Imagens das páginas

SENATE.] .Admission of Michigan. - [JAN. 3, 1837. lature? Would the gentleman from Pennsylvania say other day made by the honorable Senator from South .Admission of Michigan.

to the people of Michigan, we will not listen to your Legislature; you shall be in the Union, and you shall be in it under the condition we prescribed? I think he would not. The Legislature might repeal the act of that convention to-morrow; and if the question came to a judicial investigation, how would that gentleman plead the powers of that convention? Suppose the territory should be disputed, and the courts of Michigan undertake to try an officer of the State of Ohio. He justifies under this convention, and we take ground that it had no power to act. How, I ask, would a court of justice decide? Will any gentleman say that the court in Michigan would consider itself as bound by such an act? I am greatly mistaken if there is any judge in the land who would not hoot at it. The State, to be sure, may acquiesce in it. That is possible; but we have no guarantee of it. And if not, your act will be laughed to scorn. Sir, it does strike me that this wholesale violation of charters—this wholesale nullification—goes infinitely beyond what we in the South ever thought of. We never applied the doctrine of nullification to the act of any I.egislature within its own bounds; but the sweeping nullification of the chairman of the Judiciary Committee goes to the breaking down of all State powers and constitutions. This is nullification by Congress; it is nullification with a vengeance, under the patronage of the Congress of the United States. It is very dangerous. We in the South went on the ground that the General Government had transcended its powers, and that, so far, its acts were not binding; and out position was windicated here, upon this floor, in 1832, with unanswered

and unanswerable reasoning; and those who remember

that affair may take occasion to sneer, but will never venture upon the argument again. , Whatever was our doctrine or purposes, we came boldly out, and risked our property and lise on the issue. We did not paster with public faith, upon flimsy subtleties, or stifle the voice of honesty by a pettifogging technicality. I trust there are interests in South Carolina which will always save her from the necessity of resorting to sophisms and subterfuges to vindicate an equivocal ionesty, or to hide herself in misty generalities while she violates her charter. The honorable Senator tells us that the principles recently avowed by leading men of his party in Pennsylvania have been misunderstood. I am glad to heat it; for, as I and the public have understood those principles, they are utterly revolting and abhorrent to my nature. I do not desire for one moment to live under a Government where such doctrines prevail—doctrines which go to dis. solve the bond of society. I know, indeed, that extreme glosses are sometimes put on the language of men in party times, but, as I understand, that celebrated letter is a call upon pauperism to enlist against property, to violate contracts, to strike first at bank charters and then at land charters, until nothing safe is left in the community. It is said that the will of the people, as that will is ascertained by the great high-priests who minister continually in the presence of power, is to supersede every thing: corporations, bank charters, acts of a State Legislature, State constitutions--all, all are to go by the board. Sir, I start back in horror from such doctrine and its abetters. But I will not longer detain the Senate. I have stated my objections to the preamble of this bill; let these be taken out of the way, and I am ready to admit Michigan to-morrow. I shall be glad to see her take her place amongst the confederate States, and it will be a personal gratification to me to be officially associated with the worthy gentlemen who are waiting to take their seats as her Senators. Mr. STRANGE said he was greatly flattered in having the few hasty and desultory remarks he had let fall the

Carolina [Mr. PREs ros] so large a portion of the text of the very fervid and eloquent address he had just deliver. ed. He had been so agreeably entertained as to be unwilling to interrupt him, even for the purpose of rescuing himself from misapprehension; but he now rose mainly for that purpose. The Senator from South Carolina [Mr. Paestos) has represented me as saying that a convention was an undefined something, rising, like a mist, from the popular mass, scarcely perceptible, but very powerful. What I meant to say, sir, and what I think I did say, was that there was no mode pointed out, either by the common law or by statute, by which a convention was to be assembled; and I distinctly stated that a convention was an assemblage of the people of any community, either in person or by their agents or representatives; and when so assembled its powers were vast, and, in a state of nature, unlimited. The Senator has asked, when Congress has called together a convention, who is to control it? and, in so doing, has plainly misapprehended me in another particular. I have never said that Congress has the power to convoke a convention in Michigan, or in any other State, or any where else, except in the cases specially provided for in the fifth article of the constitution; and am, therefore, not called upon to answer the Senator's question. I do not conceive the convention held in Michigan to have been in obedience to an act of Congress, or that it was called by Congress. In this matter I accord fully with the Senator from Pennsylvania, [Mr. Bucha NAN,) that the act of last session was a mere offer on the part of Congress to the people of Michigan, which they might either accede to or reject, at their pleasure. Congress, in effect, says to the people of Michigan, we will create you a State of the Union upon certain conditions, which conditions are, that you shall meet in convention, and assent to certain territorial limits, which we have prescribed as those within which we are willing to create a State. The people of Michigan may either meet in convention, or decline it, at their pleasure; and being so met, they may either agree to the boundaries proposed, or refuse them; and the only consequences are, that in the one case they accept the terms offered them by Congress, and become a State, and in the other reject them, and remain a | Territory, as they were before. The only question, therefore, which we have now to decide is, has Michigan accepted the terms proposed, or not? Objections are raised to the authority of Congress to enter into bargains or contracts with any State in this Union; but that ob|jection proceeds upon the assumption of the fact that | Michigan is now a State—the very point upon which the Senator from South Carolina and myself are at issue. 1 have denied, and do still deny, that Michigan is a State; and insist upon it that the very process is now going on to make her so, or rather to ascertain whether she is so or not. In my remarks the other day, I did not speak of any claim for Michigan to be a State by reason of the ordinance of 1784, declaring that the portions of country situated in the Northwestern territory should become States upon attaining a certain amount of population; nor is it necessary for me to remark upon that ordinance now, for I perceive that the Senator from South Carolina does not base his argument that she is a State upon that ordinance. On the contrary, he distinctly admits that in January last she was not a State, but became so by the action of Congress in June. Now, sir, I deny that any thing took place in June to give to Michigan a different character from that which she bore in January, except that the act passed in June placed it in the power of the people of Michigan, by their own action, (to wit: according to the terms of the act of June,) to change their own character, and pass from territorial existence to that of a State. But it is JAN. 3, 1837.]


said that Congress, in that act, speaks of her as a State, and accepts her constitution. I insist that that act of Congress is altogether conditional, and must be altogether inoperative to give her existence as a State, without at the same time receiving her into the Union. The only authority claimed, or ever exercised by Congress, or, at any rate, the only one she can lawfully claim or exercise, is derived from the 3d section of the 4th article of the constitution. Even under this clause, the power of creating States is only implied as incidental to the power of admission, and the independent power of creation is nowhere to be found. Under it, the incident merely accompanies the principal, and they must both constitute one entire act. But this construction is objected to, upon the ground that it would place the Senators and Representative from Michigan in a very awkward situation. I should be exceedingly sorry if this consequence should follow; but while I stand here in part representing a sovereign State, I must fearlessly perform my duty, and assert that which I believe to be true, without reference to whom it may serve or whom it may disoblige, and must therefore continue to insist that Congress has no power to create a State for any other purpose than reception into the Union; and, therefore, if Michigan is not already in the Union, she is not a State. Something like an argumentum ad hominem has been addressed to me by the Senator from South Carolina, for the purpose of showing that a State may exist, and yet not be a member of the Union. He refers to a period when, after the adoption of the federal constitution by all the other States except herself, North Carolina had still an existence as a State, though not within the Union. I humbly conceive the argument is fallacious. North Carolina was not formed from any territory belonging to the Union, which never had property in her soil, nor held over her any claim whatsoever. She was a free, sovereign, and independent State, owning no superior, and acknowledging no control but that of her own will. She had, in common with her sister States, thrown off the shackles of despotism, and had a right, in common with them, to seek her own interest and happiness, according to her own choice. With herself, therefore, was the decision, whether she would seek them alone or in federative union with the other States. ... Not so with Michigan; she belonged in territory to the Union, and her citizens owed it allegiance; the one could never be transferred, or the other dissolved, but by actual force sufficient to maintain the new State against the power of the Union, or the consent of Congress constitutionally given. The former is not pretended, and the latter I deny has been shown to have been Properly expressed. So that the cases of Michigan and North Carolina are altogether dissimilar; and the accidents of the one can never be used to illustrate those of the other. As I said yesterday, Michigan is not a State until she complies with the terms imposed at the last session, and the question is whether she has done so. I have already stated what I conceived to be a convention, $o far as Michigan, at least, is concerned; and can there be ; doubt that the Ann Arbor convention is such an one Gentlemen inquire what we would have said if the first convention called by the Legislature had ratified the Proposal of Congress. Would we have considered it valid.” I answer, valid, most unquestionably. We say it is totally inmaterial how the convention is convened, so it is a convention. The convention de facto is the one which we are to consider, without inquiring into its authority, just as we treat with the Governments of foreign nations. In this latter case, we do not ask how the Government is constituted, or by what authority it was formed. Our only inquiry is, is it, in point of fact, the existing Government? And so, also, of past acts of the Government. The inquiry is, was it at the time it acted in the posses

sion of the sovereign power? and if so, its acts are valid, without any reference to the means by which that power was acquired. So with the convention. Had it an actual unresisted existence as the convention of the people? and if so, it possessed all the powers incident to a territorial convention. It is true, if Congress had in her act prescribed the mode in which the convention should have been convoked, no other convention but one called in that mode would have been a fulfilment of the act, or a compliance with its conditions. But, as Congress did not prescribe such mode, the people of Michigan were left to the broadest latitude; and if the first convention had yielded the assent required, all would have been well. But there were two conventions; and we are asked which was the voice of the people? I answer, both. The one spoke the voice of the people at one time, and the other at another; and the last is to be taken as the continuing voice of the people until they speak again. It is so with individuals. If a gentleman offers to sell me a horse, and I refuse to take him, that is my voice then; but I may return the next day and agree to take him, and that is my voice then; but the last voice closes contract, and there is the end of the matter. So with Michigan. An offer is made her; she refuses to accept it; that is her voice then; but another day she says I will accept it; that is her voice then, and the compact is ratified. But the Senator asks, can Congress call a convention in South Carolina? I believe I have already answered this question; but I will do it again: , I say she cannot, and I deny that she has done so in Michigan. It is, therefore, unnecessary to review the picture of horrors which the gentleman has so eloquently portrayed as likely to ensue from such an act. But the course of Michigan is said to be revolutionary, unless she be a State. This might have been so if Michigan had acted without reference to the authority of the United States—if she had claimed the right of forming her constitution, and exercising other rights of sovereignty, without reference to the ratification of her acts by Congress. But this she has not done, but, on the contrary, is now seeking that very ratification at your hands, without for a moment intimating a desire of separation from you, or claiming an existence unsanctioned by your constitution. But it has been contended that Michigan, if a State, by holding this convention, has been guilty of a revolutionary movement, inasmuch as it was not called by the proper authority. In reply, I say that I have not only denied, but, as I think, shown that Michigan is not a State; but if she were, I insist that, so far as Congress has any thing to do with the matter, the act would not be revolutionary. Every State in the Union, so far as Congress is concerned, has a right to hold conventions according to their pleasure, and, when assembled in convention, to prostrate their executive, legislative, and judicial bodies, and put up others in their stead, provided, in so doing, they adhere to the republican form of government. It is entirely a domestic matter, with which the other States have nothing to do. In this I am, as I think, fortified by one of the wisest and best statesmen who has ever adorned our country. “The authority,” says Mr. Madison, in his celebrated report, “ of constitutions over Governments, and of the sovereignty of the people over constitutions, are truths which are at all times necessary to be kept in mind.” The only check possessed by the General Government over the sovereignty of the people of the several States must be found in the constitution, the charter of its own being. In the charter the General Government is required to guaranty to each State a republican form of government, and, while that is preserved, the interference of the General Government is uncalledfor and unauthorized. She has nothing to do with the matter. But we have been asked, what will be the result, if we SENATE.]

.Admission of Michigan.

[JAN. 4, 1837.

make this convention the subject of judicial inquiry? The question is, I think, altogether premature. The validity of this convention can only be drawn into judi

cial inquiry in a dispute between Michigan and a neigh

boring State, on the subject of boundary; and to put that difficulty at rest it is that Congress has herself incurred much difficulty, and imposed it upon others: but she cannot settle the matter judicially; neither can she, by any legislation, interpose any insurmountable barrier in the way of litigation. She has been endeavoring to induce Michigan to estop herself from setting up any claim to the disputed territory. If she has succeeded, all is well; and if she has not, matters are only left as they were. If Michigan chooses to make it a subject of judicial inquiry, it must always be in her power to do so. We may legislate as extensively and with as much complexity as we please, but the parties affected by, our legislation will, whenever they think proper, apply to the judicial tribunals to decide what our legislation has accomplished. Congress has already passed a law prescribing the limits of the litigant States, thus expending all the power she possesses on the subject; but the efiiciency of this, and all other powers, must be a question forever open to judicial investigation. We can pass no gag-law by which the parties interested shall be forbidden to litigate their claims before the courts of the country. But that a convention has been holden, as a matter of fact, I did not suppose would be disputed. [Mr. Paeston. I do not deny it at all.] I am obliged to the Senator for the admission; and that the Ann Arbor meeting was not only a convention, but one of indisputable validity, I think is very satisfactorily shown by the fact, if there were no other in the case, that this matter has been agitated in Michigan in the newspapers, in fact every where, and that no person is found in this city, either in or out of Congress, lifting up his voice with authority to deny the validity of that meeting—that it was properly convened, and that its acts are perfectly legitimate. Mr. MORRIS withdrew his proposition to recommit the bill with instructions, and submitted, as an amendment, a substitute for the preamble. Mr. GRUNDY asked for the yeas and nays on Mr. Mohnis's amendment; which were accordingly ordered. Messrs. CALH OUN and MOI&RIS addressed the Senate in favor of the amendment just offered. Before Mr. Monnis concluded, he gave way, and Mr. EWING, of Ohio, moved that the Senate adjourn; which question was decided in the negative: Yeas 16, nays 16. After a few remarks from Mr. MORRIS, Mr. WALL moved that the Senate adjourn; which motion was lost: Yeas 19, nays 19. YEAs —Messrs. Bayard, Brown, Calhoun, Clay, Crittenden, Davis, Ewing of Ohio, Kent, King of Alabama, Knight, Moore, Morris, Nicholas, Niles, Preston, Southard, Swift, Wall, White—19. NAYs—Messrs. Benton, Buchanan, Dana, Fulton, Grundy, Hendricks, Hubbard, King of Georgia, Linn, Page, Rives, Robinson, Ruggles, Sevier, Strange, Tallmadge, Tipton, Walker, Wright—19. After a few more remarks from Mr. MORRIS, Mr. EWING, of Ohio, moved that the Senate adjourn; .." motion was carried: Yeas 21, nays 17--as folows: YEAs–Messrs. Bayard, Brown, Calhoun, Clay, Crittenden, Davis, Ewing of Ohio, Kent, King of Alabama, Knight, Linn, Moore, Morris, Nicholas, Niles, Preston, Southard, Strange, Swift, Wall, white—21. NAYs-Messrs. Benton, Buchanan, Dana, Fulton, Brundy, Hendricks, Hubbard, King of Georgia, Page, Rives, Robinson, Ruggles, Sevier, Tallmadge, Tipton, Walker, Wright—17. so the Senate adjourned.


The Senate proceeded to the further consideration of the bill for the admission of Michigan into the Union; the question being on the motion of Mr. Monnis to amend the bill. After Mr. MORRIS had made a few supplementary and explanatory remarks, Mr. BAYARD said: In taking part in the present discussion, and in the vote which he should feel himself compelled to give on the subject now under consideration, he was actuated by no feelings of ill will towards the new State of Michigan; on the contrary, he would cheerfully extend to her the hand of fellowship, and heartily welcome her admission into this great confederacy. But, sir, I cannot conscientiously do so under the circumstances and in the manner that is proposed. Nor, sir, have I any pride of opinion to maintain in the course I pursue, as I had not the honor of a seat here when the act of Congress was passed which is the remote cause of the present proceedings. A seat in this body imposes the duty of consulting the welfare of the whole Union, as well as of preserving the great principles of the constitution; and I feel, sir, that I am influenced by no other motive. I am happy to find that one of those little mists which might have obscured the subject has been dissipated by the communication which has just been made by the Secretary of the Treasury, that the share of the surplus revenue to which Michigan would be entitled if now a State of the Union will be reserved for her, unless its distribution should be ordered by Congress. If, sir, this course had not been adopted by the Secretary, I should have cheerfully and promptly given my support to a law for that purpose. It is agreed, too, on all hands, that there is no party purpose to be promoted by our present action on the subject, and that we are thus at liberty to exercise a fair, impartial, unprejudiced judgment in its decision. In my opinion, sir, the present bill involves a momstrous political heresy, and gives its sanction by implication to a doctrine which would subvert all regular government. It is true, sir, that upon its face there is nothing exceptionable, but you cannot strip it of its contemporaneous facts, you cannot blot from the page of history its concomitant circumstances. The message of the President and other documents are now matters of record. What, then, sir, is the case before us? Not a single insulated act, but a matter which, in the web of human affairs, involves consequences which cannot be trammelled up. The effect, sir, of to-day becomes the cause of to-morrow, and it behooves us to look warily to the principles which we establish. The case is simply this: the people of a part of Michigan Territory, without waiting for a previous act of Congress assigning the boundaries of their State, and authorizing the formation of a constitution and State Government, undertook, on the 11th May, 1835, to form a constitution and State Government, and applied for admission into the Union at the last session. Congress passed an act on the 15th June, 1836, accepting, ratisying, and confirming, the constitution and State Government, but provided, as a condition precedent to her admission, that the assent of a convention of delegates, chosen by the people, should be given to the boundaries prescribed in the act. I say, sir, the people of a part of Michigan Territory undertook to do this, because, at that time, Michigan territory embraced not only the peninsula of Michigan, but the whole of the present Territory of Wisconsin, and contained within its limits 177,000 square miles, or nearly three times the area of the great State of Virginia. The peninsula of Michigan, which had previously formed a part of Indiana Territory, was separated from that Territory and established as an inJAN. 4, 1837.]

dependent one by the act of Congress of the 11th Januaary, 1805. Subsequently to this period, Indiana in the mean time having been formed into a State, an act of Congress was passed, (on the 18th April, 1818,) authorizing the formation of a constitution and State Government for Illinois, and the 7th section of that act added to the peninsula of Michigan the rest of the Northwestern Territory, comprising the present Wisconsin Territory, which it declared should be attached to, and made part of, Michigan Territory, subject, however, to be disposed of by Congress according to the right reserved in the 5th article of the ordinance of July 13, 1787. When the immense territory on the north of the Ohio river, formerly called the Northwestern Territory, was ceded to the United States by Virginia, the 5th article of the ordinance of the 13th July, 1787, which was declared to be a compact between the original States and the people and States of the said Territory, provided that it should be divided into not less than three nor more than five States, and proceeded to parcel it out into three States, whose boundaries it fixed, with the express provision, however, that those boundaries might be altered, and that Congress should have the authority to form one or two States in that part of the territory which lies north of an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan. At first, this whole region of country passed under one name, that of “the Territory northwest of the river Ohio,” and was subject to a single Territorial Government. In the year,1800, by the act of Congress of the 7th May, it was divided into two parts, for the purpose of temporary government, by a line beginning at the Ohio, and opposite the mouth of the Kentucky river, and running thence

to Fort Recovery, and thence north until it intersected

the territorial line between the United States and Canada. That portion of it which lay on the eastern side of the division line retained the name of the Territory northwest of the river Ohio, and that on the western side of the line was called Indiana Territory. The peninsula of Michigan was thus divided between these two Territorial Governments. When, subsequently, in the year 1802, the State of Ohio was, by the act of Congress of the 30th April, in that year, authorized to form a constitution and State Government, and the boundaries of that State were established, the balance of the Territory northwest of the river Ohio, that is to say, the other portion of the peninsula of Michigan, was attached to Indiana Territory. By act of Congress of the 11th January, 1805, this Territory of Indiana was again divided, and the peninsula of Michigan established as a separate Territory. From the year 1805, then, until the year 1818, the Territorial Government of Michigan extended only over the peninsula of that name. When, however, in the latter year, by act of Congress of the 18th April, Illinois was authorized to form a constitution and State Government, and the boundaries of that State were established as they had been of the State of Indiana, by the act of April 19, 1816, the remaining portion of the old Northwestern Territory was added to the peninsula of Michigan, and the whole subjected to one Territorial Government. This immense region of country, covering an area of 177,000 square miles, was subject, however, by the express provision of the ordinance of the 13th July, 1787, to be formed by the authority of Congress into one or two States. Such, sir, was the state qf things when the inhabitants of the peninsula of Michigan, disregarding this authority of Congress, undertook to form a constitution and State Government for themselves. The preamble to their constitution is in these words: “We, the people of the Territory of Michigan, as established by the act of Congress of the 11th of January, 1805, do *gree,” &c.; which description embraced only the inhabitants of the peninsula of Michigan, which had, as has

.Admission of Michigan.



been stated, in the first instance been made a separate Territory by that act of Congress. In doing so, these people professed to act in conformity with the ordinance of July, 1787, and to derive their authority from that ordinance; which, as has been seen, expressly reserves to Congress the right to form one or two States in the Territory as it then existed. As both Congress and the inhabitants of that peninsula could not have the same right, it is perfectly clear that the act of those people was unwarranted by any provision of law, and a mere nullity. This was the view taken of the subject at the time of their application to Congress at the last session, and hence, sir, the resolution of the 26th of January, 1836, referred to by the Senator from Pennsylvania, [Mr. Buchax AN,] “that the Senate regard, the memorial purporting to be from the State of Michigan in no other light than as a voluntary act of private individuals.” But, sir, consent takes away error, and Congress thought proper, at a subsequent period, by the act of the 15th June, 1836, to accept, ratify, and confirm, the constitution and State Government which had been sormed by the inhabitants of the peninsula, with this proviso, however, that the limits of the State should embrace not merely the peninsula, but likewise a region of country lying on the northwest of Lake Michigan; thus adding to the proposed new State both territory and population, and requiring, as a condition precedent to her admission into the Union, that the assent of a convention of delegates chosen by the people should be given to the boundaries prescribed in the act. The simple question, then, would seem to be whether this condition has been complied with. Congress, not doubting but that such assent would be cheerfully and promptly given, further provided that, as soon as such assent should be given, the President should announce the fact by proclamation, and “that, thereupon, and without any further proceed; ing on the part of Congress, the admission of the said State into the Union, as one of the United States of America, on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever, shall be considered complete, and the Senators and Representatives who have been elected by the said State, as its representatives in the Congress of the United States, shall be entitled to take their seats in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, without further delay.” It is thus seen, sir, that not only the fact of assent is provided for, but also the evidence by which that fact is to be established. It is clear that the President is made the judge of that fact, and that he might have bound the United States at least by his proclamation. We could not have controverted the fact, and the Senators from Michigan might have taken their seats on this floor. But, sir, although the President might have assumed this responsibility, he has, at least in this instance, wisely abstained from trampling on the law and constitution. I cannot see how it was possible for him, under the circumstances of this case, to have declared that a convention of delegates, chosen by the people of Michigan, had given its assent to the boundaries prescribed by the act of Congress. Whatever may have been his motive for this course, no proclamation has been issued, but the whole matter is referred to Congress by his message of the 27th of December, 1836. By that message and the accompanying documents it appears that a convention of delegates assembled on the 26th of September, 1836, at Ann Arbor, in conformity with an act of the Legislature of the State of Michigan, passed on the 25th of July, 1836, and resolved “that this convention cannot give their assent to the proposition contained in said proviso; but the same is hereby rejected.” By the same message and documents, it further appears that another convention of delegates assembled on the 14th of December, 1836, at Ann Arbor, with cut any SENATE.]

previous law of the Legislature of the State of Michigan, but which originated from the resolutions and proceedings of primary meetings of the citizens in the several counties, which assumed to be a convention of delegates chosen by the people in compliance with the act of Congress, and this convention gave its assent to the condition. As the case stands, the simple question is, whether the condition has been complied with; or, in other words, has a convention of delegates, chosen by the people, given its assent? The act which we have now under consideration, in its preamble, declares that such assent has been given in compliance with the law. It may be 1.<re remarked that the matter now under consideration does not involve the question of the right of Congress to impose such a condition. The bill which we are now to pass upon supposes that right to exist, is based upon it, and declares that the condition has been complied with. I have not a doubt myself, sir, as to the right. But, sir, as to the fact, is it true that a convention of delegates, chosen by the people, has given its assent? As no proclamation has been made, which was the evidence contemplated by the act, and by which we should have been bound, we must now look into the who'e case; we must examine the evidence of the facts, as furnished in the message and documents. What, then, is the evidence laid before us? 1st. The proceedings of the convention held on the 26th of September, 1836, at Ann Arbor, under the authority of the law passed by the Legislature of the State of Michigan, on the 25th of July, 1836. 2d. The proceedings of the convention held on the 14th of December, 1836, without any previous act of the Legislature of the State of Michigan, but convened by virtue of the resolutions and proceedings of primary meetings of the citizens in the several counties. The first-mentioned convention positively refuses its assent. The second convention gives that assent. If the matter stood alone upon the acts of the second convention, stripped of its concomitant history and circumstances, and we were called upon simply to give credit to the proceedings of that convention, on the faith of its assumed character, and the attestation of its president and secretaries, we might, sir, be content with the evidence, and look no further into its character and authority. And this, sir, I take it, is the position assumed by the Senator from North Carolina, [Mr. Stn ANGE.] But, sir, such is not the case; we cannot shut our eyes to the fact stated in the letter of the president of the convention, (Mr. Williams,) accompanying its proceedings, and stated, also, in the message of the President of the United States, in which this matter is referred to us, and which are now both part of the records of this transaction, that the convention was assembled without authority of any previous law of the State of Michigan, but originated in primary meetings of citizens in the several counties. Are we, then, sir, prepared to say that here has been a compliance with the act of Congress, as is affirmed in the preamble of this act? What did Congress mean by a convention of delegates chosen by the people? Did they mean an idle ceremony, or did they mean a convention which could bind the people of Michigan; or, in other words, a convention which should possess the sovereign power of the State when assembled? If such is their meaning, can it be pretended that this convention, assembled under the authority of voluntary meetings of citizens in different counties, is possessed of the sovereign, authority of the State? And yet, sir, if you pass this bill, with or without its preamble, you do virtually declare that this proposition is true. You declare, sir, for you cannot get rid of the facts and circumstances of the transaction, that voluntary meetings of citizens in different counties of a State, in a time of profound peace, and as a measure of regular government, may call a con.

vention, which shall possess the sovereign power of the

[blocks in formation]

State, and may, therefore, alter or abolish the existing Government. The proposition is too monstrous to be tolerated for a moment. . If the people of Michigan were in a state of nature, lege solutus, without any social institutions whatever, and had assembled as a body in some grand campus martius, those who were present could have bound only themselves, since there would be wanting the assent, either express or implied, of those who were absent, and which assent is the sole foundation of authority in a republican Government. But such, even, was not their case; a constitution and form of government had been adopted by them on the 11th of May, 1835, which was accepted, ratified, and confirmed, by the act of Congress of June 15, 1836, and which was in existence and active operation at the time of this pretended convention. The very end of government is the protection of the weak against the strong, of the guileless against the crafty; and no portion of the people have a right to bind the rest of the community, but in the mode provided in the constitution, which is the compact of their association, the compact which ev. ery man enters into with every other man, and which is, for that reason, the source and measure of the authority of the Government organized by it. Upon any question affecting the general interest, and which falls within the scope of the legislative power, that power alone is the true exponent of the public will. The term people embraces every individual in the community, or, in a more confined and political sense, every individual who enjoys the franchise of a vote, and is not to be confined to a few busy demagogues, who af. fect to imbody in themselves the majesty and authority of the people; while the compact, which each man has entered into with every other in adopting a constitution which vests the legislative power in a particular body, is, that the Legislature shall be the exponents of the pub. lic will in all cases not prohibited by the constitution. This results from the very nature of things, and is true of every species of government. Where the people have themselves formed the constitution, it is they who have declared, in such a case, that they will not collectively, nor in any portions of society, great or small, attempt to exercise legislative power in any other mode. The question then arises, whether there existed in Michigan a Government, possessing legislative power under a constitution formed by themselves, and whether that legislative power was competent to call a convention. Her condition was the same after the act of June 15, 1836, as if she had been authorized in the first instance to form a constitution and State Government, and had done so in conformity with such previous authority, but which had provided that her admission into the Union should depend on the performance of some condition precedent. In this state of things there was nothing unusual or unknown to our institutions and practice. The State of Indiana was authorized, by act of Congress of April 19, 1816, to form a constitution and State Government, and was not admitted into the Union until the 11th day of December following. Illinois was, in like manner, authorized by act of Congress of the 18th of April, 1818, and was not admitted into the Union until the 3d of December following. Mississippi was authorized by act of March 1, 1817, and admitted on the 10th of December following. In these difserent instances, the State Governments were organized and in active operation before the admission of the respective States; they passed laws, and elected their respective Senators and Representatives. It is, therefore, a proposition which is undeniable, that a people may have a State Government before admission into the Union. This circumstance explains the reason why Congress made no provision as to the mode in which a convention should be convened, in order to give the required assent, it was because there existed in Michigan a State Govern

« AnteriorContinuar »