Debating Slavery, 1830

Who has more power, the Federal Government or the States? This basic question took on vast importance as arguments over slavery divided the nation. It also inspired one of the Senate's most famous debates.

Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina presented the Southern viewpoint. He argued that states could ignore Federal laws that violated constitutional rights. “Liberty first, and Union afterwards,” Hayne proclaimed. Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts responded with a ringing defense of the Federal Government's power to establish policies benefiting all Americans. He concluded with the now immortal words, "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!" Webster's speech propelled him to the top rank of American statesmen and strengthened relations between the North and West—at the South's expense.

"Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!"
— Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, January 27, 1830