Page:Examiner, Journal of Political Economy, v2n07.djvu/1
JOURNAL OF POLITICAL ECONOMY.
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. 7.
Wednesday, October 29, 1834.
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.
In my last letter, sir, I submitted for your solution a proposition which appears to me to place you in considerable difficulty. A lion in the toils might, in perfect consistency with his character, decline all means of escape, through fear of committing his dignity upon an unsuccessful effort. In order that I may reconcile you to this course, (believing that you are already determined on pursuing it,) I proceed to show you that you could not escape, if you would.
You will perhaps say, that although a State has a right to pronounce on the constitutionality of an act of Congress, yet it is, nevertheless, bound to submit to an act so pronounced to be unconstitutional, until the other States shall have sanctioned its decision. This, if it were true, might perhaps afford some ground of apology for the President and Congress. It is this which I have already alluded to, as presenting the only possible chance of escape from the horns of my dilemma. Indeed, sir, it may be useful for you to know, that a great many of the most vociferous denouncers of Nullification go with it, in perfect fellowship, until it reaches this point. I will endeavour now to show that there is no sort of reason for separating here; and if I should succeed in this effort, you may rely upon it, that a vast number who are now in your ranks will desert to mine. I affirm, therefore, that the Resolutions of 1798, so far from countenancing the idea that a State which has pronounced an act of Congress to be unconstitutional, is bound to obey that law, until the other States shall sanction its decision, do distinctly assert the precise reverse. This, I doubt not, I shall prove.
I presume it will readily be admitted, that Madison's Report, which was made expressly to sustain those Resolutions, is a fair interpreter of their meaning. That Report, after stating the proposition, that "where resort can be had to no tribunal superior to the authority of the parties, the parties themselves must be the judges in the last resort, whether the bargain made has been pursued or violated," proceeds thus: "The States, then, being the parties to the Constitutional Compact, and in their sovereign capacity, it follows, of necessity, that there can be no tribunal above their authority, to decide, in the last resort, whether the Compact made by them be violated: and, consequently, that as the parties to it, they must decide, in the last resort, such questions as may be of sufficient magnitude to require their interposition. From this view of the Resolution, it would seem inconceivable that it can incur any just disapprobation from those who, laying aside all momentary impressions, and recollecting the genuine source and object of the Federal Constitution, shall candidly and accurately interpret the meaning of the General Assembly. If the deliberate exercise of dangerous powers, palpably withheld by the Constitution, could not justify the parties to it, in interposing, even so far as to avert the progress of the evil, and thereby to preserve the Constitution itself, as well as to provide for the safety of the parties to it, there would be an end of all relief from usurped power, and a direct subversion of the rights specified or recognized under all the State Constitutions, as well as a plain denial of the fundamental principle on which our independence itself was declared."
This language appears to me to be plain enough for any common understanding. It even goes a bow-shot beyond the Nullification of South Carolina. — That State admits that the other States, acting as such, may overrule her decision; but the Resolutions, as explained by the Report, contemplate such decision as "in the last resort," and therefore, final and conclusive. This must be the correct interpretation, unless the Report, by the term "States" and "parties," intended to limit itself to the plural number, and of course, not to include a single State, acting by itself. This is, at least, a mere quibble, altogether unworthy of the dignity of the subject; but as there appears to be a determination to get rid of our old principles in some way or other, their friends must not neglect their defence, even at those points which would seem to be impregnably intrenched. If, then, the Resolutions do not contemplate the interposition of each State for itself, they must contemplate such interposition either by all the States, or by a majority of the States, or by a plural number, less than a majority of the States. If the first was meant, it was a most useless and a ridiculous parade of argument to prove what is altogether self-evident. Certainly those who made the Government have a right not only to check and control it, but even to unmake it, whenever all of them concur in that wish. If, therefore, this be the meaning of the Resolutions, they only affirm what no one would ever think of denying, and what is equally true of other Governments as of ours. Do the resolutions, then, refer to a majority of the States? The same remark applies here. The right of a majority to rule, is a fundamental principle in all Represen-