Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

dulged, that one great and dominant passion, will, like Aaron's rod, swallow up every other, and that the favorable moment can now be seized to crush the small states, and to obtain their own agency in the transaction. And when we recur to the history of former confederacies, and find the small states arrayed in conflict against each other, to fight, to suffer, and to die for the transient gratification of the great states; have we not some reason to fear the success of this measure?

In the senate is the security of the small states; their feeble voice in the House of Representatives is lost in the potent magic of numbers and wealth. Never until now, has the force of the small states, which was provided by the constitution, and lodged in this federative body, as a weapon of self-defence, been able to bear upon this question. And will the small states, instead of defending their own interest, their existence, sacrifice them to a gust of momentary passion—to the short lived gratification of party prejudice?

This resolution, if circumstances shall unequivocally demand it, can pass at the next or any future session of Congress. But once passed, and its passage will operate like the grave; the sacrificed rights of the small states will be gone forever. Is it possible, sir, that

any small state can submit to be a satellite in the state system, and revolve in a secondary orbit around a great state-act in humble devotion to her will till her purposes are gratified, and then content herself to be thrown aside like a cast garment, an object of her own unceasing regret, and fit only for the hand of scorn to point its slow and moving finger at? Can the members of the senate, who represent the small states, quietly cross their hands and request the great states to bind them fast and to draw the ligature ?

I am aware, sir, that I shall be accused of an attempt to excite the jealousy of the small states. Mr. President, I represent a small state; I feel the danger, and claim the constitutional right to sound the alarm. From the same altar on which the small states shall

be immolated, will rise the smoke of sacrificed liberty: and despotism must be the dreadful successor.

It is the cause of my country and of humanity which I plead. And when one vast overwhelming passion is in exercise, full well I know, sir, that no warning voice, no excitement but jealousy, has been found sufficiently active and energetic in its operation to dissolve the wizard spell, and force mankind to listen to argument.

Jealousy, hateful in private life, has perhaps done more in the preservation of political rights than all the virtues united.

I have made the stand, sir, in the senate, which I thought the importance of the subject demanded. If I fail here, there is hope of success with the state legislatures. If nothing can withstand the torrent there, I shall experience the satisfaction which is derived from a consciousness of having raised my feeble voice in defence of that constitution, which is not only the security of the small states, but the palladium of my country's rights; and shall console myself with the reflection, that I have done my duty.

SPEECH OF JOHN TAYLOR,

ON

A RESOLUTION PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES, RELATIVE TO THE MODE OF ELECTING THE PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT ;*

DELIVERED IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES,

DECEMBER 2, 1803.

MR. PRESIDENT, The opposition to this discriminating amendment to the constitution, is condensed into a single stratagem, namely, an effort to excite the passion of jealousy in various forms. Endeavors have been made to excite geographical jealousies; a jealousy of the smaller against the larger states; a jealousy in the people against the idea of amending the constitution; and even a jealousy against individual members of this House. Sir, is this passion a good medium through which to discern truth, or is it a mirror calculated to reflect error? Will it enlighten or deceive? Is it planted in good or in evil-in moral or in vicious principles? Wherefore, then, do gentlemen endeavor to blow it up? Is it because they distrust the strength of their arguments, that they resort to this furious and erring .passion? Is it because they know, that

Trifles, light as air,
Are, to the jealous, confirmation strong

As proofs of holy writ. So far as these efforts have been directed towards a geographical demarcation of the interests of this union

* See page 320.

VOL. 11

into north and south, in order to excite a jealousy of one division against another; and so far as they have been used to create suspicions of individuals, they have been either so feeble, inapplicable, or frivolous, as to bear but lightly upon the question, and to merit but little attention. But the attempts to array states against states, because they differ in size, and to prejudice the people against the idea of amending their constitution, bear a more formidable aspect, and ought to be repelled; because they are founded on principles the most mischievous and inimical to the constitution, and could they be successful, are replete with great mischiefs.

Towards exciting this jealousy of smaller states against larger states, the gentleman from Connecticut, (Mr. Tracy) has labored to prove, that the federal principle of the constitution of the United States was founded in the idea of minority invested with operative power: that in pursuance of this principle, it was contemplated and intended, that the election of a President should frequently come into the House of Representatives; and to divert it from thence by this amendment, would trench upon the federal principle of our constitution, and diminish the rights of the smaller states, bestowed by this principle upon them. This was the scope of his argument to excite their jealousy, and is the amount also of several other arguments delivered by gentlemen on the same side of the question. I do not question the words, but th ideas of gentlemen. Words, selected from their comrades, are easily asserted to misrepresent opinions ; as I have myself experienced, during the discussion on the subject.

This idea of federalism ought to be well discussed by the smaller states, before they will suffer it to produce its intended effect; that of exciting their jealousy against the larger. To me it appears to be evidently incorrect. Two principles sustain our constitution; one, a majority of the people ; the other, a majority of the states; the first was necessary to preserve the li

berty, or sovereignty of the people; the last, to preserve the liberty, or sovereignty of the states. But both are founded in the principle of majority; and the effort of the constitution, is to preserve this principle in relation both to the people and the states, so that neither species of sovereignty, or independence, should be able to destroy the other. Many illustrations might be adduced. That of amending the constitution will suffice. Three fourths of the states must concur in this object, because a less number, or a majority of states, might not contain a majority of people; therefore, the constitution is not amendable by a majority of states, lest a species of state sovereignty might, under color of amending the constitution, infringe the right of the people. On the other hand, a majority of the people residing in the large states, cannot amend the constitution, lest they should diminish or destroy the sovereignty of the small states, the federal union, or federalism itself. Hence a concurrence of the states, to amend the constitution, became necessary; not because federalism was founded in the idea of minority; but for a reason the very reverse of that idea; that is, to cover the will, both of a majority of the people and a majority of states, so as to preserve the great element of self-government, as it regarded state sovereignty, and also as it regarded the sovereignty of the people.

For this great purpose, certain political functions are assigned to be performed, under the auspices of the state or federal principle; and certain others, under the popular principle. It was the intention of the constitution, that these functions

should be performed in conformity to its principle. If that principle is in fact a governinent of a minority, then these functions ought to be performed by a minority. When the federal principle is performing a function, according to this idea, a minority of the states ought to decide. And by the same mode of reasoning, when the popular principle is performing a function, then a minority

« ZurückWeiter »