The gentleman admits that the lands cannot be given away until the national debt is paid, because, to a part of that debt they stand pledged. The Constitution is plainly, dangerously, palpably, and deliberately violated; and the States must interpose their own authority to arrest the law. Under this view of things, I thought it necessary to settle, at least for myself, some definite notions with respect to the powers of the government in regard to internal affairs. Let us imitate this prudence, and, before we float farther on the waves of this debate, refer to the point from which we departed, that we may at least be able to conjecture where we now are. He was a renowned solider and a popular national figure. I do not contend that it is, or ought to be, controlled farther. That is not one of their original State powers, a part of the sovereignty of the State.
The tendency of all these ideas and sentiments is obviously to bring the Union into discussion, as a mere question of present and temporary expediency; nothing more than a mere matter of profit and loss. Madison's resolutions, to prove that a State may interfere, in a case of deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of a power not granted. The minorities dealt quite as harshly with their own State governments as the majorities dealt with the administration here. They cherish no deep and fixed regard for it, flowing from a thorough conviction of its absolute and vital necessity to our welfare. He quotes me as having then said, that we ought not to hug these lands as a very great treasure. It formed the line of demarcation between the federal and republican parties, and the great political revolution which then took place turned upon the very question involved in these resolutions.
But she did not interpose the arm of her own power to arrest the law, and break the embargo. But, the simple expression of this sentiment has led the gentleman, not only into a labored defence of slavery, in the abstract, and on principle, but, also, into a warm accusation against me, as having attacked the system of domestic slavery, now existing in the Southern States. Now, sir, this great measure again was carried by the North, and by the North alone. Under all advantages, and with expectation awakened by the tone which preceded it, it has been discharged, and has spent its force. It may become me to say no more of its effect, than that, if nobody is found, after all, either killed or wounded by it, it is not the first time, in the history of human affairs, that the vigor and success of the war have not quite come up to the lofty and sounding phrase of the manifesto. Having constituted the government, and declared its powers, the people have further said, that, since somebody must decide on the extent of these powers, the government shall itself decide; subject always, like other popular governments, to its responsibility to the people.
So soon as the cessions were obtained, it became necessary to make provision for the government and disposition of the territory—the country was to be governed. I thought the honorable member had suffered his judgment to be betrayed by a false analogy; that he was struck with an appearance of resemblance where there was no real similitude. I understand him to maintain, that the ultimate power of judging of the constitutional extent of its own authority is not lodged exclusively in the general government, or any branch of it; but that, on the contrary, the States may lawfully decide for themselves, and each State for itself, whether, in a given case, the act of the general government transcends its power. To try the binding validity of statutes by votes in a convention! The honorable gentleman is fresh in his reading of the English classics, and can put me right if I am wrong: but, according to my poor recollection, it was at those who had begun with caresses and ended with foul and treacherous murder that the gory locks were shaken. The important provision incorporated into the Constitution of the United States, and into several of those of the States, and recently, as we have seen, adopted into the reformed constitution of Virginia, restraining legislative power in questions of private right, and from impairing the obligation of contracts, is first introduced and established, as far as I am informed, as matter of express written constitutional law, in this Ordinance of 1787. This way no private banks would have the govt's money or name to use as a basis for speculation. Nevertheless, he went back to Rome, ad annum urbis conditae, and found the fathers of the Federalists in the primeval aristocrats of that renowned city! Now I am not entirely able to persuade myself that it is not certain supposed incidental tendencies and effects of this debt, rather than its pressure and charge as a debt, that cause so much anxiety to get rid of it.
I understand him only as saying, that, since the low price of lands at the West acts as a constant and standing bounty to agriculture, it is, on that account, the more reasonable to provide encouragement for manufactures. Lands, which had been for fifty or a hundred years open to every settler, without any charge beyond the expense of the survey, were, the moment they fell into the hands of the United States, held up for sale at the highest price that a public auction, at the most favorable seasons, and not unfrequently a spirit of the wildest competition, could produce, with a limitation that they should never be sold below a certain minimum price; thus making it, as it would seem, the cardinal point of our policy, not to settle the country, and facilitate the formation of new States, but to fill our coffers by coining our lands into gold. But, after all, this is not the point of the debate; and I must now bring the gentleman back to what is the point. Webster ended up resigning from the Senate in 1850 and was appointed a few months later as Secretary of State under President Millard Fillmore. When the Compromise of 1850 was being hammered out, Webster thought hard about how he could contribute to the process. The earnestness of his own conviction wrought conviction in others.
The people, then, Sir, erected this government. One observer described it like this, in case you don't believe the Beyoncé comparison: …the getting up of Daniel Webster was not a mere act; it was a process…The beholder saw the most wonderful head that his vision ever rested on rising slowly in the air; he saw a lionlike countenance, with great, deep-set, luminous eyes, gazing at him with solemn majesty; in short, he saw the godlike Daniel getting on his feet. If, sir, we are to have lessons of patriotism read to us, they must come from a different quarter. He gives the impression that Webster annihilated Hayne. He was in a debate with Robert Hayne of South Carolina about their nullification of the detested Tariff. Note on the Text The speeches reprinted in this volume are taken from the edition published by the firm of Joseph Gales and William M.
Nothing originating here, for I had not the slightest feeling of unkindness towards the honorable member. Party arose, indeed, with the Constitution itself, and, in some form or other, has attended it through the greater part of its history. The inherent right in the people to reform their government I do not deny; and they have another right, and that is, to resist unconstitutional laws, without overturning the government. I ask for the reading of the resolution. Professing to be provoked by what he chose to consider a charge made by me against South Carolina, the honorable member, Mr. I have not accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; nor could I regard him as a safe counselor in the affairs of this government, whose thoughts should be mainly bent on considering, not how the Union may be best preserved, but how tolerable might be the condition of the people when it should be broken up and destroyed.
Would to God that harmony might again return! There are other objects, apparently more local, or the benefit of which is less general, towards which, nevertheless, I have concurred with others, to give aid by donations of land. It is to that Union we owe our safety at home, and our consideration and dignity abroad. An unconstitutional act of Congress would not bind the people of this District, altho they have no Legislature to interfere in their behalf; and, on the other hand, a constitutional law of Congress does bind the citizen of every State, altho all their Legislatures should undertake to annul it by act or resolution. Yet the reaction to the debate among those of all sections of the country who were generally supportive of the Jackson administration was overwhelmingly favorable toward Benton and Hayne and antagonistic toward Webster. The domestic slavery of the Southern States I leave where I find it,—in the hands of their own governments.