Browsing "Jeffersonian America"

Millennialism’s Fresh Set of Insoluble Dilemmas

Author M.E. Bradford wrote that in America, “race (at last as far as the Negro is concerned) has proved to be an almost indestructible identity,” and has led to us stepping away from cherished liberties. He goes on that despite its ill-effect upon our original principles, it was predictable “that liberty, as our tradition understands the term, should begin to reassert its original hegemony, that the oldest of liberties honored among us – rights grounded in the fundament of English inheritance” shall return to favor, “though in new disguises.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Millennialism’s Fresh Set of Insoluble Dilemmas

“Jefferson’s fire bell sounded in the legislative darkness, tolling the “knell” of the Union he had so much helped to shape. After Missouri, States achieved full membership in the federal compact only after meeting federally determined prescriptions concerning the status of blacks within their boundaries – conditions not imposed upon the original thirteen and without real precedent in the Northwest Ordinance.

Predictably, Jefferson’s Union did die – in 1861. And in the latter stages of its ruin, the connection between blacks and American millennialism intensified. With Equality (capital E) the new Republic played some verbal and opportunistic games. I leave aside for the moment the merits and demerits of this “second founding.”

For, once completed . . . the Trojan horse of our homegrown Jacobinism was rolled away to some back stall within the stable of received American doctrines. Emancipation appeared to have changed nothing substantial in the basic confederal framework. Neither did it attempt any multiracial miracles.

Most certainly, New England has had its high expectations of a City on a Hill; likewise, even the South owed, from its earliest days, some inertia to a hope of Eden over the sea. Moreover, in company with the frontier States, both regions drew comfort from the idea of a “manifest destiny.” Yet the total nation has, characteristically, despised and rejected who or whatever aspired to dragoon its way to such beatitudes through the instruments of Federal policy.

The only full exception to this rule, I insist, is the “civil rights revolution” of the past thirty years. In connection with the difficult question of the Negro’s place within our social compact, an imperative was discovered, stronger than any ever pressed upon us before: there discovered because the Negro’s lot within that compact was so difficult (and so slow) to improve.

With it we have made fair to force the issue, even if liberty (and its correlatives: law, localism and personalism) loses much of its authority as a term of honor: is diminished especially insofar as it applies to that nondescript but substantial many who captain, man and propel the ship of state.

Of course, as Lenin wrote, the only way to make men equal is to treat them unequally. And Lenin’s advice does not function inside our curious native dialect. The only equality Americans can universally approve is accidental, a corollary of liberty or simple equality before a law with limited scope.

In 1820 . . . we took an initial step away from liberty; in 1861-1877, a few more. And from these examples, from our uneasiness at the – to the millennialist sensibility — greatest of built-in American “scandals,” in the post-World War II era we arrived at converting at least one feature of millennialism into a positive goal. To use the late William Faulkner’s idiom we set out to “abolish” the Negro we knew, both as a presences and a problem. The results begin to speak for themselves, the fresh set of insoluble dilemmas which, with each dawning day, cry out for more potent magic than the cures for yesterday’s injustice which spawned them into existence in the first place.”

(Remembering Who We Are; Observations of a Southern Conservative, M.E. Bradford, UGA Press, 1985, excerpts pp. 47-48; 50-51)

Dec 4, 2016 - Antebellum Realities, Jeffersonian America, Lost Cultures, Recurring Southern Conservatism, Southern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Sword Cane Versus Jim Bowie’s Knife

Sword Cane Versus Jim Bowie’s Knife

One of the South’s greatest historians, Clement Eaton, viewed Code Duello as evidence of Southerners military-mindedness, cult of virility, and disinclination to use courts to deal with matters of personal honor. Often cited was Andrew Jackson’s mother’s advice to her son: “Never tell a lie, nor take what is not your own, nor sue anyone for slander or assault and battery. Always settle them cases yourself!”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sword Cane Versus Jim Bowie’s Knife

“Another hero of the old Southwest was James Bowie, born in Tennessee in 1795, killed in action at the Alamo if 1836. His father, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, operated a small plantation near Elliot Springs, growing cotton, corn, sugar cane, and tobacco. When James was seven years old, the Bowies moved further into the Southwest, seeking more productive soil, bringing their half-dozen slaves along with them. They finally settled outside Opelousas, in Louisiana, and here they prospered.

