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gentleman his principal proposition, viz., that the constitution is a coinpaci between states, the question would still be, What provision is made, in this compact, to settle points of disputed construction, or contested power, that shall come into controversy? And this question would still be answered, and conclusively answered, by the constitution itself.
While the gentleman is contending against construction, he himself is setting up the most loose and dangerous construction. The constitution declares, that the laws of congress passed in pursuance of the constitution shall be the supreme law of the land. No construction is necessary here. It derlares, also, with equal plainness and precision, that the judicial power of the United States shall extend to every case arising under the laws of congress. This needs no construction. Here is a law, then, which is declared to be supreme; and here is a power es tablished, which is to interpret that law. Now, sir, how has the gentleman met this ? Suppose the constitution to be a compact, yet here are its terms; and how does the gentleman get rid of them ? He cannot argue the seal off the bond, nor the words out of the instrument. Here they are; what answer does he give to them ? None in the world, sir, except, that the effect of this would be to place the states in a condition of infe. riority; and because it results from the very nature of things, there being no superior, that the parties must be their own judges! Thus closely and cogently does the honorable gentle man reason on the words of the constitution. The gentleman says, if there be such a power of final decision in the general government, he asks for the grant of that power. Well, sir, I show him the grant. I turn him to the very words. I show him that the laws of congress are made supreme; and that the judicial power extends, by express words, to the interpretation of these laws. Instead of answering this, he retreats into the general reflection, that it must result from the
nature of things, that the states, being parties, must judge for themselves.
I have admitted, that, if the constitution were to be consid. ered as the creature of the state governments, it might be modified, interpreted, or construed according to their pleasure. But, even in that case, it would be necessary that they should agree. One alone could not interpret it conclusively; one alone could not construe it; one alone could not modify it. Yet the gentleman's doctrine is, that Carolina alone may construe and interpret that compact which equally binds all, and gives equal rights to all.
So, then, sir, even supposing the constitution to be a compact between the states, the gentleman's doctrine, nevertheless, is not maintainable; because, first, the general government is not a party to that compact, but a government established by it, and vested by it with the powers of trying and deciding doubtful questions; and secondly, because, if the constitution be regarded as a compact, not one state only, but all the states, are parties to that compact, and one can have no right to fix upon it her own peculiar construction.
So much, sir, for the argument, even if the premises of the gentleman were granted, or could be proved. But, sir, the gentleman has failed to maintain his leading proposition. He has not shown, it cannot be shown, that the constitution is a compact between state governments. The constitution itself, in its very front, refutes that idea; it declares that it is ordained and established by the people of the United States. So far from saying that it is established by the governments of the several states, it does not even say that it is established by the people of the several states ; but it pronounces that it is estab lished by the people of the United States, in the aggregate. The gentleman says, it must mean no more than the people of the several states. Doubtless, the people of the several states, taken collectively, constitute the people of the United States; but it is in this, their collective capacity, it is as all the people of the United States, that they establish the constitution. So they declare; and words cannot be plainer than the words used.
When the gentleman says the constitution is a compact between the states, he uses language exactly applicable to the old confederation. He speaks as if he were in congress before 1789. He describes fully that old state of things then existing. The confederation was, in strictness, a compact; the states, as states, were parties to it. We had no other general government. But that was found insufficient, and inadequate to the public exigencies. The people were not satisfied with it, and undertook to establish a better. They undertook to form a general government, which should stand on a new basis; not a confederacy, not a league, not a compact between states, but a constitution ; a popular government, founded in popular election, directly responsible to the people themselves, and divided into branches with prescribed limits of power, and prescribed duties. They ordained such a government, they gave it the name of a constitution, and therein they established a distribution of powers between this, their general government, and their several state governments. When they shall become dissatisfied with this distribution, they can alter it. Their own power over their own instrument remains. But until they shall alter it, it must stand as their will, and is equally binding on the general government and on the states.
The gentleman, sir, finds analogy where I see none. He likens it to the case of a treaty, in which, their being no common superior, each party must interpret for itself, under its own obligation of good faith. But this is not a treaty, but a constitution of government, with powers to execute itself, and fulfill its duties.
I admit, sir, that this government is a government of checks and balances; that is, the house of representatives is a check
on the senate, and the senate is a check on the house, and the president a check on both. But I cannot comprehend him, or, if I do, I totally differ from him, when he applies the notion of checks and balances to the interference of different governments. He argues, that, if we transgress, each state, as a state, has a right to check us. Does he admit the converse of the propo sition, that we have a right to check the states? The gentleman's doctrines would give us a strange jumble of authorities and powers, instead of governments of separate and defined powers. It is the part of wisdom, I think, to avoid this; and to keep the general government and the state government each in its proper sphere, avoiding as carefully as possible every kind of interference.
Finally, sir, the honorable gentleman says, that the states will only interfere, by their power, to preserve the constitution. They will not destroy it, they will not impair it; they will only save, they will only preserve, they will only strengthen it! Ah! sir, this is but the old story. All regulated governments, all free governments, have been broken up by similar disinterested and well disposed interference. It is the common pretense. Bat I take leave of the subject.