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Admission of Michigan.
[Jan. 4, 1837.
in the constitution of the society. And herein, sir, con. doubts that where, in the language of the declaration of sists the great and essential difference between the con- independence, “any form of government becomes de. stitution of a State and the constitution of the Federal structive of the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of Government. The first has all the powers that are not happiness, the people have a right to alter or abolish it." prohibited, the latter has no powers but those which are But is is not an insult to the understanding of any man granted. The principle is all-important in the construc to cite such an authority as a warrant for ihe proceed. tion of the two instruments. The Federal Government ings in Michigan? Is it not the very point of the objecis one of enumerated powers. There is no general deletion which is made to the present bill, that the principle gation of the whole legislative power of the community, involved in it is revolutionary, while it professes to be restrained merely by exceptions and limitations; but an act of regular government? Does the case of Michithe delegation is of "all legislative powers therein gan present one in which the people, laboring under granted.” It is true that the same language might be grievous oppression upon the part of their Government, used in a state constitution, and, in such case, would re. which, in its form and practice, is destructive of the quire the same construction. But when, as in the case rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are of the constitution of Michigan, it is declared that seeking to alter or abolish that form of government? “the legislative power shall be vested in a Senate and No), sir. The question simply is, whether portions of House of Representatives," it is the legislative power of the the people of that State, having a regular Government, whole community, and has no practical limitation but in which is vested the legislative power, have the right, what is to be found in other parts of the constitution. I by assembling in voluntary meetings, to call a conven. mean, of course, as a rule of construction growing out tion empowered to bind the State in a time of profound of its own provisions. There is, also, as respects the States peace, and as a measure of regular government. To of this Union, another limitation, namely, the constitution state the question correctly is to refute it. And yet, of the United States. But the principle is the same, for sir, we have bad an appeal made to the sacred right of the constitution the United States, having received the revolution; and we who oppose the measure have been assent of the same people, may be considered as incor- taunted as being opposed to the fundamental rights of porated with, and forming, for the purpose of construc. the people, and to the principles of our great Revolution. tion, a part of the State constitution, in the limitations it we have had an effusion of the wildest and most incoimposes on the exercise of Stale sovereignty. As it ap- / herent notions of popular liberty, and our principles depears, then, that the object of calling a convention in nounced as those of the Stuarts and of the Bourbons. Michigan was not to amend or alter the constitution, but And what, sir, after all, is the position for which we to give its assent to what the legislative power might contend? It is, that voluntary meetings of citizens, itself have assented to, namely, the enlargement of its which may be nothing more than the proceedings of a territory, it follows that the power to call such a conven- few turbulent demagogues, have not authority, in a time tion is a mere act of ordinary legislation, and the duty of peace, and as a measure of regular government, to having been imposed by Congress to do so, it was the call a convention, which shall possess the sovereign au. business and right of the Legislature of that State to thority, and be capable of binding the whole communiperform that duty. It was the duty and right of the ty. The converse of this proposition, I say, sir, is the Legislature of Michigan to call the convention, because principle involved in the case before us, and against the people of Michigan, when they formed their consti. which I shall contend at all times, and under all circumtution, declared that the Legislature alone should pos stances. The case of revolution supposes an end to all sess the right of expressing and binding the public will regular government, and its illustrations and its argu, in matters of ordinary legislation. Upon the question ments have nothing to do with the one before us. And whether a convention should be called, the time and now, sir, we are called upon, here, here in the Senate place of its assembling, the mode of its election, the of the United States, to sanction a principle which would qualification of its electors, no portion of the community be subversive of all regular government, and that, too, had the right to dictate to any other portion; nor could at a time when a spirit of misrule is abroad, when the the will of the community be ascertained on those points country is full of scenes of personal violence, and we in any other mode than that agreed upon in the constitu- bave seen men in a neighboring State insensible to the tion. And why, sir? Because the people of Michigan ties of social duty, willing to break down the whole sohad previously agreed, each man with each and every cial edifice, to subvert the entire Government, in order other, when they adopted their constitution, that the to accomplish a mere party purpose.
