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given rise to angry political conflicts throughout the country. Those who have appealed from this judgment of our highest constitutional tribunal to popular assemblies would, if they could, invest a Territorial Legislature with power to annul the sacred rights of property. This power Congress is expressly forbidden, by the Federal Constitution, to exercise. Every State Legislature in the Union is forbidden, by its own Constitution, to exercise it. It can not be exercised in any State except by the people, in their highest sovereign capacity, when framing or amending their State Constitution.
"In like manner it can only be exercised by the people of a Territory represented in a convention of delegates, for the purpose of framing a constitution, preparatory to admission as a State into the Union. Then, and not until then, are they invested with power to decide the question, whether slavery shall or shall not exist within their limits. This is an act of sovereign authority, and not of subordinate territorial legislation. Were it otherwise, then indeed would the equality of the States in the Territories be destroyed, and the right of property in slaves would depend, not upon the guarantees of the Constitution, but upon the shifting majorities of an irresponsible Territorial Legislature. Such a doctrine, from its intrinsic unsoundness, can not long influence any considerable portion of our people, much less can it afford a good reason for a dissolution of the Union.
"The most palpable violations of con
stitutional duty which have yet been committed, consist in the acts of different State legislatures to defeat the execution of the Fugitive Slave law. It ought to be remembered, however, that for these acts neither Congress nor any President can justly be held responsible. Having been passed in violation of the Federal Constitution, they are, therefore, null and void. All the courts, both State and national, before whom the question has arisen, have from the beginning declared the Fugitive Slave law to be constitutional. The single exception is that of a State court in Wisconsin; and this has not only been reversed by the proper appellate tribunal, but has met with such universal reprobation that there can be no danger from it as a precedent. The validity of this law has been established over and over again by the Supreme Court of the United States with perfect unanimity. It is founded upon an express provision of the Constitution, requiring that fugitive slaves who escape from service in one State to another shall be 'delivered up' to their masters. Without this provision, it is a well-known historical fact that the Constitution itself could never have been adopted by the Convention.
"In one form or other, under the acts of 1793 and 1850, both being substantially the same, the Fugitive Slave law has been the law of the land from the days of Washington until the present moment. Here, then, a clear case is presented, in which it will be the duty of the next President, as it has been my own, to act with vigor in executing this supreme law against the conflicting enactments of State legislatures. Should he fail in the performance of this high duty, he will then have manifested a disregard of the Constitution and laws, to the great injury of the people of nearly one half of the States of the Union. But are we to presume in advance that he will thus violate his duty? This would he at war with every principle of justice and of Christian charity. Let us wait for the overt act. The Fugitive Slave law has hcen carried into execution in every contested case since the commencement of the present administration; though often, it is to be regretted, with great loss and inconvenience to the master, and with considerable expense to the Government. Let us trust that the State legislatures will repeal their unconstitutional and obnoxious enactments. Unless this shall be done without any necessary delay, it is impossible for any human power to save the Union.
BUCHANAN ON SECESSION.
"The Southern States, standing on the basis of the Constitution, have a right to demand this act of justice from the States of the North. Should it be refused, then the Constitution, to which all the States are parties, will have been willfully violated by one portion of them in a provision essential to the domestic security and happiness of the remainder. In that event, the injured States, after having first used all peaceful and constitutional means to obtain redress, would be justified in revolutionary resistance to the Government of the Union.
"I have purposely confined my remarks to revolutionary resistance, because it has been claimed within the last few years that any State, whenever this shall be its sovereign will and pleasure, may secede from the Union, in accordance with the Constitution, and without any violation of the constitutional rights of the other members of the confederacy. That, as each became parties to the Union by a vote of its own people assembled in convention, so any one of them may retire from the Union in a similar manner by the vote of such a convention.
"In order to justify secession as a constitutional remedy, it must be on the principle that the Federal Government is a mere voluntary association of States, to be dissolved at pleasure by any one of the contracting parties. If this be so, the confederacy is a rope of sand, to be penetrated and dissolved by the first adverse wave of public opinion in any of the States. In this manner our thirty-three States may resolve themselves into as many petty, jarring, and hostiles republics, each one retiring from the Union, without responsibility, whenever any sudden excitement might impel them to such a course. By this process a union might be entirely broken into fragments in a few weeks, which cost our forefathers many years of toil, privation, and blood to establish.
'' Such a principle is wholly inconsistent with the history as well as the character of the Federal Constitution. After it was framed, with the greatest deliberation and care, it was submitted 28
to conventions of the people of the several States for ratification. Its provisions were discussed at length in these bodies, composed of the first men of the country. Its opponents contended that it conferred powers upon the Federal Government dangerous to the rights of the States, while its advocates maintained that under a fair construction ofthe instrument there was no foundation for such apprehensions. In that mighty struggle between the first intellects of this or any other country, it never occurred to any individual, either among its opponents or advocates, to assert, or even to intimate, that their efforts were all vain labor, because the moment any State felt herself aggrieved she might secede from the Union. What a crushing argument would this have proved against those who dreaded that the rights of the States would be endangered by the Constitution! The truth is, that it was not until many years after the origin of the Federal Government that such a proposition was first advanced.
