should be found
insufficient. This course was pursued by General Washington, in the case
of the whisky insurrection in Pennsylvania, and was attended with
complete success. The misguided persons, who might be taken and brought
to trial for obstructing the execution of the laws, would probably plead
in justification the law of the State; but the District Judge would of
course instruct the jury, that 'the laws of the United States are the
supreme law of the land, any thing in the Constitution or laws of any
State to the contrary notwithstanding.' If the popular excitement should
be so great, that juries should in clear cases acquit prisoners, the
latter would of course escape the punishment they deserved, but no
material inconvenience would be suffered by the country. The President,
by a proper development of military force, would be able to execute the
laws and preserve the public peace. Should Carolina, in pursuance of the
threat held out in the Ordinance, undertake, in consequence of the
employment of military force by the President, to place herself still
more openly in opposition to the Government, by attempting to withdraw
from the Union, and arraying an army against that of the United States,
the result would be civil war,--an occurrence every way deplorable, and
one of which we shudder to contemplate the possibility, but of which we
cannot permit ourselves to doubt the issue.

Such, however, being the state of things which may and probably will
grow out of the adoption of this Ordinance, it is apparent that it calls
imperiously for _measures of precaution_. Ample means should be in
readiness to meet a crisis so serious and alarming. A seasonable display
of energy and decision may, in this case, as it did in that of the
whisky insurrection, save the country years of civil commotion, and
probably decide the fate of the Union. We are, therefore, glad to learn
that the President has already stationed in the disturbed district, as
commander of the troops, an officer of the highest character for
experience, talents and patriotism, and has made some other
demonstrations for the same ultimate purpose. In general, the course of
the Government, on this most important subject, as far as it has been
developed, accords entirely with what we consider the true policy of the
country. The tone of the President's Message to Congress, and of Mr.
McLane's Report in relation to this topic, is temperate and judicious,
and the view taken of the nature of the crisis correct: a promise is
also made of farther and more energetic measures, should the occasion
require them. If the General Government continue to pursue with
discretion, but at the same time with firmness and energy, the course
upon which they have thus entered, they will find themselves supported
by the friends of the country of all parties, and in all quarters of the

The only parts of the late communications of the Government, having any
bearing upon this subject, which we have read with regret, have been
those which recommend a reduction of the revenue. Independently of the
ruinous tendency of a repeal of the protecting duties, considered as
such, it appears to us that the moment is singularly unpropitious for
the agitation of any plan, tending to diminish the receipts into the
Treasury. In general, our statesmen have shown an unnecessary solicitude
about the disposition of a future possible surplus revenue, which has
thus far never existed for a single moment since the organization of the
Government. Mr. Jefferson felt this solicitude to a very great degree,
and looked forward to the payment of the then existing national debt, as
a period when we should find ourselves not a little embarrassed by the
amount of our superabundant treasures. Long before the expected period
came, a foreign war intervened, and instead of having any surplus wealth
to dispose of, we were compelled to borrow at very high interest. The
present Administration have shown a strong, and in itself very laudable
and politic anxiety to extinguish the debt; and have also, for two or
three years past, begun to look forward with alarm to the influx of an
overwhelming flood of surplus revenue, which is to burst upon us after
the debt shall be paid. In the mean time, however, before any surplus
whatever is realized,--while a considerable portion of the debt still
remains unpaid,--two States have taken such a position in relation to
the General Government, as will probably lead to a development of
military force. The proceedings of Carolina have been already noticed at
length. Georgia, on her part, peremptorily refuses to permit the
judgment of the Supreme Court in the Missionary case to be executed. A
return of this refusal will be made this winter to the Court, which will
then, in the regular course of law, direct the Marshal of the district
to execute the judgment himself. In this he will probably be resisted,
and upon the fact being certified to the President, it will be his duty
to employ the military force of the country to give effect to the laws.
Although the President, in pursuance of what we consider an erroneous
construction of the Intercourse Act of 1802, did not undertake to
prevent by force the irruption of Georgia into the Cherokee territory,
we are bound to presume that he will feel no hesitation about enforcing
a judgment of the Supreme Court, regularly rendered in due course of
law, and of which he cannot question the validity, without assuming the
functions of an appellate tribunal. The result will be open collision.
With every appearance of the occurrence of civil commotions in two
States within the next year, it seems to us to be scarcely
expedient,--independently of any other consideration,--to think of
measures for reducing the revenue. As no surplus has yet been actually
realized, the very first movement of troops would make it necessary to
resort to new loans, which, if the troubles should continue, must be
increased to an indefinite extent, and would effectually prevent the so
much dreaded evil of an eventual surplus. We are inclined in fact to
doubt very much, whether it will ever be found practicable to bring down
the revenue below its present amount, even supposing it to afford ten or
fifteen millions more than is wanted for the ordinary expenses of the
Government. Such is the condition of human affairs, that periods of
trouble of one kind or another must in the nature of things occur, at
least as often as once in twenty or thirty years. These will, in
general, render it necessary to resort to loans, which during the
intervals of tranquillity must be extinguished. If, with taxes as light
and as little felt as those which we now pay, we are able to defray the
ordinary charges of the Government,--sustain the public credit,--meet
the exigencies of foreign and civil war when they occur, and pay off the
debts they impose upon us in time of peace, we shall do more,--far
more,--than any other nation of ancient or modern times has done before
us. At all events, the moment when we are about to enter on a period of
civil commotion, of which the extent, duration and consequences cannot
even be conjectured, is obviously the last that should be chosen for
commencing a system of reduction.

