1830-1834 (John Reynolds) Illinois. Governor.

Communication from the executive of Illinois to the governor of Maryland online

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Online Library1830-1834 (John Reynolds) Illinois. GovernorCommunication from the executive of Illinois to the governor of Maryland → online text (page 1 of 3)
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State of Illinois, Executive Department,
Vandalia, 29th Dec. 1832.
To His Excellency,

The Governor of the State of Maryland,
Sir: — I enclose to you a copy of the President's Pro-
clamation, and the Resolutions of the General Assembly of
this State thereon, together with a Message of the Execu-
tive of the State.

I have the honor to be,
Your obt. servt.



Vandalia, Dec. 24th, 1S32. \
Fellow- Citizens of the Senate,

and House of Representatives:

Since I had the honor to transmit to this General As-
sembly, my late message, in which allusion is made to the
dangers resulting from the doctrine then advocated, and
now practised upon by the State of South Carolina, I have
seen and read, the ordinance promulgated by that State,
in which is exhibited in frightful colours the awful tenden-
cy, of those doctrines.

In the view in which it presents itself to my mind, I can
regard it in no other light, than as a treasonable attempt
to dismember this happy confederac}'. In the same view,
must it be regarded by all those, who admit the supremacy
of the laws, revere the Constitution, or love the Union.

Since your last adjournment, I have received the procla-
mation of the President of the United States, which ac-
companies this message giving at large his views of the or-
dinance, and making a fervent appeal to the patriotism of
the people to stand by the Constitution, and sustain him in
all legal measures to enforce the execution of the laws and
preserve the Union.

The appeal of our venerated chief magistrate, w^hose
firmness and patriotism, have been manifested, as well in
the field of battle, as through a long, and eventful life of
the most tiying emergencies, will not, I am assured, be in
vam; but that, we will as one man, be ready to meet the
crisis, which is too certainly approaching, and abide with
him in the shock.

In the further discharge of my Constitutional duty, I
would respectfully recommend the adoption of some resolu-
tion expressive of the sense of the people of this State, on
th(? matters herewi'di submitted: and in that mode, or in
some such as your wisdom may dictate, give the strongest
assurances of the assent of the people to the views present-
ed by the President, and of their firm and unalterable de-
termination to sustain him at all hazards, and through all
dangers to the final issue of the controversy.




Whereas, a Convention assembled in the State of South
Carolina, have passed an Ordinance, by which they declare
"That the several acts and parts of acts of the Congress of
the United States, purporting to be laws for the imposing
of duties and imposts on the importation of foreign com-
modities, and now having actual operation and effect with-
in the United States, and more especially" two acts for the
same purposes, passed on the 28th of May, 1828, and on
the 14th of July, 1832, "are unauthorized by the Constitu-
tion of the United States, and violate the true meaning and
intent thereof, and are null ajid void, and no law," nor
binding on the citizens of that State or its officers : and by
the said Ordinance it is further declared to be unlawful for
any of the constituted authorities of the State or of the
United States, to enforce the payment of the duties imposed
by the said acts within the same State, and that it is the
duty of the Legislature to pass such laws as may be ne-
cessary to give full effect to the said Ordinance:

Jlnd, W/iereas, by the Ordinance it is further ordained,
that, in no case of law or equity, tlecided in the courts of
said State, wherein shall be drawn in question the validity
of the said Ordinance, or the acts of the Legislature that
may be passed to give it effect, or of the said laws of the
United States, no appeal shall be allowed to the Supreme
Court of the United States, nor shall any copy of the record
be permitted or allowed for that purpose : and that any per-
son attempting to take such appeal shall be punished as
for a contempt of court:

And, finally the said Ordinance declares that the people
South Carolina will .maintain the said Ordinance at eveiy
hazard; and that they will consider the passage of an act
by Congress abolishing or closing the ports of the said
State or otherwise obstructing the free ingress or egress of
vessels to and from the said port, or any other act of the
Federal Government to coerce the State, shut up her ports,
destroy or harrass her commerce, or to enforce said acta
otherwise than through the civil tribunals of the country, as


inconsistent with the longer continimnGe of South Carolina
in the Union; and that the people of the said State will
thenceforth hold themselves absolved from all further obli-
gation to maintain or preserve their political connexion
with the people of the other states, and will forthwith pro-
ceed to organize a separate Government, and do all other
acts and things which sovereign and independent States
may of right do.

