Sparta, Georgia, 12th. August, 1832
Such various interpretations have been given to the Constitutional doctrines avowed in your Report to the General Assembly of Virginia, & believing a proper understanding of those doctrines to be of vital importance in the present alarming agitations of a neighboring State, agitations which, I fear, may soon exist as generally in this, will, I hope, justify the trouble my enquiries may give you. Will you, therefore, favor me with an exposition of the extent to which you consider the states as parties to the federal Compact "may interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, & for maintaining in their respective limits, the authorities, rights, & liberties appertaining to them, in case of a deliberate, palpable and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said Compact"? You will not fail to percieve that the object of my enquiries is to ascertain whether, in your opinion, a State can resist the operation of an act of Congress, that act being unconstitutional, according to the sense in which such resistance is comprehended in the term nullification? I ask the question, not as connected with the constitutionality of a protecting tariff, for on that subject our opinions may differ, but as a Constitutional question affecting, under every encroachment of federal authority, the rightful powers of the States. Whatever, in this case, may be my opinion upon the abstract question of political right, I am, practically, on the side of peace & union, relying too strongly on the great democratic principle which lies at its root, to believe that a protecting tariff Can be a permanent measure of the government. If it does not require too much, be pleased to favor me with an answer; & whether you do or not, be assured that I am actuated by any thing but impertinent Curiosity in addressing you. With highest respect, your obt. Servt.
Charles Eaton Haynes
RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers).