Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

or temporary, but deep, permanent, and intolerable—a single State should rush into conflict with all the rest, attempt to put down the power of the Union by her own laws, and to support those laws by her military power, and thus break up and destroy the world's last hope. And well the world may be incredulous. We, who see and hear it, can ourselves hardly yet believe it. Even after all that had preceded it, this ordinance struck the country with amazement. It was incredible and inconceivable that South Caro. lina should plunge headlong into resistance to the laws on a matter of opinion, and on a question in which the preponderance of opinion, both of the present day and of all past time, was so overwhelmingly against her. The ordinance declares that Congress has exceeded its just power by lay. ing duties on imports, intended for the protection of manufactures. This is the opinion of South Carolina; and on the strength of that opinion she nullifies the laws. Yet has the rest of the country no rigbt to its opinion also ? Is one State to sit sole arbitress ? She maintains that those laws are plain, deliberate, and palpable violations of the Constitution; that she has a sovereign right to decide this matter; and that, having so decided, she is authorized to resist their execution by her own sovereign power; and she declares that she will resist it, though such resistance should shatter the Union into atoms.

Mr. President, I do not intend to discuss the propriety of these laws at large; but I will ask, How are they shown to be thus plainly and palpably unconstitutional ? Have they no countenance at all in the Constitution itself? Are they quite new in the history of the government? Are they a sudden and violent usurpation on the rights of the States ? Sir, what will the civilized world say, what will posterity

say, when they learn that similar laws have existed from the very foundation of the government, that for thirty years the power was never questioned, and that no State in the Union has more freely and unequivocally admitted it than South Carolina herself?

To lay and collect duties and imposts is an express power granted by the Constitution to Congress. It is, also, an exclusive power; for the Constitution as expressly prohibits all the States from exercising it themselves. This express and exclusive power is unlimited in the terms of the grant, but is attended with two specific restrictions: first, that all duties and imposts shall be equal in all the States; second, that no duties shall be laid on exports. The power, then, being granted, and being attended with these two restrictions, and no more, who is to impose a third restriction on the general words of the grant ? If the power to lay duties, as known among all other nations, and as known in all our history, and as it was perfectly understood when the Constitution was adopted, includes a right of discriminating while exercising the power, and of laying some duties heavier and some lighter, for the sake of encouraging our own domestic products, what authority is there for giving to the words used in the Constitution a new, narrow, and unusual meaning? All the limitations which the Constitution intended, it has expressed; and what it has left unrestricted is as much a part of its will as the restraints which it has imposed.

But these laws, it is said, are unconstitutional on account of the motive. How, sir, can a law be examined on any such ground? How is the motive to be ascertained ? One House, or one member, may have one motive; the other House, or another member, another. One motive may operate to-day, and another to-morrow. Upon any such mode of reasoning as this, one law might be unconstitutional now, and another law, in exactly the same words, perfectly constitutional next year. Besides, articles may not only be taxed for the purpose of protecting home products, but other articles may be left free, for the same purpose and with the same motive. A law, therefore, would become unconstitutional from what it omitted, as well as from what it contained. Mr. President, it is a settled principle, acknowledged in all legislative halls, recognized before all tribunals, sanctioned by the general sense and understanding of mankind, that there can be no inquiry into the motives of those who pass laws, for the purpose of determining on their validity. If the law be within the fair meaning of the words in the grant of the power, its authority must be admitted until it is repealed. This rule, everywhere acknowledged, everywhere admitted, is so universal and so completely without exception, that even an allegation of fraud, in the majority of a Legislature, is not allowed as a ground to set aside a law.

But, sir, is it true that the motive for these laws is such as is stated ? I think not. The great object of all these laws is, unquestionably, revenue. If there were no occasion for revenue, the laws would not have been passed; and it is notorious that almost the entire revenue of the country is derived from them. And as yet we have collected none too much revenue. The treasury has not been more reduced for many years than it is at the present moment. All that South Carolina can say is, that, in passing the laws which she now undertakes to nullify, particular imported articles were taxed, from a regard to the protection of certain arti. cles of domestic manufacture, higher than they would have been had no such regard been entertained. And she insists, tbat, according to the Constitution, no such discrimi. nation can be allowed; that duties should be laid for revenue, and revenue only; and that it is unlawful to have reference, in any case, to protection. In other words, she denies the power of discrimination. She does not, and cannot, complain of excessive taxation; on the contrary, she professes to be willing to pay any amount for revenue, merely as revenue; and up to the present moment there is no surplus of revenue. Her grievance, then, that plain and palpable violation of the Constitution, which she insists has taken place, is simply the exercise of the power of discrimination. Now, sir, is the exercise of this power of discrimination plainly and palpably unconstitutional ?

I have already said, the power to lay duties is given by the Constitution in broad and general terms. There is also conferred on Congress the whole power of regulating commerce, in another distinct provision. Is it clear and palpable, sir, can any man say it is a case beyond doubt, that, under these two powers, Congress may not justly discrimi. nate, in laying duties, for the purpose of countervailing the policy of foreign nations, or of favoring our own home productions ? Sir, what ought to conclude this question forever, as it would seem to me, is, that the regulation of commerce and the imposition of duties are, in all commercial nations, powers avowedly and constantly exercised for this very end. That undeniable truth ought to settle the question; because the Constitution ought to be considered, when it uses wellknown language, as using it in its well-known sense. But it is equally undeniable, that it has been, from the very first, fully believed that this power of discrimination was

87-Orations—Vol. VIL

[ocr errors]

conferred on Congress; and the Constitution was itself recommended, urged upon the people, and enthusiastically insisted on in some of the States, for that very reason. Not that, at that time, the country was extensively engaged in manufactures, especially of the kinds now existing. But the trades and crafts of the seaport towns, the business of the artisans and manual laborers—those employments, the work in which supplies so great a portion of the daily wants of all classes—all these looked to the new Constitution as a source of relief from the severe distress which followed the war. It would, sir, be unpardonable, at so late an hour, to go into details on this point; but the truth is as I have stated. The papers of the day, the resolutions of public meetings, the debates in the Conventions, all that we open our eyes upon in the history of the times, prove it.

Sir, the honorable gentleman from South Carolina has referred to two incidents connected with the proceedings of the Convention of Philadelphia, which he thinks are evidence to show that the power of protecting manufactures by laying duties, and by commercial regulations, was not intended to be given to Congress. The first is, as he says, that a power to protect manufactures was expressly proposed, but not granted. I think, sir, the gentleman is quite mistaken in relation to this part of the proceedings of the Convention. The whole history of the occurrence to which he alludes is simply this. Toward the conclusion of the Convention, after the provision of the Constitution had been mainly agreed upon, after the power to lay duties and the power to regulate commerce had both been granted, a long list of propositions was made and referred to the committee, containing various miscellaneous powers, some or all of which it was thought might be properly vested in Congress/

« ZurückWeiter »