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William Smith: Speech of Mr. Smith , of South Carolina [February 25, 1830] - Daniel Webster, The Webster-Hayne Debate on the Nature of the Constitution: Selected Documents 
The Webster-Hayne Debate on the Nature of the Constitution: Selected Documents, ed. Herman Belz (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).
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William Smith was born in South Carolina in 1762. He attended Mt. Zion College, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1784. He was elected as a Republican to the state senate from 1803 to 1808, and was elected judge of the South Carolina circuit court from 1808 to 1816. Smith was elected to the United States Senate in 1816, serving one term. He was an ardent defender of states’ rights and an opponent of banks, capitalism, internal improvements, and the protective tariff. In national politics he aligned himself with William H. Crawford and in South Carolina politics was a political enemy of the nationalist views of John C. Calhoun. In 1823 he lost his Senate seat to Hayne, the candidate of the Calhoun faction in the South Carolina Republican party. Smith served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1823 to 1825, leading the attack on Republican policies of internal improvements and a protective tariff. He was elected to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate in 1826 and served until 1831. An ultrastrict constructionist, he played a leading role in the South Carolina protest against the tariff, but he opposed nullification and the plan to call a state convention. The Calhounite faction regarded him as too moderate and nationalistic, and he was defeated by the nullification candidate in 1830. His South Carolina political career ended in the state senate in 1832. Smith moved to Mississippi and then Alabama, where he served in the state House of Representatives from 1836 to 1840. In 1829 and in 1836, Smith declined nomination to the United States Supreme Court by President Andrew Jackson. He died in 1840.
Speech of Mr. Smith,
|The quantity then purchased||260,000,000|
|The quantity then surveyed||138,000,000|
|The quantity then sold, only||20,000,000|
|The quantity surveyed, and then unsold||118,000,000|
|The quantity surveyed and unsurveyed, and unsold||213,000,000|
|Amount of sales of public lands 1st of January, 1826||$ 39,301,794|
|Amount of moneys paid by purchasers||31,345,963|
|Amount due by individuals||7,955,831|
|Quantity of lands unsold||213,000,000|
|Deduct for barren lands one half||107,000,000|
|Will remain of good lands yet to sell||106,000,000|
|*This sold at the minimum price, $1.25, will give for revenue||$ 132,500,000|
|There yet remain, upon a moderate calculation of lands yet in||200,000,000|
|possession of the Indians, the titles to which you are constantly extinguishing. Then deduct half for barren lands||100,000,000|
|Leaves of good lands for sale||100,000,000|
|Which sold at minimum price, $1.25, will give for revenue||$ 125,000,000|
|*Add to this the above $132,500,000||132,500,000|
|Will give a revenue of||$ 257,500,000|
This, Mr. President, is not a supposed case, gotton up for the purpose of argument, that may be true, or may not be true, but is as certain as a mathematical axiom—a conclusion drawn from established premises, and cannot be controverted. And I would beg leave to ask the Senate, if they were prepared to sacrifice 257,500,000 dollars of revenue, to appease the importunities of two or three members of Congress from the Western States, because this revenue could not be grasped in a moment? Or because it is said “if we do not overcome the Western importunities, they will overcome us?” Or why, sir, should Missouri, already gorged with the bounties and privileges of this Government, be selected by the gentleman (Mr. H.) as an example by which to illustrate the oppression of the General Government upon the Western States? The General Government has “drained” from Missouri but very little of the profits of her labor, as yet, sir.
How stands the account between Missouri and the General Government?
|In Missouri, there had been sold only||980,282|
|There yet remains to be sold in that State||34,000,000|
|Of this, there have been surveyed and ready to sell||21,000,000|
Before one thirty-fifth part of the public lands within her limits are sold, we are asked to withdraw the oppressive hand we are imposing upon Missouri, and forbear to draw from her people the whole profits of their labor.
We have come now, Mr. President, to the last view of this land question—one of much magnitude, and one that seems to have entirely escaped the observation of those gentlemen. During the Revolutionary war, in which all the States were engaged, it was suggested by some of them, that the wild lands to the West, although within the chartered limits of some of the States, yet lying beyond the limits of the population, and unappropriated, ought of right to belong to the Union. And whether this was a correct or an incorrect principle, so it was, that when that immense tract of country lying North-west of the Ohio river was ceded to the United States, by the State of Virginia, a provision was made in the act of cession:
“That all the lands within the territory so ceded to the United States, and not reserved for, or appropriated to, any of the before mentioned purposes, or disposed of in bounties to the officers and soldiers of the American army, shall be considered as a common fund for the use and benefit of such of the United States, as have become, or shall become, members of the confederation, or federal alliance of the said States, Virginia inclusive, according to their usual respective proportions in the general charge and expenditure, and shall be faithfully and bona fide disposed of for that purpose, and for no other use or purpose whatsoever.”*
The public debt of the United States is now nearly extinguished, and will probably be quite so, without drawing much more from the public land fund, which has produced a long and ardent discussion in the House of Representatives, concerning a division of these lands among the several States of the Union, upon the provision in the act of cession. The proposition by those who are advocates for a division is, that the lands shall be divided among the several States, in proportion to representation. This principle, sir, is erroneous. If a division is to take place, the principle upon which it shall be made, is laid down in the act of cession itself, and can admit of no alteration or modification to suit present circumstances. To divide, according to the ratio of representation, would give to the State of New York 34-213, but would give to South Carolina, only 9-213, making a difference in favor of New York, with her present overgrown population, of nearly four times as much as that of South Carolina. But if you take the rule as laid down in the act of cession itself, it will give a very different result in favor of South Carolina. The plain and obvious meaning of the act cannot be mistaken. The words which bear upon this question are—
“Shall be considered a common fund for the use and benefit of such States, &c. according to their usual respective proportion in the general charge and expenditure.”
These words are altogether retrospective; and evidently refer to “their usual respective proportions in the general charge and expenditure,” incurred during the Revolutionary war. To arrive at that conclusion, it is only necessary to ascertain why this cession was made by Virginia to the United States; and at what time it was made, and what purposes it was to accomplish. It was entered into whilst the Union was under the articles of the Confederation. And the purposes it was intended to accomplish were, to indemnify the several States for what they had respectively expended in support of that war. It is as plain as the English language can convey it to our senses, that the “respective proportions of the general charge and expenditure,” expressed in that cession, can attach to no other “charge and expenditure,” but the charges and expenditures of that war. They point to that object alone—no other existed. And the “respective proportions of the general charge and expenditure,” incurred in effecting the objects of the war, were settled upon as the equitable standard by which “the respective proportions” of each State should be measured.
Now, Mr. President, having laid down the premises so obviously deducible from the act of cession, we shall arrive at that conclusion which I anticipated would give a very different result in favor of South Carolina. To accomplish this, sir, it would be necessary to show what “the respective proportions in the general charge and expenditure” were. This I shall be enabled to do from the “Reports on the Finances.”* In this report, the balances that appeared, after the war, to be due to the creditor States, are specifically stated. Of the creditor States there were but five—Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Virginia, and South Carolina.
|S. Carolina is a creditor State to the amount of||$5,386,232|
|Massachusetts stands next in amount,||5,226,801|
|N. York is a creditor State only to the amount of||1,167,575|
I will not pursue the statement any further. My object was to exhibit South Carolina the highest creditor State, and to contrast the claims of that State with the claims of New York, upon the principle laid down in the act of cession. Upon this principle, South Carolina will receive, in the division of these lands, nearly five times as much as the State of New York, if they are to be divided among the States. To divide on the ratio of representation, which appeared to be the principle agreed upon in the House of Representatives, a few days since, the State of New York would obtain nearly four times as much of the public lands as South Carolina would. This, sir, is a matter worth looking into, as regards South Carolina. To divide on the representative basis, will give New York four for one over South Carolina. To divide on the cession basis will give South Carolina five for one over New York. This will make a difference of nine to one in favor of South Carolina over New York.
Mr. President, I have endeavored to demonstrate that, in dividing among the several States the public lands, or the proceeds that shall arise from the sales thereof, the division must proceed upon the principle laid down in the act of cession, according to their respective proportions in the general charge and expenditure. How far I have succeeded, the Senate will determine. One thing is certain, that it never was intended by the cession to make the division upon the principle of representation. And this for the plainest reason imaginable. At the time this cession was made, the General Government was administered under the articles of Confederation; and under that system the representative principle was not known. The representation of each State was the same, and each State had but one vote: so that the division upon the representative principle could not have been thought of. It would have been nugatory, as every State had an equal representation. The negative of the representative principle is also sustained by the eighth article of the Confederation. This shows that the operations of the Government were not carried on upon that principle. That principle has grown up under the present Constitution of 1787, which being after the cession, cannot control such rights of the States as existed before that Constitution was ratified.
