IN THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES,
Friday, December 21, 1798.
The House resolved itself into a committee of the whole House, on the state of the commonwealth, Mr. Breckenridge in the chair, when Mr. John Taylor's resolutions being still under consideration,
Mr. GEORGE K. TAYLOR arose, and said that when these resolutions were first submitted to the committee, they had been disapproved by him; and that the time which had since elapsed, with the most mature reflection, had quickened his disapprobation into complete aversion and entire disgust. The resolutions contained doctrines and principles the most extravagant and pernicious; declarations unsubstantiated by fact; and an invitation to other states to concur in a breach of that Constitution which they professed to support. To substantiate this charge, he would beg the pardon and patience of the committee, while he examined and criticised certain parts of the resolutions, and while, agreeably to a promise given on a former occasion, he should offer some few remarks on the constitutionality of what is called the sedition-law.
The third clause of the resolutions begins in the following terms:
"That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare that it views the powers of the Federal Government as resulting from the compact to which the states alone are parties." This declaration, however explicitly and peremptorily made, was unfounded and false: the states are not (he only parties to the federal compact. Considered as particular sovereignties of detached parts of the Union, they did not give it birth or organization: the state legislatures were not consulted respecting its adoption. It was the creature of the people of United America; their voice spoke it into birth; their will upholds and supports it. To demonstrate this it would be necessary to recur to the history of the present Constitution, and to examine some of its features.
When the British colonies in America, now the United States, dissolved their connexion with the parent country and declared themselves independent, they entered into certain articles of confederation and union. This was an act of the states. It was begun by the state representatives in Congress. The articles of confederation, when digested, were sent to the legislatures of every state for consideration. They were ratified by the legislature of each state in the Union. They profess themselves to be articles of confederation and perpetual union between the states: they relate, in every article, not to the people, but to the states: they were submitted to, and adopted by, not the people, but the states; and of them it may truly be said that they were "a compact to which the states alone were parties."
As these articles of confederation acted exclusively on the states, and as they prescribed no method of compelling delinquent states to obey the requisitions of Congress, their weakness and inefficacy became shortly visible. The most pressing demands were disregarded, or partially obeyed; and the evils and expenses of war were thus protracted and increased. Still, however, the American spirit and love of freedom rose superior to every difficulty, and obtained, after an arduous struggle, peace and independence. No sooner was the danger removed which had hitherto compelled some respect to the recommendations of Congress, than the impotence of that body became conspicuous, and the futility of that plan of government which possesses no sanction to enforce obedience to its laws was demonstrated. In defence of our liberties a considerable debt had been incurred. Justice and policy called on the United States to pay the interest of this debt, if they could not discharge the principal; but they called in vain. Congress indeed recommended that a duty of five per cent. ad valorem, should for this purpose be laid on all goods imported into the United States; but their recommendation was disregarded. The certificate given to the soldier for his toil and blood in the day of battle, depreciated and became worthless; every public contract was uncomplied with; a total disregard prevailed as to national sentiment and honour; symptoms of distrust, jealousy, and rivalship among the several states appeared. The Union seemed fast crumbling into annihilation, and the national character at home and abroad was sunk and degraded. The people of America began to be sensible of their situation. Delegates were at first sent from a few of the states to Annapolis, for the purpose of devising and recommending commercial arrangements. These delegates recommended that a convention from the several states should be appointed for the purpose of revising and amending the articles of confederation. Their idea was adopted. Each state appointed delegates to this convention, and it assembled at Philadelphia, for the purpose of proposing amendments to the articles of confederation.
The deliberation of a few days convinced the convention that an amendment of that instrument was impracticable, and that no government could be efficient or permanent which operated not on the individuals of the community, but altogether on the state sovereignties, and which could not compel obedience to its laws by the punishment of the disobedient and refractory. They adopted, therefore, a plan at once bold and judicious. It was to recommend a new form of government for general purposes, by taking from the states the control of all matters relating to the general welfare, and vesting these in the government of the Union: by dividing this government into legislative, executive, and judiciary departments, which should at once prescribe and enforce the rules of general conduct, without the aid or intervention of the state legislatures, and which should have power to punish the disobedient and refractory.
Here it was to be observed, he said, that the convention acted without the express authority of the state legislatures. They were deputed to amend the old articles of confederation: they were not authorized to propose new forms of government. Their love of country, indeed, induced them to attempt a scheme or project of government to be submitted to their fellow-citizens, and their wisdom enabled them to accomplish its structure. But the state governments were no parties to this project, since they deputed the authors of it for different purposes, and were ignorant of the change about to be recommended.
That the convention itself did not consider that the states were, or would be the only parties to this compact, was evident from the language used in the commencement of the new Constitution: "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, &c.;" not "we the states of New Hampshire, &c.;" yet they had the old articles of confederation before them, where the states were constantly mentioned, and the people not once named. Why was the word "states" purposely discarded, and the word "people" purposely introduced, if, as these resolutions declare, the states alone are parties to the compact?
The convention, after having finished the Constitution, came to the following resolutions:
"Resolved, That the preceding Constitution be laid before the United States in Congress assembled, and that it is the opinion of this convention that it should afterwards be submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each state by the people thereof, under the recommendation of its legislature, for their assent and ratification; and that each convention assenting to and ratifying the same, should give notice thereof to the United States in Congress assembled.
"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this convention, that as soon as the conventions of nine states shall have ratified this Constitution, the United States in Congress assembled, should fix a day on which electors should be appointed," &c.
The former articles of confederation being in truth a compact of the states, were submitted to the state legislatures. The Constitution of the United States was "submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each state by the people thereof." The articles of confederation were assented to and ratified by the state legislatures. The Constitution of the United States was assented to and ratified by conventions chosen in each state by the people thereof. If the states in their political corporate capacity, be as the resolutions declare, the only parties to the latter compact, why was its consideration submitted not to the state legislatures, but to the people of the United States, in their several conventions?
Again: so soon as the conventions of nine states should have ratified the Constitution, the convention recommended that a day should be fixed for the appointment of electors, &c., in order that the government should be put into operation. Why should the commencement of the operations of the government be postponed until the conventions of nine states should have ratified the Constitution? Because the states were extremely unequal in size and population, and consequently a majority of conventions might have ratified the Constitution, when in truth a majority of the whole people had rejected it: but this could not be the case when the conventions of nine states had ratified it; because any nine states formed a majority of the people contained in the thirteen. Did not this circumstance then prove, that the present is a government proceeding from the people, and that they are material, if not the exclusive original parties to it? If so, how could it be said that the states alone are parties to the compact?
Further: the fifth article to the Constitution declares that "the Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or on the applications of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments." In each of these modes of obtaining amendments, the people are evidently recognised as parties to the compact: " Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments:" but one House of Congress, the House of Representatives, is the immediate representative of the people, the other House, the Senate, is the immediate representative of the states; whenever then, two-thirds of the representatives of the people and two-thirds of the representatives of the states shall concur in deeming it necessary, they may propose amendments. Was not this a recognition that the people generally, as well as the particular state sovereignties, are interested in the operations of the government? How then could the states alone be said to be the parties to it? "Or, on the applications of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments." Here the idea was still supported, that the representatives of a majority of the whole people must combine in the application, which majority it is supposable, will be two-thirds of the states. The article proceeds "which (amendments) in either case shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress." Thus Congress might if they should think proper, divest the states in their political corporate character, of all agency in ratifying amendments by submitting them not to the legislatures of the states, but to conventions of the people. Did this prove that the states alone are parties to this compact?
At the time of our separation from the government of Great Britain, the people of each state in the Union, represented in convention, established for that state, a constitution or form of government. This having been established by the immediate representatives of the people, deputed for that particular and especial purpose, is not amendable or alterable except by the same people or their representatives, deputed for that special purpose; yet the second clause of the sixth article of the Federal Constitution, is in the following words: "This Constitution and the laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding." By this clause, the Constitution, laws and treaties of the United States, are declared to be paramount and superior to the constitution and laws of every particular state; and where they may come into collision, the latter must yield to the former. Who could have deprived the state constitutions of their former supremacy, and made them subservient not only to the Constitution, but to constitutional laws and treaties of the United States, except the sovereign people, the source and fountain of all power? And after this should we be told that the states alone are parties to the compact, when so plain and palpable a proof was exhibited to the contrary?*
Let those, said Mr. Taylor, who charge us with anti-republican sentiments, and with political blindness or heresy, examine this part of their own creed, and declare whether it savours of republicanism or orthodoxy? We have long and fondly cherished the idea, that all government in America was the work and creature of the people; we have regarded them with reverence and bowed down before their supremacy. But it was reserved for this period and for this Legislature to convince us of our error, and to prove that in America, as in Turkey and in France, the people are nothing, and that the state legislatures are everything.
The fourth clause of the resolutions is in the following words: "That the General Assembly doth express its deep regret, that a spirit has in sundry instances been manifested by the Federal Government to enlarge its powers by forced constructions of the constitutional charter which defines them; and that indications have appeared of a design to expound certain general phrases, (which having been copied from the very limited grant of powers in the former articles of confederation, were the less liable to be misconstrued,) so as to destroy the meaning and effect of the particular enumeration, which necessarily explains and limits the general phrases, and so as to consolidate the states by degrees, into one sovereignty, the obvious tendency and inevitable result of which would be to transform the present republican system of the United States into an absolute, or at best, a mixed monarchy."
