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..?dmission of Michigan.
[JAN. 3, 1837.
the constitution, by the use of the word “contracts,” never could have intended to embrace the creation of such a bank by a State Legislature, then the question is decided. It would be an easy task for me to prove, from the history of this provision, that its object was to secure rights arising from private contracts; and that a State bank charter was not within the contemplation of those by whom it was inserted. But I forbear. My sole purpose, at present, is to state general principles. It never can be imagined that the sovereign States, who are the parties to the federal constitution, intended, by this prohibition, to restrain themselves from the exercise of those great and essential powers of government which vitally affect the general interests of the people, and the laws regulating which must vary with the evervarying changes in society. If they have been guilty of this absurdity, they have acted the part of suicides, and have voluntarily deprived themselves of the power of solos the people under their charge prosperous and appy. I think, therefore, it may be stated as a general proposition, that the constitution of the United States, in prohibiting the Legislatures of the respective States from passing laws to impair the obligation of contracts, never intended to prevent the States from regulating, according to their sovereign will and pleasure, the administration of justice, their own internal commerce and trade, the assessment and collection of taxes, the regulation of the paper currency, and other general subjects of legislation. If this be true, it follows, as a necessary consequence, that if one Legislature should grant away any of these general powers, either to corporations or to individuals, such a grant may be resumed by their successors. Upon a contrary supposition, the legislative power might destroy itself, and transfer its most important functions forever to corporations. In these general principles I feel happy that I am sustained by the high authority of the late Chief Justice Marshall, in the celebrated Dartmouth College case.—4 Wheaton, pages 627, 628, 629, and 6.30. I shall not consume the time of the Senate in reading the whole passage, but shall confine myself to the conclusion at which he arrives. He says: “If the act of incorporation [of Dartmouth College] be a grant of political power; if it create a civil institution to be employed in the administration of the Government; or if the funds of the college be public property; or if the State of New Hampshire, as a Government, be alone interested in its transactions, the subject is one in which the Legislature of the State may act according to its own judgment, unrestrained by any limitation of its power imposed by the constitution of the United States.” He then proceeds to decide the case of Dartmouth College, on the principle that it is not a public, but a private eleemosynary corporation, and, therefore, within the prohibition contained in the constitution. Here, then, the principle is distinctly recognised, that if a corporation created by a State Legislature “be a grant of political power, if it create a civil institution to be employed in the administration of the Government,” then the charter may be altered or repealed at pleasure by the State Legislature. The distinct principle clearly deducible from this opinion, as well as from the nature of our Government, is, that contracts made by a State Logislature, whether with corporations or individuals, which transfer political power, and directly affect the general administration of Government, are not such contracts as the constitution intended to render inviolable. In other words, although these contracts may be within its general words, they are not within its intent and meaning. To declare that they were, would be to say that the people had surrendered their dearest rights into the keeping of the Legislature, to be barter
ed away forever at the pleasure of their own servants' This would be a doctrine utterly subversive of State rights and State sovereignty. lo me now illustrate these principles by a few exampies. The judges of the supreme court of several of the States hold their offices under the State constitutions. They have abandoned the practice of a lucrative profession, and the State has entered into a solemn contract with them that they shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and receive a fixed annual compensation, which shall not be diminished during their term of office. Here is a solemn contract, founded on a valuable consideration; and yet, in all the changes which have been made in the constitutions of the different States, it has never, to my knowledge, been seriously contended that judges, under such circumstances, might not be removed, or have the tenure or salary of their office entirely charged. This has been done in repeated instances. And why? Because, although this be a contract, it is one not of a private, but of a public nature. It relates to the administratic n of justice, which is one of the most important concerns of Government; and the interest of the individual judge must yield to that of the whole community. It is, therefore, not a contract within the meaning of the constitution of the United States. Again: suppose the Legislature of a State should create a joint stock company, with a capital of thirty-five millions of dollars, and grant them the exclusive privilege of purchasing and vending all the cotton, the flour, the iron, the coal, or any of the other great staples of the State which might seek a market in their commercial metropolis, will any Senator contend that such a charter would be irrevocable? Must the great agricultural and manufacturing interests of the State, which may have been thus sacrificed by the Legislature, remain palsied by such an odious monopoly? Certainly not. The next