« AnteriorContinuar »
JAN. 3, 1837.)"
.Admission of Michigan.
it. Even the chairman of the Judiciary Committee could not do it. He called upon the Senators elect (and whose admission here is to follow the passage of the bill) to say that every thing at this self-styled convention was well and duly conducted; and they do say so, and give the private letters of certain individuals to that effect. And they give, further—and that I understand to be the evidence principally relied on—an article from a Detroit newspaper, stating that such an election was had, such convention held, 3,000 more votes were given for the delegates to this last convention than for those who constituted the first convention. This, sir, is the evidence to support an organic law of a new State about to enter the Union! Yes, of an organic law, the very highest act a community of men can perform. Letters, referring to other letters! and a scrap of a newspaper! I am not satisfied that the Government of my country, or of any portion of it, should stand on such a foundation. I am not willing that an organic law of a sovereign State should be thus made and thus authenticated. But supposing that all the counties of Michigan did agree to the proposal, and did send delegates to this last convention, and we had the returns of the elections; yet who, I ask, presided at the polls? Who determined what votes should be received? How many votes was each man who favored the object permitted to give? Who voted? Was it the qualified electors, or was it all o, men, women, and children, of Michigan and its vicinity The honorable Senator from Maine [Mr. DANA] says we are not in the habit of going into town meetings to see whether the votes are regularly polled for members of Congress; and he asks why we should be so particular in this case. The gentleman seems to have no conception of the difficulty in which his party have involved themselves. It is true, we don’t go into the doings of town meetings; and why? Because those meetings are held by regular authority; the officers who preside are appointed by the State, and their certificate is official and legal evidence of that which they certify. That certificate is submitted to a superior officer, appointed also according to law; that high officer of the State is known to the nation, and his certificate is evidence to us of all that it covers, thus constituting a regular chain of legal evidence and official authentication. But here there is no official, no legal evidence whatever—nothing but the certificates and statements of unauthorized and generally interested individuals. . In this case, therefore, if we aim at truth, we must go into detail; we must poll the votes; we must see for our. selves whether the people were called together, and how called, and whether they obeyed the call; because we have no regularly appointed chain of officers to ascertain these facts and certify them to us. But the honorable Senator from Tennessee says, that though we may be without evidence which is strictly le. gal, yet we do possess such evidence as is made every day the basis of legislation; nay, that we often proceed on much looser evidence; and he seems to think that we may well dispense with that exact legal evidence on this occasion. And yet he says that the recital in the preamble of the bill, containing an assertion of facts of which we have no legal proof, will create a legal estoppel against Michigan, which will forever bar her from hereafter contesting the question of bonndary with Ohio. Indeed! and what sort of an estoppel is this to bind a sovereign and independent community? The letters of A, B, and C, and a paragraph in a Detroit newspaper! Will the honorable chairman of the Judiciary Committee of. the Senate of the United States place himself upon this ground in a matter of such moment? He cannot, I ***ure, have duly considered the matter; he could not deliberately wish to bind one of the states of this confed.
