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Admission of Michigan.
[Jan. 3, 1837.
a party every member of which, if true to his principles, the terms prescribed, release her from this obligation? must also oppose it.
Shall we now strike out the preamble by which we rec. When Mr. Ewing had concluded,
ognise the validity and binding effect of the assen: given Mr. BUCHANAN rose and addressed the Chair as fol. by the last convention of delegates, and thus throw the lows:
boundary question again open? Shall we undo all we Mr. President: Judging from the remarks of the Sen. have done with so much care at the last session, and ad. ator from South Carolina, (Mr. Calhoun,) this would mit Michigan into the Union as though we had never reseem to be a question big win the fate of the constitu- quired from her any assent to this condition? I trust tion and the country. According to him, the adoption And here permit me to express my astonishment of the preamble to the bill admitting Michigan into the that the Senators from Ohio should both advocate this Union, as it was reporied by the Committee on the Judi.
I have no right to julge for them, but it does ciary, would entuil upon us evils as numerous and as seem to me they are willing to abandon the only securideadly as those contained in Pandora's box, whilst hope ly wbich we have against a repetition of the scenes would not even remain. After depicting in melancholy which we have already wiinessed on the frontiers of colors the cruel destiny of our country, should this pre Olio and Michigan. cellent be established, he concludes by saying, that in To show that my fears are not vain, let me present such an event this Government would become “ one of the state in which this question will be placed, in case the most oulious and despotic Governments that ever ex we do not opt the preamble. I think I may assert, isted on the face of the earth."
wiib perfect safety, that there are ninety-nine citizens I presume it is attributable to my colder temperament of Michigan out of every hundred who firmly believe that I feel none of these terrors. In my opinion, they that the ordinance of 1787 fixes irrevocably the southern spring altogether from the Senator's ardent imagination boundary of that Stale. if this were its correct conand creative genius. Since I came into public life, I struction, it will not be denied by any that no human have known the country to be ruined at least twenty
power can change it without the consent of the people times, in the opinion of gentlemen; yet it would seem of Michigan. This ordinance, which is confirmed by that the more we are thus ruined, the more we four the constitution of the United States, to use its own lan. ish. Experience has laught me to pay little attention to these doleful predictions.
guage, is a compact between the original States and the
people and States in the said Territory, and must forThe best answer which can be given to the Senator is
ever remain unalterable, unless by common consent. to come at once to the question. To state it in its plain
Hence the vast importance of obtaining the consent of and simple character will at once dissipate every fear. Michigan to the proposed change in her boundary. The Its decision will be attended with but little difficulty, be language of the ordinance under which she claims the calise it involves no new principles; and as to its impor disputed territory is as follows: , "Provided, however, tance as a precedent, we shall probably never hear of it and it is further understood and declared, thaithe bound. again, after the almission of Michigan into the Union. aries of these three Stales Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois)
What, then, is the question? On this subject our shall be subject so far to be allered that, if Congress memories would seem to be strangely in fault. We shall bercafter find it expedient, they shall have authori. cannot recollect from one session to the other. I wish ty to form one or two States in that part of said territory to recall the attention of Senators to the fact. I was which lies norih of an east and west line drawn through deemed of great importance at the last session to obtain the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan." the consent of Michigan to the settlement of the bound.
Michigan contends that Congress having determined to Ary between her and Ohio. To accomplish this pur form two States north of this line, the ordinance makes pose was then of so much consequence, in our opinion, it irrevocably her southern boundary. Some of the ihat we offered to Michigan a large territory on her most distinguished men in the country, we know, ale northern boundary, as a compensation for what she of this opinion. Can any Senator, therefore, believe should yield to Ohio on the south; and we made ler ac for a moment that, if we now leave this question unset. ceptance of this offer a condition precedent of her ad.