Legislature might repeal the obnoxious law; because it concerned not private interests and private property inerely, but those great and leading interests which vitally affect the whole people of the State. No one can suppose that the constitution of the United States ever intended to consecrate such a charter. Again: if the Legislature of a State should transfer to a corporation, or to an individual, for a period of years, the power of collecting State taxes, and thus constitute farmers-general of the revenue, as has been done in other countries, would not this be a contract, in the language of Chief Justice Marshall, creating “a civil institution to be employed in the administration of the Government,” and therefore a “subject in which the Legislature of the State may act according to its own judgment, unrestrained by any limitation of its power imposed by the constitution of the United States” Let us proceed a step further. One of the most essential powers and duties of any modern Government is that of regulating the paper currency within its jurisdiction. This is emphatically the exercise of sovereignty, and is in its nature a high political power. It is scarcely second in importance to the power of coining money; because the paper circulation represents the current coin. This power is now exclusively possessed by the State Legislatures, whether rightfully, or not, it is too late to inquire. By means of its exercise, they can raise or they can sink the value of every man's property in the community. They can make the man who was poor yesterday, rich to day. They can elevate or depress the price of the necessaries of life and the wages of labor, according to their pleasure. By creating a redundant currency, they may depreciate the value of money to such a degree as to ruin our manufactures, depress our agriculture, and involve our people in rash and demoralizing speculations.
— .Admission of Michigan. isor.
JAN. 3, 1837. )
What use have these Legislatures made of this sovereign power? They have transferred it to a thousand State banks; they have yielded up all control over it; and, if the doctrine now contended for be correct, these banks cannot be disturbed in the exercise of this attribute of sovereign power by any human authority. They hold it under the sacred shield of the constitution of the United States. It is now deemed a matter of immense importance to restrain the issue of small notes, and substitute a specie circulation in their stead. But the banks can laugh you to scorn. The whole power of Congress, and that of all the Legislatures of all the twenty-six States of this vast Union, cannot prohibit the circulation of notes of a less denomination than five dollars. If this be the case, did ever so great an absurdity exist upon the face of the earth, under the Government of any people? Congress have, by some means or other, lost the control over the paper currency of the country. The States, to whom it belongs, have granted it to a thousand banking corporations; and, although the people of the States may change and modify their fundamental institutions at pleasure, yet this banking power remains unhurt amidst the general wreck. If this be true, the people of the United States are completely at the mercy of these institutions. The creature will give laws to the creator. But here the great and wise judge, and expounder of the constitution, interposes for our relief. He declares that, “if the act of incorporation be a grant of political power, the subject is one in which the Legislature of the State may act according to its own judgment, unrestrained by any limitation of its power imposed by the constitution of the United States.” Who doubts but that the power to regulate the paper currency of a country is, in its very nature, a political power?
From what I have said, the Senate will perceive that there is no foundation whatever for the panic which has
been excited lest the State might resume its grants of
land, might violate the rights of private property, or take
what belongs to one man, and give it to another. The prohibition contained in the constitution of the United States clearly embraces these cases. It is not my intention here to discuss either the merits or demerits of the Bank of the United States, as rechartered by Pennsylvania. In my opinion, a large majority of the people of that State, and myself among the number, believe that the creation of this vast moneyed monopoly, with the privilege of issuing bank paper to the amount of thirty-five millions of dollars, is dangerous to our liberties and to our dearest interests. We desire to try the question before the supreme judicial tribunal of the land, whether its charter is protected by the constitution of the United States. It will be admitted by all that a more important question has never been presented for adjudication before any court. By what means, then, can we raise this question for decision? We must submit in silence, or the charter must be repealed either by the Legislature or the approaching convention. There is no other alternative. And because we are anxious to have this question decided, by the only means in our power, a deafening clamor has been raised against us, that we are revolutionists, radicals, violators of vested rights, and every thing else which is calculated to alarm the people. We wish to ascertain the truth of that which is taken for granted by our adversaries, whether the charter is a vested right, protected by the constitution of the United States, or not. This is the whole front of our offending. Is this not just, is it not reasonable, is it any thing but a fair appeal to the laws of the land? Different opinions exist in Pennsylvania as to whether this repeal should be effected by the Legislature or the convention. For my own part, I decidedly prefer the latter, if it can be accomplished. The convention will Possess n° Power but merely that of proposing amend.
