Start > Expansion und Demokratisierung > John C. Calhoun's Fort Hill Address, 1831
John C. Calhoun's Fort Hill Address, 1831
In seiner Rede vom 26. Juli 1831 machte Calhoun deutlich, dass für ihn die Souveränität der einzelnen Staaten vor der der Bundesregierung rangierte.



Their great and leading principle 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 of the people forming one aggregate political community; that the Constitution of the United States is in fact a compact, to which each State is a party, in the character already described; and that the several States or parties, have a right to judge of its infractions, and in cases of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of power not delegated, they have the right, in the last resort, to use the language of the Virginia resolutions, " to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them." This right of interposition, thus solemnly asserted by the State of Virginia, be it called what it may, State right, veto, nullification, or by any other name, I conceive to be the fundamental principle of our system, resting on facts historically as certain, as our Revolution itself, and deductions, as simple and demonstrative, as that of any political, or moral truth whatever; and I firmly believe that on its recognition depends, the stability and safety of our political institutions.

I am not ignorant, that those opposed to the doctrine have always, now and formerly, regarded it in a very different light, as anarchical and revolutionary. ... I have examined with the utmost care, the bearing of the doctrine in question; and so far from anarchical, or revolutionary, I solemnly believe it to be, the only solid foundation of our system, and of the Union itself, and that the opposite doctrine, which denies to the States the right of protecting their reserved powers, and which would vest in the General Government, (it matters not through what Department,) the right of determining exclusively and finally the powers delegated to it, is incompatible with the sovereignty of the States, and of the Constitution itself, considered as the basis of a federal Union. As strong as this language is, it is not stronger, than that used by the illustrious Jefferson, who said, to give to the General Government the final and exclusive right to judge of its powers, is to make "its discretion and not the Constitution the measure of its powers"; and that, "in all cases of compact between parties having no common Judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of the operation [sic; infractions], as of the mode and measure of redress." Language cannot be more explicit; nor can higher authority be adduced. ...

To realize its perfection, we must view the General Government and the States as a whole, each in its proper sphere sovereign and independent; each perfectly adapted to their [sic] respective objects; the States acting separately, representing and protecting the local and peculiar interests; acting jointly, through one General Government, with the weight respectively assigned to each by the Constitution, representing and protecting the interest of the whole; and thus perfecting by an admirable, but simple arrangement the great principle of representation and responsibility, without which no government can be free, or just. To preserve this sacred distribution, as originally settled, by coercing each to move in its prescribed orb[it], is the great and difficult problem, on the solution of which, the duration of our Constitution, of our Union, and, in all probability, our liberty depends. How is this to be effected?

The question is new, when applied to our peculiar political organization, where the separate and conflicting interests of society are represented by distinct, but connected Governments; but is in reality an old question under a new form, long since perfectly solved. Whenever separate and dissimilar interests have been separately represented in any Government; whenever the sovereign power has been divided in its exercise, the experience and wisdom of ages have devised but one mode, by which such political organization can be preserved; the mode adopted in England, and by all Governments ancient and modern, blessed with Constitutions deserving to be called free; to give to each co-estate the right to judge of its powers, with a negative, or veto on the acts of the others, in order to protect against encroachments, the interests it particularly represents; a principle which all of our Constitutions recognize in the distribution of power among their respective Departments, as essential to maintain the independence of each, but which to all, who will duly reflect on the subject, must appear, far more essential, for the same object, in that great and fundamental distribution of powers between the State and General Government. So essential is the principle that to withhold the right from either, where the sovereign power is divided, is in fact to annul the division itself, and to consolidate in the one, left in the exclusive possession of the right, all of the powers of the government; for it is not possible to distinguish, practically, between a government having all power, and one having the right to take what powers it pleases. ...

So far from extreme danger, I hold, that there never was a free state, in which this great conservative principle, indispensable to all, was ever so safely lodged. In others, when the co-estates, representing the dissimilar and conflicting interests of the community came into contact, the only alternative was compromise, submission, or force. Not so in ours. Should the General Government, and a State come into conflict, we have a higher remedy; the power which called the General Government into existence, which gave it all of its authority, and can enlarge, contract, or abolish its powers at its pleasure, may be invoked. The States themselves may be appealed to, three fourths of which, in fact, form a power, whose decrees are the Constitution itself, and whose voice can silence all discontent. The utmost extent then of the power is, that a State acting in its sovereign capacity, as one of the parties to the Constitutional compact, may compel the Government, created by that compact, to submit a question touching its infraction, to the parties, who created it; to avoid the supposed dangers of which, it is proposed to resort to the novel, the hazardous, and, I must add, fatal project of giving to the General Government the sole and final right of interpreting the Constitution, thereby reversing the whole system, making that instrument the creature of its will, instead of a rule of action impressed on it at its creation, and annihilating in fact the authority which imposed it, and from which the government itself derives its existence. ...




John C. Calhoun

Wilson, Clyde N., ed.,
The Papers of John C. Calhoun, vol. 11, 1829-1832,
(Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1978) 415, 416, 419-421.