Browsing "The United States Constitution"

New England Contemplates Secession in 1786

The Constitution which replaced the Articles of Confederation was a New England-inspired initiative intended to have a centralized government better protect its commercial and maritime interests. Had the South not compromised on that Constitution, it is likely New England would have seceded from the Confederation to form their own commercial union with its neighboring States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England Contemplates Secession in 1786

“In view of the sectional troubles which arose during the War of Independence and continued into the period of the [Articles of] Confederation, it is not surprising that the proposed admission of new States also caused sectional dissention. Southern opposition helped prevent the admission of Vermont; and Northerners became concerned as it became ever more likely that Kentucky would seek to be recognized as a State.

If, in the years 1785-1786, when economic depression afflicted the entire Confederation, Southerners were unhappy because Northerners were lukewarm or hostile to Southern expansion, Northerners were discontented because Southerners were neutral toward or opposed to measures which would have benefited the maritime trade of the North.

Merchants of New England and the Middle States wanted protection for their shipping against British competition, especially after Parliament decided to treat the Americans as foreigners and applied the British navigation laws to them. Accordingly, New England sought to amend the Articles of Confederation so as to give Congress powers to regulate interstate and foreign commerce and to levy import and export duties toward that end.

Even though the proceeds of these taxes were to go to the States in which they were collected and power to cut off commerce was expressly reserved to them, Southerners in Congress, especially Virginians, objected strenuously. Members of the Virginia legislature also evidently protested.

They feared that Congress would use these powers to prevent British ships from coming to Southern shores and so to confer upon Northern shipowners a monopoly of the Southern overseas traffic. Certainly the Yankees wished to get as much of that business as they could; and American shipping was concentrated in the Northern ports, being relatively scarce in the Southern ones.

Indeed, by 1786, it had become seemingly impossible to make changes in the Articles of Confederation, these requiring both action by Congress and the sanction of all thirteen State legislatures. In August of that year when James Monroe reported that New Englanders were considering the formation of a separate union, he was not entirely in error. Wrote Yankee Theodore Sedgwick on the 6th of that month:

“It well becomes the [north]eastern and middle States, who are in interest one, seriously to consider what advantages result to them from their connection with the Southern States. They can give us nothing, as an equivalent for the protection which they desire from us but a participation in their commerce. Even the appearance of a union cannot in the way we now are long to be preserved. It becomes us seriously to contemplate a substitute.”

(The First South, John Richard Alden, LSU Press, 1961, excerpt, pp. 69-72)

Citizens of the States

John C. Calhoun noted that the claim of supremacy by the federal government “will be scarcely denied by anyone conversant with the political history of the country.” He then asked “what limitation can possibly be placed upon the powers of a government claiming and exercising such rights.” The case of State citizenship prior to the War, which few denied and which caused Southern men to view supreme allegiance to their particular States, is one that changed in 1865. Afterward, the central government viewed all as citizens of the United States, a revolutionary legal definition with no basis in the United States Constitution. As an example of State subordination to federal domination, the word “state” is not capitalized as it once was.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Citizens of the States

“The Senator from Delaware (Mr. Clayton), as well as others, has relied with great emphasis on the fact that we are citizens of the United States. I do not object to the expression, nor shall I detract from the proud and elevated feelings with which it is associated; but I trust that I may be permitted to raise the inquiry:

In what manner are we citizens of the United States without weakening the patriotic feeling with which, I trust, it will ever be uttered?

If by citizen of the United States he means a citizen at large, one whose citizenship extends to the entire geographical limits of the country, without having local citizenship in some State or territory, a sort of citizen of the world, all I have to say is, that such a citizen would be a perfect nondescript; that not a single individual of this description can be found in the entire mass of our population.

Notwithstanding all the pomp and display of eloquence of the occasion, every citizen is a citizen of some State or territory, and, as such, under an express provision of the constitution, is entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and it is in this, and in no other sense, that we are citizens of the United States.

