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"State
rights" is not a peculiar Southern doctrine. South Carolina was
not the original nullifying State. It was Rhode Island, which
then, as to-day, set at defiance national authority, and asserted
her right to control her own internal affairs. The New England
States, which claim to lead the Union in all that is grand and
good, must be made to bear the shame of the evils into which
they have also led. Even John C. Calhoun learned his first State
rights lessons in Connecticut and Massachusetts of the most
eminent men; of President Dwight when a student in Yale college,
and Theophilus Parsons, with whom he read law in Massachusetts.
When Rhode Island, in 1781, refused to comply with the
recommendations of Congress in regard to levying duties on
imports and prizes, she looked only at her own interests as a
sea-board State. The address of her Assembly to Congress, through
Hon. William Bradshaw, gave reasons of purely local self-interest
for her refusal; but her State selfishness was seen by the
patriots of the hour not to be even that of an enlightened
State-interest, and Congress at once declared there "could be no
general security, no confidence in the Nation, at home or abroad,
if its actions were under the constant revisal of thirteen
different deliberations."

It therefore became necessary to take another step in the
centralization of power, and let it be remembered that every such
successive step we have traced was taken in the interests of
liberty, and for the benefit of the whole people. The Nation has
acted in the defense of its citizens against the tyranny of
States. We are not first citizens of Rhode Island, or South
Carolina, but, if we belong to the Nation at all, we are first
parts of that Nation. I am first a citizen of the United States,
then a citizen of the State of New York, then a citizen of
Onondaga county in that State, and then a citizen of the town of
Manlius, and lastly, a citizen of the village of Fayetteville.
That every person born or naturalized in the Nation, is first a
citizen of the Nation, must be borne in mind, for upon that
depend the liberties of every man, woman and child in the Nation,
black or white, native or foreign. Although Rhode Island led in
State rights, she had many followers, as only four States
complied with the recommendation of Congress to invest that body
with more powers for collecting the revenue and prosecuting the
war. This non-compliance led to active debate. In regard to the
public debt it was said, "That it must, once for all, be defined
and established on the faith of the States, solemnly pledged to
each other, and not revocable by any, without a breach of the
general compact." If a feeling of insecurity existed in regard to
the property interests of the Nation when but thirteen
legislative bodies assumed their control, how much greater is the
insecurity of our personal interests if they are, as is assumed,
under the control of thirty-seven separate legislative bodies,
and subject to their constant revision?

The controversy soon based itself upon the security of human
rights. It was said that it "had ever been the pride and boast of
America that the rights for which she contended were the rights
of human nature," that "the citizens of the United States were
responsible for the greatest trust ever confided to a political
society," and that it was for "the people of the United States,
by whose will and for whose benefit the Federal Government was
instituted, to decide whether they would support their rank as a
Nation." Virginia and New York ultimately led in the proceeding
which caused the formation of the Constitution; New York, through
her Legislature, declaring that the radical source of the
government embarrassments lay in the want of sufficient power in
Congress, and she suggested a convention for the purpose of
establishing a firm National government. Out of this agitation
grew the Constitution of the United States, which was the third
great step in the centralization of power. The pride and the
boast of this country has been more fully centered, if possible,
on the Constitution than on the Declaration, and yet the
Constitution was not framed until eleven years after our
existence as a Nation--not ratified by the whole of the original
States until about fourteen years after we had taken rank as a
free and independent people--Rhode Island being the last State to
give her adherence--and it was expressly framed and adopted in
order to centralize power, and to destroy the State rights
doctrine.

Washington himself, in transmitting, as President of the
Convention, the Constitution to Congress, said: "It is obviously
impracticable in the Federal Government of these States to secure
all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide
for the interest and safety of all," and in the deliberations of
the Convention upon the subject, they kept steadily in view that
which appeared to them "the greatest of every true American--the
consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity,
safety, and, perhaps, our National existence." Thus we see not
only the desire of the originators of the Constitution to
strengthen the National power by that instrument, but we also
have the views of Washington himself in regard to the necessity
of consolidating power in the Nation.

The various amendments to the Constitution have been adopted with
the intent of further defining and securing National power. The
first ten, which were called the conciliatory amendments, were
suggested in the conventions of a number of the States at the
very time of adopting the Constitution. The first Congress which
met thereafter proposed twelve amendments, of which ten were
adopted in 1791, only two years after the full adoption of the
Constitution. These ten amendments secured religious freedom,
freedom of speech, the right of people to be secure in their
houses, trials by jury, etc. All of them centralizing power in
the National hands, and at the same time securing broader liberty
to the people. These amendments were passed at the first session
of the First Congress. An eleventh amendment was proposed by the
Third National Congress in 1794, and declared ratified in 1798,
thus making eleven amendments to the Constitution in the short
space of seven years. In 1803 a twelfth amendment was proposed by
the Eighth Congress, and ratified in 1804.

We pass now over quite a space of time, in which the National
power and State power retained their relative positions to each
other. Perhaps in no better place can I mention two constantly
existing, yet diverse tendencies in the people of the United
States, which are well-defined in the minds of but few persons.
There are two kinds of centralized power, one dangerous to
liberty, and the other fortifying and securing liberty. The
dangerous is that which has grown to such dimensions in the
various States, multiplying legislation and regulating each petty
local concern within its borders, down to a village cemetery.
This has led to that destruction of liberty--a multiplication of
statutes which have scarcely been recorded ere a second
legislative body has annulled them. Each State has, in fact, been
an immense centralized power; and as bitter as has been the South
against centralized National power, we have in it seen a most
imperious, tyrannical exercise of centralized power under the
specious name of State rights. The evil is such a constantly
increasing one under the old constitutions, that they are being
revised in many States with special intent to check this
centralizing tendency. New York has now a commission sitting, and
Pennsylvania a convention in session, for the purpose of revising
their constitutions, and attention has been especially directed
to this dangerous feature of State centralization. The new
constitution of Illinois limits the passage of special laws by
its legislature to certain specified subjects, leaving all local
interests in the hands of local corporations. The need of the
hour--and, in fact, I may say the new tendency of the hour--is
toward diffused power within the limits of States in matters
pertaining solely and entirely to their small or local interests.

The centralization that fortifies and secures liberty is National
centralization, which we have traced through six steps since
1776, and which has, within the last ten years, received a new
impetus by the XIII., XIV., and XV. Amendments, and which, as
they successively followed each other at short intervals, may be
termed the seventh, eighth, and ninth steps in centralization. By
and through these three amendments the Nation fortified and
enlarged its powers in reference to personal rights. It defined
citizenship; it secured the exercise of the ballot--and we can
not fail to see that in these last three centralizing steps, it
more broadly than ever before enlarged the bounds of liberty. The
protection of citizens of the Nation, by the Nation, is the
national duty.

This is the second tendency of which I spoke. Most persons who
have been awake to the evils of State centralization, have
applied the same rules of judgment to National centralization.
The two are dissimilar as are darkness and light. State
centralization is tyranny; National centralization is freedom.
State centralization means special laws; National centralization
means general laws.



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