Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

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In the discussions to which this interest has given rise and in
the arrangements by which they may terminate, the occasion
has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the
rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the
American continents, by the free and independent condition
which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to
be considered as subjects for future colonization by any Euro-
pean powers. . . .

It was stated at the commencement of the last session that
a great effort was then making in Spain and Portugal to im-
prove the condition of the people of those countries, and that it
appeared to be conducted with extraordinary moderation. It
need scarcely be remarked that the result has been so far very
different from what was then anticipated. Of events hi that
quarter of the globe, with which we have so much intercourse
and from which we derive our origin, we have always been anxious
and interested spectators. The citizens of the United States
cherish sentiments the most friendly in favor of the liberty and
happiness of their fellowmen on that side of the Atlantic. In
the wars of the European powers in matters relating to them-
selves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with
our policy so to do. It is only when our rights are invaded or
seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparation
for our defense.

With the movements in this hemisphere we are of necessity
more immediately connected, and by causes which must be
obvious to all enlightened and impartial observers. The political
system of the allied powers is essentially different in this respect
from that of America. This difference proceeds from that which
exists in their respective Governments; and to the defense of
our own, which has been achieved by the loss of so much blood
and treasure, and matured by the wisdom of their most en-
lightened citizens, and under which we have enjoyed unexampled
felicity, this whole nation is devoted.


We owe it, therefore, to candor and the amicable relations
existing between the United States and those powers to declare
that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend
their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to
our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies
of any European power we have not interfered and shall not
interfere. But with the Governments who have declared their
independence and maintained it, and whose independence we
have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged,
we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppress-
ing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by
any European power, in any other light than as the manifesta-
tion of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States. In
the war between those new Governments and Spain we declared
our neutrality at the time of their recognition, and to this we
have adhered, and shall continue to adhere, provided no change
shall occur which, in the judgment of the competent authorities
of this Government, shall make a corresponding change on the
part of the United States indispensable to their security.

The late events in Spain and Portugal show that Europe is
still unsettled. Of this important fact no stronger proof can be
adduced than that the allied powers should have thought it
proper, on any principle satisfactory to themselves, to have in-
terposed by force in the internal concerns of Spain. To what
extent such interposition may be carried, on the same principle,
is a question in which all independent powers whose govern-
ments differ from theirs are interested, even those most remote,
and surely none more so than the United States.

Our policy in regard to Europe, which was adopted at an
early stage of the wars which have so long agitated that quarter
of the globe, nevertheless remains the same, which is, not to
interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers; to con-
sider the government de facto as the legitimate government for
us; to cultivate friendly relations with it, and to preserve those
relations by a frank, firm, and manly policy, meeting in all
instances the just claims of every power, submitting to injuries
from none.


But in regard to those continents circumstances are eminently
and conspicuously different. It is impossible that the allied
powers should extend their political system to any portion of
either continent without endangering our peace and happiness-,
nor can any one believe that our southern brethren, if left to
themselves, would adopt it of then- own accord. It is equally
impossible, therefore, that we should behold such interposition
in any form with indifference.

If we look to the comparative strength and resources of
Spain and those new Governments, and their distance from
each other, it must be obvious that she can never subdue
them. It is still the true policy of the United States to leave
the parties to themselves, in the hope that other powers will
pursue the same course.



[Daniel Webster (1782-1852) was born in New Hampshire, but in his
public career is associated with Massachusetts. He was twice senator from
that state; was secretary of state under Harrison and Tyler and under Fill-
more; and was twice an unsuccessful candidate for the nomination for
President. As an orator, Webster was one of the most noted in the history
of American politics. In political theories, Webster is the great expounder
and defender of the Constitution from the national point of view. His oppo-
nents were the states-rights school of political thinkers led by Calhoun. In
1832 Hayne, of South Carolina, and Webster engaged in their memorable
debate over the rights of the States and the National Government. Hayne
argued for state's rights and nullification; Webster, for nationality and
union. Though Hayne was historically correct in his interpretation of the
Constitution, he gave utterance to the ideals of the past. Webster, though
historically inaccurate at points, spoke the mind of the future, and pos-
terity has given him the greater praise. The extract here given, though
but a small portion of the entire speech, indicates Webster's position.]

