The Case for Nullification
AT THIS point, it is proposed to pause in this review of State and Federal conflicts, in order to argue the basis, the soundness, and the wisdom of the constitutional doctrines of John Calhoun. In undertaking this task, the author of these notes asks of his readers no more than the open mind which he himself brought to the subject at first encounter some months ago. To one reared in the custom of docile obedience to Federal authority, to the tradition of a strong "national" government, Calhoun's cold and logical reasoning comes with the shock of an icy plunge.
Because the best exposition of this argument is Calhoun's own exposition, let us go first to his Fort Hill Address of 1831. "The great and leading principle," he began, "is that the general government emanated from the people of the several States, forming distinct political communities, and acting in their separate and sovereign capacity, and not from all the people forming one aggregate political community."
The evidence in support of that proposition already has been marshaled, and seems undeniable: The colonies, under British rule, were separate colonies; with the Revolution, they declared themselves individually "free and independent States." As separate and distinct States they entered into the Articles of Confederation. As separate and distinct States they bound themselves under the new Constitution in 1787 and 1788. At no time did "we the people," meaning the people en masse, take any action affecting the creation of the Union; at every juncture, the people acted solely as people-of-States. Had the States abandoned this proud characteristic of individual sovereignty, it is reasonable to believe that their act of divestiture would have been set