But to return from this digression to the consideration of the bill. Whatever difference of opinion may exist upon other points, there is one on which I should suppose there can be none; that this bill rests upon principles which, if carried out, will ride over State sovereignties, and that it will be idle for any advocates hereafter to talk of State rights. The Senator from Virginia (Mr. Rives) says that he is the advocate of State rights; but he must permit me to tell him that, although he may differ in premises from the other gentlemen with whom he acts on this occasion, yet, in supporting this bill, he obliterates every vestige of distinction between him and them, saving only that, professing the principles of ’98, his example will be more pernicious than that of the most open and bitter opponent of the rights of the States. I will also add, what I am compelled to say, that I must consider him (Mr. Rives) as less consistent than our old opponents, whose conclusions were fairly drawn from their premises, while his premises ought to have led him to opposite conclusions. The gentleman has told us that the new-fangled doctrines, as he chooses to call them, have brought State rights into disrepute. I must tell him, in reply, that what he calls new-fangled are but the doctrines of ’98; and that it is he (Mr. Rives), and others with him, who, professing these doctrines, have degraded them by explaining away their meaning and efficacy. He (Mr. R.) has disclaimed, in behalf of Virginia, the authorship of nullification. I will not dispute that point. If Virginia chooses to throw away one of her brightest ornaments, she must not hereafter complain that it has become the property of another. But while I have, as a representative of Carolina, no right to complain of the disavowal of the Senator from Virginia, I must believe that he (Mr. R.) has done his native State great injustice by declaring on this floor, that when she gravely resolved, in ’98, that “in cases of deliberate and dangerous infractions of the Constitution, the States, as parties to the compact, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose to arrest the progress of the evil, and to maintain within their respective limits the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them,” she meant no more than to proclaim the right to protest and to remonstrate. To suppose that, in putting forth so solemn a declaration, which she afterward sustained by so able and elaborate an argument, she meant no more than to assert what no one had ever denied, would be to suppose that the State had been guilty of the most egregious trifling that ever was exhibited on so solemn an occasion.
THOMAS H. BENTON, OF MISSOURI. (BORN 1782, DIED 1858.)
ON THE EXPUNGING RESOLUTION
—UNITED STATES SENATE, JANUARY 12, 1837