It may be asked Legislature should be the exponents of the public will in why Congress required the assent of a convention, since such a case. That any portion of the community, be it it had the power to establish the boundaries by its own great or small, should call itself the people, and affect to authority.' The answer would seem to be that, as the express and bind the public will, under such circum- constitution presented by Michigan, and the desire to be stances, is a fraud upon the rights of every man in it, admitted into the Union as a State, purported to pro. and a gross and manifest infraction of the social com ceed merely from the inhabitants of the peninsula, and pact into which he entered when he agreed, with as Congress did not think proper to grant the request others, to form a sovereign State, and delegate the legis- that the peninsula alone should constitute a State, but lative power to a particular body. I say, then, sir, added both population and territory, it became a matter without the fear of contradiction, that when the people of propriety to refer the subject back again to the peothemselves, who cannot act in mass, delegate to their ple, to ascertain whether, under these circumstances, representatives, by their constitution, the legislative hey still desired to become a sovereign State, and, as power of the community, each and every man of them such, a member of this Union. But that is not now the parts with the right to express and bind the public will question; the bill before us supposes that the provision in any other mode than through their Legislature, in re was right, and affirms it to be true that the condition lation to matters falling within the scope of that power. has been complied with. Is this true? What makes Such is the compact, and it is they themselves who estab. the matter still worse is, that the first convention calleil lish it.
by the legislative authority expressly refused its assent, The case of revolution has been appealed to as estab- and we are now called upon to say that the second conJishing and illustrating the right of the people to alter vention, assembled under the authority of voluntary or modify their Government, and control, by voluntary meetings of citizens in some of the counties, was a legal meetings, the will of the community. Nobody, sir, convention, capable of binding the State, and that ibe
Jan. 4, 1837.)
Admission of Michigan.
assent has been given which is required by the act. to repeal the third section of the act of June 15, 1836, The resolution of the 26th January, 1836, referred to which imposes the condition, and admit her at once. I by the Senator from Pennsylvania, (Mr. BUCHANAN,) have no apprehension of difficulty on the score of boundcan have no bearing whatever on the present question, aries, having the most perfect conviction of the power of as indicative of the opinion of the Senate in relation to Congress to settle them, and that has been done by the the power of the Legislature, since, at ibat time, there express provisions of the act. But, sir, it will not do to was clearly no legal authority on the part of Michigan pass this act, either with or without the preamble, unto establish a State Government; but the act of the 15ih less in the latter case the third section of the act of June of June, 1836, altered the case, by accepting, ratifying, be repealed, because that provision still subsisting, to, and confirming, the constitution and State Government, admit under the present circumstances would imply that and thus giving to both a legal existence.
Congress was satisfied that the condition had been fulIn the view which I have taken of this matter, num. filled. This, sir, would be virtually to recognise and bers are nothing. But it is contended that there were sanction the doctrine against which we contend, and more votes given in favor of a convention at the elections which, if established, would in the end subvert all reg. held under the authority of the voluntary meetings than ular government; and which, while it preserved the form were given both for and against the former convention of republican institutions, and affected to be based on And what does this prove? Might there not have been the principle of popular rights and popular liberty, a great number of illegal votes given at the second elec would involve in its practice the most odious tyranny. tion, when there was no authority of law for the govern Mr. BROWN said it bad not been his intention to par. ment of those who undertook to conduct it? But as to ticipate in the debate wbich had arisen on the question the fact, which is paraded as a matter of moment, that then under consideration; but some doctrines had been. there were at least eight thousand votes given for the advanced in its progress which challenged their most second convention, does that prove, with reference to serious consideration, and which be, as a member of that the mere weight of numbers, supposing that none voted body, would not permit to pass without giving utterance but those who bad a right to do so, that the people of to the sentiments of strong disapprobation with which the State, or a majority of the people, desired that a con. they had been beard by him. He almost