Sir, it appearing to me perfectly evident that the public lands are the property of the People of the several States, and not of the Western States, exclusively, and committed to the Government only to dispose of for their benefit; and if not necessary for revenue, then to be divided upon some given and settled principle, among them all, I have endeavored to prove that the settled standard by which the division shall be made, is, “according to the respective proportions of the charge and expenditure” of each State, in the prosecution of the Revolutionary war. And if, Mr. President, at a time when the public funds are sought for with an avidity heretofore unknown; when all are looking to the extinguishment of the public debt, and consider all beyond as public spoil, either to be given as bounties to purchase the patronage of the Western States, or divided out upon some new principle, most favorable to the large States, I have been fortunate enough, in the view I have taken, to show that the principle is already established, it will secure to the State of South Carolina the largest dividend; but a dividend proportioned only to the “charges and expenditures” she bore in that Revolutionary war, which gave you the sovereignty over those public lands. Notwithstanding it is a new view, and may essentially interfere with the propositions of other gentlemen, nevertheless, if it be a correct view, it is to be hoped, whensoever the partition shall take place, if a partition must be made, it will be made in pursuance of that principle, and not the principle of representation.
I will not propose a system for disposing of your public lands; I will leave that, sir, to some other hand. If, however, the sales were to go on, as heretofore, I think the Government would profit by it. I would permit the surveys to progress. I would not lower the minimum price. There will be time enough to do that, after the best lands are disposed of. However, I would do one thing, which heretofore has been rejected by Congress. It is this: I would give a fair commutation, in lands, to every pensioner, both of the Revolutionary war, and of the late war, in complete extinguishment of their pensions. If the pension system is to be kept up, the commutation would save the Government many millions of dollars; and would afford a home to the disabled or indigent soldier, and an inheritance to his family. I would go further, sir: I would give to every man who would settle on the public lands, and reside there one year, a half section, a quarter section, or a half quarter section, at the minimum price. I would not give this, or any other quantity, to any man, unless he should make certain improvements thereon, and cultivate a certain reasonable portion of the lands for one year. This would be filling the Western States with that description of population which constitutes the strength of a Government. Such a system as this will enable the poor and the enterprising man to procure a home. This privilege I would give to the occupant or cultivator only. The small quantity thus disposed of cannot lead to speculation. Let him who would speculate, buy at the sales, as heretofore, as the highest bidder. I clearly see, unless you hold out some such inducement as this, to keep the disposal of your lands going on, it is to become a source of bargain and sale, as the occasions of political speculations shall arise, and produce a scene of corruption that may overwhelm this Government; a scene more terrible than that produced by the Tariff and Internal Improvement, heretofore brought on you by degrees, and by a liberal policy, as it was called.
After closing his remarks relating to the subject of the public lands, Mr. Smith said:
And here, sir, I might close; but this discussion has gone so far, and spread so widely, and public expectation had become so excited on particular topics, on which I am not willing to be wholly silent, that I will pursue it a little further.
In the first speech with which the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Webster) favored the Senate, he introduced the subject of slavery. I was sorry to find it brought into a debate of this peculiar character, and was not satisfied with that gentleman’s remarks. However, I was pleased to find, when he addressed the Senate a second time, he gave such an explanation as to do away the odious impressions which had been received from his first remarks; and, in addition to his explanation, has very frankly acknowledged that slavery, as it exists in the United States, is protected by the Constitution. I am willing to receive these admissions from the gentleman; and am equally willing to admit them to be sincere. Whilst I have ever been sorry to hear this subject brought into debate, I have been disposed to admit any concessions of its constitutionality. Whatever may be the present opinion of the gentleman from Maine (Mr. Holmes,) who also touched upon this subject, I well recollect when he struggled with us, side by side, at the most important and gloomy period of this subject, that has ever agitated this Government. We know the sacrifices he made on that occasion. We know there were other New England gentlemen who supported us with independence and manly zeal, on that occasion. We know another gentleman from Massachusetts, a member of the other House, who, if we believe his own declarations, is willing to go further with us, than merely acknowledging the right we have to hold slaves—he is ready to arm in our defence, in case of a servile war. Shall I reject such overtures as these, and pronounce them insincere? No, sir: I would rather thank him for his independence than challenge his motives. I have had, sir, as little reason to fear an improper interference with our slaves, from the New England States, as from any other States. There are, doubtless, some restless spirits in New-England, as well as elsewhere, who, borne away by fanaticism, or something worse, are sending their seditious pamphlets and speeches among our slaves, and taking other improper steps to excite insurrections; but those who are most devoted to this unholy service are nearer to us.*
The gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Webster) has compared the comforts and advantages of the people of the free and slave States, and given a decided preference to the former. I believe, without arrogance or ostentation, there is, to say no more, as much comfort to be found in the slaveholding States as in any other portion of the Union. There is as much industry, as much kind feeling, as much charity, as much benevolence, as much hospitality, and as much morality; and all the social virtues are as much cherished, as they are any where, either in this or any other country.
I am not disposed, sir, in this desultory manner, to examine this subject in all its bearings. The occasion is not a suitable one. Nor will I go into the origin of slavery in this country. If I were to do so, I might, without fear of contradiction, say, that “Plymouth, the place where the pilgrims landed,” was the second port at which African slaves were bought and sold on our shores. I once examined this subject fully, but, at the same time, fairly and fearlessly. I say, sir, I will not enquire how slavery was first introduced here, but seeing they are here, and have been crowded from all the other States upon us to the South, I will address my arguments, or present my reasons, to the sober understanding of those that hear me, why they ought, and why they must be, left to time, and to the discretion of those who own them, to effect a change, if one can be effected, to alter (I cannot say to better) their condition. All the schemes of colonization, and returning them to their primitive country, are wholly visionary. These things do well enough to talk about; and sometimes have a political effect, or give pecuniary employment to those who have nothing else to do. But, sir, if they were now all free, and the Government had nothing farther to do than merely to transport them to Africa, you might take every cent from your treasury, your whole annual revenue, and it would not pay one-fourth part of the expense of their transportion—no, not one-fourth part.
Then, sir, what are we to do? Are we to turn them loose upon society; to shift places with their masters; they to become masters, and their masters to become slaves?—for, be assured, the two cannot live together as equals. What other effect is such a state of things to produce upon this community?
When the subject of slavery was once before the Senate, on a former occasion, I recollect it was stated by a very distinguished gentleman, then a Senator from Connecticut, (Mr. Daggett,) that in the town where he resided, there were an hundred and fifty white persons for one black person; and that there were at least three black persons for one white person, convicted of public crimes. To what extent would be the pillage and depredations of these people, were they all let loose upon society? What could check their rapacity? Its limits cannot be imagined. Some mad missionaries, and self-created philanthropists, with some of your raving politicians, affect to believe that the salvation of this Union depends upon the question of a general emancipation. But I will ask, if there be an orderly, honest, and peaceable citizen, either in the Northern, Southern, Eastern, or Western portion of this Union, who would calmly and deliberately give his assent to such a state of things. I will not believe, for a moment, there is such a one to be found. Therefore, I can scarcely believe that I ought here to make this a serious question. Whenever it shall happen, that any State shall bring this subject, in any serious form, before the public, I shall then be ready and willing to meet it, in any shape in which it may present itself, be that shape what it may.
We have been egregiously misrepresented, sir, by visionary theorists, speculating travellers, and ranting politicians, who would impose upon the world a belief that the slaves of the Southern States are starved, and miserable, and tortured, and treated like brutes. It is utterly false. They may travel from pole to pole, and traverse every region of the civilized world, and they will find that there is not a peasantry on the face of the earth, that enjoys so much civil liberty, and, at the same time, lives so comfortably, and so bountifully, as the slaves of the Southern States. The idea which has gone abroad, to the contrary, is visionary and fabulous. We are told, and the world is told, in the pamphlets and public speeches, written and uttered by blockheads that know nothing about it, that we never lie down to sleep in safety; that we are continually in fear of having our throats cut before we awake. In some of the cities, where these pretended philanthropists are daily tampering with, and exciting the slaves to insurrections, they have occasionally had some alarms; but on the plantations, and in the interior of the State, such a thing has never been heard of. Did it become necessary for me to arm against an enemy, either foreign or domestic, and the laws of my country would permit me, I would select my troops from my own slaves; I would put arms into their hands, and tell them to defend me—and they would do it; not from the timid fears of abject slaves, but from their devotion and attachment to me, as their benefactor and protector. I will not deny, that there are hard masters among the slaveholders, but that evil is doing away; public opinion, and that attachment that is constantly growing up between the master and his slaves, have nearly put it down. There is not to be found, sir, more cheerfulness, and more native gaiety, among the population, in any condition in life, than on a plantation of slaves, where they are treated well. Moreover, the slaves themselves know all this; and what is more, they feel it. They have none of that sickly longing for freedom, with distress, poverty, and starvation. I repeat it, sir, that there is no portion, I do not say of black population, but of the peasantry of Europe, or any where else, among whom there is more enjoyment, more hilarity, and more practical civil liberty—yes, civil liberty, in its true practical sense—than constantly exists among Southern slaves. As to crimes, they are so rare among them, as to be almost unknown. In proportion to their numbers, there are fewer public crimes committed than among any other people, of any other condition living.
