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[44] way when it purports to convey a right of another kind, such as property, would hold a very weak brief in any tribunal of jurisprudence, if the question could be brought to that arbitrament. The American people have been very much accustomed to treat political grants, made by the sovereign power without reservation, as irrevocable conveyances and executed contracts; and although they hold to the right of revolution, they have not yet found out how a deed, absolute on its face, is to be treated in point of law, as a repealable instrument, because it deals with political rights and duties. If any court in South Carolina were now to have the question come before it, whether the laws of the United States are still binding upon their citizens, I think they would have to put their denial upon the naked doctrine of revolution; and that they could not hold that, as matter of law and regular political action, their ratification deed of May 23d, 1788, is “repealed” by their late ordinance. Most truly and respectfully yours,



Appendix B, p. 22.

Hon. Reverdy Johnson to Mr. Everett.

Baltimore, 24th June, 1861.
my dear Mr. Everett .
I have your note of the 18th, and cheerfully authorize you to use my name, as you suggest.

The letter I read in the speech which I made in Frederick, should be conclusive evidence that, at its date, Mr. Calhoun denied the right of secession, as a constitutional right, either express or implied.

But, in addition to this, I had frequent opportunities of knowing that this was his opinion. It was my good fortune to be a member of the Senate of the United States, whilst he was one of its greatest ornaments, for four years, from 1845, until I became a member of Gen. Taylor's administration, and during two sessions (I think 1846 and 1847) I lived in the same house with him. He did me the honor to give me much of his confidence, and frequently his nullification doctrine was the subject of conversation. Time and time again have I heard him, and with ever increased surprise at his wonderful acuteness, defend it on Constitutional grounds, and distinguish it, in that respect, from the doctrine of Secession. This last he never, with me, placed on any other ground than that of revolution. This, he said, was to destroy the Government; and no Constitution, the work of sane men, ever provided for its own destruction. The other was to preserve it, was, practically, but to amend it, and in a constitutional mode. As you know, and he was ever told, I never took that view. I could see no more constitutional warrant for this than for the other, which, I repeat, he ever in all our interviews repudiated, as wholly indefensible as a constitutional remedy. His mind, with all its wonderful power, was so ingenious that it often led him into error, and at times to such an extent as to be guilty of the most palpable inconsistencies. His views of the tariff and internal improvement powers of the Government, are instances. His first opinions upon both were decided, and almost ultra. His earliest reputation was won as their advocate, and yet four years before his death he denounced both, with constant zeal and with rare power, and, whilst doing so, boldly asserted his uniform consistency. It is no marvel, therefore, with those who have observed his career and studied his character, to hear it stated now that he was the advocate of constitutional secession.

It may be so, and perhaps is so; but this in no way supports the doctrine, as far as it is rested on his authority. His first views were well considered and formed, without the influence of extraneous circumstances, of which he seemed to me to be often the victim.


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