The charge against the Federal Government, contained in this clause, Mr. Taylor said, was of the most serious nature, and merited mature deliberation before it should be adopted. If it be true, that government was criminal indeed, and merited, not reprehension only, but the severest chastisement; if it be true, the present administrators of that government should be hurled from their seats with universal execration, and submitted to the vengeance of a justly enraged people. If it be true, it was our duty
* The answer to this ingenious train of reasoning is given in the Report, post, p. 191.
to advise, and it was the duty of our constituents to practise opposition and resistance; to draw the sword from the "sleep of its scabbard," and to cut out this foul cancer before its roots shall have taken too fatal a spread. But, was it true? If it be, in what instance was it so? The resolutions declared, that "a spirit to enlarge its powers, and to CONSOLIDATE THE STATES, so as to introduce MONARCHY, has been manifested by the general government in sundry instances." What were those instances? Would it not have been kind and proper to enumerate them, when it was to enlighten the blindness of those less keen-sighted than our legislative illuminati? For we, said he, who approve not these resolutions, discern not in the government these " forced constructions of the constitutional charter;" those " designs to consolidate the states by degrees into one sovereignty;" those unconstitutional efforts "to enlarge its powers so as to transform the present republican system into an absolute, or at best; a mixed monarchy." On the contrary, said he, we suppose that we see the best form of government ever devised by human sagacity, wisely administered, so as to promote and increase the general prosperity and happiness of the people. We ask, where is there seen so much real happiness, prosperity, and liberty as in these United States? We demand, whether the sun, from his rising in the morning, until his setting beams are quenched in the west, beholds so fortunate a people? Why, then, should we interrupt their repose, disturb their harmony, and poison their tranquillity, by unfounded suggestions, that their government means to rivet monarchy upon them? The "sundry instances" of this intention, mentioned during this debate, were a fleet, an army, taxes, the alien and sedition-laws. What causes have given birth to these measures? A preconcerted plan of the government to introduce monarchy? No! They derive their origin from a more noble source; from a determination to reject, with disdain, the insolent demand of tribute to a foreign nation; from a proper care to protect our commerce from the piratical depredations of that nation, and from a fixed resolve to vindicate our soil from hostile invasion. Let us, I pray you, said he, recollect the history of late events. Has not our government sent repeated embassies to Prance, and have not those embassies been repeatedly and contumeliously rejected? Was not Genera] Pinckney threatened with imprisonment? Were not the three envoys insulted with a demand that their country should become tributary to France? and was not that country threatened with the fate of Venice if the demands should be refused? Was there a man among us who could bear the idea of paying tribute to any foreign country? And when the consequence of the refusal, has been aggravated depredations on our trade, and the threat of erasing us from the list of nations, was there one so base who would not prepare for defence? What was the situation of things when our small navy was first equipped? Numbers of French picaroons at the mouths of all our principal rivers, lay in wait for our ships, and few of them escaped. What, said he, has been the consequence since that navy has, been equipped? These pirates have been chased to their homes; our coasts are no longer insulted; the price of the productions of our soil has increased, and our flag floats on the ocean, respectable and respected. Was not this measure more wise, more patriotic, and more economical than to have permitted our trade still to be the prey of French cruisers, and to have suffered a vital wound to be inflicted on the industry and happiness of our citizens, from the diminished value of their commodities, which would have been the unavoidable result? Will not, said he, this navy enable us, in case of invasion, to transport men and the munitions of war immediately and expeditiously from one port to another of the Union? Will it not be able to gall and distress an invading enemy? Why, then, shall so wise and so necessary a measure be construed into an effort to crush republicanism and establish monarchy on its ruins?
But the regular army which is to be raised will be the death of our liberty. Standing armies in all countries have been the engines of despotism, and they will become so in this.
Fortunately there are two clauses in the Constitution of the United States, which prove that so long as the representatives of the people remain uncorrupt, no great danger can be apprehended from standing armies. The first clause of the seventh section of the first article declares, that "all bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives." The twelfth clause of the eighth section of the same article gives Congress power to "raise and support armies," but declares, "that no appropriation of money for that use shall be for a longer term than two years." It is Congress, and not the President, who are to "raise and support armies." Armies cannot be raised and supported without revenue. The bills for raising this revenue must originate in the House of Representatives. Appropriations of money to raise and support an army, shall not be for a longer term than two years. The House of Representatives itself is elected for two years only. After a first, or at most a second appropriation for this purpose, a new election of representatives must take place. If the new House of Representatives deem the army useless or dangerous, they will refuse to appropriate for its support, and it must be disbanded. Thus the danger to be apprehended from an army raised for an indefinite period appears not to be great. But the present army, from the terms of its enlistment, was to continue in service only during the existing differences with France. After they shall cease it will be disbanded, and while they continue it must be necessary. For let it be remembered that our foe possesses a lust of dominion insatiable; armies numerous and well-disciplined, inured to conquest and flushed with victory, officers alert and skilful, commanders distinguished and renowned. Let it be remembered that she is as destitute of friends as of principle, and that as she has sent one army under Bonaparte to pillage the East, as a compensation for their services she may send another for the same purposes to rifle the West. Against this host of invaders, hungry as death and insatiable as the grave, shall we oppose only militia? In such a conflict what would be our chance? A band of militia ill-armed and completely undisciplined, to measure weapons with men inured to blood, and with whom murder is a science! How long would our militia be able to remain in the field? Each man among them would at first be hurried from his plough, and from the embraces of his wife and children, with scarcely a moment's warning. That wife and those children would soon require his return, or the farm would remain uncultivated, and distress and misery would be their portion. The first detachment of militia must then within three or four months be relieved by another. At the moment when they have formed an idea of the first rudiments of war, they would be succeeded by others completely new and undisciplined. Was an army thus composed, likely to prove effectual in resisting the invasion of veterans inured to combat and accustomed to victory? Did the experience of the late war with Great Britain demonstrate the superlative efficacy of militia? Why were the Southern States plundered, ravaged, and for a time subdued by Cornwallis? Because he was opposed principally by militia, whose want of skill could not resist the British bayonet. Was the patriotism of the men of 1776 to be now disputed? It could not be; yet they had recourse to regular soldiers, by whom the great and important victories of America were obtained, and who, when peace was re-established, although unpaid and distressed, returned peaceably to their homes and their firesides. Of whom was that army composed? Of our fathers and our brethren. Of whom will the present army be composed? Of our brethren and our sons. Who led that army to battle and to conquest? WASHINGTON. Who will conduct this? The same great and good WASHINGTON. Will he whose virtue and honour have been proved in the most trying seasons; whose fame has never been surpassed in the annals of mankind, and who is the constant theme of applause and admiration throughout the globe, in his latter days prove so degenerate as to become the tool of ambition and the destroyer of liberty? Of that liberty which his exertions established, and of that Constitution which he contributed to frame, to organize, and to administer? The idea was too absurd to be seriously entertained, and therefore this part of the subject, he said, he would dismiss with the following observation: A regular army was principally composed of men who, having from choice embraced the military profession, did not by their absence materially impede the labour of the society, or occasion domestic difficulties and distress: of militia, a great proportion were fathers of families, whose absence from their homes was extremely inconvenient and ruinous. The death of the regular soldier was of little comparative importance the death of the militiaman, who leaves behind him a wife and family of young children, was a serious evil. The regular army was prompt, skilful, and effectual; the militia army must always be languid in its operations, undisciplined, and ineffectual. Instead, then, of aiming at monarchy, our government labours, by the establishment of this army, to secure success to our efforts for freedom, and to spare a lavish and ruinous waste of the blood of our citizens.
Taxes, he said, are the necessary result of warlike preparations. These we have been compelled to adopt, by the insolence, the machinations, and the hostilities of France. They are the present price of our independence: and where the stake is so precious, no real American could begrudge them.
In the fifth clause of the resolutions, "the General Assembly doth particularly protest against the palpable and alarming infractions of the Constitution, in the two late cases of the alien and sedition-acts passed at the last session of Congress."
On the subject of the alien-law, Mr. Taylor observed, that he had before given his ideas at large, and should at present only repeat that from the authorities adduced by him on a former occasion, and from the reason of the thing, it appeared that the entry of an alien into any country was matter of favour in the sovereign power of that country, and not matter of right on the part of the alien. During his stay, the country to which he has migrated affords him hospitality and protection: during the same period, he owes respect and obedience to its laws. But the country exacts from him no allegiance: he is not bound to fight the battles of that country: he is exempt from serving in the militia: he is not subject to the taxes that have only a relation to the citizens: he retains all his original privileges in the country which gave him birth: the state in which he resides has no right over his person, except when he is guilty of crime: he is not obliged like the citizens, to submit to all the commands of the sovereign: but, if such things are required from him as he is not willing to perform, he may at will quit the country. The government has no right to detain him except for a time, and for very particular reasons. The writers on the law of nations therefore universally agree that the nation has a right to send him away whenever his stay becomes inconvenient or dangerous to its repose.
The Constitution of the United States, from its preamble, and from every article and section of the instrument, demonstrates that it was the intention and design of its framers to vest every power relating to the general welfare and tranquillity of the Union in the General Government. Each particular case could not be foreseen; and therefore the powers are given in general terms, and conclude with the particular power "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof." With this palpable intention of its framers in our view, we ought to give to the instrument a liberal as well as candid interpretation. If the General Government possesses not the power of removing dangerous aliens, but that power is vested exclusively in the particular states, one of the principal views of the old confederation would remain in all its vigour. While through the instrumentality of these characters insurrection and treason are maturing into birth, the Government will of itself be unable to avert the mischief, and must humbly supplicate sixteen independent and jealous sovereignties to carry its designs for the public safety into effect. It must disclose to each state the most important and delicate secrets, as that state will require testimony before it begins to act. It may in repeated instances be subjected to the mortification and danger of a refusal, and the alien might frequently depart from one state willing to exclude him, and take refuge in another determined to protect him. Thus the peace and safety of the Union might at all times be endangered; and the same government which can declare war against the foreign nation, shall not before that event takes place, be able to exclude from its soil the most dangerous and abandoned subject of that nation, although his residence may be the bane of public tranquillity.