The Senator from Pennsylvania (Mr. Dallas), indeed, relied upon that provision in the constitution which gives Congress the power to establish [a] uniform rule of naturalization; and the operation of the rule actually established under this authority, to prove that naturalized citizens are citizens at large, without being citizens of any of the States.

I do not deem it necessary to examine the law of Congress upon this subject . . . though I cannot doubt that he (Mr. D.] has taken an erroneous view of the subject.

It is sufficient that the power of Congress extends simply to the establishment of a uniform rule by which foreigners may be naturalized in the several states or territories, without infringing, in any other respect, in reference to naturalization, the rights of the States as they existed before the adoption of the constitution.”

(Union and Liberty: the Political Philosophy of John C. Calhoun; Ross M. Lence, editor, Liberty Fund, 1992, excerpt, pp. 443-444)

The Universal Principles of Free Societies

The framers of the Articles of Confederation, our first constitution, had no intention of re-creating in America a form of centralized government like that they were fighting to overthrow. There is no doubt that they believed in the independence and equality of the State legislatures, which were close to the people represented. The framers of the subsequent Constitution were of the same mind, and the creation of the Bill of Rights underscored their fear of centralized government – and the Tenth Amendment was inserted for a reason. That amendment in execution is as simple as its words: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The destruction of Southern governments between 1861-65 was simply the overthrow of the latter Constitution by illegal usurpations by Lincoln; in supporting those usurpations, the Northern States lost their freedom and independence as well.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Universal Principle of Free Societies

“States’ rights? You can’t be serious! What do you want to do – restore Jim Crow or bring back slavery?” Any serious discussion of the American republic comes aground on this rock, and it does not matter which kind of liberal is expressing the obligatory shock and dismay . . . looking for ways to pander and slander his way, if not to fame and fortune, then at least to expense account lunches and regular appearances on C-SPAN.

Even out here on the frontier, every hicktown mayor and two-bit caporegime knows how to scream racism whenever the rubes get in the way of some vast public works project that promises an endless supply of lovely tax boodle.

In my wild youth – a period which, for Republicans, only ends in the mid-40s – I used to make historical and constitutional arguments to show the agreement with Adams and Jefferson on the limited powers of the national government. I would cite the opinion of Northern Jeffersonians and point to the example of Yankee Federalists who plotted secession (in the midst of war) at the Hartford Convention of 1814, but the argument always came back to race.

No one in American history ever did anything, apparently, without intending to dominate and degrade women, Indians and homosexuals. This reducto ad KKK is not confined to the political left; it is practiced shamelessly by right-to-lifers who equate Roe vs Wade with Dred Scott and by most of the disciples of one or another of the German gurus who tried to redefine the American conservative mind.

States’ rights, home rule, private schools, and freedom of association are all codewords for racism, and when someone aspiring to public office is discovered to be a member of a restricted or quasi-restricted country club, instead of telling the press to mind their own business, he denounces himself for right-wing deviationism, fascism, and ethnic terrorism.

He resigns immediately – thus insulting all his friends in the club who are now de facto bigots – and begs forgiveness. So long as a group is “Southern” or “Anglo” or “hetero” or even exclusively Christian, it is a target, and then the inevitable attack does come, many of the members run for cover, eager to be the first to find safety by denouncing their former allies.

The great mistake the right has made, all these years, is to go on the defensive. The federal principle that is illustrated by the traditional American insistence upon the rights of the States is not only ancient and honorable: It is, in fact, a universal principle of free societies and an expression of the most basic needs of our human nature.

To defend, for example, the Tenth Amendment is a futile gesture if we do not at the same time challenge leftists to justify the monopolization of power by a tiny oligarchy. Under “leftist” I include, in very crude terms, anyone who supports the New Deal, the welfare state, and the usurped powers of the federal courts. It is they who, as lackeys of a regime that has deprived families and communities of their responsibilities and liberties, should be in the dock explaining their record as wreckers of society and destroyers of civilization.”

(The Great American Purge, Thomas Fleming, Chronicles, April 1999, excerpts, pp. 10-11)

 

Judicial Overthrow of State Governments

The framers of our second constitution in 1787, as they did in their previous Articles of Confederation, clearly intended to protect their States, and their citizens, from an oppressive central government like the one they had just freed themselves from. And in no way would they have wanted a federal agent intruding into State domains and forced compliance with regulations formulated by distant bureaucrats. With an all-powerful federal bureaucracy emerging victorious in 1865, no State – North or South – could dare challenge the federal interpretation of the Constitution or what passed for federal law.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circ a1865.com

 

Judicial Overthrow of State Governments

“Two hundred and eight years ago, when the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, there was general agreement with its text: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Two hundred and eight years ago, Americans thought of themselves as citizens of their States first, and only secondarily as citizens of a national federation. Now it is unclear that most Americans are aware of the Tenth Amendment, let alone the principle that the federal government is supposed to be one of limited and enumerated powers.

How did we come to this pass? Is there any hope that the federal courts will once again read the Constitution and, at least to the extent implied by that document, resurrect something of the doctrine of States’ rights? [Even] Washington, Hamilton and Madison would have been astonished at present-day incursions of the central government and its courts.

Passed after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment was originally designed to allow newly freed blacks to own property and to make contracts. But it became a tool, in the hands of mid-20th century federal courts, to impose a centralized, secularized and egalitarian social system on the entire nation.

Federal judges began to read the 14th Amendment provisions that no State should be permitted to deprive any person of the “equal protection of the laws” nor to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without “due process” as a license to turn the restrictions of the Bill of Rights against the States and to set up strict rules about which State policies were permissible and which were not.

With the scantiest evidence, and in the face of overwhelming data to the contrary, the Supreme Court declared that the 14th Amendment was designed to “incorporate” at least some, and perhaps all, of the protections of the Bill of Rights against State governments.

There is no doubt that the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, had been drafted in the late 18th century in order to reassure the proponents of strong State governments that the federal government would not infringe on the sovereignty of the States or their people. Without even acknowledging the usurpation, the federal courts turned the Bill of Rights into a tool to reduce radically the discretion of the State governments.

The First Amendment clearly provides, for example, that “Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech . . . or regarding an establishment of religion,” but the congressional prohibition was soon read – blatantly contrary to the intention of the frames of the Bill of Rights, if not the framers of the 14th Amendment itself – to extend to State legislatures and officials as well.

It may be too late to save State sovereignty and the original intention of the Constitution. A slew of bold supreme Court appointments by a conservative Republican president might help, but so far only Justices Thomas and Scalia, and occasionally Justice Rehnquist, have acknowledged that the Court has been operating for one or two generations in clearly unconstitutional territory.”

(Sisyphus and States’ Rights, Stephen B. Presser; Chronicles, April 1999, excerpt, pg. 13-14)

 

“In Defense of Their Traditional Liberties”

In his May 1, 1861 message to the North Carolina General Assembly, Governor John Ellis of referred to the “Northern Government” and that “they have drawn the sword against us and are now seeking our blood. They have promised to partition our property and the earnings of our people among the mercenary soldiers after our subjugation shall be effected. All fraternity of feeling is lost between us and them. We can no longer live with them. There must be a separation at once and forever.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“In Defense of Their Traditional Liberties”

“Although North Carolina had soon after the adoption of the Federal constitution taken steps to prevent the importation of Negroes, not only from abroad but from any other State, yet in the progress of time the system of slavery became strongly engrafted on her social structure, and the agitation of slavery question excited her people greatly.

Periodically this agitation stirred the people and animated them to maintain with steadfastness the right to manage their own domestic, local concerns in their own way.

At length when it was declared that an “irrepressible conflict” had arisen, and that the “Union could not exist half slave and half free,” it came to be regarded that the limitations of the Federal constitution were no longer to be observed, and that the abolition party would seek to abolish slavery. This led South Carolina and other commonwealths to the South to withdraw from the Union.

The question of holding a convention for the purpose of withdrawing was submitted to the people of North Carolina in the spring of 1861, but so conservative were they and so attached to the Union, that they separated themselves from their Southern brethren and refused to call the convention. The difference between the votes was, however, small — only about 250 in the poll of the entire State.

