Page:Examiner, Journal of Political Economy, v2n04.djvu/1

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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. 4.
Wednesday, September 17, 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. I.

The confidence which was hertofore felt in the soundness of your political principles has caused your paper to be read in almost every family in Virginia. Hundreds, nay thousands of our citizens read no other. The necessary consequence is, that you exert a powerful influence over the public mind. Indeed, sir, it cannot be denied, that even in the laborious retirement of your closet, you are felt in the daily exertion of no unimportant power over the affairs of this Government. I will not be so presumptuous as to offer you advice; for I am sure that you feel, with due sensibility, the duty which your position imposes on you, of doing nothing which may mislead the public judgment, in the present awful crisis. I may be permitted to say to you, however, with perfect respect, and certainly in no unfriendly spirit, that many of your readers do not consider your present course strictly consistent with your former principles. It is true, that you have, on more occasions than one, professed to give us your political faith, and so far as your abstract principles are concerned, we have, perhaps, but little reason to complain of you. But you have dealt with us too much in generalities. It is not enough that you should profess yourself a friend to State Rights. We are all of us friendly, not only to State Rights, but to every other right which we are willing to acknowledge as such. But you have not yet told us, with sufficient clearness, what these State Rights are. We can no longer satisfy ourselves with abstractions in principle or speculations in reasoning. The time for action has arrived. The arm of the Federal Government is even now uplifted to shed the blood of our citizens. It is time for us to know, not only that we have rights, but also, in what those rights consist, and in what manner they may be asserted. You have taken a strong and decided stand against the doctrine of Nullification; nay, you can scarcely speak of it in any other language than that of contempt and derision. But you have not, so far as I recollect, favoured your readers with any detailed argument upon the subject. Neither have you distinctly told us what alternative you propose. You do indeed, contend for the right of Secession, but I have not been able to discover whether you consider this right merely as one inherent in every political community, and therefore independent of the Constitution, or whether you propose it as a remedy for a breach of that instrument. In this state of uncertainty, as to the course which the leading journal of our State would wish us to pursue, it is a matter of no small interest to us, that you should come out more explicitly than heretofore. Permit me, then, as a citizen neither very young, nor wholly unconnected; as one who considers every thing which he cherishes in our institutions in the most imminent peril; as one who sincerely believes that you can form the public mind of Virginia, and that Virginia can control the destinies of this once happy Union, to entreat you to answer explicitly the following interrogatories. They are propounded, not in the spirit of a controversialist, but with a deep conviction that they involve the only principles upon which the rights of the States can be maintained, and of course the only security against a consolidated and essentially monarchical government:

1. Is there, or is there not, any principle in the Constitution of the United States, by which the States may resist the usurpations of the Federal Government; or are such usurpations to be resisted only by revolution?

2. If there be no principle, is not the Federal Government as unlimited in its powers as any other Government as unlimited in its powers as any other Government whatever be its form, whose encroachments upon the rights of the citizen can be repelled only by rebellion, or other application of physical force?

If you believe, as I am sure you do believe, that there is such conservative principle in the Constitution, then I beg the favour of you to point it out, and tell us in what manner we may render it available. In doing this, be pleased to answer—

3. Is not the passing a law by Congress which the Constitution does not authorise, a usurpation on the part of that body? And is not every such unconstitutional law absolutely void, as passed by a delegated authority, beyond the limits of that authority?

4. Are the States bound to submit to laws which are unconstitutional, and therefore void?

5. If the States are not so bound to submit, is not the particular State which refuses to submit, right in so doing?

6. If the recusant State be right in her refusal to submit, are not the other States wrong in compelling her to submit? Is it not oppression of the worst sort, to coerce obedience to usurped power?

The above questions are propounded upon the hypothesis that Congress may have actually passed a law palpably and dangerously violating the Constitution. And now be pleased to tell us in what