the Sovereignty of the States,
The State Rights Association of Pennsylvania, and a Public Meeting of Citizens,
on the 4th of March, 1834,
at the Commissioners’ Hall,
in the Northern Liberties of Philadelphia,
by Condy Raguet, Esq.,
a Member of the Association.
We are assembled in commemoration of the day upon which, three and thirty years ago, a memorable revolution placed in the Executive chair, the great apostle of American liberty, Thomas Jefferson. I use the word “Revolution,” not in a figurative sense of that term, but as the true expression to signify that radical change in the theory of the government as then maintained, which was accomplished by that event, and which restored the federative character of our Union, and saved the people from the despotism of a grand consolidated empire.
It is not the purpose of him who now addresses you, to pronounce an eulogium, upon the sage whose mortal remains now repose on the retired and peaceful summit of Monticello. A more a appropriate occasion for such an offering, will be presented at the approaching anniversary of his birth, when to more able hands, will no doubt be confided, the task of recalling to memory the deeds of the man, whom the people, once delighted to honor; not, however, it is hoped, in the spirit of man-worship, or of debasing adulation, but, in that spirit of veneration for the great principles of freedom, which were so eminently personified in that patriotic statesman.
My present design, and that for which I have been especially invited by the State Rights Association, is simply to lay before you, in language adapted to the comprehension of all, a history of the formation of our government, and some detail of those political facts, upon which the great doctrine of State Sovereignty is founded.
In a republican government where the highest offices and honours are alike accessible to the poor and to the rich –where there is no titled aristocracy invested with privileges denied to the mass of the people; –and where education is within the reach almost of all– it behooves every man to have an acquaintance with the nature of the government under which he lives, and in the administering of which, he may some day be called to take a part. Without such acquaintance, how is it possible for one to enter upon an office with the hopes of rendering the country a service, which, let me remark by the way, is the only legitimate motive with which office should be sought ? Ignorant of the first principles of the science of government, and even of the character of the one which he seeks to serve, he must enter upon his duties with as little capacity to perform them, as would a landsmen possess, who had never seen a compass, to navigate a ship across the ocean.
I do not mean to say that every man is bound to be a statesman, or to be deeply skilled in political learning, but simply that no one should be ignorant of those elementary and fundamental principles, which, have from the organization of our government to the present day, constituted the test of parties, or, of those historical truths, an acquaintance with which is essential to a right understanding of the subject.
You all well know, fellow citizens, that the great point upon which the federal and democratic parties were originally divided, was caracter of the federal government. The Federal party maintained that it was a government formed by the whole people of the thirteen United States, as one aggregate mass, in the same manner that the government of Pennsylvania was formed by the people of Pennsylvania, as one aggregate mass. –The Democratic party maintained that the government was formed, not by the whole people of the United States as one aggregate mass, but by the people of the thirteen States, in their separate capacities of thirteen free Sovereign and Independent communities. Upon this distinction, depends the whole question.
If the federal doctrine be true, then the government of the United States is a consolidated empire, towards which, the several States stand in the same relation, that the counties of Pennsylvania stand to the State. But, if on the other hand, the democratic doctrine be true, then the government is a federal government, formed by a confederation of republics, each possessing rights which have never been delegated to the federal head. –These two theories of government involve the most important consequences as respects the liberty of the people, and the union of the States, and as there can be no better mode of ascertaining which of the two is the true theory, than by referring to history, I shall beg your earnest attention to the following recital.
Under the old Colonial government of Great Britain, each of her colonies on the American continent, was wholly independent of the rest. Each had its own Governor, its own Legislature, its own Judicial tribunals, and its own code of laws, and each was subject to no other jurisdiction or authority, than that of the mother country. Each stood to the crown of Great Britain, in precisely the same relation as the provinces of Canada, and New Brunswick now stand, and each, had it possessed the physical strength necessary to sustain it in the act, might if it had chosen, have declared its individual separation from the mother country, and taken its rank amongst the powers of the earth, as a free, Sovereign and Independent nation.
The limited population and resources, however, of each of the colonies, disqualified it for separate action; and when the period arrived at which the oppression of the parent State could no longer be borne by the children, a sense of common danger naturally induced them to unite in one common effort to throw off the yoke. –The first congress, which was assembled to take into consideration the actual situation of the colonies in reference to their differences with Great Britain, met at the Carpenter’s Hall, in the city of Philadelphia, on the 5th of September, 1774, not quite sixty years ago. This body consisted of Delegates, from New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, from the city and county of New York, and other counties in the Province of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Castle, Kent and Sussex, in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, and continued in session until the 26th of October, when it dissolved, after recommending delegates to meet again on the 10th of the following May. During its sitting, this Congress amongst other things, resolved, “that the Congress approve the opposition of the inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay, to the obnoxious acts of Parliament; and if the same shall be attempted to be carried into execution by force, in such case all America ought to support them in their opposition.” It also adopted an address to the people of Great Britain upon the subject of the grievances of the colonies, and a petition to the King, and resolved, that letters be addressed to the people of Quebec, and to the colonies of St. John’s, Nova Scotia, Georgia, and East and West Florida, inviting them to unite in resistance to the tyranny of Great Britain.
On the 10th of May, 1775, the second Congress assembled at the State House in Philadelphia. –On the 1st of August it adjourned until the 5th of September, from which day it remained in permanent session until after the consummation of the act, which dissolved the connexion with the mother country.
It is foreign to the object of this address, to detail the incidents of this eventful period. Suffice it to say, that on the 19th of June, George Washington was commissioned the “General and Commander in Chief of the Army of the United Colonies” –that on the same day, Congress resolved, “that they would maintain, assist, and adhere to George Washington, with their lives and fortunes in the same cause” –that on the 13th of September, delegates from Georgia took their seats in Congress, and completed the number of the thirteen States which had resolved to be free –that on the 13th of December, a naval armament of thirteen ships, was resolved on –that on the 27th of February, 1776, the colonies were laid off into military departments –that on the 23d of March, letters of marque and reprisal were authorized –and that on the 10th of May, it was resolved, to “recommend to the respective assemblies and conventions of the United Colonies, where no government sufficient to the exigency of their affairs, had been established, to adopt such a government as should, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and of America in general.”