despaired, after vention should be called, and were in favor of giving the the eloquent display of the gentleman from Delaware, assent required by the act of Congress? Far from it, (Mr. BAYARD,) who had just taken bis seat, of saying any sir. Upon turning to the census which was taken in the ihing that would interest them, or of being able, in the year 1834, it will be found that there was, in that year, course of bis remarks, to gain that attention which that in the peninsula of Michigan, a population of 87,273 gentleman had so justly merited, as well from the matter souls, of whom there were upwards of 22,000 free white as the manner of his address. males above the age of twenty years, so that there must The admission of Michigan as a member of the Union have been, at ihat time, at least twenty thousand voters. had (said Mr. B.) been resisted mainly by those who opAt the present time it is probable that there are at least pose it on the ground that she is, at this time, a sover. thirty thousand voters; and yet eight thousand votes given eign State, and that the convention which assembled in without authority of law, and without the certainty that December last, and gave its assent to the terms prothey were those of persons who had a right to vote at posed by the act of the last session of Congress, was not all, are here represented to be the voice of the people; called into being by a law of the Legislature of Michi. and it is seriously contended that they had a right to elect gan, and is therefore to be considered as irregular and a convention representing the sovereignty of the State, revolutionary in its nature, by assuming to act without and capable of binding the whole community. This such authority. He thought it required but a very slight very case is itself the strongest proof of the danger and examination of the subject for them to arrive at the confolly of departing from the true principles of the social clusion that, on all questions of legislation by Congress system, and attempting to introduce and establish any touching her condition, she is to be contemplated and other standard of ihe public will than that which the regarded as a Territory, and not as a Slate. Not having people themselves, in the formation of their constitution, complied with the terms of the act of Congress passed at bave declared sball be the exponent of that will, name the last session for her admission into the Union, she is ly, the legislative power. In ihe one case, which is that not a confederate State. If she exists, then, as a State of the regular action of Government, there can be no at all, it must be in the character of a foreign and indedanger; and the people, having it always in their power pendent sovereignty. To maintain a doctrine so absurd to change their representatives, may secure a faithful as as this was, and so utterly subversive of the authority of sertion of their will
; but in the other, which concedes the General Government over its territory, its advocates to a portion of the people the right, by voluntary assem must, of necessity, be driven to admit the right of the blies, to call and elect a convention capable of control people of a Territory to throw off the power of the Genling the whole community, the very end of all govern eral Government without its consent, and to establish ment is defeated, by giving to the strong and the crafty the an independent Government at their own will and please means of controlling the weak and the timid without ure. Whether a State may rightfully secede from the their consent; and while their proceedings boldly and Union or not, is a question about which the ablest states. insolently assume the form and the tone of public senti men have differed; but that a Territory, having in itself ment, they may in truth be nothing more than the mach no sovereignty, may rightfully withdraw from the authorinations of designing demagogues, and prove in the ity of the Federal Government, (unless by that right acend the worst species of tyranný. What, then, it may be quired by successful revolution,) is a proposition so dis. asked, is to be done! There are two courses, either of organizing in its tendency as to find scarcely a single adwbich may be taken, and with either of which I shall be vocate. It is true that Michigan has, for some time content. The one is to leave the matter to the further past, exercised the powers of a State, preparatory to action of the State of Michigan. Let the Legislature of her admission into the Union, which were simply per. that Stale call another convention, and then, if it be missive, and not by virtue of any rights she bad as a true that the majority of the people are now in favor of State, independent of the authority of the General Gove coming into the Union upon the proposed terms, there ernment. She is, then, for all practical purposes, to be cannot be a doubt but the required assent will be given. regarded in our legislation as still remaining in her ter. This course will require a little delay, but that will be ritorial condition. If this opinion be correct, then the allended with no material inconvenience. The other is / sanktuary of State rights, for which so many apprehens
Admission of Michigan.
[Jax. 4, 1837.