I must now beg to ask, Sir, whence is this supposed right of
the States derived? Where do they find the power to interfere
with the laws of the Union? Sir, the opinion which the honorable
gentleman maintains is a notion founded hi a total misappre-


hension, in my judgment, of the origin of this government, and
of the foundation on which it stands. I hold it to be a popular
government, erected by the people; those who administer it,
responsible to the people; and itself capable of being amended
and modified, just as the people may choose it should be. It
is as popular, just as truly emanating from the people, as the
State governments. It is created for one purpose; the State
governments for another. It has its own powers; they have
theirs. There is no more authority with them to arrest the
operation of a law of Congress, than with Congress to arrest the
operation of their laws. We are here to administer a Constitu-
tion emanating immediately from the people, and trusted by
them to our administration. It is not the creature of the State
governments. It is of no moment to the argument, that certain
acts of the State legislatures are necessary to fill our seats in this
body. That is not one of their original State powers, a part of
the sovereignty of the State. It is a duty which the people, by
the Constitution itself, have imposed on the State legislatures,
and which they might have left to be performed elsewhere, if
they had seen fit. So they have left the choice of President with
electors; but all this does not affect the proposition that this
whole government, President, Senate, and House of Representa-
tives, is a popular government. It leaves it still all its popular
character. The governor of a State (in some of the States) is
chosen, not directly by the people, but by those who are chosen
by the people for the purpose of performing, among other duties,
that of electing a governor. Is the government of the State, on
that account, not a popular government? This government, Sir,
is the independent offspring of the popular will. It is not the
creature of State legislatures; nay more, if the whole truth must
be told, the people brought it into existence, established it, and
have hitherto supported it, for the very purpose, amongst
others, of imposing certain salutary restraints on State sover-
eignties. The States cannot now make war; they cannot con-
tract alliances; they cannot make, each for itself, separate regu-
lations of commerce; they cannot lay imposts; they cannot coin
money. If this Constitution, Sir, be the creature of State legis-


latures, it must be admitted that it has obtained a strange con-
trol over the volitions of its creators.

The people, then, Sir, erected this government. They gave
it a Constitution, and in that Constitution they have enumer-
ated the powers which they bestow on it. They have made it a
limited government. They have denned its authority. They
have restrained it to the exercise of such powers as are granted;
and all others, they declare, are reserved to the States or the
people. But, Sir, they have not stopped here. If they had,
they would have accomplished but half their work. No defini-
tion can be so clear as to avoid possibility of doubt; no limitation
so precise as to exclude all uncertainty. Who, then, shall con-
strue this grant of the people? Who shall interpret their will,
where it may be supposed they have left it doubtful? With
whom do they repose this ultimate right of deciding on the powers
of the government? Sir, they have settled all this in the fullest
manner. They have left it with the government itself in its
appropriate branches. Sir, the very chief end, the main design
for which the whole Constitution was framed and adopted, was
to establish a government that should not be obliged to act
through State agency, or depend on State opinion and State
discretion. The people had had quite enough of that kind of
government under the Confederation. Under that system the
legal action, the application of law to Individuals, belonged ex-
clusively to the States. Congress could only recommend; their
acts were not of binding force till the States had adopted and
sanctioned them. Are we in that condition still? Are we yet at
the mercy of State discretion and State construction? Sir, if
we are, then vain will be our attempt to maintain the Constitu-
tion under which we sit.

But, Sir, the people have wisely provided in the Constitution
itself a proper, suitable mode and tribunal for settling questions
of constitutional law. There are in the Constitution grants of
powers to Congress, and restrictions on these powers. There
are, also, prohibitions on the States. Some authority must,
therefore, necessarily exist, having the ultimate jurisdiction to
fix and ascertain the interpretation of these grants, restrictions,


and prohibitions. The Constitution has itself pointed out,
ordained, and established that authority. How has it accom-
plished this great and essential end? By declaring, Sir, that
"the Constitution and the laws of the United States made in
pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of the land, any-
thing in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary

This, Sir, was the first great step. By this the supremacy of
the Constitution and laws of the United States is declared.
The people so will it. No State law is to be valid which comes in
conflict with the Constitution or any kw of the United States
passed in pursuance of it. But who shall decide this question of
interference? To whom lies the last appeal? This, Sir, the Con-
stitution itself decides also, by declaring, "that the judicial power
shall extend to all cases arising under the Constitution and laws of
the United States." These two provisions cover the whole ground.
They are, in truth, the keystone of the arch ! With these, it is a
government; without them it is a confederation. In pursuance
of these clear and express provisions, Congress established at
its very first session, in the judicial act, a mode for carrying
them into full effect, and for bringing all questions of constitu-
tional power to the final decision of the Supreme Court. It then,
Sir, became a government. It then had the means of self-pro-
tection; and, but for this, it would, in all probability, have been
now among things which are past. Having constituted the
government and declared its powers, the people have further
said that, since somebody must decide on the extent of these
powers, the government shall itself decide; subject always, like
other popular governments, to its responsibility to the people.
And now, Sir, I repeat, how is it that a State legislature acquires
any power to interfere? Who, or what, gives them the right to
say to the people: "We, who are your agents and servants for
one purpose, will undertake to decide that your other agents and
servants, appointed by you for another purpose, have tran-
scended the authority you gave them!" The reply would be, I
think, not impertinent: "Who made you a judge over another's
servants? To their own masters they stand or fall."


Sir, I deny this power of State legislatures altogether. It
cannot stand the test of examination. Gentlemen may say that,
in an extreme case, a State government might protect the people
from intolerable oppression. Sir, in such a case, the people might
protect themselves without the aid of the State governments.
Such a case warrants revolution. It must make, when it comes,
a law for itself. A nullifying act of a State legislature cannot
alter the case, nor make resistance any more lawful. In main-
taining these sentiments, Sir, I am but asserting the rights of the
people. I state what they have declared, and insist on their
right to declare it. They have chosen to repose this power in
the general government, and 1 1 think it my duty to support it,
like other constitutional powers. . . .

But, Sir, what is this danger, and what the grounds of it?
Let it be remembered that the Constitution of the United States
is not unalterable. It is to continue in its present form no longer
than the people who established it shall choose to continue it.
If they shall become convinced that they have made an injudi-
cious or inexpedient partition and distribution of power be-
tween the State governments and the general government, they
can alter that distribution at will.

If anything be found in the national Constitution either by
original provision or subsequent interpretation, which ought not
to be in it, the people know how to get rid of it. If any construc-
tion unacceptable to them be established, so as to become prac-
tically a part of the Constitution, they will amend it at their own
sovereign pleasure. But while the people choose to maintain it
as it is, while they are satisfied with it, and refuse to change it,
who has given, or who can give, to the State legislatures a right
to alter it either by interference, construction, or otherwise?
Gentlemen do not seem to recollect that the people have any
power to do anything for themselves. They imagine there is no
safety for them, any longer than they are under the close guar-
dianship of the State legislatures. Sir, the people have not trusted
their safety, in regard to the general Constitution, to these
hands. They have required other security, and taken other
bonds. They have chosen to trust themselves, first, to the plain


words of the instrument, and to such construction as the govern-
ment itself, in doubtful cases, should put on its own powers,
under its oaths of office, and subject to its responsibility to
them; just as the people of a State trust their own State govern-
ments with a similar power. Secondly, they have reposed their
trust in the efficacy of frequent elections and in their own power
to remove their own servants and agents whenever they see
cause. Thirdly, they have reposed trust in the judicial power,
which, in order that it might be trustworthy, they have made as
respectable, as disinterested, and as independent as was prac-
ticable. Fourthly, they have seen fit to rely, in case of necessity
or high expediency, on their known and admitted power to
alter or amend the Constitution peaceably and quietly, whenever
experience shall point out defects or imperfections. And, finally,
the people of the United States have at no time, in no way,
directly or indirectly, authorized any State legislature to con-
strue or interpret their high instrument of government; much
less to interfere by their own power to arrest its course and

If, Sir, the people in these respects had done otherwise than
they have done, their Constitution could neither have been pre-
served, nor would it have been worth preserving. And if its
plain provisions shall now be disregarded, and these new doc-
trines interpolated in it, it will become as feeble and helpless a
being as its enemies, whether early or more recent, could possibly
desire. It will exist in every State but as a poor dependant on
State permission. It must borrow leave to be; and will be no
longer than State pleasure, or State discretion, sees fit to grant
the indulgence and to prolong its poor existence.

