Page:Examiner, Journal of Political Economy, v2n09.djvu/1

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.




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. 9.
Wednesday, November 26, 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.

No. VI.

You have been, sir, exceedingly unsparing in your denunciation of nullification, but I do not recollect that you have ever afforded a single argument against it. You have indeed abused Mr. Calhoun, until even his worst enemies are ready to takes sides with him, from mere sympathy with the persecuted and oppressed. That such a man should be borne down before an enlightened people, by a man of Andrew Jackson's pretensions, is a moral anomaly, worthy the especial notice of the future historian. You appear to have thought, that it was enough to destroy John C. Calhoun, and nullification must fall of course. This is a mistake. The doctrine did not originate with him, does not depend on him for its support, and will not die with the death of his influence. You may, therefore, spare him without fear that such a tribute to decency, will affect nullification either one way or the other. It would certainly have been much more worthy of your standing among our public journals, if you had attempted to enlighten our understandings instead of appealing to our partizan feelings. The huzzas of man-worship are alike degrading to the press, and insulting to its supporters. Instead of proving that nullification is wrong, you have wisely, perhaps, but not generously, it is certain, contented yourself with efforts to prove that the Nullifiers are wrong. This was beyond all doubt much the easier task of the two, but unfortunately, the mass of your readers have not so understood you. Your paragraphs have been so contrived as to be generally received as an utter denunciation of South Carolina, and her whole doctrines and proceedings together, at the same time that their strict letter will allow you to say hereafter, that your reproaches were meant, not for the doctrine, but only for the particular mode of asserting it. It always gives me pain to see an influential public journal dealing with its readers in this uncandid way. Whenever the press yields itself wholly to party, it becomes, instead of a blessing, the worst possible curse to a free country. It is then dangerous in exact proportion to its influence. Whenever the liberties of this country shall be overturned, a corrupt and hireling press will be the chief agent in the mischief. This, however, is a digression, and it will certainly make no impression upon you. I was going to say, that while the principles upon which South Carolina has proceeded are undeniably right, I agree with you, that she has fallen into some very great errors, in her course of proceeding. On one point, I will agree with the President of the United States, an approximation to error at which I cannot but feel uneasy. I think that the Tariff laws, although clearly against the spirit of the Constitution, by the gross inequality of their burthens, are yet no so "palpably" unconstitutional as to call for Nullification, nor so "dangerous" as to demand Secession, until every hope shall be lost, that Congress will modify them. I, therefore, may well censure South Carolina in this respect, but you cannot; for you profess to consider those laws altogether and unequivocally unconstitutional. I think also, that South Carolina appointed too early a day, for the operation of her ordinance. I think also, that some of her enactments for enforcing that ordinance are too rigorous, and probably are themselves unconstitutional. And I have another objection which I have not yet seen stated in any newspaper. The principle upon which nullification proceeds, demand that the nullifying State, shall refer her decision to conventions of the other States — and that she shall give way, if such Conventions overrule her. In every case therefore, which will admit of it, she ought to take care that the other States sustain no injury from the suspension of the law by her, in case her decision should be overruled. In the present case, the injury would consist in the loss of duties, and therefore, South Carolina should merely have suspended the payment of duties, and should have guaranteed the ultimate payment of every cent of them, in case the other States — and a bare majority ought to be sufficient — should decide the Tariff Laws to be constitutional and she should thereupon determine not to secede. In all these respects, and perhaps in others, South Carolina appears to me, to have acted unadvisedly. Suppose, however, that she had avoided all these errors, would it not have been nullification still? And with what could you then have reproached her? Suppose that, instead of tariff laws, she had nullified a law declaring all her slaves to be free? Would you not have commended her extraordinary moderation, and her scrupulous respect for her co-States, in submitting to them the question of the constitutionality of such a law, involving directly the highest of her rights? You certainly would, sir; and wherein, then consists the difference? Simply, Mr. Ritchie, in the application of the doctrine, and not in the doctrine. — Hereafter, sir, when you denounce nullification, you should say, in unequivocal terms, that it is not nullification in itself, but South