Page:Works of John C. Calhoun, v2.djvu/296

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280
SPEECHES.

evidence of record, and of such a character that it ought to close his lips for ever.

I turn now to consider the other, and, apparently, contradictory aspect in which the Senator presented this part of the subject: I mean that in which he states that the Government is founded in compact, but is no longer a compact. I have already remarked, that no other interpretation could be given to this assertion, except that the constitution was once a compact, but is no longer so. There was a vagueness and indistinctness in this part of the Senator's argument, which left me altogether uncertain as to its real meaning. If he meant, as I presume he did, that the compact is an executed, and not an executory one—that its object was to create a government, and to invest it with proper authority—and that, having executed this office, it had performed its functions, and, with it, had ceased to exist, then we have the extraordinary avowal that the constitution is a dead letter—that it has ceased to have any binding effect, or any practical influence or operation.

It has, indeed, often been charged that the constitution has become a dead letter; that it is continually violated, and has lost all its control over the Government; but no one has ever before been bold enough to advance a theory on the avowed basis that it was an executed, and, therefore, an extinct instrument. I will not seriously attempt to refute an argument, which, to me, appears so extravagant. I had thought that the constitution was to endure for ever; and that, so far from its being an executed contract, it contained great trust powers for the benefit of those who created it, and of all future generations,—which never could be finally executed during the existence of the world, if our Government should so long endure.

I will now return to the first resolution, to see how the issue stands between the Senator from Massachusetts and myself. It contains three propositions. First, that the