Browsing "The United States Constitution"

Great Americans Amid a Great Crisis

While the Republican party reveled in its plurality victory and avoided any compromise in order to maintain party unity, Unionists like Jefferson Davis emulated great American leaders of earlier times in challenging Congress to meet the crisis and save the creation of the Founders. 

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Great Americans Amid a Great Crisis  

“Jefferson Davis, in his farewell address to the United States Senate, expressed the sentiments of Virginia . . . when he said:

“Now sir, we are confusing language very much. Men speak of revolution; and when they say revolution, they mean blood. Our fathers meant nothing of the sort. When they spoke of revolution, they meant the inalienable right.

When they declared as an inalienable right, the power of the people to abrogate and modify their form of government whenever it did not answer the ends for which it was established, they did not mean that they were to sustain that by brute force . . . Are we, in this age of civilization and political progress . . . are we to roll back the whole current of human thought and again return to the mere brute force which prevails between beasts of prey as the only method of settling questions between men?

Is it to be supposed that the men who fought the battles of the Revolution for community independence, terminated their great efforts by transmitting prosperity to a condition in which they could only gain those rights by force?  If so, the blood of the Revolution was shed in vain; no great principles were established; for force was the law of nature before the battles of the Revolution were fought.”

Robert E. Lee, writing on the 23rd of January, 1861, said:

“Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom and forbearance in its formation and surrounded it with so many guards and securities if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will . . . Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me. If the Union is dissolved and the Government disrupted, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people — and save in defense (of Virginia) will draw my sword on none.”

George Baylor, speaking on the 1st of March 1861 in the Virginia Convention, said:

“I have said, Mr. President, that I did not believe in the right of secession. But whilst I make that assertion, I also say that I am opposed to coercion on the part of the Federal Government with the view of bringing the seceded States back into the Union . . . I am opposed to it first because I cannot find any authority in the Constitution of the United States delegating that power to the Federal Government, and second, because if the Federal Government had the power it would be wrong to use it.”

John Quincy Adams, speaking before the New York Historical Society in 1839, on the 50th Anniversary of Washington’s inauguration as President of the United States, said:

“To the people alone there is reserved as well the dissolving as the constituent power, and that power can be exercised by them only under the tie of conscience binding them to the retributive justice of Heaven.

With those qualifications we may admit the right as vested in the people of every State of the Union with reference to the General Government which was exercised by the people of the United Colonies with reference to the supreme head of the British Empire of which they formed a part, and under these limitations have the people of each State of the Union a right to secede from the Confederated Union itself.”

(Virginia’s Attitude Toward Secession, Beverley B. Munford, L.H. Jenkins, Richmond, VA, 1909, pp. 294-295)

 

 

Unrestricted Presidential Foreign Policy

Eisenhower was an internationalist and moved ahead of conservative Robert A. Taft for that reason by the GOP leadership in 1951. This successor to FDR and Truman would not relinquish control of United States foreign policy to Congress and helped organize opposition to the Bricker Amendment in 1953. For reference, Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution provides that the President “shall have the Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Unrestricted Presidential Foreign Policy

“[Eisenhower] usually had Democratic support for an activist, presidentially-dominated foreign policy. Many of his fellow Republicans, however, had a lingering fear from the Roosevelt-Truman years of the chief executive’s preeminence in international affairs. Such Republicans – basically the Midwestern and Western, formerly [Robert A. Taft supporter], element in the GOP – furnished most of the support for the effort to limit presidential power in foreign policy. That effort took the form of the Bricker Amendment.

As early as 1951 Republican Senator John Bricker of Ohio had introduced a constitutional amendment which, though taking several different forms over the next three years, retained three main provisions: (1) The executive branch could enter into no treaty that conflicted with the Constitution. (2) Any treaty, to become effective as internal law in the United States, must have supporting legislation “which would be valid in the absence of a treaty.” (3) In addition to the constitutional requirement that two-thirds of the Senate must approve a treaty, Congress would gain the power to reject or regulate all executive agreements with foreign countries just as if they were formal treaties.

