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“ [18] to all those whom it may concern, that the said Constitution is binding upon the said People, according to an authentic copy hereunto annexed. Done in Convention this 26th day of June, 1788.”

This, as you perceive, is an absolute and unconditional ratification of the Constitution by the People of Virginia. An attempt, however, is made, by the late Convention in Virginia, in their ordinance of secession, to extract a reservation of a right to secede, out of the declaration contained in the preamble to the act of ratification. That preamble declares it to be an “impression” of the people of Virginia, that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them, whenever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression. The ordinance of secession passed by the recent convention, purporting to cite this declaration, omits the words by them, that is, by the People of the United States, not by the people of any single State, thus arrogating to the people of Virginia alone what the Convention of 1788 claimed only, and that by way of “impression,” for the People of the United States.

By this most grave omission of the vital words of the sentence, the Convention, I fear, intended to lead the incautious or the ignorant to the conclusion, that the Convention of 1788 asserted the right of an individual State to resume the powers granted in the Constitution to the General Government; a claim for which there is not the slightest foundation in Constitutional history. On the contrary, when the ill-omened doctrine of State nullification was sought to be sustained by the same argument in 1830, and the famous Virginia resolutions of 1798 were appealed to by Mr. Calhoun and his friends, as affording countenance to that doctrine, it was repeatedly and emphatically declared by Mr. Madison, the author of the resolutions, that they were intended to claim, not for an individual State, but for the United States, by whom the Constitution was ordained and established, the right of remedying its abuses by constitutional ways, such as united protest, repeal, or an amendment of the Constitution.1 Incidentally to the discussion of nullification, he denied over and over again the right of peaceable secession; and this fact was well known to some of the members of the late Convention at Richmond. When the secrets of their assembly are laid open, no doubt it will appear that there were some faithful Abdiels to proclaim the fact. Oh, that the venerable sage, second to none of his patriot compeers in framing the Constitution, the equal associate of Hamilton in recommending it to the People; its great champion in the Virginia Convention of 1788, and its faithful vindicator in 1830, against the deleterious heresy of nullification, could have been spared to protect it, at the present day, from the still deadlier venom of Secession! But he is gone; the principles, the traditions, and the illustrious memories which gave to Virginia her name and her praise in the land, are no longer cherished; the work of Washington, and Madison, and Randolph, and Pendleton, and Marshall is repudiated, and nullifiers, precipitators, and seceders gather in secret conclave to destroy the Constitution, in the very building that holds the monumental statue of the Father of his Country!


The Virginia resolutions of 1798.

Having had occasion to allude to the Virginia resolutions of 1798, I may observe that of these famous resolves, the subject of so much political romance, it is

1 Maguire's Collection, p. 213.

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