The powers were in themselves apparently comprehensive and adequate.
The vice was the absence of sufficient means to enforce them.
For want of this instrumentality they failed.
It was soon seen by the patriotic statesmen of the day that this defect was fatal to union.
Experience hourly demonstrated it. Union, however, was not to be abandoned.
Nor was that only hope of preserving our freedom and our happiness abandoned by them.
They early took steps to avert it. The result was the present Constitution of the United States
Does that correct the chief, the ruinous defect of the confederation?
That it was adopted with that view we know.
Has it accomplished it?
If it has not, the failure, until now, has not appeared.
So far it has proved capable, by its own inherent energy, to execute its own powers, and protect itself by its own means.
The fancy, it is but a fancy — it is not entitled to the dignity of being called a theory — that this, like the former, is but a compact which can only be practically enforced under State assent, and at any time be legally terminated by State power, until recently has never seriously been maintained.
Some years ago South Carolina
, that gallant State of vast pretensions but little power, though apparently in her own conceit able to meet the world in arms, ventured to act upon the fancy.
In that day, however, statesmen ruled over us, an iron and patriotic will wielded the Executive
power, and the Senate chamber
was filled with the counsels of Webster
There it ventured in January, 1830, to assert its soundness.
A favored son of the State
, with South Carolina
's reckless, unreflecting daring, was bold enough to challenge the great expounder to the contest.
Right nobly, too, did he conduct himself, but his cause was bad — his fate and the fate of his cause was known in advance — they were alike sure of the same destiny — signal, signal defeat.
On the 26th of that month the great Northern statesman spoke as no man ever spake before, and the doctrine and its gallant champion fell together.
That speech, too, did more than make the name of Webster
It achieved more, much more, than a triumph over the Southerner
and his fancy.
It fired the patriotic heart of the country.
It made it rejoice that that country was ours, then and forever.
It planted deep, deep in “every true American heart” that sentiment so vital to our duty, our honor, our fame, our power, our happiness, our freedom, “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable.”
The fancy, however, is now revived.
Gentlemen in the public councils, of rare ability, are perverting that ability to maintain it. The public mind of the South
to an alarming extent is being deluded by it. Treason, under its supposed protection, is being perpetrated.
The Union is attempted to be severed by it, and it is producing its natural results — solicitude, distress, agony inconceivable at home, and unexampled wonder, and our shame, degradation abroad.
The defences of the nation, erected at enormous expense out of a common treasure, for the protection of common rights, are being seized.
Our glorious national airs hissed, derided, and execrated, under its authority.
The flag, the glorious flag that never yielded to a foreign foe, is shamelessly being dishonored, torn to pieces, trodden to the earth by the very children of the fathers who adopted it, went as brothers together to battle — to death — or to victory under its inspiring, sacred folds; and bequeathed it as the emblem of a common brotherhood, a common destiny, and a common freedom.
A doctrine leading to such consequences cannot be true.
Our great patriotic dead never could have left such a doctrine to us. It was that very vice existing in the Confederation, and found to be leading to just such results, which they designed to correct and annihilate by the Constitution
Compact, league, power only to be exerted upon States,--was that vice?
Is this, in spite of their purpose, and what they evidently supposed they had accomplished, still in the Constitution
Wiser, greater men, more accomplished statesmen, have never lived before or since.
How could such men have made such a failure?
The question almost answers itself.
The very supposition slanders their memory.
But the work itself, in almost every line of it, demonstrates its injustice and absurdity.
“A more perfect
Union” is stated in its very first line, to be its object.
“Justice” for all, “domestic tranquillity” for all, “the common
defence,” “the general
welfare,” are stated as the ends of such Union, and, as the means of securing it, it says, “we, the people of the United States
,” not of any one State, but of all in the aggregate, “do ordain this Constitution for the United States of America
,” not for the States separately, but for all as one;
not a league or compact, but a Constitution, a Government.
And then mark its powers.
By the first section, first article, “all legislative
powers herein granted” are vested in Congress.
The power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of all, with no distinction or limit as to the first, and no other as to the rest, but that they “be uniform throughout the United States
,” is granted; the power to borrow on the credit of all, to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the States, and with the Indian
tribes; to coin money and regulate its value, to punish certain crimes, treason included, against the United States
; to declare war, to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy, to provide for calling the militia to execute the laws of the Union
, suppress insurrection and repel invasion; for organizing, &c. the militia, and a variety of other powers, in their nature exclusive, and wholly independent of State power