Though not alone in suspicions regarding the new federal agent in Washington, even North Carolina’s Federalists were surprised by Hamilton’s centralizing plans under the new Constitution. What they observed was a steady encroachment of powers assumed by that agent to the detriment of the States who considered themselves sovereign, not the agent.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
North Carolinians Wary of a National Government
“North Carolina accepted the federal Constitution more or less on faith yet with great confidence that the pending Bill of Rights would protect her and her people from the rash actions of a government that was remote from local control.
Her uncertainty grew out of long years of experience with an even more remote power in London, but the anticipated guarantee of the same rights that were mentioned in the Declaration of Rights in her own State constitution was assuring enough that she was willing at least to give the new government a trial.
Federalism flourished briefly even in North Carolina. Both senators and three of the five congressmen that she sent to the second session of the first national Congress were Federalists. When they took their seats, they discovered that Alexander Hamilton’s program to form a strong national government was being discussed. This was not to their liking nor, they reasoned, would it be to their constituent’s.
Hamilton’s plan to centralize power in the hands of the federal government distressed them, and they were disturbed by the tendency of the Federalist party to support a loose interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution. Such a policy would place more power in the hands of national officials than North Carolinians thought necessary or desirable.
Reaction against Federalism was demonstrated in the State by the refusal of members of the House of Commons in 1790 to take an oath to support the federal Constitution. The legislature also passed a vote of thanks to a State court of equity for refusing to obey a writ of the federal district court ordering the transfer of a case from State to federal jurisdiction.
Since United States senators were elected by the General Assembly, that body also undertook to instruct the senators in their duties as the State’s representatives. The State legislature clearly distrusted and feared the federal government. North Carolinians had a long tradition of resenting and even rejecting orders issued by outsiders, and they regarded the threat of federal directives as potentially just as oppressive as any that had come from England during the colonial period.
Even James Iredell, whose appointment to the Supreme Court by Washington in 1790 was a source of pride to the State, quickly became suspicious of the growing power of the national government.
He pointed out that the course the government appeared to be taking was not one that he had anticipated in 1788 or 1789. Justice Iredell’s dissenting opinion in 1794 in the case of Chisholm v. Georgia took issue with his Federalist colleagues who held that a citizen of one State could sue another State in federal court.
Iredell maintained that each State was still sovereign as to all powers that it had not delegated to the federal government, and he described the federal Constitution as a compact between sovereign States. Iredell’s view was widely hailed throughout the young nation, and it led to the adoption of the Eleventh Amendment depriving federal courts of jurisdiction in cases against a State by a citizen of another State.”
(North Carolina, A History: A Bicentennial History, William S. Powell, W.W. Norton, 1977, pp. 93-94)