Although Bricker had originally offered his amendment out of opposition to Democrat foreign policy, especially the Yalta agreements, he revived the measure early in the Eisenhower administration with the backing of a majority of Republican senators. The amendment also had the support of the American Bar Association, the American Legion, the American Medical Association, and other powerful organizations.

It was the second article . . . evocation of States’ rights — that generated the greatest controversy, rallied the opposition in both parties, and eventually caused the amendment’s demise. The administration could charge that the “which” clause, by forcing the State Department to square every treaty with existing laws in every State, would reduce foreign policy to its feeble condition under the Articles of Confederation.

Contenting himself with platitudes and suggestions for compromise, Eisenhower shrewdly left the major attack on the Bricker Amendment in the hands of the State Department. Privately . . . Eisenhower exploded, “I’m so sick of this I could scream. The whole damn thing is senseless and plain damaging to the prestige of the United States.”

As the debate over the amendment dragged through 1953 into the next year, the administration finally succeeded in organizing the “internationalist” opposition inside and outside Congress. In the end the administration narrowly won its case [and defeated the amendment].

The failure of the Bricker Amendment left the Eisenhower administration with a relatively free hand in foreign policy. Building upon the inherited frameworks of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organization of American States (OAS), the ANZUS treaty with Australia and New Zealand, and various bilateral pacts, Secretary [John Foster] Dulles brought into being an elaborate global system of alliances. Supplemented by more bilateral treaties, the expanded American alliance system encircled and pointed SAC’s nuclear power at the hearts of the Soviet Union and mainland China.

Moreover, while they paid more heed to congressional opinion than would their successors, the President and Secretary of State were usually able to commit American armed forces whenever and wherever they perceived a threat to the global status quo.

Finally, the Central Intelligence Agency, with Eisenhower’s full approval and indeed enthusiastic support, vastly broadened its role and functions. Under Director Allen Dulles the CIA went beyond its original statutory responsibility for gathering data on conditions in foreign countries (i.e., espionage) and became a powerful instrument for implementing American policy and objectives.

On a number of occasions the CIA intervened clandestinely in the internal politics of other nations, sometimes to shore up shaky regimes favored by the United States, or at times to subvert and overthrow objectionable governments. The first occasion was in Iran within six months after Eisenhower entered the White House . . . [when] key portions of the American national security bureaucracy had come not only to share the British view of overthrowing [Mohammed] Mossadeq was necessary to insure Western access to Iranian oil, but to believe that Mossadeq was sympathetic to his country’s Marxist Tudeh party and was moving into the Soviet orbit.

After Mossadeq refused to give in to the new administration’s threats to withdraw its aid, the CIA began working undercover to bring him down. Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and the CIA’s top covert agent in the Middle East, operated closely with the American Military Assistance Mission in Tehran, the Iranian capital.

Late in August the Mossadeq government capitulated, [pro-Western Shah Mohammed Riza Pahlevi] made a triumphant return, and an army general friendly to the Western powers was installed as premier.”

(Holding the Line: The Eisenhower Era, 1952-1961, Charles C. Alexander, Indiana University Press, 1975, pp. 71-74)

 

Indispensable African Slaves

In his message to Congress on 29 April 1861, President Jefferson Davis cited the Northern threat to the South’s labor system as a cause of withdrawal from political union with the North. The murderous raid of John Brown in 1859 had convinced the South of the North’s violent intentions, which were supported by influential and wealthy men.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Indispensable African Slaves

“As soon . . . as the Northern States that prohibited African slavery within their limits had reached a number sufficient to give their representation a controlling voice in the Congress, a persistent and organized system of hostile measures against the rights of the owners of slaves in the southern States was inaugurated and gradually extended. A continuous series of measures was devised and prosecuted for the purpose of rendering insecure the tenure of property in slaves . . .

Senators and Representatives were sent to the common councils of the nation, whose chief title to this distinction consisted in the display of a spirit of ultra-fanaticism, and whose business was . . . to awaken the bitterest hatred against the citizens of sister States, by violent denunciation of their institutions; the transaction of public affairs was impeded by repeated efforts to usurp powers not delegated by the Constitution, for the purpose of . . . reducing those States which held slaves to a condition of inferiority.

