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hoped, would lead the armies of the North, in a possible contest with the Federal Government, and who was no other than . ALEXANDER HAMILTON. The sentiments of disunion were in existence at the North at an early period, certainly as early as 1796, not long after the ratification of JAY's treaty was opposed by Mr. MADISON, Mr. GILEs, and other leading men of the South, and just before the election of Mr. ADAMs, who was destined to meet with opposition to his election from the Southern States, and then with embarrassments during his administration, and finally with defeat when candidate a second time. The following is an extract from a very able series of papers, signed PELHAM, and published in the Connecticut Courant, in Hartford, 1796: “I shall, in the future papers, consider some of the great events which will lead to a separation of the United States ; show the importance of retaining their present Constitution, even at the expense of a separation; endeavor to prove the responsibility of a Union for a long period in future, both from the moral and political habits of the citizens of the Northern States; and finally, examine carefully to see whether we have not already approached to the era when they must be divided.” These sentiments gathered strength during Mr. JEFFERSON's administration, from the purchase of Louisiana and the restrictions upon commerce, until, in 1809, they became so well known, that an agent, John HENRY, was sent by the Governor-general of Canada, Sir JAMES CRAIG, into New England, in reference to a co-operation with England, and a union with Canada. These sentiments still gathered strength during Mr. MADISON's administration, until they culminated in the appointment of the Hartford Convention, and brought the Eastern States to the very verge of disunion. For this the General Government was held responsible. “If, by your violence and oppression, you drive off New England from the Confederacy, you must answer for it. And you have already driven them to the very brink. One step more, and the union of these States is severed.”—Federal Republican. This was a matter of general notoriety throughout the country. The following is an extract from a letter addressed to
ELBRIDGE GERRY, of Massachusetts, dated June 11, 1812, from Mr. JEFFERSON: “What then does this English faction with you mean? Their newspapers say, rebellion, and that they will not continue united with us, unless we will permit them to govern the majority. * * They count on British aid. But what can that avail them by land 8 They would separate from their friends, who alone furnish employment for their navigation, to unite with their only rival, for that employment. * * But I trust that such perverseness will not be that of the honest and wellmeaning mass of the Federalists of Massachusetts; and that when the question of separation and rebellion shall be nakedly proposed to them, the GoREs and the PICKERINGs will find their levees crowded with silk stocking gentry, but no yeomanry; an army of officers, but no soldiers.”
1. When the North was the dominant section in the General Government, Southern statesmen placed themselves on the reserved rights of the States, to resist the encroachments of federal power, under the first two Presidents; as in the case of the assumption of State debts, and of the charter of the United States Bank; and of the alien and sedition laws. When the South became the dominant section in the General Government, the Northern States placed themselves on the same reserved rights of the States, to resist the encroachments of federal power, under Presidents JEFFERSON and MADISON; as in the case of the purchase of Louisiana, and of the restrictions upon commerce; and of the requisition to place the militia of the States under federal officers. In each case the dominant party was opposed to the doctrines of State rights. The North was opposed to the Virginia and the Kentucky resolutions. The South was opposed to the doctrines of the Hartford Convention. g 2. The doctrine of State rights was asserted in 1798 by Wirginia, and in 1814 by Massachusetts, in a manner corresponding with the character of the people of the two States. In a letter, dated Dec. 18, 1814, addressed to JAMES LLOYD, of Massachusetts, John RANDoIPH writes: “A Virginia and a New England Republican are about as much alike as an English whig and a French democrat.” And yet the doctrines of State rights, as enunciated by Northern statesmen and by Southern statesmen, are substantially the same. The Northern view and the Southern in these cases were nearly the same. a. That the Constitution is federal, namely, a compact between the States, and was made by the States, namely by the people of each State, acting for the State, and not by solitary individuals, each acting for himself—See Gouverneur Morris's Declaration, Dr. S. Johnson's Remarks, doc. b. That the Constitution was formed for the States, and for individuals only as a citizen of a State. c. That all powers not distinctly given to the General Government, are reserved to the States; and that it is just as important that the reserved powers should remain unimpaired, as that the granted powers should be unimpaired. d. That each State, as a party to the compact, must judge as to the powers granted, and of any violation of the compact. e. That if a dispute should arise between a State and its coStates, in respect to what powers are granted and what powers are reserved, an amendment to the compact by a Convention of the States, or otherwise, must settle the doubtful point. f. That if the compact be broken by the States “on one side, it is broken on all sides.” 