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lar sovereignty, but in the name of in such form, as shall seem to them the authority that convenes them. As- most likely to effect their safety and sume the absence of that authority, happiness.” If the people can act and the whole action of the people only under the sanction of constituted would want the sacred character of le- authority, how can they overthrow that gality. Their acts are law, only be- authority itself, when it becomes corcause they are sanctioned by authority, rupt and oppressive? How can we, only because the Convention, is by vir on this ground, ever get rid of bad tue of the authority convening it, in government? Your rule, if adopted, principle that authority itself.
would perpetuate every government This amounts, as I understand my- that is, however corrupt and intoleraself, simply to this : the people in ble, and prohibit all change, all redress, organizing the State, and administering and therefore all progress. its affairs, are the active agency, and This, I presume, is the real objection may do whatever the State itself per- in the minds of my countrymen, to the mits or authorizes them to do. But, I doctrine I am trying to set forth. It is am asked, What then have you gained a fair objection, an honest objection, by your long metaphysical discussions, and deserves a serious and an honest and furious tirades against your demo- answer. Such an answer it shall have. cratic brethren? Was it necessary to 1. This objection can, in this coungo over all this ground, to make all try, never be anything more than a this ado, merely to tell us, that the peo- purely speculative objection ; for we ple can only act under and in obedience have agreed, that our government is all to constituted authorities? Do you that can be wished. Change here can forget the "ridiculus mus” of the old never be desirable. Every true Amefable ? No, my good friends, but you rican must say with Mr. Calhoun, “ I forget, that I have, for your side of the am a conservative in the broadest and house, demonstrated, that man is not fullest sense. I solemnly believe that the passive subject, but the active sub- our political system is, in its purity, not ject, of government, and therefore, have only the best that ever was formed, but demonstrated his right to free action the best possible, that can be devised for even in being governed. Moreover, I us. It is the only one by which free have demonstrated that men, are, and states, so populous and wealthy, occumust be, active, not passive, agents in pying so vast an extent of territory, constituting and administering the gov- can preserve their liberty. Thus thinkernment; and that the larger the number ing, I cannot hope for a better. Having of individuals you can bring into the no hope of a better, I am a conservacategory of active agents, the more tive."* All that we need, or ever can wisely will your government be con- need in this country, is to preserve our stituted. This is more than any demo- institutions in their purity, and admincrat, to my knowledge, has ever yet ister them according to their true indone, whether it be the mountain bring- tent and meaning. Here, we are never ing forth a mouse or not.
to be revolutionists, and therefore have But this is not the point. We would no occasion to assert the right of revoknow where you lodge the sacred lution. right of insurrection, the glorious 2. But, still it may be insisted, that it right of rebellion and revolution ;” is a right, and ought to be asserted what the part of the people in throw- theoretically, even if suffered to lie in ing off corrupt and oppressive govern- abeyance, for the time may come when ment, and instituting a new govern- it will be necessary to assert it practi. ment, and laying its foundations on such cally. I am not certain, that resort to principles, and organizing its powers this right, in the sense some of our
* Speeches. New York. Harper & Brothers. 1843. p. 258. It is but justice, however, to Mr. Calhoun, to add his own qualification of his conservatism. “Yet, while I thus openly own myself a conservative, God forbid that I should ever deny the glorious right of rebellion and revolution. Should corruption and oppression become intolerable, and cannot otherwise be thrown off,- if liberty must perish, or the government be overthrown, I would not hesitate, at the hazard of life, lo resort to revolution, and to tear down a corrupt government, that cannot be reformed nor borne by freemen."
politicians contend for it, can ever in rical reading, with no instance in which any country, or in any possible combi- the State has been modified by disrenation of circumstances, be necessary. garding all the constituted authorities, In their sense, the right of rebellion and falling back on the right of the and revolution, is the right of the peo- subjects to rebel and overthrow the ple, independent of all the constituted government. There have been rebelauthorities, to rise up and overthrow lions, insurrections, and outbreaks all constituted authority, and institute enough, I freely own; but whenever government de novo. The necessity of the constitution of the State has been ever resorting to such a right, is in my successfully changed, the reform or judgment, to say the least, extremely movement party, has always acted problematical. I have met with no in- under some publicly acknowledged stance, in my historical reading, where authority,--an authority known previthe State has been modified by a practi- ously to the State itself. I will not say, cal resort to this right. I take the that the authority alleged has always English Rebellion, which beheaded been broad enough to cover all the Charles Stuart, and founded the Com- doings of this party ; but that the party monwealth of England, and I find the always professedly acts under it, and movement party acted always, profess- relies on it for its justification. edly, under law, through the Parlia 3. We cannot admit the right of ment a legally constituted body, and rebellion and revolution in the people, claiming to represent the English State; without destroying the very foundation in the Revolution of 1688, which drove of government. There is, in fact, no out James the Second, and called to such right. I deny it altogether. It the throne William, Prince of Orange, cannot be a right conferred by the ConI find the revolutionists acting also by stitution ; for it is the right to overauthority of Parliament. In our own throw the Constitution. It is not a Revolution, I have shown that there right conferred by the State, for it is was no rebellion, properly so called, of the right to subvert the State. If a the inhabitants, and that resistance to right at all, we must, then, in order to the Crown of Great Britain was made find it, go out of the State to that which by the authorities, to which the Ameri- constitutes the State, and commissions can people owed allegiance. Strange it. Assume now, with the advocates as it may seem to those, who have not of this right, that this authority, which investigated the matter, the same is the constitutes the State, is the people ; it fact in regard to the French Revolu- must be the people either as organized tion of 1789. The States General into a body politic, or the people as an were a legal body, a constituent ele- unorganized mass of individuals. But ment of the French State ; and they the people, as an organized body, are were assembled in 1789 by the compe- not superior to the State, but are it, tent authority. The Constituent As- and subject to the authority that organsembly legally succeeded to the States izes them, and, through the Convention, General, and the National Assembly prescribes the forms of their action. was elected and convened by a law of We cannot find the right in the people the Constituent; and so also was the in this sense, for it would imply a right Convention, which, when the king had in the State to subvert itself,-a maniforfeited the throne, converted the fest absurdity, for the subversion would French Monarchy into a constitutional be by legal authority, and therefore no Republic. There were doubtless fac- subversion ; for again, the authority of tions, disorderly proceedings of indi- the State would survive in the subviduals, which were authorized by no verter, and reappear in all its doings. law, and which went against all law; We cannot find it in the people as indibut one shall look in vain, through all viduals, without asserting the right of the successive stages of that terrible each individual to rebel, and resist movement, for a practical'avowal by the government whenever it shall seem to French people of a revolutionary prin- him good ; which, as we have seen, is ciple so broad and unmitigated as that, to deny the very foundation of governwhich we have seen resorted to, in the ment. I repeat, then, that the right of case of Rhode Island, Michigan, and rebellion and revolution, on the part of Maryland.
the people, is no right at all. The peoI repeat, that I have met, in my histo- ple have not, and never can have, this
right. The people can never have the union, and acknowledge so few rules of right to act, save through the forms collective action, that no attempt, it prescribed by the supreme authority. could make at insurrection, would end
But suppose such is the character of otherwise than in disaster and total the existing political order, that it is defeat. We see this in oriental popimpossible for the people to modify the ulations, where insurrection sometimes practical organization of the State by changes the despot, never the despotthe authority of the State itself, what ism. remedy would you propose ? Must we I know of only three cases in which submit and endure all ?
insurrection, or rebellion, ever does, or The right to resist civil government, ever can succeed. 1. Where the peo. nay, to subvert it, when necessary for ple rebelling has been a conquered human freedom, I admit and contend people, and falls back on its national for, in the most unqualified terms; laws, customs, and usages, and under though I believe violent resistance and a descendant of one of its national subversion are rarely, if ever, necessary chiefs, or under its national banner, or expedient. But, in my view, civil strikes for its old nationality and indegovernment is, properly speaking, only pendence. 2. When colonial populathe subordinate department of govern- tions, acting under the authority and ment. The people are subject to a ban of the colonial governments, dehigher law than that of the civil gov- clare themselves independent of the moernment,—to a higher sovereign than ther country. 3. Where the people act, the State. When this higher sovereign, under the sanction and at the command -the real sovereign, of which the of their religion, through its, to them, State is but the minister, commands, it authorized interpreters.
Where one is our duty to resist the civil ruler, and or another of the elements here implied, to overthrow, if need be, the civil gov. is wanting, the insurrectionary moveernment. This higher sovereign is, ment will amount to nothing. People as we have seen, the Will of God, re- will not fight, will not consent to kill presented, in the department superior to or be killed except at the command of the State, by the CHURCH. It belongs what is to them legitimate authority; to the Church, then, as the representa- at least this is true of the populations tive of the highest authority on earth, generally. The officer of state must to determine when resistance is proper, lead them, or the minister of religion and to prescribe its forms, and its ex- bless their cause. When God comtent. When this commands, it is our mands us to resist the civil ruler, we duty to obey.
fear not to buckle on our armor; for we But suppose, as in Protestant coun can say to the expostulations and threats tries, the Church has been perverted of the tyrant—“Whether it is right to to a function of the State, or that it hearken unto men rather than unto has itself become corrupt and oppress- God, judge ye ?" ive, as we contend was and is the I see, then, I own, no occasion to case with the Catholic Church, and assert this boasted right, on the part of that there is no element of reform in the people, of rebellion and revolution. the State on which you can seize to In the only cases in which insurrectionsanction your movement, what then ary movements can be successful, 'will you do in order to get rid of bad they are authorized by other princigovernment? NOTHING ; for in such ples, and imply no right of the people a case nothing could be done. But, in themselves, to rebel against governreturn, you suppose an unsupposable ment. I will add, moreover, that as I case, or at least a case not likely to extend my historical reading, and the occur. If, however, such a case should deeper I penetrate into the principles occur, no remedy could come from the of government and the laws of its opepeople themselves. A more wisely gov- ration, the more and more convinced am erned people must redeem them by I, that resort to this alleged right of reconquest; or Providence must send a bellion can never be justifiable, nor Lawgiver, specially commissioned to
even necessary: lead them forth from the bondage of But I have, in point of fact, as yet Egypt to the Promised Land. A people only half answered the question, what in this case would have so little social is the part of the people in constituting virtue, be so destitute of all bonds of and administering the government !
The people are never to be regarded as mand anything better than we have ? the passive, but always as the active, Wisdom and virtue cannot be hid, nor agents in the constitution and adminis- can they, in any state, be passive. Just tration of government. I have thus far so much as you have in your commuspoken of only one mode of their activity. nity, just so much will show themselves In attentively studying our Constitution, in the public, as well as private, action we shall find, that it does not of itself of that community. Unless you have secure all the legitimate ends of govern- individuals wiser and more virtuous ment. The most we can say of ii is, than the mass, you cannot add to the that it is a guaranty against bad govern- wisdom and virtue already possessment. Its positive benefits depend on ed by the mass. In contending for its administration. Its administrators the necessity of individual statesmen are, with us, the great body of the people. able to instruct the mass, to be their Now, their administrative action will school-masters and chiefs, I am not always be affected by their own wis- warring against the mass, but contenddom and virtue. The civil government, ing for their elevation. Is it a misfor. as such, in no country is the only direc- tune to the people of this country, that tive power, essential even to secure the they have had a Washington, a Jefferends of civil government. There must son, a Madison, a Samuel Adams, a be, beside the civil authority, a moral Patrick Henry,—not to speak of a authority. This moral authority, organ- Jackson, and a Calhoun ? Has the suized is the Church; but I will not now periority of these tended to depress the speak of it as organized. The main masses, to deprive them of their glory, sphere of human activity, of popular and their rights? No: these men do action, if you will, in regard to govern- lift the masses up from their degradament, is within the domain of this mo- tion, and place them on a higher platRAL AUTHORITY, under which term I form. Honor to the wise, the brave, conclude all that belongs to general and the good! Blessed be God, that he private intelligence, all that comes with- does now and then send us a free and in the scope of public or private moral- noble spirit, who gives us a higher conity. Now, the constant moral action ception of the capabilities of our race; of the administrators of government, in whose wisdom and virtue, enlarged whether these be the whole people or intelligence, ardent patriotism, and alla few, is essential to guard government, enduring love of humanity, we find even when you have the best possible somewhat to which we can look up, or constitution; and, under the worst, it before which we can bow down and will find the means of legally and peace- reverence. I would not feel in relation fully introducing such changes, organic to every man I meet, “ I am as good as or administrative, as shall be necessary you.” In the darkness of life, and the to secure social and individual freedom. uncertainty of my path through this
