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pression of the general will; possibly to a change in the opinion of the judiciary; the latter enforces the general will, whilst that will and that opinion continue unchanged.
And if there be no impropriety in declaring the unconstitutionality of proceedings in the Federal Government, where can be the impropriety of communicating the declaration to other states, and inviting their concurrence in a like declaration? What is allowable for one, must be allow. able for all; and a free communication among the states, where the Con: stitution imposes no restraint, is as allowable among the state governments as among other public bodies or private citizens. This consideration derives a weight, that cannot be denied to it, from the relation of the state legislatures to the federal legislature, as the immediate constituents of one of its branches.
The legislatures of the states have a right also to originate amendments to the Constitution, by a concurrence of two-thirds of the whole number, in applications to Congress for the purpose. When new states are to be formed by a junction of two or more states, or parts of states, the legislatures of the states concerned are, as well as Congress, to concur in the measure. The states have a right also to enter into agreements or compacts, with the consent of Congress. In all such cases, a communication among them results from the object which is common to them.
It is lastly to be seen, whether the confidence expressed by the resolution, that the necessary and proper measures would be taken by the other states for co-operating with Virginia in maintaining the rights reserved to the states, or to the people, be in any degree liable to the objections which have been raised against it.
If it be liable to objection, it must be because either the object or the means are objectionable.
The object being to maintain what the Constitution has ordained, is in itself a laudable object.
The means are expressed in the terms “the necessary and proper mea. sures. A proper object was to be pursued, by means both necessary and proper.
To find an objection, then, it must be shown that some meaning was annexed to these general terms, which was not proper ; and, for this purpose, either that the means used by the General Assembly were an exam. ple of improper means, or that there were no proper means to which the terms could refer.
In the example given by the state, of declaring the alien and seditionacts to be unconstitutional, and of communicating the declaration to the other states, no trace of improper means has appeared. And if the other states had concurred in making a like declaration, supported, too, by the numerous applications flowing immediately from the people, it can scarcely be doubted, that these simple means would have been as sufficient, as they are unexceptionable.
It is no less certain that other means might have been employed, which are strictly within the limits of the Constitution. The legislatures of the states might have made a direct representation to Congress, with a view to obtain a rescinding of the two offensive acts; or, they might have
represented to their respective senators in Congress their wish, that twothirds thereof would propose an explanatory amendment to the Constitution; or two-thirds of themselves, if such had been their option, might, by an application to Congress, have obtained a convention for the same object.
These several means, though not equally eligible in themselves, nor probably, to the states, were all constitutionally open for consideration. And if the General Assembly, after declaring the two acts to be unconstitutional, the first and most obvious proceeding on the subject, did not undertake to point out to the other states a choice among the farther measures that might become necessary and proper, the reserve will not be misconstrued by liberal minds into any culpable imputation.
These observations appear to form a satisfactory reply to every objection which is not founded on a misconception of the terms employed in the resolutions. There is one other, however, which may be of too much importance not to be added. It cannot be forgotten, that among the arguments addressed to those who apprehended danger to liberty from the establishment of the General Government over so great a country, the appeal was emphatically made to the intermediate existence of the state governments, between the people and that government, to the vigilance with which they would descry the first symptoms of usurpation, and to the promptitude with which they would sound the alarm to the public. This argument was probably not without its effect; and if it was a proper one then, to recommend the establishment of the Constitution, it must be a proper one now, to assist in its interpretation.
The only part of the two concluding resolutions that remains to be noticed, is the repetition in the first, or that warm affection to the union and its members, and of that scrupulous fidelity to the Constitution, which have been invariably felt by the people of this state. As the proceedings were introduced with these sentiments, they could not be more properly closed than in the same manner. Should there be any so far misled as to call in question the sincerity of these professions, whatever regret may be excited by the error, the General Assembly cannot descend into a discussion of it. Those, who have listened to the suggestion, can only be left to their own recollection of the part which this state has borne in the establishment of our national independence, in the establishment of our national Constitution, and in maintaining under it the authority and laws of the Union, without a single exception of internal resistance or commotion. By recurring to these facts, they will be able to convince themselves, that the representatives of the people of Virginia, must be above the neces. sity of opposing any other shield to attacks on their national patriotism, than their own consciousness, and the justice of an enlightened public; who will perceive in the resolutions themselves, the strongest evidence of attachment both to the Constitution and to the Union, since it is only by maintaining the different governments and departments within their respective limits, that the blessings of either can be perpetuated.
The extensive view of the subject thus taken by the committee, has led them to report to the House, as the result of the whole, the following resolution :
Resolved, That the General Assembly, having carefully and respect. fully attended to the proceedings of a number of the states, in answer to its resolutions of December 21, 1798, and having accurately and fully re-examined and reconsidered the latter,, finds it to be its indispensable duty to adhere to the same, as founded in truth, as consonant with the Constitution, and as conducive to its preservation; and more especially to be its duty to renew, as it does hereby renew, its protest against “the alien and sedition-acts," as palpable and alarming infractions of the Constitution.
The foregoing report was industriously circulated amongst the people by virtue of the following resolution.
IN THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES,
Monday, January 20, 1800.
Resolved, That five thousand copies of the report of the select committee, to whom were referred the answers of several states upon the reso. lutions of the last legislature, the said answers, and, also, the instructions to the senators of this state, in the Congress of the United States, together with the names of those who voted on each of those subjects, be printed without delay; and that the executive be requested, as soon as may be, to distribute them equally, in such manner as it shall think best, among the good people of this commonwealth.
WILLIAM WIRT, C. H. D.
At the time of adopting this report, the General Assembly was composed of the following persons—the names of the Federalists being in italics :