James and his brothers John and Rezin, Jr., became known as “those wild Bowies,” because of the way they hunted wild cattle with lasso and knife, instead of using the conventional long spear and pistol. Rezin invented the famous Bowie knife, with its ten-inch long, single edged, slightly curved blade, and its guard at the handle. Jesse Cliffe, his blacksmith friend, first made it. But Brother James brought it fame.

The Bowie boys teamed up in 1818 with Jean Lafitte, the pirate leader who had distinguished himself at the Battle of New Orleans. Lafitte, during this period, was operating out of Galveston, in Spanish Mexico; his business was the smuggling of slaves into the United States.

But the most repeated stories concerning James Bowie dealt with his famous knife, which ornamented numerous encounters in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. For example, there was the fracas of September 18, 1827, which started at Natchez-under-the-Hill, rendezvous of brawlers, gamblers and worse. Eleven Louisianans, bent on arranging a duel between two of their group, met at Natchez to complete plans.

After picking up two doctors they recrossed the river to Louisiana near the village of Vidalia. The duelists were Colonel Samuel Welles and Dr. Thomas Maddox, bitter political opponents in a recent campaign. James Bowie was acting as a second. Pistols were decided upon for weapons.

The duel proper turned into a fiasco when two shots, fired on each side, went wild. The politicians were about to shake hands and forget it all but the spectators had been stirred by the proceedings to remember certain grievances they had against one another.

Suddenly, a Colonel Crain fired at Jim Bowie without warning and wounded him in the thigh; another of Bowie’s enemies, Major Wright, attacked him with a sword cane. Calmly, Jim drew the famous knife and sliced the cowardly Major to the backbone. “Damn you Bowie, you have killed me,” remarked the Major and expired.”

(Romanticism and Nationalism in the Old South, Rollin G. Osterweis, LSU Press, 1949, pp. 196-197)

Origins of the Conflict: The Tallmadge Amendment

The words “disunion” and “civil war” were heard in the halls of Congress in early 1819 as Representative James Tallmadge of New York introduced his amendment to restrict slavery in the proposed State of Missouri. Though Tallmadge thought the action would help end slavery within a generation, Howell Cobb of Georgia said he had kindled a fire “which only seas of blood could extinguish.” The Missouri Compromise of 1820 did not include the amendment, but did prohibit slavery above the 36-30 parallel of the Louisiana Purchase, the southern boundary of Missouri.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Origins of the Conflict: The Tallmadge Amendment

“In 1812 the Territory of Orleans became the State of Louisiana, but meantime the District of Louisiana had been repeatedly reorganized [and by 1819] . . . the population of Missouri closely approximated sixty thousand which, according to precedents set in the Old Northwest, made a territory eligible for Statehood.

Successive Missouri legislatures petitioned Congress on the subject, and in 1819 the House Committee on Territories reported favorably a bill enabling Missouri . . . to draw up a constitution and make ready for Statehood.

It was at this juncture that Representative James Tallmadge of New York raised the question of setting limits to the expansion of slavery in the Louisiana Purchase. He proposed to amend the bill reported from committee by providing that the further introduction of slavery into Missouri should be forbidden, and that all children born of slave parents after the admission of the State should be free upon reaching the age of twenty-five years.

Until the introduction of the Tallmadge amendment, the slavery question had played little part in national politics. The problem of how slaves should be counted when apportioning representatives in Congress or assessing direct taxes on the States had been satisfactorily settled in the federal convention by the three-fifths compromise. Also, an earlier Congress had exercised its constitutional authority to pass a fugitive slave act, and the administration of this measure had so far provoked little criticism.

Moreover, slavery had long been regarded as a dying institution. The founders of the American nation had almost unanimously so considered it, Southerners no less than Northerners. Many of them were eager to speed the day when slavery should cease to exist throughout the whole country.

Washington emancipated his slaves by his will; Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin were prominent in the work of emancipation societies; Thomas Jefferson’s anti-slavery views were written into the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Almost by common consent the slave trade was forbidden in 1808, the earliest possible date under the Constitution.

Hostility to slavery during these early days of the republic was firmly grounded on the fact that the institution had ceased to be economically profitable. For this reason, even before the American Revolution, many of the colonies would have taken some anti slavery action had not the British government been so insistent on protecting the profits of British merchants engaged in the slave trade.

