Изображения страниц

tions on our continent by the Monroe doctrine to which secession has given extensive support, but the Constitution, as interpreted by the secession theory, prevents us from putting down any military or other despotism among the States of our own Union, where it would be tenfold more dangerous.

But why go round in the treadmill of the arguments which relate to the parties to the Constitution, and not rather inquire into the nature of that instrument itself? The parties, as we have once before said, even in a mere partnership, may have a vast variety of relations to each other, the nature of which must, of course, be determined by the language of the contract. Some contracts of partnership may contain the liberty of retiring at pleasure; others of retiring only by unanimous consent. Some may allow each partner to judge whether his rights have been transgressed and to take his remedy; others may take from each all such power and give it to a tribunal without or to arbitrators within the body. Some may concede, others may deny to the separate partners the right of admitting their sons, or to the whole body that of admitting new members. Partnerships may be as loose and temporary or as strict and enduring as possible. If, then, you cannot deduce the nature of a partnership from the notion, how much less can you deduce from the original sovereignty of coequal States what their rights are under a given constitution.

The secessionists seem to practice a jugglery on themselves by the use of the terms consolidation and confederation. "The fundamental fallacy," says Dr. Palmer, pervading Dr. Breckinridge's entire arguments, "is the misconception that it is a consolidated popular government, instead of being a Congress of republics." As if the government of the Union must be simply one or the other, and there could be no form lying between the two extremes which could be called in one aspect consolidated and in another a federal compact. Suppose them not consolidated, this does not involve the right of secession. Suppose them not mere federal compacts, this does not imply that the States have no substantive existence. It is surely rather a paltry exhibition of the statemanship which has governed a part of this country that these extremes should be regarded as

rigid molds into one or the other of which our institutions must be cast. What is this but a worship of empty forms, a setting up of abstractions and reducing of concrete existences to the laws of their lean nakedness.

We must make it then our main inquiry, as with all other political forms so with our especially complicated ones, what the instrument of government denotes, what powers are imparted, and what withheld. Can the Union be called a State, is it a political unit, do we form a country, a nation, in any but a loose, popular sense? The answer to this question must be found in an exposition of the instrument of government, and has been given by its great expounders almost uniformly in one direction. We must, of course, content ourselves with a very few considerations which show that the national constitution has characteristics, which can appertain only to a State or political unit.

1. It has all the organization of a State or sovereign unity, to wit, separate independent legislative and judicial powers, with an executive head chosen by the whole nation. The machinery of a State proves the existence of a State designed for separate action. We may add that this organization is armed with all necessary might.

2. There are citizens of the United States, and the national legislature has exclusive power of giving citizenship to foreigners by naturalization. Persons may even be citizens of the United States who are not and never have been citizens of any State. Such are foreigners who have been naturalized while residing in a territory, such too, may be residents in the district of Columbia, and perhaps others. Citizen and State (civis and civitas, organized community) are correlative. The citizens of all the States are citizens of this broad, all-embracing State, but its privilege of citizenship runs beyond the state limits and is imparted to many others.

3. The United States have territory, lying outside of the territorial States, over which the national government exercises supreme and undivided political sway.

4. The constitution and laws made under it, together with all treaties, are the supreme law of the land. Here is a State

exercising not only authority but supreme authority, and that everywhere through the states, and over the territories. More than that it binds all state officers by oath to the observance of this supreme law.

5. The Supreme Court of the United States, as a court of appeal, is supreme over all state courts, in certain specified cases, which include all the important transactions, lying outside of the relations of each particular State to its citizens, and of these citizens to one another. It thus brings States before its bar, and has a power of interpreting what the laws and constitution of the Union prescribe, which belongs to no other body. Both these high powers seem to imply a sovereignty which can be affirmed of no State within the Union, and a political organism watching over all the States.

6. All foreign relations, the supreme functions of peace and war, the power to lay and collect taxes, the power in certain cases over the militia of each State as well as over the national army, belong to this government, and are generally regarded as high attributes of a State.

