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and obtaining happiness and safety :" " that all power is naturally vested in, and consequendy derived from, the people; that magistrates, therefore, are their trustees and agents, and at all times amenable to them :" "that the powers of government may be reassumed by the people, whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness."
Never was there a declaration stronger or more comprehensive than this made by the sovereign people of the State of Rhode Island. Well, sir, what bave they subsequently done? Why, as soon as they got snugly established as a part of the Union, the governor and conipany of the province effected the resumption of the sovereigniy, because there was not popular power enough around them to resist. They resumed the sovereignty, meting ont to the people as much right and as much wrong as those sovereign legislators thought proper to mete out. Instead of having their own duties prescribed to them, they assumed the right to prescribe to the people-their lords and masters-how much liberty they should enjoy. Sir, the President of the United States, it seenis, is now called upon to sus. tain this charter of a British monarch. John Tyler is called on to act as Charles II of England would have done, in enforcing this charler-by force of arms. Who ever before heard of an appeal to an American President to support British authority? And I say again, if he has the right to call in the aid of an armed force to sustain that anthority, the independence of this country does not exist. Such a proceeding might be tolerated in Can. ada; but, in relation to one of the States of this Union, the supposition is es ridiculous as it is odious. The President declares that he feels himself bound, and that it is his duty, to employ an armed force, if it becomes ne. cessary, in order to enforce obedience to this usurpation, which has been for half a century in existence in Rhode Island; he will march an armed force of American citizens into that Siate, in martial array, to shoot down the people, in order to sustain that charter, which it was the main object of the Revolution to destroy. Let him try it! let him try it! The President is a man, and but a man; he is an officer of the Government, and but an officer.
The power which constitutes the President rests neither with this body nor its friends; it possesses a moral force which is superior to either. Let the President undertake to march an army into Rhode Island, to put down the liberties of the people at the point of the bayonet, and he will have done a deed of wbich his posterity will be ashamed ---of which the nation will be ashamed. But, though he ihreatens to do it, and stands officially pledged to do it, I tell him (as I have told him face to face) that the American people will not permit him to do it. Here is what will test the question, (holding up a placard.] This I look upon as the first flash of indignation from the enraged brow of an angry people; and I warn the President to take notice of the lightning's flash, as being the forerunner of a storm that will cover him with deep disgrace.
Yes, sir, this is a Government of principle, sustained by the sense of the people; and the man who rashly undertakes 10 put down popular liberty in. this country will meet with signal discomfiture. In connexion with my honorable colleague, I have the honor of representing one of the great and glorious States of this Union ; aud, sir, I can assure you that I speak the feelings of the great body of the people, acting only under the pron ptings of a bold and heroic magnanimity, when I say ihat they would be roused —
that they would rally as one man in defence of our glorious liberties, whether invaded by foreign or domestic foes.
I now offer a resolution, which will test the sense of this body upon the vitality of our whole system. I have introduced into it nothing but what has been prompted by a natural impulse of patriotism-nothing but will be responded to by the whole body of my countrymen. Had the Senate acted upon the resolution when it was first offered, The President would have retracted; he would not now have stood pledged; the Government of the people wonld have gone on; the rights of all would have been protected by the votes of all.
Mr. Preston rose to a point of order. He had refrained from interrupting the Senator for a long time, though he had, from the beginning, transcended not only the rules, but the ordinary license of debate.
Mr. Allen would save the Senator from the necessity of proceeding any further, by informing him that he had riven to his point of order just in the right time, for he (Mr. Allen) had not another word to say, except to submit his resolutions, as follows:
Resolved, That it is the right of the people of Rhode Island to establish for themselves a constitutional republican form of Siate government, and in any particular to alter or modify it, provided its form be left republican.
Resolved, That it is not the right of the Federal Government to interfere in any manner with the people, to prevent or discourage their so doing ; but that, on the contrary, it is the duty of tho Federal Government to guaranty to them, as a State, such republican form of State government, when so established, allered, or modified.
Mr. Simmons observed that he had a few remarks to make in answer to what had fallen from the Senator from Ohio.
Mr. Preston asked if the whole thing had not been irregular, and inquired what was the question before the Senate.
The Chair explained that, in strictness, the question was whether the Senator from Rhode Island should proceed. The Senator from Ohio hav. ing gone beyond the mere explanation allowed on the introduction of a resolution, without having been called to order, the Senate could, by general consent, permit the Senator from Rhode Island to proceed.