In the meantime, the African slaves had augmented in number from about 600,000, at the date of the adoption of the constitutional compact, to upward of 4,000,000. In moral and social condition they had been elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent and civilized agricultural laborers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts but with careful religious instruction.

Under the supervision of a superior race, their labor had been so directed as not only to allow a gradual and marked amelioration of their own condition, but to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of the wilderness into cultivated lands covered with a prosperous people; towns and cities had sprung into existence, and had rapidly increased in wealth and population under the social system of the South . . . and the productions of cotton, sugar, and tobacco, for the full development and continuance of which the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable, had swollen to an amount which formed nearly three-fourths of the exports of the whole United States and had become absolutely necessary to the wants of civilized man.

With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced.”

(The Causes of the Civil War, Kenneth M. Stampp, editor, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1965, pp. 134-135)

States Rights' Cornerstone of the Republic

Barry Goldwater criticized both Eisenhower and Nixon for claiming to be conservatives on economic issues but liberals when it comes to human problems. Goldwater believed that man “cannot be economically free, or even economically efficient,  if he is enslaved politically; conversely, a man’s political freedom is illusory if he is dependent for his economic needs on the state.” As the Founders’ believed, the State’s were the bulwark against an oppressive federal government in the hands of political opportunists.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

States’ Rights Cornerstone of the Republic

“The Governor of New York, in 1930, pointed out that the Constitution does not empower the Congress to deal with “a great number of vital problems of government, such as the conduct of public utilities, of banks, of insurance, of business, of agriculture, of education, of social welfare, and a dozen other important features.” And he added that “Washington must not be encouraged to interfere” in those areas.

Franklin Roosevelt’s rapid conversion from Constitutionalism to the doctrine of unlimited government is an oft-told story. But I am here concerned not so much by the abandonment of States’ Rights by the national Democratic Party – an event that occurred some years ago when the party was captured by the Socialist ideologues in and about the labor movement – as by the unmistakable tendency of the Republican Party to adopt the same course.

The result is that today neither of our two parties maintains a meaningful commitment to the principle of States’ Rights. Thus, the cornerstone of the Republic, our chief bulwark against the encroachment of individual freedom by Big Government, is fast disappearing under the piling sands of absolutism. The Republican Party, to be sure, gives lip service to States’ Rights. We often talk about “returning to the States their rightful powers”; the Administration has even gone so far as to sponsor a federal-State conference on the problem.

But deeds are what count, and I regret to say that in actual practice, the Republican Party, like the Democratic Party, summons the coercive power of the federal government whenever national leaders conclude that the States are not performing satisfactorily. Let us focus attention on one method of federal interference — one that tends to be neglected in much of the public discussion of the problem. In recent years, the federal government has continued, and in many cases, has increased, federal “grants-in-aid” to the States in a number of areas in which the Constitution recognizes the exclusive jurisdiction of the States.

These grants are called “matching funds” and are designed to “stimulate” State spending in health, education, welfare, conservation, or any other area in which the federal government decides there is a need for national action. If the States agree to put up money for these purposes, the federal government undertakes to match the appropriation according to a ratio prescribed by Congress. Sometimes the ratio is fifty-fifty; often the federal government contributes over half the cost. There are two things to note about these programs. The first is that they are federal programs – they are conceived by the federal government both as to purpose and as to extent.

The second is that the “simulative” grants are, in effect, a mixture of blackmail and bribery. The States are told to go along with the program “or else.” Once the federal government has offered matching funds, it is unlikely, as a practical matter, that a member of a State Legislature will turn down his State’s fair share of revenue collected from all of the State. Understandably, many legislators feel that to refuse aid would be political suicide. This is an indirect form of coercion, but it is effective nonetheless.

A more direct method of coercion is for the federal government to threaten to move in unless State governments take action that Washington deems appropriate. Not so long ago, for example, the Secretary of Labor gave the States a lecture on the wisdom of enacting “up-to-date” unemployment compensation laws. He made no effort to disguise the alternative: if the States failed to act, the federal government would. Here are some examples of the “simulative” approach. Late in 1957 a “Joint Federal-State Action Committee” recommended that certain matching funds be “returned” to the States on the scarcely disguised grounds that the States, in the view of the Committee, had learned to live up to their responsibilities.

These are the areas in which the States were learning to behave: “vocational education” programs in agriculture, home economics, practical nursing, and the fisheries trade; local sewage projects; slum clearance and urban renewal; and enforcement of health and safety standards in connection with the atomic energy program. Now the point is not that Congress failed to act on these recommendations, or that the Administration gave them only half-hearted support; but rather that the federal government had no business entering these fields in the first place, and thus had no business taking upon itself the prerogative of judging the States’ performance.

The Republican Party should have said this plainly and forthrightly and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the federal government. We can best understand our error, I think, by examining the theory behind it. I have already alluded to the book, “A Republican Looks at His Party,” which is an elaborate rationalization of the “Modern Republican” approach to current problems. (It does the job just as well, I might add, for the Democrats’ approach.)

Mr. Larson devotes a good deal of space to the question of States’ Rights, thanks to the Tenth Amendment, this presumption must give way whenever it appears to the federal authorities that the States are not responding satisfactorily to “the needs of the people.’ This is a paraphrase of his position, but not, I think, an unjust one. And if this approach appears to be a high handed way of dealing with an explicit constitutional provision,

Mr. Larson justifies the argument by summoning the concept that “for every right there is a corresponding duty.” “When we speak of States’ Rights,” he writes, “we should never forget to add that there go with those rights the corresponding States’ responsibilities.” Therefore, he concluded, if the States fail to do their duty, they have only themselves to blame when the federal government intervenes.

The trouble with this argument is that it treats the Constitution of the United States as a kind of handbook in political theory, to be heeded or ignored depending on how it fits the plans of contemporary federal officials. The Tenth Amendment is not “a general assumption, ” but a prohibitory rule of law. The Tenth Amendment recognizes the States’ jurisdiction in certain areas. State’ Rights means that the States have a right to act or not to act, as they see fit, in the areas reserved to them.

The States may have duties corresponding to these rights, but the duties are owed to the people of the States, not to the federal government. Therefore, the recourse lies not with the federal government, which is not sovereign, but with the people who are, and who have full power to take disciplinary action. If the people are unhappy with say, their States’ disability insurance program, they can bring pressure to bear on their State officials and, if that fails, they can elect a new set of officials.

And if, in the unhappy event they should wish to divest themselves of this responsibility, they can amend the Constitution. The Constitution, I repeat, draws a sharp and clear line between federal jurisdiction and State jurisdiction. The federal government’s failure to recognize that the line has been a crushing blow to the principle of limited government. But again, I caution against a defensive, or apologetic, appeal to the Constitution. There is a reason for its reservation of States’ Rights.

Not only does it prevent the accumulation of power in a central government that is remote from the people and relatively immune from popular restraints; it also recognizes the principle that essentially local problems are best dealt with by the people most directly concerned. Who knows better than New Yorkers how much and what kind of publicity-financed slum clearance in New York City is needed and can be afforded? Who knows better than Nebraskans whether that State has an adequate nursing program? Who knows better than Arizonans the kind of school program that is needed to educate their children? The people of my own State – and I am confident that I speak for the majority of them — have long since seen through the spurious suggestion that federal aid comes “free.”

They know that the money comes out of their own pockets, and is returned to them minus a broker’s fee taken by the federal bureaucracy. They know, too, that the power to decide how that money shall be spent is withdrawn from them and exercised by some planning board deep in the caverns of one of the federal agencies. They understand this represents a great and perhaps irreparable loss — not only in their wealth, but also in their priceless liberty. Nothing could so far advance the cause of freedom as for State officials throughout the land to assert their rightful claims to lost State power; and for the federal government to withdraw promptly and totally from every jurisdiction which the Constitution reserves to the States.”

