Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
[merged small][ocr errors]

to abolish one port of entry and establish another, yet we, of course,
cannot concede that it may delegate this power; or, that the sovereign
act of the State, for the vindication of her reserved rights, constitutes
sufficient cause, or that this act has been done in good faith.
The provision of the Act, that all property in the hands of any officer
or other person, detained under any revenue Law, shall be subject only
to the orders and decrees of the Courts of the United States, plainly en-
acts, that it shall not be subject to any process, order or decree of the
Courts of the State. We have heretofore been accustomed to regard our
Superior Courts as having jurisdiction over all persons and all proper-
ty within the limits of the State. This jurisdiction is, of course, super-
ceded, whenever any other Court of concurrent jurisdiction has posses-
sion or custody of any cause or any property. But that a ministerial,
executive officer, or that property in his hands, should be exempted from
the jurisdiction and authority of State Courts, we believe to be unpre-
cedented in our legislation, and without any shadow of Constitutional au-
thority.
One of the most extraordinary and exceptionable provisions of the Act,
appears to be that authorizing the removal, previous to trial, of suits or
prosecutions from the State Courts, upon affidavit made, and a certificate
of the opinion of some counsellor or attorney to the same effect, that the
suit or prosecution was for, or on account of any act done under the Re-
venue Laws of the United States, or under color thereof, or for, or on
account of any right, authority or title, set up or claimed by any officer or
other person, under any such law of the United States. If there be any
violation of the law of the State—if there be a wrong done to person or
property within the limits of the State—have not the Courts of the State
urisdiction of that matter | By what authority does the Congress of the
{. States limit that jurisdiction ? What shadow of Constitutional
provision is there to sanction this most flagrant usurpation ? True, such
a violation of the law of the State may, sometimes, be justified, as being
done in execution of a Constitutional law of the United States; but this
is a matter of defence, to be tried as every other defence is to be tried,
and can have no effect in ousting the jurisdiction, or in giving the Courts
of the United States original jurisdiction of offences against the State
laws. So any person is authorized to bring suit in the Courts of the Uni-
ted States, for any injury to person or property, for, or on account of any
act done in execution of the Revenue Laws. The Constitution gives to
the Courts of the United States, jurisdiction of all cases in law and equi-
ty arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States. An as-
sault on the person or trespass to property, is a violation of the laws of
the State. Can it make a difference, that a violation of the State law was
provoked by an act done under color of executing the law of the United
States The protection of persons and property has, heretofore, been
supposed the province of the States. In assuming to itself this new func-
tion, the Federal Government indicates most clearly its tendency to en-
gross all power, and controul all State authority.
It is plain, likewise, from the various provisions of the Act, that such
suits are intended to be allowed against persons acting in execution of
the process of the State Courts. Judgments of those Courts are de-
clared to be void, and persons and property exempted from their jurisdic-
tlOn. s
It is not only our law but part of the law of the civilized world, that
the judgment of a Court of competent jurisdiction is valid, until it be re-
versed by a competent authority. The judgment of a Superior Court of

general jurisdiction can never be void for want of jurisdiction. When onvention

there are Courts of concurrent jurisdiction, that which obtains possession

Docum ENTs.

1833.

of the cause is entitled to retain it; its process must be respected, and all J-2