Congress has power "to provide for calling forth the militia, to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions." When the insurrection or invasion has taken place, Congress may by the militia suppress the one, and repel the other. But the Constitution declares further, that "the United States shall guarantee to every state in this Union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive, (when the legislature cannot be convened,) against domestic violence." The power before recited had given Congress power to call forth the militia to suppress insurrections, and repel invasions. The section last mentioned directs them to protect each state against invasion and domestic violence. Are these two clauses of precisely the same meaning and import? Then the framers of the Constitution were guilty of tautology. But they are not of the same import. The first gives the power of suppressing insurrections, and repelling invasions, when insurrections or invasions should exist: the latter directs Congress to protect each state against invasions or domestic violence, which might threaten and impend. Protection necessarily implies and includes the prevention of mischief and danger. In protecting the states then against invasion, Congress must use the means of preventing the evil; and the clause before recited gives them in express terms the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution any power vested in them by the Constitution. Congress then foresaw, from the dispute existing between the United States and France, that war might be the probable result, and that invasion might be the consequence of war. To protect the states against this invasion, a proper measure appeared to be the exclusion of dangerous aliens. They were vested by the Constitution with power to pass all laws necessary and proper to protect the states against invasion, and they therefore constitutionally passed the alien-law.
But against this construction of the Constitution, Mr. Taylor said, a gentleman from Orange had given the committee an extract from Publius, of which it could only be said, that the doctrine contained therein, although unquestionably sound and incontrovertible, did not apply to the present question. To prove this, let the extract itself, he said, be read again. It is in the following words: "It has been urged and echoed that the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States, amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defence or general welfare." No stronger proof could have been given of the distress under which these writers labour for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction.
Had no other enumeration or definition of the powers of the Congress been found in the Constitution, than the general expressions just cited, the authors of the objection might have had some colour for it; though it would have been difficult to find a reason for so awkward a form of describing an authority to legislate in all possible cases. A power to destroy the freedom of the press, the trial by jury, or even to regulate the course of descents, or the forms of conveyances, must be very singularly expressed by the terms "to raise money for the general welfare." Publius afterwards proceeds to state other arguments exposing the fallacy of the opinion urged by the opposers of the Constitution against this article. But let it be remembered that the subject which Publius was discussing was this, whether the power given Congress "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare," gave to Congress a right of legislating on every subject whatsoever. Now, who among us, said Mr. Taylor, has cited this clause in favour of the alien-law? Has any one of us, continued he, contended that Congress possesses the right of legislating on every subject? And because this clause does not give them such a power, did it follow that the power to protect the states from invasion does not authorize them, on the prospect of war, to exclude dangerous aliens? Some authority more applicable must be produced before we shall be proved to be in the wrong. In defence of the alien-law, Mr. Taylor observed, that he would make no further observations, but would call the attention of the committee for a few minutes, to what is called the sedition-law. In his remarks on this, from the wide range he had taken, he should be compelled to be much more concise than he bad intended to be.
He presumed that it would be conceded by all who heard him, that each individual possessed from nature certain rights of great value and importance. Among these was the right to liberty and to life; and, what was of no smaller importance than the other two, the right to his good name and reputation. For even in a state of nature, where the will of each individual was his law, and his power the measure of that law, and where consequently eternal strife and confusion must prevail, a good name would be of no small importance to its possessor. He, who when chance or misfortune had thrown his brother savage into his power, did not rob or abuse him, but bound up his wounds and dismissed him in peace, would be respected by the man he had benefited, and by all others who should hear of the circumstance, and would in consequence be in some degree secure against insult and attack. But in a state of society the possession of reputation must for obvious causes be of infinite importance. This state was the result of a compact formed by the component individuals for the enjoyment of their natural rights to greater advantage and with greater certainty. Each owes to the regulations of the society implicit obedience; and the society is equally bound to guarantee and to vindicate to each, his natural and social rights. Invasions therefore, against property, liberty, or life, have been punished in every society and under every form of government; but the natural right to reputation is as dear and invaluable to its possessor as any other whatsoever; it is essential to his comfort and happiness; he could never be supposed to have consented to its surrender; and invasions of it ought, therefore, to be punished by the society as well as invasions of property, liberty, or life. For no possession whatsoever is of such real value as an honest fame: in comparison with it, the possession of property is of little consequence. Property, in reality, adds nothing to the respectability of its possessor. When lost it may be regained; or if for ever lost, its former owner may still be respectable. But the loss of reputation is a much more serious mischief. It is irretrievable. Who could bear to be regarded by his fellow-citizens as destitute of principle and honour, and to be viewed by the world with contempt and detestation? Who would be unaffected at being deprived by the stroke of calumny of the friend he loved? Whose feelings would remain untortured, when the mistress he adored, whose smiles were those of affection, and whose eyes proclaimed the dominion of love, should be everlastingly estranged from him? When that bosom which before glowed with genial and sympathetic fires, should, touched by the breath of calumny, become cold and icy as the everlasting snows that envelope the pole? Such were the mischiefs accruing from the loss of reputation to the individual in his private capacity. But suppose him possessed of those virtues which dignify human existence, and of those talents which adorn it, and wishing to exert those virtues and those talents in a public capacity for the benefit of his fellow-citizens; if his reputation be blasted, or his character tainted, he would be spurned by those citizens from their presence: his talents would render him an object of greater odium: he would remain hated and despised through life, and execrated even after his death. Was the loss of property then to be compared with this injury? Nay, was not the loss of character equal or superior in mischief to the loss of existence? The murdered man dies an object of universal sympathy and regret, the recollection of his virtues is cherished, and his foibles and vices are excused or forgotten. But the man whose reputation is tainted, lives an object of universal contempt and disgust, and dies the theme of infamy and execration. Accordingly in every society, and throughout all time, a remedy has been afforded to the injured individual for calumnious attacks upon his reputation. And what would be the consequence of impunity to such an offence? The injured man, having no redress from the laws of his country, would arrogate to himself the right of revenge, and a mournful scene of assault, bloodshed and death, would be the unavoidable and melancholy result. These things could not be tolerated in a state of society; and accordingly slander and libels are punished with us by the common law. By the common law is understood the unwritten law of nature and reason, applying to the common sense of every individual, and adopted by long and universal consent. This common law attaches itself to every government which the people may establish. It existed in Great Britain when our ancestors migrated from that country, and it followed them to this. It prevailed in every state throughout the Union, before their separation from the British empire, and it regulates the whole American people now. A government, then, established by that people for the general safety and general happiness, will of necessity be guided in cases of general interest and concern, by the principles and regulations of the same common law. By that common law, unfounded calumny of magistrates generally, was matter of punishment, of a more severe punishment than in cases affecting the reputation of private individuals, because in the former instance the function rather than the man was the object of attack. And whenever magistrates of a new description are appointed, the old principles of the common law immediately apply to them, and calumnies against them are of course punishable. Thus when these states became independent of Great Britain, a number of officers of government we re created unknown to the former colonial establishments; but no one had ever thought it necessary to declare by statute, that slanders of them shall be punishable. When the Constitution of the United States was formed, a new description of officers, before unknown, was created: the common law pervaded and regulated every portion of the people which formed that Constitution; and consequently the rules of the common law immediately attached themselves to those officers. Consequently slanders of the President of the United States, of members of Congress, and of other officers of the general government, are punishable by the common law; because slanders of those characters are injuries not so much to the man, as to the community. Ours is a government which must rest for its support on the public sentiment. While the people approve it, it will nourish; when they withdraw their affections, it must expire. Unfounded calumnies against the officers of government, who administer and conduct it, tend to weaken the confidence and affection of the people for the government itself. The Constitution of the United States, it is acknowledged by all, authorizes the government to punish acts of resistance to its measures. Would it not be strange, if, when it authorizes them to punish acts of resistance, it should prevent them from punishing acts tending to introduce resistance? That the government must look on tame and passive while the mischief is preparing, and be incapable of action until that mischief has ripened into effect, when its actions and operations may perhaps be unavailing. That it shall be fully able to suppress and punish actual insurrection, but shall be incapable of preventing it. This would surely be absurd. And as the Constitution of the United States is the work of the whole American people; as every man of that people is regulated by the common law; as that common law attaches itself to the state governments, established by that people, and punished unfounded calumnies of state magistrates, why shall it be said not to attach itself to the government of the whole American people? And why shall it not punish unfounded calumnies of the magistrates of the general government? Why is the state magistrate protected by the common law? Because he is a public functionary, and calumnies of him injure the public. Was not a magistrate of the general government also a public functionary? Would not calumnies against him also injure the public? And if the functionary of the part be protected by law, how shall it be said that the functionary of the whole is left unprotected? Surely reason proclaims, that in proportion to the magnitude of the trust reposed in the functionary, would be the mischief arising from false, scandalous, and malicious representations of his conduct. The most unfounded calumnies against the governor of a particular state could only rouse the discontent, or excite the opposition of that state. But unfounded calumnies against the President of the United States, may paralyse, convulse, and destroy the Union. The reason of the common law applies, therefore, more powerfully to the magistrate of the general government than to the magistrate of the state government. But this is the general feature of that law, and of reason, that the person being a magistrate of whatever grade or description, and being vested with the authority of the laws, ought to be protected.
That the principles of the common law apply to the general government, is obvious from the second section of the third article of the Constitution, which declares, that "the judicial powers shall extend to all cases in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made under their authority," and "to controversies to which the United States shall be party." The judiciary, in cases arising under the laws of the United States, will be regulated by those laws: and in cases arising under treaties, by those treaties and the law of nations; but what cases can arise under the Constitution, as distinguished from cases arising under the laws of the United States and under treaties, except cases to be decided by the rules and principles of the common law? And these in "controversies to which the United States shall be party," will, unless altered or modified by law, operate in their full extent.