This is not an exaggerated picture of their condition. Why, then, have we all this slang about emancipation and colonization? Were the Government able to pay for them, and transport them to Africa, it would be a sacrifice of their rights and their happiness. It would be sending them from a state of peace, protection, and plenty, to the miserable condition of starvation and butchery. I, sir, will never be the instrument of setting a negro free, or permitting the Government to do so, that he may be consigned to poverty and misery, when I am conscious I can make him comfortable the rest of his days.
Sir, one word more: In the State of Ohio, where slavery is not tolerated, there was at a time, a great deal of this kind feeling, as regarded the emancipation of slaves; many took sanctuary there, who had escaped from their masters. So strong was this feeling, at the crisis which brought about the admission of Missouri into the Union, that all the members of Congress from that State opposed her admission, unless under an express prohibition of slavery.* Since that period, however, they have found, from experience, that a free black population cannot be tolerated in that State, but under peculiar restrictions, imposed by law. In consequence whereof, the laws of that State have recently been enforced, and the free people of color, being unable to conform to its rigid exactions, have been led to seek an asylum in the British province of Upper Canada; where, we learn through the medium of the public prints, they have made a settlement, and expect to augment it by applying to the British Government for a large donation of lands. Should this colony succeed, and grow to any extent, if I might hazard an opinion, I would say, this might become a more formidable annoyance to the peace and safety of that State, than their former Indian neighbors. It is not for me to arraign the conduct of the good People of Ohio, for any municipal regulations their Legislature may have thought fit to adopt. If they be satisfied with that policy which has driven from that State the black people, whom they call free people of color, but many of whom are the slaves of American citizens, residing in other States, to the British possessions, it is not for me to complain. But suppose, by what has been called the humanity of their laws, slaves from other States should be still tolerated to take sanctuary there, and make that State a medium through which to pass from their rightful owners in the other States, to this new colony in Upper Canada, and that colony should be fostered by the British Government, may not the people of color, in case of a rupture between the two countries, become a thorn in the side of our fellow-citizens of Ohio? Perhaps there is no description of people in existence who so completely fill the character of marauding warriors and freebooters, as a colony of free blacks brought together under such circumstances.
With these remarks upon a subject of deep concern to the Southern States, and which ought to be of little concern to any body else, I shall pass on to the subject of Internal Improvement, of much concern to us all, and which has occupied more or less of the attention of every gentleman who hath participated in this debate.
In pursuing this theme, although of great magnitude, and of much importance to this Government, it will be my course, as well as it hath been of those gentlemen who have preceded me, not to give it a thorough investigation.
The debate upon this question has thrown but little light on it. It has been a debate more of censure than of illustration. Each gentleman has at least justified his own political course, whilst he reproached that of others. And some warmth has arisen, as regarded the origin of this measure. One asserting it originated in the South, another denying that fact, and imputing the origin to the North. Claiming no share of that honor myself, I am perfectly willing to leave that part of the controversy to those whom it may concern. But it is certainly worth remarking, that in all the warmth of discussion, they have confined themselves to expedience alone, without touching the constitutional question.
The gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Webster) has come out with his opinions very decidedly in favor of the power of Congress over the subject of Internal Improvement. His opinions and my opinions do not accord. However, whether they accord with mine or not, I like decided opinions upon political questions, because they can be met and combated. This gentleman assures us his mind is settled; that he has satisfied himself that the power exercised by the General Government, in constructing roads and excavating canals, is within that class of powers delegated to Congress by the Constitution; and that the exercise of that power is for the great interest of the Union. However I may be pleased with the frankness which that gentleman has displayed in avowing what his opinions are, I am, nevertheless, by no means satisfied with opinions only. They illustrate nothing, settle no point; nor is it by any means satisfactory that that gentleman should inform us that he had been associated with other gentlemen from South Carolina, in promoting the objects of Internal Improvement, or that it had its origin in South Carolina. It is enough that the people of South Carolina think for themselves upon this great question, and feel themselves bound by the opinions of no politicians. Without any compliments from me to place that gentleman conspicuously before the public, we know very well that he is well versed in the laws of his country, in the laws of nations, highly distinguished for his legal attainments, and long accustomed to the construction of legal instruments. I should have liked, therefore, to have heard from him, on this occasion, not only his opinions, but likewise his constitutional reasons, for his very decided opinions that Congress possessed this constitutional power.
The Senator from Kentucky (Mr. Rowan) has dwelt a good deal upon this subject, but has arrived at no explicit opinion upon the constitutionality of the measure. He is equally learned and equally experienced in law and legal construction with most gentlemen. It would have been desirable to have heard his constitutional views, but he has not favored the Senate with them. He has assigned, as a justification of the course he has pursued himself, not that it was constitutional, but that his constituents believe the General Government has this power, and that it is for their convenience that the General Government should exercise it; and, as their representative, he felt himself bound to support it. He acknowledges the inexpedience of the exercise of this power by Congress; yet he has uniformly voted for every appropriation for the Louisville canal, especially, as well as for every other road and canal for which an appropriation has been asked.
I do not see the Senator from Missouri (Mr. Benton) in his seat. I am sorry he is not there; but not intending to say any thing, as regards his opinions, in his absence, which I would not say were he present, it is not material. He has not been altogether uniform on this question. He has voted according to circumstances. Of the Cumberland road he has been a uniform supporter, always voting for appropriations, for its continuance, whenever asked for. He has uniformly, also, supported the appropriations for the Louisville canal, or for subscriptions by the General Government for stock in that Company, which are appropriations of the most exceptionable character. He is, however, opposed to appropriations for roads and canals that lead from the Western States to the Atlantic States, because, as he alleges, they divert the commerce of the Western States from its appropriate channel, the Mississippi, and appropriate market, New Orleans.
To what purpose, Mr. President, has this subject been brought into this debate? It has undergone an elaborate discussion by those gentlemen, but neither of whom have so much as attempted to give an exposition of the constitutional principle that confers this power upon Congress. It is not satisfactory to exercise the power without showing how the power is obtained. The exercise of this power produces a continued drain upon your treasury. It is much to be regretted that, whilst both the gentleman from Kentucky and the gentleman from Missouri, have given such a display upon constitutional principles, and State-right principles, this constitutional principle should not have been illustrated. In support of State rights, they have bestowed much consideration. But there is something irreconcilable to my mind that gentlemen can raise the State-right standard, and yet vote large appropriations for roads and canals, to be applied under the power of the General Government in the States. The State-right party cannot admit that doctrine. They consider the appropriations by Congress for Internal Improvement as the source of the evil. It is Internal Improvement that keeps alive your tariff. It is fed by your tariff. Without the former the latter would perish. How a statesman can support Internal Improvement and oppose the Tariff, is a paradox which I cannot solve. But how he can vote for both, and still advocate State rights, is a paradox that nobody can solve.