tied, it will never be tried by Michigan? Can we bemission into the Union. We then believed, and I still lieve that she will acquiesce in a decision of Congress helieve, that this was the only mode of settling forever which a vast majority of her people believe to have been the disputed boundary between Ohio and Michigan, unjust? Release ber from the assent which she has give which has already involved us in so many difficulties, en to the settlement of this question, and then it remains threatening bloodshed and civil war on that frontier. as open as it ever was. The point, then, to be decided This was then deemed the only mode of obtaining an is, whether the ordinance does fix her southern bound. absolute relinquishment of all claim, on the part of the
ary or not. Admitting it did, it is manifest that the act people of Michigan, to the territory in dispute with Ohio. of Congress repealing it, and giving the territory in disIt became my duty at the last session to investigate this pute to Ohin, would be a violation of its provisions, and subject thoroughly; and I had many conferences upon it ihus become a dead lelter. Yes, sir, the consent of with the then chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Michigan is all-important to the peace and quiet of the (Mr. CLAYTON]-a man of as clear a head and as honest Union; and now, when we have obtained it, shall we cast a heart as ever adorned this chamber. I am happy to it away by rejecting this preamble? That is the quesslate that, although we concurred in opinion that Michi. tion which I shall now proceed to discuss. gan had no right to this territory under the compact of Why, then, should, we reject this preamble, which 1787, yet we also believed that the only mode of put. will forever Terminate the dispute between these two ting the qiestion at rest forever was to obtain her own
States? Because, says the Senator from South Carolina, solemn recognition of the right of Ohio. For this very [Mr. Calloun,) this convention of delegates, elected by purpose, the third section was inserted in the act of the
the people of Michigan, was not authorized by a previlast session, declaring “that, as a compliance with the ous act of their Stale L'gislature, and therefore their fundamental condition of admission” into the Union, the proceedings are a nullity. It is revolutionary, it is boundaries of the State of Michigan, as we then estab. dangerous in itself to our rights and liberties, and still Jished them, “ shall receive the asient of a convention of more dangerous as a precedent for future cases. If this delegates elected by the people of said State, for the be true, the people of Michigan are in a most unfortu; sole purpose of giving the assent herein required.” nate position. At the last session of Congress, if we had
Suall we now, after Michigan has given this assent in attempted to insert in the bill a provision to make the
Jax. 3, 1837.)
Admission of Michigan.
previous act of the Legislature necessary, it would then as a State, and Congress have no right to call a conven. have been opposed as a revolutionary measure. It would tion in a Stale. ]
Mr. BUCHANAN resumed. I did not misunderstand the ture of Michigan was an unauthorized assembly, posses. Senator. He contended that the act of Congress calling sing no legitimate powers; that it was a body which we had such a convention was unconstitutional; and to establish never recognised; and, therefore, we could reser nothing his proposition he said that Congress, under the federal to its decision. In making these assertions, I speak from constitution, could only call a convention upon the ap. the record.
plication of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several It appears from the journals that, on the 261h of
States. January last, the Vice President communicated to the Does the Senator mean seriously to con'end that the Senate " the memorial of the Senate and llouse of mere proposition made by Congress to the people of Representatives of the State of Michigan,” on the sub. Michigan, for the purpose of obtaining their assent to a ject of their right to be admitted into the Union. On the change of boundary, is a convention called under the au. motion of Mr. Hendricks, this memorial was referred, thority of Congress within a State? Such an argument accompanied by a declaration “ that the Senate regard would be a perversion of terms. If you make proposi. the same in no other light than as the voluntary act of tions to any foreign Power, and suggest that their willing. private individuals.” Mr. Ruggles moved to strike out ness to accept them may be ascertained by a convention ihis declaration; and, on the yeas and nays, his motion of delegates elected by the people, how can this be conwas rejected by a vote of 30 to 12. Thus the Senate strued into a convention called by your own sovereign then solemnly determined that the Legislature of Michio authority? No, sir; this was a mere offer, on the part of gan vas a mere assembly of private individuals; and yet the Government of the United States, to make a bargain now we are told by the Senator from South Carolina, [Mir. | with the people of Michigan. It presupposes a perfect Calioux,] that, because this very Legislature did not equality, in this respect, between the parties. They had pass an act to authorize the holding of the convention, the same right to refuse that we had to offer. They all its proceedings are void and revolutionary. flow will may voluntarily consent to your terms, as they have done be reconcile this inconsistency? Truly, the people of in this case, and then it becomes a contract which cannot Michigan are in a deplorable condition. They cannot afterwards be violated; but if they had dissented, the avoid the whirlpool of Scylla without being ingulfed in negotiation would have been at an end. This is what Charybdis. At the last session, their Legislature was a the Senator denominates a convention called by Congress mere lawless assembly; but now they are so omnipotent within the limits of the State of Michigan. Surely no that the sovereign people of the State cannot elect dele further argument on this point of the case can be necesgates to a convention without their previous authority. sary. Let us proceed one step further with our evidence from Congress might have proposed to Michigan that the the record. The bill for the admission of Michigan into question should be decided at the polls, by å vote of the the Union, when first reported by the committee, pro. people. It was better, however, io submit it to a convided that the assent to ihe boundaries of the State, re vention of delegates, because they could delibcra!c. quired by the third section, should be given by their This was empbatically to be the act of the people in Senators and Representative in Congress, and by the their sovereign capacity. It was a question whether Legislature of the State. I speak from memory, but I feel they should be received as a member into our great confident I am correct. It would bave been a vain al. family of nations upon the terms which we had proposeil. tempt to support this provision in the face of the vote of It was to be the establislıment of new political relations the Senate to which I have referred. What, sir, rt fer of the most important character, affecting them and their to a body whom we had solemnly declared was composed children for many generations. It was a question over merely of private individuals the question of assent to a wlich, under their own constitution, their servants, the condition for the purpose of binding the sovereign peo. members of the Legislature, had no control. To wbat ple of Michigan! This would have been as absurd as it other tribunal could we so properly have referred this was inconsistent. We should then have been told that question, as to that of a convention of delegates elected there was no mode of escaping this difficulty but by at by the people! once dispensing with every intermediate agency, and re. There can, then, be no objection to the act of Conferring the question directly to the original source of gress, unless it be that the people are not competent, iis pover, the people of Michigan in their primary capacity. the very nature of things, to give the a-sent required, This was done, and that, too, by a unanimous vote of the without the intervention of the Legislature. But this Senate. On the 1st of April last, Mr. Wright moved to would be to condemn the conduct of our alicestors. It strike out the provision to which I have referred, and to would be at war with the most glorious events of our insert in its stead that the assent required should be own history. Besides, the very conduct of the people given by " a convention of delegates elected by the of Michigan, upon this occasion, disproves the position. people of the said State for the sole purpose of giving | There was no lumultuous and lawless rising up of the peos. ihe'assent herein required.” Every Senator then in his ple against a settled form of government, as one might place voted for this amendment, and by his vote decided suppose, judging from the arguments upon this floor. that it was proper to subinit the question to delegates They conducted the election with regularity and order, elected by the peuple in their primary capacity. It was according to the established laws and usages of the Sale. thus unanimously incorporated into the law.
Hear whai General Williams, the president of the conHow does the Senator from South Carolina (Mr. Calo | vention, says upon the subjec!, in his comnunication Houx) now attempt to evade the force of this argument? to thie President of the United Stales: “ The conven. He cannot contend that the act of Congress refers to any tion,” says he, “ originaled through primary meetings action of the State Legislature as being necessary to the of the citizens of the several counties, in ample lime 10 call of this convention. If he did, the act itself would afford notice to the whole State. Pursuant therelo, stare him full in the face.
the elections, kept open for two days, on the 5:11 and 6111 (Mr. Calumus here explained. He said he would not instant, (December.) have been held in all the counties here argile the question whether Congress meant to «xcept Monroe and Macomb. These cleciions were make a previous act of the State Legislature necessary; fair and open, and cinducted in all respects as our but if it did not, the act of Congress would itself be other elections, and the returns made to the county unconstitutional, because we had recognised Micliigan boards, and canvassed as prescribed by the laws of the
Admission of Michigan.
(Jan. 3, 1837.
ter nor worse.
late 'Territory of Michigan in similar cases. The result
the subsequent proceedings of the convention. Although has been a decided expression of the voice of a majority it was not necessary to give them validity, yet it would of the people, approbatory of the resolution enclosed."
not destroy them. It could neither make the case bet. Is there any doubt of ibis “decided expression of the
I am confident it might be demonstrated voice of the majority of the people!" Can any Senator that the people of Michigan, under the act of Congress, upon this Avor question it! Has there been a single had the power to make a second trial, upon a failure of memorial, or even a single private letter produced, call the first; but as this point has not been contested by the ing it in question? Nay, more: has a single voice been
Senator, I shall not enter (pon its discussion. raised in Michigan against entering the Union on the
I now come, Mr. President, to speak upon subjects terris proposed? Not one, to our knowledge.