This moral force is after all the great wilderness, I want a guiding and dimatter. This may be constantly ac- recting mind, in whom I can confide, cumulating in the mass of the people, and feel that a wisdom superior to my and in the heads of administration, and own is directing me. moulding all, in obedience to the will of I believe as much in the capabilities God, for the better security of Free- of the masses, as do any
brethdom. And here I find the sphere of ren. I demand of them no blind rev. the importance and influence of indi- erence, no passive obedience to a disvidual Statesmen. The necessity, and tinguished few. I ask for them free and the great public blessing, of enlighten- full scope for the manifestation of all ed and virtuous Statesmen, we are the wisdom and virtue they have, and too prone in this country to overlook. to acquire all that they are capable of We have thought to elevate the mass, acquiring; but I demand for them, men by reducing all to the level of the mass. wiser and better than the general aveA fatal mistake! The mass are too rage, as the condition of enlarging low, and need elevating. If not, what the sum of their wisdom and virtue. mean we by demanding individual and My censures
not bestowed on social progress? Is there already all them, but on the mischievous demathe wisdom and virtue in the people, gogues, who lay down the rule, that we needed for the highest conceivable so must echo the opinion of the masses, cial state? If so, wherefore do we de- instead of doing our best to form in
them wise and just opinions. I de- sacrifice all the brightest prospects mand scholars and statesmen, priests of the highest political advancement, and moralists ; but I demand that these and almost at the hazard of life, to scholars, statesmen, priests, and mo resist the popular invasion of the ralists fulfil their functions as educators Constitution, it is that we owe the of the people, that they seek for truth, preservation of the Constitution, and and proclaim it, freely, boldly, consci the liberty of this country; and when entiously, whether it coincides with the party animosities, and the wrath of deprevious convictions of the people or feated interests, shall have subsided, not. The wisdom of the people will and the people come to understand be equal to the demands of good gov- the true nature of their institutions, ernment, only on condition, that every they will see and acknowledge it; and man, according to the measure of his they will place the South Carolina ability, from his own stand-point, wher Statesman, high, if not highest, on the ever it may be, throws the highest wis- lists of those, who have well served dom he can command into the mass, to the Republic. enlarge the general average. If this Here, in this moral power, through is aristocracy, so be it. If for this I statesmen constantly elevating the inam to be denounced by my countrymen, telligence and virtue of the mass, and, as an enemy of our institutions, and as through the government itself, cona contemner of the people, so be it; it stantly improving its organization, will only prove, that my estimate of where needed, and perfecting its adpopular intelligence and virtue is none ministration, is my chief hope ; and in too low, and that in calling upon moral- this I see a remedial power, that, in the ists, divines, scholars and statesmen, worst of times, may save us from a reto seek to enlarge the moral power and sort to violence, to the alleged popular intelligence of the whole people, I am right of rebellion and revolution. I not performing a work of supereroga- take, for example, the Government of tion.
Great Britain. I am no eulogist of the Every country demands enlightened, British Constitution ; I am too much of virtuous, and patriotic Statesmen, and an Irishman to eulogize anything Saxon there is no country having these, that or English, if I can help it. This cannot, through these, obtain all the re- government is terribly corrupt and opforms needed. I say through these, for pressive. The people under it are the whole history of our race proves, overwhelmed with taxes, and only one that nothing great or good can be ob- twelfth of the proceeds of labor, I am tained without sacrifice; and peoples, or told, is secured, upon an average, to communities, can be made self-sacrifi- the laborer. Yet all the changes, orcing rarely, if ever. Our appeals must ganic or administrative, needed to make be made not directly to the masses in this the wisest and best of governments, their collective capacity, but to individ- are attainable, without revolution, if we uals, and first and foremost to the indi- only suppose a requisite degree of wisviduals, whose elevated position and dom and virtue in the individuals placed commanding genius, enable them to at its head. Suppose these, and you operate powerfully on the masses. In- can legally enlarge the popular basis of dividuals may be moved by appeals to the House of Commons, convert the duty. They may be wrought up to House of Lords into an American Sesuch a high pitch of enthusiasm for nate, and divest the Crown of its undue truth and justice, for religion, for coun- patronage. Now, bring the moral try, for humanity, that they will sacri- power to bear directly on these indivifice all to work out for us a higher so- duals, and you force them to make the cial, and individual, good. Through reform, needed. And you will sooner these, placed at the head of the govern- secure them in this way, than in any ment, and guiding within constitutional other. The same remark will hold limits its action, we can, if need be, good in any other country we may sereform the government itself, and con- lect. tinually enlarge its beneficent action. It is, then, after all, the exercise of I may here say, that to one man chiefly, this moral power of the people, conalmost exclusively, who dared place stantly accumulating, that is the real himself in opposition to the majority of and efficient part of the people in con. his countrymen, who scrupled not to stituting and administering the govern.