Another gentleman (Mr. Hayne) has said, the law of 1824, which appropriated $30,000 to enable the President to obtain plans and surveys of roads and canals, was an experiment—that the subject was not well understood. This was a woful experiment, sir; an experiment that has rendered the Southern States completely tributary to the other States of the Union. The enactment of that law was hailed by the advocates of Internal Improvement, which had been balancing for eight years, between victory and defeat, as a confirmation of the power of Congress over Internal Improvement. The subject was as well understood by the members of Congress then, as it is now. The People at large did not understand it; nor never would, had the discussions been confined to Congress. That Congress understood it, cannot be questioned. It had been debated warmly in Congress, from 1816, till that law passed in 1824. The great bonus bill of 1817 underwent a thorough discussion in both branches of Congress, and passed both Houses, and was negatived by Mr. Madison. The next year it was resumed, and then underwent another very long and very animated discussion. And so it did every year, in some shape or other, until the act of 1824, which act, alone, has taken from your Treasury $30,000 every year since, except one, for plans and surveys, independent of millions for the making of roads and canals. On the bonus bill, sir, in 1817, only one fortnight after I first took my seat in the Senate, I made my stand. I voted against that bill in all its modifications. And I think, sir, I understood it as well then as I do now. I understood it then to be a political speculation, and a speculation in violation of the Constitution of my country. In 1820, or 1821, when it was contemplated to extend the Cumberland road, a resolution was submitted to the Senate, by General Lacock, then a Senator from Pennsylvania, to appropriate $10,000 for a survey. I opposed it. On that occasion I stood alone, except my worthy friend Mr. Macon, whom I regret is not here, voted with me. I was then told that nothing would be asked of the Government but to survey. I replied, if you make the survey, you must make the road. My prediction has been fully verified; the road has been extended every year. And you have appropriated more than $1,000,000 since that time, to continue that road. In this way, sir, we have suffered this system to grow up in our Government, by gradual encroachments.
On this subject, I have, on a former discussion, when it was properly before the Senate, in a shape upon which a vote could be directly taken, had the honor of giving my constitutional objections at full length. I shall forbear to do so here, and leave this subject precisely where I found it, a subject of debate without a conclusion.
I come now, Mr. President, to the subject of the Tariff, concerning which, there exists so much anxiety, and upon which there depends so much interest. It has occupied a conspicuous place in this discussion. And I have, from the commencement of the debate, felt an invincible reluctance to approach it here. I should have no reluctance, but, on the contrary, a great deal of pleasure, were this the time and place suitable for that occasion. The question is one of vital importance, not only to the State from which I come, but is of vital importance to the whole Union. In discussing it here, and at this time, who am I to address? I have the honor, it is true, to be surrounded by the Senate of the United States, who will, perhaps do me the favor to hear me. Also, the galleries are full of respectable citizens, who will probably give me their ordinary attention, likewise. To which of these bodies shall I appeal for a decision, whether I am right or wrong? If I appeal to the Senate, they have no such question before them. If to the galleries, they have no jurisdiction to decide upon any question here. And although we are in the Senate chamber, the Senate can no more decide upon this question, than the merest stranger in the galleries. It is a subject, sir, that ought not to be impaired by any common-place familiarity, in debate, where a complete investigation of all its bearings cannot be attained, and where no decision is sought for. It is lessening its consequence, and giving up more than half its importance. The time is approaching, when we shall be able to bring it before the Senate in a different form, where it can be discussed upon its merits, and the vote of the Senate passed upon it, to a useful purpose. But, seeing the subject has been brought before the Senate, although I do not intend to go into any thing like a general view of the question, I will, nevertheless, not pass it entirely unnoticed.
This discussion, sir, has involved the consideration of two great political questions: whether, if a State be borne down by the oppressive operation of a law of the United States, the proper appeal from that oppression, is not to the Judiciary: or whether, in such a case, the State aggrieved, has not a right to withdraw, and say to the rest of the Union, we no longer belong to you, because you have violated the compact with us; we have decided for ourselves that you have oppressed us; your laws are unconstitutional, and we will no longer continue a member of the Union.
On the first portion of this subject, if it could be heard before the Senate as a distinct proposition, and the Senate had the power to decide upon it, I would give it, as far as I should be able, the best consideration its importance would demand; but it is utterly out of the question for a speaker to investigate and descant upon a mere speculative political question, where no results are to be expected, as he would feel himself bound to do, were the question a real one, from which some solid and permanent good was to flow, instead of one that should yield little more than an opportunity of making a speech to raise his own fame. But as it has been the course, in this erratic flight of the Senate, that has drawn into its vortex any thing, and every thing, civil, religious and political, as the speaker may have thought fit to select, and this has been selected as one choice subject, by those who have gone before me, I will offer a few unpremeditated remarks.
For the Judges of the United States, I entertain the highest respect, both in their judicial character, as well as in their individual character: And am willing to attribute to them as much integrity, and as much talent, as falls to the share of any Judges, in this or any other country. But it seems to me that their province is limited to decisions between citizen and citizen, and between the United States and citizens, the individual States, &c. and in all cases of meum et tuum, their decisions are conclusive. But may not a distinction be taken, where a law is notoriously unconstitutional, and oppressive upon the whole community of a State; where the ground of complaint would be, that Congress had enacted a law, not only against the letter, but likewise against the spirit and meaning of the Constitution; which law was undermining all the private rights of individuals, as well as rights appertaining to them as the community of a State?
Then, sir, suppose the Court of the United States always to consist of seven Judges, as it now does; and suppose a question upon the constitutionality of a law of the United States, that had vitally affected the people of a State, in their private and municipal rights, should come before these seven Judges, for their decision, and three of the seven should pronounce the law constitutional, and three others of the seven should pronounce it unconstitutional. Here the opinions of six of the seven are completely neutralized, and the whole weight of the question, be it of what moment it may, must devolve upon a single Judge. This single Judge would hold the balance, and have it in his power to decide the fate of the Union, by his single dictum. The entire operations of the law must cease, if he should say no: or its operation must go on, if he should say, aye; be the consequences what they may. The peace and happiness of the Union must be destroyed, or preserved, as he should be guided by prudence and honesty on the one hand, or by caprice and ambition on the other; because Judges are not always exempt from these passions. Or let us suppose a law affecting in a special manner, the private or municipal rights of the people of a whole State, should be enacted by Congress, to compel vessels going from one port to another, in the same State, or to a port in a different State, to clear out at the port of departure, and the master should refuse to do so, because the law was unconstitutional, as the Constitution expressly forbids it—should your Judges ever be misled to declare such a law constitutional, and the collector of the revenue should be resisted, could he who made the resistance be convicted of an offence against the Constitution of his country? If the opinions of the Judges are to be considered the Constitution; or if the Judges are clothed with this tremendous power; a power that gives to a single man the control of the destiny of this Union, is it not time to enquire, whether it be not fit to place it in some more responsible repository?
The other great question, whether a State has a right to secede from the Union, if Congress should pass an unconstitutional law, that should prove oppressive, is a question of still greater moment.
Were I to be asked what opinion I entertained of the power of a State to dissolve its political connexion with the Union, I would respond, Go ask my constituents. This is not the time, and place, and circumstances, that will justify a discussion of that question between the United States and the State of South Carolina. If South Carolina is aggrieved by the Tariff, and she most assuredly is, to an extent of great oppression, and the remedy is only to be found in a separation from the Union, it belongs exclusively to the people of that State to meet in convention, examine the subject, weigh the consequences, and settle the mode of operation. That is the course, and the only course, by which this question can be determined, and not by any flight of fancy that may exist in my imagination, or that of any other member of Congress. I unfeignedly believe, there is at this time in the Legislature of South Carolina, much talent, much patriotism, much devotion to the Union, and as much independence and firmness as could possibly be wanting to adopt any plan of operation that wisdom, patriotism, justice, interest, or the love of union, may dictate, for the relief of their burthens. I do not withhold my opinion here from fear of responsibility.—I shrink, Mr. President, from no responsibility imposed upon me as a member of this Senate. If the wisdom of my Legislature, whose province it is to determine upon that measure, and act upon that great occasion, should think proper to call a convention, and my country should honor me with a seat there, I will assume any responsibility which the wisdom of the occasion, or the interest of my country may require at my hands.
Sir, I will go further, and should the cupidity or the madness of the majority in Congress, push them on to impose one unconstitutional bur-then after another, until it can be no longer borne, and no other alternative remains, I will then take upon myself the last responsibility of an oppressed People, and adopt the exclamation of the poet, dulce et decorum est pro patria mori; and if the exigencies of my country should ever demand it, I will be ready to shed my blood upon the altars of that country. I am attached to the Union; I wish to see it perpetuated; I wish it may endure through all time. But if the same causes exist in our Government, which have overturned other Governments, what right have we to expect an exemption from the fatality of other nations? We need not go abroad, or into ancient history, for instances to warn us. If we only go back to 1774 and 1775, we shall see a much less cause, producing that revolution which separated these United States from Great Britain, than now exists between the United States and the State of South Carolina. What was the exciting cause of that revolution? A three penny tax on tea, which was then merely the beverage of the rich, and a small tax upon stamps. It was these small duties that set the whole United States in a flame: and that flame spread with the velocity of the winds, from one end of the United States to the other. Massachusetts, Virginia, and South Carolina, were united then in the same cause, the defence of their civil liberty, which was threatened by the small duty on tea. Memorials and remonstrances were resorted to, but for a short time, until a company, in Boston, disguised in the habiliments of Indians, counselled, if not led, by the immortal Hancock, boarded the ships, and threw all the tea in the harbor overboard. May we not look for the same effects from the same causes, at all times, and in all places?