ments to the people, for their adoption or rejection. They can place this question before the electors distinctly, and detached from all other amendments. Each citizen, at the polls, will thus be enabled to vote upon the single question, bank or no bank. This is due to the bank, as well as to the people. I need scarcely add that no citizen of Pennsylvania with whom I have ever conversed upon the subject entertains a doubt of the propriety and justice of refunding the bonus which the bank may have paid, with interest and damages sufficient to place it in the very same situation it was when it received its charter. This might properly be made a constituent part of the question to be submitted to the people. These desirable objects could not be secured by means of a repeal by the Legislature. So many questions, both of a political and local character, influence the election of its members, that the friends of the bank might complain that the people had not sanctioned the repeal. 1 would, therefore, be sorry if necessity should compel us to adopt this alternative as the only means left of trying the question. Again: should the bank appeal from the decision of the people of Pennsylvania in their sovereign capacity, to the Supreme Court of the United States, the question will be presented before that tribunal in a more solemn and imposing form than if the repeal should be accomplished by an ordinary act of legislation. The people of the State of Pennsylvania, complaining that their legislative servants had despoiled them of one of the highest attributes of an independent Commonwealth, and had bartered away, for a period of thirty years, the political power which they enjoyed of regulating the paper currency within their own limits, would then be the party on the one side; and on the other, the Bank of the United States, contending that the transfer of this power has been irrevocably made to it, under the sanction of the constitution of the United States. Of the result I entertain not the slightest apprehension. Should it, however, be adverse, which Heaven forbid! I can tell the Senator from South Carolina [Mr. CALItou N] that we
shall never resort to nullification as the rightful remedy.
Thus, sir, I have been drawn into a discussion utterly repugnant to my own feelings. I hope I may never again have occasion to allude to the subject on this floor. It is entirely foreign from the question in debate. Nothing could have urged me to make the remarks which I have done, but the unwarranted attack of the Senator from Ohio [Mr. Mohnis] upon the party at home with which I am proud to act.
Mr. BENTON followed the Senator from Pennsylvania, [Mr. Buchan AN,) and said he had risen for what might seem to be a very unnecessary purpose, that of sustain. ing the positions of that Senator. This certainly looked like a work of supererogation, seeing the able, perspicuous, and powerful manner in which that gentleman had sustained himself; and if he (Mr. B.) had nothing but argument to offer, he should not tender his aid; for the argument just delivered required no aid of that kind. But his aid was of another kind, that of authority and precedent, drawn from the venerable authority of our early history, and from the writings and opinions of the fathers of the republic, and from the approved action of State Legislatures. In this former he held himself excusable in tendering his aid, and should limit himself almost entirely to the production of the authorities to which he had reference. But before he did this, he must take leave to express his deep regret at the course followed yesterday by the Senators from South Carolina and Ohio, [Mr. CALHous and Mr. Monnis,j in bringing the names of Pennsylvania and Maryland into this discus. sion, and in animadverting upon the conduct of citizens or parties in those States. He joined the Senator from Pennsylvania [Mr. BuchanaN) in the expression of his
deep regret at this course; and, like him, should avoid recrimination, and should limit himself to defensive observations in favor of those who were assailed, without impugning the conduct or motives of their adversaries in their own States. Mr. B. did not consider the Senate of the United States as a suitable place for the denunciation of the citizens of the States, nor for the discussion of State measures, State parties, or State politics. The high privileges of debate secured to us by the constitution, and the latitude of discussion allowed by our rules, were intended to protect us in the discussion of national measures, and in the investigation of those subjects and matters which regularly came before us, and necessarily required our action. Acting on this conception of his duty, he should follow the example of the Senator from Pennsylvania, [Mr. Buch ANAN.] He should abstain from all animadversion, or even expression of adverse opinion, upon the measures which agitate the States of Pennsylvania and Maryland. He should limit himself to some defence of those who were so unexpectedly dragged into this debate yesterday, and should endeavor to get rid of the whole subject as soon as possible. For one, he should endeavor to finish at this sitting, in order that it should not be known in Pennsylvania and Maryland that the Senate of the United States was engaged in discussing their affairs, until it was also known that that discussion was terminated. Nominally, and upon the record, said Mr. B., this is a Michigan question—a question to admit the State of Michigan into the Union; in fact and in substance, it is now converted into a Pennsylvania and a Maryland question, to arrest or paralyze the proceedings against the United States Bank charter in the former, and to arrest or paralyze the proceedings in favor of a convention in the latter. This is the form given to it yesterday by the movement of the Senators from South Carolina