warm affirmative of South Carolina a plain, downright, Pennsylvania negative.
South Carolina, to show the strength and unity of her opinion, brings her assembly to a unanimity, within seven voices; Pennsylvania, not to be outdone in this respect any more than in others, reduces her dissentient fraction to a single vote.
Now, Sir, again I ask the gentleman, What is to be done?
Are these States both right?
If not, which is in the wrong?
or, rather, which has the best right to decide?
And if he, and if I, are not to know what the Constitution means, and what it is, till those two State Legislatures, and the twenty-two others, shall agree in its construction, what have we sworn to when we have sworn to maintain it?
I was forcibly struck, Sir, with one reflection, as the gentleman went on in his speech.
He quoted Mr. Madison's resolutions1 to prove that a State may interfere, in a case of deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of a power not granted.
The honorable member supposes the tariff law to be such an exercise of power; and that, consequently, a case has arisen in which the State may, if it see fit, interfere by its own law. Now it so happens, nevertheless, that Mr. Madison deems this same tariff law quite constitutional!
Instead of a clear and palpable violation, it is, in his judgment, no violation at all. So that, while they use his authority for a hypothetical case, they reject it in the very case before them.
All this, Sir, shows the inherent futility — I had almost used a stronger word — of conceding this power of interference to the States, and then attempting to secure it from abuse by imposing qualifications of which the States themselves are to judge.
One of two things is true: either the laws of the Union are beyond the discretion and beyond the control of the States, or else we have no constitution of General Government, and are thrust back again to the days of the Confederation.”
In his brief speech, which closed that debate, and finished the doctrine of Nullification, Mr. Webster
Sir, if I were to concede to the gentleman his principal proposition, namely, that the Constitution is a compact between States, the question would still be, What provision is made in this compact to settle points of disputed construction, or contested power, that shall come into controversy?
And this question would still be answered, and conclusively answered, by the Constitution itself.
While the gentleman is contending against construction, he himself is setting up the most dangerous and loose construction.
The Constitution declares that, the laws of Congress passed in pursuance of the Constitution shall be the supreme law of the land. No construction is necessary here.
It declares also, with equal plainness and precision, that the judicial power of the United States shall extend to every case arising under the laws of Congress. This needs no construction.
Here is a law, then, which is declared to be supreme; and here is a power established, which is to interpret that law. Now, Sir, how has the gentleman met this?
Suppose the Constitution to be a compact, yet here are its terms; and how does the gentleman get rid of them?
He cannot argue the seal off the bond, nor the words out of the instrument.
Here they are; what answer does he give to them?
None in the world, Sir, except, that the effect of this would be to place the States in a condition of inferiority; and that it results from the very nature of things, there being no superior, that the parties must be their own judges!
Thus closely and cogently does the honorable gentleman reason on the words of the Constitution!
The gentleman says, if there be such a power of final decision in the General Government, he asks for the grant of that power.
Well, Sir, I show him the grant.
I turn him to the very words.
I show him that the laws of Congress are made supreme; and that the judicial power extends, by express words, to the interpretation of these laws.
Instead of answering this, he retreats into the general reflection, that it must result from the nature of things, that the States, being parties, must judge for themselves.
I have admitted, that, if the Constitution were to be considered as the creature of the State governments, it might be modified, interpreted, or construed according to their pleasure.
But, even in that case, it would be necessary that they should agree. One alone could not interpret it conclusively; one alone could not construe it; one alone could not modify it. Yet the gentleman's doctrine is, that Carolina alone may construe and interpret that compact, which equally binds all, and gives equal rights to all.
So, then, Sir, even supposing the Constitution to be a compact between the States, the gentleman's doctrine, nevertheless, is not maintainable; because first, the General Government is not a party to the compact, but a government established by it, and vested by it with the powers of trying and deciding doubtful questions; and, secondly, because, if the Constitution be regarded as a compact, not one State only, but all the States, are parties to that compact, and one