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Charleston, Kanawha County, Virginia, August 8, 1833

 

“Oration, Delivered at Point Pleasant, on the Fourth of July, 1833, by James Craik, Esq.”

Fellow Citizens:

                By the appointment of a Committee of the citizens of this vicinity, it has become my duty to address you upon this great, this glorious day.  It is indeed, my friends, a day which should be hallowed by all the lovers of liberty, not only in America, but throughout the world.  For the great event which will render the Fourth of July 1776 forever illustrious, is destined to exert a powerful influence upon the character and condition of the whole race of man.  But in America, in these States, the 4th of July should never be permitted to go down unnoticed.  It is most appropriate that this day should be greeted with paths of joy by the millions of free and happy people who, to the glorious event which we commemorate, are indebted for the enjoyment of that freedom and happiness.

                To appreciate the character and the consequences of the Declaration made by the American people on the 4th of July 1776, we must look at the actions as it stands unparalleled among the recorded events of human conduct: we must regard it in connection with the former history of mankind: - and we must contemplate it as the commencing incident of a new era in the condition and prospects on human society.

                The passion for liberty is both an animal instinct and a rational desire.  Without freedom no part of the animal creation can exhibit the finest development of physical power: and man, when deprived of the ennobling consciousness derived from the principle, has never reached that intellectual grandeur for the attainment of which he was created.  Man is endowed with the noblest energies, with the most exalted faculties, and he has been surrounded by the bountiful donor of these good gifts with everything that can promote their development, and minister to his happiness.  But when we contemplate the passive surrender of these energies; the prostitution of these sublime faculties exhibited by the former history of mankind, we are filled with the amazement and wonder at the inscrutable ways of Providence: and with deep humiliation for the degradation of that common nature which we partake with the myriads of beings who have passed from the world before us.

                The very first opening of authentic history presents us with the appalling spectacle of governments established over a large portion of the earth, characterized by uncontrolled despotism on the one hand, and unmitigated slavery on the other.  Under the operation of such unnatural circumstances, the progress of corruption and the deterioration of the human race were fearfully rapid: and the darkness of the whole period comprised under the rule of Ancient history, is only relieved by the brilliant records of two of the nations of Europe.  The people of Greece and Italy, each a hardy and intellectual race, secured for themselves the blessings of civil and political liberty: and they alone of all the nations of ancient days, exhibited the grandeur and greatness of the human intellect; they alone vindicated the divine origin and the divine destiny of the human soul.  But these nations, too, insensibly yielded to the overpowering influence of the general example.  Forgetting their rugged virtues, and preterring luxury to liberty, the she suffered factious demagogues and ambitious leaders to usurp those powers which are rightfully inherent in all the individuals of a community; and the possession of which, can alone secure the dignity of human nature.

                The whole world seemed then to be forever and hopelessly sunk in a profound abyss of ignorance, imbecility and crime.  But a brighter destiny was at hand.  The Almighty Disposer of events caused the whole civilized portion of the hordes of barbarians let loose from the fastnesses of the North.  This unknown race of men, though ignorant and unpolished, possessed gigantic powers of mind and body; and after exterminating great numbers of the former population, remained the undisturbed possessors of all the cultivated portions of Europe.  Again the career of civilization and improvement was to be commenced; and, as it seemed, under better auspices than formerly.  For a long time these new inhabitants of Europe preserved their independence and freedom unimpaired.  The contest between the principles of despotism and liberty, on this favoured continent was long and doubtful: but at last, the privileged and unworthy few, possessing knowledge and winning confidence abused the one and betrayed the other, by trampling underfoot the rights and liberties of the people.

                Conspicuous among these nations for a sturdy and uncompromising spirit of independence, was the Anglo-Saxon race.  The spirit of liberty has ever been worshipped with peculiar ardor by this people; and was at one time, when an English monarch paid the forfeit of his head for the audacious effort to usurp the supreme power, completely triumphant in the British Isles.  It was not until the ministers of the crown learned to substitute corruption for prerogative, and to purchase British liberty with British gold, that the monarchical feature of their government acquired the uncontrolled ascendency.  That object once effectually secured, the gloating eye of ambition was then directed upon the fair provinces of this Western World.  The result, the glorious result of that attempt, was the immortal Declaration which you have this day heard. 