All these measures, let it be remembered, were adopted prior to the Declaration of Independence, and whilst the colonies were still united to the British empire, but as they produced no change in the policy of the king, nothing was left to the colonists, but to take the final step of separation.
On the 10th of June, a committee was appointed to prepare a declaration to the following effect–
That the United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connexion between them and the State of Great Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
This noble determination was promptly sustained by Pennsylvania. On the 25th of June, a declaration of the deputies of that State met in provincial conference, expressing their willingness to concur in a vote declaring the United Colonies Free and Independent States, was laid before Congress and read, and on the 28th of June, the committee, through its Chairman, Thomas Jefferson, reported a draft, which was subsequently discussed, and finally adopted and signed, on the 4th of July, in the form of the document so well known to us all, as the Declaration of Independence.
In that glorious instrument, the truth was distinctly proclaimed to the world, that the act of separation from Great Britain, was a joint and several act –that the thirteen colonies, although they had united for the purpose of acting together in resistance to Great Britain, had not agreed to become one consolidated State, but had resolved to commence their independent existence as thirteen distinct States, with all the powers and attributes of individual sovereignty. The declaration was in these memorable words–
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world, for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly, publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent States –that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connexion between them and the State of Great Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved, and that as Free and Independent States, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other things which Independent States may of right do.”
And here I will take occasion to remark, that the term “State” is susceptible of several different interpretations, according to the sense in which it is applied. It sometimes means the territory comprised within certain geographical boundaries, as when it is said, we reside in the State of Pennsylvania. It sometimes means the government of a State, as if it were said, the State of Pennsylvania has appointed commissioners to treat with New Jersey, relative to the navigation of the Delaware. But in its most ordinary sense, it means a people who are bound together by a social compact, which constitutes them one nation. State in this sense, is but another same for nation, and when this term was employed in the Declaration of Independence, in reference to “the State of Great Britain,” it could only have meant the nation of Great Britain. And so when States were used in reference to the colonies, it could only have meant the people of each colony, now become an independent nation.
But to resume the subject. The colonies, having, by this act, jointly and severally thrown off the yoke of the mother country, they prepared to encounter the perils to which that bold and determined measure had exposed them. In the war which followed, they acted in their new capacity of free and independent States. Each one established its own commerce; each one levied war, and maintained its own army, out of its own private resources, besides contributing towards the support of the continental army, its fair proportion; and each one performed “all other things which independent States may of right do,” except those things which were specifically entrusted to Congress, by the States which had united. So far from there having been any ground for the allegation which has been made by some, that the separation of the States from Great Britain, took place as the act of a single nation, there was not, for near five years after the revolution began, even so much as an instrument of confederation between them. Although the subject was proposed before the Declaration of Independence, yet it was not until the 15th of November, 1777, that articles of confederation were first executed by the delegates in Congress assembled –with the view, as they stated in a circular letter, sent with the articles, to each of the States, of “securing the freedom, sovereignty, and independence of the United States”– nor until the 9th of July, 1778, that they were ratified by a subsequent Congress –nor until the 30th of January, 1781, that they were ratified by all the States, so as to render them binding on either.
By these articles of confederation, the terms of the Union between the whole thirteen States were first reduced to a systematic written compact, and it is to that instrument we are to look for our exposition of the relation towards each other, which was at that time held to exist. We shall not long be obliged to search, before we discover that the confederation referred to, was one between parties, each one of which considered itself a distinct and separate State, or nation, and not a compact between individual members of a single nation. The first three articles of the instrument which is entitled, “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union,” run thus:
“Article 1. The style or this Confederacy shall be, the United States of America.
“Article 2. Each State retains its Sovereignty, Freedom and Independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.
“Article 3. The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other for their common defence, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other against all force offered to, or attacks made, upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any pretence whatever.”
Up to this period, it cannot be pretended, that the States had parted with their sovereignty, freedom, or independence, and if that position be still alleged, we must seek for that act of self immolation, at some subsequent period of our history.
Under the form of government just described, the war of the revolution was successfully conducted, and brought to a happy close by the acknowledgment of our independence by the Government of Great Britain. As it has just been shewn that the parties which made war upon the mother country
were thirteen sovereign, free and independent States, at least, in their own estimation, it will be worth while to ascertain what opinion this mother country entertained on the subject, in order that we may know whether she thought she had been fighting thirteen different Sovereign States or only one. Of this opinion, we have evidence before our eyes, in the first article of the provisional agreement of 30th of November, 1782, in the following clear and explicit terms:
“His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz: New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. –Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, to be free, sovereign and independent States, that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety and territorial rights of the same, and every part thereof.”
Having thus given the history of the organization of the government, under the articles of confederation, it will now be in order to give a detail of the occurrences, which led to the convocation of the federal convention.
The government was not long in operation before it was discovered, that the want of a power in the confederation over foreign commerce, was the occasion of much embarrassment in its operations. Each State having the power to establish its own tariff of duties, and otherwise to regulate its trade, the Congress found it impossible to negotiate advantageous commercial treaties with Foreign Powers, inasmuch as it could pledge no reciprocity for favours granted, and was wholly destitute of the power to coerce by countervailing regulations. So early as February 3d, 1781, a resolution was offered in Congress, “that it is indispensably necessary that the United States in Congress assembled, should be vested with a right of superintending the commercial regulations of every State,” and “that they should be vested with the exclusive right of laying duties upon all imported articles.” On the 18th of April of that same year, the subject was again introduced, and a resolution was passed, recommending the States to empower Congress to levy a small duty on certain specified articles, the proceeds of which to be applied wholly to the discharge of the interest or principal of the debts contracted on the part of the United States, for supporting the war.” It was at the same time further recommended to the States, to raise for the term of 25 years, “substantial and effective revenues,” to be applied towards the said debt, and to engraft these two principles, if acceded to, as additional powers on the Articles of Confederation.
These recommendations were urged upon the States in an able address by the Congress on the 26th of April, soon after the conclusion of peace, in which they represented the advantages that would result to this “Confederated Republic” from the adoption of the proposed measures, and took occasion to say, “that it has ever been the pride and boast of America that, the rights for which she contended were the rights of human nature,” “rights which form the basis of thirteen independent states.”
Notwithstanding however, the ability and zeal with which this appeal was made, the states were reluctant to enlarge the powers of the Confederation, and as the consent of all was requisite to give validity to any act, nothing decisive was accomplished. The subject was again brought into view on several different occasions, and particularly on the 13th of July 1785, in the form of a report of a committee, in which the power to regulate trade, was solicited of the States, but the result was not more propitious.
At length another mode of effecting the object, was resorted to by the friends of the measure. The call for additional powers made by those who exercised the federal authority, was calculated to excite the jealousy of the States, and this may have indisposed some of them to lend a favourable ear to it. They probably feared, that the servants might wish to become masters, and that as the Congress already held the sword, it would be unwise to permit it also to hold the purse. It was therefore probably seen, that if any thing was to be effected, it could best be done by making the movement for an enlargement of powers, proceed from one of the States. Virginia being then the largest member of the Confederacy, and being besides, a state having, as a consumer of foreign commodities the greatest interest in a judicious exercise of such a power, was selected as the file leader, and accordingly we find Mr. Madison offering in the Legislature of that state on the 30th of November, resolutions instructing her delegates in Congress, “to propose a recommendation to the States in Union, to authorize that assembly to regulate their trade,” on certain specified principles. The resolutions were however, not adopted, but on the 21st of January 1786 a resolution was passed, that Commissioners be appointed “to meet such other Commissioners as may be appointed by the other States in the Union, at a time and place to be agreed on, to take into consideration the trade of the United States; to examine the relative situation and trade of the said states; to consider how far an uniform system in their commercial regulations maybe necessary to their common interest, and their permanent harmony, and to report to the several states such an act relative to this great object, as when unanimously ratified by them, will enable the United States in Congress assembled, effectually to provide for the same.”
Although this resolution was adopted on the 21st of January, so slow and cautious were the States, that it was not until the 11th of September, that Commissioners from five states alone, viz, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, assembled at Annapolis. The first proceeding of this body, after a full communication of sentiments, was the appointment of a committee to “prepare a draught of a report to be made to the states, having commissioners attending at this meeting,” which draught having been reported on a subsequent day, was adopted on the 14th. In that report it was stated, that commissioners had been appointed by the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and North Carolina, none of whom had attended, and that as the representation was too “partial and defective,” those assembled did not conceive it advisable to proceed on the business of their mission.” –“Deeply impressed, however, with the magnitude and importance of the objects confided to them on this occasion,” says the report, “your commissioners cannot forbear to indulge an expression of their earnest and unanimous wish, that speedy measures may be taken to effect a general meeting of the States, in a future convention, for the same, and such other purposes, as the situation of public affairs may be found to require.” The report concludes by recommending “the appointment of commissioners to meet at Philadelphia on the second Monday in May next, to take into consideration the situation of the United States, to devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union, and to report such an act for that purpose to the United States in Congress assembled, as when agreed to by them and afterwards confirmed by the Legislature of every State, will effectually provide for the same.”
In pursuance of this recommendation, delegates were appointed as follows:
By New Jersey, on the 23d of November, 1786.
By Virginia on the 4th of December, 1786.
By Pennsylvania, on the 30th of December, 1786.
By North Carolina, on the 6th of January, 1787.
By Delaware, on the 3d of February, 1787.
By Georgia, on the 10th of February, 1787.
These manifestations of public sentiment being in accordance with the views so repeatedly urged by Congress, induced that body to press the subject upon the consideration of the remaining States, by the adoption, on the 21st of February, 1787, of the following resolution.–
Resolved, That in the opinion of Congress, it is expedient that, on the second Monday in May next, a Convention of delegates, who shall have been appointed by the several States, be held at Philadelphia, for the sole and express purpose of revising the articles of confederation and reporting to Congress and the several Legislatures, such alterations and provisions therein, as shall, when agreed to in Congress, and confirmed by the States, render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the Union.”
In conformity with this resolution, all the other States which had not acted upon the suggestion of the Commissioners at Annapolis, except Rhode Island, which took no part in the Convention, appointed Delegates in the following order:
New York, on the 28th of February, 1787.
South Carolina, on the 8th of March, 1787.
Massachusetts, on the 9th of April, 1787.
Connecticut, on the 10th of May, 1797.
Maryland, on the 26th of May, 1787.
New Hampshire, on the 27th of June, 1787.
From a perusal of the resolution of Congress, under which the delegates assembled, the following facts appear:
First. That the delegates were to be chosen by the several States.
Secondly. That the convocation of the proposed convention was, “for the sole purpose of revising the articles of confederation,” then subsisting between the thirteen sovereign, free and independent States, which by them were united, and not for the purpose of forming any new government, to be composed of the whole people of the thirteen States as an aggregate mass.
Thirdly. That the alterations and provisions to be recommended by the convention, should, before going into operation, receive the sanction of the States, and
Fourthly. That these alterations and provisions should have no tendency to destroy, “the federal constitution,” that is, the articles, constitution, or compact, at that time subsisting, but on the contrary, should be adapted to render it “adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union,” viz: the union then subsisting between the thirteen States, each of which was in full possession of its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and the only union to which these terms could have applied.
It being thus manifest that the object for which the convention was assembled, was, not to change the form of the government, but simply to “revise the articles of confederation,” it remains for us to see whether that body was properly elected, and whether it did in honesty and good faith fulfil the duties of its appointment. This we shall learn from the journal of its proceedings, and if from that record, it shall appear that such was the fact, we shall have advanced another step towards establishing the position, that the government of the United States, was established by the States, and not by a the people as an aggregate mess.
In the first place then, we learn from a perusal of the credentials of the delegates, that they were all chosen by their respective State Legislatures, as representatives of their respective States, and of those States alone, and, in the second place, that they were appointed for the purpose of revising the existing articles of confederation.
