Page:Examiner, Journal of Political Economy, v2n06.djvu/1

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THE EXAMINER,

AND

JOURNAL OF POLITICAL ECONOMY.



DEVOTED TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF THE CAUSE OF STATE RIGHTS AND FREE TRADE.

The Powers not Delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People . . . Amendments to the Constitution, Art. X.

Freedom of Industry, as sacred as freedom of speech or of the press . . . Jefferson.



Vol. II.]
[No. 6.
Wednesday, October 15, 1834.


AN EXPOSITION
Of the Virginia Resolutions of 1798, in a series of Essays, addressed to Thomas Ritchie, by a distinguished citizen of Virginia, under the signature of "Locke," in February, 1833.

No. III.

I am now to prove to you, sir, that Nullification is the only mode in which the usurpations of the Federal Government may be resisted by the States, in accordance with the principles of our resolutions of 1798. Daring as you may consider this enterprise, I do not enter upon it with any fear, although I approach without flourish of trumpets or any other parade. I am a plain, practical man, and desire to state my opinions in a matter which other plain, practical men will understand. If such men are not the ornaments of the country, they are at least its strength and support, and the very people to whose capacity all reasoning upon political subjects ought to be addressed.

I beg you to bear in mind the principles which have already been stated as deducible from the resolutions of 1798. Perhaps our best course of proceeding will be to state them in detail, and see whether nullification does or does not conform to every one of them.

1. The resolutions assert that there is some mode within the Constitution by which the usurpations of the Federal Government may be resisted by the States. Now, it is true that nullification is denied to be a constitutional remedy, but the nullifiers assert that it is constitutional; and I mention the point only to show that they do not intend to assert any extra-constitutional or revolutionary remedy — and that so far, at least, they are within the resolutions of 1798. Whether their remedy is constitutional or not, supposing the principles of the resolutions to be so, must depend on its conformity with those principles in the subsequent propositions. We remark, therefore, that

2. The remedy must be such as to "arrest the progress of the evil." — Now, be pleased to bear in mind, that nullification does not proceed upon any supposed right of the State to repeal a constitutional law, but upon the right of a State to declare that an unconstitutional law really is so, and to refuse obedience to it for that reason. I beg you to bear this distinction in mind. If nullification proposes any thing more or less than this, I am no nullifier, and do not understand the doctrine. Now, sir, is not this right of a State (to decide on the constitutionality of an act of Congress) distinctly asserted in the resolutions of 1798? Nay, has not Virginia asserted it in practice, both in regard to the Alien and Sedition Laws, and in regard to these very Tariff Laws themselves? We all know that such is the fact. And was not resistance to such unconstitutional laws distinctly contemplated in the resolutions of 1798? I have already shown that it was; and if any farther proof is necessary, it will be found, in all abundance, in the address to the people which accompanied those resolutions. It appears, then, that the principles upon which nullification proceeds, are (in the abstract) in strict conformity with those of the resolutions of 1798. But those principles, it is admitted, must be limited and qualified by the object in view. We are, then, to inquire whether nullification does, or does not, "arrest the progress of the evil." The evil is the exercise of an usurped power: nullification declares that the usurped power shall no longer be obeyed. Is not this the best of all possible modes, if not the only mode in which it can be "arrested?" Perhaps it is not too great a refinement to say, that the "arrest" here contemplated, is of the usurpation only, and not of the usurping power. In other words, it is not designed to put down the Federal Government — nor embarrass nor impede its legitimate operation; but simply to prevent it from exercising a power which does not belong to it. — Hence, no resort is contemplated in the resolutions of 1798 to any measures which may submit the existence of that Government to the decision of arms. Its operations within the Constitution must all go on as before, whilst its operations beyond the Constitution must be "arrested." Now, this is precisely and peculiarly the effect of nullification. And, strange to tell, it is on this very ground that you and others have most strongly assailed that doctrine. You all say, that it is absurd to pretend that a State can be in the Union and out of the Union at the same time; and that it is monstrous in a State to contend for all the advantages of the Union, as to certain laws, while she refuses to submit to the burthens imposed by other laws. Nothing in nature can be more perfectly self-evident than all this. It is not surprising that a man of General Jackson's measure of intellect and information should be deceived by such a superficial view of the subject: but we had a right to expect better things from a veteran in politics, like yourself. Remember, sir, that a law beyond the Constitution is no law at all, and there is no right any where to enforce it. A State which refuses to submit to such a pretended law, is strictly within the Union — because she is in strict obedience to the Constitution; and it is strange to say that she