Mr. King observed that in all ordinary cases, great Jatitude of debate was allowed ; but there were cases in which great inconvenience might arise. When he had voted to take up the resolution, it was under an ex. pectation that the Senator from Ohio would have modified it; aud had it been taken up, the resolucions now offered, and the remarks acconipanying them, would not have been offered. But all this having occurred, it seemed now as if discussion could not be restrained. It was obvious that such dis. cussion could hardly be kept from excitement. He would, however, suggest to the Senate the obvious propriety of approaching this subject with calmness and moderation.
Mr. Calhoun observed that his vote against taking up the original resolution showed that he had no desire to see the subject agitated in the Senate, as long as it was possible the affairs of Rhode Island would be settled by the people themselves; but it was in possible now to prevent discussion. He hoped it would be permitted to go on, and that the resolutions would be allowed to be presented, and that a day would be appointed for taking them up for debate. He made a motion to that effect.
Mr. Preston concurred with the Senator from South Carolina, (Mr. Ca
houn,] that the time was come for discussion. He thought the time had come when it was necessary to lay down the principles on which the action of this Government is to be conducted in its relations with the States. He therefore seconded the motion of the Senator from South Carolina to have the resolutions printed, and a day appointed for their discussion.
Mr. Tallmadge had listened to the Senator from Ohio for some time with surprise-the Senate having refused to take up the original resolution. The discussion had been forced upon the Senate quite irregularly; but, as it was permitted to go so far, he would move that the Senator from Rhode Island be permitted to go on; and then, if no one else offered such a motion, he would move to lay the resolutions on the table.
Mr. Allen explained, that when he had experienced a determination on the part of the majority of the Senate to suppress the expression of opinion on the part of the minority, he had taken advantage of a rule of the Sen. ate which justified him in pursuing the course he did. If gentlemen were forced into discussion, it was the consequence of an arbitrary attempt to suppress a free expression of opinion, dictated by a sense of public duty.
Here a general disposition was manifested to allow Mr. Simmons to pro. ceed; and the point of order being withdrawn
Mr. Simmons made his acknowledgments to Senators who had interposed to obtain him a hearing in reply to the Senator from Ohio. The remarks of that Senator had not excited in him any other feelings than those of surprise. The Senator had proceeded on the assumption that all constilutional law and rule of government should be in writing. Whence did he derive this notion ? Not from the country of our origin. With respect to the constitution of Rhode Island, which the Senator from Ohio characterized as dead, and all action under it as blasphemous usurpation, he (Mr. S.) would say that it is no matter what it may or may not be the constilu. tion of Rhode Island; and it was not competent for any other State lo dictate to that State what its constitution should be. He denied that the charter of its government was such as it had been described by its opponents. The charter fully recognises the form of altering il. The legisla. ture has frequently acted upon that form, and called conventions. It did so when it called the convention which ratified the federal constitution, The people of Rhode Island knew what they were about when they adopted that constirution. Where else were the elements of civil and religious liberty to be found, which had always actuated Rhode Island, but in that
charter-the first ever obtained in these colonies ? It was these cherished · principles of liberty which bound it to the hearts of those who now wished "to cherish it. It is contended that the legislature is supported by a minority
of the people. This he denied. He maintained there was always a majority entitled to franchise, as large as in any other State. Some regulation was necessary with regard to qualifications of suffrage.
The people of Rhode Island, through their legislature, had fised their own rules, and no other State or power had any right to interfere. In those rules the State of Rhode Island asked for some particular evidence of the attachment of a citizen to their State, and to the district of his residence, before it granted the franchise. Does not every other State, in some form or other, require the same? . They say that, in order to give evidence of this attachment, the citizen must purchase a home to the amount of one hundred and thirty four dollars. The very first act of his own life was to vest the savings of his minority in the purchase of property to entitle him
to this right. It was property which he prized above all others, and which would he the last he should ever part with. This pride gave a poculiar home feeling and attachment to the people of Rhode Island. But such is the regard which the legislature has for popular rights, that, whenever a number of the people constituting á majority have proposed a change, it has been accorded. On the application of ihose men who, a year ago, asked the legislature for an extension of rights, the legislature called a con. vention, at which they had their request accorded. But, instead of patiently waiting till the change was consummated, these men got together and attempted to revolutionize the government; they presented to everybody and anybody their new constitution, without the slightest guard against fraud. It is now the boast of some who signed that constitution, that they did so sixteen or eighteen times. Notwithstanding all this, the convention authorized by the legislature went on and extended the right of suffrage as far as had been required; but the opposite party voted it down with as much energy as if it was to deprive them of suffrage, instead of to increase it. All that the government of Rhode Island requires is, that whatever change may be desired by a large portion of the people may be effected by law, and according to law.