As soon as independence became a fact, one State after another took action against slavery . . . [but] the chief obstacle to abolition in the South, where slaves were far more numerous than in the North, was the perplexity felt about what to do with the freed slaves, but Southern emancipation societies were deeply concerned about this problem and were hopeful of finding a solution.

The discovery that cotton could be grown profitably by means of slave labor [with the cotton gin of Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney, and] served to revive the institution of slavery just at the time when it had seemed destined to disappear.

(The Federal Union, History of the United States to 1865, John D. Hicks, Houghton Mifflin, 1948, excerpts, pp. 354-356)

Return to Original Principles

Below, Jefferson anticpates the constitutional crisis of the late 1850s and the need for the States to “arrest the march of government” which had been threatening its creators with military action since the days of Andrew Jackson. As he instructs, the solution to the crisis was a convening of the States to modify their agreement, not the agent warring upon a free people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Return to Original Principles

“The [Supreme Court] judges are practicing on the Constitution by inferences, analogies, and sophisms, as they would on an ordinary law. They do not seem aware that it is not even a constitution, formed by a single authority, and subject to a single superintendence and control; but that it is a compact of many independent powers, every single one of which claims an equal right to understand it, and to require its observance.

However strong the cord of compact may be, there is a point of tension at which it will break. A few such doctrinal decisions . . . may induce [two or three large States] to join in arresting the march of government, and in arousing the co-States to pay some attention to what is passing, to bring back the compact to its original principles, or to modify it legitimately by the express consent of the parties themselves, and not by the usurpation of their created agents.

They imagine they can lead us into a consolidated government, while their road leads directly to its dissolution. (Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1825; The Jefferson Cyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls, 1900, page 191)

Nov 19, 2016 - Antebellum Realities, Emancipation, From Africa to America, Jeffersonian America, Southern Conservatives, Southern Statesmen    Comments Off on Jefferson Seeks a Solution to Slavery

Jefferson Seeks a Solution to Slavery

Jefferson wrote that slavery was a cancer that must be gotten rid of, and believed that philosophy was gaining ground on selfishness. “If this [slavery] can be rooted out and our land filled with freemen, union preserved and the spirit of liberty maintained and cherished I think in 25 or 20 years we shall have nothing to fear from the rest of the world [condemning slavery in America].” Jefferson knew, as did all the Framers, that the British colonial labor system had burdened America with this deplorable cancer to be dealt with.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Jefferson Seeks a Solution to Slavery

“From what fund are these expenses [for repatriating the Negro to Africa] to be furnished? Why not from that of the lands which have been ceded by the very States now needing this relief? And ceded on no consideration, for the most part, but that of the general good of the whole.

These cessions already constitute one-fourth of the States of the Union. It may be said that these lands have been sold; are now the property of the citizens composing those States; and the money long ago received and expended.

But an equivalent of lands in the territories since acquired may be appropriated to that object, or so much, at least, as may be sufficient; and the object, although more important to the slave States, is highly so to the others also, if they were serious in their arguments on the Missouri question.

The slave States, too, if more interested, would also contribute more by their gratuitous liberation, thus taking on themselves alone the first and heaviest item of expense.”

(Thomas Jefferson to Jared Sparks, 1824; The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls, 1900. pp. 154-155)

 

An Educational Failure

Jefferson wrote in his Notes on Virginia that “every country degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people only,” and to prevent this required education which improved the minds and watchfulness of those governed. He added that though the common perception was that corruption is restrained by restricting the vote to only the wealthy, but would be more effectively combatted by an extension to educated citizens who “would bid defiance to the means of corruption.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

An Educational Failure

“The National Education Association, theoretically representing the teachers of the country, had for years been passing resolutions favoring whatever was before the public of un-American import, especially for getting the imperial Government at Washington, through “Federal aid,” to take over the shaping in school of American ideas.

Under the cloak of “academic freedom” men in the universities belittled those who wrote the Constitution and pronounced their work faulty and outmoded. The schools, while neglecting to give thorough courses in our history, and especially in constitutional history or the history of liberty, admitted objectionable textbooks and periodicals.

The principles of our government are not outmoded, as some say. They are as immutable as those of mathematics. The first of them, so well put by Jefferson, is that the man to whom power is given must be chained. The profound historians at Philadelphia who wrote the Constitution looked back over the centuries and drew that principle from the recurring tyrannies and unfailing breakdowns of governments.

