State Documents on Federal Relations/33
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Massachusetts on Extension of Territorial Limits.
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33. Massachusetts on the Extension of Territorial Limits.
June 16, 1813.
The spring election of 1813 resulted in the Federalists securing control of both branches of the General Court, as well as in the re-election of Governor Strong. The Governor in his Speech referred to territorial extension (Resolves of Mass. (1812–15), 231) and the House in its Answer considered the effect of extension on the future influence of New England. (Ibid., 238, 239.) Josiah Quincy, who had opposed the admission of Louisiana, in a strong state rights speech in Congress January 14, 1811, had declined a re-election to that body, but accepted a seat in the State Senate, and at once took the lead in opposing the policy of the Federal Government. He was Chairman of the Committee that drew up the Report and Resolutions relative to the extension of Territory, extracts from which follow. A Remonstrance against the war, June 15, 1813, also contained a protest against the extension of territory.
References: The text of the Report and Resolutions is given in Resolves of Mass. (1812–15), 310–318; also in Niles, IV, 285–287. For the Remonstrance against the war, see Resolves of Mass., 338, 339; also in Amer. State Papers, Misc., II, 210–214; and in Niles, IV, 297–301; the Protest of the Minority is also included in last two references. Quincy's speech in Congress, cf. Annals, 11 Cong., III, 523–542; Johnston, Amer. Orations (ed. 1897), I, 180–204; Edmund Quincy, Life of Josiah Quincy, 205–218. For letter of Pickering on the resolutions, cf. Ibid., 323, 324. General references: Of especial value, Quincy's Quincy, chs. XII, XIII; Adams, V, 325, 326; VII, 64–66; Barry, Mass., III, 398, 399; Hildreth, VI, 226–228, 426–429; McMaster, III, 376–378; IV, 211–213; V, 408–411; Schouler, II, 314, 315, 420–422; Von Hoist, I, 250–252.
The question touching the admission, into the Union, of states, created in territories, lying without the ancient limits of the United States, has been considered, by your Committee, in relation to constitutional principles and political consequences. By an Act of the Congress of the United States, passed the 8th day of April, 1812, entitled "an Act for the admission of the State of Louisiana into the Union and to extend the laws of the United States to the said State," the said State of Louisiana was admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the other States. This act was, in the opinion of your Committee, a manifest usurpation, by the Congress of the United States, of a power not granted to that body by the federal constitution. The State of Louisiana was formed, in countries situated beyond the limits of the old United States; according as those limits were established by the treaty of Paris, commonly called the Treaty of Peace, in the year 1783; and as they existed, at the time of the formation and adoption of the federal constitution. And the position which your Committee undertake to maintain is this, that the Constitution of the United States did not invest Congress with the power to admit into the Union, States created in territories not included within the limits of the United States; as they existed, at the peace of 1783, and at the formation and adoption of the Constitution.
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Now the State of Louisiana lies without those limits; and on this distinction the whole question of constitutional right depends. The power, assumed by Congress, in passing this act for the admission of Louisiana, if acquiesced in, is plainly a power to admit new States into this Union, at their discretion, without limit of place or country. Not only new States may be carved, at will, out of the boundless regions of Louisiana, but the whole extent of South America, indeed of the globe, is a sphere, within which it may operate without check or control, and with no other limit than such as Congress may choose to impose on its own discretion. [Here follows a detailed examination of the Constitution in refutation of the constitutionality of annexation and admission of new States.]
Now it is very apparent to your Committee, that the power to admit States, created in territories, beyond the limits of the old United States is one of the most critical and important, whether we consider its nature, or its consequences. It is, in truth, nothing less than the power to create in foreign countries, new political sovereignties, and to divest the old United States of a proportion of their political sovereignty, in favor of such foreigner. It is a power, which, in the opinion of your Committee, no wise people ever would have delegated, and which, they are persuaded, the people of the United States, and certainly, the people of Massachusetts, never did delegate. The proportion of the political weight of each foreign State, composing this union, depends upon the number of the States, which have a voice under the compact. This number, the Constitution permits Congress to multiply, at pleasure, within the limits of the original States, observing, only, the expressed limitations, in the Constitution. To pass these limitations and admit States, beyond the ancient boundaries, is, in the opinion of your Committee, an usurpation, as dangerous as it is manifest, inasmuch as these exterior States, after being admitted on an equal footing with the original States, may, and as they multiply, certainly will become, in fact, the arbiters of the destinies of the nation; by availing themselves of the contrariety of interests and views which in such a confederacy of States necessarily arise, they hold the balance among the respective parties and govern the States, constitutionally composing the Union, by throwing their weight into whatever scale is most conformable to the ambition or projects of such foreign States.
Your Committee cannot, therefore, but look with extreme regret and reprobation upon the admission of the territory of Louisiana to an equal footing with the original and constitutionally admitted States; and they cannot but consider the principle, asserted by this admission, as an usurpation of power, portending the most serious consequences to the perpetuation of this Union and the liberties of the American people.
Although the character of this usurpation and its ultimate consequences ought, naturally, to excite an extreme degree of alarm in this quarter of the country, as it indicates that new and unconstitutional arbiters, remote from our interests and ignorant of them, are admitted into the Union, yet the nature of the remedy is, in the opinion of your Committee, a subject of much more difficulty than the certainty of the mischief.
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Nevertheless, in the opinion of your Committee, the Legislature of Massachusetts owe it to themselves, to the people of this State and to future generations, to make an open and distinct avowal of their sentiments upon this topick, to the end that no sanction may appear to be derived from their silence; and also that other States may be led to consider this intrusion of a foreign State into our confederacy, under this usurped authority, in a constitutional point of view as well as in its consequences, and that, thereby, a concurrence of sentiment and a coincidence of councils may result; whence alone can be hoped a termination of this usurpation, and of the evils, which are, apparently, about to flow from it.
Your Committee, therefore, propose for the adoption of the Legislature, the following resolutions:—
Resolved, As the sense of this Legislature, that the admission into the Union of States created in countries not comprehended within the original limits of the United States, is not authorized by the letter or the spirit of the federal Constitution.
Resolved, That it is the interest and duty of the people of Massachusetts, to oppose the admission of such States into the Union, as a measure tending to the dissolution of the confederacy.
Resolved, That the Act passed the eighth day of April, 1812, entitled "an Act for the admission of the State of Louisiana into the Union and to extend the laws of the United States to the said State," is, in the opinion of this Legislature, a violation of the Constitution of the United States; and that the Senators of this State, in Congress, be instructed, and the Representatives thereof requested, to use their utmost endeavors to obtain a repeal of the same.
Resolved, That the Secretary of this Commonwealth be directed to transmit a copy of these Resolutions to each of the Senators and Representatives of this Commonwealth, in the Congress of the United States.
[Resolves of Massachusetts (1813), 310–318. Boston, 1813.]
- For action of Massachusetts in 1804 and 1809 in consequence of the annexation of Louisiana, see ante, 27, and note.