3. _What will be the effect of the present troubles upon the political
condition of the country?_ This will depend entirely upon the conduct of
the General Government, and especially of the Executive branch, upon
which, under present circumstances, the weight of responsibility
principally falls. If the crisis be met with the necessary firmness and
discretion, there can hardly be a doubt, that the resources of the Union
are amply sufficient to secure the execution of the laws. If, from a
want of firmness and discretion in the Executive, or of a disposition in
Congress to sustain the Executive in the measures required by the
crisis,--contingencies of which we cannot anticipate the
possibility,--the nullifiers are permitted to carry their projects into
effect, the Government is of course at an end. The state of things which
would then ensue, has been described somewhat in detail in a preceding
part of this article. The ports of Carolina would be free, and the
country would be deluged through them, with foreign goods imported
without duties. The revenue would fall off to nothing; the manufactures
would all be destroyed; the public credit would cease, and the public
service come to a stand for want of funds; a general bankruptcy of
private fortunes would overspread the country, and the body politic
would fall into a state of complete dissolution.

Of these disastrous results we are, however, unwilling to admit the
possibility, although they would necessarily follow from the success of
the projects of the nullifiers. It has been well observed, that the
attempt of a State to place itself in direct opposition to the authority
of the Federal Government, is one of the evils naturally incident to our
political system;--that the occurrence of such an attempt is a sort of
crisis, which we must have expected to go through at one time or
another, as the individual, in his progress to maturity, is subject to
the attacks of certain diseases, from which he can hardly hope to
escape;--and that the circumstances, under which this attempt is now
made, afford perhaps as favorable a prospect as any that could well be
imagined for such a termination of it, as will at once prevent any
immediate mischief, and discourage the renewal of similar attempts in
future. The State which now places itself in open opposition to the law,
however distinguished in other times for intelligence, patriotism, and
generosity, is physically and politically one of the least effective in
the Union.--With a white population of less than two hundred and fifty
thousand souls, of whom at least a third are opposed to the
project;--with a dangerous internal enemy in her bosom;--unsupported by
the co-operation of any other State, her nearest neighbors being among
the most determined opponents of her views;--it is apparent that
Carolina takes the field against the Union under every disadvantage. The
fanaticism with which the nullifying party are inspired may perhaps give
occasion to some distressing scenes: but should the General Government
meet the crisis in a proper manner, the odds on the first development of
military force will be so desperate, that we incline to think there will
be very little occasion for actual violence, and that tranquillity will
be restored with hardly any injury to life or property. Should such be
the event, the probability of future occurrences of a similar kind will
be diminished; our institutions will acquire new force and stability;
and the general result of the whole affair will be favorable, rather
than adverse to the prosperity of the country. Had the experiment of a
violent opposition to the authority of the General Government been tried
for the first time by New-York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New-England in a
body, or any State or combination of States which would have been able
to carry with it a great array of actual physical force, the crisis
would have been of a very different character.

We may add, that it is difficult to conceive of any case in which the
right could be more clearly with the General Government, and against
the discontented State, than it is in this: a circumstance, which adds
to the vast preponderance of material power at the disposal of the
former, the moral influence which is so important and even essential to
the success of any cause. However the nullifiers may, under the
influence of the enthusiasm which now possesses them, have wrought
themselves up into a sincere belief in the justice of their cause, it is
impossible but that in cooler moments they should feel its weakness.
This conviction will press itself upon them with new force when the
power of the Government is actually displayed, and will produce an
indecision on their part, which will contribute very much to bring the
struggle to a favorable issue.

Still, the crisis,--though as little dangerous as any one of the same
description that could well be imagined,--is yet one of fearful
importance, and the friends of the country cannot but look forward with
deep and painful anxiety to its termination. The question of the
continuance of our present form of Government,--of the existence on this
continent of republican institutions of any description,--is now to be
decided. The precise problem, as we understand it, is not whether the
Union shall be preserved, but whether the Union shall be preserved under
our present mild and beneficent system of polity, or whether, after a
temporary dissolution of the bonds that now unite us,--we shall be
brought together again into a new body politic, consolidated by the iron
bands of military power. That the States composing this Union can ever
remain for any length of time politically separate from each other, is
in the nature of things impossible. The experiment was tried in the
short interval between the Declaration of Independence and the adoption
of the Constitution, and was found impracticable. If repeated, under
whatever circumstances, the result would be the same. We have shown in a
preceding part of this article that, by the present Constitution, the
States formed themselves into one body politic under a common
Government, and that they are now, in form, _one people_. If the
Constitution were in this respect a false representation of their actual
and substantial political condition;--if they were really separated from
each other by important substantial differences, whether of geographical
position, origin, language, physical conformation, or any others, there
would then be a constant tendency to a dissolution of the Union; and
separation, being the natural state of the parties, would probably, when
it had once taken effect, become the permanent one. Thus the attempt of
the British Government to combine their European possessions and the
colonies now composing the United States under one system of civil
polity, was obviously at variance with the law of nature, and could only
terminate sooner or later in the way in which it did. The same may be
said of their present attempt to combine under the same political system
with their European possessions, the northern part of this
continent,--the vast peninsula of Hindostan with its hundred million
inhabitants,--the southern termination of Africa, and half the islands
on the face of the globe,--including the Australian Continent, with its
dependencies, which, of themselves, may be said to constitute another
_new world_. All these scattered limbs,--_membra disjecta_,--of the
mighty Queen of the Ocean,--are destined to fall off successively from
the parent body, and form themselves into independent States. With the
members of this Union, the case is different. Descended from the same
original stock; united by community of language, literature, manners,
laws, religion and government; enclosed, notwithstanding the vast extent
of their territory, by a border of unbroken geographical
continuity;--brought up from their first plantation, through the long
period of colonial infancy, to their present flourishing and glorious
maturity, as sisters of one family;--bound together by the million
various indissoluble ties of personal relationship, that have been
created by a constant intercourse of more than two centuries,--the
States composing this Union not only are, according to the form of the
Constitution, but they are in fact and in feeling _one people_. They
were united, before they framed the Constitution, by the high and
paramount decree of the great Lawgiver of the universe: and whom God
hath joined, man _cannot_ put asunder. It is not enough to say, that the
Union ought not to be dissolved,--that the States have no right to
dissolve it,--that it is better that it should not be dissolved:--the
truth is, that it _cannot_ permanently be dissolved. Its members cannot
exist for any length of time in a state of separation from each other.
The present form of Union may,--should Providence intend to visit us
with his severest judgments,--be temporarily broken up. What would be
the consequence? The very act of its destruction would in all
probability be attended by a development of military power and a series
of military movements, which would end in the recombination of the
States into another Union, under a military Government. Should we even
suppose,--what is next to impossible,--a peaceful temporary separation,
what would still be the consequence? The continual relations between
twenty-four neighboring States of kindred origin and civilization, would
necessarily lead to collisions, which would grow into wars, and these
would continue until conquest had again consolidated the whole country
into a new Union, not as at present, under the quiet reign of
constitutional liberty, but under the sway, in some of its various
forms, of a lawless and sanguinary despotism.