and Ohio, [Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Monnis;] so that little Michigan, which had seemed to be the subject of discussion before the Senate, was suddenly found to be nothing but the tail to the kite, dangling in the air below, while all eyes were fixed upon the imposing apparition of the two Atlantic States, rising and hovering above. In this way, the young Michigan was suddenly eclipsed and lost sight of; and the lawless and revolutionary movement, as it was styled, in Pennsylvania, against the sanctity of a certain charter, and the lawless and revolutionary movement, as it was stigmatized, in Maryland, in favor of a convention of the people, became the engrossing theme of denunciation and vituperation. Greatly did Mr. B. rejoice that the Senator from Pennsylvania [Mr. Bucha NAN] had followed no part of this unhappy example; that he had carefully eschewed all animadversion; that he had positively refused to take any part, or to have any share, in discussing State measures here; and had confined himself to the duties of defence imposed upon him by the novel and aggressive course pursued by others. That Senator's first care was to defend a gentleman of his own State, Mr. Dallas, who had been assailed here by name; and in that he had so acted as to effect what he (Mr. B.) had thought to be impossible; he had increased his high character for private worth, and had added to the exalted opinion entertained of the goodness of his heart; for this generous defence was volunteered in favor of one with whom it was not his fortune to be on terms of intimacy. He showed the injustice done to that gentleman by attributing to his letter meanings which did not belong to it, and drawing inferences as foreign to his character as they were to his writing. He (Mr. B.) had read that letter, but not since it had been the subject of animadversion; and it might be that his knowledge of the amiable character, purity of heart and purpose, and modesty
of deportment of the writer, had prevented him from so scanning his words as to be able to find the deep mischief which they concealed; for certainly he had not seen the anarchical spirit attributed to it. In many things he agreed with him, especially in that which related to vested rights; in some things he did not; but where he did not agree, it was still the disagreement which left unimpeached the high character for public and private worth which Mr. Dallas brought with him, as a Senator from Pennsylvania, to this chamber, and carried back with him from this chamber to Pennsylvania. Mr. B. then referred to Mr. Madison's writings, No. 44 of the Federalist, to sustain the opinion of the Senator from Pennsylvania, [Mr. Bucha NAN,) on the nature of the contracts which the clause in the constitution of the United States was intended to guard. He said it would be seen that Mr. Madison confined this clause entirely to private rights and personal security; and that not a word of what he said could be extended to chartered privileges, the granting of which had been twice refused in the convention which sramed the constitution, and the preservation of which, therefore, could not come within the meaning of that instrument. Remarking upon the clause in the constitution which prohibits the States, among other things, from passing any law impairing the obligations of contracts, Mr. M. says: “very properly, therefore, have the convention added this constitutional bulwark in favor of personal security and private rights; and I am much deceived if they have not, in so doing, as faithfully consulted the genuine sentiments as the undoubted interests of their constituents. The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed the public councils. They have seen, with regret and indignation, that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases afsecting personal rights, become jobs in the hands of enterprising and influential speculators, and suares to the more industrious and less informed part of the community.” With this exposition from Mr. Madison, Mr. B., would submit that chartered privileges, although they might be sold for money, constitute no part of the contracts the inviolability of which are guarantied by the constitution of the United States; and while this is plain upon the face of the words used in the Federalist, namely, “private rights,” “personal rights,” “personal security,” it is still further confirmed by the words which follow, and which show that the clause, so far from being intended to secure enterprising jobbers and influential speculators in their ill-gotten advantages, was really intended to protect the industrious and less informed part of the community against their legislative machinations. Finally, and in full proof, that the clause could have no relation to incorporations and bank charters is proved by the fact that the federal convention which framed the constitution twice refused to grant the incorporating power to Congress, and consequently cannot be construed to protect the existence of a thing which it twice refused to create. Mr. B. said this was the exposition of one of the fathers of the constitution, made before that instrument was adopted by the States. There had been many expositions of it since, both legislative and judicial, and out of the multitude Mr. B. would select one which, in all the essentials of time, place, subject, actors, and action, would claim a pre-eminent and omnipotent voice in this Pennsylvania question, so unexpectedly thrust in upon us here, and so vehemently plead on this floor in behalf of a certain bank, against the legislative and conventional power of the State. Mr. B. then sent to the Secretary's table a volume of the statutes of Kentucky for the year 1820, and requested that the Secretary should read an act which he pointed out to him. The Secretary read: JAN. 3, 1837.]