concerning which I should gladly be silent. The in. if it'were necessary to place the claims of Michigan ternal concerns of the States should never be introduced upon other grounds, it might be done with greai force.
upon this floor when it can be avoided; but the Sena'ors Suppose we were to admit that their proceedings had
from South Carolina (Mr. Calhoun) and Ohio (Mr. Mon. been irregular, ought that to exclude her from die Un. as) have thought differently, and have rendered it nee iun! On ibis subject we ought to act I ke statesmen ac.
cessary for me to make some observations in reply. quainted with the history of our own country. We oughi
First, then, I would ask, what possible connexion can not to apply ihe rigid rules of abstract political science too
be imagined belween the conduct of the Senatorial elec. rigorously to such cases. It has been our practice here.
of Maryland, who refused to execute a trust for tofore io treat our infant Territories with paternal care,
which they were elected, and that of the people of to nurse them with kindness, and, when they had altain. Michigan, who chose delegates to a convention upon the ed the age of manhood, to admit them into the family express invitation of an act of Congress? The Marswithout requiring from them a rigid adherence to forms.
land eleciors refused to perform their duty under the The great questions to be decided are, do they contain State constitution, but the people of Michigan did give a sufficient population? have they adopted a republican their assent to the condition which we had prescribed to constitution and are they willing to enter the Union up them, and upon which alone they cou'd enter the Union. on the terms which we propose? If so, all the prelimi. There is as great a difference between the two cases as nary proceedings have been considered but mere forms,
"between a hawk and a handsaw." Standing here as which we have waived in repealed instances. They are
a Senator, I have no right to pronounce judgment upon but ihe scaffolding of the building, which is of no fur.
the conduct of these electors. They are responsible lo ther use after the edifice is complete. We have pursued the people of the State of Maryland, not to me. this course in regard to Tennessee, to Arkansas, and
The other Maryland question, to which the Senator even to Michigan. No Senator will pretend that their adverted, is one of a very different character. It in. Territorial Legislatures bad any right whatever to pass volves the decision of the important principle whether, laws enabling ihe people to elect delegates to a conven.
under a settled form of constilutional government, the tion for the purpose of forming a State constitution. Ii people have a right to change that form in any other was an act of usurpation on their part. And yet we lave in all these instances waived ibis objection, and ap: if I were to admit that they did not possess this power,
manner than the mode prescribed by the constitution. proved the constitution thus formed. We have admitted
still the Senator is as much of a revolutionist as myself. Tennessee and Arkansas into the Union, not withstand
He admits that if the Legislature of Michigan had passed ing this objection; and I trust we shall pursue a similar
a law authorizing this convention, and fixing the time course towards Michigan, especially as there can be no
and place of its meeting, then its proceedings would doubt but that her people have assented to our terms of have been regular and valid. But who gave the Legis. admission.
lature of Michigan this authority? Is it contained in the The case of Missouri was a very strong one. Congress constitution of the State? That is not pretended. agreed to admit her into the Union upon the condition whence, then, shall we derive it! How does the Sen. that her Legislature should substantially change a provi- ator escape from this difficully'. Upon his own princi: 6.on in ber constitution touching a very delicate subject. ples, it would have been a legislative usurpation; and Under her constitution the Logislature had no power to yet, he says, if the Legislature had acted first, the con. make this change; nor could it have been effecied with vention would have been held under competent al. oul a long and troublesome process. But Congress cut thority. the goudian knot at once, and agreed to accept the en. Now, for my own part, I should not have objected to gagement of the Legislature as the voice of the people. their action. It might have been convenient, it might We have never had any occasion to regret this disregard have been proper, for them to have recommended a pare of forms.
ticular day for holding the election of delegales and for The Senater from Olio (Mr. Ewing) has contended the meeting of the convention. But it is manifest that, as a that the second a chigan convention had no power to source of power to the convention, legislative action would assent, because the first convention which was held had have been absurd. The constitution of Michigan fixi s refused.
the boundaries of the State. For this purpose, it refers (Here Mr. Ewing dissented.)
to the act of Congress of the 11th of January, 1805, cs. Mr. B. I understood the Senator lo state that, as the tablishing the 'Territory. How could these boundaries be first convention had dissented, the power was spent, and changed? If in no other manner than that prescribed in a second could not be held.
the constitution of Michigan, it would have been a tedious (Mr. Ewing said he had not touched this point. ] and troublesome process, and would have delayed, for
Mr. B. said, I should be glad if the Senator would re. at least two years, the admission of the State into the state his position.
