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.
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.
You will be pleased to bear in mind, sir, that I have endeavoured, in my preceding letters, simply to prove, that the doctrine of Nullification is fully warranted by the Virginia Resolutions, of 1798. If I have not succeeded in this, I have at least shown that it is not so manifest a departure from those resolutions, as to warrant the denunciation which it has received from the professed friends of State Rights. Still less warrant is there, for branding a whole State with treason, for adopting it. And now, sir, permit me to remark, that Nullification is not a distinct and substantive principle at all, but merely a mode in which well settled principles are carried out in practice. It is absolutely necessary to bear this distinction in mind. The only principle involved in Nullification, is the right of a State to decide whether an act of Congress is a breach of the compact or not; and if it shall decide that it is a breach, to interpose without waiting for the co-operation of other States, for "arresting the progress of the evil," in such mode as not to break the Union, nor interrupt the regular progress of the Government within the Constitution. No one, I think, can deny the correctness of this principle. Nullification professes to conform to it, whilst Secession obviously disclaims it; because Secession necessarily breaks the Union. You will at once perceive, then, that there are a countless number of modes in which the principles of Nullification may be carried out, and it by no means follows that the doctrine itself is false, because it may be abused in practice. Let us, then, forget, for the present, South Carolina and all her proceedings, and test the correctness of Nullification by a hypothetical case. Suppose that the present Congress should declare, by law, that the slave-holding States shall no longer be entitled to representation in that body, for three-fifths of their slaves. The case is at least possible, be assured, and it would be so "palpable and dangerous" an assumption of power, as to call loudly for the most effective mode of "State interposition," warranted by the Virginia resolutions. How would you have us proceed? Would you appeal to the Federal Judiciary to say whether such a law was constitutional or not? I cannot perceive how it is possible to bring the case before them; and even if it could be brought there, it would be at least a year before it could be decided. In the mean time, Virginia would be deprived of about one-sixth part of her proper representation, and would continue to be so deprived until the Supreme Court might choose to take up the case. She would thus be thrown on the mercy of that tribunal, for one of her clearest and most important rights. — Besides, this would assuredly be directly in the teeth of Madison's Report, which reprobates the idea that the Supreme Court has any rightful power over such a question. Would you appeal to Congress to repeal the law? This Congress ceases to exist on the 4th of March, and our elections take place in April. There might not, then, be any Congress in session, to whom the appeal could be made; and even if there were, what hope could you have that the same men who showed themselves capable of such a palpable usurpation would immediately disavow it? Besides, this would be recognizing the right of Congress to decide on the extent of its own powers, which is clearly against Madison's resolutions. But suppose that the appeal should be actually made, and that Congress should refuse to repeal the law — would you submit? The President's doctrines would force you to do so. Yet I cannot think that you would agree to such doctrines in a case involving the rights of your own State, although you advocate them in the case of South Carolina. No, sir, you would not submit. Then, what would you do? Would you agree to suspend the exercise of the essential right of representation until you had tried the slow process of an appeal to the other States, in their separate characters? You would be ashamed to countenance such a poor spirited surrender of the right of self-protection. Would you resort to arms? — Upon whom would you make war? Upon Congress alone, or upon all the other States? Not upon Congress, the actual wrong doers, for that would be ridiculous — not upon the other States, because they might not sanction the usurpation of their Federal agent, and therefore, might not be guilty of any intentional wrong. Would you secede? And if you did, how would that redress the wrong, and restore you to your rights? Besides, sir, there would be in secession, a positive injustice to the other States. Each State is entitled to all the benefit which it can derive from the Union of all, and of course the withdrawal of any one State deprives the other States of all the benefit which they would derive from the presence of such state in the Union. There is no doubt of the right of a State to withdraw, and we shall presently see when and how that right