SAT Subject US History Practice Question 922: Answer and Explanation

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Question: 922

3. "The government, Sir, is the independent offspring of the popular will. It is not the creature of the state legislatures; nay more, if the whole truth must be told, the people brought it into existence, established it, and have hitherto supported it for the very purpose, amongst others, of imposing certain salutary restraints on state sovereignties …. The people, then, Sir, erected this government. They gave it a constitution, and in the constitution they have enumerated powers which they bestow on it."

From Daniel Webster's "Second Reply to Hayne"

What argument was Daniel Webster responding to in the above passage?

A. The theory that the people were the source of power in the Constitution
B. The theory that the tariff was unconstitutional
C. The Compact Theory that the states were sovereign
D. The Theory of Perpetual Union that the union had existed before the Constitution
E. The theory that sovereignty rests in the general government

Correct Answer: C

Explanation:

The passage is a response to the Compact Theory, which contended that the states had made the Constitution. Webster explained that the people were sovereign, not the states. "It is not the creature (creation) of the state legislatures." The theory that the people (A) were the source of power in the Constitution was Webster's theory, not Hayne's. Hayne maintained that the tariff was unfair to South Carolina and was unconstitutional (B), but that was not Webster's target in the quote. The tariff is not mentioned in the quote. The Theory of Perpetual Union (D) was Lincoln's theory from his First Inaugural in 1861; it was not Webster's theory. The theory that sovereignty rests in the general (federal) government (E)-that the government is more important than the people-is not a democratic idea.

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