opinions, in defiance of the opinions of all others; the liberty of judging and of deciding exclusively themselves, in a matter in which others have as much right to judge and decide as they; the liberty of placing their own opinions above the judgment of all others, above the laws, and above the Constitution. This is their liberty, and this is the fair result of the proposition contended for by the honorable gentleman. Or it may be more properly said, it is identical with it, rather than a result from it.
In the same publication, we find the following: “Previously to our Revolution, when the arm of oppression was stretched over New England, where did our northern brethren meet with a braver sympathy than that which sprung from the bosoms of Carolinians. We had no extortion, no oppression, no collision with the King’s ministers, no navigation interests springing up, in envious rivalry of England.”
This seems extraordinary language. South Carolina no collision with the King’s ministers, in 1775 ! No extortion! No oppression! But, sir, it is also most significant language. Does any man doubt the purpose for which it was penned? Can any one fail to see that it was designed to raise in the reader’s mind the question, whether, at this time —that is to say, in 1828 — South Carolina has any collision with the King’s ministers, any oppression, or extortion, to fear from England? Whether, in short, England is not as naturally the friend of South Carolina as New England, with her navigation interests springing up in envious rivalry of England?
Is it not strange, sir, that an intelligent man in South Carolina, in 1828, should thus labor to prove, that, in 1775, there was no hostility, no cause of war, between South Carolina and England? That she had no occasion, in reference to her own interest, or from a regard to her own welfare, to take up arms in the revolutionary contest? Can any one account for the expression of such strange sentiments, and their circulation through the State, otherwise than by supposing the object to be, what I have already intimated, to raise the question, if they had no “collision” (mark the expression) with the ministers of King George the Third, in 1775, what collision have they, in 1828, with the ministers of King George the Fourth? What is there now, in the existing state of things, to separate Carolina from Old, more, or rather, than from New England?
Resolutions, sir, have been recently passed by the Legislature of South Carolina. I need not refer to them: they go no farther than the honorable gentleman himself has gone—and, I hope, not so far. I content myself, therefore, with debating the matter with him.
And now, sir, what I have first to say on this subject is, that, at no time, and under no circumstances, has New England, or any State in New England, or any respectable body of persons in New England, or any public man of standing in New England, put forth such a doctrine as this Carolina doctrine.
The gentleman has found no case, he can find none, to support his own opinions by New England authority. New England has studied the Constitution in other schools, and under other teachers. She looks upon it with other regards, and deems more highly and reverently, both of its just authority, and its utility and excellence. The history of her legislative proceedings may be traced—the ephemeral effusions of temporary bodies, called together by the excitement of the occasion, may be hunted up—they have been hunted up. The opinions and votes of her public men, in and out of Congress, may be explored—it will all be in vain. The Carolina doctrine can derive from her neither countenance nor support. She rejects it now; she always did reject it; and till she loses her senses, she always will reject it. The honorable member has referred to expressions, on the subject of the Embargo law, made in this place, by an honorable and venerable gentleman, (Mr. Hillhouse) now favoring us with his presence. He quotes that distinguished Senator as saying, that, in his judgment, the embargo law was unconstitutional, and that, therefore, in his opinion, the People were not bound to obey it. That, sir, is perfectly constitutional language. An unconstitutional law is not binding; but then it does not rest with a resolution or a law of a State Legislature to decide whether an act of Congress be, or be not, constitutional. An unconstitutional act of Congress would not bind the People of this District, although they have no legislature to interfere in their behalf; and, on the other hand, a constitutional law of Congress does bind the citizens of every State, although all their legislatures should undertake to annul it, by act or resolution. The venerable Connecticut Senator is a constitutional lawyer, of sound principles, and enlarged knowledge; a statesman practised and experienced, bred in the company of Washington, and holding just views upon the nature of our Governments. He believed the embargo unconstitutional, and so did others; but what then? Who, did he suppose, was to decide that question? The State Legislatures? Certainly not. No such sentiment ever escaped his lips. Let us follow up, sir, this New England opposition to the embargo laws; let us trace it, till we discern the principle, which controlled and governed New England, throughout the whole course of that opposition. We shall then see what similarity there is between the New England school of constitutional opinions, and this modern Carolina school. The gentleman, I think, read a petition from some single individual, addressed to the Legislature of Massachusetts, asserting the Carolina doctrine—that is, the right of State interference to arrest the laws of the Union. The fate of that petition shows the sentiment of the legislature. It met no favor. The opinions of Massachusetts were otherwise. They had been expressed, in 1798, in answer to the resolutions of Virginia, and she did not depart from them, nor bend them to the times. Misgoverned, wronged, oppressed, as she felt herself to be, she still held fast her integrity to the Union. The gentleman may find in her proceedings much evidence of dissatisfaction with the measures of Government, and great and deep dislike to the Embargo; all this makes the case so much the stronger for her; for, notwithstanding all this dissatisfaction and dislike, she claimed no right, still, to sever asunder the bonds of the Union. There was heat, and there was anger, in her political feeling—be it so—her heat or her anger did not, nevertheless, betray her into infidelity to the Government. The gentleman labors to prove that she disliked the Embargo, as much as South Carolina dislikes the Tariff, and expressed her dislike as strongly. Be it so; but did she propose the Carolina remedy?—did she threaten to interfere, by State authority, to annul the laws of the Union? That is the question for the gentleman’s consideration.
No doubt, sir, a great majority of the People of New England conscientiously believed the Embargo law of 1807 unconstitutional; as conscientiously, certainly, as the People of South Carolina hold that opinion of the Tariff. They reasoned thus: Congress has power to regulate commerce; but here is a law, they said, stopping all commerce, and stopping it indefinitely. The law is perpetual; that is, it is not limited in point of time, and must, of course, continue, until it shall be repealed by some other law. It is as perpetual, therefore, as the law against treason or murder. Now, is this regulating commerce, or destroying it? Is it guiding, controlling, giving the rule to commerce, as a subsisting thing; or is it putting an end to it altogether? Nothing is more certain, than that a majority in New England, deemed this law a violation of the Constitution. The very case required by the gentleman, to justify State interference, had then arisen. Massachusetts believed this law to be “a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of a power, not granted by the Constitution.” Deliberate it was, for it was long continued; palpable, she thought it,