Whilst, Mr. President, I regret that, under existing circumstances, this picture is not too highly colored, yet I believe there is a redeeming spirit at hand. The Constitution itself, which has been made to bend, to suit the interests of majorities, is undergoing a new version. Investigations of its true and plain common-sense construction is going on in more hands than one.
Among the distinguished writers engaged in this investigation is Doctor Cooper, who has been alluded by gentlemen in this discussion; whose name is identified with every science; whose life has been devoted to the cause of civil liberty and human happiness. In his Political Economy, Consolidation, and other recent political pieces, has torn the mask from the delusion of constructive powers and party intrigue.
A writer under the signature of “Brutus,” in his “Crisis,” has, with a master hand, given an exposition to the great agitated points of the Constitution, on the subjects of the Tariff and Internal Improvement, that will remain a treasure to his country while talents shall be regarded.
The lectures of Mr. Dew, of Virginia, on the Restrictive System, are more like a mathematical analysis than the lectures of a Professor on Political Economy. His illustrations are so plain, so strong, and so conclusive, that they are perfect demonstrations of the errors and absurdity of the American System.
None of these writers have ever been answered by the advocates of Internal Improvement and the Tariff system. To these may be added, a paper recently published, by order of the House of Representatives, which will be read with much interest. It is the report of the Committee on Commerce, written, as we understand, by Mr. Cambreleng, the chairman of that committee. It gives a more expanded view, and furnishes more evidences, drawn from facts, of the great impolicy, and ruinous effects of the Tariff, than have appeared in any State paper, heretofore published by the Government. The disastrous effects which it has already, and will continue to produce upon our foreign commerce, are so fully and clearly established, that it must command admiration, and will be extensively read.
The flood of light, Mr. President, which those distinguished writers have shed upon this subject, to which may be added this report, cannot fail to enlighten the benighted minds of an honest, industrious community; and bring them to reflect, seriously, whether it be just to tax the many for the benefit of the few. The manufacturers themselves regret that this system has been introduced. And well they may, for it is now fully ascertained, that at least one half of the monied capital of the New England States, has been sacrificed by this mania; and a large proportion of the proprietors of manufacturing establishments bankrupted. Fortunes, that have been accumulating for half a century, have been swept away in an instant. There can be no probability that men of business, raised to active pursuits, and accustomed to employ their capital in some productive and advantageous manner, can remain devoted to a system that must produce their certain destruction. In addition to so many reasons that exist, why we may hope for an early dissolution of this oppressive system, another reason, as strong at least, if not stronger, than any other, is the certainty that the public debt of the United States will shortly be extinguished. When that period shall arrive, there will not be even a pretext for the continuation of the Tariff, except it be for the explicit and avowed purpose of protecting the manufacturers. And I beg leave, Mr. President, to ask, if there be even one man, who can for a moment suppose, that twelve millions of the free People of the United States will calmly submit to have the direction of the whole of their labor taken out of their own hands, and placed under the management of the General Government; not to secure a revenue for governmental purposes, but that the Government may, at its discretion, parcel out the profits of the labor of one portion of the Union, to bestow on those of another portion of the Union? Sir, it is morally certain that they will submit to no such tyranny. Nor will it be necessary for the People to rise in their might to put it down, either by one portion seceding from the rest, or by the more direful alternative, a civil war, that must drench the States with the blood of their own citizens. Public opinion must, and will correct this mighty evil, and in its own way, and leave the States still further to cultivate their Union, upon those pure principles that first brought them together. If I am mistaken, however, and these hopes should prove illusive, it will then be time for the States to determine what are their rights, and whether they have constitutional powers to secede from the Union.
But, sir, whilst I hope that a happy revolution in our political affairs awaits us at no distant period, resulting from this powerful combination of circumstances, I entertain not the least hope of relief from the justice or magnanimity of either the Eastern or Western States. They have got the Tariff, however, fixed upon us, and will no doubt hold on, until it becomes their interest to abandon it; and then, and not till then, can we hope for their concurrence in its repeal. The gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Benton) appeared, at the beginning of this debate, to feel great sympathy for the oppressed planters of the Southern States; and some gentlemen hoped, that he might probably join the South, and lend his aid to repeal at once the oppressive Tariff. But, sir, that hope is gone. Instead of giving his aid to repeal the Tariff law entirely, and especially such parts of it as bear most oppressively upon the Southern States, he has introduced a bill, purporting to be—
“A bill to provide for the abolition of unnecessary duties, to relieve the People from sixteen millions of taxes, and to improve the condition of the agriculture, manufactures, commerce and navigation, of the United States.”
This is the title of the bill, sir, which is very specious, and would seem to indicate that the Tariff system was to be totally abolished, and that, as soon as this specious bill should be acted on. When you leave the preamble, and look into the provisions of the bill itself, it gives you a very different view. You will there find the duties to be reduced, are, for the most part, duties on articles of luxury; such duties as affect the rich classes of society only, and for which the laboring class of the community care nothing. Not a few of them are articles of extreme luxury. Amongst them are, “cocoa, olives, figs, raisins, prunes, almonds, currants, cambrics, lawns, cashmere shawls, gauze, thread and silk lace, essence of bergamot, and other essences used as perfumery, porcelain, Brussels carpeting, velvet cords,” &c.
These are articles mostly used by the rich, the gay, and splendid. They are rarely used by that substantial class of citizens who move in the middle sphere of life. Indeed, there is not a single article in the whole catalogue, that the removal of the duties on which will materially affect the Southern States, but would prove as favorable to the Western States, and more so, than to any other portion of the Union. All spirits, woollens, and cotton goods, that come in competition with spirits, woollens, and cotton goods manufactured in the United States, are not included in this exemption from duties. Besides, even this supposed relief is, by the provisions of the bill itself, postponed for ten years. In ten years, if the present Tariff should continue, it will be perfectly immaterial whether they ever are taken off. If they are to be taken off, why not now? As well might it be postponed till another generation, as to postpone it ten years. The articles of iron and steel, in all their forms, and cotton and woollen goods, cotton bagging and cordage, and many other articles, are passed by, unnoticed, in this bill. These are the articles we wish to see duty free. They would restore your commerce and navigation, and give real relief. But, sir, what is of still greater importance to the Southern States, the gentleman has concluded this relief bill, by laying a heavy duty of 33 per cent. on all foreign furs and raw hides; a duty heretofore unknown, in any of our Tariff laws; a duty perfectly suited to Missouri, as that State is a grazing, as well as a fur State. Such a Tariff is precisely what she wants. These duties, added to the duties laid on lead, in all its forms, in the Tariff of 1828, which that gentleman (Mr. Benton) voted for, with the express purpose of securing this duty on lead, will, for the present, complete her wishes. Furs and raw hides are articles of prime necessity in this great community; and, unless the People will consent to go without hats and shoes, or, in plain terms, go bareheaded and barefooted, the rest of the States must pay a very heavy tribute to enrich the people of Missouri. This may be a relief bill for Missouri, but for no other State. Besides, Mr. President, there is a bill reported more than a month, before this bill, by the Committee of Finance, which embraces the whole Tariff, without imposing any new burthens, and which, I hope, may be taken up in due time, and acted on.
Sir, I have pursued this subject much further than I originally intended. I will here abandon it, and reserve what I may wish to say further, until the question on the Tariff shall be fairly before the Senate, and will now advert to another leading topic in this debate, as there are many to choose from.
The topic, sir, I have alluded, is that which relates to the party politics of other times. A contest had arisen, of a singular character; which was, whether the Eastern States, or the Southern States, had been most friendly and magnanimous in promoting the growth, and advancing the interests of the States in the West. And in solving that question, the controversy had assumed a new aspect, and had been converted into one upon parties and party politics, of the most violent and personal character, between the gentleman from South Carolina, (Mr. Hayne) and the gentleman from Massachusetts, (Mr. Webster.) The gentleman from South Carolina had brought before the Senate a full view of the old Federal party of 1798. He had carried it back to the Whig and Tory parties of England, and derived the Federal party from the Tory party of that country. He had brought before the Senate the Hartford Convention, and read its Journals, to prove that a settled purpose had existed in the New England States to dissolve the Union. He had brought before the Senate the Olive Branch, and read many of its choice paragraphs, to illustrate the violent opposition in New England, to the late war between the United States and Great Britain: and concluded with the “Coalition,” the ghost of which he supposed, had haunted the gentleman’s (Mr. Webster’s) imagination, and, like the ghost of “Banquo, would never down.”