As the constitutional system of the United States was the first that man through all the centuries was able to formulate for the one purpose of controlling those in power . . . It is “the last hope of the world,” as Daniel Webster warned us.

Communism and other alienisms can be met and overcome, not by dollars or arms, but only by superior doctrines, as the teaching of the kindness of Christianity overcame the ideas, the brutalities and the power of the Roman Empire.

By neglecting to indoctrinate each new generation with a knowledge of the superior philosophy of the American system of government, we thereby left the people weakened to attack. Hence, so many of them are taken with the false promises of communism. And so many others want the government at Washington to do things beyond its power and outside of its jurisdiction.”

(Undermining the Constitution, A History of Lawless Government, Thomas J. Norton, Devin-Adair Company, excerpts, pp. xi – xiv, 1950)

 

North and South Before the Alien Tide

The colonies North and South before the Revolution had little in common other than being transplanted Britons; Southern troops were there to help the North in the war it initiated over trade and taxes. The model of American statesmanship was the Southern planter-aristocrat until the arrival of Andrew Jackson – seen as the product of the ragged edges of British civilization. Such a product, also, was Abraham Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

North and South Before the Alien Tide

“New Englanders at all stages in the history of the country have busied themselves so actively with advertising in print their part in the making of America; the compact circle of New England authors before the war managed so effectively to enhance each other’s reputations by piling criticism on authorship and authorship on criticism again; that most foreigners and many busty Americans have absorbed the notion that American character is a New England product, and “culture” a plant nourished solely in that region.

This idea has been reinforced by the assiduity of New Englanders since the war, in working over their material, in composing voluminous biographies, appreciations, memoirs, poems, critiques, histories, about every New Englander whoever wrote a book, or, indeed, did anything out of the ordinary.

As a matter of fact, what is called the Puritan influence, what is fathered on the New England conscience, is not essentially Puritan at all; it is British seriousness, aggravated by a hand-to-hand conflict with a new country, and th4e responsibility for it is shared about equally by Massachusetts and Virginia.

The truth is, that so long as America was distinctly a nation of transplanted Britons, the New England conscience, so-called, was a common heritage of all. It is only since the flood of alien blood has swamped the country and diluted the original strain that this conscience has ceased to be the common standard, however modified as to particular judgments by differences in the conditions to be faced.

In New England proper at one time, for instance, it approved capital punishment for witches, promoted piracy and drew sustenance from the [transatlantic] slave traffic.

In the South, at another period, it sanctioned the duel and the holding of the involuntary black man in bondage. At the present time, because the white population of the South is still is of predominantly British descent, because the alien has not swarmed over the land and diluted the original stock, the last stronghold of New England conscience is actually below Mason and Dixon’s line, with its citadel in Richmond, Va.

The thing survives, in spots, in New England also, but only in little pools and back waters not yet reached by the tide. Even the presence of the Negro, with his stone-age morals, has not sufficed to destroy it in the South – though it has, of course, modified it – for the Negro stands outside the stream.

In the first place, then, the Briton in the South, even if he were not descended from the landed gentry, a special breed of masters of other men in the old country, presently developed for himself a special breed of masters of men by reason of his training on the plantation where he ruled over many. At the same time he gained a boldness, and initiative, an adaptability quite foreign to the stay-at-home Briton. For he had to rule over an alien and barbaric people in a new and unformed country strange to him and to them.”

(Contributions of the South to the Character and Culture of the North, H.I. Brock; History of the Literary and Intellectual Life of the Southern States, Volume VII, Samuel Chiles Mitchell, editor, Southern Publication Society, 1909, pp. 269-271)

The Spirit of Republican Government

The American Union was conceived as a republic and the Founders did their best to protect it from the pitfalls of democracy. The French visitor and political observer Alexis de Tocqueville, like the Founders, saw this Union as a federation of independent republics, all of which could survive without belonging to it. Below, de Tocqueville foresees the extinction of republican principles in America should the original Anglo-Saxon citizenry be replaced with immigrants unfamiliar with those political traditions. It required only twenty-five years for the North to populate itself and the West with people unfamiliar with republican political traditions, and raise a two-million man war machine to subdue the republican South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Spirit of Republican Government

“The dismemberment of the [American] Union, by the introduction of war into the heart of those States which are now confederate, with standing armies, a dictatorship, and a heavy taxation, might, eventually, compromise the fate of the republican institutions. But we ought not to confound the future prospects of the republic with those of the Union.