Such was the situation, when in April 1861, Fort Sumter was bombarded and President Lincoln called on North Carolina to furnish her quota of troops to coerce the seceding States. These events changed the aspect of affairs in North Carolina instantaneously. All differences ceased.

Union men, who, like George E. Badger, did not hold to the right of secession, united now in the declaration that North Carolinians must [now] share in the fortunes of their Southern kindred. Then amid the excitement of that period came the rapid preparations for the inevitable conflict — the marshaling of troops, the formation of armies, the strenuous endeavors to equip and maintain our citizen [soldiers] and make defense of our unprotected coast.

Never was there a finer display of patriotic ardor; never did peaceable ploughboys more quickly assume the character of veteran soldiers. It was if a common inspiration possessed the souls of all the people and animated them to die, if need be, in defense of their traditional liberties.

During the four years of strife that followed, the people of North Carolina bore themselves with an unparalleled heroism. With a voting population of 112,000, North Carolina sent to the army 125,000 soldiers.

Strenuous efforts were made to provide food for the soldiers and the poor, and while salt works were erected along the sea coast, vast quantities of cards were imported for the women to use at home, and other supplies were brought through the blockade.

[Life then] was accompanied, however, by straits and hardships, suffering and mourning, the separation from husbands and fathers from their families and the pall of death that fell upon every household. What awful experiences were crowded into four years of heroic and grand sacrifice — how trying the vicissitudes, how calamitous the dire result!”

(Cyclopedia of Eminent and Representative Men of the Carolinas of the 19th Century, Volume II, Brant & Fuller, 1892, pp. 35-36)

 

Sovereign States in a Federated Union

John Taylor of Caroline viewed the economic life of the country as being local in character and only under the jurisdiction of the individual States – that is, popular institutions. Therefore he concluded: “The entire nationalistic program of the Federal Government as to banking, funding, tariff, and internal improvements is unconstitutional.” If one sidesteps the victor’s claim that they fought to end slavery 1861-1865, one finds that the Hamiltonian drive for concentrated federal power was underlying reason for war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sovereign States in a Federated Union

“The States, located in the center of the political landscape, perform a stabilizing function with sufficient power to protect the whole [federal] structure from the onslaughts of inimical forces that attack from two directions. They are essentially buffer States.

They represent a compromise between two types of concentrated power – one in the Federal Government, the other in the people, the turbulence of whom may lead to the reintroduction of monarchy such as followed the French Revolution.

Mobs and tyrants generate each other. Only the States can prevent the clashes of these two eternal enemies. Thus, unless the States can obstruct the greed and avarice of concentrated power, the issue will be adjudicated by an insurrectionary mob.

The States represent government by rule and law as opposed to government by force and fraud, which characterizes consolidated power whether in a supreme federal government, in the people, in factions, or in strong individuals.

Republicanism is the compromise between the idea that the people are a complete safeguard against the frauds of governments and the idea that the people, from ignorance or depravity, are incapable of self-government.

The basic struggle in the United States is between mutual checks by political departments and an absolute control by the Federal Government, or between division and concentration of power. Hamilton and Madison presented an impressive case for a strong national government, supreme over the rights of States.

They are supported by all the former Tories who benefit from the frauds of the paper system. Those who take this view are referred to as variously as monarchists, consolidators, and supremacists. The basic fallacy of their way of thinking is that they simply refuse to recognize “the primitive, inherent, sovereignty of each State” upon which basis only a federal form of government can be erected.

They assume the existence of an American Nation embracing the whole geographical reach of the country, on which they posit their argument for a supreme national government. But this is merely a fiction . . . The Declaration, the [Articles of] Confederation, and the Constitution specifically recognize the existence of separate and sovereign States, not of any American Nation or consolidated nation or people of the United States or concentrated sovereignty in the Federal Government. The word “America” designates a region on the globe and does not refer to any political entity.”

(The Social Philosophy of John Taylor of Caroline, A Study in Jeffersonian Democracy, Eugene Tenbroeck Mudge, Columbia University Press, 1939, pp. 65-66)

Principles Essential to the Perpetuation of the Union

Richmond’s bronze statue of Gen. Stonewall Jackson was dedicated on October 26, 1875 before a crowd of 50,000; the oration was delivered by the Rev. Moses D. Hoge of Richmond’s Second Presbyterian Church.  Gen. Joseph E. Johnston served as Chief-Marshal; attending were Generals D.H. Hill, W.H.F. Lee, Fitzhugh Lee, and 500 members of the Old Stonewall Brigade.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Principles Essential to the Perpetuation of the Union

“For, when we ask what has become of the principles in defense of which Jackson imperiled and lost his life, then I answer: A form of government may change, a policy may perish, but a principle may never die. Circumstances may so change as to make the application of the principle no longer possible, bits it innate vitality is not affected thereby. The conditions of society may be so altered as to make it idle to contend for a principle which no longer has any practical force, but these changed conditions of society have not annihilated one original truth.

The application of these postulates to the present situation of our country is obvious. The people of the South maintained, as their fathers maintained before them, that certain principles were essential to the perpetuation of the Union according to its original Constitution.

Rather than surrender their convictions, they took up arms to defend them. The appeal was in vain. Defeat came, they accepted it, with its consequences, just as they would accepted victory with its fruits.

But it is idle to shut our eyes to the fact that this consolidated empire of States is not the Union established by our fathers. No intelligent European student of American institutions is deceived by any such assumption. We gain nothing by deceiving ourselves.

And if history teaches any lesson, it is this: that a nation cannot long survive when the fundamental principles which gave it life, originally, are subverted. [Remember] Jackson’s clear, ringing tone . . . :

“What is life without honor? Degradation is worse than death. We must think of the living and of those who are to come after us, and see that by God’s blessing we transmit to them the freedom we have enjoyed.”

(Oration of Rev. Moses D. Hoge, Unveiling of the Statue of Stonewall Jackson, Richmond, Virginia; Stonewall Jackson, A Military Biography, D. Appleton and Company, 1876, excerpt pp. 564)

 

Consolidation Generates Monarchy

To Jefferson, the Revolution meant “not merely independence from British rule but also escape from the British system of government into republicanism.” He also abhorred political parties, or what he called sects,” and saw that all Americans as “federalists” – i.e., supporters of the Constitution and virtually all republicans, i.e., “believers in a republic rather than a monarchy.” And the States were the line of defense against government tendencies to consolidate power around itself.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Consolidation Generates Monarchy

“On the eclipse of federalism, although not its extinction, [New England] leaders got up the Missouri question, under the false front of lessening the measure of slavery, but with the real view of producing geographical division of parties, which might ensure them the next President.

The people of the north went blindfolded into the snare, followed their leaders for awhile with a zeal truly moral and laudable, until they became sensible that they were injuring instead of aiding the real interests of the slaves, that they had been used merely as tools for electioneering purposes; and that trick of hypocrisy then fell as quickly as it had been got up.

To that has now succeeded a distinction, which, like that of republican and federal, or Whig and Tory, being equally intermixed through every State, threatens none of those geographical schisms, which immediately go to a separation.

The line of division now is the preservation of State rights as reserved in the Constitution, or by strained constructions of that instrument, to merge all into consolidated government. The Tories are for strengthening the Executive and General Government; the Whigs cherish the representative branch, and the rights reserved by the States, as the bulwark against consolidation, which must immediately generate monarchy.

Although this division excites, it is well understood, and will be a principle of voting at the ensuing election, with the reflecting men of both parties.”

(Thomas Jefferson, to Marquis Lafayette, November 1823, Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, John P. Foley, editor, Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1900, excerpt, pp. 760)

Guardians of the Constitution

John Taylor of Caroline said that “the great weakness of the Constitution is that its meaning is never unequivocal,” and that its misinterpretation was due to the loss of power by the agrarians.  Though the Constitution was designed to guarantee local self-government for the farmers, “a mode of construction is introduced to advance the interest of mercenary combinations.” The mercenary combinations helped form the Federalist, Whig and Republican parties.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Guardians of the Constitution

“Certainly, the States never intended to give to the Federal Government the power of veto over their own laws. It is absurd to suppose that an agency brought into being by the several States can have exclusive power to construe the instrument which grants its power, for this is equivalent to the assertion that the States can make a constitution but are without power to prevent its infringement.

If the Federal Government has the last word even on the constitutionality of its own laws, then federalism is at an end. If the Supreme Court can dominate State matters, then all the heroic efforts of the Founding Fathers to set up a system of mutual checks and secure wise and responsible State government were futile.

In the event of a controversy between the two spheres [State and federal], the Supreme Court would be an interested party and consequently partial. Such a conflict cannot be settled by a court. The correct remedy, as stated in the Constitution, is amendment by the people. Further, the dispensation of justice is an inherent attribute of sovereignty. Hence, the people of the States, since they are sovereign, can be denied no judicial power over their own affairs.

Nonetheless, the Court is prone to ignore the idea of the sovereignty of the people of the States and to place it instead in the governments of the States or even the in the government of the Union on the hypothesis that the Union is the supreme government of an American Nation. And since the powers reserved to the States far exceed those delegated, this entitles the States to priority in all controversies over fundamental issues of government.

Liberty is lost if the States are deprived of a direct and final voice in the interpretation of the Constitution of their Union. Hence, the sweeping powers assumed by the Supreme Court are a direct violation of the basic liberties of the States and of the people. The idea of a court dictating to the States runs counter to the basic idea of federalism and makes the Constitution a rope of sand. If State powers are limited by any supreme federal department, the situation is like the one that [John] Locke described: “no man has a right to that which another has a right to that which another has a right to take from him.”

Hence, the States, not the justices of the Supreme Court, are the guardians and guarantors of the Constitution. A jury composed of the parties that originally contracted to form the Union is better qualified to perform the task of maintaining it than the federal justices whose power extends merely to cases in law and equity involving individual and private affairs, not to issues that affect any of the departments or spheres of the government of the United States.”

The Social Philosophy of John Taylor of Caroline, A Study in Jeffersonian Democracy, Eugene T. Mudge, Columbia University Press, 1939, excerpts, pp. 133-135)

Eulogizing a Vice President with American Principles

Vice President William R. King (under Presidents Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce) was born a North Carolinian in April, 1786, his father William King being a Revolutionary War veteran and member of the convention in which North Carolina ratified the U.S. Constitution. A United States Representative for North Carolina, and later a Senator representing Alabama, King was a fine complement to the presidency of Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire, the latter known as a “Northern man with Southern principles” – more correctly considered American principles.  He died on April 18, 1853.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Eulogizing a Vice President with American Principles

(Remarks of Milton S. Latham of California, 8 December 1853)

“Mr. Speaker:

William Rufus King was a noble specimen of an American statesman and gentleman. The intimate friend of John C. Calhoun, and the contemporary of Webster, Clay, Cass and Benton, he maintained a proud position in the Senate of the United States by his strong, practical good sense, his experience and wisdom as a legislator, the acknowledged rectitude of his intentions, and that uniform urbanity of manner which marked, not so much the man of conventional breeding, as the true gentleman at heart.

He never knew what it was to speak, act or legislate by indirection. He was frank and loyal to his colleagues, as he was devoted to his own State, and sincerely attached to the Union. He was from principle and conviction a States’ Rights man; but he did not love the Union less because he loved Alabama more. While he was serving his own State with fidelity and honor, he was not remiss in his duties to the whole American Confederacy.

Like his illustrious prototype, John C. Calhoun, he battled for the rights of his State, in order to secure that harmony between Federal and State power, which is the essence of the Union, and without which it is impossible to preserve our system of self-government.

In the memorable session of 1849-1850, Mr. King voted for nearly all the compromise measures as an act of devotion to the National Union, without surrendering a single cardinal point of the political faith which had guided him through life, and had secured to him the affection and attachment of the citizens of his own State.”

(Obituary Addresses for Hon. William R. King, Vice President of the US, 8-9 December 1853, Robert Armstrong Printer, 1854, excerpt)

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