(The Conscience of a Conservative, Barry Goldwater, Victor Publishing Company, 1960, pp. 24-30))

 

Opposition to Crusading Programs of Some People

Federal aid to education had its beginnings in post-WW2 bills to assist local schools dealing with the increase of students caused by nearby military bases, and thus spurring a long-range policy of general aid to schools throughout the country followed by federal interference and control. Congressman Graham A. Barden of New Bern, North Carolina supported federal aid but without federal control.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Opposition to Crusading Programs of Some People

“Although Congress adjourned in 1950 without enacting a comprehensive aid program, Barden remained convinced that the public school system in most States were in great need of assistance . . . However, he was still insistent that the “Federal government must not have anything to do with the running of the schools” and that “tax money should go for public schools only.” While announcing his intention to continue work for Federal aid, he could not compromise on these two points.

Representative Jacob Javits questioned whether Federal funds could be used legally by segregated public schools. Barden, who was floor manager for the [H.R.5411] bill, heatedly replied that the question of segregated schools in the Carolinas was not the business of the congressman from New York.

All the bill did, Barden asserted, was to set up a system “that could operate without friction in the State in which it was located and become an integral part of the State, and not be part of any of these crusading programs that some people are so anxious to establish in the Country.” He suspected that Javits was simply creating dissension with the aim of settling nothing.

The President [Truman] said that the purpose of Barden’s bill was meritorious, but he objected to the provision requiring schools to conform to State laws . . . Baden was disappointed by Truman’s action because he believed that without the section to which the President objected, the bill’s passage would have been impossible.

Far more disturbing to the congressman than Republican control of Congress was the opinion of Chief Justice Earl Warren in Brown v. Board of Education . . . [and] many Southerners began to have second thoughts about Federal aid programs of all types. The decision probably accounted for Barden’s sudden disinterest in Federal aid. Immediately following the decision he wrote:

“The decision came as such a shock to us that as yet we aren’t able to evaluate all of its far-flung ramifications . . . I believe the decision was unwise, inappropriate and ill-timed, and it appears that political considerations were a controlling influence on the decree.”

With the Court’s decisions, knowing that Federal interference was bound to follow, he turned against the crusade for an aid program. He had always been opposed to Federal control, and perhaps as early as 1954 he clearly saw that Federal money would be the chief means of bringing . . . involvement by the Federal government in operation of the schools in the Southern States.

Because the Brown case dealt with racial matters, a lot of superficial analysts glibly checked off Barden’s opposition to Federal aid as being racially motivated. Their judgment was unsound. If the Brown case had dealt with something such as curriculum content, textbook selection or the like, his opposition would have been the same. What turned him off was not race, but the firm conviction that with Federal dollars came Federal regulators to interfere with the operation of the local schools.”

(Graham A. Barden, Conservative Carolina Congressman, Elmer L. Puryear, Campbell University Press, 1979, excerpts, pp. 101-108)

Civil Rights and Extending Executive Power

Barry Goldwater called so-called “civil rights” one of the most badly misunderstood concepts in modern political usage. He states that “as often as not, it is simply a name for describing an activity that someone deems politically or socially desirable. A sociologist writes a paper proposing to abolish some inequity, or a politician makes a speech about it – and, behold, a new “civil right” is born! The Supreme Court has displayed the same creative powers.”  Below, George Wallace predicts the true result of a so-called “civil rights” bill.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Civil Rights and Extending Executive Power

“I took off for my western tour in January 1964. I called the civil rights bill “the involuntary servitude act of 1964,” and I was applauded frequently. Outside a line of pickets carried the usual signs.

A reporter from India began to attack the South and its customs. He did not ask questions, he made accusations. I stopped him promptly. “I suggest you go home to India and work to end the rigid caste system before you criticize my part of the United States. In India a higher caste will not even deign to shake hands with a lower caste. Yet you cannot see the hypocrisy in your double standard.”

It was at UCLA that I told the press, “You know, free speech can get you killed.” My security advisors had warned me that I would have a difficult time and probably wouldn’t be allowed to finish my speech. We entered the auditorium from the rear to avoid a confrontation with the “non-violent” protesters. These “free-speech” advocates were there to make certain I didnt have an opportunity to exercise my right to free speech.

As I expected, most of the students had never read the [proposed] civil rights bill and didn’t know that its passage meant the right of the federal government to control numerous aspects of business, industry and our personal lives. I quoted Lloyd Wright, a Los Angeles attorney and former president of the American Bar Association: “The civil rights aspect of this legislation is but a cloak. Uncontrolled federal executive power is the body. It is 10 per cent civil rights and 90 per cent extension of the federal executive power.”

I denounced lawmaking by executive or court edict. And I lashed out against the press for its eagerness to bury a public official with smearing propaganda. I pointed out that the civil rights bill placed “in the hands of a few men in central government the power to create regulatory police arm unequaled in Western civilization.”

During one of my speaking engagements, a reporter asked me, “Do you have an alternative to the civil rights bill? This was an easy one. “Yes sir, the U.S. Constitution. It guarantees civil rights to all people, without violating the rights of anyone.”

I believe George Washington would have had words to say about the civil rights bill and the growing power of the federal government. These words from his Farewell Address are significant today:

“It is important, likewise, that [leaders] should confine themselves within their respective Constitutional spheres, avoiding, in the exercise of those powers of one department, to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism.”

(Stand Up For America, George C. Wallace, Doubleday & Company, 1976, pp. 84-89)

Becoming a Great National Consolidated Democracy

On February 19, 1847, Senator John C. Calhoun stated that “the day that the [political] equilibrium between the two sections of the country . . . is destroyed is a day that will not be far removed from political revolution, anarchy, civil war, and widespread disaster.” On the next day he said: “We know what we are about, we foresee what is coming, and move with no other purpose but to protect our portion of the Union from the greatest of calamities . . . ”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Becoming a Great National Consolidated Democracy

“But while [territorial acquisition, immigration and political representation] measures were destroying the equilibrium between the two sections, the action of the government was leading to a radical change in its character, by concentrating all the power of the system in itself.

[It] would not be difficult to show that the process commenced at an early period of the government, and that it proceeded, almost without interruption, step by step, until it absorbed virtually its entire powers . . . That the government claims, and practically maintains, the right to decide in the last resort, as to the extent of its powers, will scarcely be denied by any one conversant with the political history of the country.

That it also claims the right to resort to force to maintain whatever power it claims, against all opposition, is equally certain. Indeed, it is apparent, from what we daily hear, that this has become the prevailing and fixed opinion of a great majority of the community. Now, I ask, what limitation can possibly be placed upon the powers of a government claiming and exercising such rights?

And, if none can be, how can the separate governments of the States maintain and protect the powers reserved to them by the Constitution, or the people of the several States maintain those which are reserved to them, and, among others, the sovereign powers by which they ordained and established not only their separate State Constitutions and governments, but also the Constitution and government of the United States?

But, if they have no constitutional means of maintaining them against the right claimed by this government, it necessarily follows that they hold them at its pleasure and discretion, and that all the powers of the system are in reality concentrated in it. It also follows that the character of the government has been changed in consequence from a federal republic, as it originally came from the hands of the framers, into a great national consolidated democracy.

It has indeed, at present, all the characteristics of the latter, and not one of the former, although it still retains its outward form.”

(The Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1903, pp. 178-179)

Jefferson's Debatable Equality

Jefferson’s idealistic preamble passage regarding “all men are created equal” has been problemmatic though most agree that creation is where the equality ends — subsequent political equality is established by men.  Regarding the status of blacks at the time of the Constitution being ratifed, Chief Justice Taney found in his Dred Scott decision that Africans were indeed persons but not included in “the political people” of the United States and without standing as citizens. New York’s 1821 suffrage requirement for blacks mentioned below is considered by many to be the origin of “Jim Crow Laws.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Jefferson’s Debatable Equality

“In one matter [of antebellum views of democracy] there was a definite reactionary movement. This was the issue of free Negro suffrage. Virginia and North Carolina joined Maryland and Kentucky in taking from the free Negro the ballot he had theretofore possessed. In like manner, all new States of the period, North as well as South, denied suffrage to free Negroes.

The action of the old Southern States was paralleled by that of the Northern States. Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania took the ballot from the Negro. And New York in 1821 limited Negro suffrage by requiring that he possess a freehold valued at two hundred and fifty dollars over and above all indebtedness. Hence only five of the Northern States granted equal suffrage to Negroes.

Whether or not Jefferson, Mason, and other Revolutionary proponents of natural rights philosophy intended to include Negroes in the statement “all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights” is a debatable question, but in actual practice the American people had decided by their constitutional provisions that Negroes were not included in the political people. From the very day of the Declaration of Independence the race problem had caused the American people to make an exception to the doctrine that “all men are created equal.”

(Fletcher M. Green, Democracy in the Old South, paper written for the 1945 Southern Historical Association presidential address. The Pursuit of Southern History, George Brown Tindall, editor, LSU Press, 1964, pp. 186-187)

Federal Government as an Ideal

Federal Government as an Ideal

“I wish, however, to enter my protest against that interpretation of American history that would make the Southern States the anvil on which federal government wrought out its greatest victory. This widespread misconception of our history implies that there were two sections in the United States, one seeking to uphold federal government, the other to overthrow it. That is not true.

Federal government as a principle, as an ideal, was not at stake, but only a particular form of federal government.

The first paragraph of the Constitution of the United States declares that we, the people of the United States, do ordain and establish this Constitution “in order to form a more perfect union.”

The first paragraph of the Constitution of the Confederate States of America declares that we, the people of the Confederate States, do ordain and establish this Constitution “in order to from a more permanent federal government.”

Scrutinize these two paragraphs as you will, the advantage for federal government as an ideal does not lie with the first.”

(Our Heritage of Idealism, C. Alphonso Smith, Address (excerpt) delivered at the University of South Carolina, January 11, 1912)

North Carolina Fears a Pagan Congress

North Carolinians were not alone in fearing the consolidationist tendencies under the proposed Constitution, and held out for amendments rather than taking someone’s word. It was made very clear that religious tests and political office did not include Muslims or Hindu’s, nor were pagans desired in the halls of government. North Carolina’s proposed amendment of a two-thirds majority to determine if a State was in rebellion would have perplexed a president 70-some years later.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

North Carolina Fears a Pagan Congress

“The anti-federalist plan as introduced by [Willie] Jones, which was a refusal to ratify [the Constitution] until certain amendments were added, appears in the records when the committee of the whole reported to the convention. While the discussion of this motion [to ratify] was in progress, Willie Jones stated that Jefferson wished nine States to ratify the Constitution to preserve the union, but he wanted the other four to reject it to make certain that the amendments would be added.

Jones said it would probably take about eighteen months to have the amendments ratified, but he had “rather be eighteen years out of the Union than adopt it in its present form.”  The North Carolina anti-federalists felt that, since their proposed amendments were so similar to those of Virginia, they would have the support of that State in urging their acceptance, and in North Carolina’s favorable reception when it wished to enter the union.

The last clause of the Constitution which occasioned debate in the committee was the one prohibiting religious tests for public offices. The delegate who opened the discussion was Henry Abbott, a Baptist elder from Anson [county] who voted with the federalists . . . [who] said that some persons were afraid that, should the Constitution be put into effect, they would be deprived of the privilege of worshipping God according to their consciences, which would be denying them a benefit they enjoyed under the existing [Articles of Confederation].

He said he wished to know what religion would be established. For his part, he was against any exclusive establishment, but if there were any he preferred the Episcopal. Many thought that the prohibition of religious tests was dangerous and impolitic. They supposed that if there were no religious test required, pagans, deists and Mahometans might obtain office, and that the senators and representatives might be all pagans.

It is well to note the additional amendments desired by the North Carolina anti-federalists, for they relate to the special interests of that State. In order to safeguard independent action, one amendment proposed that Congress should not declare any State to be in rebellion without the consent of at least two-thirds of all the members present in both houses. Another, showing the fear of commercial interests, provided that Congress should authorize no company of merchants with exclusive privileges.

(Ratification of the Federal Constitution in North Carolina, Louise Irby Trenholme, Columbia University Press, 1932, pp. 178-184)

 

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