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The Webster-Hayne Debate on the Nature of the Union

Herman Belz

Publication Year: 2012

The debates between Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and Robert Hayne of South Carolina gave fateful utterance to the differing understandings of the nature of the American Union that had come to predominate in the North and the South, respectively, by 1830. To Webster the Union was the indivisible expression of one nation of people. To Hayne the Union was the voluntary compact among sovereign states. Each man spoke more or less for his section, and their classic expositions of their respective views framed the political conflicts that culminated at last in the secession of the Southern states and war between advocates of Union and champions of Confederacy. The Webster-Hayne Debate consists of speeches delivered in the United States Senate in January of 1830. By no means were Webster and Hayne the only Senators who engaged in debate “on the nature of the Union.” Well over a score of the Senate’s members spoke in response in sixty-five speeches all told, and these Senators did not merely echo either of the principals. The key speakers and viewpoints are included in The Webster-Hayne Debate. The volume opens with Hayne’s speech, which, as Herman Belz observes, turned debates on “the public lands” into “a clash between state sovereignty and national sovereignty, expounded as rival and irreconcilable theories of constitutional construction and the nature of the federal Union.” Webster responded, Hayne retorted, and Webster concluded with an appeal to “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable,” in what later historians would deem to be “the most powerful and effective speech ever given in an American legislature.” Other speeches in the volume are by Senators Thomas Hart Benton, John Rowan, William Smith, John M. Clayton, and Edward Livingston. Together, these speeches represent every major perspective on “the nature of the Union” in the early nineteenth century.

Herman Belz is Professor of History at the University of Maryland, and the author most recently of A Living Constitution or Fundamental Law?: American Constitutionalism in Historical Perspective and Abraham Lincoln, Constitutionalism, and Equal Rights During the Civil War Era.

Published by: Liberty Fund

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-4

CONTENTS

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pp. v-vi

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FOREWORD

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pp. vii-xv

THE NATURE AND PURPOSE of the federal government was the fundamental issue in the Constitutional Convention of IJ8J. Rather than settle the issue, however, the ratification of the Constitution made it central to the structure of American politics. From the beginning of national lawmaking and administration in 1789, the nature of the Union has been a major source of controversy in constitutional...

NOTE ON THE TEXT

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pp. xvi-16

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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p. xvii-xvii

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Robert Y. Hayne

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pp. 2-20

Robert Y. Hayne was born in South Carolina in 1791 and educated in Charleston. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1812. During the War of 1812, he served as an officer in the Third South Carolina Regiment. A member of the State House of Representatives from 1814 to 1818, Hayne was State Attorney General from 1820 to 1822, when he was elected as a Republican to the...

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SPEECH OF MR. HAYNE, OF SOUTH CAROLINA

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pp. 3-13

MR. HAYNE SAID THAT, IF THE GENTLEMEN who had discussed this proposition had confined themselves strictly to the resolution under consideration, he would have spared the Senate the trouble oflistening to the few remarks he now proposed to offer. It has been said, and correctly said, by more than one gentleman, that resolutions of inquiry were usually suffered to pass without opposition...

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DANIEL WEBSTER

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pp. 14-32

Daniel Webster was born in New Hampshire in q82. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy, was graduated from Dartmouth College, and taught school in Maine before studying law and being admitted to the bar in 1805. He practiced law in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and became involved in Federalist party politics. He was elected to Congress as a Federalist and served in the House..

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SPEECH OF MR. WEBSTER, OF MASSACHUSETTS {January 20, 1830}

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pp. 15-34

MR. WEBSTER SAID, ON RISING, that nothing had been further from his intention than to take any part in the discussion of this resolution. It proposed only an inquiry, on a subject of much importance, and one in regard to which it might strike the mind of the mover, and of other gentlemen, that inquiry and investigation would be useful. Although [said Mr. W.] I am one of those..

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SPEECH OF MR. HAYNE, OF SOUTH CAROLINA

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pp. 35-80

MR. HAYNE BEGAN BY SAYING that when he took occasion, two days ago, to throw out some ideas with respect to the policy of the Government in relation to the public lands, nothing certainly could have been further from his thoughts than that he should be compelled again to throw himself upon the indulgence of the Senate. Little did I expect [said Mr. H.] to be called upon to meet such as was yesterday...

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SPEECH OF MR. WEBSTER, OF MASSACHUSETTS

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pp. 81-144

MR. PRESIDENT: WHEN the mariner has been tossed, for many days, in thick weather, and on an unknown sea, he naturally avails himself of the first pause in the storm, the earliest glance of the sun, to take his latitude, and ascertain how far the elements have driven him from his true course. Let us imitate this prudence, and, before we float...

NOTES.

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pp. 145-150

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MR. WEBSTER'S LAST REMARKS

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pp. 151-154

MR. HAYNE having rejoined to Mr. WEBSTER, especially on the constitutional question- Mr. WEBSTER arose, and, in conclusion, said: A few words, Mr. President, on this constitutional argument, which the honorable gentleman has labored to reconstruct. His argument consists of two propositions, and an inference. His propositions are...