^nd Whereas, the said Ordinance prescribes to the
people of South Carolina a course of conduct in di-
rect violation of their duty as citizens of the United
States, contrary to the laws of their country, subversive
of its constitution, and having for its object the destruc-
tion of the Union — that Union, which, coeval with
our political existence, led our fathers, without any other
ties to unite them than those of patriotism and a common
cause, through a sanguinary struggle, to a glorious inde-
pendence — that sacred Union, hitherto inviolate, which per-
fected by our happy constitution has brought us, by the
favor of Heaven, to a state of prosperity at home, and high
consideration abroad, rarely, if ever, equalled in the histo-
try of nations. To preserve this bond of our political exis-
tence from destruction, to maintain inviolate this state of
naional honor and prosperity, and to justify the confidence
my fellow citizens have reposed in me. I Andrew Jack-
son, President of the United States, have thought
proper to issue this my PROCLAMATION, stating my
views of the Constitution and laws applicable to the mea-
sures adopted by the Convention of South Carolina and
the reasons they have put forth to sustain them, declaring
the course which duty will require me to pursue, and ap-
pealing to the understanding and patriotism of the people,
warn them of the consequences that must inevitably result
from an observance of the dictates of the Convention.

Strict duty would require of me nothing more than the
exercise of those powers with which I now, or may hereaf-
ter be invested, for preserving the peace of the Union and
for the execution of the laws. But the imposing aspect
which opposition has assumed in this case, by clothing
itself with state authority, and the deep interest which the
people of the United States must all feel in preventing a
resort to stronger measures, while there is hope that any
thing will be yielded to reasoning and remonstrance, per-
haps demand, and will certainly justify a full exposition to
South Carolina and the nation, of the views I entertain of
this important question, as well as a distinct enunciation

of the course which my sense of tluty will require me to

This Ordinance is founded, not on the indefeasible right
of resisting acts which are plainly unconstitutional, and too
oppressive to be endured, but on the strange position that
any one State may not only declare an act of Congress
void, but prohibit its execution — that they may do this
consistently with the Constitution — that the true construc-
tion of that instrument permits a State to retain its place in
the Union, and yet to be bound by no other of its laws than
those it may choose to consider as constitutionai. It is
true, they add, that to justify this abrogation of a law, it
must be palpably contray to the Constitution; but it is evident,
to give the right of resisting laws of that description, cou-
pled with the uncontrolled right to decide what laws de-
serve that character, is to give the power of resisting all
laws. For, as by theory there is no appeal, the reasons
alledged by the State, good or bad, must prevail. If it
should be said that public opinion is a sufficient check
against the abuse of this power, it may be asked why it is
not deemed a sufficient guard against the passage of an
unconstitutiapal act by Congress? There is, however, a
restraint infhis last case, which makes the assumed power
of a State more indefeasible, and which does not exist in
the other. There are two appeals from an unconstitution-
al act passed by Congress — one to the Judiciary, the other to
the people and the States. There is no appeal from the
State decision in theory, and the practical illustration
shows that the Courts are closed against an application to
review it, both judges and jurors being sworn to decide in
its favor. But reasoning on this subject is superfluous
when our social compact in express terms declares, that
the laws of the United States, its Constitution, and treaties
made under it, are the supreme law of the land; and for
greater caution, adds, "that the Juclges in every State shall
be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or laws of
any State to the contrary notwithstanding." And it may
be asserted, without fear of refutation, that no Federative
Government could exist without a similar provision. Look
for a moment to the consequence.