eracy by an act resting on this loose assertion, without evidence. It is said, however, that the law of Congress pointed out no particular mode in which the people of Michigan were to meet, in order to express their assent or dissent to the proposition contained in the law; that this was an omission on the part of Congress, and no fault in the people of Michigan. Agreed: I know it was a defect in the law. I saw it, too, at the time. I understood and suggested it, but to no purpose. But how was that bill pass. ed? It was forced through the Senate by a majority of one vote; it was driven through late at night; and those who were opposed to it had not time allowed them to state and to support their objections, or even to counsel with the majority as to the mode of obviating them; and for the reason, if I rightly remember, that one of the Senators on the other side wished to make a short excursion of business or pleasure into the country. I, for one, looked upon the third section of the act for the admission of Michigan as a perfectly nugatory provision. It seems to be supposed that the Senators from Ohio sought the insertion of this third section because they did not agree that the assent of the Legislature of Michigan and her Senators and Representative here to the conditions in the bill would be binding on the State. We did, it is true, hold that their assent would be invalid. We did, it is true, say that their assent would be nugatory; but we did not, therefore, ask for the third section authorizing a convention, and we held that the assent of such convention, if given, would be void also. And why? Because Congress had recognised the constitution of Michigan as that of a sovereign State; we had recognised her senators as elected under it, and then proposed, by an act of Congress, to authorize the amendment of that constitution in another mode than that pointed out by the constitution itself. , And if she were a state, as that law avers, I held, and I hold now, that we could no more touch her constitution by an act of Congress, than that of any other sovereign State. I indeed did not admit that she was a State; but gentlemen on the other side did aver it; that law assumed it, and an essential part of its provisions rested on the assumption. Gentlemen having taken their position, and sustained it by a vote of the Senate, had no right to change that position; and on the ground chosen by themselves we met them, and now meet them. The act, then, as it is now construed by the Senator from Pennsylvania, authorized the people of a state to meet in convention and amend their constitution; and, in the plenitude of our power and of our democracy, we pass by the Legislature of the State, and appeal directly to the people; we ask the people to act without organization, without law; and when they, or such part of them as will obey our call, have so acted, we pronounce the act valid, and the constitution of the State changed. You have the same right, sir, to set aside the regularly constituted authorities of Ohio, to pass by her constitution and her Legislature, and appeal to the people to change their organic law; and when the caucus which you have so called shall have met and changed it, you have the same right to recognise and hold it binding upon the state. The doctrine is monstrous, and of most mischievous tendency. it has been said by the Senator from Tennessee [Mr. GRuxpr] that this is no party question. It is very true it ought not to be made one; so far as I have any feeling in the matter, it can only be thus far a party question. If the parties in this republic have resolved themselves into a constitutional and caucus party, I am of the party that goes for constitutions and constitutional government, against caucus and a government by caucus. And as this preamble goes directly to put down constitutional government, and put up in its place and legalize a government by caucus, I am opposed to it, and I belong to SENATE.]
.Admission of Michigan.
[JAN. 3, 1837.
a party every member of which, if true to his principles, must also oppose it. When Mr. Fw1Ng had concluded, l Mr. BUCHANAN rose and addressed the Chair as folows: Mr. President: Judging from the remarks of the Senator from South Carolina, [Mr. Calhoux,] this would seem to be a question big with the fate of the constitution and the country. According to him, the adoption of the preamble to the bill admitting Michigan into the Union, as it was reported by the Committee on the Judiciary, would entail upon us evils as numerous and as deadly as those contained in Pandora's box, whilst hope would not even remain. After depicting in melancholy colors the cruel destiny of our country, should this precedent be established, he concludes by saying, that in such an event this Government would become “ one of the most odious and despotic Governments that ever existed on the face of the earth.” I presume it is attributable to my colder temperament that I feel none of these terrors. In my opinion, they spring altogether from the Senator's ardent imagination and creative genius. Since I came into public life, I have known the country to be ruined at least twenty times, in the opinion of gentlemen; yet it would seem that the more we are thus ruined, the more we flourish. Experience has taught me to pay little attention to these doleful predictions. The best answer which can be given to the Senator is to come at once to the question. To state it in its plain and simple character will at once dissipate every fear. Its decision will be attended with but little difficulty, because it involves no new principles; and as to its importance as a precedent, we shall probably never hear of it again, after the admission of Michigan into the Union. What, then, is the question? On this subject our
memories would seem to be strangely in fault. We cannot recollect from one session to the other. I wish to recall the attention of Senators to the fact. It was