.Admission of Michigan.
“An act to repeal the act entitled “An act establishing independent banks in this Commonwealth,” and an topplemental thereto.” Approved, February 10, 1820.
“PREAMBLE.-Whereas, in the tenth article of the constitution of Kentucky, it is declared: First, that all freemen, when they form a social compact, are equal; and that no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive, separate, public emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services: And, secondly, that all power is inherent in the people, and all free Governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness. And whereas it is self-evident, according to those fundamental principles of government, that all laws which grant to a few the power to oppress the many are tyrannical in their nature, and adverse to the primitive rights of the people; and, therefore, repealable by the supreme authority. To say that a sale of the primitive rights of the people, by the Legislature, is to be perpetual, and unalterable, because there is a contract in the case, is to declare that error, and abuse of power, may consecrate themselves. Fraud vitiates all contracts. To effect the intention of the parties is the object of all laws regulating contracts. That a privilege granted shall be used for the destruction, or even to the disadvantage, of those who granted, never could be the intention of the parties. All legislative power is derivative—proceeds from the people, and is to be used for their prosperity and happiness only; consequently, all laws of a contrary tendency violate the intention of the social compact, and are subject, upon first principles, to the condition of being repealed, whether the evil springs from the nature of the privilege granted, or contract entered into, or from the abuse of either. A bank charter, from its nature, extends and necessarily confines the powers and privileges granted to a few, to the exclusion of the many. It therefore follows, as an unavoidable conclusion, that if the power and privileges granted in a bank charter operate against the public good, the people, by their Legislature, have the primitive right to revoke such a charter. To the end, therefore, that the good people of this State be delivered in future from the baneful effects of the power and privileges granted by the law establishing independent banks, which have been exercised in many instances, in the plenitude of tyranny, oppression, and abuse, to the great injury of the good people of this State.”
When the Secretary had read to the end of the preamble, he paused and inquired whether the reading of the act itself was desired. Mr. B. answered, by all means. The preamble is good, and the act is better. It shows how the republicans of Kentucky dispose of vested rights in chartered privileges, and bonus contracts sor oppressing a State with banks, and how compendiously they teach presidents and directors of banks to submit to the laws of the land, or to take the fines and forfeitures which resistance to the laws imposes upon insurgent and refractory spirits. It presents an authority and example which the friends of the Bank of the United Stetes are bound to respect, and which may require all their ingenuity to answer, on this floor or elsewhere.
