States Rights and Constitutional Convention of 1787

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What is States’ Rights? Part 6.
by Mike Crane
Morganton, Georgia

 "Our Rights are like a cookie, no matter how big the cookie and how small the bites, eventually you run out of cookie"

In Part 1 of this series a concept was presented that runs a bit contrary to current public conception – that the term States’ Rights can be used more for partisan benefit than a true effort to protect the God-Given Rights of the people.  Part 2 demonstrated that as early as 1801 incursions attacking American Liberty and State’s Rights had already started and have continued to this day. Part 3 gave details on an obvious expansion of central government powers (authority) by legislative action. Part 4 began listing the causes of the failure of State’s Rights. Part 5 and this article continue listing the causes of the failure of States Rights.

Part 6 is the second continuation of: Cause # 2: Misconceptions about original Constitution of 1787 (prior to Bill of Rights) from Parts 4 and 5.

As a brief recap on the debate concerning the Virginia Plan (See Parts 4 & 5), a model for aVirginia Plan for national government in Madison's Handwriting "national" government, Mr. Morris of Pennsylvania clearly explained the difference between a federated and a national government as follows:

Mr. Govr. Morris explained the distinction between a federal and national, supreme, Govt.; the former being a mere compact resting on the good faith of the parties; the latter having a compleat and compulsive operation. He contended that in all Communities there must be one supreme power, and one only.

Now let’s look at the continuing debate to further clarify the actions of the Framer’s of the Constitution of The United States.

Mr Sherman1 who took his seat today, admitted that the Confederation had not given sufficient power to Congs. and that additional powers were necessary; particularly that of raising money which he said would involve many other powers. He admitted also that the General & particular jurisdictions ought in no case to be concurrent.

Mr. Sherman is basically agreeing with Mr. Morris in that the General (central government) and particular (State governments) jurisdictions should not be concurrent. But all delegates were not of a like mind on this issue. What follows is an effort or parliamentary move to remove the word "national."

It was moved by Mr. Read,2 2ded. by Mr. Chs. Cotesworth Pinkney, to postpone the 3d. proposition last offered by Mr. Randolph viz that a national Government ought to be established consisting of a supreme Legislative Executive and Judiciary, in order to take up the following,—viz. "Resolved that in order to carry into execution the Design of the States in forming this Convention, and to accomplish the objects proposed by the Confederation a more effective Government consisting of a Legislative, Executive and Judiciary, ought to be established."

Mr. Read moved and seconded by Mr. Pinkney to replace the word "national" with "effective" and eliminate the word "supreme."

In other words he is clearly stating that the problems of the Articles of Confederation can be fixed without resorting to a totally new form of government, specifically that a "national" or "consolidated" government was not required. Mr. Pinkney also urged his fellow delegates to return to their charter, to propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation.

The motion to postpone for this purpose was lost:

Yeas Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, S. Carolina—4 Nays. N. Y. Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina—4. (4-4-0)

On the question as moved by Mr. Butler, on the third proposition it was resolved in Committee of whole that a national governt. ought to be established consisting of a supreme Legislative Executive & Judiciary,—Massts. being ay—Connect.—no. N. York divided (Col. Hamilton ay Mr. Yates no) Pena ay. Delaware ay. Virga. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. (6-1-1)

But let me summarize what these two votes mean in very simple terms:

The Virginia Plan was submitted as an initial draft or model. It was a plan for a national or consolidated government. A motion was made to lay this plan side and instead work toward an effective government, rather than a national government.

This motion to lay aside failed by a tie vote (4-4).

The delegates then voted to affirm the draft model of a national or consolidated government (6-1-1).

In the very early days of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the delegates, the framers of the Constitution made a deliberate and conscious decision to discontinue a federated form of government and to replace it … let me emphasize … REPLACE IT … with a national form of government in their deliberations.

Let me summarize what this means for the concept of States Rights …

By the votes of May 30, 1787 the framers of the Constitution began debating the ultimate elimination of States Rights! The concept of States Rights is mutually exclusive with the concept of a national or consolidated government as clearly explained ("…the latter having a compleat and compulsive operation …") by Gov. Morris.

What does this mean?