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SPEECH OF MR. HAYNE OF SOUTH CAROLINA

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pp. 155-183

I DO NOT RISE AT THIS LATE HOUR,* Mr. President, to go at large into the controverted questions between the Senator from Massachusetts and myself, but merely to correct some very gross errors into which he has fallen, and to afford explanations on some points, which, after what has fallen from that gentleman, may perhaps be considered as requiring explanation. The gentleman has attempted...

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THOMAS HART BENTON

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pp. 184-202

Thomas Hart Benton was born iri North Carolina in 1782. He attended the University of North Carolina and the law department in the College ofWilliam and Mary, and was admitted to the bar in Tennessee in r8o6. He was a member of the state Senate from r8o9 to r8n. Benton was active in the War of 1812, serving..

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SPEECH OF MR. BENTON,OF MISSOURI {January 20 and 29, February I and 2, 1830}

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pp. 185-255

MR. BENTON SAID HE COULD NOT PERMIT THE SENATE TO ADJOURN, and the assembled audience of yesterday to separate, without seeing an issue joined on the unexpected declaration then made by the Senator from Massachusetts, [Mr. WEBSTER]-the declaration that the Northeast section of the Union had, at all times, and under all circumstances , been the uniform friend of the West, the...

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JOHN ROWAN

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pp. 256-274

John Rowan was born in Pennsylvania in I773ยท His family moved to Louisville, Kentucky, and he received a classical education in the school of James Priestly in Bardstown. He studied law in Lexington, was admitted to the bar in 1795, and became a successful criminal lawyer and wellknown orator. A member of the Kentucky constitutional convention in 1799, he was Kentucky secretary of state from 1804 to 1806, when he was elected as a Republican to...

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SPEECH OF MR. ROWAN, OF KENTUCKY {February 4, 1830}

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pp. 257-305

MR. R. SAID THAT, IN THE SHARE which he proposed to take in the debate, he should enter into no sectional comparisons. He should not attempt to detract from the just claims of any one of the States, nor would he disparage his own by any attempt to eulogize it. A State should be alike uninfluenced by eulogy and detraction. In his opinion, she could not be justly the subject of either...

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WILLIAM SMITH

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pp. 306-324

William Smith was born in South Carolina in 1762. He attended Mt. Zion College, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1784 . He was elected as a Republican to the state senate from r8o3 to r8o8, and was elected judge of the South Carolina circuit court from 1803 to 1808 . Smith was elected to the United States Senate in r8r6, serving one term. He was an ardent defender of states..

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SPEECH OF MR. SMITH, OF SOUTH CAROLINA [February 25, 1830}

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pp. 307-347

M R. SMITH SAID, THIS DEBATE HAD ASSUMED A WIDE RANGE, and encircled almost every political subject that had agitated this Government for the last forty years, and more. Although about to give my own views to the Senate, said Mr. S., I do not aspire to ornament, but to illustrate what I may say. This debate...

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JOHN M. CLAYTON

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pp. 348-366

John M. Clayton was born in Delaware in 1796 and was educated at Yale College and the Litchfield Law School. He was admitted to the bar in 1819. He was elected as a Federalist to the Delaware House of Representatives in 1824, and served as secretary of state of Delaware from 1826 to 1828. Clayton supported...

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SPEECH OF MR. CLAYTON, OF DELAWARE

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pp. 349-407

M R. PRESIDENT: IF I NEED AN APOLOGY FOR DISCUSSING TOPICS extrinsic or not strictly relevant to the subject of the resolution before us, I shall find it in the example of honorable gentlemen, who, in going before me, have availed themselves, by general consent, of an opportunity to debate on this motion, the full merits of other questions of momentous interest to our country. While the argument...

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EDWARD LIVINGSTON

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pp. 408-426

Edward Livingston was born in New York in 1864, the younger brother of the revolutionary statesman Robert R. Livingston. Educated at Princeton College, he studied law and began the practice of law in 1885. He entered politics as a Republican, serving in the United States House of Representatives from 1795 to 1801. He voted for Thomas Jefferson for president when the election was thrown into the House of Representatives in 1801. He was appointed United...

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SPEECH OF MR. LIVINGSTON, OF LOUISIANA {March 9, 1830}

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pp. 409-480

MR. PRESIDENT: THE IMPORTANT TOPICS that have been presented to our consideration, and the ability with which the questions arising out of them have been hitherto discussed, cannot but have excited a very considerable interest; which I regret exceedingly that I shall be obliged to interrupt, and greatly disappoint those who look for a continuance of"the popular harangue, the tart reply, the...

NOTE

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pp. 481-482

INDEX

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pp. 483-493

A NOTE ON THE TYPE

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pp. 494-512


E-ISBN-13: 9781614877738
E-ISBN-10: 1614877734
Print-ISBN-13: 9780865972735

Page Count: 509
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: None

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1829-1837 -- Sources.
  • Speeches, addresses, etc., American.
  • Foot's resolution, 1829.
  • Nullification (States' rights).
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