If South Carolina considers the revenue laws unconsti-
tutional, and has a right to prevent their execution in the
port of Charleston, there would be a clear constitutional
objection to their collection in every other port, and no
revenue could be collected any v/here; for all imposts must

be equal. It is no answer to repeat that an unconslitutiona
law is no la^y, so long as the question of its lej^aHty is to be
decided by the State itself; for every law operating inju-
riously upon any local interest will be perhaps thought, and
certainly represented, as unconstitutional, and as has been
shown, there is no appeal.

If this doctrine had been established at an earlier day,
the Union would have been dissolved in its infancy. The
excise law in Pennsylvania, the embargo and non-inter-
course law in the Eastern States, the carriage tax in Vir-
ginia, were all deemed unconstitutional, and were more un-
equal in their operation than any of the laws now complained
of; but, fortunately, none of those States discovered that
they had the right now claimed by South Carolina. The
w^ar into which we were forced, to support the dignity of the
nation and the rights of f ur citizens, might have ended in de-
feat and disgrace, instead of victory and honor, if the States,
who supposed it a ruinous and unconstitutional measure,
had thought they possessed theright oi nullifying the act by
which it was declared, and denying supplies for its prose-
cution. Hardly and unequally as these measures bore upon
several members of the Union, to the legislature of none
did this efficient and peaceble remedy, as it is called, sug-
gest itself. The discovery of this important feature in our
constitution was reserved to the present day. To the
statesmen of South Carolina belongs the invention, and
upon the citizens of that State will unfortunately fall the evils
of reducing it to practice.

If the doctrine of a State veto, upon the laws of the
Union, carries with it internal evidence of its impracticable
absurdity, our constitutional history will also afford abun-
dant proof that it would have been repudiated with indig-
nation, had it been proposed to form a feature in our Go-

In our colonial state, although dependent on another
power, we very early considered ourselves as connected by
common interest with each other. Leagues were formed
for common defence, and before the declaration of inde-
pendence we were known in our aggregate character as
the united colonies of Jlmerica. That decisive and im-
portant step was taken jointly. V/e declared ourselves a
nation by a joint, not by several acts; and when the terms
of our confederation were reduced to form, it was in that
of a solemn league of several States, by which they agreed
that they would, collectirely, form one nstion, for the pur-


pose of conducting some certain domestic concerns, and
all foreign relations. In the instrument forming that U-
nion, is found an article which declares that "every State
shall abide by the determinations of Congress, on all ques-
tions which by that confederation should be submitted to

Under the confederation, then, no State could legally
annul a decision of the Congress, or refuse to submit to
its execution; but no provision was made to enforce these
decisions. Congress made requisitions, but they were not
complied with. The Governinent could not operate on in-
dividuals. They had no Judiciary, no means of collecting

But the defects of the confederation need not be detail-
ed. Under its operation, we could scarcely be called a na-
tion. We had neither prosperity at home, nor considera-
tion abroad. This state of things could not be endured,
and our present happy Constitution was formed; but form-
ed in vain if this fatal doctrine prevails. It was formed
for important objects, that are announced in the preamble,
made in the name and by the authority of the people of the
U. S., whose delegates framed, and whose conventions ap-
proved it. The most important among these objects, that
which is placed first in rank, on which all the others rest, is,
"^0 form a more perfect Union.'''' Now, is it possible that,
even if there were no express provisions giving supremacy
to the Constitution and laws of the United States over
those of the States, it can be conceived, that an instrument
made for the purpose of '■^forrain.g a more perfect Union'^
than that of tlie confederation, could be so constructed by
the assembled wisdom of our country as to substitute for
that confederation a form of government dependent for its
existence on the local interest, the party spirit of a State,-
or of a prevailing faction in a State? Every mart of plain
unsophisticated understanding, who hears the question,
will give such an answer as will preserve the Union.- Me-
taphysical subtlety, in pursuit of an impracticable theory,
could alone have devised one that is calculated to des-
troy it.