But, Sir, although there are fears, there are hopes also. The
people have preserved this, their own chosen Constitution, for
forty years, and have seen their happiness, prosperity, and re-
nown grow with its growth, and strengthen with its strength.
They are now, generally, strongly attached to it. Overthrown
by direct assault, it cannot be; evaded, undermined, nullified,
it will not be, if we, and those who shall succeed us here as
agents and representatives of the people, shall conscientiously


and vigilantly discharge the two great branches of our public
trust, faithfully to preserve, and wisely to administer it.

Mr. President, I have thus stated the reasons of my dissent
to the doctrines which have been advanced and maintained.
I am conscious of having detained you and the Senate much too
long. I was drawn into the debate with no previous deliberation
such as is suited to the discussion of so grave and important a
subject. But it is a subject of which my heart is full, and I
have not been willing to suppress the utterance of its spontan-
eous sentiments. I cannot, even now, persuade myself to
relinquish it without expressing once more my deep conviction
that, since it respects nothing less than the Union of the States,
it is of most vital and essential importance to the public happi-
ness. I profess, Sir, in my career hitherto to have kept steadily
in view the prosperity and honor of the whole country, and the
preservation of our Federal Union. It is to that Union we owe
our safety at home, and our consideration and dignity abroad.
It is to that Union that we are chiefly indebted for whatever
makes us most proud of our country. That Union we reached
only by the discipline of our virtues in the severe school of ad-
versity. It had its origin in the necessities of disordered finance,
prostrate commerce, and ruined credit. Under its benign influ-
ences, these great interests immediately awoke as from the dead,
and sprang forth with newness of life. Every year of its duration
has teemed with fresh proofs of its utility and its blessings; and
although our territory has stretched out wider and wider, and
our population spread farther and farther, they have not out-
run its protection or its benefits. It has been to us all a copious
fountain of national, social, and personal happiness.

I have not allowed myself, Sir, to look beyond the Union to
see what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not
coolly weighed the chances of preserving liberty, when the bonds
that unite us together shall be broken asunder. I have not
accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to
see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the
abyss below; nor could I regard him as a safe counsellor hi the
affairs of this government, whose thoughts should be mainly


bent on considering, not how the Union should be best preserved,
but how tolerable might be the condition of the people when it
should be broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts, we
have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us
for us and our children. Beyond that, I seek not to penetrate the
veil. God grant that, in my day, at least, that curtain may not
rise! God grant that on my vision never may be opened what
lies behind! When my eyes shall be turned to behold for the
last time the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the
broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on
States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with
civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood ! Let then-
last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign
of the Republic, now known and honored throughout the earth,
still full high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their
original lustre, not a stripe erased or polluted, nor a single star
obscured; bearing for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory
as "What is all this worth?" nor those other words of delusion
and folly, "Liberty first, and Union afterwards;" but every-
where, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on
all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land
and hi every wind under the whole heavens, that other senti-
ment, dear to every true American heart Liberty and Union,
now and forever, one and inseparable!



[Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), the sixteenth President of the United
States, was born in Hardin (now Larue) County, Kentucky. As a very young
boy, he removed with his parents to Indiana. His early education was
scanty; a little reading, writing, and arithmetic was all. But taking hold of
the hard facts of life and being stimulated and educated by necessity,
Lincoln steadily rose to positions of public trust and usefulness. By middle
life he had come to stand high at the Bar and seemed to be becoming more
and more interested in his profession. But the slavery agitation drew him
into politics, and in the famous debates with Stephen A. Douglas on this
question Lincoln rose to be the leader of the Republican party. In 1860 he
was nominated and elected to the Presidency, and in 1864 he was reelected.
His career as President was ended by his death at the hand of an assassin,
April 14, 1865. His Second Inaugural Address was delivered on March 4,
1865. It is a political document marked by a feeling of mingled hopefulness
and determination, and by the absence of sectional bitterness. Lincoln
himself thought it would "wear as well" as anything he had produced. For
further light on Lincoln's character see the selection, Lincoln as an Ameri-
can, by Croly, this volume, page 74.]

Fellow-Countrymen At this second appearing to take the
oath of the Presidential office, there is less occasion for an
extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement
somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed very fitting
and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which
public declarations have been constantly called forth on every
point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the
attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is
new could be presented.

The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends,
is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust,
reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope
for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all
thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All
dreaded it, all sought to avoid it. While the inaugural address
was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving


the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city, seeking

Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonNational ideals and problems; essays for college English → online text (page 13 of 39)