‘  The Congress, the Executive and the Court, must each for itself be guided by its own opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer, who takes an oath to support the Constitution, swears that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others. It is as much the duty of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, and of the President, to decide upon the constitutionality of any bill or resolution, which may be presented to, them for passage or approval, as it is of the Supreme Judges when it may be brought before them for judicial decision. The authority of the Supreme Court must not, therefore, be permitted to control the Congress or the Executive, when acting in their legislative capacities, but to have only such influence as the force of their reasoning may deserve.’Mark these words, and let them sink into your minds. ‘Each public officer, who takes an oath to support the Constitution, swears that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others.’ Yes, sir, as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others. Does any Senator here dissent from this rule? Does the Senator from Virginia? Does the Senator from South Carolina? Sir, as a Senator, I have taken at your desk the oath to support the Constitution, as I understand it. And understanding it as I do, I am bound by that oath, Mr. President, to oppose all enactments by Congress on the subject of fugitive slaves, as a flagrant violation of the Constitution; especially must I oppose the last act as a tyrannical usurpation, kindred in character to the Stamp Act, which our fathers indignantly refused to obey. Here my duties, under the oath which I have taken as a Senator, end. There is nothing beyond. On this explicit statement of my constitutional obligations, I stand, as upon a living rock, and, to the inquiry, in whatever form addressed to my personal responsibility, whether I would aid, directly or indirectly, in reducing or surrendering a fellow-man to bondage, I reply again, ‘Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?’ And, sir, looking round upon this Senate, I might ask fearlessly, how many there are—even in this body—if, indeed, there be a single Senator, who would stoop to any such service? Until some one rises and openly confesses his willingness to become a Slave-hunter, I will not believe there can be one. [Here Mr. Sumner paused, but nobody rose.] And yet honorable and chivalrous Senators have rushed headlong to denounce me because I openly declared my repudiation of a service at which every manly bosom must revolt. ‘Sire, I have found in Bayonne brave soldiers and good citizens, but not one executioner,’ was the noble utterance of the Governor of that place to Charles IX. of France, in
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