                The discovery of the New World occurred at a most fortunate period.  The European character still possessed all its original raciness, independence and vigour: while to these qualities were added no inconsiderable portion of science and refinement.  The emigration of our ancestors under these auspicious circumstances to the wilds of America, removed them from the operation of those sinister influences which have produced such fatal effects in the country they abandoned.  Here thy planted the tree of liberty in fertile soil; and it has grown and flourished until its branches extend over a whole continent, and mighty nations are shadowed beneath its foliage.

                We have rapidly glanced at four great eras in the history of human government.  The first is the existence of those despotic institutions whose origin is concealed from us by the impenetrable veil of antiquity.  The establishment of the Grecian and Roman systems, which reference to leading principles were essentially the same, and which were like radically defective, constitutes the second great era.  The third era compresses the origin of the Feudal governments, after the destruction of the Roman Empire.  The discovery and settlements of America, connected with the principles on which the governments of this country are founded, constitute the fourth and most important of these eras.

                Of the events which together make this wonderful epoch in the history of the world, the promulgation of the immortal document which has just been read to you is the most commanding and imposing incident.  Fellow Citizens; that Declaration was maintained, its pledges were sealed with the blood of our patriot fathers; and the principles it announces have become the property of this country, the birthright of every American, and the foundation of all our institutions.  What a glorious inheritance!  What a precious deposit!  To us is committed the guardianship of those great principles of civil and political liberty, which alone can sustain the dignity of human nature, or permit the utmost developement of its faculties.  And this sacred trust is confide to us, not for ourselves only, not merely to promote the happiness of the millions who may inhabit this extensive continent, but for the benefit of all mankind.  The people of every clime are deeply interested in the success of our institutions because upon the result of this greats and most auspicious experiment, upon the capacity of man for self-government, depends the future extension of free principles [throughout] the world.  To every one of us this charge has been committed.  Shall we basely betray the confidence that has been reposed in us?  Shall we prove unfaithful stewards of this sacred, this invaluable treasure?  Shall we, through supineness or negligence, or ignorance, permit this precious deposit to be wrested from our keeping: to be lost to mankind? Oh! how deep and lasting will be the execration which must purse the wretched being s who may be guilt of this great crime!  Let us not only avoid this heavy malediction, but let our hearts overflow with gratitude to the Providence which has cast our lots in this favoured land and has deemed us worthy to encounter this high responsibility, and to enjoy these inestimable privileges.  That we may act up to the dignity of the station we occupy, it to search for the principles which are at the foundation of the government; that he may know what he is to preserve, and how he may guard the sacred pledge.  No time can be more appropriate for the partial performance of this duty.  Than the day we have assembled to commemorate, when the mind naturally reverts to the spirit the views which animated and guided our fathers.  Especially should we devote the present occasion to the consideration of those principles which may seem to be peculiarly endangered at this time by the delusions of party, or the intrigue of ambition.

                You are aware of the strange hallucinations which has for some time prevailed in a sister state, and which seemed, during the past year, about to terminate in the most fatal consequences.  Happily, the crisis which then seemed so imminent has passed over, and the deformed spirit of Nullification has been laid forever by the general burst of patriotic indignation elicited by the conduct of South Carolina.  But ano her metaphysical riddle of kindred character remains to be solved by the good sense of the American people.  A new system of political philosophy has been put forth and gravely announced by high authority, as the only orthodox standard of republican faith in this country.  This new dogma is called by its advocates the Right of Secession: or, the right of peaceable Secession.  It is obvious that a powerful effort will be made during the next winter, to commit the people of the South and of Virginia especially, to this new school of political contrivers, and it is proper that the public mind should be prepared for the attempt.  Indeed I am pleased that this question is to be brought so soon to the tribunal of public opinion; because I am sure that its utter fallacy and unsoundness will be then unequivocally demonstrated. 

                If this right were claimed as a NATURAL RIGHT, necessarily resulting from the inaction of the compact of Union by the other parties and corresponding with the right of resistance or of revolution, few would be found to dispute its existence.  But when represented as a perfect, absolute, and constitutional right of each one of the States, at its sole will and pleasure to destroy the government of the U.States; to withdraw from the obligations of the covenant, peaceably, and without hindrance or molestations, the idea becomes absurd and unintelligible.

                Perhaps the most direct way of arriving at safe and legitimate results upon this subject, will be first to inquire into the true spirit and character of the institutions established by our fathers.  When we can clearly see what has been done, we can be the more confident in affirming what has not been done.