The necessity of these results is apparent on the slightest reflection,
and is confirmed by the examples of all the nations of which we know the
history. To look only to the mother country:--a thousand years ago, the
British islands were occupied by hundreds of independent communities,
essentially different in their origin, languages, manners, laws, every
thing that constitutes civilization. Continued wars gradually brought
them under common Governments, until, at the close of the last century,
the union of Great Britain and Ireland finally completed the
consolidation of the whole into one political body. So it has been in
France, in Holland, in Spain, in Germany, in Italy, in Russia. So it has
been in ancient times and other regions;--in Egypt, China, Greece, Rome.
So it has always been and always must be every where. The European
nations have all arrived through centuries of carnage and confusion at
their present condition; they are still tending violently to a more
complete union, which, after other centuries of carnage and confusion,
they will ultimately reach. It has been our blessed fortune to begin
where they have ended or are likely to end; to grow up from the hour of
our political birth, in those happy bonds of fraternal kindness, which
have been forced upon all other great nations by a long experience of
the sorest evils. If, in an hour of wild delusion,--of mad insensibility
to the causes of our present prosperity,--of criminal ingratitude to the
Giver of all good,--we should burst these flowery fetters, the only
possible result would be, that after a period, more or less protracted,
of that confusion and carnage which we have thus far escaped, we should
exchange them for the chains, that are now clanking round the limbs of
every other people on the globe, and from which the enlightened and
civilized nations of Europe are at this moment straining in agony to set
themselves free.

The question, therefore, is not whether we shall maintain the Union,
which must at all events exist, but whether we shall maintain our
present republican institutions, or exchange them, after an intervening
period of anarchy and civil war, for a Government of a different,
probably an arbitrary character. The crisis, we repeat, though as little
alarming as any one of the kind that could well be imagined, is
nevertheless fraught with painful interest. But, though there
is much in the present aspect of political affairs to create
apprehension;--although we are certainly very far from considering the
country as perfectly secure;--we are nevertheless inclined to look
forward with hope rather than despondency. We derive consolation, as
well from the circumstances already mentioned, which induce us to
believe that, with the exercise of suitable firmness and discretion on
the part of the Executive, the troubles in Carolina may be appeased
without much difficulty, as from a general survey of the history and
present situation of the country. It so happens in the progress of human
affairs, that the secret principles, which determine the welfare of
nations, appear to operate with much greater activity at particular
times and places than they do at others, although it may not be in every
case very easy to point out exactly the causes of the difference. Why,
at the same period, and under nearly similar circumstances, some
communities should be active, virtuous, civilized, prosperous and free,
while others are roaming through the woods in the untamed wildness of
barbarism, or bowing down like beasts of burden under the yoke of a
taskmaster,--why the metropolis of civilization is to be found in one
age upon the banks of the Ganges, the Euphrates or the Nile, and in
another upon those of the Tiber, the Thames, or the Potomac; are
questions, which philosophy has not yet brought to a quite satisfactory
solution. An English lady, in a fine poetical fiction, has attributed
the various fortunes of the different nations and races of men to the
influence of a Spirit to whom she has not given a name, but whom she
would probably have called the Genius of Civilization, if a word so long
could have been conveniently compressed into one of her verses. The
presence of this Genius in a country is described as the fruitful cause
of every blessing, and his retirement as the signal of impending decay
and ruin; but his origin is unknown, his progress secret, and his
movements are governed by caprice rather than by any obvious and
assignable cause.[B] Without pursuing this train of thought, which would
soon carry us very far beyond the limits of an article, it may be
sufficient for our purpose to remark, that the presence of the most
active principles of national prosperity, whatever they may be, has no
where and at no time been more clearly perceptible than in the condition
of this country, from the period of its first settlement to this day.
When we look back to the handful of obscure adventurers and persecuted
outcasts who formed our small beginnings, and compare their humble
dwellings, scattered thinly along the coast, with the great and
flourishing empire that now stretches in pride and beauty far and wide
over half the continent, we cannot but feel that the history of the
world offers no example, in any way parallel, of a rapid and extensive
development of all the elements of national prosperity. When we
contemplate the condition of the country at this very time; population
proceeding in the same steady untiring progress,--wealth augmenting in a
still more rapid ratio,--every branch of industry animated by the
highest degree of activity and enterprise,--agriculture, and commerce
supplying the markets of the world with our products,--manufactures
rapidly rivaling the most perfect establishments of Europe,--improvement
in science and learning, education, morals, and religion, the object of
general attention and solicitude;--when we contemplate this state of
things, we cannot doubt, that the causes to which we have owed our
prosperity are still as busily at work as they have ever been before.
What they are, it might not be safe, even in reference to our own
country with which we are most familiar, to attempt to say. When we
venture to assign, as one of them, the character of our Government, the
sages of Europe smile in conscious superiority at our simplicity, and
assure us that we have become what we are in spite of our institutions,
and not in consequence of them. When we hint at the fixed religious
principles, the stern morality, the persevering industry of the pilgrim
fathers of New-England, who have formed the kernel of the whole
population of the Union, we are scornfully told that the mass of the
original settlers were, after all, the refuse of the British jails. The
only principle of our success, which is readily admitted by our friends
abroad as real, (it being one which confers no credit upon us) is the
immense extent of our territory; although, if this circumstance alone
could make a people prosperous, it is not easy to see why civilization
should not be as active on the vast central _plateaux_ of Tartary and
Mexico, as it is in the valley of the Mississippi. But whatever may be
the cause, such at all events is the effect. We are undoubtedly at a
period of our national existence corresponding with the youth of a
vigorous and healthy individual, when the body is daily developing new
resources in all its parts, and possesses an elasticity which enables it
to throw off without difficulty almost every principle of evil that may
be introduced into it. We say not this to encourage a reckless
confidence, or a disposition to bold and hazardous experiments on our
political institutions. We are well aware that the strength and buoyant
spirits, which betray to excess, may be themselves the very causes of
ruin. We would rather in ordinary times allay than exalt the sentiment
of national pride, which so easily runs into presumption. But when the
crisis is actually upon us,--when the hour of danger has come, and many
good and wise men are perhaps too prone to despond, and even despair of
the Republic, it may then be well to remind them and ourselves, that if
the trial is likely to be severe, our political Constitution, as we have
reason to hope, is strong enough to enable us, with the favor of
Providence, to go through this and many other trials of equal severity,
should it be our fortune to encounter them, with safety.