The Union is an accident, which will only last as long as circumstances are favorable to its existence; but a republican form of Government seems to me to be the natural state of the Americans; which nothing but the continued action of hostile causes, always acting in the same direction, could change into a monarchy.

The Union exists principally in the law which formed it; one revolution, one change in public opinion, might destroy it forever; but the republic has a much deeper foundation to rest upon.

What is understood by a republican form of government in the United States is the slow and quiet action of society upon itself. It is a regular state of things really founded upon the enlightened will of the people. It is a conciliatory government under which resolutions are allowed time to ripen; and in which they are deliberately discussed, and executed with mature judgement.

The republicans in the United States set a high value upon morality, respect religious belief, and acknowledge the existence of rights. They profess to think that a people ought to be moral, religious and temperate, in proportion as it is free. What is called the republic in the United States, is the tranquil rule of the majority, which, after having had time to examine itself, and to give proof of its existence, is the common source of all the powers of the State.

But the power of the majority is not of itself unlimited. In the moral world humanity, justice and reason enjoy an undisputed supremacy; in the political world vested rights are treated with no less deference. The majority recognizes these tow barriers; and if it now and then overstep them, it is because, like individuals, it has passions, and, like them, it is prone to do what is wrong, whilst it discerns what is right . . .

It was impossible at the foundation of the States, and it would still be difficult, to establish a central administration in America. The inhabitants are too dispersed over too great a space, and separated by too many natural obstacles, for one man to undertake to direct the details of their existence. America is therefore preeminently the country of provincial and municipal government. The English settlers in the United States, therefore, early perceived that they were divided into a great number of small and distinct communities which belonged to no common center . . .

In the United States, the sovereignty of the people is not an isolated doctrine . . . That Providence has given to every human being the degree of reason necessary to direct himself in the affairs which interest him exclusively; such is the grand maxim upon which civil and political society rests in the United States. The father of the family applies it to his children; the master to his servants; the township to its officers; the province to its townships; the State to the provinces; the Union to the States; and when extended to the nation, it becomes the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people.

If republican principles are to perish in America, they can only yield after a laborious social process, often interrupted, and as often resumed; they will have many apparent revivals, and will not become totally extinct until an entirely new people shall have succeeded to that which now exists.

It may, however, be foreseen even now, that when the Americans lose their republican institutions they will speedily arrive at a despotic Government, without a long interval of limited Monarchy. Montesquieu remarked, that nothing is more absolute than the authority of a prince who immediately succeeds a republic, since the powers which had fearlessly been entrusted to an elected magistrate are then transferred to a hereditary sovereign.

This is true in general, but it is more peculiarly applicable to a democratic republic. In the United States, the magistrates are not elected by a particular class of citizens, but by the majority of the nation; they are the immediate representatives of the passions of the multitude . . . and they are left in possession of a vast deal of arbitrary power. [It] is impossible to say what bounds could then be set to tyranny.

Some of our European politicians expect to see an aristocracy arise in America, and they already predict the exact period at which it will assume the reins of government. Nevertheless, I do not assert that the Americans will not, at some future time, restrict the political rights in their country, or confiscate those rights to the advantage of a single individual . . . [or] that they will ever found an aristocracy.

But a people, having taken its rise in civilization and democracy, which should gradually establish an inequality of conditions, until it arrived at inviolable privileges and exclusive castes, would be a novelty in the world; and nothing intimates that America is likely to furnish so singular an example.”

(Spirit of Republican Government, 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville; American History Told by Contemporaries, Volume III, National Expansion, 1783-1845, Albert Bushnell Hart, editor, The Macmillan Company, 1938, excerpts, pp. 553-557)

The Great, Lost Conservative Principle

In his 1991 introduction to the reprinted “John C. Calhoun, American Portrait” by Margaret Coit (original 1951), Clyde N. Wilson wrote that “Coit restored to our national pantheon this lost figure, surely a constructive and consoling experience. Her book was probably a decisive factor in the United States Senate designating Calhoun as one of its five greats in 1959, on the finding of a committee chaired by John F. Kennedy.” He adds that “a number of economic historians [have] found Calhoun’s grasp of fiscal and monetary policy superior” to his contemporaries, and that he was a Jeffersonian, and thoroughly conservative, Democrat.

