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ment, under the confederacy. Under that system, the legal action — the application of law to individuals — belonged exclusively to the States. Con

gress could only recommend their acts were not of 30 binding force, till the States had adopted and

sanctioned them. Are we in that condition still ? Are we yet at the mercy of State discretion and State construction? Sir, if we are, then vain will

be our attempt to maintain the Constitution under 35 which we sit.

But, sir, the people have wisely provided, in the Constitution itself, a proper, suitable mode and tribunal for settling questions of constitutional law.

There are in the Constitution grants of powers to 40 Congress; and restrictions on these powers. There

are, also, prohibitions on the States. Some authority must, therefore, necessarily exist, having the ultimate jurisdiction to fix and ascertain the

interpretation of these grants, restrictions, and 45 prohibitions. The Constitution has itself pointed

out, ordained, and established that authority. How has it accomplished this great and essential end? By declaring, sir, that "the Constitution and the

laws of the United States, made in pursuance thereof, 50 shall be the supreme law of the land, anything in

the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

This, sir, was the first great step. By this the supremacy of the Constitution and laws of the United

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States is declared. The people so will it. No State 55 law is to be valid which comes in conflict with the Constitution, or any law of the United States passed in pursuance of it. But who shall decide this question of interference? To whom lies the last appeal ? This, sir, the Constitution itself decides, also, by 60 declaring, “that the judicial power shall extend to all cases arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States.” These two provisions, sir, cover the whole ground. They are in truth the keystone of the arch. With these, it is a constitution; with-65 out them it is a confederacy. In pursuance of these clear and express provisions, Congress established, at its very first session, in the judicial act, a mode for carrying them into full effect, and for bringing all questions of constitutional power to the final 70 decisions of the Supreme Court. It then, sir, became a government. It then had the means of self protection; and, but for this, it would, in all probability, have been now among things which are past. Having constituted the government, and declared 75 its powers, the people have further said, that since somebody must decide on the extent of these powers, the government shall itself decide; subject, always, like other popular government, to its responsibility to the people. And now, sir, I repeat, how is it that 80 a State legislature acquires any power to interfere ? Who, or what, gives them the right to say to the people, “We, who are your agents and servants for

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one purpose, will undertake to decide that your other 85 agents and servants, appointed by you for another

purpose, have transcended' the authority you gave them.” The reply would be, I think, not impertinent: “Who made you a judge over another's servants? To their own masters they stand or fall."

Mr. President, I am conscious of having detained you and the Senate much too long. I was drawn into the debate with no previous deliberation such as is suited to the discussion of so grave and impor

tant a subject. But it is a subject of which my heart 95 is full, and I have not been willing to suppress the

utterance of its spontaneous? sentiments; I cannot, even now, persuade myself to relinquish it, without expressing, once more, my deep conviction, that,

since it respects nothing less than the Union of the 100 States, it is of most vital and essential importance

to the public happiness. I profess, sir, in my career, hitherto, to have kept steadily in view the prosperity and honor of the whole country, and the preservation

of our federal Union. It is to that Union that we 105 owe our safety at home, and our consideration and

dignity abroad. It is to that Union that we are chiefly indebted for whatever makes us most proud of our country. That Union we reached only by the

discipline of our virtues in the severe school of ad110 versity. It had its origin in the necessities of dis

1 Transcended, gone beyond, exceeded. ? Spontaneous, arising naturally.

1

ordered finance, prostrate commerce, and ruined credit. Under its benign' influences, these great interests immediately awoke, as from the dead, and sprang forth with newness of life. Every year of its duration has teemed 2 with fresh proofs of its utility 115 and its blessings; and, although our territory has stretched out wider and wider, and our population spread farther and farther, they have not outrun its protection or its benefits. It has been to us all a copious fountain of national, social; and personal 120 happiness. I have not allowed myself, sir, to look beyond the Union, to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not coolly weighed the chances of preserving liberty when the bonds that unite us together shall be broken asunder. I 125 have not accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; nor could I regard him as a safe counselor in the affairs of this government whose thoughts 130 should be mainly bent on considering, not how the Union shall best be preserved, but how tolerable might be the condition of the people when it shall be broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread 135 out before us, for us and our children. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant that, in

1 Benign, bestowing blessing. 2 Teemed, brought forth abundantly

my day, at least, that curtain may not rise. God

grant, that on my vision never may be opened what 140 lies behind. When my eyes shall be turned to be

hold, for the last time, the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dis

severed, discordant, belligerent;1 on a land rent with 145 civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood !

Let their last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full

high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in 150 their original luster, not a stripe erased or polluted,

nor a single star obscured — bearing for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory, as, What is all this worth? nor those other words of delusion and folly, - liberty first, and union afterwards, — but every

— 155 where, spread all over in characters of living light,

blazing on its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true

American heart - - liberty and union, now and for160 ever, one and inseparable.

DANIEL WEBSTER.

QUESTIONS FOR STUDY Memorize the last part of the oration, beginning “When my eyes,” etc.

1 Belligerent, warring.

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