The Secretary then read the act:
“Sec. 1st.—Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, That all power, right, or privilege, granted to the corporations established by an act entitled ‘An act establishing independent banks in this Commonwealth,’ approved January 26th, 1818, and an act entitled ‘An act supplemental to the act establishing independent banks in this Commonwealth,” approved February 3d, 1818, to deal and trade in dis. counts, bills of exchange, or current money, or to issue
notes or bills of credit, payable to bearer or otherwise, shall be, and the same are hereby, repealed and revoked, from and after the first day of May next; and all other powers, rights, and privileges, granted to said corporations in said recited acts, are hereby repealed and revoked from and after the first day of January, 1823. “Sec. 2d.—Be it further enacted, That any person or persons who may act as a president, director, or any other officer of any independent bank in this State, contrary to the provisions of this act, shall be subject to all the penalties, fines, and forfeitures, imposed by an act entitled “An act to suppress private associations for the purpose of banking,” approved February 8th, 1812; which penalties, fines, and forfeitures, may and shall be imposed, recovered, collected, and distributed, according to the provisions of the said last-recited act. “SEc. 3d.—Be it further enacted, That the bonus required from the independent banks, for the privilege of banking for the year 1820, shall be, and the same is hereby, remitted. " “Skc. 4th.—Be it further enacted, That so much of the act to incorporate Saunders's Manufacturing Company, which passed the 31st of January, 1818, and the supplemental act thereto, approved February 3d, 1818, which gives the said company banking privileges, shall be, and the same is hereby, repealed; and the second section of this act is hereby made applicable to the persons who may have the management of the said manufacturing institution.” Mr. B. said that this preamble and act, taken together, were both the declaration and the action of the Legislature of one of the principal States in the Union—a state sertile in many ways, and in none more so than in the production of able and patriotic men. A Legislature of that State, in our own day, and in our own time, and composed of many persons now living and acting, swept off a litter of banks at one blow, with the banking privileges of Lewis Saunders's cotton bagging factory to boot, even after they had been two years in operation, maugre all their cries about the bonus and the contract, and did so, not by virtue of reserved powers in charters, but by virtue of inherent and unalienable rights in the body politic. Mr. B. said he was cotemporary with this great act—this magna charta of the Kentucky Legislature. He remembered its passage, and the satisfaction which it gave to the State, and to the surrounding States, and to the whole Union. He remembered more: and that was the applause then bestowed upon this act of the Kentucky Legislature by presses, periodicals, newspapers, and registers, which are now foremost in denouncing citizens of Pennsylvania for proposing to imitate it in a case where alien foreigners, more than native citizens, are concerned, and where the reasons for acting are many ten thousand times greater than in the case of the independent banks, and Lewis Saunders's banking cotton-bagging factory. He recollected also that the doctrine of vested rights was then invoked by the stockholders in the hecatomb of banks which were subjected to the edge of the sacrificial knife; and that their invocation shared the same fate which the claim of the midnight judges of 1800 suffered when they claimed their seats and salaries as vested rights; the same fate which the tenants in tail and some of the eldest sons suffered, about the time of our Revolution, when entails were abolished, and the insolent prerogative of primogeniture, as Mr. Gibbon called it, was suppressed by law; the same fate which the friends of feudal rights suffered in France in 1789, when Lafayette moved, in the Assembly of Notables, the entire suppression of all those rights; the same fate which a clergy, loaded with property of this world, suffered in England, when all the statutes called mortmain were passed. In all these cases, as well as in the case of the independent banks, and Mr. Saunders's bag-factory bank, and the present United
States Bank of Pennsylvania, the plea of vested rights was pressed into the service; but it happened to be addressed to those who could discriminate between the rights of property, which the public good requires to be held sacred and inviolate, and the pretensions of privilege which the same public good requires to be examined and controlled. The arguments now set up against the repealability of chartered privileges is nothing but the same plea set up in all ages, and in all countries, in favor of similar privileges; and Mr. B. must be allowed to say that there is no comparison between the style and composition of those arguments, as used in England and France, and also in the United States, on former occasions, and as used here now. The advocates for vested rights, that is, chartered privileges, in these days, do little more than shout; or, at best, indite a paragraph, pert and flippant, coarse and trite, or heavy and dull; whereas the old advocates composed elegant and scholarlike dissertations; and he would advise their followers, in these days, to hunt up their speeches and essays, and copy their style, and at least give us bad doctrines in good language. Mr. B., with as much reluctance as he had felt in adverting to Pennsylvania affairs, must now advert to the Maryland branch of this question. It seems that there is a movement in Maryland to organize a convention, by the inherent and unalienable rights of the people, and, without a legislative act, to alter and change the constitution of the State. The convention held in Michigan is one of this kind, and, therefore, the recognition of an act