sions have been expressed, will not be invaded by our guardians here to protect her from the dire calamities of recognising the acis of the late convention, giving being admitted to a participation of the benefits of our the assent of the people of Michigan to the terms happy Union! For himself, he had always been taught proposed by the act of Congress. The honorable Sena to consider it as a measure of no ordinary advantage to tor from Delaware had argued to show that the legisla- the people of a Territory to be raised from a state of tertive branch of a Government was to be regarded as the ritorial dependence to the elevated condition of a sovel• depository of the public will, and that in the States all eign State of our confederacy. If we were about to do power not prohibited by their constitutions might be ex an act which might operate to restrain the privileges of ercised by their Legislatures; and deduces, as a conse her people, then it would behoove us to construe strictly quence from the principles which he contended for, that the powers under which we act. While the rule of conthe assembling of a convention in Michigan, without au struction which he had just laid down was applicable to thority from her Legislature, was irregular and of revo such a case as the one adverted to, the opposite rule of lutionary tendency: This doctrine (said Mr. B.) was, giving a liberal interpretation to our powers was equally in his opinion, radically wrong, and had led to many of obligatory where the object was to enlarge the privilethe erroneous conclusions which had characterized the ges of the citizen. In other words, he considered it to present discussion. The legislative branch of a State be not only a safe rule in practice, but one demanded by Government was to be considered the depository of the our free institutions, in deciding on questions in which public will of the people, represented by it only for cer the rights of the citizen are involved, whether in courts tain purposes, and to the extent of the powers conferred of justice or legislative bodies, to give a construction to on it by the constitution under which it acted. All the power under which they act that will rather favor other powers resided in the great budy of the people, in than abridge the rights. which exists the ultimate authority and sovereignty of a Mr. B. said that the Senator from South Carolina, (Mr. State. The constituted authorities of a State, no, not Preston,) and his honorable coadjutor from Ohio, (Mr. even a convention itself, possess no inherent power of Mornis,] had expressed great horror at the proceedings sovereignty, and each are but the mere agents of the of the convention in Michigan, and, coupling them with people, who constitute the sovereignty. It is therefore some other proceedings which have laiely occurred in derogating rather too much from this power of the peo several of the Stales, bave denounced each in no very ple of a State to claim for their I.egislature the right to measured terms. They think they see, in what they direct them when and how they shall proceed to assem. have chosen to characterize as tumultuary assemblages ble in convention. It strips the sovereign power of one of the people, the overthrow of law and order, and ihe of its highest and most powerful attributes, and leaves it prostration of all regular government. The Senator at the will of the agent created by it to decide when it from Obio told us that he had heard here many very exmay rightfully exercise that power. In some of the traordinary things in the course of this debate; and he States the power is expressly given to their Legislatures (Mr. B.) would take leave to add that the Senator had to decide when a convention shall be called, and to pro- also said some very extraordinary things in the course of vide for the manner of calling the same. This, of course, the observations which he had made. He did not him. is a restriction by the people of those States, imposed by self entertain the same fears of the great body of the themselves, on their original right to assemble in conven. people which seemed so much to excite the alarms of tion through the instrumentality of primary assemblies, some honorable gentlemen. On the contrary, it had and which they are constitutionally bound to observe. been proven, not only by experience in this country, But no such restriction can be alleged as existing in ile but in almost every other civilized nation, that the great constitution of Michigan, to prevent her people from as- body of the people are, in most instances, more inclined sembling in convention spontaneously, for the purpose of to acquiesce in wrongs than to resist them; and that, in expressing her willingness to come into the Union on the nine times out of ten, when driven to physical resistance, terms proposed by Congress. Her constitution points it is because every other means of redress have failed. out the manner in which future amendments to that in Tbe doctrines which had been advanced were identical strument are to be made; but no mode is prescribed by with those in which bad originated the alien and se. it as to the manner in which her people are to assembledition laws. in convention for the purpose of being admitted into the The federal party of that day, as now, (though under Union as a State. As her people never have conferred a different name at the present day,) believed, or affect. on any of her public functionaries this power, it, of ed to believe, that popular liberty would degenerate incourse, remains among them, as belonging to that class to licentiousness, and prove incompatible with the exist. of residuary powers with which she has never parted. if, ence of regular government. In this distrust and jealsir, (said Mr. B.,) this reasoning be correct, ihe people ousy of the great body of the people, by the federal of Michigan have rightfully exercised the power of calls party, originated that celebrated law. Although its au. ing a convention through their primary assemblies--a thors had long since been expelled from power, and right consecrated by the principles of the Revolution, their doctrines stamped with public reprobation, the and from the exercise of which some of the oldest, if not same spirit yet existed, and he regretted that it had the wiscst, Stale constitutions bad sprung into existence. made its appearance again in this debate. It was but In determining this question, he thought it their duty, as the revival of the exploded heresies of that day, brought statesmen, to disencumber it of mere questions of form, forward under new auspices, and under new party and to ascertain substantially what was the will of the
The party of that day, as their disciples now people of Michigan in reference to their admission into do, arrogated to themselves all the intelligence and wis. the Union. All the facts before them went to prove, dom of the country, and expressed all the apprehen. most conclusively, that it was not only the will of a ma- sions from popular violence to our institutions that we jority of them to obtain admission into the Union, but now hear. When the famous judiciary law, passed by that there was almost entire unanimity of sentiment among the federal party in the last moments of their expiring her citizens in favor of it. Had a single remonstrance authority, was about to be repealed under the adminisbeen presented from any part of that Territory against tration of Mr. Jefferson, the same fears were expressed the proceedings of her convention? No, not a single which we now hear, that constitutional liberty would fall voice had been heard from that quarter opposed to it. a victim to popular violence. The people did repeal Her citizens, therefore, could not feel otherwise than the law, through their representatives, and yet the greatly indebted to those who had come forward as her country had continued to enjoy all the rights secured to
Jax. 4, 1837.)
Admission of Michigan.
it by the constitution, and none of the evils predicted a convention, in their sovereign capacity, without subbad been realized. Sir, (said Mr. B.,) to those who are jecting himself to the charge of aiding to produce a rev. in the habit of speaking disparagingly of the intelligence olution? Were bank corporations to be considered as of the great body of the people, it is sufficient to point imbodying in themselves the sovereign authority of the them to the condition of the country to disprove the State, that it was tbus dangerous to call in question their charge. It is to that public intelligence that we are in rights to existence, independent of the will of the people, debted for what it is.' It is under the guidance of that whose legislative agents had created them? Gentlemen public will that it has attained its present unexampled who entertain such exalted opinions of their attributes, prosperity. In instituting a comparison between that he would say, carried their reverence much further than public intelligence which is so often derided and the po. he could agree to do. They were opinions better suited, litical wisdom of that party who underrates it, a marked he would say, to the subjects of arbitrary Governments superiority must be acknowleged as due to the former than to the citizens of a free republic. On the one hand, the party claiming a monopoly of all Mr. B., without undertaking to defend all the argu. the wisdom of the country, as numerous instances attest ments contained in this much-denounced letter, some of in our history as a nation, have often attempted to in which he did not then recollect, not having the letter graft on our institutions principles hostile to our form of before him, would take occasion very explicitly to degovernment; while, on the other, the patriotism and in- clare his hearty and entire concurrence in ihe main contelligence of the American people have constantly inter-clusion drawn from them. That conclusion asserted ebe posed to preserve them in every great emergency right of the people of Pennsylvania, acting through a What, he would ask, would have been the condition of convention, in their sovereign capacity, to annul and abour country, in all probability, at this day, if its political rogate the charter lately granted by The Legislature of destinies had been continued in the keeping of that par- that State to the Bank of the United States, for the term ty wbo, in their own imagination, have all the sagacious of thirty years. He well knew the ingenious subterfuge statesmen, and are almost exclusively endowed by Prov. by which professional astutenes had sought to escape idence with the gifts of intellectual greatness? Let the from the force of this, to his mind, plainly-established systematic efforts made by their leading statesmen, conclusion, by endeavoring to take shelter under that when in power, to introduce a system of administration part of the constitution of the United States which de. into our Government, modelled on the plan of the Eng. clares that "no State shall pass any law impairing the lish monarchy, answer. Let the fate of those countries obligation of contracts.” To maintain that bank char. in which the energy of the popular will had been broken ters are “conlracts,” and thus to draw them within the down by the ascendency of titled orders answer. From meaning of that term, as employed in the constitution of the picture of what it most probably would have been the United States, the advocates of the doctrine that under such auspices, the friends of republican govern. they are irrevocable by any authority have been driven ment were cheered and animated in contemplating what to advance subtleties and refinements better suited to it is under the safer and wiser auspices of that general that age of ecclesiastical ingenuity in which the statutes intelligence which, united, forms the public will. of mort main were bought to be evaded by that order of
The honorable gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. men, to perpetuate their ascendency, than to the presPRESTON) has expressed, in strong terms, his abhorrence ent day of enl ghtened constitutional freedom. He did of the doctrine contained in a letter lately published in not believe that any of the eminent writers on law in the newspapers of the United States, and written by a England, in defining the nature and powers of corpora. distinguished gentleman, recently a member of this body. tions, had ever considered their charters in the nature He had characterized them as disorganizing and of revo of contracts between the sovereign authority granting lutionary tendency. In this he has been followed, much
them and the individuals of which they were composed. in the same strain, by the gentleman from Delaware, On the contrary, they had been uniformly treated by (Mr. BAYARD.). Mr. B. could not but feel some surprise them as artificial bodies, to whom certain privileges and at their course in bringing into discussion questions hav. franchises are granted, for the purpose of doing that ing no bearing on proceedings here, and such as were which they could not do in their individual capacities. connected alone with the domestic strifes of the States Nor did he believe that any authority could be found in which they had originated. He felt more especially among the American law writers, previous to the adop. surprised that gentlemen prosessing such a sacred regard tion of the present federal constitution, which maintained for, and claiming, as some of them seemed to do, almost the doctrine that bank charters granted by the States the exclusive guardianship of State rights, should be were in the nature of contracts between the States and found invading The limits of Pennsylvania and Maryland, the individuals to whom they were granted. The unifor the purpose of mingling in controversies which they versally received opinion before, that they were mere were in no way called on to decide. He must be per: privileges or franchises, granted by the State or sover. mitted to say that their course on this occasion was but eign, is a most conclusive proof to show that the modern a poor practical commentary on their doctrines. In the invention of the doctrine that they are contracts is an remarks which he should make on this subject, he but afterthought, a mere device, intended, by a change of followed the example which had been set him. The phrases, to suit the case to the terms of the constitution, gauntlet bad been brown down, and he, for one, was and to bring it to bear against State authority, in favor ready to join issue with gentlemen on the important of the perpetuity of corporations. Mr. B. said, to his question raised in the letter which had been so strongly mind, the doctrine that a State, in its high and sovereign denounced. He had the pleasure not only of a personal capacity, was absolutely impotent to rid itself of a great acquaintance with Mr. Dallas, the writer of the letter, moneyed corporation, chartered for a term of thirty but he fattered himself that he also enjoyed a portion of years, was a monstrous heresy, and, in his judgment, his personal friendship. Little could he have supposed better suited to the notions of popular rights which prethat a gentleman universally respected for his mild and vailed in the arbitrary reign of the Stuaris, or to those urbane manners in private life, and distinguished for of the Polignacs of France, than to an American slaleswise and prudent deliberation as a stalesman, would No maiter how absolutely certain they may be have been held up, here or elsewhere, as a revolutionist. that such an institution may insinuate its power into Had it come lo this: that a citizen of this republic could every part of their State, and, when firmly fixed, prove not express an opinion in favor of the right of the peo- uiterly destructive to their liberties, yet, according to ple of a State lo abolish a bank charter, acting ihrough this doctrine, they have no power to relieve themselves,
Admission of Michigan.
(Jan. 4, 1837.
and their condition is irremediable, save only what is to While he felt the most sacred regard for the rights of be accomplished by the tardy efflux of time. In other private property, and believed that in no country was it words, it draws alter it the startling consequence, that more secure than in this, yet he could not but express his the mere temporary agents of the people, appointed to strong repugnance to the extravagant and alarming legislate for them, may contract away the rights of the claims set up in behalf of individuals holding official supreme power of the State, and that supreme power, stations, and in behalf of chartered companies, under the no matter how improvident the act, no matter how ru plea of vested rights. If the extravagant extent which is inous in its consequences, no matter how much in oppo contended for it of late is acquiesced in, it was quite clear sition to the public will, yet submission to it, without the to his mind that the people, under this ingenious device, hope of peaceable redress, is to be their unalterable would soon be divested of the greater portion of their doom! If this can be done for thirty years, wby not for rights. In proportion as the wealth of the country increasfive hundred? If for five hundred, why not in perpetui. ed, the advocates of this doctrine were becoming more ty? Such are the absurd consequences into which the and more emboldened in their claims to power. Doctrines advocates of this doctrine are inevitably driven; a doctrine scarcely ventured to be hinted at some years ago are the practical effect of which is to put aside the will of now openly asserted, and those who consider it their duty to the supreme authority of a State, and to substitute in oppose them are denounced with overweening insolence its place a Government of corporations! Nothing, be as disorganizers and revolutionists. It is but an exhisaid, appeared to his mind more strikingly preposterous bition here of the same spirit that is to be found making than the idea that a State, which may change or abolish war against popular rights on the other side of the Atits fundamental law at pleasure, which may pull down and lantic. It is the same spirit here, advocating the extenreconstruct, in such way as it chooses, the legislative, ex sion of the doctrine of vested rights, that is heard raising ecutive, or judiciary departments of its Government, its voice there in behalf of prescriptive rights, established cannot exercise the power of abolishing a charter created church, and titled orders.' An alarm is attempted to be by an act of its Legislature. It has often been contend. gotten up by the advocates of these extraordinary doced that a judge appointed during good behaviour held bis trines, (said Mr. B.,) by raising the cry that the rights of office in the nature of a contract between himself and the property are in danger. How, he would ask, and by whom, State, he, on his part, undertaking to perform certain are they endangered? The great body of the agricultural duties in consideraion of a fixed salary, to be paid by the community are infinitely more interested in the value and State; yet few, if any, had been bold enough, in any of amount of property owned throughout the country, than the States, to deny that a convention of the people could all the stockjobbers and moneyed corporations put toabolish the office, if it was their pleasure to do so. If | gether. The great body of the people are therefore, they possessed the power to do ihe one, which power at least, as much concerned in preserving law, order, and had been in many instances exercised in different States, the rights of property, as those who vainly imagine that it seemed to follow, as a necessary consequence, that they themselves constitute the country. if there be any they were competent to do the other.
class of revolutionists in this country, it is not those who Mr. B. said, conceding for a moment to the advocates stand up in behalf of its ancient rights, against the new of Ibis doctrine, that privileges granted to banking cor claims to power set up under the plea of vested rights, but porations were in the nature of contracts, yet be con they are the practical revolutionists who endeavor to subiended that it was of the very essence of those contracts, ject the Government of the people to a Government of and an implied condition which entered into them when corporations. made, that the people in their sovereign capacity could The remedy proposed by Mr. Dallas was in strict ac, dissolve them when they saw fit so to do. This original cordance with law and order. It was neither revoluright of the people of a Slate to judge of and abolish / tionary in its principles, nor did it in the remotest de. such measures as they may deem destructive of their
gree resemble nullification. It did not maintain that a liberties or happiness, is a principle which lies at the convention, in deciding on the powers of corporations, root of popular institutions; and, if surrendered, converts would execute its own decisions, independent of all othe! the Government of a Staie substantially into an oligar- authority. On the contrary, it expressly looked to an chy. If this doctrine were once established, then the acknowledged the Supreme Court of the United State citizens of a State, under our confederacy, would be, in as the tribunal possessing competent power to settle an. that respect, in an infinitely worse condition than the sub-adjudicate the case which might arise out of this questio. jects of the English monarchy. There the Parliament This much, Mr. B. said, be had deemed his duty to say, it may dissolve corporations, in virtue of its legislative pow. defence of principles that he considered of vital imporer, when, in its opinion, they are of mischievous tendency tance, not to one State alone, but to all, and in defence in respect to the public interests. And yet in no coun of an absent gentleman, whose opinions he thought had try on earth had the doctrine in favor of vested rights been most uncourteously and unwarrantably assailed on been carried further than in that. There the subject that floor. He had too much respect for bimself, as well may be relieved, by the power of Parliament, from the as the State of Pennsylvania, to volunteer any opinion of burden of a corporation deemed ruinous to the public his as to the course she ought to pursue. He had only interests; but here the citizen, according to this modern argued to show what power a State might exercise rightdoctrine, can find no relief, not eren in a convention of fully in such a case; he not bad expressed an opinion as the people.
to what she ought to do. No, one, he said, entertained a more sacred regard for The honorable gentleman from South Carolina, (Mr. the rights of private properiy than bimself. It was the Preston,) and most of those who had followed him on imperative duty of Government to protect it against the same side in this debate, after characterizing the pro. either fraud or violence. The power contended for, to ceeding which he had just reviewed as revolutionary and revoke charters, involved no such consequence. An act disorganizing, and likely to lead to the overthrow of reg. granting charters of incorporation was not a grant of ular government, endeavored to trace back the causes to property to the corporators, but simply a grant of privi- | the doctrines of the party friendly to the present adminislege. Its repeal did not lake from them their money or tration, and to hold them accountable to the country for other property, but took from them merely the privi. the consequences. Mr. B. said that he must be permitted lege to use it in a corporate capacity. It was undoubt. to say that lectures from that quarter on law and order edly the duty of the State to restore, in such events, came with no very good grace. From whom, he would whatever sum of money may have been paid it for such I ask, were the friends of the administration to be now inprivilege.