                The founders of our system were nearly imbued with the principle that Nature had pointed out the necessity of a political union more or less close between the independent stats of North America; and that the preservation of the Union was absolutely essential to the liberty and to the happiness of the whole.  The first experiment to secure this Union and to promote the general welfare, by a confederacy between the states, each retaining its sovereignty and independence, but acting as to certain purposes under the control of a common council, proved a signal failure.  The next attempt resulted in the establishment of that wise and happy constitution of government under which we now live.  Keeping steadily in view that which appeared to them “the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union,: the wise statesmen of that day founded their new system upon the principle of nationality, without entirely destroying the federative principle.  The people of the individual states, in the exercise of their ultimate sovereignty, and to promote their common welfare and happiness, united themselves by a solemn compact or constitution s of government with the people of all the states, thereby forming a new state, a new society, a new nation.  To the body politic thus established, many, but not all of the sovereign powers previously possessed by the States were delegated by the act of Union.  The powers of the new association were strictly limited, restrained and define d by the instrument which called it into existence; while all the powers of sovereignty not thus granted away were expressly retained by the people of the states the government of the U States was made entirely sovereign and independent, with regard to the subjects over which its control might lawfully be extended; and the state governments were equally sovereign and independent in relation to every object of legislation not expressly confined to the national will.  That this system is extremely complicated: that it is founded upon a most refined and delicate analysis of human nature and of the principles of political science, I readily admit.  But this very complexity of form I essential to the preservation of liberty the simplest governments upon earth are the purest despotisms.  In the complete preservation in all its beauty and integrity of the system of government established by the founders of American liberty, I recognize the best surest, the last hope of mankind.

                Before we enter into an examination of the doctrine of Secession, let us look more closely at the tendency of the American system of government to perpetuate our liberties, for this is the object which should be principally regarded in the formation and in the interpretation of republican constitutions.  The distinguishing excellence of our system in this view is the separate and independent existence of the several States.  The States have given up but a limited portion of their Sovereignty; the res-s retained along with their corporate character: they are real entities, moral persons susceptible of rights and obligations.  The States are bodies politic subject to responsibilities, and possessing independent powers.  There is a school of politicians in this country who deny that the States ever were sovereign and independent, who affirm that the people of the U States always constituted a single nation, having a common interest, and subject to a common sovereignty.  Those who maintain this doctrine derive from it the necessary inference, that the division into States is a mere matter of Territorial convenience dependent upon the will of the whole, and that the State governments derive all their authority from the people of the U. States.  This is the odious doctrine of consolidation or ultra Federalism, which has been heretofore so signally put down by the voice of the people, and the establishment of which would inevitably lead to the subversion of our liberties.  The States derive no authority from the people of the U. States.  They claim and exercise all the powers of sovereignty which they have not voluntarily granted a way, as original and inherent in themselves.  And one of the most important of their duties is to keep an eye of vigilance upon the conduct of the National government, to guard against its encroachments and to warn the people of its usurpations.  And if that government should be dissolved, whether by a deliberate, palpable and dangerous infraction of the compact, not acquiesced in by the States, or by any other means, the powers of the general government would return, not to the people of the U. States, not to the individual citizens, but of those bodies politic, the States, from which they originally proceeded.  But this resumption of sovereignty is not effected by the mere will of a State by the exercise of any sovereign power which it now possesses.  It is only the natural result of the violated covenant.  It is the reversion of powers previously granted when the condition of that grant has failed.  The right to assume that position is not a right and the constitution, or derived from the compact, but supposes the non-existence, the construction of the compact.  The assertion of this right assumes that the compact of Union has become void, and that the States have no other relation to each other than such as arises from the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.  It is precisely the right which the subjects of [ordinary] simple governments have to resume the powers they have conferred upon their rulers by a compact either express or implied, whenever those rulers violate that compact and attempt to usurp unlimited authority.  It is that glorious revolutionary right so boldly asserted and so triumphantly vindicated by our illustrious ancestors.

                But this natural and inherent right of all the parties to a political compact is of peculiar and unprecedented values and importance as attached to the States of this Union.  The people of other countries have rested all the attributes of sovereignty in a single government.  But in America, a portion of the Sovereign power is vested in in the people of the whole Union, to be exercised through the agency of one government, and an equal portion of sovereign power is retained by the people of each state to be exercised through the agency of a different government.  And when the sovereign powers residing in the U. States are abused or perverted to the purposes of oppression and injury, the States with the aid of their reserved sovereignty, and with the regular political organization which thy possess can oppose a resistance very different from the insurrectionary movements of other countries, and which will be an ample guarantee, as long as the integrity of this Union is preserved, for the perpetuity of our liberties.

                Such is a feeble and general outline of what I conceive to be the principle of the system of govbernment establshed by our venerated fathers.

                But the propagandists of the New Light (emphasis in original) of Secession attempt to undermine to undermine the whole foundation of this system by gravely (illegible) the people of the United States are not people; that they do not constitute a State, a community, a civil society.  To meet this startling position it will only be necessary simply to enquire what is a State?  The most illustrious statesman, philosopher and orator of antiquity has defined a State to be, “A multitude of people united together by a common interest, and by common laws, to which they submit with one accord.”  A distinguished modern publicist defines “civil society or a State” to be “a complete assembly of men of free condition who are united together for repurposes of maintaining their rights, and of advancing a common good.”  Does not the condition of the people of the U. States correspond in every particular with these definitions of a State?  Are they not united together by a common interest and by common laws?  And what says the sacred charter of our liberties?  “We the people of the U. States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, 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 U. States of America.”  Is not this language of our bond of Union in exact accordance with the definition of civil society?  And what is government but the result, the consequence of civil society?  By an effort of abstraction we can conceive of a government without a society, a nation upon which it is to operate.  The constitution of the former necessarily presupposes the existence of the latter.

                having disposed of this strange and in defensible position, I approach with more diffidence a stronger ground assumed by our adversaries, in the defence of which all ingenuity of the most practiced logician in this country has been laboriously exerted.  I allude to the argument for the right of Secession founded upon the nature of Sovereignty.  The argument may be thus briefly stated.

                Sovereignty is declared by these metaphysicians to be in its nature supreme, illimitable and indivisible.  The doctrine which, upon the authority of the fathers of the constitution, I have stated to you, of the partition of Sovereignty between the people of the States and the people of the U. States, is derided as absurd and impracticable.  The nature of Sovereignty is asserted to be essentially one and omnipotent.  Having demonstrated that Sovereignty was at one time possessed and exercised by each one of the States, it is argued that they did not delegate or attempt to divide their Sovereignty by the adoption of the Constitution of the U. States, but only established a government.  And Mr. Tazewell[1] ingeniously remarks, that it is the peculiar characteristic of American institutions, that sovereignty resides in the people and not in the government, and consequently the mere establishment of government would not divest the States of any portion of their sovereignty, which yet remains to each in all its original integrity, unimpaired by the act of Union, and by unimpaired by the act of Union, and by virtue of which each state may, at its sole discretion, recall the powers it has granted, and Secede unmolested from the Union.  I have stated this argument fairly, and fully because I wished to meet it fairly, believing that its plausible sophistries may without much difficulty be unraveled and detected.

                Definitions are the peculiar weapons of the logicians.  Give to a practiced advocate this unlimited power of definition and he will demonstrate any proposition.  Hence the fondness of these gentlemen for those words of vague and uncertain meaning, various definitions of which will equally correspond to the common understanding of the term.  By the use of such words, to or more disputants may arrive by perfectly sound and equally acute means of reasoning at precisely opposite results.  Of this character is the word Sovereignty.  No word in the language is more complex, more indefinite and uncertain.  It is used in a great variety of relations, and in all with equal propriety.  In its widest and most extensive sense it is acknowledged that Sovereignty can be ascribed only the Supreme arbiter of the Universe.  The definition of Sovereignty as applicable to civil society, given by Rutherforth[2] is entirely consistent with the account which has been given of the division of this power between separate States and the United States.  “Whatever power” observes this writer “is independent, so as not to be subject to another power, though it has in the meantime no other power subject to itself may with propriety enough be called by this name.  In short that power may well be called sovereign, to which none is superior.”  It has been seen that the States and the general government tin the exercise of the sovereign powers respectively belonging to them are entirely independent of each other: neither is supreme, neither is inferior.  But Mr. Tazewell adopts and argues upon another definition of sovereignty, that it is “the right of commanding civil society in the last sort.”  If by the power of commanding civil society in the last resort is meant the power to change and to model the form of government at pleasure, and if this is the only legitimate sense of sovereignty, then it is certain that each State has solemnly granted away its entire sovereignty.  For having first made the constitution of the U States the Supreme law, every State [has given to - illegible - of the States the] right to amend and modify that constitution as they think proper.

                But if we would acquire clear and correct ideas upon this subject we must leave these unsatisfactory abstractions, these vague and general definitions, and enquire into the nature of Sovereignty by learning what it consists, the parts of which it is composed, the properties by which its existence is manifested.  When we descend into this detail, the mysticism of this whole matter will be dispersed at once, and all will be plain and obvious to the most ordinary capacity.  The very same writers upon public law who have given such various and inconsistent definitions of sovereignty in the abstract, all concur in the representation of its constituent parts, and in the description of tis actual existence and manifestations in civil society. They tell us of absolute and of limited sovereignty, of sovereignty confided to a single individual, or exercised by various departments.  It is described as consisting of legislative, judicial and executive authority: and this authority extended over a greater or less variety of objects according to the peculiar form of the constitution.     

                Indeed we have only to look at the origin of human sovereignty to perceive that it is susceptible of every medication and variety which the welfare of mankind may require.  The foundation of all earthly sovereignty is to be found in that exclusive control which in a state of Nature each individual rightfully possesses over his own person.  In entering into civil society the individual surrenders to the collective body a portion of this independent right of controlling his own actions, and thus political sovereignty is created.  The individuals composing the society may have rendered this delegated sovereignty absolute, or they may have limited it to any number of specified objects.  However limited and restrained, the right to control and regulate the actions of men by compulsory process is Sovereignty.  Every act of legislation, every decision of a Court of Justice every instance of executive authority implies the exercise of sovereign power.

                Hence we see the absurdity of that dogma which asserts the indivisibility of sovereign power.  And whence does this dogma proceed?  From the same suspicious and polluted source from which at one time came the doctrine of the divine right of kings, and from which it is even yet proclaimed that monarchy is the only safe and legitimate form of government among men.  No wonder that the principle of divided sovereignty, the very last security for the preservation of liberty that the wit of man has ever yet devised, should be odious to the princes of the earth, to the oppressors of mankind However high and imposing the authority which may be adduced for the indivisibility of sovereignty, I will show yet higher for the contrary principle.  I will appeal and such an appeal must be respected, from the subjects of monarchal Europe to the fathers of American liberty, to the founders of the American governments.  The idea that our peculiar system of government is founded upon the delegations of sovereignty complete and entire by the respective States of the U States over certain enumerated objects, and the reservation of equal sovereignty to themselves over certain other objects was familiar to the minds of these truly great men.  The doctrine is frequently states directly in their political writings and is constantly alluded to as a known and familiar truth.  An instance of reference to this doctrine in the latter way, which I quote on account of the authority of the document in which it is found, occurs in that invaluable commentary upon the constitution, in that true and legitimate standard of state rights and of republican faith, the report of James Madison to the legislature of Virginia in 1800.  Mr. Madison says, “To consolidate the sates into one sovereignty, nothing more can be wanting that to supercede their respective sovereignties in the cases reserved to them, by extending the sovereignty of the U States, to all cases whatsoever.”  Here the sovereignty of the States is presented as existing only “in the cases reserved to them,” and the conviction is expressed that the sovereignty previously delegated to the U States as to certain enumerated objects, will be made to embrace all objects if “extended” to all cases of the general welfare.

                But we are told that sovereignty resides in the people and not in the government: that it is the peculiar characteristic of American institutions to have separated the sovereignty from the government, and that the creation of a government is not a delegation of sovereignty.  I cannot concur with the ingenious author of this argument in his statement of “the peculiar characteristic of American institutions.”  The institutions of America are characterized by various and important peculiarities.  Among them is the division of sovereign powers among the constituents of different governments, about which we have been so long discoursing.  Another and not less important characteristic is the principle of representative democracy.  It is true that sovereignty resides with the people, but how is it exercised?  How is this existence manifested?  It is through the government that the people exert their sovereign authority.  Through the congress the people of the U. States exert these sovereign power in the enactment of laws to control the conduct of individuals.  Thro’ the other departments of the government, the same people exercise the same sovereign authority in the application and execution of those laws.  The people of the States likewise exercise their reserved sovereignty through their respective governments: and they may indulge in a higher exercise of that sovereignty by changing and amending their form of government.  The people of the U States are not capable of the extraordinary exercise of sovereign power, unless three fourths of all the states concur, because not only the objects of the sovereignty delegated to the U States, but likewise the machinery it exercises are precisely y designated in the constitutional compact.