The gentleman from Massachusetts, (Mr. Webster), in reply to these charges of political heresy, says he had nothing to do with the Hartford Convention; that he had never read its journals; and if its ghost, like the ghost of Banquo, had risen to haunt the imagination of any body, “it could not shake its gory locks at him.” And, in his turn, brings charges against South Carolina, and says, “other Conventions, of more recent existence, had gone further than the Hartford Convention;” and named what he called “the Colleton and Edgefield Conventions;” and read the proceedings of the Colleton meeting of 1828, after the enactment of the Tariff law of that year. These proceedings, he argued, were more inflammatory, and tended more to disunion than the proceedings of the Hartford Convention could possibly do.
If these Conventions, Mr. President, as they have been called, have existed, either in New England, or South Carolina, they are not chargeable to me. And should the ghosts of either, or all of them, arise, to haunt the imaginations of any concerned, I can exclaim, with the gentleman from Massachusetts, “They cannot shake their gory locks at me.”
There has been much crimination and recrimination between those two gentlemen. One reproaches the other with political tergiversation, and it is reciprocated. The gentleman from South Carolina says the gentleman from Massachusetts had distinguished himself, whilst a member of the House of Representatives, in 1824, in opposition to the Tariff; but in 1828, took a different course in the Senate, and supported the Tariff. The gentleman from Massachusetts, on his part, says the gentleman from South Carolina, in 1824, while the act to procure the necessary plans and surveys of roads and canals, “which covered the whole subject of internal improvement,” opposed every modification of the law that tended to diminish the power of Congress over that subject; but that he had since shifted his ground, and had become opposed to Internal Improvements. The speeches, the yeas and nays, and the Senate journals, have all been produced and read in the Senate, to substantiate those mutual accusations. Other members of the Senate, who have shared in this debate, have pursued the same course of crimination and recrimination; charging and proving on their opponents, whomsoever they may happen to be, that they had held and maintained, at different times, different opinions upon the same political subjects; and had voted on the one side at one time, and on the other side another time, as party interest or party feelings might dictate. These reciprocal vituperations have not been the result of a sudden gust of ardent feelings, or unguarded expressions, to pass off with the moment and be forgotten; but the records and journals of Congress, as far back as the Revolutionary war, have been ransacked and hunted up, and brought into the Senate—the speeches, and the yeas and nays read, to establish the inconsistency of each other; and, moreover, all this has gone abroad to adorn the public prints, and mingle in the party strifes of the day.
When such scenes as these are playing off in the Senate chamber, with open doors, and a crowded audience, if it be not a duty, it is, at least, justifiable for those who are conscious of having pursued a different course, to avow it in self-defence. In those accusings and defendings, in the course of this debate, a great deal of that kind of egotism which they necessarily involved, had been indulged. I will beg leave to indulge a little in this egotistic style, also. If any occasion will palliate this request, it must be such as the present.
Mr. President, I have had the honor of acting an humble part in public stations from an early period of my life; I have been eleven years in this Senate, and if it were not too ostentatious, I would invoke a scrutiny of my own votes and political opinions. I fear no challenges for inconsistent votes; I fear no journals, no yeas and nays. I claim no exemption from human fallibility. I may have given many erroneous votes, but am conscious I have never given an inconsistent vote, or held, at any time, inconsistent political opinions. If I have, I ask them to be proclaimed.
The origin of parties is as old as the Government itself. When the division between the Federalists and Republicans first took place, the parties were nearly balanced, as regarded numbers, and as regarded talents; and were, moreover, pretty equally dispersed throughout the United States. But all parties unanimously concurred in the election of Gen. Washington to the Presidency. At the close of his Administration, the distinction of parties was fully developed, and the contest for supremacy, between the two parties, commenced. The Federal party succeeded in the election of Mr. Adams, the elder. He had been a Revolutionary man, of distinguished fame, and his party, a little the strongest, placed him in the Presidency, as the successor of General Washington. And Mr. Jefferson, who then stood at the head of the Republican party, was elected Vice-President. The Federal party, considering themselves firmly fixed at the head of Government, for the next eight years at least, the better to secure the acquisition, and perpetuate their power, enacted the alien and sedition laws. The country became alarmed at this high-handed measure, and the Republican party, very justly, laid hold of it to show the dangerous tendency of augmenting the strength of the General Government, by the constructive powers of the Constitution, “to provide for the public good and general welfare.” The consequences were, that the Republican party gained strength from this, and other circumstances, and at the next Presidential election, elected Mr. Jefferson over Mr. Adams. They held the power until the late war commenced; and through that war, until its termination, and the restoration of peace. The Federal party were universally opposed to the war, at its commencement. The Federalists of the Northern States, and many others, elsewhere, continued their opposition throughout the war. But the war having terminated triumphantly for the United States, the Federalists soon became too enfeebled to act any longer as a party. And having no fixed object, some turned Republicans, and being new converts, like all other new converts, became exceeding devout. Many respectable men amongst them, not disposed to abandon principles which they had honestly adopted, retired to private life. One portion, however, in the State of New York, about forty in number, the better to provide for themselves, made a formal renunciation of their principles, in a public address, in which they alleged there was no longer any Federal party to which they could hold on, therefore, they avowed their adhesion, for the future, to the strongest Republican party. Some humorous wag of the Federal party, upon seeing this formal renunciation, drew up a regular deed of conveyance; in which, for divers good causes and valuable considerations him thereunto moving, did bargain, sell, release, and set over, in market overt, forty thousand Federalists, who had left their ranks, to the Republican party, in fee simple forever.
It was now supposed that the Federal party had fallen, to rise no more, and they were much sought after, and greeted as brothers of the Republican family, by the leading politicians of the day. They were told there was but one party; that no such thing as a distinct Federal party, or a distinct Republican party, existed. But the phraseology was, “We are all Federalists, all Republicans.” It became an invidious thing to denounce a gentleman as a Federalist. In the State of South Carolina, it was so taken, and generally understood by all: and so acted on. The community were said to be satisfied with it. Good feelings were said to be generated by it. It was pronounced as the great desideratum to strengthen the Union. In fine, there was nothing great or good which it was not to effect.
As an evidence of the temper and understanding of the citizens of South Carolina, upon the happy results of the amalgamation of the Federal and Republican parties, among many other instances, I will beg leave to read a few short passages from an eloquent oration, delivered in Charleston, on the 4th July, 1821, before the Cincinnati and Revolution Societies, by a distinguished gentleman of that place, who was a member of the Cincinnati Society. After speaking on other interesting relations between Great Britain and America, and the effects of the late war between them, he says:
“These are not the only reflections of an exhilarating character, which the late war is calculated to excite. It has led to the extinction of those parties, the collisions of which once weakened our country, and disturbed the harmony of its society.
“I come not here to burn the torch of Alecto—to me there is no lustre in its fires, nor cheering warmth in its blaze. Let us rather offer and mingle our congratulations, that those unhappy differences which alienated one portion of our community from the rest, are at an end, and that a vast fund of the genius and worth of our country has been restored to its service, to give new vigor to its career of power and prosperity.
“To this blessed consummation the administration of our venerable Monroe has been a powerful auxiliary.
“The delusions of past years have rolled away, and the mists that once hovered over forms of now unshaded brightness, are dissipated forever. We can now all meet and exchange our admiration and love, in generous confraternity of feeling, whether we speak of our Jefferson or our Adams, our Madison or our Hamilton, our Pinckney or our Monroe; the associations of patriotism are awakened, and we forget the distance in the political zodiac, which once separated these illustrious luminaries, in the full tide of glory they are pouring on the brightest pages of our history. This unanimity of sentiment is not a sickly calm, in which the high energies of the nation are sunk into a debilitating paralysis.
