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compacts with his fellow," as in the formation of our State Constitutions; whereas, in the letter before us, each State compacts with her sister States. "It is obviously impracticable," says the Convention,* "in the Federal Government of these States to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the honor and safety of all. Individuals entering into society must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest.”... “It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved; and on the present occasion this difficulty was increased by a difference among the several States (the parties about to enter into a new Union) as to their situation, extent, habits, and particular interests."
Yet, in the face of all this, the whole school of Massachusetts politicians, with Story and Webster at their head, assert, that the Federal Government is a union, not of States, but only of individual citizens! Who, before or beside these gross perverters of the most palpable truth, ever applied the term “ Union” to a government of individuals ? Who ever heard of the Union of Massachusetts, or of New York, or of Virginia ? The truth is, that this word is only applicable to a confederation of States; and hence, even Alexander Hamilton, after he had failed to establish a consolidated national government, familiarly called the new Union “a CONFEDERACY.”+ It was reserved for a later day, and for a bolder period in the progress of triumphant error, to scout this as an unconstitutional idea ; and to declare, by way of proof, that "there is no language in the Constitution applicable to a confederation of States.” I Is not the term “Union," applicable to a confederation of States, or is it only applicable to a social combination of individuals? Does not the Constitution
† Federalist, No. lxxx. | Webster's works, Vol. iii., page 470. Great speech of 1833.
* See their Letter.
speak of “the United States," or the States united ? Nay, does it not expressly declare, that it shall be binding “ between the States so ratifying the same?” Or, if the Constitution itself has been silent, does not the letter of 1787, which was struck in the same mint with that solemn compact, declare that each State, on entering into the new Union, give up a share of its “rights of independent sovereignty," in order to secure the rest?
I shall now take leave of the proposition, that the Constitution was a compact between the States of the Union ; a proposition far too plain for argument, if the clearest facts of history had only been permitted to speak for themselves. “I remember," says Mr. Webster, “to have heard Chief Justice Marshall ask counsel, who was insisting upon the authority of an act of legislation, if he thought an act of legislation could create or destroy a fact, or change the truth of history ?." "Would it alter the fact," said he,
“ “if a legislature should solemnly enact, that Mr. Hume never wrote the History of England ?"* "A legislature may alter the law," continues Mr. Webster, “but no power can reverse a fact.” † Hence, if the Convention of 1787 had expressly declared, that the Constitution was ordained by “the people of the United States in the aggregate," or by the people of America as one nation, this would not have destroyed the fact, that it was ratified by each State for itself, and that each State was bound only by “its own voluntary act.” If the Convention had been lost to all decency, it might indeed have stamped such a falsehood on the face of the Constitution; but this would not have "changed the truth of history."
Story and Webster lay great stress, as we have seen, on the fact, that the first resolution passed by the Convention of '87 declared, that a National Government ought to be established.” But, by a gross suppressio veri, they conceal the fact, that this resolution was afterward taken up, *Works, Vol. ii, page 334.
and the term national deliberately dropped by the unanimous decision of the Convention. They also conceal the fact, that after the Constitution was actually formed, the Convention called the work of their hands, not “a National Government,” but “THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF THESE STATES.” This name was given, not before, but after, the Convention was full; not before the first article of the Constitution was adopted, but after the whole instrument had been completely finished; and it was given, too, by “the unanimous order of the Convention."* Yet, in contempt of all this, Story and Webster say, that the Convention made, not a "Federal Government of States,” but "a National Government” for the one people of America, and they prove this, by the exploded resolution passed by them! That is, they still insist on the name expressly rejected by the Convention, as if it had received the sanction of their high authority; and that, too, in direct opposition to the name actually given by them! Could any style of reasoning, if reasoning it may be called, be more utterly contemptible?
*See their Letter to Congress.
Mr. Webster versus Mr. Webster.
In the preceding chapter, Mr. Webster has been confronted with reason and authority; showing that "the greatest intellectual effort of his life" is merely a thing of words. In this, he shall be confronted with himself for, in truth, he is at war with himself, as well as with all the great founders of the Constitution of the United States. He is, in fact, too much for himself; and the great speech which, in 1833, he reared with so much pains and consummate skill as a rhetorician, he has literally torn to tatters.
"If the States be parties" [to the Constitution], asks Mr. Webster, in that speech, with an air of great confidence, “where are their covenants and stipulations? And where are their rights, covenants, and stipulations expressed? The States engage for nothing, they promise nothing." On reading this passage, one is naturally inclined to ask, did Mr. Webster never hear of “the grand compromises of the Constitution” about which so much has been written? But what is a compromise, if it is not a mutual agreement, founded on the mutual concessions of the parties to some conflict of opinions or interests ? Does not the very term compromise mean mutual promises or pledges? Look at the large and small States in the Convention of 1787. We see, in that memorable struggle for power, the large States insisting on a large or proportionate representation of themselves in both branches
of the federal legislature; and we see the small States, with equal pertinacity, clinging to the idea of an equal representation in both. The struggle is fierce and obstinate. The Convention is on the point of dissolution, and its hopes are almost extinguished. But, a compromise is suggested, considered, argued, and finally adopted; according to which there is to be a proportionate representation of each State in one branch of the federal legislature, and an equal representation in the other. These are the terms, “the covenants," "the stipulations," on which the two classes of States agree to unite; these are their mutual promises.
The same thing is true in regard to all the other "grand compromises of the Constitution.” It seems, indeed, that Mr. Webster could not well speak of these compromises, without using some such word as terms, or covenants, or promises, or stipulations. Accordingly, if we turn to the general index to his works, in order to see how he would speak of the compromises of the Constitution; we shall be led to make a very curious discovery, and one which is intimately connected with an interesting passage of his political life. It will conduct us to a scene, in which “the beautiful vase," then "well known throughout the country as the WEBSTER VASE,” was presented to that celebrated statesman. Several thousand persons "had assembled at the Odeon, in Boston,” in order to witness the presentation of that costly memorial, and to hear the reply of the great orator. “The vase,” we are told “was placed on a pedestal covered with the American flag, and contained on its side the following inscription:
OCTOBER 12, 1835."