Browsing "Tenth Amendment"

Believing the Cheerful Myth

“Nearly everyone believes the cheerful myth that nothing has changed since 1789.”

“As for the Electoral College, it is indeed an anachronism that serves no real purpose. It certainly doesn’t do what is was supposed to do: elect presidents who are, in Alexander Hamilton’s words, “pre-eminent for ability and virtue.” So wrote Hamilton, as “Publius,” in Federalist No. 68.

For what it’s worth, the Framers of the Constitution didn’t want the president elected by direct popular vote. Simple majority rule was alien and abhorrent to them, as the present two-party duopoly and the popular election of senators would have been; as Hamilton put it, direct election of presidents would produce “tumult and disorder.”

They prescribed that the people of each State should elect a body of presumably incorrupt and disinterested electors, men who possessed the requisite “information and discernment” to choose among candidates for the presidency. Those electors, in Hamilton’s words, should be “men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station [of the presidency]. They should not be officeholders, who might have “too great [a] devotion” to the incumbent president; their number would be a safeguard against corruption.” But if no winner emerged, the election would fall to the House of Representatives, where each State delegation would cast a single vote.

Subsequent generations, missing its inner spirit, have ruined it, like a vain fool daubing new streaks on an old masterpiece in the conviction he is improving it when it’s no longer even recognizable. Modern democracy has destroyed the essence of the thing; yet it flatters itself that it has preserved the Constitution, only because it has preserved its words while ignoring, or willfully forgetting, their import.

[The] original Senate no longer exists. The Seventeenth Amendment virtually abolished it by requiring the popular election of senators; before that, senators were chosen by State legislatures, because the Senate was supposed to represent the interests of State governments and to prevent usurpation of their powers. The House was to speak for the people, the Senate for the States.

When the Senate was converted to a popular body too, it lost its rationale and became as superfluous as the Electoral College now is, imperfectly duplicating functions better performed by the House: instead of representing the States equally, it represents the people unequally. The States, meanwhile, have been reduced to mere administrative subdivisions of a monolithic nation-state. They have lost the defining mark of a true State, which is sovereignty, and such powers that they retain are held not by right, but by the sufferance of the federal government.

But not one American in a hundred (and perhaps not one senator in a hundred) understands all this. Nearly everyone believes the cheerful myth that nothing has changed since 1789.

But everything has changed. No American should read the Constitution without a sense of loss. We would all be much freer if the US government played by its own rules. But there is no way to force it to do so as long as Americans remain ignorant of their own political heritage.”

(A Weird Election, Joseph Sobran, Sobran’s Real News of the Month, March 2001, Volume 8, Number 3, excerpts pp. 3-4)

Lincoln’s Counterrevolution to the Revolution

In truth, New England led the secession movement from Britain with its revolt against British Navigation Acts. In contrast, the Southern colonies were exporters and did well as British Americans, though they had formed a provincial identity of independence, or, “States’ Rights.” This of course preceded the Articles of Confederation and 1787 Constitution.

Regarding the counterrevolution of the 1860’s and its result, the author quoted below writes: “the revolution of the 1860’s ended up devastating New England almost as much as it did the South. What emerged in the late 19th century, as John Quincy’s grandson Henry described it, was a country ruled by speculators, stockjobbers and imperialists. Boston rule would have been infinitely preferable to rule by the set of gangsters who engineered the election of Grant, Arthur, McKinley, and Harding and their spiritual descendants who control both parties today.”

Lincoln’s Counterrevolution to the Revolution

“Lincoln did not initiate the political revolution that destroyed the American republic. The bandwagon was hurtling along in its course long before he leaped aboard and seized the reins. The effect of his presidency and of the war he either brought on deliberately or blundered into was to annul the American Revolution, which might be more accurately described as a counterrevolution. But if we are going to stick to conventional language, we can say that Mr. Lincoln’s project in national democracy as the counterrevolution to the revolution of 1776.

To understand why some Americans – and not just in the South – opposed the Lincolnian counterrevolution, we have to first understand why so many Americans had been willing to go to war in the 1770’s.

In Massachusetts, of course, one can find sound economic reasons. The British government was eager to find ways to make the colonies pay for the wars that had been undertaken on their behalf, and taxation and regulation of industry and commerce seemed to be – and indeed was – a solution that was both reasonable and just. New Englanders, feeling the pinch of mercantilist policies, were understandably annoyed, and when the insult of constitutional innovation (the suspension of charters and the so-called Intolerable Acts) was added to the injury inflicted on their economic life, they were ripe for revolution.

The planters and merchants of Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry, by contrast, were making out rather well within the [British] empire. In the 1770’s, Charelston was one of the wealthiest and by far the most civilized city in North America. By the outbreak of the Revolution, Charleston merchants and Lowcountry planters formed an American aristocracy.

While most historians and political ideologues have claimed, over and over, that the American rebels were devotees of John Locke’s theory of natural rights and the social contract, there is very little evidence of this. Every important statement and virtually all the little manifestos of church parishes and small townships stake their claim on the Common Law rights of Englishmen.

A key word was equality, not of all human beings, but the equality of Americans in possessing the rights of the English. Patrick Henry put it succinctly: The colonists are entitled “to all the liberties, privileges, franchises that have at any time been held, enjoyed, and possessed by the people of Great Britain.” Provincials resented the fact that Parliament denied them the benefits of several significant statutes, such as the Habeas Corpus Act, the Act of Settlement, and the Bill of Rights.”

(Why They Fought, Thomas Fleming, Chronicles, April 2015, excerpts pp. 8-9) www.chroniclesmagazine.org

The South Forced to Obey the New Union

The war of 1861-1865 created a new union of the North and a forced South, with the mercantile former dictating terms, policies and allegiance to the latter as an economic colony. The Republican party oligarchy then ushered in the Gilded Age of political bosses, bought politicians and a vote-rigging press. The Founders’ Union of equal and sovereign States was but a distant memory.

The South Forced to Obey the New Union

“Remember money breeds money, which in turn brings more,” said Benjamin Franklin. “Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God,” wrote Thomas Jefferson.

If these two attitudes may be considered the respective mainstream philosophies of the North and the South, then it becomes obvious there can be no way to blend the two into a single national spirit ant more than Cain could live by Abel’s side. “We the people,” as famous a phrase as it may be, is a dupery.

Understanding it as such seems to me the key to the history of the United States both before and after 1865.

When the American colonists started debating their merging into a single political unit, the obviously central issue was that of States’ rights – i.e., what sovereignty would be left to the States once a federal power, endowed with a sovereignty of its own, had been established.

Since none of their representatives appears to have called for the States to forfeit their sovereignty entirely, it seems obvious that the new union, it tighter than the one obtaining under the Articles of Confederation, was nevertheless to be that of a federation in which the federal power was rigorously construed, strictly limited, and States’ rights sternly asserted. Such a view was never unanimous.

The Federalists, men of the North already, opposed it immediately, (hence the Tenth Amendment) and never relented until they overcame at the price of open war. In between they had constantly waged one by other means, kindling the fires of conflict with self-interested issues (internal improvements, tariffs, a central bank), the last of which was the rather contrived issue of slavery. (The South ended up fighting as one man while the only a fourth of Southern households actually owned slaves . . . As for the Yankees, once victorious they abandoned the freed slaves to a rather dubious fate.)

So the fateful war was fought, and union proclaimed to have been restored.

A scurrilous claim: It is symbolic that the South could be reinstated as a member of the Union only after a team of Northern generals had razed it. The new union, instead of resulting from the regulated intercourse of political bodies, was forced down the throats of half of them, and the unity prevailing between Americans became that which obtains between colonizers and colonized.

Lincoln showed himself to be a faithful disciple of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s method for regenerating France: “to prevent the union from being an empty word, it must be disposed that whoever is rebellious to the people’s will must be forced to obey it, which only means forcing him to be free. From such deviousness was born a new type of nation, indeed.”

(1865: The True American Revolution, Claude Polin, Chronicles, April 2015, excerpts pg. 14; www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

An Understanding of Eighteenth Century Government

The author below writes that the Founders, to include men such as John Adams and James Madison, saw the purpose of a separation of powers in the new government as necessary to give both “property” and “the people” – the aristocracy and the workers – a voice in government with a check upon one another. He adds that those who think of government as a science and formal political structures have difficulty understanding the men of long ago who looked upon government as an instrument for resolving tensions among social classes, or “interests,” which was the term commonly used in the eighteenth century. The social interests remain today, as well as the social tensions.

Eighteenth Century Understanding of Government

“Those who bent their efforts, and a considerable amount of history along with them, to prove the constitutionality of the New Deal denied the fact of “State sovereignty” under the Article of Confederation. They asserted the old doctrine that the union came before the States and was therefore all-powerful: State sovereignty never existed. From this doctrine they deduced that New Deal measures could not be invalidated by the Supreme Court, which turned to “States’ rights” notions and a strict interpretation of the Constitution of 1787.

In doing so it was obvious the majority of the Court were motivated by political and economic predilections rather than concern for the true nature of the Constitution. The opponents of the Court, likewise, in their fervor to attain necessary ends, cited many analogies, the falsity of which they did not recognize. To them the argument of States’ rights used to defeat national regulation of business enterprise was specious and unfounded in history.

What they did not see was that the eighteenth-century counterparts of nineteenth-century vested interests likewise rejected the doctrine of State sovereignty. For them the only escape from a democracy which found expression in unchecked State governments was the creation of a national government which would limit if not destroy the sovereignty of the States. Despite the theorizing of later days, the fact remains that State sovereignty was a grim reality for those who objected to majority rule.

[Those] . . . who say or imply that democracy was not an issue in the Revolutionary era . . . do not face the fact that some of the Revolutionary leaders who became the folk heroes of later generations were actually opposed to what they believed to be, and what they called, “democracy.” Therefore they are unwilling to accept the idea that the Articles of Confederation were an expression of the democratic philosophy of the eighteenth century and that the Constitution of 1787 was the culmination of an anti-democratic crusade.

(The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781, Merrill Jensen, University of Wisconsin Press, 1963, excerpts pp. viii-ix)

“Thou Wicked Servant”

Though opposed to Lincoln’s violations of the Constitution in his war against the American South, Northern Democrats saw the need to crush secession, which was a manifestation of the Tenth Amendment and inherent right of the people of a State to withdraw from a federal compact to which they conditionally assented. Those Northern Democrats did not see that due to the vast differences between the sections by 1861, peaceful separation was the only logical solution for the Southern people to pursue free, representative government. Connecticut Senator William C. Fowler (below) was born in 1793, during Washington’s presidency – living long enough to see the end of Washington’s Union.

“Thou Wicked Servant”

“Expressing opposition to secession, [Northerners Clement] Vallandigham, [Samuel S.] Cox, [Stephen D.] Carpenter, and Fowler maintained that they desired not an independent Confederacy but simply a restoration of the “Constitution as it is” and the “Union as it was.” They declared they were in favor of a constitutional war to crush secession, but they charged that Lincoln was waging a battle for the conquest and subjugation of the South and that he was conducting it in a despotic fashion, subverting the constitutional liberties of individuals and the rights of States.

Opposing military conscription, they also criticized the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and declared that freedom of speech had been abolished in the Union.

In particular, they attacked Lincoln’s policy of emancipation. Spurning the argument that emancipation was a legitimate measure adopted to aid the prosecution of the war, they pictured it as an unconstitutional act by which the President had changed the war aims of the North from the preservation of the Union to abolition of slavery.

“If,” said Fowler in the Connecticut State Senate in 1864, “the President should avow the fact that he has violated the Constitution, in order to save the Union, as the President did in a letter to Mr. Hodge, let us say to him “out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant.”

The peace advocates placed special blame for war upon the abolitionists of the North, stating repeatedly that it was not the institution of slavery but the agitation of the slavery question by the abolitionists that had caused hostilities.

For the immediate outbreak of fighting, the three Midwesterners placed responsibility upon Lincoln and the Republicans because of their refusal to compromise with Southerners in the crisis of 1860-1861.”

(Americans Interpret Their Civil War, Thomas J. Pressly, 1954, Princeton University Press, excerpts pp. 131-133)

A “Forbidden Journey”

New Hampshire native President Franklin Pierce was well-aware of the increasing sectionalism pushing the South toward secession, and Northern States erecting laws in conflict with federal law. He would not countenance State obstruction of constitutional obligations while they remained within the Union. He also understood, as Lincoln seemed not to, that the comity of the States was the glue binding the Union together. Without this, the Union was at an end and brute force could not save it.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A “Forbidden Journey”

“President Pierce’s affinity for the rule OF law in contrast to the rule BY law explains why such scorn has been heaped upon his presidency.

President Lincoln, had he complied with the rule of law and deferred to the U.S. Constitution on the issues of secession, the writ of habeas corpus, the blockade of Southern ports, etc., may have presided over the realignment of the Union, but he also would have placed the rule of law on a constitutional pedestal that would have constrained subsequent presidents from disregarding constitutional constraints in the quest for power.

But Lincoln’s claim to fame is not that he adhered to the rule of law, but that he had the audacity to disregard it.

Lincoln’s unfortunate legacy is that he destroyed American federalism by creating a coercive indissoluble Union. Consequently, the policy prerogatives of imposition, nullification, and secession are now placed beyond the grasp of the States. Nevertheless, the ever-expanding national government’s powers continued to occupy the efforts of the courts in post-bellum America.

A case in point is Justice [George A.] Sutherland’s opinion in Carter v. Carter Coal Company (1936) a case which stemmed from FDR’s expansion of national powers vis-à-vis the States Tenth Amendment police powers. Justice Sutherland articulates the anti-Lincoln premise that “The States were before the Constitution; and consequently, their legislative powers antedated the Constitution.”

To concede otherwise is to begin a “forbidden journey” through which the national government takes over the “powers of the States” and the States “are so despoiled of their powers” that they are reduced to “little more than geographical subdivisions of the national domain. It is safe to say that when the Constitution was under consideration, it had been thought that any such danger lurked behind its plain words, it never would have been ratified.”

Justice Sutherland’s logic is just as applicable today, with the qualification that the “forbidden journey” has progressed to where the national government may be so “despoiled of its powers” that it will be reduced to “little more than geographical subdivisions” of the international domain.

In conclusion, America is in trouble. With unmanageable public debt . . . and fiscal obligations in excess of one hundred trillion dollars, not to mention the cultural and political state of the Union, Americans continue to pay homage to the villains that laid the tracks to our present sorry state of affairs.”

(President Franklin Pierce and the War for Southern Independence, Marshall DeRosa; Northern Opposition to Mr. Lincoln’s War, D. Jonathan White, editor, Abbeville Institute Press, 2014, excerpts pp. 38-40)

 

Jul 30, 2018 - Jeffersonian America, Prescient Warnings, Recurring Southern Conservatism, Southern Conservatives, Southern Statesmen, Tenth Amendment, The United States Constitution    Comments Off on State Governments Must Control the Federal Government

State Governments Must Control the Federal Government

Jefferson foresaw problems between the States and the general government, and noted in an 1824 letter to John Cartwright that if a collision can “neither be avoided nor compromised, a convention of the States must be called, to ascribe the doubtful power to that department which they may think best.” He saw further that the “encroachments of State governments will tend to an excess of liberty which will correct itself, while those of the general government will tend to monarchy, which will fortify itself from day to day, instead of working its own cure. The very basis of the Tenth Amendment was to forbid the general government from assuming powers not delegated.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

State Governments Must Control the Federal Government

“Jefferson’s real concern was for American law, not international morality. He said he feared he had “gone beyond the Constitution” in agreeing to purchase Louisiana. Much as he believed the United States “must have the Mississippi”; much as he wanted there to be one nation on the continent, and an overland route to the Pacific coast, he was at least as much concerned for human liberty.

With respect to foreign affairs, he believed that only a strong Federal government could conduct them. But with respect to internal affairs, he believed the Federal powers were very narrowly defined, and that all other powers, including the right to secede, belonged to the States.

He utterly rejected the Federalists’ theory that the Constitution “implied” that the government could assume any powers not specifically spelled out in that document. If that we so, he felt, a future Federal government could justify almost anything on grounds that the laws it passed helping to promote the general welfare, even if their effect was to convert the republic into a monarchy.

The only protection the people had, he felt, lay in their control of their State governments. If the several States did not retain all powers not granted to the Federal government, they might as well give up any pretense of having rights of their own.

The issue of States’ rights versus Federal rights was a basic problem to the framers of the Constitution, as the vague language of the Constitution suggests; it was a basic problem to Jefferson; it became a bloody one during the Civil War, and it still to great extent plagues the United States today.”

(Eminent Domain: the Louisiana Purchase and the Making of America, John Keats, excerpts pp. 341-342)

 

New England Sets the Example for the South

Lord Acton writes that “secession is not a theory of the Constitution, but a remedy against a vicious theory of the Constitution” — the right of a minority to withdraw from a political agreement which they no longer wish to be part of, and to escape the tyranny of the majority. Even a nationalist like Hamilton saw the balance necessary between national and State governments, and that both will be prevented from trespassing on each one’s constitutional limitations. The States would be further protected by the strictly delegated, and few, powers of the general government.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

New England Sets the Example for the South

As a consequence of troubles between Napoleon’s Berlin decree and the British response, President Jefferson determined to lay an embargo on all American vessels – with a subsequent Bill passed December 22, 1807.

“The embargo was a heavy blow to the ship-owning States of New England . . . the others were less affected by it. “The natural situation of this country,” says Hamilton, is to divide it interests into . . . navigating and non-navigating States. This difference in situation naturally produces a dissimilarity of interests and views respecting foreign commerce.”

Accordingly the law was received in those States with a storm of indignation. Quincy, of Massachusetts, declared in the House: “It would be as unreasonable to undertake to stop the rivers from running into the sea, as to keep the people of New England from the ocean . . .”

The doctrine of State-rights, or nullification, which afterwards became so prominent in the hands of the Southern party, was distinctly enunciated on behalf of the North on this occasion.

Governor Trumbull, of Connecticut, summoned the legislature to meet, and in his opening address to them he took the ground that, in great emergencies, when the national legislature had been led to overstep its constitutional power, it became the right and the duty of the State legislatures “to interpose their protecting shield between the rights and the liberties of the people, and the assumed power of the general government.”

They went farther and prepared to secede from the Union, and thus gave the example which has been followed, on exactly analogous grounds, by the opposite party.

John Quincy Adams declared in Congress that there was a determination to secede. “He urged that a continuance of the embargo much longer would certainly be met by forcible resistance, supported by the legislature, and probably by the judiciary of the State . . . Their object was, and had been for years, a dissolution of the Union, and the establishment of a separate confederation.”

Twenty years later, when Adams was President, the truth of this statement was impugned. At that time the tables had been turned, and the South was denying the right of Congress to legislate for the exclusive benefit of the North Eastern States, whilst these were vigorously and profitably supporting the Federal authorities.

It was important that they should not be convicted out of their own mouths, and that the doctrine they were opposing should not be shown to have been inaugurated by themselves.

(The Civil War in America: Its Place in History; Selected Writings of Lord Acton, Volume I, Essays in the History of Liberty, J. Rufus Fears, editor, Liberty Fund, 1985, excerpts pp. 231-234)

 

The Problem of Sovereignty

Regarding the location of sovereignty in the American system of government, Jefferson Davis, in his postwar “Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,” stated: “If any lingering doubt could have existed as to the reservation of their entire sovereignty by the people of the respective States when they organized the federal Union, it would have been removed by the adoption of the tenth amendment to the Constitution, which was not only one of the amendments proposed by various States when ratifying that instrument, but the particular one in which they substantially agreed, and upon which they most urgently insisted.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Problem of Sovereignty

“The fundamental issue in the writing of the Articles of Confederation was the location of the ultimate political authority, the problem of sovereignty. Should it reside in Congress or the States?

Many conservatives in 1776-1777, as in 1787, believed that Congress should have a “superintending” power over both the States and their individual citizens. They had definite reasons for such a desire.

They feared mob action and democratic rule.

The radicals, on the other hand, were fighting centralization in their attack upon the British Empire and upon the colonial governing classes, whose interests were so closely interwoven with the imperial relationship. Furthermore, the interests of the radicals were essentially local.

To them union was merely a means to their end, the independence of the several States. Hence centralization was to be opposed. Finally, the democratic theory of the time was antagonistic to any government with pretensions toward widespread dominion. Theorists believed that democratic government was impossible except within very limited areas.

Thus the conflict between those who were essentially “nationalists” and those who were forerunners of the “States rights” school.

The real significance of this controversy was obscured during the nineteenth century by historians and politicians who sought to justify the demands of rising industrialism on the central government and the Northern attitude toward the South’s secession in 1860-61.

The Southern contention that the Union was a compact between sovereign States was opposed by the contention that the Union was older than the States. North historians insisted that the first Continental Congress was a sovereign body, and that it represented the people of the United States as a whole, not the people of the several States as represented in their State governments.

To prove their contentions the Northerners cited such documents as the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution of 1787 . . . [and italicizing] to place undue emphasis on the portions of the documents which seemed to prove their arguments.

This is essentially the technique of argument used by small boys and would be unworthy of consideration had it not been so effective in shaping certain ideas which have profoundly influenced the interpretation of American history.”

(The Articles of Confederation, an Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781, Merrill Jensen, University of Wisconsin Press, 1940, excerpts pp. 161-163)

 

The South Seeks a Convention of the States

Contrary to mainstream belief, Lincoln and his Republican Party demonstrated no interest in preserving the Union and regularly spurned peace initiatives. Those who wanted to resort to the United States Constitution for a solution to the intense sectionalism in both North and South, saw a convention of the States as the method provided by the Founders. As in the peace overture noted below, all efforts to end the bloodshed of Lincoln’s war originated in the South, and all ended in failure due to Lincoln’s intransigence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South Seeks a Convention of the States

“As early as February, 1863, it was rumored that [South Carolina Representative William W. Boyce] had been advocating in secret session of the [Confederate] House [of Representatives] some form of conciliation with the Northwestern States.

When the Democratic convention, meeting at Chicago August 29, 1864, adopted a platform declaring that efforts should be made immediately for a cessation of hostilities and that a convention of the States be employed to restore peace “on the basis of the Federal union of the States,” Boyce addressed an open letter to President [Jefferson] Davis urging him to declare his willingness for an armistice and such a convention that Northwestern Democrats proposed.

In his letter of September 29 Boyce argued that a republic at war inevitably drifted into despotism . . . [through] conscription, illegally laid direct taxes, [issuing] vast quantities of paper money . . . suspended the writ of habeas corpus . . . in short, [giving] the President all the powers of a military dictator.

Nor would the evils necessarily end with the war; that would depend on the nature of the peace. “A peace without reconciliation carried in its bosom the seed of new wars.”   A peace without harmony would be a mere armed truce. Such a peace would cause the North to develop a great military power and the South would be forced to do likewise. There would then be two opposing military despotisms under which republican institutions would permanently perish.

To prevent such an outcome a peace of harmony must be negotiated with the United States. In bringing this to pass a successful military policy was essential but it was not enough; it must be accompanied by a political policy, a political policy which could not succeed if Lincoln, representing the fanaticism of the North, were returned to the White House.

The South’s only hope for a satisfactory peace, therefore, lay in the victory [in November 1864] of the Northern Democratic Party which should be encouraged in every possible way. [Boyce’s advice was to] . . . Assure [Northern Democrats] of the South’s willingness to cooperate in a convention of the States, and let South cooperate even if an amendment of the Constitution be necessary for that purpose. Such a convention would be the “highest acknowledgment” of State rights principles.”

(South Carolina Goes to War, Charles Edward Cauthen, University of South Carolina Press, 1950, 1860-1865, excerpts, pp. 217-218)

 

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