Union. First, such an amendment must have been sanic. (Mr. Ewing said he had asked whether, if He first tioned by a majority of the Senate and House of Repre. convention had assenied to the condition proposed by sentatives. Then it must have been published for three the act of Congress, there would bave been any objec. months. Alierwards it must ave received the appro. tion to this assent, because it had been called by virtue of bation of two thirds of both llouses of a Legislature sub. an act of the Legislature!)
sequently elected. And, after all these prerequisites, it Mr. B. said, certainly not. Il never could have been must have been submit'ed to a role of ihe people, for contended that this act of the Legislature had vitiated their ratification. It was to avoid these very difficulties umavimous role, the measure wliich the Senator now ibat the Senate, at their last session, adopled, by a
Jar. 3, 1837.)
Admission of Michigan.
unanimous vote the measure which the Senator now in Pennsylvania, and we are justly jealous of foreign in calls revolutionary, referred the decision of the question terserence. This is not the proper forum in which directly to the sovereign people of Michigan in their either to argue or decide the Pennsylvania bank ques. primary capacity. Then was the appropriate moment tion; and I call upon the whole Senate lu bear me wit. for the Senator to have objected to this course; that was ness, that nothing but necessity compels me to speak the occasion on which to convince us that this was an un here of the subject. The letter of Mr. Dallas has been constitutional and lawless proceeding. He suffered the denounced by the Senator from Ohio as incendiary, as precious moment to escape, and it is now too late to tell revolutionary, and as calculated to excite the people to the people of Michigan that they shall be punished by an rise up in rebellion against the laws. Would I not then be exclusion from the Union, because they thought proper recreant to my own character if I should not raise my to take us at our word. That would have been the voice in defence of a distinguished citizen of my own time to have inserted an amendment in the bill requiring State against such an unfounded assault? a previous act of the Legislature, prescribing the mode The letter of Mr. Dallas has been much and greatly of electing the delegates. But the Senator was then misrepresented. Garbled extracts from it have been silent upon this subject. There had then been no pro. published throughout the whole country, without the ceedings in Maryland, such as he now calls revolutionary. context; and innumerable false commentaries have attrib. A word upon that subject. We are told in that sacred uted to him sentiments and opinions wholly at war with and venerated instrument which first proclaimed the its general tenor. In speaking upon this subject, I am rights of man to the world, that “all experience hath fully sensible how liable i am myself to misrepresentation; shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while but I shall endeavor so plainly and clearly to present my evils are sufferable, than to right theinselves by abolishing views, that at least they cannot be misanderstood by any the forms to which they are accustomed." But suppose person present. the case of a Siate whose constitution, originally good, In the first place, then, Mr. Dallas never did assert bad, from the lapse of time, and from the changes in that the convention about to be held in Pennsylvania the population of different portions of its territory, be. will possess any power to violate the constitution of the come unequal and unjust. Suppose this inequality and United States. He never did maintain the proposition injustice to have gone to such an extent that the vital that this convention would be the final judge, and could principle of representative republics was destroyed, and decide, in the last resort, that its own decrees were no that the vote of a citizen in one county of the State was violation of that sacred instrument. Why, sir, such propequivalent to that of six citizens in another county. Sup. ositions would be rank nullification; and although I pose that an equal disproportion existed between tax have never had the pleasure of being on intimate terras ation and representation, and that, under the organic with Mr. Dallas, I can venture to assert that he, in com. forms of the constitution, a minority could forever control mon with the people of Pennsylvania, is opposed to this the majority. Why, sir, even under such circumstances political heresy. For my own part, I can say, that I should bear with patience whilst hope remained. I however much I may admire the apostles of this new would solicit, I would urge the minority, I would appeal faith, their doctrines have never found favor in my eyes. to their sense of justice, to call a convention, under the No, sir; Mr. Dallas has expressly referred to the Suforms of the constitution, for the purpose of redressing preme Court of the United States as the tribunal which the grievances; but if, at last, I found they had deter must finally decide whether the convention possesses the mined to turn a deaf ear lo all my entreaties, I should then power to repeal the bank charter. invoke the peaceable aid of the people, in their sover From what we have heard on this floor, it is manifest eign capacity, to remedy these evils. They are the that public opinion is greatly in error