This is not the only instance in which the common law is recognised in the Constitution; for the ninth amendment is in these words: "in suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved; and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law." When in the re-examination of facts tried by a jury, the courts of the United States are expressly prohibited from observing any other than the rules of the common law, the Constitution itself declares, that the common law applies to those courts; and if it applies in one instance, it must apply in all others coming within their sphere, unless where it is altered by act of Congress.
The common law has been thus shown to apply to the government of the United States as well as to the governments of the particular states and to particular individuals. One rule of the common law is, "that he who writes, utters or publishes a false, scandalous, and malicious libel against a magistrate or the government, shall be punished by fine and imprisonment." The writer, utterer or publisher, therefore, of a false, scandalous and malicious libel against the government of the United States, or any magistrate thereof, is at common law, punishable by fine and imprisonment.
The objection to the punishment of libels, that truth is the sufficient antagonist of error, and needs no assistance, Mr. Taylor said, was not correct: that falsehood was light and volatile; she flew on the wings of the wind, she spread her mischiefs with inconceivable velocity: that truth was the child of experience, and the companion of time; she scarcely ever outstripped, and rarely kept pace with her companion. What mischief in all ages and in all countries have been occasioned to individuals, and to the public, by malignant falsehoods, before truth could arrive to detect and protect them. How would these mischiefs be aggravated, if they should remain unpunished by the laws? The fairest reputation, when frequently assailed, must be diminished in the public esteem. Each scandalous report finds some believers; and at length the most charitable will be disposed to think that such repeated charges could not be made without some foundation. They will increase in proportion to the talents and the station of the injured individual, and unless they be punished by the laws, the most splendid abilities, and unsullied virtues, must cease to be useful, and sink into disgrace.
Mr. Taylor said, from what had been said, it would appear that the right to punish libels against governments, or their officers, is founded in the principles of nature, of reason, and of common law. The act of Congress on this subject, said he, punishes nothing before unpunishable: it creates no new crime: it inflicts no new punishment: but on the contrary, it mollifies and alleviates the rigours of the common law; for at common law, the amount of the fine, and the time of imprisonment, are unlimited, and regulated only by the discretion of the court trying the offence: by the act in question, the fine is limited at the utmost to two thousand dollars, and the imprisonment to two years.
But the opposers of this law assert, that however the principles of the common law may apply to the government of the United States, in ordinary cases, and whatever might have been their original power to punish libels, this power is now taken away by the third amendment to the Constitution.
This amendment is in the following words: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."
The difference of the terms used in this amendment, Mr. Taylor said, was remarkable. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Consequently, they dare not touch the subject of religion at all. But further, they "shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press," not "respecting the freedom of speech, or of the press." When religion is concerned, Congress shall make no law respecting the subject:
when the freedom of the press is concerned, Congress shall make no law abridging its freedom; but they may make any laws on the subject which do not abridge its freedom. And in fact, the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution authorizes them in express terms "to promote the progress of science and useful arts, By securing for limited times, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." Now if Congress could not make any laws respecting the freedom of the press, they could not secure for limited times to authors their respective writings, by prohibiting those writings from being published and vended, except by those whom the authors should expressly permit. They may consequently make laws respecting the press, provided they do not abridge its freedom. To abridge the freedom of the press, Mr. Taylor said, was to impose upon it restraints or prohibitions which it did not experience before; or to increase the penalties attached to former offences accruing from its licentiousness. If then the sedition-law does impose upon the press restraints or prohibitions which it did not experience before that act was passed, or if it increases the penalties attached to former offences arising from its licentiousness, it was conceded to be unconstitutional.
But it had been demonstrated, he said, that the common law embraces and attaches itself to the constitution and government of the United States; and that it punishes with indefinite fine and imprisonment the writing, uttering, or printing false, scandalous, and malicious libels. When the act in question, then, only punishes the same false, scandalous, and malicious writing by fine and imprisonment to a definite amount, and for a definite period, it does not impose upon the press restraints or prohibitions which it did not experience before, nor does it increase former penalties; it therefore does not abridge its freedom, and is consequently constitutional. To suppose that because Congress are prohibited from making laws abridging the freedom of the press, they cannot punish the vile slanders and infamous calumnies which from time to time issue from it, against the government, Mr. Taylor said, was to suppose that the people of America had given a solemn and constitutional sanction to vice and immorality; that they had completely privileged the infamous offence of lying; and that every individual had consented, in case of his being employed by the United States, to release the society from the. protection and vindication of his natural right to reputation.
The persons who framed the amendments to the Constitution of the United States, were certainly men of distinguished abilities and information. Among them was a great proportion of lawyers, whose peculiar study had been the common law. Perhaps every one of them had read and maturely considered Blackstone's Commentaries; these would inform him, that in England, the terms " freedom of the press," had an appropriate signification, to wit: exemption from previous restraint on all publications whatever, with liability, however, on the part of the publisher, to individuals or the public, for slanders affecting private reputation or the public peace. Certainly every one of them was acquainted with the laws of his own state, where the terms " freedom of the press," had precisely the same meaning as in England. When, then, in the amendments to the Constitution they speak of "the freedom of the press," must it not be presumed they intended to convey that appropriate idea, annexed to the term both in England and in their native states? And a reference to Blackstone will clearly point out, both the emancipation of the press in that country from its former shackles, and the true import and meaning there and here, of the term "freedom of the press." "The art of printing," says that valuable writer, "soon after its introduction, was looked upon (as well in England as in other countries) as merely a matter of state, and subject to the coercion of the crown. It was, therefore, regulated with us by the king's proclamations, prohibitions, charters of privilege and of license, and finally, by the decrees of the Court of Star Chamber, which limited the number of printers, and of presses which each should employ, and prohibited new publications, unless previously approved by proper licensers. On the demolition of this odious jurisdiction, in 1641, the long parliament of Charles I. after their rupture with that prince, assumed the same powers as the Star Chamber exercised with respect to the licensing of books, and in 1643, 1647, 1649 and 1652, issued their ordinances for that purpose, founded principally on the Star Chamber decree of 1637. In 1662, was passed the statute 13 and 14 Car. II. c. 33, which (with some few alterations) was copied from the parliamentary ordinances. This act expired 1679, but was revived by statute 1 Jas. II. c. 17, and continued till 1692. It was then continued for two years longer, by statute 4 W. & M. c. 24; but though frequent attempts were made by the government to revive it in the subsequent part of that reign, yet the parliament resisted it so strongly, that it finally expired, and the press became properly free in 1694, and has ever since so continued." The same writer thus elegantly defines the liberty of the press. "The liberty of the press is, indeed, essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter, when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public: to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but, if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. To subject the press to the restrictive power of a licenser, as was formerly done, both before and since the revolution, is to subject all freedom of sentiment to the prejudices of one man, and make him the arbitrary and infallible judge of all controverted points in learning, religion, and government. But, to punish (as the law does at present) any dangerous or offensive writings, which, when published, shall, on a fair and impartial trial, be adjudged of a pernicious tendency, is necessary for the preservation of peace and good order, of government and religion, the only solid foundations of civil liberty. Thus the will of individuals is still left free; the abuse only of that free will, is the object of legal punishment. Neither is any restraint hereby laid upon freedom of thought or inquiry; liberty of private sentiment is still left; the disseminating or making public of bad sentiments, destructive of the ends of society, is the crime which society corrects." "A man (says a fine writer on this subject) may be allowed to keep poisons in his closet, but not publicly to vend them as cordials. And to this we may add, that the only plausible argument heretofore used for the restraining the just freedom of the press, 'that it was necessary to prevent the daily abuse of it,' will entirely lose its force, when it is shown (by a seasonable exertion of the laws) that the press cannot be abused to any bad purpose, without incurring a suitable punishment; whereas it never can be used to any good one, when under the control of an inspector. So true will it be found, that to censure the licentiousness, is to maintain the liberty of the press."
In England, said Mr. Taylor, the laying no previous restraints upon publications, is freedom of the press. In every one of the United States the laying no previous restraints upon publications hath always been, and still is deemed the freedom of the press. In England, notwithstanding the freedom of the press, the publication of false, scandalous, and malicious writings is punishable by fine and imprisonment. In every one of the United States, notwithstanding the freedom of the press, the publication of false, scandalous, and malicious writings is punishable in the same manner. If the freedom of the press be not therefore abridged in the government of any particular state, by the punishment of false, scandalous, and malicious writings, how could it be said to be abridged when the same punishment is inflicted on the same offence by the government of the whole people?
If it should be thought that this point required further elucidation, let us, said Mr. Taylor, look for it in the Constitution of the state of Virginia. It had been said that the general government, being constituted for particular purposes, possesses only such powers as are granted: and this was conceded to be true. It had been also said that the state governments, being constituted for the general regulation of the people in each state, possess all powers which the people have not expressly retained to themselves; and this, for the sake of argument, shall also be granted. Yet it would not be disputed that the powers retained by the people to themselves in their state Constitution, are as sacred and inviolable as those retained by the people to themselves in the Constitution of the United States. Now the people of Virginia, in their state constitution, appear to have been as jealous of this freedom of the press, as were the people of the United States in the formation of the Federal Constitution. For if the Constitution of the United States declares, that Congress shall "make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press," the Constitution of Virginia, in the twelfth article of the bill of rights, declares, "that the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments." The legislature of Virginia therefore, Mr. Taylor said, could no more pass a law restraining the freedom of the press, than Congress could pass a law abridging the freedom of the press. The liberty of the press could not be restrained without being abridged. Yet it had never been doubted that false, scandalous, and malicious writings are punishable in Virginia. In the year 1792 the legislature of this state passed a law "against divulgers of false news," and no one suggested that the liberty of the press was thereby restrained. In the same session another act was passed, declaring "that any person who shall, by writing or advised speaking, endeavour to instigate the people of this commonwealth to erect or establish any government separate from, or independent of, the government of Virginia, within the limits thereof, without the assent of the legislature of this commonwealth for that purpose first obtained, shall be adjudged guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour, and on conviction, shall be subject to such pains and penalties, not extending to life or member, as the Court before whom the conviction shall be, shall adjudge." Neither was this law deemed unconstitutional. Now if the legislature of Virginia could pass laws punishing divulgers of false news, and writers advising the people to particular detrimental acts, without restraining the freedom of the press, could not the legislature of the Union punish false, scandalous, and malicious writings tending to destroy the government, or to bring it into hatred and contempt, without abridging the freedom of the press? To say that they could not, was to declare that punishing the licentiousness, is abridging the freedom, of the press; and that licentiousness and freedom are synonymous terms.