done by that convention is resisted on this floor, by the friends of the anti-convention party in Maryland, for fear it may operate in favor of the convention party in that State. This is the way that Maryland politics are lugged into this debate, and made part of this discussion. Mr. B. said he had often seen gentlemen argue one question with an eye to another, but, usually, with the delicacy of not lugging in, by name, this other question, which had no place upon the record. But this delicacy has not been observed upon this occasion. Michigan alone is in the record before us; yet Pennsylvania has been dragged in by name; Maryland has been dragged in by name; and not only dragged in, but made the principal subject of debate, and the most furious denunciations levelled at a portion of their citizens. The advocates for the Maryland convention are, not incidentally and by way of inuendo, lashed and scourged here while lashing and scourging the Michigan convention, but they are singled out, seized upon, and dragged forcibly and violently into this chamber; and then denounced in such style that, no doubt, the question of the Maryland convention is considered as completely crushed by the force which assails it here. Be it so, said Mr. B., if the people of sovereign States are willing to have their affairs governed by denunciation here. It will certainly be a one-sided game on this floor; for it was manifest that there was one party at least here who would not attack the impending measures of any State, nor attack the conduct or motives of the citizens of any State, in acting as they pleased on what concerned themselves; there was one party, at least, here, who would limit themselves to the just defence of the absent and the assailed. The Maryland convention party, then, is arraigned and condemned here for proposing to do what Michigan has done, and the act of Michigan must be stamped with reprobation by Congress, lest it become a precedent, sanctioned by the approbation of Congress, for the justification of the convention party in Maryland. This is the state of the question before us; and Mr. B. would immediately proceed to vindicate, not by an argument of his own, but by example, authority, and precedent, drawn from our early history, and from the writings of the fourders of the republic, and others which
claimed respect, the act which Michigan has done, and which a party in Maryland proposes to do. Mr. B. then read and commented briefly upon several passages from the writings of Mr. Madison, Judge Wilson, of Pennsylvania, General Hamilton, and Judge Story, in his Commentaries on the Constitution. Mr. Madison, speaking of the alleged defect of powers in the convention of 1787, which formed the federal constitution, says: “They (the members of the convention) must have reflected that, in all great changes of established Governments, forms ought to give way to substance; that a rigid adherence, in such cases, to the former, would render nominal and nugatory the transcendent and precious right of the people to “abolish or alter this Government, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness,” since it is impossible for the people spontaneously and universally to move in concert towards their object, and it is therefore essential that such changes be instituted by some informal and unauthorized propositions, made by some patriotic and respectable citizen, or number of citizens. They must have recollected that it was by this irregular and assumed privilege of proposing to the people plans for their safety and happiness, that the States were first united against the danger with which they were threatened by their ancient Government; that committees and Congresses were formed for concentrating their efforts, and defending their rights, and that conventions were elected in the several States for establishing the constitutions under which they are now governed. Nor could it have been forgotten that no little ill-timed scruples, no zeal for adhering to ordinary forms, were any where seen, except in those who wished to indulge, under these masks, their secret enmity to the substance contended for.”—Federalist, No. 40. Here (said Mr. B.) the authority of the people, in their original sovereign capacity, to abolish, alter, and change, their form of government, is fully and expressly set forth. The want of legislative authority to guide of direct them is directly waived; and some patriotic and respectable citizen or citizens are looked to, to cornmence the insormal and unauthorized propositions which are to lead to a convention, and to end in the adoption of fundamental changes. . Such citizens are not considered by Mr. Madison as anarchists, disorganizers, disturbers of the peace, despoilers of property, &c., but as public benefactors, prompted by patriótism to take the lead in a work of public good and necessity. Mr. B. particularly noted, and read twice over, the concluding sentence of this extract from Mr. Madison. He said that Mr. M. was one of the most careful men in abstaining from personalities and the imputation of motives; but here was a keen cut, and a home thrust, at the old tories of the RevolutionKing George the Third's men, the conservatives of fify years ago, who were indulging their secret enmity to the real rights of the people, under the mask of zeal for adhering to forms, and conscientious scruples against acting without authority, Mr. B. continued his readings: Extracts from the works of James Wilson, of Pennsylvania, formerly Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
“Permit me to mention one great principle, the vital principle I may well call it, which diffuses animation and vigor through all the others. The principle I mean is this: that the supreme or sovereign power of the society resides in the citizens at large, and that, therefore, they always retain the right of abolishing, altering, or amending, this constitution, at whatever time and in whatever manner they shall deem it expedient.”—Pol. 1, page 17.
“Why should we not teach our children those prin-i