as to the princisJurce of all power; they are the rightful authors of all ples of the anti-bank party in Pennsylvania. I profess constitutions. They are not forever to be shackled by to be a member of that party; and I now propose briefly their own servants, and compelled to submit to evils such lo state their principles. If I should err in presenting as I have described, by the refusal of their own Legisla- theirs, I shall at least place my own beyond contradiction. ture to pass a law for holding a convention. Whoever The constitution of the United States declares that denies this position, condemns the principles of the dec. no State shall pass any law impairing the obligation of laration of independence and of the American Revolu contracts." This is a most wise and salutary provision; tion. There is not one of the old thirteen States whose may it be perpetual! It secures the private rights of Government was not called into existence upon these every citizen, and renders private contracts inviolable. very principles. It is now too late in the day, in our It imparts a sacred character to our titles to real estate, favored land, to contend that the people cannot change and it places the seal of absolute security upon the rights their forms of government at pleasure. The glorious of private property. experiment which we are trying in this country would Still the question remains, is a privilege granted by a prove a total failure, if we should now decide that the State gislature to a corporation, for banking purposes, people, in no situation, and under no circumstances, can a contract, within the spirit and intention of ihe constihold a convention without the previous consent of their tution of the United States? In other words, is the au. own Legislature. It is not my province to say whether thority which the Legislature of Pennsylvania has given the proper time for this peaceful action of the sovereign to the Bank of the United States to create and circulate people, in their primary capacity, has yet arrived, or will a paper currency of thirty-five millions of dollars, irrev. ever arrive, in Maryland. That question may safely be ocable by any buman power short of an amendment to Jest to them; but I feel no terrors, my fancy conjures up the federal constitution? My own convictions are clear no spectres from such doctrines as I have advanced. that such an act of legislation is not a contract, under the
I am exceedingly sorry that another topic has been in constitution. It is true that this instrument speaks of troduced into this debate by the Senator from Ohio, (Mr. “contracts” in general terms; but there is no rule of MORRIS, ) which, if possible, has still less connexion with construction better settled than that of restraining the the question before us than the recent conduct of the universality of general words, so as to contine their ap. senatorial electors of Maryland. The Senate will at plication to such cases as were exclusively within the in. once perceive that I refer to the letter of Mr. Dallas on tention of those by whom they were used. It would be
Its exlbe subject of the repeal of the bank charter. I regret useless to enumerate instances under this rule. that this letter has become the subject of debate here. | istence will not be denied by any. We are abundantly able to settle all our local differences If, then, it can be made manifest that the framers of
Admission of Michigan.
[Jan. 3, 1837.
the constitution, by the use of the word “contracts,” | ed away forever at the pleasure of their own servants: never could have intended to embrace the creation of this would be a doctrine utterly subversive of State such a bank by a State Legislature, then the question is rights and State sovereignty. decided. It would be an easy task for me to prove, Let me now illustrate these principles by a few examfrom the history of this provision, that its object was to ples. secure rights arising from private contracts; and that a The judges of the supreme court of several of the State bank charter was not within the contemplation of States hold their offices under the State constitutions. those by whom it was inserted. But I forbear. My sole | They have abandoned the practice of a lucrative profespurpose, at present, is to state general principles. sion, and the State has entered into a solemn contract
1t never can be imagined that the sovereign States, with them that they shall hold their offices during good who are the parties to the federal constitution, intended, behaviour, and receive a fixed annual compensation, by this probibition, to restrain themselves from the ex which shall not be diminished during their term of office. ercise of those great and essential powers of government Here is a solemn contract, founded on a valuable considwhich vitally affect the general interests of the people, eration; and yet, in all the changes which have been and the laws regulating which must vary with the ever made in the constitutions of the different States, it has varying changes in society. If they have been guilty of never, to my knowledge, been seriously contended that this absurdity, they have acted the part of suicides, and judges, under such circumstances, might not be removhave voluntarily deprived themselves of the power of ed, or have the tenure or salary of their office entirely rendering the people under their charge prosperous and changed. This has been done in repeated instances. happy.