Every man, continued Mr. Taylor, has a right to freedom of action; but no one supposed that this bestowed upon him the right to assault another on the highway. Every one has a right to the freedom of the press; but should he use it so as to assault the happiness of an individual or the repose of society, without being liable to punishment for the mischief he had occasioned?
It had been said that false, scandalous, and malicious libels against the government of the United States, or any officer thereof, are punishable in the courts of each state respectively; but this was believed to be incorrect. Libels against state magistrates, or such officers of the general government as reside in Virginia, are punishable in our state courts, because the injured persons reside within the limits of the state, contribute to its support, and are entitled to protection from it: but libels against the magistrates of a foreign nation, or of a sister state, or of the general government, residing out of this state, are not punishable in our courts, because the injured individuals in these cases are not bound by our state laws, do not sustain the burdens, or contribute to the support of the commonwealth, and are consequently not entitled to its protection. But it would not be denied, that an infamous slander of the President of the United States, tending to produce insurrection, was equally mischievous, if published by a citizen of Virginia, as if published by a citizen of Pennsylvania. The courts of the United States, therefore, must take cognizance of the case, or the offence would remain unpunished. Every public incendiary would, by palpable misrepresentations and abominable falsehoods, continually agitate and convulse the minds of the people. That affection towards the government which alone supports it, would shortly be withdrawn, and would speedily fall, to rise no more.
On the sedition-law, Mr. Taylor said, he would make no further remarks, but would proceed to other parts of the resolutions.
The seventh resolution is in the words following: "That the good people of this commonwealth having ever felt and continuing to feel the most sincere affection to their brethren of the other states, the truest anxiety for establishing and perpetuating the union of all, and the most scrupulous fidelity to that Constitution which is the pledge of mutual friendship and the instrument of mutual happiness, the General Assembly doth solemnly appeal to the like dispositions of the other states, in confidence that they will concur with this commonwealth in declaring, as it does hereby declare, that the acts aforesaid are unconstitutional and not law, but utterly null, void, and of no effect, and that the necessary and proper measures will be taken by each for co-operating with this state, in maintaining unimpaired the authorities, rights, and liberties reserved to the states respectively, or to the peoples"
On this resolution, Mr. Taylor said, two remarks would be submitted. The legislature of one state in the Union declares two acts passed by a majority of the representatives of the whole American people, to be unconstitutional and not law, but utterly null, void, and of no effect. They declare this, not as an opinion, but as a certain and incontrovertible fact; in consequence of which the people of the state owe no submission to the laws. Have, continued he, the representatives of a part, a power thus to control and to defeat the acts of the whole? In the Congress of the United States, the people of each state are fairly and equally represented in proportion to the population of that state. If, after a majority in that Congress have decided that certain laws are constitutional and expedient, the legislature of Virginia hath a right to annul those laws by declaring them to be unconstitutional, the old republican maxim that the majority must govern was exploded, and the Union would be dissolved. If the state of Virginia could repeal and annul the alien and sedition-laws, she could repeal and annul any other acts of Congress; and if she hath the right, every other state must possess it likewise.
If any act passed by Congress be unconstitutional, the judges of the federal court, who are unbiassed by party, and unwarped by prejudice, and who are selected for their superior talents and integrity, afforded a constitutional check upon the legislature. The people themselves are another most powerful check; for they will know the vote of their representatives, and if they deem the law for which they voted to be unconstitutional, they will order them to depart at the ensuing election, and replace them with others more wise and more virtuous. Here were two peaceable and happy modes of correcting the mischief: Whereas, for one or more jealous state legislatures to endeavour to repel or control the acts of Congress by their sovereign power, was at once to introduce disunion and civil war. The government of the Union, which might have yielded to fair reason and argument, will never give way to the threats or force of these rival sovereignties. If they do, the powers and energies of the Federal Government would be from that moment destroyed. They will determine to try the experiment whether the Union shall govern a few states, or a few states shall rule the Union. The certain consequence will be a resort to arms, civil war, and carnage, and a probable dismemberment of the Union.
Of such consequences, in such an event, the framers of the Constitution were aware. They, therefore, wisely in the tenth section of the first article declared that "no state shall, without the consent of the Congress, enter into any agreement or compact with another state or with a foreign power." The resolution last cited, however, invited the other states to " take the necessary and proper measures for co-operating with this state in maintaining unimpaired the authorities, rights, and liberties reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." Could other states co-operate with this for these purposes, unless by virtue of some previous agreement or compact? To co-operate, was to act in concert. Must not some agreement or compact among the states precede their acting in concert? It must in the nature of things. Does not the Constitution forbid this agreement or compact in positive and express terms? Were we not, then, inviting our sister states to a deliberate and palpable breach of the Constitution; and this at the moment when we were so liberally reviling Congress for an imputed breach of the same instrument? Did their example authorize us to violate what we had solemnly sworn to support and preserve? Or did an act which was not to be tolerated in the wicked Congress, become venial or laudable when committed by the saints composing this Assembly?
These resolutions, continued Mr. Taylor, must have some ultimate object; and it had been demanded what that object was? The gentleman from Caroline had answered, that it was ultimately to induce the states to call another general convention for the amendment of the Constitution. How unfortunate and ruinous such an experiment would be, the reflection of a few moments must convince us.
When the circumstances and the time when the convention assembled which formed our present Constitution, and the importance and difficulty of the task which they undertook and executed, were considered, we had ample cause to return our fervent thanks to the Almighty for the issue of their labours. At that time the weakness and inefficacy of the articles of confederation was perceived and acknowledged by us all; our contracts were undischarged; our credit was destroyed; and our character as a nation was contemptible both at home and abroad. All America united in the sentiment that change was essential: all America deputed members to the convention which introduced that change. Foreign nations despised us too much to interfere in the deliberations of that body, or of the state conventions which afterwards adopted the instrument. Even under these circumstances, the harmony with which the plan was recommended, and the unanimity with which it was adopted, were subjects of amazement and wonder.
But what would be the consequence and effect of a convention summoned to amend the Constitution at the present moment? Now, said he, party-spirit unfortunately flames and rages. Some think the Constitution as perfect as it could be made, while others consider it as the harbinger of monarchy, and others again, supposed that the powers of government require an increase of energy and power. A spirit of mutual concession could no longer be expected. The delegates from the northern and southern parts of the Union would behold each other with jealousy and suspicion. They would never unite in the same project. They might agree indeed, in pulling down the present building, but they would never agree in erecting another.
This too, is a period when the whole European world is convulsed and in arms; our rising importance attracts their attention and excites their fears. Even in the present state of things, their ministers and agents were continually intriguing among our citizens. Would they remain idle and unemployed while the convention was deliberating? Would they not afford fuel to the name of party, and prepare the public mind to reject every scheme which might be proposed? Was it not reasonable to he expected that the consequence of their exertions, and our own ferments, would be confusion, anarchy, civil war, and disunion? Enjoying, then, as we do, every happiness to which reason can aspire, shall we, said he, wantonly attempt a change by which little could be obtained, and everything might be sacrificed.
In Virginia, Mr. Taylor said, the general sentiment was that the government of the United States verges towards, and will ultimately settle in, a monarchy. But the measures of that government are supported by a majority of the House of Representatives, and by a still greater majority of the Senate. From this obvious proof of the prevailing sentiment throughout the Union, was it to be expected that another government would be framed vesting smaller or fewer powers in the executive, than he at present exercises? Would not our object, on the contrary, be defeated, since the general convention would probably enlarge instead of diminish the powers of the national government? No other consequence, therefore, could at the present time, and under existing circumstances, follow such an experiment, but increase of dissatisfaction and disgust, and a more ardent disposition to dissever the bonds of union which now connect all America.
In such a convention, in vain should we reckon on the superior importance, power, and influence of Virginia. A majority of states would never agree to summon another convention unless it should be previously agreed and declared that the votes shall be taken as in the former convention, by states. In such a convention, where the influence of Delaware or Rhode Island would be as great, and their respective votes would weigh as much as those of Virginia and Pennsylvania, what would be our chance of carrying our particular objects into effect. The smaller states already behold us with jealousy and apprehension. Each representative would come prepared to watch, to oppose and circumvent every other. Northern and southern, eastern and western parties and interests would immediately appear; and the convention, after a restless and turbulent session, which would increase instead of diminish the rage of faction among their constituents, would rise in confusion. The sound of peace would be no longer heard; the sentiment of union would no longer continue, but the sword would be drawn, the union for ever dismembered, and the bloody history of Europe would be retraced in the melancholy annals of divided and hostile America.