“This union can only annoy the demagogue, who lives by the proscription of one-half of his fellow-citizens, and in the delusions of a distempered state of public opinion. But to him who loves his country as a beautiful whole, not scarred and cut into compartments of sects and schisms, such a picture is one of unmixed triumph and gratulation. The necessity for the existence of parties in a free State, in the sense in which we have unfortunately understood them, is one of those paradoxes which the world has rather received than examined, and seems allied to the sophistry which would lead us to believe that the pleasures of domestic life are promoted by its dissensions, or that the jarring of the elements is essential to the harmony of the universe. No! an united is a happy, as well as an invincible People.”*
Mr. President: I have never acted with that portion of politicians who were denominated Federalists. I formed my political creed at the eventful period of 1796. I then took my stand as a Republican of the Jefferson school; and I have never departed from it. And if the politicians of that, or any other school, say I have, they slander me. I have been uniformly opposed to the Federal principles; and am opposed to them now. I have been opposed to them because I thought them wrong. But whilst I have uniformly been opposed to Federal principles and Federal measures, I have as uniformly treated the persons and reputations of the Federal party, with every possible respect. I am aware that I have never been a favorite with that party. I have never sought to be so. I am, nevertheless, willing to attribute to them all the integrity and honesty of purpose, of any other party; but I am not willing to adopt their creed. There are gentlemen of that party with whom I am upon intimate terms, and whose friendship and society I esteem as a treasure; but we never converse on party politics.
I cannot, sir, be annoyed by any condition of my fellow-citizens that contributes to their social happiness. Party dissensions hold out no charms for my gratification. There is no faculty of my nature that could take sides in a contest for the proscription of any portion of the community to which I belong, upon party principles. But when I consider the destruction of the Federal, and its amalgamation with the Republican party, and look at the consequences that have resulted from that union, I cannot but believe that it has been a misfortune, instead of a blessing to this Government. It has defeated all the great purposes for which the Republican party was originally instituted. The Federal party was characterized by its constant tendency to extravagance; by its efforts to increase the powers of the General Government; by a free construction of the constitution; by the creation of new offices; profuse expenditure of public moneys; the establishment of banks, and the establishment of a standing army in time of peace. The Republican party were opposed to all these operations. It was decidedly by their opposition to these political errors, that they broke down the Federal party, and obtained the possession of the Government. Economy was the watch-word of the Republican party; the purity of the constitution was their rallying point. They put down the constructive powers of the Government; the alien and sedition laws, based upon “the public good and general welfare,” construction withered and died at their bidding, and never revived. They operated as a complete check upon every abuse of power in the hands of the Federal party, and particularly whilst that party held the Government.
By the operation of this powerful check, not a constitutional check, but of the vigilance of a strong opposition party, the Constitution itself was brought back to its common sense construction, and the extravagancies of the Government were levelled down to the proper exigencies of the Government.
When the Republican party got possession of the Government, and Mr. Jefferson came to the Presidency, they enacted the embargo law which he recommended, and which the Federal party opposed, upon the ground of its unconstitutionality; it being a creature of “the public good and general welfare” construction; which construction the Federal party, although in the minority, yet a very strong minority, denied to be the legitimate construction; and, by their opposition, that law could not be enforced to any valuable purpose, even under the Administration of Mr. Jefferson. The legitimacy of the war they could not deny; and whilst contending against the expediency of the war, with a large majority opposed to it, the war terminated successfully, and the Federal party terminated with it, as to all efficient purposes of a party. And thence, this “happy union” of the two great leading political parties was consummated. And no party was henceforth known but the Republican party, who have had the entire administration of the Government ever since; and whom it was expected would have administered the Government upon the pure Democratic principles, and a strict regard to the fair construction of the Constitution. And now the inquiry is, not what have they done, but what have they not done? They have given you an American System; they have given protection to that system with all its train of evils; they have given away your public lands, with an unsparing hand, to the Western States, to private corporations, and to other associations; they have appropriated large sums of money to make roads, canals, clear out rivers and creeks; they have appropriated large sums of money for a joint stock co-partnership with private corporations; and they have now a proposition to divide the surplus revenue amongst the several States, like the spoils of war amongst a successful clan.
All these measures have been effected within the last fifteen years, and since the fall of the Federal party. They have been effected by the Republican party, many of whom are supporting, and voting for most of those measures at this time. These are the blessed fruits of that union of parties, which never existed until the Federal party was extinct.
I would ask, sir, for what purpose Federalism has been raked from its embers at this time? Why has this new impulse been given to a subject that we have been taught to believe had gone down to oblivion? A subject that had been put to rest, long since, by the Republican party itself. What evidences have we that ought to alarm us at this period? There is no Presidential election pending; General Jackson has possession of the Presidential chair for the next three years; the Government is solely in the possession, and under the control of the Republican party. The Federalists never can be formidable if left to themselves; they are only so when associated with the Republicans.
It is not my intention to palliate the Federal policy. But to denounce them, when crumbled into dust, appears to me like the lion in the fable. Indeed we know of no party existing by that name. Nor has any existed by that name since the grand union. We know of individuals who still retain that name, and are proud of it; and who still retain a devotion to Federal principles. But as a body they are impotent: at least we think so in the Southern States; and they think so themselves. But they become an host when united with the Republicans; Republicans who call in Federal aid, when necessary to do so, to put down a rival and secure their own triumph; and who often throw themselves into the Federal ranks to help out a Federal candidate, in return, to put down a Republican, whom some Republican leader wishes to see displaced. They are often associated together under the Republican banner; contending in concert against other Republican candidates, for the same honors. And if a Federalist did not belong to the Hartford Convention, and approved of the war, no matter how late he came to that conclusion; they are, by public opinion, and the sanction of constant usage, entitled to participate in all the honors and offices of the Government. This toleration I am not disposed to complain off; but why are they alternately denounced and caressed? If the denunciation was only against the Hartford Convention, and Federalists opposed to the war, they can excite no terror; if against them, in mass, why are they cherished by the leading Republicans, or such as assume to be leaders?
The great misfortune to our country is, the Republican party, since its union with the Federal party, have separated and formed themselves into three or four parties; all calling themselves Republicans, each setting up for itself, and each striving to put down the others. And some politicians are not very fastidious about the means to be employed against a rival party. And when the repudiated Federalist is to be used to aid in a project of destruction, he is used in either character, as a Federalist or Republican, as the occasion may require.
After the election of President Monroe, three or four Republican parties rose upon the ruins of the Federalists. Amongst them was the Crawford party. Mr. Crawford being a man of distinguished talents, excellent morals, and greatly esteemed, more than ordinary means were employed to put him down. The presses were employed for that purpose. The Washington Republican was established in this city for that express purpose. Its papers were sent gratis throughout the Union. It denominated Mr. Crawford the Radical Chief, and those who supported him, Radicals. This being a new term in the political vocabulary, its definition was not understood. It was defined to mean—
“An old Federalist in a new form, holding the people to be too ignorant to choose a President, and that it is lawful to cheat and defraud them for their own good, upon the ground that they are their own worst enemies.”*
To aid in this good cause, Mr. Adams, the Coalition Chief, was brought into the Republican ranks, and obtained, at least, the second place in the Republican family—and especially in the two Carolinas.
In North Carolina, where the Electors are elected by general ticket, there were two tickets run—one called the Crawford ticket, the other the People’s ticket. In some of the counties, it was agreed, the better to prevent Mr. Crawford’s success, that those who voted for the People’s ticket, should endorse upon the ticket, “for General Jackson,” or “for Mr. Adams,” as the voter might choose, and when the election should close, and the tickets be counted, if the People’s ticket succeeded, then the endorsements should be counted also, and whosoever had the greatest number—General Jackson or Mr. Adams—should be the People’s candidate, and be supported by the People’s Electors. The People’s electors were elected, and they unanimously voted for General Jackson. But I suppose if Mr. Adams had had the greatest number of endorsements, he would have gotten the vote according to compact. This compact was not universal.
In South Carolina, Mr. Adams was equally beloved by many of the leading Republicans. In September of 1824, in the District of Edgefield, a very large and respectable assemblage of the people convened for the purpose of determining on the most suitable person as their Presidential candidate. They went into a formal election, and General Jackson was elected. But lest they should find that General Jackson would not be sustained in other States, they proceeded to a second choice, to be brought forward, in case General Jackson was not likely to succeed; and Mr. Adams was elected, as their second choice, to be kept in reserve. Their proceedings were published in the newspapers, and sent abroad to the world: recognizing Mr. Adams as a Republican, and second to none but General Jackson.
In the city of Charleston, October, 1824, on the day of the election for Representatives to Congress and to the State Legislature, who were to elect the Presidential electors, a full ticket of candidates published their names, and for that purpose addressed the following note to the editor of the Southern Patriot, in this form:
“Jackson and Adams Ticket.”
“To the Editor of the Southern Patriot:”
“Sir: You are authorized to say that the following gentlemen will in no event vote for electors favorable to William H. Crawford, as President.”*
To this declaration they annexed their names, eighteen of them in number. Among those names I recognise gentlemen of the first respectability, of the old Federal school. Also Republicans of the first respectability; all uniting in “confraternity,” to support Mr. Adams as the Republican candidate, in case any thing should render the success of General Jackson doubtful; but in no event to support Mr. Crawford.