                I have said that the States as parties to the compact of Union possess the natural right of seceding from the Union whenever they believe the compact to have been violated and its powers perverted to the purposes of oppression and injury.  There being no common arbiter established by the constitution between the sovereign parties to that instrument, it follows that each state must judge for itself as well of the propriety of exercising this natural right as of the occasion for its exersice.  The states stand in precisely the same relation, as far as this question is concerned, to the general government, in which individuals stand, according to American principles towards an ordinary government.  The individual in the one case, and each state in the present instance, as parties to a constitutional compact and as moral beings, possess the sole and exclusive right of judging as well of infractions of that compact as of the mode a measure of redress.  But this is a natural not a conventional right.  It is the claim of a right not under but paramount to the compact.  It is a right which if resisted, as it always will be, must be vindicated by an appeal to the God of Battles.  It is in fact the right of resistance or of revolution, the only sanction of which is superiority of force.

                Let us examine this matter more minutely.  One of the Sates of this Union, in the exercise of her sovereign will and pleasure, undertakes to say the terms of the compact of Union have been grossly violated to her prejudice, that consequently she as a right to determine the obligations of that compact as to herself, and that she dose thereby reassume into her own keeping all the powers over her citizens vested by the compact in the general government.  The people of the U. States, on the other hand, do not hesitate to declare with equal confidence that the compact never has been violated: that none of the rights conferred upon them by the compact have been forfeited, but that they still exist unimpaired and to full and perfect vigour.  Now there being no common arbiter between these parties who is to decide the issue thus made between them?  Each must judge for itself, and may act upon that judgement; but neither party can judge for the other.  The only tribunal to which an appeal can be made is that of force.

                But the use of force will not be commenced, as Mr. Tazewell has curiously supposed, by a declaration of war upon the part of the remaining states against the seceding state.  If this were the case, all the absurd consequences which that gentleman has depicted would follow. It is to be recollected, that in the case supposed, the U. States has not recognized the right of the States to secede.  The right of the State to resume the powers of sovereignty conferred upon the United States by the compact has been denied.  The State claims above the compact, which it declares has become void and of no effect, to assume an equal and independent station among the nations of the earth.  The people of the U. States claim under the compact, which they contend is still valid and subsisting, to exercise all the powers granted by it.  The most important of the powers vested by the constitution in the United States is to coerce obedience to its own laws from all the individual citizens of the U. States.  To suppose the surrender of this power with regard to the citizens of any State would be to assume the previous determination of the controversy, and that the judgement of the State had been conclusive against the U. States, which would be begging the question, and is contrary to the terms of the hypothesis.  On the other hand if it is admitted that this power must continue to be exercised, then the idea is precluded of any recognition by the U States of the new attitude assumed that the State.  All the citizens of the State can only be regarded in the character of citizens of the United States, and the laws must be forced against them as such.  The result of the whole is, what until lately was never denied, that if the construction put upon its powers by the U. States is sanctioned by the result of the conflict the individuals engaged in armed resistance to her authority will be subject to all pains and penalties of the treason: and on the contrary, if the State is victorious, they will be covered with all the glory arising from the achievement of a successful revolution.

                If I have succeeded in demonstrating that the doctrine of secession is inconsistent with the operation and spirit of our bond of Union, it will be unnecessary to detain you by a detail of the practical evil and folly of the new system.  If the constitution of the U. states. is indeed the poor and inefficient instrument which this theory would represent , it is time that he people understood it, that they may speedily consult together in what manner it may be amended.  It will not do to say that experience has proved the excellence and value of this system.  The consitiution of the United Staets is indeed worthy of our reverence and affections.  It is a proud monument of the wisdom and a sure guarantee of the liberty of our country.  But it is the consitituion as explained and interpreted by its founders: the constitution as understood by the practical good sense of the American people: and not the constitution as frittered away by the fantastic reveries of our New Light politicians, which is commended to our regard by the unerring test of experience.

                Fellow citizens, the venerated father of our country has declared, that, “the greatest interest of every true American is the consolidation of our Union in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety, perhaps our national existence.:  This glorious sentiment should be engraved upon the hearts of the present generation.  Let us carry it home with us: repeat it in the domestic circle: teach it as the earliest lesson to our children.  The illustrious author of its sentiment, and the hand of pure spirits associated with him in its declaration to the American people, did not understand it merely as a result of an intellectual process.  They felt it as a solemn truth made manifest by the complicated ills which then afflicted their beloved country.  They saw the horrors, present and in prospect, of that virtual dissolution of the Union naturally resulting from the shadow of a government then existing; to which the new fangled doctrine of secession would in every particular assumption (five illegible words) U. States.

                What was the damning vice of the confederation?  Upon paper it seemed as beautiful a form of (illegible) as the most ingenious of our modern theorists could devise.  But it depended for its operation and existence upon the will and the discretion of each induvial state, and its obligations had no other sanction than a declaration of war against the recusant members.  At first the requisitions of Congress were complied with, but very soon some of the States found it more convenient to postpone attention to those requisitions and afterwards to disregard them altogether.  The example became contagious and the whole system was at a stand. The clumsy machine could hardly be prevented from crumbling to pieces before the new constitution was prepared to take its place.  And what must be the operation of this constitution under the paralyzing influence of this right of secession?  It is said that a state will not exercise this right except in cases of palpable and dangerous usurpation.  Indeed!   Is the Tariff law then an instance of that kind?  Does not a large majority of the American people believe that nothing but the spirit of faction run mad could dream of the unconstitutionality of the Tariff?  And (illegible) for the passage of this law S. Carolina has attempted to Secede.  Truly the new doctrine is introduced to the country under most unfortunate auspices.  Consult experience, read the great book of human nature and you will learn, that under the influence of this doctrine, one state will secede that her principal city may be aggrandized by making g it a free port: another will secede for the equally hones t purpose of appropriating to himself the public domain within the limits and a third, perhaps to avoid the burden of a tax imposed in some extraordinary emergency.  Will not a threat of Secession from New York, “the empire state,” or from Pennsylvania the central state, be equivalent to a COMMAND, and be sufficient to enforce obedience from the Congress to the behests of the dominant factions in those commonwealths?  Look at it in any light, and this new doctrine appears impotent for good, omnipotent for evil.  Its general recognition would make the Federal government; lay that other abortion the former confederation, not worth preserving.  The shadow of a government which would remain would assuredly become the mere sport of faction, the object of intrigue and the instrument of corruption.

                We may form a more correct idea of the true nature and tendency of this doctrine by attending the sentiment with which it has been associated from its birth to the present hour.  Simultaneously with the propagation of the new theory, the little lights of the age discovered that “IT WAS TIME TO CALCULATE THE VALUE OF THE UNION.”

                Sanding on the banks of the beautiful Ohio we can appreciate the value of the policy which would convert this magnificent bond of connexion (sic) between the most distant regions, bearing upon its broad and placid bosom the fertilizing commerce of six states, conveying wealth and all the blessings of civilization and refinement to millions of human beings, into what with strange perversity would called a “Natural” boundary between independent nations: its eminences crowned by frowning fortress, its opposing shores bristling with hostile bayonets, the now peaceful and happy inhabitants of this fertile valley converted into deadly enemies.  The feeble, contracted vision of the authors of this sentiment is incapable of taking in the vast, the wide, and the extended interests of the whole race of man involved in the preservation of this Union. Calculate the value of the Union!  Conceited fools! Go, measure infinite space: count the duration of eternity; then come and calculate the value of this Union.  But the calculation has already been made.  He, who stands alone, the first among me: he, who was preeminent in goodness as in greatness; he, before whose brightness and purity the little heroes and statement and conquerors of the world dwindle into insignificance; he, whom Providence in its kindest dispensation ordained to be the founder and the defender of American institutions: our Washington, has calculated the value of the Union; and he pronounced it to be “THE GREATEST INTEREST OF EVERY TRUE AMERICAN.”