How sad and gloomy a contrast would such a state of things afford to the present flattering and happy aspect of our affairs. At this day, said Mr. Taylor, America, united under one government, experiences an increase of wealth and population unknown to any other country. Mild and equal laws, industrious and enterprising citizens, peace among ourselves and respect from foreign nations, render us the envy of every other part of the globe. Mr. Taylor then concluded with the following observation: May HE who rules the hearts of men, still dispose us to yield obedience to the constitutional acts of the majority; may He avert the mischiefs which these resolutions are calculated to produce; may He increase the love of union among our citizens; may no precipitate acts of the Legislature of Virginia convulse or destroy it; and to sum up all in one word, may it be perpetual!
Mr. GILES arose next, and said, as he had but lately appeared before the committee, he would not have obtruded any observations upon it, had not some remarks which had fallen from gentlemen made some impression upon him. Therefore, though unprepared, he would make a few observations. He then observed, that for several years past he had had an opportunity of considering the systems pursued by both the state government and General Government. Of those he considered the system of Virginia the best and mildest. For after twenty years' operation, little mischief could be proved to have proceeded from it; but, on the contrary, much good had been done by the administration of it in that time. There had been no complaint that he had heard respecting the injury of person or property; and there had been at the same time less energy in it than in any other government whatever. The injunctions of law had been duly obeyed, and of the laws of the United States particularly, of as much so here as in any other state. What had been the cause of this? Not the rigour, but the mildness of the laws. And were such principle always to be attended to, the necessity of energy in the executive branch would never exist. Mr. Giles then asked what was that energy? It was despotism. Whence had sprung the distinction of parlies? Not while Virginia was left to herself. He then proceeded to pass a high eulogium on her system, which had been felt by him in private life; for he confessed that he had never acted in a public character in this body before? Whence then did party-spirit arise? It had been since that new doctrine had taken place of strengthening the hands of the executive of the United States, to give it an energy. And he proceeded to show of what kind that was.
Since that period, he said, efforts to resist had originated. Mr. Giles then requested the committee to examine the powers of the General Government, and observe what was the opinion formed of them at its commencement. He then mentioned certain systems which had been established in the course of its operation, such as the funding-system, bank, &c. These systems being established, it would be thought necessary from time to time, to give them energy. He said, there was a kind of sophistry used by the General Government in assigning that for the means which was in fact the end; and stated for example the case of invasion and insurrection. The sedition-law had been called the means for preventing them; but he (Mr. Giles) declared the contrary to be the fact. The sedition-law was truly the end, and an invasion was made use of as the means to introduce it. He would examine the Constitution, he said; and there he found the language as plain as the English language could be. Still, however, that language, plain as it was, was avoided by calling an end a means. The sedition-law, then, was an end to suppress a certain party in the United States. But it had been predicted by gentlemen, that many mischievous consequences would attend the adoption of the plan proposed by the resolutions before the committee. Mr. Giles contended, however, that if such consequences did take place, they would not proceed from any act of this Assembly, but from these acts of Congress already passed. As for himself, he wished as much as others to preserve happiness. His efforts were tending to that end. An oath, too, had been spoken of. What was it ? "To support the Constitution of the United States." It became then the duty of the members of this Assembly, who had taken such an oath, to support the Constitution. But it had been said, that on this occasion a resort must be made to the judiciary and to the people. Why so? said Mr. Giles. The members of this Assembly have taken the same oath to support the Constitution as the judiciary and the people. It became then as much their duty to support it, as it was that of the others. He then asked, how was the Constitution to be supported; and said, that it was by resisting all attacks upon it, not any particular acts only. But the right of the members of this Assembly to speak their opinions upon the subject was questioned. It was said, that they must inform the people so: that they must do it, that the judges must do it, and that they their representatives wished not to do it themselves. Mr. Giles then said, that the measures of our present government tended to the establishment of monarchy, limited or absolute. It had been said, too, that the people only were parties to the compact. But Mr. Giles asked what was an association of people? A federal? No; it was asocial compact. How then would they support it as a federal compact, if it were only a social compact? The state government was truly of the latter kind. The General Government was partly of each kind. The objection to the word only then was correct, and before he concluded, he should move to strike it out. But he acknowledged "that they were then acting as a state. The gentleman from Westmoreland had delivered his opinion respecting the formation of the government. In this opinion, Mr. Giles said, the gentleman was partly correct, and partly incorrect. The United States would perhaps have been in a different situation, if what the gentleman had asserted had been established. He then proceeded to show in what manner several states in the Union appointed their electors to choose a President, which was by their legislatures. The federal idea, then, of the other side was not correct. And if, on the other hand, the government were a social compact, he pronounced monarchy to be near at hand, the symptoms and causes of which he particularly pointed out: and concluded that the state legislatures alone, at this time prevented monarchy. He then said, that in proportion as the powers of the government were extended, new excuses for more energy would arise. And what was energy? A coercing of the public will. He then observed how little energy was exerted in Virginia. The energy of the laws was sufficient. He hoped, then, that the right of the committee to proceed to examine the subject would not be denied. The gentleman from Prince George had dwelt upon the present happiness of the people, to disprove which Mr. Giles called to mind the rigorous proceedings of the government, and particularly cited the case of Matthew Lyon, whom, notwithstanding the reports propagated to his prejudice, he said he would aver to be a man of much worth. The effects of these laws of Congress were not yet sufficiently known. The medium of information had heretofore been contracted and imperfect. This House was then undertaking to make them more known. The critical situation of the United States, too, had been mentioned: that France and England both had a view towards us; and that therefore great caution should be used.
He then proceeded to take notice of the measures adopted by the last Congress. The cause for them held out, was the danger to be apprehended from a certain foreign power. This cause had produced the laws respecting the navy, the army, aliens, and the sedition-law, which last operated upon citizens, and not foreigners. Those gentlemen, he said, who never had been about the seat of government, could form no conception of the exertions of persons who were continually infusing into men's minds, the notions of energy. Mr. Giles then read an answer of the President of the United States, to show what he had in view in respect to that foreign power so much feared. It was his answer to the address of the people of Bath. He read it, and proceeded to comment on the latter part of it respecting a party in Virginia to be crushed into dust and ashes. He asked what was that party? They were said to be French partisans. But by whom were they so called? He asked, too, who were the favourers of the resolutions? Not Frenchmen, but good citizens. This was the party then to be crushed, before the schemes of the President could be effected. He said that he could produce more answers of the President, avowing the same principles and design, as that already cited, but he would not tire the committee with them. He declared himself, however, to be as good a, citizen as the President. Why then was he to be crushed into dust and ashes? He then expressed his disapprobation of the measures adopted by the government respecting the army and navy. He asked, of what characters would they be composed? Of the idle and dissipated part of the community? On the contrary, who were the patriots who would protect their country? This very party mentioned by the President would repel any invasion. It was true they had no arms, but they would find arms. Mr. Giles then said that he approved of the argument used by the gentleman from Caroline, respecting the volunteers, but wished it to be somewhat more extended. He thought it a much more serious matter than any other. The gentleman from Caroline had used it in regard to the President's enlisting aliens merely. But Mr. Giles said he would ask, further, of whom those companies were to be composed? Not of farmers or farmers' sons, but chiefly of aliens. He himself believed that the operation of the last-mentioned law was intended to unite both. But it was said the people would protect the Constitution; that the judges would protect it. He then observed, that opposition to foreign power was always the pretence to usurpation. To prove that, he instanced the case of Rome. There, he said, whenever the people found themselves oppressed, and solicited redress, they were told by their rulers that was not the time; that the common wealth was in danger; that the Volsci were at their gates. Mr. Giles then said, that by the measures adopted by the last Congress, nothing had been left undone to carry us into monarchy. But union was now said to be necessary. What was that union for? To abridge the freedom of the press. Was that desirable? He compared this to the case of robbers forming an union for the purpose of robbing. And said, that good was the object of the union of the states, and not mischief. He then adverted to the distinction between opinion and fact. He said Mr. Jefferson's was a good distinction. And that the assertion of false fact was punishable before the sedition-law was passed; but the assertion of false opinion was not. There was no standard to ascertain that; there was, however, in respect to false fact. This sedition-law, then, deprived men of the freedom of speech. It prescribed the punishment of a new thing. Opinion heretofore, had ranged at large, had always prevailed. Mr. Giles then asked, how was the restriction of opinion introduced in France. It was brought about in Robespierre's reign of terrorism. He then asked how this party mentioned by the President was to be crushed? Incarceration would not be sufficient. In regard to the restriction of opinion, he compared our situation to that of France, in the reign of Robespierre. As for himself, he feared not the system, but thought the most effectual mode was now pursued to introduce the same despotism here as had prevailed in France, He approved the mode adopted by the resolutions, in making a declaration to conflict with other opinions. He then referred to our situation, and said that he felt himself as much interested as any one to ward off war, but he thought the worst of all things was ultimately submission; and that a constitutional violation was more degrading than anything. But the resolutions had been charged with containing invective. He said if there were any, it must arise from simple language, expressing simple truths. However, if better could be used he would be willing to agree to it. But he doubted whether should even the Lord's Prayer be introduced before them, and undergo a criticism, they could be brought to agree to it. It had been said, that if this Assembly critically examined the measures of the general government, they should use more pleasant terms. But Mr. Giles said they were not terms, but truths that were unpleasant. He proceeded next to consider the alien-law, and to answer the observations of gentlemen in respect to aliens having no rights. In advocating the rights of aliens, he said, he did not consider what was popular, but what was justice. A stranger coming into a country had a right to protection. It was not a matter of favour only. A great number of persons already admitted into this country, he said, were not citizens. They would be affected by this law. He insisted that aliens were not only entitled to a trial by jury, but to that particular benefit of a jury de medieta telingiae, by the law in force both in England and here. It had been said, however, that this was not a trial of guilt, but to prevent it. That, he said, made no difference. A trial was still necessary. He conceived that there was no foreign, but a domestic reason for this law. It was said that the French were ambitious. But was this a ground for the laws to affect our domestic operations? If they were repealed the government would be as firm as it was now. The administration, he said, was not the government. The government could subsist without it. For instance, it was once thought in Switzerland that it was necessary to keep a bear amongst them, for their prosperity and safety. After awhile the bear broke his chain and run away. For some time after, the people continued to lament his escape, and expected that some dreadful calamity would befall them. But, after waiting some time, and finding that no such calamity arrived, they began to bring themselves by degrees to believe, that the bear was of no use, and that they could do as well without him, as with him. Mr. Giles then said that he was as much in favour of government as any man, and would contribute as liberally to its support, but was not an advocate for improper measures. He then proceeded to consider the sedition-law. He observed, that the gentleman from Prince George had mentioned the God of Heaven. But he had nothing to do with the Constitution. If he had, it was omnipotent. On the contrary, Mr. Giles said, that the powers of government were derived from the Constitution, and not from the reason and nature of things. Implication, he said, was a dangerous doctrine. There was an express prohibition of all powers not granted by the Constitution. The Constitution and this law convey to the mind different impressions. The derivation of power, he again insisted, could not be proved otherwise than from the Constitution. The powers not given by that were retained to the states, or to the people. What, then, was given to each? The general government, he said, should not be entrusted to decide upon character, or in case of murder. That power was reserved to the states. That was the proper authority for regulating and deciding upon these matters. Mr. Giles made some further observations on the last clause of the law last mentioned, and then said, that declaring these acts of Congress unconstitutional, satisfied the oaths of the members of this Assembly. He would agree to stop after that, if they thought proper, and to strike out everything beyond it. If gentlemen thought the laws were unconstitutional, they were bound to say so, otherwise it would be a dereliction of the oath which they had taken. For his part, he said, he should vote for something which would express his opinion upon the subject. He would, however, at any rate, move to strike out of the resolutions before the committee, the word alone.