"It was then met and refuted by the conclusive arguments of General Jackson, who, in his message of 16th January, 1833, transmitted the nullifying ordinance of South Carolina to Congress, employs the following language: 'The right of the people of a single State to absolve themselves at will, and without the consent of the other States, from their most solemn obligations, and hazard the liberty and happiness of the millions composing this Union, can not be acknowledged. Such authority is believed to be utterly repugnant both to
the principles upon which the General Government is constituted, and to the objects which it was expressly formed to attain.'
"It is not pretended that any clause in the Constitution gives countenance to such a theory. It is altogether founded upon inference, not from any language contained in the instrument itself, but from the sovereign character of the several States by which it was ratified. But is it beyond the power of a State, like an individual, to yield a portion of its sovereign rights to secure the remainder? In the language of Mr. Madison, who has been called the Father of the Constitution: 'It was formed by the States—that is, by the people in each of the States, acting in their highest sovereign capacity ; and formed consequently by the same authority which formed the State constitutions.'
"Nor is the Government of the United States, created by the Constitution, less a government in the strict sense of the term, within the sphere of its powers, than the governments created by the constitutions of the States are, within their several spheres. It is, like them, organized into legislative, executive, and judiciary departments. It operates, like them, directly on persons and things; and, like them, it has at command a physical force for executing the powers committed to it.
"It was intended to be perpetual, and not be annulled at the pleasure of any one of the contracting parties. The old articles of confederation were entitled 'Articles of Confederation and Perpet
ual Union between the Statesand by the 13th article it is expressly declared that 'the articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual.' The preamble to the Constitution of the United States, having express reference to the articles of Confederation, recites that it was established ' in order to form a more perfect union.' And yet it is contended that this ' more perfect union' does not include the essential attribute of perpetuity.
"But that the Union was designed to be perpetual, appears conclusively from the nature and extent of the powers conferred by the Constitution on the Federal Government. These powers embrace the very highest attributes of national sovereignty. They place both the sword and the purse under its control. Congress has power to make war, and to make peace; to raise and support armies and navies, and to conclude treaties with foreign governments. It is invested with the power to coin money, and to regulate the value thereof, and to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States. It is not necessary to enumerate the other high powers which have been conferred upon the Federal Government. In order to carry the enumerated powers into effect, Congress possesses the exclusive right to lay and collect duties on imports, and in common with the States to lay and collect all other taxes.
"But the Constitution has not only conferred these high powers upon Congress, but it has adopted effectual means
to restrain the States from interfering with their exercise. For that purpose it has, in strong prohibitory language, expressly declared that 'no State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts.' Moreover, 'without the consent of Congress, no State shall lay any imposts or duties on any imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws;' and if they exceed this amount, the excess shall belong to the United States.
"And ' no State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage; keep troops, or ships of war, in time of peace; enter into any agreement or compact with another State, or with a foreign power; or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.'
'' In order still further to secure the uninterrupted exercise of these high powers against State interposition, it is provided 'that 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; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.'
"The solemn sanction of religion has been superadded to the obligations of official duty, and all Senators and Representatives of the United States, all members of State Legislature, and all executive and judicial officers, 'both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution.'
"In order to carry into effect these powers, the Constitution has established a perfect government in all its forms, legislative, executive, and judicial; and this Government, to the extent of its powers, acts directly upon the individual citizen of every State, and executes its own decrees by the agency of its own officers. In this respect it differs entirely from the Government under the old confederation, which was confined to making requisitions on the States in their sovereign character. This left it in the discretion of each whether to obey or to refuse, and they often declined to comply with such requisition. It thus became necessary, for the purpose of removing this barrier, and, 'in order to form a more perfect union,' to establish a government which could act directly upon the people, and execute its own laws without the intermediate agency of the States. This has been accomplished by the Constitution of the United States.
'' In short, the Government created by the Constitution, and deriving its authority from the sovereign people of each of the several States, has precisely the same right to exercise its power over the people of all these States, in the enumerated cases, that each one of
them possesses over subjects not delegated to the United States, but 'reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.'
"To the extent of the delegated powers, the Constitution of the United States is as much a part of the Constitution of each State, and is as binding upon its people, as though it had been textually inserted therein.
"This Government, therefore, is a great and powerful government, invested with all the attributes of sovereignty over the special subjects to which its authority extends. Its framers never intended to implant in its bosom the seeds of its own destruction, nor were they, at its creation, guilty of the absurdity of providing for its own dissolution. It was not intended by its framers to be the baseless fabric of a vision which, at the touch of the enchanter, would vanish into thin air, but a substantial and mighty fabric, capable of resisting the slow decay of time, and of defying the storms of ages. Indeed, well may the jealous patriots of that day have indulged fears that a government of such high powers might violate the reserved rights of the States, and wisely did they adopt the rule of a strict construction of these powers to prevent the danger! But they did not fear, nor had they any reason to imagine, that the Constitution would ever be so interpreted as to enable any State, by her own act, and without the consent of her sister States, to discharge her people from all or any of their Federal obligations.