When the Senator from Ohio was reading the declaration of the people of Rhode Island, with regard to the sovereign rights of the people, he (Mr. S.) was in hopes the Senator would have read further, and shown what was the sense of Rhode Island as to what was due to its government. It says that the powers of government may be resumed by the people when necessary; and that any power not delegated to the General Government or Congress, remains with the people or their respective legislatures. He would ask the honorable Senator, where was the power of Congress to de. clare that any form of government shall be the government of Rhode Island? As to the powers of the legislature of that Siate not being defined by a written constitution, he would say they were defined in the bill of rights. He would ask the honorable Senator if, instead of Rhode Island being governed by an anti-republican government, it was not the most republican government in the Union ? for the people every six njonths elect their representatives, who are thus checked by the people twice as often as the representatives of any other State. The usage of that people, with respect to many of their institutions, is as republican as in any country in the world. But whether the government of Rhode Island derives its rights from a written constitution or not, he (Mr. S.) denied tbe right of this Gov. ernment to dictate to that State what form of government it shall have. He regretted that any disposition should exist to goad on, by handbills, or letters, or other means, any portion of the people of Rhode Island to butcher their fellow.citizens. He said of such men, when he heard of these handbills and letters, that they had no children-no hearts. He had been un. expectedly called up on the present occasion, and was not prepared to do justice to the subject. He enumerated many of the most distinguished patriots of Rhode Island, who had been first and foremost in the struggle for independence, and asked, had not its government been first and fore. most on every occasion in evincing a determination to maintain public liberty? He characterized as a new.fangled doctrine that which asseried that the charter of government on which Rhode Island had prospered for two hundred years, had been for fifty years a dead letter, and that all action on it had been blasphemous and damnable usurpation. He inaintained that the principles of that charter could not be in proved upon. It was the pride of a little territory, not more than thirty miles square, that the principles of its charter for civil and religious liberty had become the principles of liberty throughout the civilizt d world. He would conclude by saying that, if the Senator who now decries this charter understood it properly, he would cherish it to his bosom as a treasure beyond price, and value it as the apple of his eye.
Mr. Crittenden asked the Senator from Ohio whether he understood him to say that he had told the President of the United States that he dared not employ the troops of the United States to put down insurrection against the government of Rhode Island ?
Mr. Allen explained, that what he did say was, that he had told the President of the United States, face to face, that if he attempted to employ the army of the United States in preventing, by bloodshed, the mass of the citizens of Rhode Island from establishing a republican constitution and government, he would be attempting that which the American people never would permit him to effect.
Mr. Crittenden observed, that, however he might feel bound to take the Senator's own explanation of what he did say, he and the Senators around him had understood the Senator as haviug stated that he told the President of the United States that he dared not employ the army of the United States to support the government of Rhode Island against insurrection.
Mr. Allen observed that he had already herein stated, in substance, what he had told the President of the United States. If the Senator from Ken. lucky wanted further information on that point, he could make inquiry of the President himself.
Mr. Crittenden did not choose to ask the President-he asked the Senator himself; and since it had coine to that, he would say that the Senator had asserted that he told the President of the United States, face to face, that he dared not, on this occasion, actually employ the army of the United States.
Mr. Simmons asked leave to make a few remarks on a point which did not occur to him when he was addressing the Senate before. He then pro. ceeded, and made some further observations, illustrating that the principles of civil and religious liberty, guarantied in the charter of Rhode Island, were such as pre-eminently entitled that State to admission into the con. federation
Messrs. Preston and Crittenden, from their seats, expressed a strong wish that the subject might be passed over informally, to be taken up to morrow morning.
This proposition was agreed to, and the resolutions were ordered to be printed.
Wednesday, May 18, 1842. Mr. Allen observed that his resolutions, under discussion yesterday, was the unfinished business, upon which there was a pending motion to print. The subject was informally passed over yesterday evening, at the request of the Senator from Kentucky, (Mr. Crittenden.) He now moved to take it up.
The resolutions are as follow :
Resolved, That it is the right of the people of Rhode Island to establishi for themselves a constitutional republican form of State government, and in any particular lo alter or modify it, provided its form be left republican.