that, under the Articles of Confederation, there were states rights,
as each state was considered sovereign and independent. However,
with the ratification of the new constitution, that seems to have
disappeared. Historian Clarence Carson has noted that, regarding the
Articles of Confederation: "This bent, or tradition can be traced to
many sources. Americans were, above all, a people of the book--the
written word--the Bible. There was the Puritan idea, too, of the
Covenant, an agreement between man and man and between man and
God...Colonists had drawn their own political agreements, such as
the Mayflower Compact and the Fundamental Orders of
Connecticut...Once the colonies had broken away from England, the
only historical allegiances that remained were to the states and
localities...At any rate, there should be no doubt that the
government of the United States under the Articles of Confederation
was brought into being by the states."
delegates saw the new Constitution as potentially tyrannical and
refused to sign it. George Mason of Virginia was unwilling to sign.
The major objection was that it did not contain a bill of rights and
there were objections in several state conventions to ratification
being enacted without such being made part of the new document.
Patrick Henry argued, and rightfully so, in the light of history,
that a specific bill of rights was essential. He observed that
governments regularly and automatically assumed powers that were not
prohibited to them. Can anyone in our day deny the truth of this? In
fact, in our day, our own government regularly usurps powers denied to it and the courts ignore the whole situation, giving the
executive and legislative branches a wink and a nod as our rights
Added to all this was the problem of differing views of the
Constitution, which seems to have been a major problem back before
the War of Northern Aggression.
In his book "The Confederate Constitution of 1861" Marshall DeRosa
noted that: "Within the context of American federalism does
sovereignty reside in the people in their national or state
capacities? To be more precise, does the U.S. Constitution establish
an association of sovereign individuals within their respective
states or a national community of sovereign individuals the states
notwithstanding?" It seems that, within the "more perfect Union"
there has always been this tension. DeRosa noted that by 1861 this
tension had become a major cleavage so that the Constitution "rather
served as the vehicle for dissention and separation."
DeRosa observed that: "This was most certainly the case by 1861, as
Northerners insisted on a model of federalism consisting of a
national community of individuals, with sovereignty being a national
phenomenon--that is, nationalism--whereas Southerners adhered to a
model consisting of a community of states."
John C. Calhoun stated that a transition was taking place wherein
the old Federal Republic was being transformed into a consolidated
democracy, which placed sovereign authority at the national level
while taking power away from the states. That trend continued, with
William Henry Seward claiming that the Constitution had established
a national community of individuals and not a community of states.
And this thought occurred to me--is it possible that what Calhoun
observed as a transformation was, in fact, actually there in seed
form at the very beginning?
According to DeRosa, Seward claimed that: "the States are not parties to the Constitution as States; it is the Constitution of the
people of the United States. But even if the States continue as
States, they have surrendered their equality as States, and
submitted themselves to the sway of the numerical majority..." I
surely do not agree with Seward's blatant nationalism, but, what if
that was really the intent from the beginning? What if nationalism
was sold to the Southern states surreptitiously as federalism, and,
outside of a few men like Patrick Henry, hardly any grasped that?
That may sound far out to some, but is it any further out than the
idea of a group of men signing up for a "Union" they could not
secede from only 13 years after they had experienced the same
situation with Great Britain? You have to wonder what would make men
yoke themselves and their states again to a bondage they had only
recently fought a war of independence to get away from. You have to
wonder if some of these delegates had in mind something other than
the freedom and liberty for both states and individuals that Patrick
To be continued.
Also see the other parts of this series by Al Benson, Jr.:
Part 2 |
Part 3 |
Part 4 |
Part 5 |
Part 6 |
Part 7 |
Part 8 |
Part 9 |
Part 10 |
Part 11 |
Part 12 |
If you found this article interesting, you might also like:
What is States' Rights by Mike Crane
Get US Off the USS Titanic
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