other jurisdiction is excluded. It is true, that the judgments of Courts
of limited jurisdiction (and such are the Courts of the United States, and
so they themselves have determined) are void, if the jurisdiction be tran-
scended. This distinction would seem to determine whether sovereignty
is to be attributed to the State or to the Federal authority. Hitherto, it
has never occurred to any one to doubt that an officer, acting in execution
of the process of a Court of general jurisdiction, and all persons acting
under his direction, are exempted from all responsibility for that act. He
is bound under the highest sanction, to execute that process; and shall he
be punished for performing his duty
If this act were submitted to, the entire administration of the criminal
justice of the State might be interrupted; and it is not too much to say,
that the State Governments would be rendered impracticable. The worst
criminal—one stained with the guilt of murder—upon making an affidavit
which no such criminal would hesitate to make, and procuring a certificate
which any criminal might easily procure, would be able to elude the cri-
minal justice of the State. His cause must be removed to the Federal
Court; and when, upon his trial, it shall appear that his act was not done
in execution of the law of the United States, your Committee do not per-
ceive what other consequence can follow, than that he must be acquitted
and go with impunity. -
Having taken this view of the provisions of the act in question, the
Committee would submit to the solemn consideration and determination
of this Convention, whether they do not effect an entire change in the
character of our Constitution, and will not, when carried into practice,
abolish every vestige of liberty, and render this an absolute Consolida-
ted Government, without limitation of powers. It has been truly said,
that if these things may be done, the most solemn acts of the highest au-
thorities of the State may be regarded as the unauthorized proceedings
of individuals; the Courts of justice may be shut up ; the Legislature
dispersed, as a lawless mob; and we, ourselves, representing, as we vain-
ly believe, the sovereignty of the State, called to answer for what we
have said and done on this floor, at the bar of a Circuit Court of the
United States. Is this an exaggerated picture ? Let us examine it a lit-
tle more closely. If these provisions may be made to enforce the exe-
cution of the Revenue Laws of the United States, they may be made to
enforce any other Act which Congress shall think proper to pass. No
matter how oppressive, how clearly unconstitutional, there is no power
in the constituted authorities of the State to resist it. If one class of
cases may be removed from the jurisdiction of the State Courts, any
other class, subject only to the discretion of Congress, may be likewise
removed. If the process of the Courts be void, and the officer executing
it, and those acting under his direction, responsible civilly, or punishable
criminally, the Judge who directed the process must be answerable in
like manner. He was equally without authority, and having commanded
the act, is a partaker of the guilt. The Legislature who commanded
the act of the Judge, and the Convention of the people in obedience to
whose mandate every thing was done, must have the same participation.
If the sheriff and his posse, obstructing the execution of the Revenue
Laws, may constitute that unlawful combination and assemblage, on be-
ing notified of which the President is authorized to use the military force
of the United States to disperse them, then the Courts, the Legislature,

[merged small][ocr errors]

or the Convention, in obedience to whose authority alone the sheriff acts,
and who are the efficient causes of the obstruction, are assemblages of
similar character, and may be dispersed by military force. The whole
purpose of the Act is to confound the acts of the constituted authorities
of the State, however solemn and well considered, with the lawless and
irregular acts of individuals or mobs. The certain effect of it must be, to
restrain the States from the exercise of any other authority than such as
Congress, or the sectional majority represented in Congress, shall think fit
to permit them to exercise; and to ensure the enforcement of every law
which that majority may think proper to enact. It involves the cruelty
and absurdity of making the community responsible to hostile force for its
acts as a community, and the individuals of the community punishable for
their acts in obedience to the laws of their Government; an obedience
from which they cannot exempt themselves, unless they absolve themselves
from their allegiance, by self-banishment.
That the object of many of the politicians who supported this bill—the

politicians of that majority in whose hands all power will be—is to es

tablish a Consolidated Government, is now hardly at all disguised. The chimera of a Government partly consolidated, partly federative, is now scarcely contended for. The same class of politicians have always had in view the same object. It was attempted to be effected in the Convention which framed the Constitution of the United States. The attempt was there foiled. After the formation of the Government, those who af. fected Consolidation, assumed the term of “Federal,” and denied that the opinions held by them led to that resuit. The possession of power, however, developed their views, and the first marked indication of their disposition to engross the powers of the States, and meddle with their internal concerns, was afforded by the Alien and Sedition Laws. This attempt was so strongly rebuked by public opinion, which led to the change of administration in 1800, that the hopes of Consolidation seemed abandoned forever. They remained dormant, until revived by the agitations springing out of our late Protecting System. It was perceived that nothing less strong than a Consolidated Government could sustain that system of iniquity. Gradually, we have been told that the States have parted with a portion of their sovereignty; then, that they were never sovereign; until at length, availing themselves of the excitement of a particular crisis, and passion for power, and the influence of an individual, the act before us has been passed, sweeping away every vestige of State Sovereignty and Reserved Rights, or causing them to be held at the mercy of the majority; compared to which, the Alien and Sedition Laws sink into measures harmless and insignificant.

And what is it to the Southern States, to be subjected to a Consolidated Government These States constitute a minority, and are likely to do so forever. They differ in institutions and modes of industry, from the States of the majority, and have different, and in some degree, incompatible interests. It is to be governed, not with reference to their own interests or according to their own habits and feelings, but with reference to the interests, and according to the prejudices of their rulers, the majority. It has been truly said that the Protecting System constitutes but a small part of our controversy with the Federal Government. Unless we can obtain the recognition of some effectual Constitutional check on the usurpation of power, which can only be derived from the Sovereignty of the States, and their right to interpose for the preservation of their reserved powers, we shall experience oppression more cruel and revolting than this.

While there remains within the States any spirit of liberty, prompting onvention

them to repel Federal usurpations, one of the most obvious means to

Docum ENTs.