deemed of great importance at the last session to obtain the consent of Michigan to the settle ment of the boundary between her and Ohio. To accomplish this purpose was then of so much consequence, in our opinion, that we offered to Michigan a large territory on her northern boundary, as a compensation for what she should yield to Ohio on the south; and we made her acceptance of this offer a condition precedent of her admission into the Union. We then believed, and I still believe, that this was the only mode of settling forever the disputed boundary between Ohio and Michigan, which has already involved us in so many difficulties, threatening bloodshed and civil war on that frontier. This was then deemed the only mode of obtaining an absolute relinquishment of all claim, on the part of the people of Michigan, to the territory in dispute with Ohio. It became my duty at the last session to investigate this subject thoroughly; and I had many conferences upon it with the then chairman of the Judiciary Committee, [Mr. CLArtox]—a man of as clear a head and as honest a heart as ever adorned this chamber. I am happy to
state that, although we concurred in opinion that Michi
gan had no right to this territory under the compact of 1787, yet we also believed that the only mode of put
ting the question at rest forever was to obtain her own
solemn recognition of the right of Ohio. purpose, the third section was inserted in the act of the last session, declaring “ that, as a compliance with the fundamental condition of admission” into the Union, the boundaries of the State of Michigan, as we then established them, “shall receive the assent of a convention of delegates elected by the people of said State, for the sole purpose of giving the assent herein required.” Shall we now, aster Michigan has given this assent in
For this very
i i s i |
the terms prescribed, release her from this obligation? Shall we now strike out the preamble by which we recognise the validity and binding effect of the assent given by the last convention of delegates, and thus throw the boundary question again open? Shall we undo all we have done with so much care at the last session, and admit Michigan into the Union as though we had never required from her any assent to this condition? ... I trust not. And here permit me to express my astonishment that the Senators from Ohio should both advocate this course. I have no right to judge for them, but it does seem to me they are willing to abandon the only security which we have against a repetition of the scenes which we have already witnessed on the frontiers of Ohio and Michigan. To show that my fears are not vain, let me present the state in which this question will be placed, in case we do not adopt the preamble. I think I may assert, with perfect safety, that there are ninety-nine citizens of Michigan out of every hundred who firmly believe that the ordinance of 1787 fixes irrevocably the southern boundary of that state. If this were its correct construction, it will not be denied by any that no human power can change it without the consent of the people if Michigan. This ordinance, which is confirmed by the constitution of the United States, to use its own language, is a compact between the original States and the people and states in the said Territory, and must forever remain unalterable, unless by common consenthence the vast importance of obtaining the consent of Michigan to the proposed change in her boundary. The language of the ordinance under which she claims the disputed territory is as follows: , “Provided, however, and it is further understood and declared, that the boundaries of these three States (Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois) shall be subject so far to be altered tha', if Congress shall hereafter find it expedient, they shall have authority to form one or two States in that part of said territory which lies north of an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan.” Michigan contends that Congress having determined to form two states north of this line, the ordinance makes it irrevocably her southern boundary. Some of the most distinguished men in the country, we know, are of this opinion. Can any Senator, therefore, believe for a moment that, if we now leave this question unsettled, it will never be tried by Michigan? Can, we be: lieve that she will acquiesce in a decision of Congress which a vast majority of her people believe to have been unjust? Release her from the assent which she has given to the settlement of this question, and then it remains as open as it ever was. The point, then, to be decided is, whether the ordinance does fix her southern boundary or not. Admitting it did, it is manifest that the act of congress repealing it, and giving the territory in dispute to Ohio, would be a violation of its provisions, and thus become a dead letter. Yes, sir, the consent of Michigan is all-important to the peace and quiet of the Union; and now, when we have obtained it, shall we cast it away by rejecting this preamble? That is the question which I shall now proceed to discuss. Why, then, should, we reject this preamble, which will forever terminate the dispute between these "wo States? Because, says the Senator from South Carolina, [Mr. Calhoun, this convention of delegates, elected by the people of Michigan, was not authorized by a previ
ous act of their State Legislature, and therefore their
proceedings are a nullity. It is revolutionary, it to dangerous in itself to our rights and liberties, and still more dangerous as a precedent for future cases. If this be true, the people of Michigan are in a most unfortu: nate position. At the last session of Congress, if we had attempted to insert in the bill a provision to make the
JAN. 3, 1837.]
.Admission of Michigan.
previous act of the Legislature necessary, it would then have been opposed as a revolutionary measure. It would have been demonstrated by Senators that the Legislature of Michigan was an unauthorized assembly, posses. sing no legitimate powers; that it was a body which we had never recognised; and, therefore, we could refer nothing to its decision. In making these assertions, I speak from the record. It appears from the journals that, on the 26th of January last, the Vice President communicated to the Senate “the memorial of the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Michigan,” on the subject of their right to be admitted into the Union. On the motion of Mr. Hendricks, this memorial was referred, accompanied by a declaration “that the Senate regard the same in no other light than as the voluntary act of private individuals.” Mr. Ruggles moved to strike out this declaration; and, on the yeas and nays, his motion was rejected by a vote of 30 to 12. Thus the Senate then solemnly determined that the Legislature of Michigan was a mere assembly of private individuals; and yet now we are told by the Senator from South Carolina, [Mr. CALHoux,] that, because this very Legislature did not pass an act to authorize the holding of the convention, all its proceedings are void and revolutionary. How will he reconcile this inconsistency? Truly, the people of Michigan are in a deplorable condition. They cannot avoid the whirlpool of Scylla without being ingulfed in Charybdis. At the last session, their Legislature was a mere lawless assembly; but now they are so omnipotent that the sovereign people of the State cannot elect delegates to a convention without their previous authority. Let us proceed one step further with our evidence from the record. The bill for the admission of Michigan into the Union, when first reported by the committee, provided that the assent to the boundaries of the State, required by the third section, should be given by their Senators and Representative in Congress, and by the Legislature of the State. I speak from memory, but I feel confident I am correct. It would have been a vain attempt to support this provision in the face of the vote of the Senate to which I have referred. What, sir, refer to a body whom we had solemnly declared was composed merely of private individuals the question of assent to a condition for the purpose of binding the sovereign people of Michigan! This would have been as absurd as it was inconsistent. We should then have been told that there was no mode of escaping this difficulty but by at once dispensing with every intermediate agency, and re. ferring the question directly to the original source of power, the people of Michigan in their primary capacity. This was done, and that, too, by a unanimous vote of the Senate. On the 1st of April last, Mr. Wright moved to strike out the provision to which I have referred, and to insert in its stead that the assent required should be given by “a convention of delegates elected by the people of the said State for the sole purpose of giving the assent herein required.” Every Senator then in his place voted for this amendment, and by his vote decided that it was proper to submit the question to delegates elected by the people in their primary capacity. It was thus unanimously incorporated into the law. How does the Senator from South Carolina [Mr. CALHous] now attempt to evade the force of this argument? He cannot contend that the act of Congress refers to any action of the State Legislature as being necessary to the call of this convention. If he did, the act itself would stare him full in the face. [Mr. Calhoux here explained. He said he would not here argue the question whether congress meant to inako. A. Poious act of the state Legislature necessary; but is o.o.o not, the act of congress would itself be uncons"utional, because we had recognised Michigan
as a State, and Congress have no right to call a convention in a State.] Mr. Buchan AN resumed. I did not misunderstand the Senator. He contended that the act of Congress calling such a convention was unconstitutional; and to establish his proposition he said that Congress, under the federal constitution, could only call a convention upon the application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States. Does the Senator mean seriously to contend that the mere proposition made by Congress to the people of Michigan, for the purpose of obtaining their assent to a change of boundary, is a convention called under the au. thority of Congress within a State? . Such an argument would be a perversion of terms. If you make propositions to any foreign Power, and suggest that their wiłłing. ness to accept them may be ascertained by a convention of delegates elected by the people, how can this be construed into a convention called by your own sovereign authority? No, sir; this was a mere offer, on the part of the Government of the United States, to make a bargain with the people of Michigan. It presupposes a perfect equality, in this respect, between the parties. They had the same right to refuse that we had to offer. They may voluntarily consent to your terms, as they have done in this case, and then it becomes a contract which cannot afterwards be violated; but is they had dissented, the negotiation would have been at an end. This is what the Senator denominates a convention called by Congress within the limits of the State of Michigan. surely no further argument on this point of the case can be necessary. Congress might have proposed to Michigan that the question should be decided at the polls, by a vote of the people. It was better, however, to submit it to a convention of delegates, because they could deliberate. This was emphatically to be the act of the people in their sovereign capacity. It was a question whether th y, should be received as a member into our great family of nations upon the terms which we had proposed. It was to be the establishment of new political relations of the most important character, affecting them and their children for many generations. It was a question over which, under their own constitution, their servants, the members of the Legislature, had no control. To what other tribunal could we so properly have referred this question, as to that of a convention of delegates elected by the people? There can, then, be no objection to the act of Congress, unless it be that the people are not competent, in the very nature of things, to give the assent required, without the intervention of the Legislature. But this would be to condemn the conduct of our ancestors. It would be at war with the most glorious events of our own history. Besides, the very conduct of the people of Michigan, upon this occasion, disproves the position. There was no tumultuous and lawless rising up of the peoPle against a settled form of government, is one might suppose, judging from the arguments upon this floor. They conducted the election with regularity and order, according to the established laws and usages of the State. Hear what General Williams, the president of the convention, says upon the subject, in his communication to the President of the United States: “ The convention,” says he, “originated through primary meetings of the citizens of the several counties, in ample time to afford notice to the whole State. Pursuant thereto, the elections, kept open for two days, on the 5,h and 6th instant, (December,) have been held in all the counties except Monroe and Macomb. These elections were fair and open, and conducted in all respects as our other elections, and the returns made to the county boards, and canvassed as prescribed by the laws of the SENATE.]