7. The United States government comes into immediate contact not only with States, but also in manifold ways with individuals. This is the characteristic difference between a close and a loose union, and has often been noticed as forming a wide contrast between the action of our present system and that of the old Confederation.

Put over against these and the other State or political funetions which we forbear to notice, the claim that the Constitution was a league made by the States, and the fact that no name in the singular number was devised for the union, and you have a contract which shows the amazing weakness of the secession theory.

Nor is this theory weaker in the support which it can scrape together from opinion contemporaneous with or subsequent to the formation of the present constitution. It may be safely asserted that until South Carolina passed her nullifying ordinance in 1832, no respectable authority for secession can be adduced, if this can be called respectable.

Dr. Palmer brings forward what is, perhaps, the strongest authority on that side in the following passage:

"The longest argument must have an end. We advert, finally, to the notorious fact, that in the very act of ratifying this Constitution, three States asserted their sovereign right to resume the powers they had delegated. New York declared 'that the powers of government may be reassumed by the people whenever it shall become necessary to their happiness and further indicates what people she means, by speaking, in the same connection, of the residuary power and jurisdiction in the people of the State, not granted to the General Government. The delegates from Virginia 'declare and make known, in the name and in the behalf of the people of Virginia, that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them, whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury and oppression.' In like manner, Rhode Island protests against the remission of her right of resumption. And while the language is not so explicit as that of New York, the meaning is precisely the same; for, as the original grantor of these powers was the people of the States, and not the collective people of the country at large, the former alone had the right to reassume. The other States made no such declarations. Indeed, as the right lay in the very nature and history of the federation, they could be made by these three only in the way of superabundant caution."

With regard to Virginia, it is enough to say that the obvious meaning of the passage cited is that the people of the United States can do away with the general government, peaceably or by revolutionary force, whenever it becomes the instrument of oppression. It cannot be supposed that the right of secession from the Union was reserved to Virginia in this clause, else why is it said that the powers derived from the people of the United States may be resumed by the same people. They are conceived of as acting not in separate portions but unitedly. As for the rest, the final action of the Virginia convention in ratifying the Constitution without previous conditions shows that the members accepted of it as a whole and forever, although many of them were desirous of amendments, some of which were afterwards adopted.

We cannot find the New York resolution cited by Dr. Palmer in the first edition of Elliot's Debates, which is the only one at hand; but as the Convention of this State acted in concert with that of Virginia, this vague and foolish resolution must have intended to assert the same right of the American people to break up the general government which Virginia had as

serted more than a fortnight before. But there are other particulars in the history of this Convention which show the state of opinion much more clearly. It is well known that there was a strong party in that body opposed to the Constitution, to which, together with Governor Clinton, the presiding officer, Yates and Lansing belonged, who had quitted Philadel phia in disgust, leaving only Hamilton to represent New York in the Constitutional Convention. So strong was the opposition from the anti-federalists, and so uncertain the majority, that Hamilton, in a kind of despair, debated with himself upon a compromise, by which the State of New York might reserve to itself the right to recede from the Union, if the amendments which the other party desired should not have been incorporated into the Constitution "within a certain number of years, perhaps five or seven." He consulted Madison on this project, who was then sitting in the Congress of the Confederation at New York, and who replied as follows: "I am sorry that your situation obliges you to listen to propositions of the nature you describe. My opinion is, that a reservation of a right to withdraw, if amendments be not decided on, under the form of the Constitution within a certain time, is a conditional ratification; that it does not make New York a member of the new union, and consequently that she could not be received on that plan. Compacts must be reciprocal-this principle would not in such case be preserved. The Constitution requires an adoption in toto and forever. It has been so adopted by the other States, [including his own, Virginia]. An adoption for a limited time would be as defective as an adoption of some of the articles only."*

This project was brought before the Convention on the 24th of July, by Mr. Lansing, whose motion was, "that there should be reserved to the State of New York a right to withdraw herself from the Union, after a certain number of years, unless the amendments proposed should be submitted to a general Convention." This motion was negatived. Already a form of ratification had been proposed, containing the words "on con

*Hamilton's Works, I, 464, 465. Compare Curtis, II, 587.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »