Imagens das páginas

Any Congress may repeal the act or law of its predecessor, if in its nature it be repealable, just as it may repeal its own act; and if a law, or an act, be irrepealable in its nature, it can no more be repealed by a subsequent Congress than by that which passed it. All this is familiar to every body. And Congress, like every other Legislature, often passes acts which, being in the nature of grants, or contracts, are irrepealable ever afterwards. The message, in a strain of argument which it is difficult to treat with ordinary respect, declares that this restriction on the power of Congress, as to the establishment of other Banks, is a palpable attempt to amend the Constitution by an act of legislation. The reason on which this observation purports to be founded, is, that Congress, by the Constitution, is to have exclusive legislation over the District of Columbia ; and when the Bank charter declares that Congress will create no new Bank within the district, it annuls this power of exclusive legislation! I must say, that this reasoning hardly rises high enough to entitle it to a passing notice. It would be doing it too much credit to call it plausible. No one needs to be informed that exclusive power of legislation is not unlimited power of legislation; and if it were, how can that legislative power be unlimited that cannot restrain itself; that cannot bind itself by contract ? Whether as a government, or as an individual, that being is fettered and restrained, which is not capable of binding itself by ordinary obligation. Every Legislature binds itself, whenever it makes a grant, enters into a contract, bestows an office, or does any other act or thing which is in its nature irrepealable. And this, instead of detracting from its legislative power, is one of the modes of exercising that power. And the legislative power of Congress over the District of Columbia would not be full and complete, if it might not make just such a stipulation as the Bank charter contains.

As to the taxing power of the States, about which the message says so much, the proper answer to all it says, is, that the States possess no power to tax any instrument of the Government of the United States. It was no part of their power before the Constitution, and they derive no such power from any of its provisions. It is nowhere given to them. Could a State tax the coin of the United States, at the mint? Could a State lay a stamp tax on the process of the courts of the United States, and on customhouse papers ? Could it tax the transportation of the mail, or the ships of war, or the ordnance, or the muniments of war, of the United States ? The reason that these cannot be taxed, by a State, is, that they are means and instruments of the Government of the United States. The establishment of a Bank, exempt from State taxation, takes away no existing right in a State. It leaves it all it ever possessed. But the complaint is, that the Bank char

VOL. II. 16


ed by the Constitution to his discretion. But when he puts forth an array of arguments, such as the message employs, not against the expediency of the Bank, but against its Constitutional existence, he confounds all distinctions, mixes questions of policy and questions of right together, and turns all Constitutional restraints into mere matters of opinion. As far as its power extends, either in its direct effects, or as a precedent, the message not only unsettles every thing which has been settled, under the Constitution, but would show, also, that the Constitution itself is utterly incapable of any fixed construction or definite interpretation, and that there is no possibility of establishing, by its authority, any practical limitations on the powers of the respective branches of the Government.

When the message denies, as it does, the authority of the Supreme Court to decide on Constitutional questions, it effects, so far as the opinion of the President and his authority can effect, a complete change in our Government. It does two things; first, it converts Constitutional limitations of power into mere matters of opinion, and then it strikes the judicial department, as an efficient department, out of our system. But the message by no means stops even at this point. Having denied to Congress the authority of judging what powers may be Constitutionally conferred on a Bank, and having erected the judgment of the President himself into a standard, by which to try the Constitutional character of such powers, and having denounced the authority of the Supreme Court, to decide finally on Constitutional questions, the message proceeds to claim for the President, not the power of approval, but the primary power, the power of originating laws. The President informs Congress, that he would have sent them such a charter, if it had been properly asked for, as they ought to possess. He very plainly intimates, that, in his opinion, the establishment of all laws, of this nature at least, belongs to the functions of the Executive Government; and that Congress ought to have waited for the manifestation of the Executive will, before it presumed to touch the subject. Such, Mr. President, stripped of their disguises, are the real pretences set up in behalf of the Executive power in this most extraordinary paper.

Mr. President, we have arrived at a new epoch. We are entering on experiments, with the Government and the Constitution of the country, hitherto untried, and of fearful and appalling aspect. This message calls us to the contemplation of a future, which little resembles the past. Its principles are at war with all that public opinion has sustained, and all which the experience of the Government has sanctioned. It denies first principles; it contradicts truths, heretofore received as indisputable. It denies to the judiciary the interpretation of law, and demands to divide, with Con

gress, the origination of statutes. It extends the grasp of Executive pretension over every power of the Government. But this is not all. It presents the Chief Magistrate of the Union in the attitude of arguing away the powers of that Government over which he has been chosen to preside; and adopting, for this purpose, modes of reasoning which, even under the influence of all proper feeling towards high official station, it is difficult to regard as respectable. It appeals to every prejudice which may betray men into a mistaken view of their own interests; and to every passion, which may lead them to disobey the impulses of their understanding. It urges all the specious topics of State rights, and national encroachment, against that which a great majority of the States have affirmed to be rightful, and in which all of them have acquiesced. It sows, in an unsparing manner, the seeds of jealousy and ill will against that Government of which its author is the official head. It raises a cry, that liberty is in danger, at the very moment when it puts forth claims to powers heretofore unknown and unheard of. It affects alarm for the public freedom, when nothing endangers that freedom so much as its own unparalleled pretences. This, even, is not all. It manifestly seeks to inflame the poor against the rich; it wantonly attacks whole classes of the people, for the purpose of turning against them the prejudices and the resentments of other classes. It is a state paper which finds no topic too exciting for its use, no passion too inflammable for its address and its solicitation. Such is this message. It remains, now, for the people of the United States to choose between the principles here avowed and their Government. These cannot subsist together. The one or the other must be rejected. If the sentiments of the message shall receive general approbation, the Constitution will have perished even earlier than the moment which its enemies originally allowed for the termination of its existence. It will not have survived to its fiftieth year.



MASS., OCTOBER 12, 1832.

MR. PRESIDENT : I offer no apology for addressing the meeting. Holding, by the favor of the people of this Commonwealth, an important public situation, I deem it no less than a part of my duty, at this interesting moment, to make my own opinions on the state of public affairs known ; and, however I may have performed other duties, this, at least, it is my purpose, on the present occasion, fully to discharge. Not intending to comment, at length, on all the subjects which now attract public attention, nor to discuss any thing, in detail, I wish, nevertheless, before an assembly so large and respectable as the present, and through them to the whole people of the State, to lay open, without reserve, my own sentiments, hopes, and fears, respecting the state, and the fate, of our common country.

The Resolutions which have been read from the Chair express the opinion that the public good requires an effectual change, in the administration of the General Government, both of measures and of men. In this opinion I heartily concur.

Mr. President, there is no citizen of the State, who, in principle and by habitual sentiment, is less disposed than myself to general opposition to Government, or less desirous of frequent changes in its administration. I entertain this feeling strongly, and at all times, towards the Government of the United States ; because I have ever regarded the Federal Constitution as a frame of Government so peculiar, and so delicate in its relations to the State Governments, that it might be in danger of overthrow, as well from an indiscriminate and wanton opposition, as from a weak or a wicked administration. But a case may arise, in which the Government is no longer safe in the hands to which it has been intrusted. It may come to be a question, not so much in what particular manner, or according to what particular political opinions, the Government shall be administered, as whether the Constitution itself shall be preserved and maintained. Now, Sir, in my judgment, just such a case, and just such a question, are at this

« AnteriorContinuar »