Mr. NICHOLAS seconded Mr. Giles's motion for striking out of the resolutions the word alone; and further observed, that either the gentleman from Prince George or himself, misunderstood the gentleman from Caroline, in respect to calling a convention. He hoped, therefore, that the gentleman from Caroline would explain himself upon that point. Mr. Nicholas then stated what he understood that gentleman to say, which he himself approved; but on the contrary, did not approve the calling a convention.
Mr. BOLLING said, that he understood the gentleman from Caroline in the same manner that the gentleman who was last up did, in respect to calling a convention. Mr. Bolling also made several observations to show that the gentleman from Prince George had misunderstood Mr. Jefferson's letter which had been quoted by him.
Mr. JOHN TAYLOR said he would explain in a few words what he had before said. That the plan proposed by the resolutions would not eventuate in war, but might in a convention. He did not admit, or contemplate, that a convention would be called. He only said, that if Congress, upon being addressed to have those laws repealed, should persist, they might, by a concurrence of three-fourths of the states, be compelled to call a convention. Mr. Taylor further said, that while up he would himself move to strike out certain words of the resolutions, if the same were in order; which being agreed to without a question taken, Mr. Taylor proceeded to do so.
The original resolutions offered by him to the House, and referred to the committee of the whole House on the state of the commonwealth, were in the following words:
Resolved, As the opinion of this committee, that the General Assembly of Virginia doth unequivocally express a firm resolution to maintain and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of this state, against every aggression, either foreign or domestic, and that it will support the government of the United States in all measures warranted by the former.
That this Assembly most solemnly declares a warm attachment to the union of the states, to maintain which, it pledges all its powers; and that for this end it is its duty to watch over and oppose every infraction of those principles, which constitute the only basis of that union, because a faithful observance of them can alone secure its existence, and the public happiness.
That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare that it views the powers of the federal government as resulting from the compact, to which the states alone are parties, as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact; as no further valid than they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers not granted by the said compact, the states, who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them.
That the General Assembly doth also express its deep regret that a spirit has, in sundry instances, been manifested by the federal government, to enlarge its powers by forced constructions of the constitutional charter which defines them; and that indications have appeared of a design to expound certain general phrases (which having been copied from the very limited grant of powers in the former articles of confederation, were the less liable to be misconstrued), so as to destroy the meaning and effect of the particular enumeration, which necessarily explains and limits the general phrases, and so as to consolidate the states by degrees into one sovereignty, the obvious tendency and inevitable result of which would be to transform the present republican system of the United States into an absolute, or at best, a mixed monarchy.
That the General Assembly doth particularly protest against the palpable and alarming infractions of the Constitution, in the two late cases of the "alien and sedition-acts," passed at the last session of Congress, the first of which exercises a power nowhere delegated to the federal government; and which by uniting legislative and judicial powers to those of executive, subverts the general principles of free government, as well as the particular organization, and positive provisions of the Federal Constitution; and the other of which acts exercises in like manner a power not delegated by the Constitution, but on the contrary expressly and positively forbidden by one of the amendments thereto; a power which more than any other ought to produce universal alarm, because it is levelled against that right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.
That this state having by its convention which ratified the Federal Constitution, expressly declared, "that among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified by any authority of the United States," and from its extreme anxiety to guard these rights from every possible attack of sophistry or ambition, having, with other states, recommended an amendment for that purpose, which amendment was in due time annexed to the Constitution, it would mark a reproachful inconsistency and criminal degeneracy, if an indifference were now shown to the most palpable violation of one of the rights thus declared and secured, and to the establishment of a precedent which may be fatal to the other.
That the good people of this commonwealth having ever felt, and continuing to feel the most sincere affection to their brethren of the other states, the truest anxiety for establishing and perpetuating the union of all, and the most scrupulous fidelity to that Constitution which is the pledge of mutual friendship, and the instrument of mutual happiness, the General Assembly doth solemnly appeal to the like dispositions of the other states, in confidence that they will concur with this commonwealth in declaring, as it does hereby declare, that the acts aforesaid are unconstitutional, and not law, hut utterly null, void, and of no force or effect, and that the necessary and proper measures will be taken by each, for co-operating with this state in maintaining unimpaired the authorities, rights, and liberties reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
That the Governor be desired to transmit a copy of the foregoing resolutions to the executive authority of each of the other states, with a request that the same may be communicated to the legislature thereof.
And that a copy be furnished to each of the senators and representatives, representing this state in the Congress of the United States.
The word "alone" in the third clause, and the words "and not law, but utterly null, void, and of no force or effect," in the seventh clause, were stricken out of the foregoing resolutions.
Mr. John Taylor's resolutions thus amended, being then read by the chairman, Mr. Brooke moved to amend the same, by substituting in lieu thereof the resolution which he had offered to the committee on Tuesday, the 18th instant, and which was then laid upon the table. The question was put thereupon, and the amendment disagreed to by the committee. The main question was then put on Mr. John Taylor's resolutions as amended by himself, and agreed to.
The committee then rose, and Mr. Breckenridge reported, that the committee of the whole House on the state of the commonwealth had had the same under their consideration, and had come to certain resolutions thereupon, which he handed in to the clerk's table, (being Mr. John Taylor's resolutions, as above stated, amended and agreed to by the committee.)
General LEE then arose and observed, that although desirous of ending the debate, yet wishing, with the gentleman from Amelia, to meliorate the paper before them, by striking out some other part of the resolutions, he would move an amendment to that effect. He then read the fourth clause of the resolutions, and objected to the same as containing assertions which he could not believe, and at the same time also a high charge against the general government. He therefore moved to strike out that clause.
Mr. BOLLING said, that in order to convince the gentleman from Westmoreland of the futility of his proposition, he hoped that no other gentleman would disgrace himself, and the wisdom of the House, by gratifying the gentleman with a reply on the occasion. He (Mr. Bolling) had arisen, therefore, to second the gentleman's motion, and to give him complete satisfaction by bringing the question to an end.
Mr. GILES made some remarks in favour of the clause proposed to be stricken out. He stated several reasons to show why it should be retained; and concluded by expressing his objection to its being stricken out.