late Territory of Michigan in similar cases. The result has been a decided expression of the voice of a majority of the people, approbatory of the resolution enclosed.” is there any doubt of this “decided expression of the voice of the majority of the people?” Can any Senator upon this floor question it? Has there been a single memorial, or even a single private letter produced, calling it in question? Nay, more: has a single voice been raised in Michigan against entering the Union on the terms proposed? Not one, to our knowledge. If it were necessary to place the claims of Michigan upon other grounds, it might be done with great force. Suppose we were to admit that their proceedings had been irregular, ought that to exclude her from the Union? On this subject we ought to act like statesmen acquainted with the history of our own country. We ought not to apply the rigid rules of abstract political science too rigorously to such cases. It has been our practice heretofore to treat our infant Territories with paternal care, to nurse them with kindness, and, when they had attained the age of manhood, to admit them into the family without requiring from then a rigid adherence to forms. The great questions to be decided are, do they contain a sufficient population? have they adopted a republican constitution? and are they willing to enter the Union upon the terms which we propose? If so, all the preliminary proceedings have been considered but mere forms, which we have waived in repeated instances. They are but the scaffolding of the building, which is of no further use after the edifice is complete. We have pursued this course in regard to Tennessee, to Arkansas, and even to Michigan. No Senator will pretend that their Territorial Legislatures had any right whatever to pass laws enabling the people to elect delegates to a conven
.Admission of Michigan.
tion for the purpose of forming a State constitution. It was an act of usurpation on their part. And yet we have in all these instances waived this objection, and approved the constitution thus formed. We have admitted Tennessee and Arkansas into the Union, notwithstand ing this objection; and I trust we shall pursue a similar course towards Michigan, especially as there can be no doubt but that her people have assented to our terms of admission.
The case of Missouri was a very strong one. Congress agreed to admit her into the Union upon the condition that her Legislature should substantially change a provison in her constitution touching a very delicate subject. Under her constitution the Legislature had no power to make this change; nor could it have been effected with. out a lorg and troublesome process. But Congress cut the gordian knot at once, and agreed to accept the en£ogement of the Legislature as the voice of the people. We have never had any occasion to regret this disregard of forms.
The Senator from Ohio [Mr. Ewing] has contended
that the second Michigan convention had no power to
assent, because the first convention which was held had refused. [Here Mr. Ewing dissented.] , Mr. B. I understood the Senator to state that, as the first convention had dissented, the power was spent, and a second could not be held. [Mr. Ewing said he had not touched this point.] Mr. B. said, I should be glad if the Senator would restate his position. [Mr. Ewing said he had asked whether, if the first convention had assented to the condition proposed by the act of Congress, there would have been any objection to this assent, because it had been called by virtue of an act of the Legislature?] Mr. B. said, certainly not. It never could have been contended that this act of the Legislature had vitiated
unanimous vote, the measure which the Senator now
[JAN. 3, 1837.