                Fellow citizens, while the principle of anarchy is attempting violently to destroy the institutions of the country, the principle of monarchy is insidiously undermining the foundation on which those institutions rest.  The history of the operation of these two principles constitutes the narrative of the decline and fall of all the republics that have existed.  At first they might seem antagonizing principles of evil: but they are in truth co-workers in the labour of destruction.  The spirit of anarchy marches boldly in the van scattering discord and confusion, cutting asunder the bonds of social affection, and destroying the peace and happiness of society.  Then comes the spirt of monarchy, claiming to be the only power capable of remedying the ills with which society is afflicted, and by this specious representation attracting to its standard the lovers of peace of order and of virtue.  Monarchy by its gaudy and imposing accessories has ever been an object of strange and, as it has therefore seemed, of irresistible attraction to a large majority of mankind.  Like the fabled charm of the serpent, its fascinating power allures its victims to their ruin.  The honorary titles, the glittering insignia of destruction, the gorgeous pageantry, the military pomp, and the civic processions of monarchical institutions are calculated to obscure the reason, and dazzle and delight the imagination.  While the feeling of Loyalty and the practice of adulation are ready and convenient substitutes for the more refined sentiment of patriotism, and the sterner virtue of independence.

                Fellow citizens, that our republic may not be numbered with those that WERE; that our liberties may not share the same fate which has overtaken the liberties of every other free people, we must sternly rebuke the spirit of anarchy on the one hand, and guard with unceasing circumspection against the encroachments of monarchy on the other.

                The organization of the Executive department has always been the most difficult problem in the constitution of a republic.  A certain portion of energy in this department is absolutely essential to the purpose of government.  But, unfortunately, the power thus concentrated in the hand of one man has always been abused; and either by force or corruption, the balance of the constitution destroyed, and the liberties of the people subverted.  Our British ancestors manfully resisted the attempt of the Executive to usurp by force all the powers of government: but since that period, the British monarchy, strictly limited in theory, has become omnipotent in practice through the influence of corruption.  Is there not some reason to fear that the same insidious process is at work among their descendants on this side the Atlantic?  The present distinguishable incumbent of the Executive chair has repeatedly directed the attention of Congress to this subject, and requested that body to propose such an amendment of the constitution as might remedy the evil.  The corrupting influences of the Executive department as at present organized are the re-eligibility of the President, the unlimited power of removal from office without cause , and the power appointing to office members of Congress and of the State Legislatures.  All of these might be removed without impairing in the lightest degree the salutary energy of the executive authority.

                The corrupting tendency of the particulars I have enumerated have been amply illustrated by the history of our country.  The re-eligibility of the President, connected with the unlimited power of removal from office has necessarily organized two powerful parties in the contest for the Presidency, without any sort of reference to principle or merit, but founded solely upon the desire to retain office by one party, and to acquire it by the other.  These distract the country by their senseless clamor.  Distinguished individuals in the nation are indiscriminately lauded to the skies, or accused of every crime that can degrade humanity by these mercenary seekers after the loaves and fishes.  An unprincipled politician easily moulds these elements this purpose.  The press, that palladium of our liberty, the only channel of public information becomes corrupted by the seductive prospect of Reward, When that object is effected, the incumbent of the Presidency can without difficulty acquire an un-judicious distribution of patronage he may provide for his own re=election, and by the same means and with the same facility he can secure the appointment of his successor.  The prosperity of the country is then recklessly sacrificed to the prospects of an election and the fate of every measure becomes dependent upon the smile of executive approbation.

                The recommendations of the President to Congress upon this subject have been disregarded by that body.  He has warned the agents of the people of the canker which is preying upon the vitals of our system, and if they have not attempted to remove it.  It is time then that the people themselves should act.  It is time that you should weight well this matter and consider all its consequences.  Your interest are involved, you r liberties are at stake.  Instruct your public servants to apply a corrective to these ill.  Leave to the Executive department all its energy: leave to it all its capacity for good: but take away for the sake of the liberty you love, for the sake of the principles you revere, take away its power of corruption.  The check of every honest man should be crimsoned with the blush of shame and indignation when he sees the creeping parasite, and the venal courier polluting the pure are of America with their poisonous exhalations.  Guard by the most efficient provisions every opening by which these infamous creatures, whose trade is sycophancy, whose art is intrigue, whose object is to fatten upon the spoils of the community, may insinuate themselves into the administration of your affairs.  Do this, and your liberties may be perpetuated to the remotest posterity.  But, fold your arms in listless apathy, sit down in criminal indifference, and ere long the glorious sun of American liberty will set forever and leave the world in darkness.

 

[1] Littleton Waller Tazewell, 26th Governor of Virginia (1834-1836), for whom Waller T. Patton, brother of George S. Patton, was named.

[2] Craik may be referring to the English academic, Thomas Rutherforth (1712-1771).

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