[ocr errors]

break that spirit and reduce the States to subjection, will be that which Jo-y

has been attempted by the Act before us. It will be to create or to sustain, by the patronage of Government or other means, a party within the State, devoted to Federal power, exempted from responsibility to the State authorities, and having power to harass and degrade the State authorities, by means of the tribunals of the United States. Thus will be created a Government within a Government, with all the consequences, which experience informs us, are likely to arise from that state of things, and such as did arise from the independent ecclesiastical jurisdictions established within the Governments of Europe. The Federal Government will interfere with every department of the State Governments; it will influence elections; it will raise up and put down parties, as they shall be more servile to its will. Pretexts for interference will never be wanting. Already has it been said, that ours is no longer a Republican Government, because the State, in vindicating its Sovereignty, has refused to entrust with any portion of its authority, those who deny or refuse to recognize that Sovereignty. Other classes of individuals might be found, within the State, whom it might suit the majority to suppose disfranchised, in derogation of true republican principles, and to require their interference and protection. This interference will be practiced at

first with moderation, and with some apparent respect for the rights of

the States. Gradually, as the power of the Government shall be estab-
lished, and the Southern States become weakened and less capable of re-
sistance, the show of moderation will be thrown off. Thus the peace of
those States will be embroiled; their prosperity interrupted, their char-
acter degraded; until in the natural progress of things, your Committee
think it not too strong to say, that they will be more miserable, more
utterly enslaved, more thoroughly debased, than any provinces that have
ever been rendered subject by the sword.
In alluding to the oath, which the State has heretofore thought proper
to exact of its citizens, and to one somewhat similar, which the Commit-
tee propose to recommend, they think proper to disclaim, as they do most
solemnly disclaim, on behalf of themselves and the Convention, that this
or any other measure which the Convention has adopted, has been adopt-
ed upon mere party views, to secure party ascendancy, or gratify party
resentment. They appeal to God, that their only object has been to vin-
dicate their just rights and liberties, and the common liberties of the whole
South. This object they have pursued in singleness of purpose; though
exposed to much obloquy—threatened with much danger, and discounte-
nanced by those from whom they had a right to expect support. They
have never sought to endanger this Union; but to perpetuate it by ren-
dering it compatible with, and a security for liberty.
The firmness of the State seems, at length, in some degree, to have
triumphed. But let it be recollected that the moment of triumph is com-
monly one of danger. Let it be kept in mind, that this is not a contest en
ded, but a contest not more than begun, and not to be determined till this
Act shall cease to disgrace the Statute Book. Let this contest be carried
on firmly, steadily, without passion and without faultering. If the vigi-
lance of the State should relax; if it should cease to raise up barriers
against the head of usurpation, which threatens to overwhelm us, the
torrent will break loose, and sweep our liberties along with it. Let every
man consider this his own peculiar business. If liberty be saved, every
thing is saved : if liberty be lost, every thing is lost.

[merged small][ocr errors]

As the provisions of the Act have reference only to certain Acts of the People and Legislature of this State, which have been superceded by the late modification of the Tariff, it could not have been contemplated that it should have any immediate operation. And your Committee doubted whether, regarding it as merely a menace, they should recommend any action upon it, or only that the sentiments of the Convention should be expressed, in regard to the principles it contains. But most of its provisions are made permanent, and may be put in practice on some future occasion. The Committee cannot doubt that it expresses the true principles of many of those who voted for it, and who will seek occasion to reduce them to practice. As a precedent, it is most dangerous. The vote on the very Act, shows how little is to be expected from a majority. It is incumbent on South Carolina, unsupported as she is, to take care that no Federal authority, unauthorized by our Federal Compact, shall be

exercised within the limits of the State. For the purpose of providing

that the act shall never have operation or effect, within the limits of the State, the Committee beg leave to report the following Ordinance.

AN OR DINANCE,

To Nullify an Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled “An Act further to provide for the Collection of Duties on Imports,” commonly called the Force Bill.

We, the People of the State of South Carolina in Convention assembled, do Declare and Ordain, that the Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled “An Act further to provide for the collection of duties on imports,” approved the 2d day of March, 1833, is unauthorized by the Constitution of the United States, subversive of that Constitution, and destructive of public liberty; and that the same is, and shall be deemed, null and void, within the limits of this State; and it shall be the duty of the Legislature, at such time as they may deem expedient, to adopt such measures and pass such acts as may be necessary to prevent the enforcement thereof, and to inflict proper penalties on any person who shall do any act in execution or enforcement of the same within the limits of this State.

We do further Ordain and Declare, That the allegiance of the citizens of this State, while they continue such, is due to the said State; and that obedience only, and not allegiance, is due by them to any other power or authority, to whom a controul over them has been, or may be delegated by the State; and the General Assembly of the said State is hereby

« ZurückWeiter »