Government. Suppose, for instance, that the President should send a regiment of his standing army, to turn our Legislature out of doors, and pull down the capitol, I presume that Governor Floyd would be clearly right in calling upon the militia to put every soldier of them to the sword, if the civil authority should prove unable to "arrest the progress of the evil." At all events, the Legislature might authorize him to do so. This, however, is an extreme case, and such as could not have been anticipated; for the Government could not exist a day, with an administration capable of such an outrage. An actual appeal to arms, therefore, is not to be thought of, as among the proposed modes of resistance.
3. A repeal of the unconstitutional law by Congress. This, I perceive, is one of the President's modes, but unfortunately, he is not very apt to discern the principles which his measures involve. This would, indeed, be a complete remedy for the evil, and an ample redress of the wrong.—You know, however, sir, that although you may "call spirits from the vasty deep," it is not certain that they will "come when you do call them." It is not likely that the usurper will either acknowledge his usurpation, or lay down his usurped power. You must remember, too, that the usurper in the present case, is a majority of the people, usurping upon the rights of the minority, and the history of the tariff laws, ought to convince you how unapt such usurpers are to give way. This remedy, therefore, would be of little value in practice. Besides, it is in principle, a simple appeal to the wrong doer, and is therefore, no more a mode of resistance, than the right of petition. Every thing is left at last, to the will and discretion of the usurping power.
4. An amendment of the Constitution. I certainly should not have mentioned this as a means of resistance, if it had not been mentioned by the President, as one of the modes in which the aggrieved States, or people, might seek redress. No man, but one of his peculiar intellect, would ever think of an amendment of the Constitution, as a means of resisting a breach of that instrument. It is not the object to amend the Constitution, but to preserve it, unimpaired as it is. I hope that the President's future labours, in the study of the Constitution, may show him this distinction.
5. Secession, or a withdrawal from the Union by the aggrieved State. This, sir, is your favourite mode, and, as far as I can perceive, your only mode, of resisting the usurpations of the Federal Government. The President, however, in the plenitude of his merciful consideration of State Rights, does not even allow them this humble refuge from oppression. Let us now see how you will carry out this mode of resistance, consistently with the resolutions of 1798.
In the first place, a State which withdraws from the Union, breaks the Union. This is true ex vi termini, and therefore, need not be proved. But I have already shown that the resolutions of 1798, proceed upon the idea, that the Union is to be preserved, and indeed, that is the main object of resistance, as therein contemplated. In this respect, therefore, secession is not a means of resistance: within those resolutions.
In the second place, the resistance therein contemplated, must be such as will "arrest the progress of the evil." Will you be so obliging as to tell me, sir, how a usurped power can be resisted, by giving way to it. In one way, indeed, the evil may be arrested by secession; the usurped power may be rendered nugatory, by withdrawing from its reach, all the subjects upon which it can exercise itself. I can scarcely imagine, however, that this tame and submissive idea, was entertained by the statesmen of 1798. It appears to my humble understanding, that secession, so far from being a form of resistance to usurped power, is the precise reverse; it is neither more nor less than a running away from the oppressor. And so far from "arresting the progress of the evil," it encourages and invites the evil, by removing all restraint from the wrong-doer. In this view, therefore, it is not within the resolutions of 1798.
In the third place, the interposition of the States, must be such as to maintain within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties, appertaining to them." Now, what are these "authorities, rights and liberties?" To you, sir, I need not say, that as sovereign and independent States, they are entitled to all the authorities, rights and liberties, which at any time, belonged to them as such, except such part thereof, as they plainly surrendered when they ratified the Constitution. These they may, it is true, enjoy in a state of separation. But they are also entitled to all the authorities, rights and liberties, which the other States guarantied to them by the terms of the Union. Among these are to be numbered their just weight in the measures of the common government; a share in the common property of the whole; protection by the common power; a Republican Government assured by that power, and all and every benefit and advantage which they could enjoy as members of the Union. It was in this character alone, that their co-operation was invoked in the resolution of 1798. And now, sir, be good enough to say, how the authorities, rights and liberties, which belong to the States, as members of the Union, can be "maintained," by their going out of the Union. If you cannot, you must feel yourself also, secession is not within the resolutions of 1798. I know you will tell me that these resolutions have been much misunderstood. You have already said so, and much subtlety in reasoning, and refinement in language, have been resorted to by your correspondents to prove it. It is for this very reason, that I have taken such parts of the resolution only, as no man can misunderstand, and such as do not admit of but one construction. You may refine until doomsday, and you will not change the plain meaning and object of the plain language employed.
I have thus examined every mode of "arresting the progress of the evil, and maintaining within the respective limits of the States, the authorities, rights and liberties which appertain to them," which occur to my mind, except nullification. It appears, I think, clearly enough, that none of these will answer the purpose. If there by any other mode, you will confer a great benefit upon the country, by pointing it out. I promise to prove to you that Nullification is this other mode, but I must make that the business of another letter. I have already occupied quite as much space in the Whig as I am fairly entitled to, and would not willingly trespass too far upon the indulgence of its Editors. Besides, sir, although you may not consider these letters worthy of being answered, I am very desirous that they should be read, and, therefore, I will make them so short as not to deter any one from perusing them, and not to fatigue any one over much, who shall venture upon that undertaking.