Let the friends of the country, therefore, in their several spheres of
action, meet the crisis with a cheerful, resolute spirit, and with the
calm and steady courage that belongs to freemen and Christians. Let no
differences of opinion upon minor questions,--no personal or sectional
preferences be permitted to deter any one from a zealous and cordial
co-operation in the great and good work of securing the Union. Among the
private citizens, the Union party within the State of South Carolina
occupy the post of peculiar honor and danger, and should receive our
warmest sympathy. They have now a glorious opportunity of displaying in
the face of the country, of the world, the noblest civic virtues. But
whatever may be done by individuals within or without the State, the
result will, after all, depend in a very great degree, as we have
already said, upon the temper and conduct of the General Government. It
is therefore with real satisfaction, that we find the Administration
exhibiting, thus far, the union of firmness and discretion which the
occasion requires. We are no partisans, political or personal, of
General Jackson. We have in no way contributed to his elevation; and
although, as journalists, we have taken no part in the recent contest,
we have felt it to be our duty, as individuals, to oppose his
re-election. But he is now the Chief Magistrate of the country. The
people look to him to carry them safely through the present season of
alarm and peril, and in all the suitable measures which he may take for
this purpose, the friends of the country, without distinction of party,
will give him their support. The maxim which ought to direct his course
was distinctly stated by himself three years ago, in terms which cannot
be surpassed for precision or energy, and which ought at this period to
be the watchword of every citizen. THE FEDERAL UNION,--IT MUST BE


