Josiah Quincy, State’s Rights Yankee
Josiah Quincy of Massachusetts spoke the following in 1811 and was keenly aware of the States being sovereign and federated in a voluntary political Union that did not authorize adding territory to it. His State opposed the War of 1812 and refused troops while trading with the enemy – the latter it had done in 1759 when British Gen. James Wolfe confronted the French on the Plains of Abraham. Like other Americans of the antebellum era, Quincy found his own native State to be his home and country.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Josiah Quincy, States-Rights Yankee
“Mr. Speaker, The bill, which is now proposed to be passed [to form Louisiana into a State], has this assumed principle for its basis: that the three branches of this national government, without recurring to conventions of the people, in the States, or to the legislatures of the States, are authorized to admit new partners to a share of the political power, in countries out of the original limits of the United States.
Now, this assumed principle, I maintain to be altogether without any sanction in the constitution. I declare it to be a manifest and atrocious usurpation of power; of a nature, dissolving, according to undeniable principles of moral law, the obligations of our national compact; and leading to all the awful consequences, which flow from such a state of things . . .
Sir, what is this power, we propose now to usurp?
Nothing less than a power, changing all the proportions of the weight and influence, possessed by the potent sovereignties composing this Union. A stranger is to be introduced to an equal share, without their consent. Upon a principle, pretended to be deduced from the constitution, this government, after this bill passes, may and will multiply foreign partners in power, at its own mere motion; at its irresponsible pleasure; in other words, as local interests, party passions, or ambitious views may suggest . . . This is not so much a question, concerning the exercise of sovereignty, as it is who shall be sovereign.
[Is] there a moral principle of public law better settled, or more conformable to the plainest suggestions of reason, than that the violation of a contract by one of the parties may be considered as exempting the others from its obligations?
Do you suppose the people of the Northern and Atlantic States will, or ought to look on with patience and see representatives and senators from the Red River and Missouri, pouring themselves upon this and the other floor, managing the concerns of a seaboard fifteen hundred miles, at least, from their residence?
It is the part of a wise man to foresee danger and to hide himself. This great usurpation, which creeps into this House, under the plausible appearance to giving content to that important point, New Orleans; starts up a gigantic power to control the nation.
With respect to this love of our union . . . It grows out of the affections; and has not, and cannot be made to have, anything universal in its nature. Sir, I confess it, the first public love of my heart is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There is my fireside; there are the tombs of my ancestors. The love of this union grows out of this attachment to my native soil, and is rooted in it.
I cherish it, because it affords the best external hope of her peace, her prosperity, her independence. The bill, if it passes, is the death blow to the Constitution. It may, afterwards, linger; but lingering, its fate will, at no distant period, be consummated.”
(Speech on the Passage of the Bill to Enable the People of the Territory of Orleans to Form a Constitution and State Government, Josiah Quincy, January 14, 1811; American History Told by Contemporaries, Volume III, Albert Bushnell Hart, editor, Macmillan Company, 1901, pp. 410-414)