I consider, then, the power to annul a law of the United
States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the exis-
tence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of
the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent
with every principle on which it was founded,and destruc-
tive of the great object for which it was formed,


After this general view of the leading principle, we must
examine the particular application of it which is made in
the ordinance.

The preamble rests its justification on these grounds: It
assumes as a fact, that the obnoxious laws, although they
purport to be laws for raising revenue, were, in reality, in-
tended for the protection of manufactures, which purpose
it asserts to be unconstitutional; that the operation of these
laws is unequal; that the amount raised by them is greater
than is required by the wants of the Government; and,
finally, that the proceeds are to be applied to objects unau-
thorized by the Constitution. These are the only causes
alledged to justify an open opposition to the laws of the
country, and a threat of seceding from the Union, if any at-
tempt should be made to enforce then;. She first virtually
acknowledges that the law in question was passed under a
power expressly given by the Constitution to lay and collect
imposts, but its constitutionality is drawn in question from
the motives of those who passed it. However apparent
this purpose may be in the present case, nothing can be
more dangerous than to admit the position that an uncon-
stitutional purpose, entertained by the members who assent
to a law enacted under a constitutional power, shall make
that law void; for how is that purpose to be ascertained? —
Who is to make the scrutiny? How often may bad pur-
poses be falsely imputed? In how many cases are they
concealed by false profession? In how many is no declar-
ation of motive made? Admit this doctrine, and you give
to the States an uncontrolled right to decide; and every
law may be annulled under this pretext. If, therefore, the
absurd and dangerous doctrine should be admitted that a
State mny annul an unconstitutional law, or one that it
deems such, it will not apply to the present case.

The next objection is, that the law's in question operate
unequally. This objection may be made with truth to every
law that hcs been or can be passed. The wisdom of man
never yet contrived a system of taxation that would operate
with perfect equality. If the unequal operation of a law
makes it unconstitutional, and if all laws of that descrip-
tion maybe abrogated by any State for that cause, then in-
deed is the Federal Constitution unworthy of the slightest
effort fur its preservation. We have hitherto relied on it as
the perpetual bond of our Union. We have received it as
the work of the assembled wisdom of the nation. We have


trusted to it as to the sheet anchor of our safety, in the stormy
times of conflict with a foreign or domestic foe. We have look-
ed to it with sacred awe, as the palladium of our liberties;
and, with all the solemnities of religion, have pledged to
each other our lives and fortunes here, and our hopes of
happiness hereafter, in its defence and support. Were we
mistaken, my countrymen, in attaching this importance to
the Constitution of our country? Was our devotion paid
to the wretched, inefficient, clumsy contrivance, which this
new doctrine would make it? Did we pledge ourselves to
the support of an airy nothing — a bubble, that must be
blown away by the first breath of disaffection? Was this
self-destroying, visionary theory, the work of the profound
statesmen, the exalted patriots, to whom the task of consti-
tutional reform was entrusted? Did the name of Washing-
ton sanction, did the States deliberately ratify such an an-
omaly in the history of fundamental legislation? No. We
were not mistaken! The letter of this great instrument is
free from this radical fault; its language directly contradicts
the imputation: its spirit — its evident intent — contradicts it.
No; we did not err! Our Constitution does not contain the
absurdity of giving pOwer to make laws, and another power
to resist them.

The sages, whose memory will always be reverenced, have
given us a practical, and, as they hoped, a permanent con-
stitutional compact. The Father of his country did not
affix his revered name to so palpable an absurdity. Nor
did the States when they severally ratified it, do so under
the impression that a veto on the laws of the United States
was reserved to them, or that they could exercise it by im-
plication. Search the debates in all their Conventions —
examine the speeches of the most zealous opposers of Fe-
deral authority — look at the amendments that were pro-
posed. They are all silent — not a syllable uttered, not a
Tote given, not a motion made to correct the explicit su-
premacy given to the laws of the Union over those of the
States — or to show that implication, as is now contended,
could defeat it. No, we have not erred! The Constitu-
tion is still the object of our reverence, the bond of our
Union, our defence in danger, the source of our prosperity
in peace. It shall descend, as we have received it, uncor-
rupted by sophistical construction, to our posterity; and the
sacrifices of local interest, of State prejudices, of personal
animosities, that were made to bring it into existence, will
again be patriotically offered for its support.


The two re.naining objections made by the Ordinance to
these laws are, that tXe sums intended to be raised by them
are greater than are required, and that the proceeds will be
unconstitutionally employed. The Constitution has given
expressly to Congress the right of raising revenue, and of
determining the sum the public exigencies will require. —
The States have no control over the exercise of this right,
other than that which results from the power of changing
the representatives who abused it, and thus procure re-r
dress. Congress may undoubtedly abuse this discretiona-
ry power, but the same may be said of others with which
thsy are vested. Yet the discretion must exist somewhere.
The Constitution has given it to the Representatives of all
the People, checked by the representatives of the States,
and by the Executive power. The S. C. construction gives
it to the Legislature or Convention of a single State, where
neither the people of the different States nor the State in
their separate capacity, nor the Chief JNIagistrate elected
by the people, have any representation. Which is the most
discreet disposition of the power? I do not ask you, fel-
low-citizens, which is the Constitutional disposition — that
instrument speaks a language not to be misunderstood. —
But if you were assembled in general convention, which
would you think the safest depository for this discretionary
power in the last resort. Would you add a clause giving
to each of the States, or would you sanction the wise pro-
visions already made by your Constitution? If this should
be the result of your deliberations, when providing for the
future, are you, can you — be ready to risk all that we hold
dear, to establish for a temporary and a local purpose, that
which you must acknowledge to be destructive, and even
absurd, as a general provision? Cany out the consequen-
ces of this right vested in the different States, and you must
perceive that the crisis your conduct presents at this day
would recur whenever any law of the United States dis-
pleased any of the States, and that we should soon cease to
be a nation.

The Ordinance, with the same knowledge of the future
that characterizes a former objection, tells you that the
proceeds of the tax will be unconstitutionally applied. If
this could be ascertained with certainty, the objection would,
with more propriety, be reserved for the law so applying
the proceeds, but surely cannot be urged against the laws
levying the duty.


These are the allegations contained in the Ordinance. —
Examine them seriously, my fellow citizens — judge for
yourselves. I appeal to you to determine whether they are
so clear, so convincing, as to leave no doubt of their cor-
rectness: and even if you should come to this conclusion,
how far they, justify the reckless, destructive course, which
you are directed to pursue. Review these objections, and
the conclusions drawn from them once more. What are
they? Every law, then, for raising revenue, according to
the South CaroHna Ordinance, may be rightfully annulled,
unless it be so framed as no law ever will or can be framed.
Congress have a right to pass laws for raising revenue,
and each State has a right to oppose their execution — two
rights directly opposed to each other; and yet is this absur-
dity supposed to be contained in an instrument drawn for
the express purpose of avoiding collisions between the
States and the General Government, by an assembly of the
most enlightened statesmen and purest patriots ever embo-
died for a similar purpose.

In vain have these sages declared that Congress shall
have powder to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and
excise — in vain have they provided that they shall have
power to pass laws which shall be necessary and proper to
carry those powers into execution; that those laws and that
Constitution shall be the "supreme law of the land; and that
the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any thing
in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary not-
withstanding.'^ In vain have the people of the several
States solemnly sanctioned these provisions, made them
their paramount law, and individually sworn to support
them whenever they were called on to execute any office.
Vain provisions! ineffectual restrictions! vile profanation of

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Online Library1830-1834 (John Reynolds) Illinois. GovernorCommunication from the executive of Illinois to the governor of Maryland → online text (page 1 of 3)