The second Monday of May, 1787, was the day fixed upon for the meeting of the Convention at Philadelphia. The Journal informs us, that on that day, which was the 14th of the month, “sundry Deputies to the Federal Convention appeared, but a majority of the States not being represented the members present adjourned from day to day, until Friday the 25th of the said month,” when the convention commenced its labours, after electing George Washington its President. The question then presents itself, did they act as the Representatives of sovereign, free, and independent States, or, as the representatives of the People, as an aggregate mass ? This question is answered by every vote upon which the yeas and nays were recorded. The votes were given by States, and not upon the principle of proportionate representation. Each State, whether small or large, had one vote. The weight of Delaware, with her sixty thousand population, was as great as that of Virginia, with her eight hundred and fifty thousand, and so entire a disregard was had to proportionate representation, an essential element in a constitution framed by an aggregate people, that some of the small States had more deputies than some of the large ones.
If any doubt could exist on this point it would be dissipated by this simple statement. The population of the five largest states, represented in the Convention was 2,541,649 whilst that of the six smallest states, was but, 1,123,528. Now by the terms upon which the constitution was formed, each state having one vote, it may well have happened, that some of its most important features were adopted by the votes of a majority of the states, containing less than one third of the whole population, which would never have been acceded to, by a majority of the people, had the government been understood to have been formed upon the principles of one aggregate mass. In this statement we have taken only eleven states as represented in the Convention, that being the greatest number at any time present. Rhode Island never appeared at all, whilst New Hampshire did not take her seat until the 23d of July, subsequent to the withdrawing of New York, which took place on the 11th of that month.
Nor does the evidence terminate here. The constitution carries on its face a declaration that it was formed by the States, and not by the whole people as one consolidated mass. The very title of the government, given in that instrument, “The United States,” implies individuality in the States, and simply means the States at that time United. The Preamble, too, which declares that the object of the constitution is amongst other things to form “a more perfect union” can only have reference to the union then subsisting, which we have shown to be a union between Sovereign, free and Independent states, and it explicitly asserts, that the Constitution is ordained and established for “the United States of America,” and not for the people. And here we must not pass over without notice, the important and conclusive fact, that in the article of the constitution which designates the agency by which the States are to enact laws, for the government of the Confederacy, the term “Congress,” and not Parliament, or assembly is used. The term “Congress” is one specifically applied to an assemblage of nations, in the persons of their Sovereigns, or their representatives, and hence the legislative proceedings of the Federal Government, were always styled the proceedings of “The United States in Congress assembled,” and not the proceedings of the people.
The mode, too, provided for amending the constitution, is also explicit on this subject. Alterations must be ratified by “the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by conventions in three-fourths thereof,” so, that were it now desirable for seventeen of the largest States to obtain an alteration of the constitution, to authorize acts which are not now authorized, it would be in the power of the seven smallest States, containing less than one-twelfth pact of the population of the whole country, to prevent it. With this fact staring us in the face will any one pretend to say, that the Government was formed by the people as an aggregate mass ? If so, he must consider the people of 1787, as wholly ignorant of their rights, or as destitute of wisdom, in sanctioning a system, the practical effect of which at this day, is to enable a fraction of a little more than one million of people, to defeat the wishes of near twelve millions.
But this is not all. The seventh and last article of the constitution declares, that
“The ratifications of nine States shall be sufficient” –(for what?)– “for the establishment of this constitution between the States so Atifying the same.”
In this article we have the following indisputable admissions–
First, That the States formed the constitution, for it was only by their ratification that it was made to exist.
Secondly, That it was only to be binding upon the States that should so ratify it, leaving those who should refuse to do so, in the full enjoyment of their sovereignty, freedom and independence, to remain as separate nations, or to unite under some new instrument of federation.
And as if no doubt should be left upon the minds of the people, as to the federative character of the Government, the very attestation to the instrument of the members of the convention, declares, that it was “Done in Convention, by the unanimous consent of the States present.”
Let us now follow up our history, and see what was the form of the ratification. The convention adjourned on the 17th of September, 1787, and transmitted to the Congress still acting under the articles of confederation, a report of its proceedings. That body, on the 28th of the same month, adopted the following resolution:
“Resolved unanimously, That the said report, with the resolutions and letter accompanying the same, be transmitted to the several Legislatures, in order to be submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each State by the people thereof, in conformity to the resolves of the convention, made and provided in that case.”
In conformity with this resolve, the Legislature of each State enacted a law, calling a convention of the people thereof, in their separate capacity of members of a sovereign, free and independent State, and to these conventions were submitted the constitution for ratification. By these conventions it was ratified, and so clearly were those ratifications the acts of the States, and not of the people as an aggregate mass, that it was in the power of the five smallest States, containing a population of only 622,030 persons, by withholding their assent, to defeat the adoption of the constitution, against the wishes of the other eight States, containing a population of upwards of three millions. Had the constitution been intended for a new Government, proposed to be formed by the people of the whole United States, as an aggregate mass, very different would have been the form of the ratification. Nothing less than a majority of the whole people would have been required to defeat it, and instead of the State of Delaware being allowed as much weight in determining the question as Virginia, she would have been allowed only the proportion of influence which 60,000 people bear to 850,000, that is, the proportion of 1 to 14.
That these ratifications, although executed by the people of each State, in their separate and sovereign capacities, and not by the State Legislatures, were in the form and mode prescribed by the seventh article of the constitution, that is, that they were ratifications of the States, is apparent from the following proceedings extracted from the Journal of the old Congress.
“United States in Congress assembled,
Wednesday, July 2, 1788.
“The State of New Hampshire having ratified the constitution transmitted to them by the act of the 28th of September last, and transmitted to Congress their ratification, and the same being read, the President reminded Congress that this was the ninth ratification, transmitted and laid before them: whereupon it was
“Ordered, That the ratifications of the constitution of the United States, transmitted to Congress, be referred to a committee, to examine the same, and report an act of Congress for putting the said constitution into operation, in pursuance of the resolutions of the late Federal Convention.”
And here it may not, be amiss to remark, that the term “Federal,” here applied by Congress to the convention, being derived from the Latin word fœdus, a league, a stipulation between two or more, is an additional confirmation of the confederated character of the Government, in contrast with consolidation; and so universal was the acknowledgment of this political truth, that even long subsequent to the removal of the government to Washington, that city was called “the federal city,” and which of you here present, ever heard that the great Federal procession of ’89 in this city, was to commemorate the establishment of a consolidated government ?
At a subsequent day, viz: on the 13th of September, 1788, the Congress passed a resolution in the following words:
“Resolved, that the first Wednesday in January next, be the day for appointing electors in the several States, which, before the said day shall have ratified the said constitution; that the first Wednesday in February next, be the day for the electors to assemble in their respective States, and vote for a President, and that the first Wednesday in March next, be the time, and the present seat of Congress the place, for commencing proceedings under the said constitution.”
In conformity with this resolution, the elections were held. On the 4th of March, 1789, the first Congress under the new constitution, assembled at New York, and commenced its duties, and on the 30th of April, George Washington, who had been unanimously elected President of the United States, was inducted into office. Amendments to the Constitution were subsequently made, in the form prescribed by that instrument, and illustrating in practice the manifest truth, that the States, were the creators of the government. By one of those amendments, it was emphatically declared that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People.” –Now as the reservation of rights implies of necessity the pre-existence of those rights, and as it is very clear, that no rights were conferred upon the States, by the federal government, whose creature it was, it follows that those rights thus reserved to the States must have been rights inherent in the Sovereignty of the States.
Thus have I given an account of the origin and character of the Constitution, as brief as was consistent with the object in view, which was that of proving from documentary evidence, the important fact, that the government under which we live, is still a confederation of Sovereign free and independent States, and not a consolidated empire. If I have done this to your satisfaction, it is only because the evidence within reach has been so abundant, and because it has been recorded in so plain and intelligible a nature, that the most unlettered mind can comprehend it. Indeed it is difficult to imagine with such a body of harmonious testimony before him, how any unprejudiced man can advance the position, that the government of the United States, was formed by the whole people as one aggregate mass. It is true that those who maintain this doctrine, rely not so much upon historical evidence, as upon verbal criticisms, as if great questions of liberty were to be determined by criticisms so close as that which could split a hair,
” ‘twixt west and south-west side.”
The use of the term “national” occasionally employed in reference to the federal government, has been seized upon, as of consolidating import, and yet, under the old confederation, the debt of the government, was at that time spoken of in the public documents, as the “national debt.” The term “constitution” has also been urged as proof of the establishment of the government by the people as an aggregate mass, upon the ground that “constitution” is an expression which is not applicable to a compact existing between Independent States, and yet, I have adduced in this address, several cases wherein the term “constitution” was applied, before the formation of the present instrument, to the very articles of confederation.
The main reliance, however, of the advocates of consolidation, for the support of their theory, is upon the phrase “We the People of the United States,” where it occurs in the preamble to the Constitution. As this is a point which is frequently urged in discussions on the Constitution, I will encroach a little longer on your time, whilst I give a detailed account of the origin of that phrase.
By referring to the Journal of the Convention, it will be found, that on the 6th of August, the first draft of a Constitution was reported by a committee appointed for the purpose. The preamble to that draft, commenced as follows–
“We, the people of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, do ordain, declare and establish the following Constitution, for the government of ourselves and our posterity.”
In this phraseology, it is manifest, that “We, the People,” were the people of the several States enumerated, and no inference can be drawn from it, favourable to the doctrine of an aggregate mass. In this form, the preamble was adopted unanimously by the Convention on the 7th of August, the day after it was reported by the committee.
After a discussion on the provisions of the draft, until the 7th of September, during which time it does not appear that the preamble was ever again brought into view, a committee of five was appointed “to revise the style of and arrange the articles agreed to by the House.”
On the 12th of September, the committee of revision reported the Constitution as revised in style and arranged by them, in which the preamble read as follows–
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves, and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The reason for the change by the committee, in the phraseology of the preamble, by the insertion of the words “United States,” instead of recapitulating the names of the several States, is apparent enough, if we admit the absence of all design on the part of the committee to be guilty of a wilful fraud, as we must do, when we consider their high character, and when we see that they weakened the strength of the original language, by declaring that the Constitution was ordained for the United States and not simply for “ourselves and our posterity.”
It was not at that time known, whether all the States, then united under the existing articles of confederation, would continue in the union. Rhode Island, as has been seen, did not even send delegates to the Convention, and consequently, the insertion of their names, should any of them refuse, would have rendered necessary an alteration of the Constitution: and besides this, as the phrase “United States,” had reference to the States United, at that time under the confederation, each one of which, at that moment was in full possession of its “Sovereignty, freedom, and independence,” and as it was intended that the people of each State, as a distinct and separate community, should ratify the Constitution, no member of the committee could have anticipated, that the day would arrive, when the term, “we the people,” would be construed to mean the people of States, which had not retained their Sovereignty, freedom and independence.
Accordingly, we find, that on the 13th of September, the day following the report of the revised draft, the Convention proceeded “to the comparing of the report from the committee of revision, with the articles which were agreed to by the House, and to them referred for arrangement,” and the same was read by paragraphs, compared, and in some places, corrected and amended.” It does not appear that any proposition for restoring the original reading of the preamble, was made, and the conclusion is self-evident, that the Convention did not discern in the change of phraseology, any change in the character of the parties to the Constitution, and accordingly, “We the People of the United States,” was left as the language of that instrument, in the engrossed copy that was signed, and which this day exists.
But, let me ask, fellow citizens, whether the phrase, “We the People of the United States,” was not the one best adapted to express who were the real framers of the federal government ? It is very certain that it was not formed by the State Governments, but by the people of the several States, in their sovereign capacity, and to infer from the very fact of an exercise of that sovereignty, that the States were no longer sovereign, is one of the most extraordinary deductions that can be imagined. As well might it be said, that the term “the good people of these colonies,” employed in the Declaration of Independence, amounted to proof, in spite of all the testimony furnished to the contrary, that the people of the colonies were one consolidated mass, before they were separated from Great Britain.
Having thus, I trust, conclusively established the fact, that the constitution was formed by thirteen Sovereign states, and not by the people of the thirteen States as an aggregate mass, the question may be asked, what great principle connected with the liberty of the people, or the Union, of the States, is involved in the controversy ? Of what consequence is it to us and to our posterity, whether the one or the other theory of government be the true one ? –Time will not permit me to reply to these questions, but I cannot close without remarking, that upon the Sovereignty of the States, depend State Rights, and the momentous issue, whether the federal government is a government of limited powers, or a despotism –whether we are freemen or slaves. This could be made to appear, but as I have already occupied too much of your time, I must refer you to the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of ’98 and ’99; to Mr. Madison’s Report in favour of the latter; to the proceedings of your own Legislature, when democracy was something more than a name, and to the opinions pronounced by Chief Justices M’Kean and Tilghman, in the Supreme Court of this State, in the cases of Cobbett and Gideon Olmstead.
