previous next
[140] at its source and its branches, and Slave States down near its mouth? Pray, sir; pray, sir, let me say to the people of this country, that these things are worthy of their pondering and of their consideration. Here, sir, are five millions of freemen in the Free States north of the river Ohio. Can anybody suppose that this population can be severed by a line that divides them from the territory of a foreign and alien Government, down somewhere, the Lord knows where, upon the lower banks of the Mississippi?

What will become of Missouri? Will she join the arrondissement of the Slave States? Shall the man from the Yellow Stone and the Platte be connected in the new republic with the man who lives on the southern extremity of the Cape of Florida? Sir, I am ashamed to pursue this line of remark. I dislike it — I have an utter disgust for it. I would rather hear of natural blasts and mildews, war, pestilence and famine, than to hear gentlemen talk of secession. To break up! to break up this great Government! to dismember this great country! to astonish Europe with an act of folly such as Europe, for two centuries, has never beheld in any Government! No, sir! no, sir! There will be no secession. Gentlemen are not serious when they talk of secession.

The Supreme Court, too, speaking through each of its great chiefs, Marshall and Taney, repels the doctrine.

In the case of McCulloch and Maryland, the first of these, as the organ of the whole Court, rejected it in clear terms. The very foundation, the only one on which it can for a moment stand, is, that the Constitution is a compact, and not in the usual and sovereign sense of the word, a government. Let me read you how he disposed of this:

In discussing this question, (the question of compact,) the counsel for the State of Maryland have deemed it of some importance, in the construction of the Constitution, to consider that instrument as not emanating from the people, but as the act of sovereign and independent States. The powers of the General Government, it has been said, are delegated by the States, who alone are truly sovereign; and must be exercised in subordination to the States, who alone possess supreme dominion.

It would be difficult to sustain this proposition. The Convention which framed the Constitution was indeed elected by the State Legislatures. But the instrument when it came from their hands was a mere proposal, without obligation, or pretensions to it. It was reported to the then existing Congress of the United States, with a request that it might ‘be submitted to a Convention of Delegates, chosen in each State by the people thereof, under the recommendation of its Legislature, for their assent and ratification.’ This mode of proceeding was adopted, and by the Convention, by Congress, and by the State Legislatures, the instrument was submitted to the people. They acted upon it in the only manner in which they can act safely, effectively, and wisely, on such a subject, by assembling in Convention. It is true, they assembled in their several States--and where else should they have assembled? No political dreamer was ever wild enough to think of breaking down the lines which separate the States, and of compounding the American people into one common mass. Of consequence, when they act, they act in their States. But the measures they adopt do not, on that account, cease to be the measures of the people themselves, or become the measures of the State Governments.

From these Conventions the Constitution derives its whole authority. The Government proceeds directly from the people; is ordained and established in the name of the people, and is declared to be ordained, ‘in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, and se<*>e the blessings of liberty to themselves and to their posterity.’ The assent of the States, in their sovereign capacity, is implied in calling a Convention, and thus submitting that instrument to the people. But the people were at perfect liberty to accept or reject it; and their act was final. It required not the affirmance, and could not be negatived by the State Governments. The Constitution, when thus adopted, was of complete obligation, and bound the State sovereignties.

It has been said that the people had already surrendered all their powers to the State sovereignties, and had nothing more to give. But, surely, the question whether they may resume and modify the powers granted to the Government, does not remain to be settled in this country. Much more might the legitimacy of the General Government be doubted, had it been created by the States. The powers delegated to the State sovereignties were to be exercised by themselves, not by a distinct and independent sovereignty, created by themselves to the formation of a league, such as was the confederation, the State sovereignties were certainly competent. But when, ‘in order to form a more perfect Union,’ it was deemed necessary to change this alliance into an effective Government, possessing great sovereign powers, and acting directly on the people, the necessity of referring it to the people, and of deriving its powers directly from them, was felt and acknowledged by all.

The Government of this Union, then, (whatever may be the influence of this fact on the case,) is emphatically and truly a Government of the people. In form and in substance it emanates from them. Its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them, and for their benefit.

The principle here adjudged was over and over again, under the administration of the same great judge, maintained as the settled judgment of the Court, and without a dissenting voice.

It has, with equal clearness, uniformity, and

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (2)
Europe (2)
Missouri (Missouri, United States) (1)
Mississippi (United States) (1)
Florida (Florida, United States) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Roger B. Taney (1)
Benjamin McCulloch (1)
T. H. Marshall (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: