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of activity, by conferring on Congress the power over trade. By nothing but the perception of its indispensable necessity — by nothing but their consciousness of suffering from its want — were the States and the people brought, and brought by slow degrees, to invest this power in a permanent and competent Government.
Sir, hearken to the fervent language of the old Congress, in July, 1785, in a letter addressed to the States, prepared by Mr. Mouroe, Mr. King, and other great names, now transferred from the lists of living men to the records which carry down the fame of the distinguished dead. The proposition before them, the great object to which they so solicitously endeavored to draw the attention of the States, was this, viz. that "the United States, in Congress assembled, should have the sole and exclusive right of regulating the trade of the States, as well with foreign nations as with each other." This, they say, is urged upon the States by every consideration of local as well as of federal policy; and they beseech them to ayrce to it, if they wish to promote the strength of the Union, and to connect it by the strongest ties of interest and affection. This was in July, 1785.
In the same spirit, and for the same end, was that most important resolution which was adopted in the House of Delegates of Virginia, on the 21st day of the following January. Sir, I read the resolution entire.
"RttottaL, That Edmund Randolph, and others, be appointed commissioners, who, or any five of whom, ahall meet such commissioners as may bo appointed by the other States in the Union, at a time and place to be agreed on. In take into consideration the trade of the United States; to examine the relative situations and trade of the said States; to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial regulations may be necessary to their common interest and their permanent harmony, and to report to the several States such an act relative to this neat object, as, when unanimously ratified by them, will enable the United States, in Congress assembled, effectually to provide for Uic same; that the said commissioners shall immediately transmit to the several States copies of the preceding resolution, with a circular letter requesting their concurrence therein, and proposing a time and place for the meeting aforesaid."
Here, sir, let us pause. Let us linger at the waters of this original fountain. Let us contemplate this, the first step in that series of proceedings, so full of great events to us and to the world. Notwithstanding the embarrassment and distress of the country, the recommendation of the old Congress had not been complied with. Every attempt to bring the State Legislatures into any harmony of action, or any pursuit of a common object, had sismally and disastrously failed. The exigency of the case called for a new movement — for a more direct and powerful attempt to bring the good sense and patriotism of the country into action upon the crisis. A solemn assembly was therefore proposed — a general convention of delegates from all the States. And now, sir, what was the exigency? What was this crisis? Look at the resolution itself; there is not an idea in it but trade. Commerce! commerce! is the beginning and end of it. The subject to be considered and examined was "the relative situation of the trade of the States;" and the object to be obtained was the " establishment of a uniform system in their commercial regulations, as necessary to the common interest and their permanent harmony." This is all. And, sir, by the adoption of this ever-memorable resolution, the House of Delegates of Virginia, on the 21st day of January, 176J6, performed the first act in the train of measures which resulted in that constitution, under the authority of which you now sit in that chair, and I have now the honor of addressing the members of this body.
Mr. President, I am a Northern man. I am attached to one of the States of the North, by the ties of birth and parentage; by the tillage of paternal fields; by education; by the associations of early life; and by sincere gratitude for proofs of public confidence early bestowed. I am bound to another Northern State by adoption, by long residence, by all the cords of social and domestic life, and by an attachment and regard, springing from her manifestation of approbation and favor, which grapple me to her with hooks of steel. And yet, sir, with the same sincerity of respect, the same deep gratitude, the same reverence and hearty good will, with which I would pay a similar tribute to either of these States, do I here acknowledge the Commonwealth of Virginia to be entitled to the honor of commencing the work of establishing this constitution. The honor is hers; let her enjoy it; let her forever wear it proudly; there is not a brighter jewel in the tiara that adorns her brow. Let this resolution stand, illustrating her records, and blazoning her name through all time!
The meeting, sir, proposed by the resolution was holden. It took place, as all know, in Annapolis, in May of the same year; but it was thinly attended, and its members, very wisely, adopted measures to bring about a fuller and more general convention. Thefr letter to the States on this occasion is full of instruction. It shows their sense of the unfortunate condition of the country. In their meditations on the subject, they saw the extent to which the commercial power must necessarily extend. The sagacity of New Jersey had led her, in agreeing to the original proposition of Virginia, to enlarge the object of the appointment of commissioners, so as to embrace not only commercial regulations, but other important matters. This suggestion the commissioners adopted, because they thought, as they inform us, "that the power of regulating trade is of such comprehensive extent, and will enter so far into the general system of the Federal Government, that to give it efficacy, and to obviate questions and doubts concerning its precise nature and limits, might require a correspondent adjustment of other parts of the Federal system." Here you see, sir, that other powers, such as are now in the constitution, were expected to branch out of the necessary commercial power; and, therefore, the letter of the commissioners concludes with recommending a general convention, "to take into consideration the whole situation of the United States, and to devise such further provisions as should appear necessary to render the constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union."
The result of that convention was the present constitution. And yet, in the midst of all this flood of light, respecting its original objects and purposes, and while we cannot but see the adequate powers which it confers for accomplishing these purposes, we abandon the commerce of the country, we betray its interests, we turn ourselves away from its most crying necessities. Sir, it will be a fact, stamped in deep and dark lines upon our annals ; it will be a truth, which in all time can never be denied or evaded, that if this constitution shall not, now and hereafter, be so administered as to maintain a uniform system in all matters of trade ; if it shall not protect and regulate the commerce of the country, in all its great interests, in its foreign intercourse, in its domestic intercourse, in its navigation, in its currency, in every tiling which fairly belongs to the whole idea of commerce, either as an end, an agent, or an instrument, then that constitution will have faded, utterly failed to accomplish the precise, distinct, original object, in which it had its being.
In matters of trade we were no longer to be Georgians, Virginians, I'ennsylvaniaus, or Massachusetts men. We were to have but one commerce, and that the commerce of the United States. There were not to be separate flags, waving over separate commercial systems. There was to be one flag, the E Pluhibus Unum ; and toward that was to be that rally of united interests and affections, which our fathers had so earnestly invoked.
Mr. President, this umty of commercial regulation is, in my opinion, indispensable to the safety of the umon of the States. In peace it is its strongest tie. I care not, sir, on what side, or in which of its branches, this constitutional authority may be attacked. Every successful attack upon it, made any where, weakens the whole, and renders the next assault easier and more dangerous. Any demal of its just extent is an attack upon it. We attack it, most fiercely attack it, whenever we say we will not exercise the powers which it enjoins. If the Court had yielded to the pretensions of respectable States upon the subject of steam navigation, and to the retaliatory proceedings of other States; if retreat and excuse, and disavowal of power, had been
[trevailing sentiments then, in what condition, at this moment, et me ask, would the steam navigation of the country be found? To us, sir, to us, his countrymen, — to us, who feel so much adrniration for his genius, and so much gratitude for his services, — Fulton would have lived almost in vain. State grants and State exclusions would have covered over all our waters.
Sir, it is in the nature of such things, that the first violation, or the first departure from true principles, draws more important violations or departures after it; and the first surrender of just authority will be followed by others more to be deplored. If commerce be a unit, to break it in any one part, is to decree its ultimate dismemberment in all. If there be made a first chasm, though it be small, through that the whole wild ocean will pour in, and we may then labor to throw up embankments in vain.
Sir, the spirit of union is particularly liable to temptation and seduction in moments of peace and prosperity. In war, this spirit is strengthened by a sense of common danger, and by a thousand recollections of ancient efforts and ancient glory in a common cause. But in the calms of a long peace, and the absence of all apparent causes of alarm, things near gain an ascendency over things remote. Local interests and feelings overshadow national sentiments. Our attention, our regard, and our attachment, are every moment solicited to what touches us closest, and we feel less and less the attraction of a distant orb. Such tendencies we are bound by true patriotism, and by our love of union, to resist. This is our duty; and the moment, in my judgment, has arrived when that duty is summoned to action. We hear, every day, sentiments and arguments which would become a meeting of envoys, employed by separate Governments, more than they become the common Legislature of a united country. Constant appeals are made to local interests, to geographical distinctions, and to the policy and the pride of particular States. It would sometimes appear that it was, or as if it were, a settled purpose, to convince the people that our Union is nothing but a jumble of different and discordant interests, which must, erelong, be all returned to their original state of separate existence; as if, therefore, it was of no great value while it should last, and was not likely to last long. /The process of disintegration begins, by urging, as a fact, the existence of different interests.
Sir, is not the end obvious, to which all this leads us? Who does not see that, if convictions of this kind take possession of the public mind, our Union can hereafter be nothing, while it remains, but a connection without harmony; a bond without affection; a theatre for the angry contests of local feelings, local objects, and local jealousies? Even while it continues to exist in name, it may, by these means, become nothing but the mere form of a united Government. My children, and the children of those who sit around me, may meet, perhaps, in this chamber, in the next generation; but if tendencies, now but too obvious, be not checked, they will meet as
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strangers and aliens. They will feel no sense of common interest or common country: they will cherish no common object of patriotic love. If the same Saxon language shall fall from their lips, it may be the chief proof that they belong to the same nation. Its vital principle exhausted and gone, its power of doing good terminated, now productive only of strife and contention, the Union itself must ultimately fall, dishonored and unlamented.
The honorable member from Carolina himself habitually indulges in charges of usurpation and oppression against the Government of his country. He daily denounces its important measures, in the language in which our revolutionary fathers spoke of the oppressions of the mother country. Not merely against Executive usurpation, either real or supposed, does he utter these sentiments, but against laws of Congress, laws passed by large majorities, laws sanctioned, for a course of years, by the people. These laws he proclaims, every hour, to be but a series of acts of oppression. He speaks of them as if it were an admitted fact, that such is their true character. This is the language which he utters, these the sentiments he expresses, to the rising generation around him. Are they sentiments and language which are likely to inspire our children with the love of union, to enlarge their patriotism, or to teach them, and to make them feel, that their destiny has made them common citizens of one great and glorious republic? A principal object, in his late political movements, the gentleman himself tells us. was to unite the entire South; and against whom, or against what, does he wish to unite the entire South? Is not this tlie very essence of local feeling and local regard? Is it not the acknowledgment of a wish and object to create political strength, by uniting political opinions geographically? While the gentleman thus wishes to umte the entire South, I pray to know, sir, if he expects me to turn toward the polar-star, and, acting on the same
iirinciple, to utter a cry of Rally! to the whole North? Heaven brbid! To the day of my death, neither he nor others shall hear such a cry from me.
Finally, the honorable member declares that he shalt now march off, under the banner of State rights! March off from whom? March off from what? We have been contending for great principles. We have been struggling to maintain the liberty and to restore the prosperity of the country ; we have made these struggles here, m the national councils, with the old flag, the true American flag, the Eagle, and the Stars and Stripes, waving over the Chamber in which we sit. He now tells us, however, that he marches off under the State-rights banner!
Let him go. I remain. I am, where I ever have been, and ever mean to be. Here, standing on the platform of the general constitution — a platform, broad enough, and firm enough, to