Mr. NICHOLAS hoped the motion made by the gentleman from Westmoreland, for expunging the clause in question, would not prevail. Without that clause, it was true, he would vote for the resolutions, but his anxiety about them would be very much lessened, if it was expunged; for then it would appear, that none of the measures of the Federal Government were objected to but the alien and sedition-bills. This was not the fact; and it must also be in the recollection of many gentlemen in that House, that some of those members who were now most loud in support of the measures of which he and his friends complained, and who denied with most confidence the right of the Assembly to interfere, had themselves upon other occasions acted very differently, and justified that interference. One of the gentlemen distinguished himself in a particular instance, for which he had his most hearty approbation, as he considered it a subject highly interesting to the happiness of his country. How gentlemen could reconcile their opinions at past periods, with those they supported at this day, it was incumbent upon them to show. Mr. Nicholas said, it was with the deepest regret that he reviewed the principal measures of the Federal Government, as they appeared to him to tend directly to a consolidation of the state governments, which he believed would eventuate in monarchy. Upon all questions about the division of power, everything had been given to the executive from Congress, everything to Congress from the states. The general phrases in the Constitution, which were only intended to explain and limit the powers of the general government, have been considered as giving powers, thereby destroying the effect of the particular enumeration of powers, and of the security derived from the twelfth amendment to the Constitution. He would state the particular acts which he thought most obnoxious. The first in point of time were the bank and assumption laws, for which he could find no authority in the Constitution of the United States, and by which the commercial and monied interests of this country had been devoted to certain individuals and their theories, and concentred a force more powerful and operative than an army of twenty thousand men. The British treaty and its effects were so well known to this House, that it was unnecessary to dilate upon that subject. The doctrine about appropriations of money was so important in its consequences, that it merited the most serious attention of the people of America. The Constitution declares, that "no money shall be drawn from the treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law;" notwithstanding which, it is now contended, that the President may by his single act, bind the Congress to make appropriations, whether they deem them proper or not, thereby transferring from the representatives of the people to the executive magistrate, the command of the national purse. The stamp-act subjects the people to an obnoxious and inconvenient tax, and changes already, and may change still more hereafter, the system of evidence which the state laws required in their own courts. The ultimate effect of this may be to shut up the state courts; for it is even contended, that delivery bonds are subject to the tax. If this be true, other process may be taxed so highly as may amount to a denial of justice: the transferring the important power of borrowing money and raising armies, vested by the Constitution in Congress, to the President: the utter neglect of the militia: the attempt to render them useless and unnecessary, by raising standing armies, and by authorizing the President to employ any number of volunteers that he may think proper, when the only reason for a preference of volunteers that occurred to him was, that the President had the appointment of the officers of those corps, whereas the militia officers were appointed by the state governments, greatly excited his suspicion. He confessed, his objections to these corps had been very much increased since he had seen a letter from the Secretary of War,* from which it appeared to him that the design was to arm one part of the people against the other. He well remembered, that when the Constitution was under discussion, great stress was laid upon this circumstance; and it was believed it would give great security to the state governments, and to the liberties of the people; but so great a revolution had a few years produced, that some gentlemen were willing to abandon principles that have been heretofore deemed the most sacred. The conduct of the executive in bestowing offices, more in the style of rewards for the support of particular measures, than from any regard to the general merits of the citizens called to fill them, and upon the same ground removing from office every man who ventures to hazard an opinion in opposition to any of the measures that have been pursued, necessarily created alarm. He mentioned the removal from office of Mr. Tenche Coxe and Mr. Gardiner, in support of what he had said, and expressed a fear, that by these means that numerous and influential class of citizens, who ought to consider themselves as the public servants, might be made the creatures of executive power; and if, said Mr. Nicholas, the day should ever come that the office of President should devolve upon an ambitious man, public officers might be made the most powerful instruments to promote his views. The influence would operate upon all those who expect, or want public employment.
Mr. Nicholas then observed, there was another subject, which he felt the greatest pain at mentioning. Nothing but its importance and connexion with the subject in discussion should induce him to do it. The judiciary department of every government should be most pure; there should not be a suspicion of a previous bias upon the mind of the judge. Every man who goes into a court ought to consider himself as in a sanctuary. The utmost ingenuity of man had been exercised to form a judiciary that should be beyond the reach of influence. Was the conduct of the judiciary what it ought to have been? He had always supposed courts were instituted to dispense justice between man and man, between individuals and the society; but he feared that facts might be stated from which it might be inferred that it was considered by some that there were other objects, such as the propagating of particular opinions; that there was united in the same man, the duties of a missionary and of a judge. He said this point of his argument was so disagreeable to him, that he
* Extract of a letter from the Secretary of War to an officer of high rank in the militia of Virginia, who had communicated the wish of several volunteer companies to tender their services.
"It being deemed important not to accept of companies composed of disaffected persons, who might from improper motives be desirous to intrude themselves into the army under pretence of patriotic association, it will be proper certificates from prominent and known characters, setting forth the principles of the associates, those of the officers elect, especially; and that the company hare complied with the prerequisite condition of the law, be also presented."
would not dwell upon it, but would dismiss it with a declaration that he felt great pleasure in saying that there were judges to whom he had never heard extra-judicial interference in political matters attributed. Mr. Nicholas observed, that thinking of the measures that he had stated as he did, he could not consent to expunge the clause. Indeed, if he did not give his full assent to what was stated in that clause, he would have been willing to confine the efforts of the House to procure the repeal of the alien and sedition-bills. But considering these as a part of a system that brought into jeopardy the dearest interests of his country, he thought it was their duty to represent to the other states the whole ground of the public uneasiness. As to the alien and sedition-laws, he had intended at an earlier part of the debate to have made some observations, but other gentlemen on the same side with himself, had expressed his opinions better than he could have done. He would therefore only say that he considered them as unconstitutional, and that if the principle was once established that Congress have a right to make such laws, the tenure by which we hold our liberty would be entirely subverted. Instead of rights independent of human control, we must be content to hold by the courtesy and forbearance of those whom we have heretofore considered as the servants of the people. Mr. Nicholas said he had been a member of the convention that adopted the Constitution; that he had been uniformly a friend to it; that he considered himself as now acting in support of it; that he knew it was the artifice of those on the other side to endeavour to attach a suspicion of hostility to the government to those who differed with them in opinion. For his part, he despised such insinuations, as far as they might be levelled at him. He appealed to his past life, and to his situation for his justification. Upon what gentlemen's claim to exclusive patriotism was founded, he was yet to learn. The friends of the resolutions yielded to none in disinterested attachment to their country, to the Constitution of the United States, to union, and to liberty. The conduct and the motives of all would be judged of by the people of this country, to whom they were all known. Mr. Nicholas had full confidence that the amendment would be rejected, and the resolutions without further alteration, would meet the approbation of a great majority of that House.
General LEE said, that he wished to refute the observations of the gentleman last up, in favour of retaining the clause. (He was proceeding to do so, when he was interrupted by Mr. Nicholas, who observed that the gentleman had misunderstood him, and then declared in substance what he had before actually said.)
After such explanation, General Lee proceeded to justify the measures of the General Government in respect to the removal of persons from office. As to Mr. Coxe, as far as he could recollect the circumstances of his conduct, he thought his removal proper. And as to Mr. Gardiner, he confessed it was a case with which he was quite unacquainted. In respect to the judiciary being forward in delivering their opinions on public measures, he would observe that the state judges had done, and still did the same. He blamed them not for it. For the appointment of men as judges did not deprive them of their rights as citizens. But nothing of this kind, he said, would prove the propriety of the clause proposed to be stricken out.
General Lee then observed, that he considered the argument of the gentleman from Amelia, in respect to the connexion between the alien-law, and the law concerning volunteers, weak. For his army of aliens being soldiers by compulsion, would turn against the President, instead of assisting him. The gentleman, too, had called in question the ends which the government had in view in raising an army and navy. General Lee proceeded to answer the objections upon that head, by pointing out those ends. As to the alien and sedition-laws, he contended that the only real view in passing them, was to protect us from foreign invasion. He denied that there was an inclination in the General Government to crush a party. The construction placed by the gentleman from Amelia, upon the President's answer to the address of the people of Bath was erroneous. General Lee then read part of that answer, and placed a different construction upon the expressions which it contained. He conceived the President's meaning only to be, that it depended upon Virginia to say whether or not there was a party in the United States to be crushed, &c.; not positively asserting on his part, that there was such a party.
General Lee then observed, that if the people could govern themselves, how could that be done but by obedience to the laws? Their freedom could not be preserved by any other mode. For if the principle of obeying the will of the majority was once destroyed, it would prostrate all free government. But the gentleman from Amelia had considered himself as one of the party to be crushed, alluded to by the President. He (General Lee) was surprised at such an idea. That gentleman had committed no crime. He had for some time before, been honoured with a seat in Congress. And there, although he had generally been in a minority, yet it was nothing more than the situation in which he (General Lee) had often been placed here. In neither was there any criminality. A difference, it was true, did exist between these cases; and he derived consolation from reflecting, that though he himself was in a minority here, he was still in a majority with that body which properly had the determination of national matters. He concluded with hoping that the amendment would prevail.
Mr. TYLER arose next, and said that an able general would fight and struggle to the last. When driven from one stronghold, he would retreat to another; and finding himself no longer able to oppose superior numbers, he would attempt to divide his enemy. Mr. Tyler believed the plan on the present occasion, was to divide the republican members, but he hoped the gentleman's plan would not succeed; and that the clause would be retained. He thought it contained solemn truths. He doubted not but that many of the measures of the General Government had a tendency to monarchy, absolute or limited. These measures had been pointed out by the gentleman from Albemarle. He would however state them over again. Mr. Tyler did so. He particularly relied on the growing influence of the executive, and the probability of an alliance with a corrupt monarchy, and an open rupture with a republic, which he said had been openly advocated by gentlemen of high character. He inquired what had been the effects of executive influence in Great Britain? He said, that by the revolution of 1688, and by several statutes of Parliament passed about that time, many of the great rights of the people, and the principles of freedom had been established; but that it might, at this time, be well doubted if the people were more free than they were before the revolution. This was to be ascribed to the immense influence of the crown, which had three millions at disposal. He demanded what other cause had prevented a reform in Parliament, upwards of three hundred of whose members were chosen by a fewer number of electors. He asked if there was not some similitude between the systems pursued by our administration, and that of Great Britain? He said that the people of Great Britain were clamorous for peace, and Lord Malmesbury was sent to make peace; but he returned, and made no peace. He would not follow the comparison. Our fears, he said, had been assailed. He inquired whom were we to fear? He feared no man, and no measure, but that of offending the people; and he believed that the people were never offended at any effort to maintain their rights, or to protect their liberties. The gentleman from Westmoreland had said, that the gentleman from Amelia could not consider himself as one of the party to be crushed, and had asked what crime that gentleman had committed. Mr. Tyler said, that the gentleman from Amelia had committed a crime; the crime of differing in opinion with the administrators of the government. This was the crime that had incarcerated Mr. Lyon. He asked what prospect have we of a change of these measures, which he viewed as the harbingers, the forerunners of monarchy, either limited or absolute. Were we not told that they must have more men, and a little more money; augment our standing army, and increase our navy; and force the construction of the Constitution to warrant alien and sedition-bills? Mr. Tyler concluded by hoping that the clause would be retained. He believed it contained the truth, and was very important; and thought that the people of Virginia called for some such measure.
Part II | Debate Dec. 20 | Vote | Randolph Contents | Text Version