If it is true that the framers of the Constitution of 1787 proposed a national government, then it should be easy to understand why the Anti-federalists were opposed to its ratification. It explains why our Confederate forefathers made changes in several areas when drafting the Confederate Constitution of 1861.

Most importantly - it explains why efforts to Reform have failed for 200 years and why efforts at Reform are most likely a fool’s errand with little or no hope of success.

For the benefit of the doubting Thomas’s, let’s continue looking at the debate for more insight.

On May 31, the debate continued on the Virginia Plan:

The other clauses giving powers necessary to preserve harmony among the States, to negate all States laws contravening in the opinion of the National Legislature the articles of the union, down to the last clause, (the words :or any treaties subsisting under the authority of the Union," being added after the words " contravening &c. the articles of the Union," on motion of Dr. Franklin) were agreed to without debate or dissent.

On May 31, 1787 the framers agreed without debate or dissent that the National Legislature would be Supreme over the State Legislatures in any matter that in the opinion of the National Legislature was important.

Just 13 years earlier, some of these same men had assembled in the First Continental Congress and as a major step toward the creation of American Liberty and our Independence from England had rejected this same concept as absolutely and totally unacceptable! But here in Philadelphia on May 31, 1787 - it was accepted without dissent or debate.

The debate then continued using the "national" form of government submitted by Virginia delegates as their model.

On June 6, 1787 the debate centered on electing the first branch of the national government by the State Legislatures.

General PINKNEY wished to have a good National Govt. & at the same time to leave a considerable share of power in the States. An election of either branch by the people scattered as they are in many States, particularly in S. Carolina was totally impracticable. He differed from gentlemen who thought that a choice by the people wd. be a better guard agst. bad measures, than by the Legislatures.

Mr. MADISON considered an election of one branch at least of the Legislature by the people immediately, as a clear principle of free Govt. and that this mode under proper regulations had the additional advantage of securing better representatives, as well as of avoiding too great an agency of the State Governments in the General one.

Mr. Pinkney argued in favor of leaving power with the StatesHere we have General Pinkney proposing involving the State Legislatures in the selection of what became the US House of Representatives. On the other side James Madison argued against it. He argued for a national or consolidated government, eliminating or minimizing the influence of the States. The vote:

On the question for electing the 1st. branch by the State Legislatures as moved by Mr. Pinckney it was negative

Mass. No. Ct. ay. N. Y. no. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. No. Md. No. Va. No. N. C. no. S. C. ay. Geo. No. (3-.8)

(http://teachingamericanhistory.org/convention/summary.html )

When did the US House of Representatives start down the road of being out of control? On June 6, 1787 and look where we are today! How would Mr. Madison like the so called "better representatives" that assemble in Washington City today?

This proposal or motion would have embedded a federated aspect to the new form of government which in 1776 was a major factor in our Independence. In fact an argument can be made that had the Congress in 1776 been composed in the manner of the current US House of Representatives the Declaration of Independence would not have passed Congress at the time and manner that occurred.

This article is already over 1,500 words so will pick up at this point in Part 7 and will close this one with a passage in the Scriptures to describe our current day Representatives in Washington City:

Proverbs 28:20 Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.

To be continued

Sections that are in italics are copy and paste from the historical record of the Convention or in the last case from the King James Bible.

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Article Series on why States Rights have failed to be an effective check on the central government by Mike Crane.

What is States' Rights?

What is States' Rights? Part 2.

What is States' Rights? Part 3.

What is States' Rights? Part 4.

What is States' Rights? Part 5.

What is States' Rights? Part 6.

What is States' Rights? Part 7.

What is States’ Rights? Part 8.

Article Series on the effects of The Constitution of 1787 on States Rights by Al Benson, Jr.

Is the Constitution Really Inimical To States Rights ? Part One

Is the Constitution Really Inimical To States Rights ? Part Two

Is the Constitution Really Inimical To States Rights ? Part Three

Is the Constitution Really Inimical To States Rights ? Part Four

Is the Constitution Really Inimical To States Rights ? Part Five

Is the Constitution Really Inimical To States Rights ? Part Six

Is the Constitution Really Inimical To States Rights ? Part Seven

Is the Constitution Really Inimical To States Rights ? Part Eight

Is the Constitution Really Inimical To States Rights ? Part Nine

Is the Constitution Really Inimical To States Rights ? Part Ten

 

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