Since this article was prepared, and while it was going through the
press, new events have occurred, which render the crisis still more
interesting. The Legislature of South Carolina, in pursuance of the
recommendation contained in the Ordinance of the Convention, are
engaged in passing several acts, the substantial purport of which is
to make it a penal offence for the officers of the General
Government to execute the Revenue laws within that State. On the
other hand, the President of the United States, on the 10th of
December, published a Proclamation, in which, after explaining at
length his views of the relation established by the Constitution
between the General and State Governments, he declares his
determination to cause the laws to be executed, if necessary, by
force. It is not probable that either party will recede, without a
struggle, from the ground thus taken. The immediate occurrence of
actual collision between the General and State Governments, however
much to be deplored, seems, therefore, to be inevitable. The
duration and results of this conflict will depend upon the degree of
countenance which Carolina may receive from other States,
particularly at the South. We look with some apprehension to the
proceedings of Virginia, where the first movements are less
satisfactory than we could have wished. We cannot now enlarge upon
the President's Proclamation, and shall probably have occasion to
return to the subject hereafter. This paper, the composition of
which is attributed to the Secretary of State, is written with great
ability and in a very bold and determined tone. In some of the
doctrines, particularly those which represent the States as having
never been politically independent of each other, and the
Constitution as having been the work of the aggregate mass of the
people of the United States, and not of the States as distinct
communities, we do not concur, for the reasons which we have stated
in the present article; and we consider it unfortunate that they
were introduced, as they will naturally tend to alienate the
Southern States from the General Government, and dispose them to
countenance the pretensions of Carolina. In the doctrines of the
Proclamation, so far as it affirms that the United States are _now_
one people under a common Government,--that the acts of this
Government are the supreme law of the land, and that this must at
all events be executed, we heartily concur. The firm tone of this
document suits the occasion as well as the personal character of the
President; and if the measures by which it is to be followed up are
conceived in a corresponding spirit, properly tempered with
discretion, and an affectionate regard for our mistaken brethren of
South Carolina, we cannot permit ourselves to doubt, that the
ultimate effect of the struggle will be to confirm and perpetuate
our institutions, rather than to bring them into danger.


[A] It is, in fact, rather singular, that until this mention of it by
Mr. Calhoun, the amending clause of the Constitution had, as far as we
are informed, never been alluded to in connexion with the much-debated
subject of _State Sovereignty_. It is obviously, of itself, decisive
against any such pretension. There were originally two specific
limitations to the amending power, one of which expired in the year
1808; the other, which is still in force, provides that no State shall
in this way 'be deprived, without its consent, of its equal suffrage in
the Senate.' Of every other political power, privilege, liberty and
franchise, a State may be constitutionally deprived, _without its
consent_. And yet the States retain their _Sovereignty_ unimpaired!!!

[B] We allude to the following passage in Mrs. Barbauld's Eighteen
Hundred and Eleven.

      There walks a Spirit o'er the peopled earth;
  Secret his progress is, unknown his birth;
  Moody and viewless as the changing wind,
  No force arrests his foot, no chain can bind.
  Where'er he turns the human brute awakes,
  And, roused to better life, his sordid hut forsakes;
  He thinks, he reasons, glows with purer fires,
  Feels finer wants, and burns with new desires.
  Obedient Nature follows where he leads,
  The steaming marsh is changed to fruitful meads;
  Then from its bed is drawn the ponderous ore;
  Then Commerce pours her gifts on every shore;
  Then kindles Fancy, then expands the Heart;
  Then blow the flowers of Genius and of Art;
  Saints, Heroes, Sages, who the land adorn,
  Seem rather to descend than to be born;
  While History, midst the rolls consigned to fame,
  With pen of adamant inscribes their name.

      The Genius now forsakes the favored shore,
  And hates, capricious, what he loved before.
  Then Empires fall to dust;--then arts decay,
  And wasted realms enfeebled despots sway.
  E'en Nature's changed:--without his fostering smile,
  Ophir no gold, no plenty yields the Nile.
  The thirsty sand absorbs the useless rill,
  And spotted plagues from putrid fens distil.
  In desert solitudes then Tadmor sleeps,
  Stern Marius then o'er fallen Carthage weeps;
  Then with enthusiast love the pilgrim roves
  To seek his footsteps in forsaken groves,
  Explores the fractured arch, the ruined tower,
  Those limbs disjointed of gigantic power,
  Still at each step he fears the adder's sting,
  The Arab's javelin or the tiger's spring,
  With doubtful caution treads the echoing ground,
  And asks where Troy and Babylon are found.


  Text in italics is surrounded with underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Inconsistencies in spelling have been retained from the original.

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