The following is the order in which the thirteen States ratified the Federal Constitution:
1 Delaware, December 7, 1787
2 Pennsylvania, December 12, 1787
3 New Jersey, December 13 1787
4 Georgia, January 2, 1788
5 Connecticut, January 9, 1788
6 Massachusetts, February 6, 1788
7 Maryland, April 28, 1788
8 South Carolina, May 23, 1788
9 New Hampshire, June 21, 1788
10 Virginia, June 26, 1788
11 New York, July, 26, 1788
12 North Carolina, November 21, 1789
13 Rhode Island, May 29, 1790
∵ North Carolina existed as a separate State or nation, for upwards of eight months after the Federal Government commenced its operations under the present constitution, and Rhode Island, for near fourteen months, and both, had they seen fit, might have continued to do so up to the present day.
The following gentlemen compose the Central Committee of the State Rights party of Georgia.
Wm.H. Torrance. David B. Mitchell, Joel Crawford, John H. Howard, Randal Jones, Samuel Boykin, L.Q.C. Lamar, Seaton Grantland, Irby Hudson, Samuel Rockwell, N.C. Sayre, Dr. William Green, and John Williams, Esq’rs.
Milledgeville, 14th December 1833.
The Central Committee having organized itself by choosing Gen. D.B. Mitchell, Chairman, and Col. N.C. Sayre, Secretary, –On motion, a sub-committee of three, consisting of Messrs. Rockwell, Green and Sayre, was appointed by the Chair, who were instructed to report Resolutions and an Address, for the consideration of the friends of State Rights in Georgia– which committee subsequently reported the following Resolutions and Address, which were adopted– and ordered to be published in the State Rights papers of the State, and in pamphlet form.
Resolved, That it be respectfully, but earnestly recommended to the friends of State Rights throughout the State, to form, with as little delay as possible, county associations, with the view to a complete harmonious organization of the State Rights party of Georgia.
Resolved, That these associations, when formed, be respectfully requested to notify the names of their officers to the chairman of the Central Committee at Milledgeville.
Resolved, That the committee elect from its own body an executive committee, to consist of three and a Treasurer –said Treasurer to be subject to the directions of said executive committee, in all disbursements by him made on account of the State Rights party of Georgia.
To the Friends of State Rights in Georgia.
The Central Committee
of the State Rights party in Georgia, to whom has been confided a high and important trust, in accepting the same, most earnestly ask the co-operation of their fellow citizens throughout the State, in such measures as will ensure unanimity in supporting those great and conservative principles of State Rights, hitherto so efficacious in prostrating the encroaching spirit of consolidation. The achievement of this unanimity, so important to the triumph of these principles, must essentially depend upon the formation of local associations, in the several counties of this State, in conformity to the plan recommended by the State Rights Meeting recently held in Milledgeville; and upon the dissemination, by the agency of these local associations, of those great political truths, maintained by the illustrious Jefferson, affirmed by the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, and sanctioned by the approbation of the purest patriots of our country.
The state of political parties in Georgia, calls loudly for this concert of action, to preserve all that is dear to freemen. A spirit fatal to constitutional liberty is abroad. The republican doctrines of ’98 and ’99 are in danger of being overthrown. They are covertly assailed by treacherous friends, and insidious foes. And in their place, there is sought to be established antagonist doctrines, alarming to liberty, and subversive of our civil rights. If these doctrines prevail, then farewell to freedom; then will the altar of our political faith be desecrated –its votaries dispersed –its glories extinguished.
Seizing upon the popularity of a name, and repudiating the one by which they were formerly known, our adversaries have recently formed a new party, composed of a coalition of the Federalists of the old school, and the Consolidationists of the present day; of the expectants of office, and the parasites of power. This motley party, under the specious, but deceptive cognomen of “Union,” are endeavouring to inculcate principles, and establish doctrines, adverse to the vital principles of the constitution, and fatally destructive of the dearest rights of their own State. Hypocritically pretending to accord with the political views of Jefferson, and dissemblingly professing the principles of republicanism; they have adopted all of federalism but the name. Thus, the sovereignty of the Government of the United States is maintained –allegiance to its functionaries inculcated –the dogmas of the proclamation of the fatal 10th of December, applauded –the despotic provisions of the Force Bill sanctioned –its supporters cherished –and the independence and sovereignty of their own State denied !
The tendency of these doctrines, is obviously pernicious, and if successful, must inevitably, sooner or later, result in the overthrow of constitutional liberty, and in the erection of a consolidated despotism upon its ruins. Their argument is submission; their illustration is slavery. While this party are thus actively and zealously engaged in the accomplishment of their unholy work, they spare no pains, they intermit no exertions, in casting odium on the friends of State Rights; their motives are designedly misrepresented, and themselves marked out for proscription. The terms, disunionists, rebels, traitors, and other opprobrious epithets, are as familiar among the members of this party, from the highest to the lowest, as household words, and are indiscriminately applied to all who would arrest the General Government, in its march to absolute power, and restore the constitutional charter to its original purity.
The State Rights party indignantly cast back these unworthy epithets. Are they “disunionists,” who affirm that the powers of the General Government, result from the constitutional compact to which the States are sovereign parties ? Are they “rebels” who maintain that these powers are limited “by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact ?” Are they “traitors” who assert that these powers are “no further valid than as 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 sovereign States ?” Are they obnoxious to the epithets of “disunionist, rebel, traitor,” who claim that each of the States, in virtue of its sovereignty, is “the rightful judge in the last resort, whether the bargain made has been pursued or violated; and who declare that “each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions, as of the mode and measure of redress ?”
If so, then were the democracy of Virginia and Kentucky “disunionists,” for those doctrines have passed the ordeal of their scrutiny, and received their highest sanction. Then was the great apostle of liberty, Thomas Jefferson, a “rebel and a traitor,” for these are his doctrines. But no! he was no rebel, no traitor ! A far different judgment has been pronounced upon this gifted statesman –a judgement, that has rendered his name illustrious –and his doctrines sacred.