- - - - - - - - -- – ---
the subsequent proceedings of the convention. Although it was not necessary to give them validity, yet it would not destroy them. It could neither make the case bet. ter nor worse. I am confident it might be dextonstrated that the people of Michigan, under the act of Congress, had the power to make a second trial, upon a sailure of the first, but as this point has not been contested by the Senator, I shall not enter upon its discussion. I now come, Mr. President, to speak upon subjects concerning which I should gladly be silent. The in. ternal concerns of the States should never be introduced upon this floor when it can be avoided; but the Senators from South Carolina [Mr. Calhous] and Ohio [Mr. Monmis] have thought differently, and have rendered it ne. cessary for me to make some observations in reply. First, then, I would ask, what possible connexion can be imagined between the conduct of the Senatorial electors of Maryland, who refused to execute a trust sor which they were elected, and that of the people of Michigan, who chose delegates to a convention upon the express invitation of an act of Congress? The Maryland electors refused to perform their duty under the State constitution; but the people of Michigan did give their assent to the condition which we had prescribed to them, and upon which alone they cou'd enter the Union. There is as great a difference between the two cases as “between a hawk and a handsaw.” Standing here as a Senator, I have no right to pronounce judgment upon the conduct of these electors. They are responsible to the people of the state of Maryland, not to me. The other Maryland question, to which the Senator adverted, is one of a very different character. It involves the decision of the important principle whether, under a settled form of constitutional government, the people have a right to change that form in any other manner than the mode prescribed by the constitution. If I were to admit that they did not possess this power, still the Senator is as much of a revolutionist as myself. He admits that if the Legislature of Michigan had passed a law authorizing this convention, and fixing the time and place of its meeting, then its proceedings would have been regular and valid. But who gave the Legis. lature of Michigan this authority? Is it contained in the constitution of the State? That is not pretended. whence, then, shall we derive it? How does the Sen. ator escape from this disficulty Upon his own principles, it would have been a legislative usurpation; and yet, he says, if the Legislature had acted first, the convention would have becn held under competent au. thority. Now, for my own part, I should not have objected to their action. It might have been convenient, it might have been proper, for them to have recommended a particular day for holding the election of delegates and for the meeting of the convention. But it is manifest that, as a source of power to the convention, legislative action would have been absurd. The constitution of Michigan fixes the boundaries of the State. For this purpose, it refers to the act of Congress of the 11th of January, 1805, establishing the Territory. How could these boundaries be changed? If in no other manner than that prescribed in the constitution of Michigan, it would have been a tedious and troublesome process, and would have delayed, for at least two years, the admission of the State into the Union. First, such an amendment must have been sanctioned by a majority of the Senate and House of Representatives. Then it must have been published for three months. Afterwards it must have received the approbation of two thirds of both Houses of a Legislature subsequently elected. And, after all these prerequisites, it must have been submitted to a vote of the people, for their ratification. It was to avoid these very difficulties that the Senate, at their last session, adopted, by a
JAN. 3, 1837.] unanimous vote the measure which the Senator now calls revolutionary, referred the decision of the question directly to the sovereign people of Michigan in their rimary capacity. Then was the appropriate moment or the Senator to have objected to this course; that was the occasion on which to convince us that this was an unconstitutional and lawless proceeding. He suffered the precious moment to escape, and it is now too late to tell the people of Michigan that they shall be punished by an exclusion from the Union, because they thought proper to take us at our word. That would have been the time to have inserted an amendment in the bill requiring a previous act of the Legislature, prescribing the mode of electing the delegates. But the Senator was then silent upon this subject. There had then been no proceedings in Maryland, such as he now calls revolutionary. A word upon that subject. We are told in that sacred and venerated instrument which first proclaimed the rights of man to the world, that “all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” But suppose the case of a State whose constitution, originally good, had, from the lapse of time, and from the changes in the population of different portions of its territory, be. come unequal and unjust. Suppose this inequality and injustice to have gone to such an extent that the vital principle of representative republics was destroyed, and that the vote of a citizen in one county of the State was equivalent to that of six citizens in another county. Suppose that an equal disproportion existed between taxation and representation, and that, under the organic forms of the constitution, a minority could forever control the majority. Why, sir, even under such circumstances I should bear with patience whilst hope remained. I would solicit, I would urge the minority, I would appeal to their sense of justice, to call a convention, under the forms of the constitution, for the purpose of redressing the grievances; but if, at last, I found they had determined to turn a deaf ear to all my entreaties, I should then invoke the peaceable aid of the people, in their sovereign capacity, to remedy these evils. They are the source of all power; they are the rightful authors of all constitutions. They are not forever to be shackled by their own servants, and compelled to submit to evils such as I have described, by the refusal of their own Legislature to pass a law for holding a convention. Whoever denies this position, condemns the principles of the declaration of independence and of the American Revolution. There is not one of the old thirteen States whose Government was not called into existence upon these very principles. It is now too late in the day, in our favored land, to contend that the people cannot change their forms of government at pleasure. The glorious experiment which we are trying in this country would prove a total failure, if we should now decide that the people, in no situation, and under no circumstances, can hold a convention without the previous consent of their own Legislature. It is not my province to say whether the proper time for this peaceful action of the sovereign people, in their primary capacity, has yet arrived, or will ever arrive, in Maryland. That question may safely be left to them; but I feel no terrors, my fancy conjures up A no spectres from such doctrines as I have advanced. I am exceedingly sorry that another topic has been introduced into this debate by the Senator from Ohio, [Mr. Mon RIs, 1, which, if possible, has still less connexion with the question before us than the recent conduct of the senatorial electors of Maryland. The Senate will at once perceive that I refer to the letter of Mr. Dallas on the subject of the repeal of the bank charter. I regret that this letter has become the subject of debate here. We are abundantly able to settle all our local differences Vol. XIII.—16
..?dmission of Michigan.
in Pennsylvania, and we are justly jealous of foreign in terference. This is not the proper forum in which either to argue or decide the Pennsylvania bank question; and I call upon the whole Senate to bear me wit. ness, that nothing but necessity compels me to speak here of the subject. The letter of Mr. Dallas has been denounced by the Senator from Ohio as incendiary, as revolutionary, and as calculated to excite the people to rise up in rebellion against the laws. Would I not then be recreant to my own character if I should not raise my voice in defence of a distinguished citizen of my own State against such an unfounded assault The letter of Mr. Dallas has been much and greatly misrepresented. Garbled extracts from it have been published throughout the whole country, without the context; and innumerable false commentaries have attributed to him sentiments and opinions wholly at war with its general tenor. In speaking upon this subject, I am fully sensible how liable i am myself to misrepresentation; but I shall endeavor so plainly and clearly to present my views, that at least they cannot be misunderstood by any person present. In the first place, then, Mr. Dallas never did assert that the convention about to be held in Pennsylvania will possess any power to violate the constitution of the United States. He never did maintain the proposition that this convention would be the final judge, and could decide, in the last resort, that its own decrees were no violation of that sacred instrument. Why, sir, such propositions would be rank nullification; and although I have never had the pleasure of being on intimate terms with Mr. Dallas, I can venture to assert that he, in common with the people of Pennsylvania, is opposed to this political heresy. For my own part, I can say, that however much I may admire the apostles of this new faith, their doctrines have never found favor in my eyes. No, sir; Mr. Dallas has expressly referred to the Supreme Court of the United States as the tribunal which must finally decide whether the convention possesses the power to repeal the bank charter. From what we have heard on this floor, it is manifest that public opinion is greatly in error as to the principles of the anti-bank party in Pennsylvania. I profess to be a member of that party; and I now propose briefly to state their principles. If I should err in presenting theirs, I shall at least place my own beyond contradiction. The constitution of the United States declares that “no State shall pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts.” This is a most wise and salutary provision; may it be perpetual! It secures the private rights of every citizen, and renders private contracts inviolable. It imparts a sacred character to our titles to real estate, and it places the seal of absolute security upon the rights of private property. Still the question remains, is a privilege granted by a State Legislature to a corporation, for banking purposes, a contract, within the spirit and intention of the constitution of the United States? In other words, is the authority which the Legislature of Pennsylvania has given to the Bank of the United States to create and circulate a paper currency of thirty-five millions of dollars, irrevocable by any human power short of an amendment to the federal constitution? My own convictions are clear that such an act of legislation is not a contract, under the constitution. It is true that this instrument speaks of “contracts” in general terms; but there is no rule of construction better settled than that of restraining the universality of general words, so as to confine their application to such cases as were exclusively within the intention of those by whom they were used. It would be useless to enumerate instances under this rule. Its existence will not be denied by any. If, then, it can be made manifest that the framers of