In February, 1824, a committee of the Republican members of Congress, consisting of twenty-four, three of them from South Carolina, were nominated to take the sense of Congress, whether it were expedient to meet in caucus, to fix upon a suitable candidate for the Presidency.† The committee reported it was inexpedient to meet in caucus at that time. The reasons were, because all the candidates were Republicans, and a caucus was only necessary in Federal times. Mr. Adams was one of these Republican candidates, and was elected.
Accompanying this report of the anti-caucus committee, was the following statement:
“1. That of the 261 members of Congress, somewhere about 45 are Federalists—so that the democratic members, that might go into caucus, are 216.”*
I will give one instance more of the facility and dexterity with which some of our Republicans can metamorphose a Federalist, to suit any occasion that may occur. The instance alludes to myself, and I hope I may be pardoned for mentioning it, as I was not an actor, but merely the subject of the stratagem. In less than two years after the leading party in Charleston, South Carolina, in October, 1824, had exhibited to their constituents and to the world, in their “Jackson and Adams ticket,” exhibiting them as brother Republicans of the same school, and equally worthy of being supported for the Presidency, I had the honor of presenting my humble pretensions for public favor, and, although less than two years after the display of that ticket, I was denounced in a public newspaper as the supporter and ally of John Q. Adams, who was himself a Federalist, and a friend to the Hartford Convention; and that I was opposed to General Jackson.* And this was enlarged upon and reiterated in the same paper; and this, too, when it was known, as far as I was known, that the reverse of all this, as related to myself, was literally true.
Sir, I never was the advocate of Mr. Adams. I am opposed, and have always been opposed, to his political principles. I erred in one thing: I did not abuse him in the streets and highways. Had I done so, it might have saved me from this reproach.
When General Jackson was first a candidate, although I was not one of his supporters, I was, nevertheless, one of his admirers, but not one of his traducers. Before he became a candidate, I had made up my mind in favor of Mr. Crawford, who had high claims, and General Jackson has too much regard for good faith to suppose I ought to have abandoned him. But, in the second canvass, I supported General Jackson throughout; and I will support him again, if he should consent to serve his country a second time. But, when I make this avowal, I am not pledged to follow General Jackson, or any other President, implicitly. I was not sent here to enlist under party banners, but to serve my country upon the principles of the Constitution, from which I hope General Jackson will never depart. Much has been said by the politicians, of their support of General Jackson for the Presidency. He was not placed in office by that portion of the community denominated politicians, who make Presidents for their own convenience, and to answer their own interest. They only followed in the train. They were forced into the ranks by public opinion. His party was his country, and his supporters were the sovereign People, who, not yet contaminated with the sickly and corrupt intrigues that will one day prostrate your country, bestowed the Presidency on him, for his long, his meritorious, and his well-tried services.
Sir, the great mass of the People of the United States are Republican, and seek after truth; and when correctly informed, will always decide justly. They love their country, and they love the Constitution; and would always serve the one, and be guided by the other, were they freed from the polluted intrigues that daily surround them: generated in the party feuds of scheming politicians, who, without any fixed party principles, are everlastingly engaged in party intrigues, regardless of the Constitution, and regardless of the public good. This is a deplorable picture, but it is, nevertheless, true. You have at this moment four distinct parties: not well poised parties, of different political principles, calculated to operate as a salutary check on all sides, but all claiming to be of the true Republican school, and each party having a distinct candidate for the Presidency. The patriot may deplore, and the orator may denounce, the effects of rival political parties; but, sir, as well may you hope to stay the billows, or lull the tempest, by your single fiat, as to stay the existence of parties in this Government, whilst politicians have ambition to gratify, and distinctions to hope for.
Mr. President, I have as ardent love for the preservation of the Union of these States, as can inspire the heart of any gentleman whose voice has been heard in the Senate. I am sensible of its worth—I know its price was the blood of our ancestors—I know it swells our importance abroad, as a member of the family of nations—and I know the lustre it will shed upon the character of Republics. And as a testimony of my fervent desire for its long duration, I will beg leave to borrow the brilliant apostrophe of the gentleman from Massachusetts, if he will permit me; and “when my eyes shall be turned to behold, for the last time, the sun in Heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of” the Constitution of my country, once the aegis of our rights and the palladium of our liberty; but let them rather behold that Constitution, regulating the enactments of Congress, according to its delegated and limited powers, dispensing equal laws, and equal rights, according to its well-defined and well-digested provisions, to every portion of the People of these States. I shall then die content, under a full belief that this Union may be as durable as time; and that the Union can only be broken up by the violation of the sacred principles of that Constitution.
[* ]The part marked with double commas contains verbatim what he said in his printed speech, as corrected by himself, and published in the Daily National Intelligencer, of January 29 th.
[† ]The part in italics is what Mr. Hayne expressed, verbatim, in his first speech, but which has been omitted in his speech as printed.
[* ]It is this easy yielding, which is so often submitted to, that has subjected us to the almost total annihilation of Southern influence in the councils of our country. To be called magnanimous, is but a poor compensation for the sacrifice of our dearest rights. This is about the amount of our portion in the benefit of the General Government. We have shared this largely. For it we gave our control over the tariff and internal improvement.
[* ]See Senate Documents, 2d session, 16th Congress, vol. 1, No. 14.
[* ]See Laws of the United States, vol. 1, page 474.
[* ]Reports on the Finances, vol. 1, pages 35, 36.
[* ]A paper published at Greenville, Tennessee, and a pamphlet published in Baltimore, were against slavery, and both sent to South Carolina, and were as poisonous as a viper.
[* ]General Harrison was an exception. He had thought well on the subject, and was decidedly opposed to the restriction. He put every thing to hazard, that he might discharge his duty.
[* ]This oration was delivered by Major James Hamilton, Jr. late a member of Congress, on the 4th July, 1821.
[* ]This was the definition of a Radical, given by Mr. McDuffie, in a pamphlet which he published at Columbia, S. C. in November, 1824, immediately preceding the Presidential Election. In that pamphlet, he ranks General Jackson and Mr. Adams together, as the two most prominent Republican candidates, in South Carolina, for the Presidency. Since that period, the People of South Carolina have obtained the true definition of the term Radical, and are now fighting under its banner.
[* ]See the Southern Patriot, 11th October, 1824.
[† ]See Niles’ Register, vol. 25, page 276.
[* ]The proceedings of this Anti-Caucus committee demonstrably prove what I have elsewhere said, that the destruction of the Federal party, and its amalgamation with the Republican, instead of a blessing to this Union, may yet prove its overthrow. The evidence of the abuse of power in the hands of the Republicans, when the check of the Federal party was destroyed, is to be drawn from the following dates and facts:
On the 14th of February, 1824, this Anti-Caucus committee of 24 made their report, that it was inexpedient to meet in Caucus. They shewed, at that date, there were 216 Republicans, and only 45 Federalists. This put it beyond all doubt, that the Republicans, 216 to 45 Federalists, had the whole power and control of legislation in their own hands.
On the 30th of April, 1824, only two months and a half after the Anti-Caucus report, and during the same session, Congress enacted a law—
“To procure the necessary surveys, plans, and estimates upon the subject of roads and canals.”—[See 7 vol. Laws U. S. page 239.]
This law is without limitation in its duration, and gives to the President unlimited powers over the whole subject, and the unlimited power “to appoint as many officers of the Engineer corps as he may think proper.” And these Engineers have swarmed in every part of the Union ever since. Five Republican members from South Carolina, all of whom were opposed to a caucus, voted for that law.
On the 22d May, 1824, a little better than three months after the anti-caucus report, and during the same session, Congress enacted a law to amend the several acts, “imposing duties on imports.”—[See 7 vol. Laws U. S. page 268.]
This law fixed upon us the most grievous burthen that any portion of the people of this Union ever endured. No member from South Carolina voted for this law. But what is the difference? Without the Tariff, Internal Improvement would expire: and vice versa.
Of the 216 Republican members, the Report of the anti-caucus committee says, 181 were opposed to a caucus. If 181 Republicans were associated to oppose the caucus, could not the same 181 Republicans have prevented the enactment of these ruinous laws? If they were Republican for one purpose, they were certainly Republican for every other purpose.
[* ]See the Charleston Mercury, in all July, August, and September, 1826, in which it was published. This essay was not editorial. The writer is neither known nor sought for. I shall always submit to a public scrutiny, but hope I may be permitted to contradict falsehoods. I ask no more.