3. Violent resistance was, during the War of 1812, threatened against some of the requisitions of the Federal Government. Governor TRUMBULL of Connecticut, took the ground, that on great emergencies, when the National Legislature had been led to overstep its Constitutional powers, it became the right and the duty of the State Legislatures “to interpose their protecting shield between the rights and the liberties of the people, and the assumed power of the General Government.” Governor CHITTENDEN, of Vermont, had issued his proclamation, recalling the Vermont militia. And when a member of Congress proposed to instruct the Attorney-general to prosecute Governor CHITTENDEN, “Mr. OTIs laid on the table of the Massachusetts senate a resolve expressive of the duty and readiness of Massachusetts, to aid with her whole power the Governor of Ver
mont, and the people of any other State, in support of Constitutional rights, by whomsoever infringed.” By a legislative act, the authorities of the United States were forbid “to use the gaols in Massachusetts for the confinement of prisoners committed by any other than judicial authority; and the gaolers were directed, at the end of thirty days, to discharge all British officers, prisoners of war, committed to them for close confinement.” A Bill for the enlistment of minors having passed Congress, the Legislatures of Connecticut and Massachusetts “proceeded to pass an act requiring the State judges to discharge, on habeas corpus, all minors enlisted without the consent of their parents or guardians, and subjecting to fine and imprisonment any persons concerned in any such enlistment, who should remove any minor out of the State, so that he could not be then discharged.” 4. Mr. MADIson was greatly disturbed and annoyed by the meeting of the Hartford Convention, and by the necessity of meeting the commissioners appointed by Massachusetts and Connecticut. But the tidings of peace came, just as they arrived in Washington, and relieved him from the necessity of receiving them in the character of commissioners, and of entering into negotiations with them on the subject of their mission; but placed them in a very awkward position. On the arrival of the intelligence that a treaty of peace had been signed, the people of Washington hastened to the President's levee, in the fulness of their joy. One, who was present, told me, that the hilarity exceeded all common bounds; that, not satisfied with congratulating one another once, they would, many of them, repeat the congratulations. Mr. MADIsoN acted as if a great load had been removed from his mind. Mrs. MADISON was more of a queen than ever. When the mirth was at the highest, the commissioners were announced. Immediately, from the shock, there was a universal stillness, like that in a church. They were received by Mr. and Mrs. MADISON with all due courtesy; but it was some minutes before the assembly relapsed into its former hilarity, and before the commissioners were restored to their natural dignity and self-possession. 5. What course would have been taken in New England, if peace had not been declared, it is impossible to say. How far the General Government might have been disposed to comply with the proposals or demands of the Hartford Convention, it is impossible to say. But this much can be said, that the men who were concerned in this sectional movement, in the State Legislatures and the Convention, were men of the highest character for intelligence, virtue, and patriotism; as also were those concerned in the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions in 1798–'9. In each case they knew their rights, and knowing, they dared to maintain them.
6. The reserved rights of the States need to be constantly kept before the minds of those who are called to act in the legislative, the executive, and the judicial departments of the General Government, lest they should lose their influence, and the granted powers become, in practice, too much enlarged. There is a strong centralizing tendency, arising from that love of power which is inherent in human nature, from a desire to carry out certain measures deemed useful, but which the Constitution does not authorize; and especially from the great patronage of the Government, which it can use to induce men to support its usurpation.
7. The relations of the Federal Government to the State Governments are not well understood. The following are the remarks of Mr. JEFFERSON: .
“With respect to our State and Federal Governments, I do
not think that their relations are correctly understood by foreigners. They generally suppose the former to be subordinate to the latter. But this is not the case. They are co-ordinate departments of one simple and integral whole. But you may ask, if the two departments should claim each the same subject of power, where is the common umpire to decide between them? In cases of little importance and urgency, the prudence of both parties will keep them aloof from the questionable ground; but if it can neither be avoided, nor compromised, a Convention of the States must be called to ascribe the doubtful power to that department which they may think best.”
RossuTH, it is said, formed an exception to this general remark respecting foreigners; for he understood at once the nature of the American Confederacy. “It is,” said he, “a Re, public, composed of republics.”