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navy. He asked, of what characters would they be composed? Of the idle and dissipated part of the community ? On the contrary, who were the patriots who would protect their country? This very party mentioned by the President would repel any invasion. It was true they had no arms, but they would find arms. Mr. Giles then said that he approved of the argument used by the gentleman from Caroline, respecting the volunteers, but wished it to be somewhat more extended. He thought it a much more serious matter than any other. The gentleman from Caroline had used it in regard to the President's enlisting aliens merely. But Mr. Giles said he would ask, further, of whom those companies were to be composed ? Not of farmers or farmers' sons, but chiefly of aliens. He himself believed that the operation of the last-mentioned law was intended to unite both. But it was said the people would protect the Constitution; that the judges would protect it. He then observed, that opposition to foreign power was always the pretence to usurpation. To prove that, he instanced the case of Rome. There, he said, whenever the people found themselves oppressed, and solicited redress, they were told by their rulers that was not the time; that the commonwealth was in danger; that the Volsci were at their gates. Mr. Giles then said, that by the measures adopted by the last Congress, nothing had been left undone to carry us into monarchy. But union was now said to be necessary.
What was that union for? To abridge the freedom of the press. Was that desirable ? He compared this to the case of robbers forming an union for the purpose of robbing. And said, that good was the object of the union of the states, and not mischief. He then adverted to the distinction between opinion and fact. He said Mr. Jefferson's was a good distinction. And that the assertion of false fact was punishable before the sedition-law was passed ; but the assertion of false opinion was not. There was no standard to as. certain that; there was, however, in respect to false fact. This seditionlaw, then, deprived men of the freedom of speech. It prescribed the punishment of a new thing. Opinion heretofore, had ranged at large, had always prevailed. Mr. Giles then asked, how was the restriction of opinion introduced in France. It was brought about in Robespierre's reign of terrorism. He then asked how this party mentioned by the President was to be crushed ? Incarceration would not be sufficient. In regard to the restriction of opinion, he compared our situation to that of France, in the reign of Robespierre. As for himself, he feared not the system, but thought the most effectual mode was now pursued to introduce the same despotism here as had prevailed in France. He approved the mode adopted by the resolutions, in making a declaration to conflict with other opinions. He then referred to our situation, and said that he felt himself as much interested as any one to ward off war, but he thought the worst of all things was ultimately submission; and that a constitutional violation was more degrading than anything. But the resolutions had been charged with containing invective. He said if there were any, it must arise from simple language, expressing simple truths. However, if better could be used he would be willing to agree to it. But he doubted whether should even the Lord's Prayer be introduced before them, and undergo a criticism, they could be brought to agree to it. It had been
said, that if this Assembly critically examined the measures of the general government, they should use more pleasant terms. But Mr. Giles said they were not terms, but truths that were unpleasant. He proceeded next to consider the alien-law, and to answer the observations of gentlemen in respect to aliens having no rights. In advocating the rights of aliens, he said, he did not consider what was popular, but what was justice. A stranger coming into a country had a right to protection. It was not a matter of favour only. A great number of persons already admitted into this country, he said, were not citizens. They would be affected by this law. He insisted that aliens were not only entitled to a trial by jury, but to that particular benefit of a jury de medieta telingua, by the law in force both in England and here. It had been said, however, that this was not a trial of guilt, but to prevent it. That, he said, made no difference. A trial was still necessary. He conceived that there was no foreign, but a domestic reason for this law. It was said that the French were ambitious. But was this a ground for the laws to affect our domestic operations? If they were repealed the government would be as firm as it was now. The administration, he said, was not the government. The government could subsist without it. For instance, it was once thought in Switzerland that it was necessary to keep a bear amongst them, for their prosperity and safety. After awhile the bear broke his chain and run away. For some time after, the people continued to lament his escape, and expected that some dreadful calamity would befall them. But, after waiting some time, and finding that no such calamity arrived, they began to bring themselves by degrees to believe, that the bear was of no use, and that they could do as well without him, as with him. Mr. Giles then said that he was as much in favour of government as any man, and would contribute as liberally to its support, but was not an advocate for improper measures. He then proceeded to consider the sedition-law. He observed, that the gentleman from Prince George had mentioned the God of Heaven. But he had nothing to do with the Constitution. If he had, it was omnipotent. On the contrary, Mr. Giles said, that the powers of government were derived from the Constitution, and not from the reason and nature of things. Implication, he said, was a dangerous doctrine. There was an express prohibition of all powers not granted by the Constitution. The Constitution and this law convey to the mind different impressions. The derivation of power, he again insisted, could not be proved otherwise than from the Constitution. The powers not given by that were retained to the states, or to the people. What, then, was given to each? The general government, he said, should not be entrusted to decide upon character, or in case of murder. That power was reserved to the states. That was the proper authority for regulating and deciding upon these matters. Mr. Giles made some further observations on the last clause of the law last mentioned, and then said, that declaring these acts of Congress unconstitutional, satisfied the oaths of the members of this Assembly. He would agree to stop after that, if they thought proper, and to strike out everything beyond it. 'If gentlemen thought the laws were unconstitutional, they were bound to say so, otherwise it would be a dereliction of the oath which they had taken. For his part, he said, he should vote for some
thing which would express his opinion upon the subject. He would, however, at any rate, move to strike out of the resolutions before the committee, the word alone.
Mr. NICHOLAS seconded Mr. Giles's motion for striking out of the resolutions the word alone ; and further observed, that either the gentleman from Prince George or himself, misunderstood the gentleman from Caroline, in respect to calling a convention. He hoped, therefore, that the gentleman from Caroline would explain himself upon that point. Mr. Nicholas then stated what he understood that gentleman to say, which he himself approved; but on the contrary, did not approve the calling a convention.
Mr. BOLLING said, that he understood the gentleman from Caroline in the same manner that the gentleman who was last up did, in respect to calling a convention. Mr. Bolling also made several observations to show that the gentleman from Prince George had misunderstood Mr. Jefferson's letter which had been quoted by him.
Mr. John TAYLOR said he would explain in a few words what he had before said. That the plan proposed by the resolutions would not eventuate in war, but might in a convention. He did not admit, or contemplate, that a convention would be called. He only said, that if Congress, upon being addressed to have those laws repealed, should persist, they might, by a concurrence of three-fourths of the states, be compelled to call å convention. Mr. Taylor further said, that while up he would himself move to strike out certain words of the resolutions, if the same were in order; which being agreed to without a question taken, Mr. Taylor proceeded to
The original resolutions offered by him to the House, and referred to the committee of the whole House on the state of the commonwealth, were in the following words:
Resolved, As the opinion of this committee, that the General Assembly of Virginia doth unequivocally express a firm resolution to maintain and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of this state, against every aggression, either foreign or domestic, and that it will support the government of the United States in all measures warranted by the former.
That this Assembly most solemnly declares a warm attachment to the union of the states, to maintain which, it pledges all its powers; and that for this end it is ils duty to watch over and oppose every infraction of those principles, which constitute the only basis of that union, because a faithful observance of them can alone secure its existence, and the public happiness.
That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare that it views the powers of the federal government as resulting from the compact, to which the states alone are parties, as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact; as no further valid than they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other
powers not granted by the said compact, the states, who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them.
That the General Assembly doth also express its deep regret that a spirit has, in sundry instances, been manifested by the federal government, to enlarge its powers by forced constructions of the constitutional charter which defines them; and that indications have appeared of a design to expound certain general phrases (which having been copied from the very limited grant of powers in the former articles of confederation, were the less liable to be misconstrued), so as to destroy the meaning and effect of the particular enumeration, which necessarily explains and limits the gene. ral phrases, and so as to consolidate the states by degrees into one sovereignty, the obvious tendency and inevitable result of which would be to transform the present republican system of the United States into an absolute, or at best, a mixed monarchy.
That the General Assembly doth particularly protest against the palpable and alarming infractions of the Constitution, in the two late cases of the "alien and sedition-acts," passed at the last session of Congress, the first of which exercises a power nowhere delegated to the federal government; and which by uniting legislative and judicial powers to those of executive, subverts the general principles of free government, as well as the particular organization, and positive provisions of the Federal Constitution; and the other of which acts exercises in like manner a power not delegated by the Constitution, but on the contrary expressly and positively forbidden by one of the amendments thereto; a power which more than any other ought to produce universal alarm, because it is levelled against that right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.
That this state having by its convention which ratified the Federal Constitution, expressly declared, “that among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified by any authority of the United States," and from its extreme anxiety to guard these rights from every possible attack of sophistry or ambition, having, with other states, recommended an amendment for that purpose, which amendment was in due time annexed to the Constitution, it would mark a reproachful inconsistency and criminal degeneracy, if an indifference were now shown to the most palpable violation of one of the rights thus declared and secured, and to the establishment of a precedent which may be fatal to the other.
That the good people of this commonwealth having ever felt, and continuing to feel the most sincere affection to their brethren of the other states, the truest anxiety for establishing and perpetuating the union of all, and the most scrupulous fidelity to that Constitution which is the pledge of mutual friendship, and the instrument of mutual happiness, the General Assembly doth solemnly appeal to the like dispositions of the other states, in confidence that they will concur with this commonwealth in declaring, as it does hereby declare, that the acts aforesaid are unconstitutional, and
not law, but utterly null, void, and of no force or effect, and that the necessary
and proper measures will be taken by each, for co-operating with this state in maintaining unimpaired the authorities, rights, and liberties reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
That the Governor be desired to transmit a copy of the foregoing resolutions to the executive authority of each of the other states, with a request that the same may be communicated to the legislature thereof.
And that a copy be furnished to each of the senators and representatives, representing this state in the Congress of the United States.
The word “alone" in the third clause, and the words and not law, but utterly null, void, and of no force or effect,” in the seventh clause, were stricken out of the foregoing resolutions.
Mr. John Taylor's resolutions thus amended, being then read by the chairman, Mr. Brooke moved to amend the same, by substituting in lieu thereof the resolution which he had offered to the committee on Tuesday, the 18th instant, and which was then laid upon the table. The question was put thereupon, and the amendment disagreed to by the committee. The main question was then put on Mr. John Taylor's resolutions as amended by himself, and agreed to.
The committee then rose, and Mr. Breckenridge reported, that the com. mittee of the whole House on the state of the commonwealth had had the same under their consideration, and had come to certain resolutions thereupon, which he handed in to the clerk's table, (being Mr. John Taylor's resolutions, as above stated, amended and agreed to by the committee.)
General Lee then arose and observed, that although desirous of ending the debate, yet wishing, with the gentleman from Amelia, to meliorate the paper before them, by striking out some other part of the resolutions, he would move an amendment to that effect. He then read the fourth cláuse of the resolutions, and objected to the same as containing assertions which he could not believe, and at the same time also a high charge against the general government. He therefore moved to strike out that clause.
Mr. BOLLING said, that in order to convince the gentleman from Westmoreland of the futility of his proposition, he hoped that no other gentle. man would disgrace himself, and the wisdom of the House, by gratifying the gentleman with a reply on the occasion. He (Mr. Bolling) had arisen, therefore, to second the gentleman's motion, and to give him complete satisfaction by bringing the question to an end.
Mr. Giles made some remarks in favour of the clause proposed to be stricken out. He stated several reasons to show why it should be retained ; and concluded by expressing his objection to its being stricken out.
Mr. Nicholas hoped the motion made by the gentleman from Westmoreland, for expunging the clause in question, would not prevail. Without that clause, it was true, he would vote for the resolutions, but his