For inculcating these principles the friends of State Rights in Georgia, have received the unmeasured denunciations of those who, in their struggles for power, have lost their attachment to the State in which they are protected and cherished.
Disunionists! Rebels!! Traitors!!! They are “disunionists” who would endanger the integrity of the constitution, by submitting to its infraction. They are “rebels” who would truckle to undelegated power. They are “traitors” who would place the independence and sovereignty of their own State at the footstool of federal supremacy.
The history of the Government of the United States, exhibits the utter uselessness of parchment restrictions upon the exercise of its prerogatives: vain indeed is the reliance upon the checks and balances of constitutional provisions, –futile the counterpoise of delegated power, to arrest the progress of its usurpations. The events of the passing hour fully demonstrate the constant tendency of the General Government, to transform the federative system into one consolidated sovereignty; and as fully prove that our political adversaries in this State, are ready and willing to aid in the transformation.– When were the leaders of this party ever found on the side of Georgia in her struggles for her rights ? When were they ever found battling for her honour, when her sovereignty was invaded ? Never. They were new treaty men in 1825-6 –they were apologists for the Tariff of 1828 and 1832 –those acts of abomination, which were paralyzing the energies, and preying upon the substance of Georgia. They vapoured valiantly, it is true, in a recent instance, but when the hour of trial came, their “noble daring” ended in submission; and the convict missionaries are at large, luxuriating in the bosom of the State, whose sovereignty they trampled on –whose laws they contemned.
Alarming as was the advance of federal doctrines in ’98 and ’99, their fatal tendency was not so much to be dreaded then as now. The corrupt administration of the elder Adams, had then alienated the attachments of its former adherents; the black cockade, (the distinctive badge of loyalty in those days,) did not always indicate the sincerity of the wearer. The materials of this administration were fast going to decay; its odious measures had aroused the energies of a free people, jealous of their liberties, uncorrupted by Executive patronage and the blasting influence of a protective Tariff, undazzled by the blandishment of place, unseduced by the allurements of office, and undeluded by the magic of a name. Then, too, the star of republicanism was in the ascendant; the illustrious Jefferson was animated by its light; he put forth his intellectual strength, and the temple and the idol of federalism, sunk beneath his prowess.
But how different the political aspect now. An individual, venerated for his public services, of all others the most cherished, the most trusted, the most beloved in this Republic, occupying the first and most elevated station on earth, by the free suffrages of his fellow citizens. This individual, during the first years of his administration, on every proper occasion, demonstrating his love of the constitution, maintaining, with Roman sternness, the sovereignty of the States of this confederacy, denouncing in bold and manly terms, the pernicious tendency of the exercise of doubtful powers by Congress, and checking the hitherto wasteful expenditure of the public treasure in works of internal improvement.
This individual is again called to preside over the destinies of these confederated States, amid the acclamation of his fellow citizens. With what enthusiasm the event was received in Georgia, let the brilliant illuminations of her cities, her towns, and her hamlets, bear testimony. The character of his public acts, had given promise of the blessings that were to flow from his government, and had secured the attachment and confidence of the people. It was thought that the mantle of Jefferson had fallen upon his person, that he would restore the compact to its virgin purity, that he would maintain the fair fabric of our fathers in its unsullied brightness; the confidence of the people of Georgia, he had in an especial manner — espousing her cause, he had put in operation vigorous measures for the speedy acquisition of her rights. For his republican acts, Georgia honoured him; for maintaining her just rights, her people cherished him. There were no portion of her population more zealous or more sincere in their manifestations of honour, than those comprising the State Rights party –not only from attachment to the man, but for the principles he had professed, and the acts he had done.
In him they beheld the protector of the South, and the restorer of the genuine principles of the government; but while they are proud to do him justice, they cannot be seduced from their principles. In an evil hour, betrayed, we believe, by treacherous counsels, in a proclamation to the people of a sovereign State of this confederacy, he who had done so much for the ascendancy of the doctrines of the republican school, re-asserts the exploded doctrines of the federalists of former days, affirming among other things, that the States of this confederacy never had a separate existence; that a State in the exercise of its legitimate powers, has no right to decide upon the constitutionality of an act of Congress, nor to protect its citizens from the operation of an unconstitutional act, nor yet to maintain within her limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to a sovereign State, denying the right of secession, (under the most partial, oppressive, and unconstitutional measures of Congress) as destroying the unity of the nation; declaring that the members of Congress are all representatives of the United States, and not representatives of the particular State from which they come, nor accountable to it for any act done in the performance of their legislative functions; maintaining that the States have not retained their entire sovereignty, and that the allegiance of our citizens is due to the United States in the first instance; and threatening the employment of the sword and the bayonet, to coerce a sovereign State into submission, when at the same time, “the regular and appropriate alternative was in his power” to recommend a repeal of the usurping Tariff acts of Congress, or a call of the convention of the States.
Apparently overlooking his former principles, and affirming those fatally subversive of constitutional freedom, he demands of a submissive Congress their sanction to these extraordinary doctrines, and the means of carrying them into full effect. This body, subservient to these views, passes an act which aimed a mortal blow at the vitals of State sovereignty:– This daring outrage upon the liberties of the people, was passed too at a time when Congress, forced by circumstances, were obliged to modify the Tariff, and thus render to the South a reluctant act of justice.
“It is difficult to conceive the motive (says an able statesman in his recent message to the Virginia Legislature) which prompted the Government of the United States to this palpable violation of the constitution, unless traceable to that system of measures, which the friends of strong government have often attempted to give to the confederacy, and which has been so uniformly and resolutely resisted, by the friends of liberty and free government. On no former occasion, had the hand of power been exerted over the constitution of a free country with more daring assumption; it leaves not the semblance of freedom to the people, or rights to the States. It has, at one fell swoop, under the pretence of collecting the revenue, abolished the State Governments, annihilated their courts, conferred upon the President unlimited power, and placed at his disposal the Treasury, the Army, the Navy, and the Militia of the United States; not only to be used according to his caprice, but even authorizes him to confer this power upon any whom he may think proper. It enables him to give a preference to one port over another, by removing the custom house of any he may choose on board a ship of war, and demanding cash duties, instead of allowing the usual credits, although the constitution expressly declares, that ‘no one port shall have preference over any other.’