And why? Because, although this be a contract, it is I think, therefore, it may be stated as a general prop one not of a private, but of a public nature. It relates to osition, that the constitution of the United States, in the administration of justice, which is one of the most prohibiting the Legislatures of the respective States important concerns of Government; and the interest of from passing laws to impair the obligation of contracts, the individual judge must yield to that of the whole never intended to prevent the States from regulating, community. It is, therefore, not a contract within the according to their sovereign will and pleasure, the ad. meaning of the constitution of the United States. ministration of justice, their own internal commerce and Again: suppose the Legislature of a State should trade, the assessment and collection of taxes, the regula. create a joint stock company, with a capital of thirty-five tion of the paper currency, and other general subjecis millions of dollars, and grant them the exclusive priviof legislation. If this be true, it follows, as a necessary lege of purchasing and vending all the cotton, the consequence, that if one Legislature should grant away flour, the iron, the coal, or any of the other great staples any of these general powers, either to corporations or to of the State which might seek a market in their comindividuals, such a grant may be resumed by their suc mercial metropolis, will any Senator contend that such a cessors. Upon a contrary supposition, the legislative charter would be irrevocable! Must the great agricul. power might destroy itself
, and transfer its most impor. tural and manufacturing interests of the State, which tant functions forever to corporations. In these general may have been thus sacrificed by the Legislature, reprinciples I feel happy that I am sustained by the high main palsied by such an odious monopoly? Certainly authority of the late Chief Justice Marshall, in the cele. not. The next Legislature miglit repeal the obnoxious brated Dartmouth College case.--4 Wheaton, pages 627, law; because it concerned not private interests and pri628, 629, and 630.
vate property merely, but those great and leading interI shall not consume the time of ihe Senate in reading ests which vitally affect the whole people of the state. the whole passage, but shall confine myself to the con No one can suppose that the constitution of the United clusion at which he arrives. He says: “If the act of States ever intended to consecrate such a charter. incorporation [of Dartmouth College] be a grant of po. Again: if the Legislature of a State should transfer to litical power; if it create a civil institution to be employ- a corporation, or to an individual, for a period of years, ed in the administration of the Government; or the the power of collecting State taxes, and thus constitute funds of the college be public property; or if the State farmers-general of the revenue, as has been done in othof New llampshire, as a Government, be alone interest. er countries, would not this be a contract, in the lan. ed in its transactions, the subject is one in which the guage of Chief Justice Marshall, creating "a civil insti. Legislature of the State may act according to its own tution to be employed in the administration of the Gov. judgment, unrestrained by any limitation of its power ernment,” and therefore a “subject in which the Legisimposed by the constitution of the United States." He i lature of the State may act according to its own judg. then proceeds to decide the case of Dartmouth College, ment, unrestrained by any limitation of its power impoon the principle that it is not a public, but a private sed by the constitution of the United States?” eleemosynary corporation, and, therefore, within the Let us proceed a step further. One of the most essenprohibition contained in the constitution.
tial powers and duties of any modern Government is that Here, then, the principle is distinctly recognised, that of regulating the paper currency within its jurisdiction. if a corporation created by a State Legislature "be a This is emphatically the exercise of sovereignty, and is in grant of political power, if it create a civil institution to its nature a high political power. It is scarcely second be employed in the administration of the Government," in importance to the power of coining money, because then the charter may be altered or repealed at pleas. The paper circulation represents the current coin. This ure by the State Legislature. The distinct principle power is now exclusively possessed by the State Legisclearly deducible from this opinion, as well as from ihe iatures, whether rightfully, or not, it is too late to innature of our Government, is, that contracts made by a quire. By means of its exercise, they can raise or they State Legislature, whether with corporations or individ can sink the value of every man's property in the comuals, which transfer political power, and directly affect munity. They can make the man who was poor yesterthe general administration of Government, are not such day, rich to day. They can elevate or depress the price contracts as the constitution intended to render invi- of the necessaries of life and the wages of labor, accordolable. In other words, although these contracts may ing to their pleasure. By creating a redundant currenbe within its general words, they are not within its cy, they may depreciate the value of money to such a intent and meaning To declare that they were, would degree as to ruin our manufactures, depress our agricul. be to say that the people had surrendered their dearest ture, and involve our people in rash and demoralizing rights into the keeping of the Legislalure, to be barter. I speculations.