The Great, Lost Conservative Principle

“A republic goes to war to defend itself and its vital interests, including possibly its honour. Empires go to war because going to war is one of the things irresponsible rulers do. The point of reference for a republic is its own well-being. An empire has no point of reference except expansion of its authority. Its foreign policy will be abstract, and will reflect on the vagaries of mind of the rulers, who might, for instance, proclaim that it is their subjects’ duty to establish a New World Order, whatever the cost to their own blood and treasure.

An empire contains not free citizens, but subjects, interchangeable persons having no intrinsic value except as taxpayers and cannon fodder. A people’s culture may be changed by imperial edict to reflect a trumped-up multiculturalism (a sure sign of empire), or their religion persecuted.

We know the problems. Where should we look for solutions? Changing the personnel of the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court has been of little avail. Thomas Jefferson gives us the answer: our most ancient and best tradition, States’ rights. In his first inaugural address, Jefferson remarked that in most ways Americans were very happily situated, and then asked:

“What more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens – a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits . . . and shall not take from the mouth of labour the bread that it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

John C. Calhoun, speaking of exactly the same tradition a generation later, said:

“The question is in truth between the people and the supreme court. We contend, that the great conservative principle of our system is in the people of the States, as parties to the constitutional compact, and our opponents that it is in the supreme court . . . Without a full practical recognition of the rights and sovereignty of the States, our union and liberty must perish. State rights would be found . . . in all cases of difficulty and danger [to be] the only conservative principle in the system, the only one that could interpose an effectual check to the danger.”

By conservative principle he means not a political position of right as opposed to left – he means that which conserves the Constitution as it was intended. Contrast that with our present position. Forrest McDonald, our greatest living Constitutional scholar, writes:

“Political scientists and historians are in agreement that federalism is the greatest contribution of the Founding Fathers to the science of government. It is also the only feature of the Constitution that has been successfully exported, that can be employed to protect liberty elsewhere in the world. Yet what we invented, and others imitate, no longer exists on its native shores.”

(From Union to Empire, Clyde N. Wilson, Foundation for American Education, 2003, pp. 155-157)

Jefferson on Free Speech and Delegated Powers

Jefferson’s great admiration for Washington allayed his fears that the presidency might become monarchical – a fear that John Adams made real. Though Jefferson wrote that the true barriers of our liberty are our State governments, and that all States could not be restrained by one man and any force he could possess – he didn’t foresee Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Jefferson on Free Speech and Delegated Powers

“With respect to the Sedition Act, which he detested more and condemned first, he took the ground that this sort of definition of crime fell within none of the delegated powers, and that this sort of action was specifically prohibited to Congress by the First Amendment. Though he did not say so here, he completely repudiated the doctrine that the federal courts already had common-law jurisdiction over seditious libel.

He regarded the doctrine . . . as an “audacious, barefaced and sweeping pretension.” Also, in view of the fact that freedom of speech and the press are guarded against congressional action in the same amendment with freedom of religion, he held that whoever violated one of them threw down the sanctuary covering the others. It should be noted . . . that he did not here deny to States the right to judge how far “the licentiousness of speech and of the press may be abridged without lessening their useful freedom.” This is certainly not to say that he set State rights above human rights . . . [but] he was not warning against possible misuse of State power, and to him it was federal power that represented the clear and present danger.

In the first of his resolutions [Kentucky] Jefferson categorically took the position that whenever the general government assumed powers not delegated to it by the compact, its acts were “unauthoritive, void and of no force.” Denying that there was a “common judge” (of federal usurpation), he concluded that each party to the compact had “an equal right to judge for itself, as well as infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.

Some deletion (of Jefferson’s words in the written Kentucky Resolutions) was in order anyway, since the draft was prolix and repetitious…(and) after saying that in cases of the abuse of delegated, a change in the members of the general government by the people was the “constitutional remedy,” he made this assertion:

“where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy; that every State has a natural right in cases not within the compact . . . to nullify on their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits: without this right they would be under the dominion, absolute and unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment over them . . .”

(Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty, Dumas Malone, Little, Brown and Company, 1962, pp. 403-405)

 

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