“A hypocritical hypothesis is made the foundation of this act. It assumes that unlawful obstructions or combinations or assemblages of men, ‘may render it impracticable to execute the revenue laws,’ although they well knew, that the State authorities had ample power to remedy such evils — indeed it requires but a cursory glance at that statute, to discover that Congress, acting in conformity to the will of the President, have attempted obliquely to lay hold on a power, which, if plainly and directly claimed, would have shocked the democratic spirit of the whole confederacy — for it claims complete ascendancy for the United States courts over the State courts — rendering the decrees of the latter nugatory, when under this act they may be brought into conflict with the United States courts, authorizing these courts to liberate offenders committed to prison for offences against the State laws, and imprisoning those who act in conformity to them. It authorizes the taking away beyond the limits of the State; and incarcerating in a military fortress, or perhaps a prison-ship, the citizen who may be guilty of obeying the laws of his own State made by his own representatives.”
Thus is given an analysis of the Force Bill, taken from the last message of the patriotic Governor of Virginia. The provisions of this bill are disgraceful to the statute book, a stain upon the administration of Andrew Jackson, and a monument of the servile spirit of the 22d Congress.
Advocates of these measures are numerous in this State, affirming, with a pertinacity that is armed against all conviction, their entire devotion to their doctrines, which leave to them and to their children, the miserable alternative of dying as rebels, or living as slaves, for these doctrines fall nothing short of denying every right, except the right to rebel, or the right to fight. Repudiating the reserved rights of the States, or limiting them to the idle mockery of petitioning those who, from interest or prejudice, are deaf to our complaints; –or to the right of revolution.
The announcement of these fatal doctrines, sanctioned by the Force Bill, from a President hitherto viewed as the head of the democracy of the country, while it burst with the astounding effects of the electric flash, upon the friends of State Rights, throughout the land, served to reanimate the despondency of the old Federalists, and cheer the drooping spirits of the enemies of the South, –of these materials parties were formed, which like the one in this State, soon increased its numbers by the acquisition of recreants from the republican faith, seeking and obtaining office, laying aside their and former principles as they would cast off a garment, and showing their willingness to entomb the constitution of the country, and the sovereignty of the States, in one common grave.
Not so with the friends of State Rights in Georgia. Although in the full enjoyment of power, yet they could not sacrifice principles for men. They had been among the most ardent admirers of the President –had stood by him in an undivided phalanx, through good and through evil report– had honestly commended those public acts that merited commendation –yet they could not abandon their principles, even to serve Andrew Jackson — they could not surrender the independence and sovereignty of their own State, or barter their birth-right, either for power or for office. While they were ever ready to do justice to the republican acts of the President, they could not hesitate to denounce those that deserved denunciation. In uttering these sentiments, we believe we represent the feelings and sentiments of every member of the State Rights party.
Compared with party the violations of the constitutional charter, and the despotic exercise of undelegated power, every other topic sinks into insignificance. What though we retain the form and pageantry of State government, if the vital energies of its prerogative are to be prostrated; if the living principle of its authority is to be extinguished ? What matters it how our agriculture prospers, how our commerce flourishes, or how we succeed in our various avocations, if the fruits of our industry are to be swallowed up by unjust and unequal taxation, if our constitutional rights are to be destroyed, our State sovereignty annihilated, our “liberties cloven down ?”
By the principles of the Proclamation, and the provisions of the Force Bill, this has been attempted (if not accomplished) in a state of profound peace. The blow came too, from a quarter least expected — while the olive branch was presented, the thunderbolt fell — directed by a hand that should have been extended in amity, not put forth in anger. It was done too, in wanton disregard of Southern rights and Southern feelings — in the midst of our rejoicings for the elevation of Georgia’s favourite — the principles of despotism were substituted for the principles of freedom. Troup was right, when, as a faithful sentinel upon the watch-tower, he warned us to “prepare to receive a Cæsar and the Purple.“
Is it not time, then, fellow citizens, for the democracy of Georgia to awaken from its slumbers –to put forth its wonted strength– lest slumbering on, it awakes in chains. Is it not time deeply to impress upon the minds of those around us, that the least infraction of the constitution by those to whom its administration is committed, should be met by decisive opposition. Let it be constantly borne in mind; let it be the nursery lesson taught our children; the first maternal precept; and the last paternal instruction, that the sovereignty of the States forms our only safeguard –it is indeed the palladium of all our rights, and all our liberties –destroy its prerogatives, paralyze its energies, and we are at the mercy of those who, while in the unlimited exercise of consolidated power, pretend that they are administering a government of limited powers.
If republican Georgia is quiescent in the triumph of the doctrines of the Proclamation and the Force Bill, she must become recreant to her principles, so often put forth by her Legislatures –so proudly and so triumphantly maintained by the champion of her honour and her sovereignty, with a fervency that thrilled through every nerve, and carried dismay in to the rants of her oppressors. But Georgia will not prove recreant to her principles, nor dishonour her fame; those who anticipate her acquiescence, mistake the character of her people. They will rally in support of the good old republican doctrines of ’98 and ’99.
In the ascendancy of this doctrine, consists our moral strength as a free people. To maintain it as embodied and put forth in the proceedings of the State Rights meeting held in Milledgeville, is the object we have in view. This object animated our friends on that occasion, and we earnestly hope it will animate the bosom of every true hearted Georgian in the State. With this doctrine for our directing star, we can never be led astray. It derives its existence from our federative system — it is the doctrine advanced by the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, and based upon the independence and sovereignty of the respective States. Its moral power achieved a glorious victory in the overthrow of federalism in former days — and (in the words of Mr. Jefferson) “preserved the constitution at its last gasp” –it animated our own Troup in the conflicts between Georgia and the General Government, and bore him on in triumph; and doubt not it will prove victorious again.
Let us then rally around the temple of our republican faith, let us once more bring to its altar our votive offerings — on it let all our private and personal considerations be sacrificed for the restoration and perpetuity of our constitutional rights — then having done our duty, if constitutional liberty, and State sovereignty are to be swallowed up in the vortex of consolidation — “if Rome must fall, we are innocent.“