Essay on the question of sovereignty!!! Lets discuss!Submitted by alwayssimon on Wed, 02/11/2009 - 20:39
When I started out writing I had every intention of this being a small premier on the almost forgotten, yet extremely important, issue of “State Sovereignty”. However, once I finally got the ball rolling it began to pick up mass rather than speed. I am cautious not to disregard this girth though, for it may hold some valuable information for all of us. That being said, after careful consideration I’ve decided that the best way to issue this article would be to do so in smaller installments as opposed to larger ones. I hope that my efforts are not in vain and that this information, though thick with historical truths –most not taught in public education, will prove interesting and useful to you all.
“For my part...I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.”
For many Americans the idea of “one nation” or “one people” is an understood law. After all, references to it can be found almost anywhere, for instance: textbooks, documentaries, movies, news, etc. It’s practically a part of who we are, and why not, most of us have recited it in the Pledge of Allegiance (which incidentally was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy who was a Christian Socialist) somewhere around 2,136 times by the moment we reach graduation (and that’s not counting special events). But what if I were to tell you that we are wrong? What if I were to say that America is not “one nation”, “one people”, or “indivisible” nor was it ever intended to be by our Founding Fathers? Prove it? Okay, I will.
In most interesting tales the author opts to insert a villain—this serves to entice emotion from his/her audience and bind their attention to the story. Now I don’t pretend to be a good author, just a seeker of truth and this is not fiction. So, any binding that will be done will stem from your own thirst for knowledge rather than clever manipulation on my part. However, it does so happen that villains in historical truth are not absent, and our story has two in particular which I would like to thoroughly discuss—Justice Joseph Story and Senator Daniel Webster.
The concept of the Constitution being a compact between sovereign states is not a modern fabrication but a provable fact! Believe it or not, the idea that the Constitution created “one nation” which was “indivisible” was not publically uttered until 45 years after ratification. In 1833 Joseph Story published Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States; in it he perpetuated ideas which were in direct contradiction to the works of earlier constitutional scholars such as St. George Tucker’s Analysis of the federal constitution published in 1803, William Rawle’s A View of the Constitution of the United States of America published in 1825, or James Kent’s Commentaries on American Law, published in 1826—all which had previously been used as textbooks within our institutions of higher learning (we will look at some of this material in my 2nd installment). Story viciously opposed the idea of state sovereignty. Why? He was an ardent supporter government expansion. He knew that until sovereignty was removed from the states, the central government would forever be limited to only its delegated powers. Therefore, he set out to paint a new picture of American government—the contract signed by the citizens of the sovereign states be damned. In blatant opposition to state sovereignty Story issued that, “The obvious deductions which may be, and, indeed, have been, drawn from considering the Constitution a compact between States, are that it operates as a mere treaty or convention between them, and has an obligatory force upon each State no longer, than suits its pleasure or its consent continues. . . and that each retains the power to withdraw from the Confederacy and to dissolve the connection, when such shall be its choice.”
To Story’s credit he did acknowledge that his opinion was an extreme contrast to those whom had come before him. He referenced St. George Tucker’s view of state’s rights, which had been the accepted opinion since founding, as “representing . . . the opinions of a large body of statesman and jurists in different parts of the Union, avowed and acted upon in former times.” So, Story is implying to us that these are old views from “former times”. He would also have us believe, judging from the content of his book that these “opinions” are no longer applicable in modern times. Why does that argument sound so familiar?
The question we must ask ourselves is: “If Story’s constitutional view is not what the sovereign states, representing their citizens, agreed to ratify—as is suggested by the writings of those who founded our country-- then wouldn’t the act of imposing such a view be a breach of agreement?”
So was the Constitution a compact between sovereign states? Not according to Senator Daniel Webster from Massachusetts . He was actually so adamant about this fact that he practically breathed fire when addressing Senator John C. Calhoun’s use of it. “[Calhoun] introduces a new word of his own, viz., ‘compact’. . . and degrades the Constitution into an insignificant idle epithet attached to compact.” In his opinion, “The man is almost untrue to his country who calls the Constitution a compact.” So according to Webster, who was only six years old when our Constitution was ratified, the answer is unequivocally that it is not a compact born out of sovereign states. One would also surmise from Webster’s statement that Calhoun’s reference to a “compact” was an idea born out of political conjuring— but was it?
Those who refute the idea of the Constitution being a compact between sovereign states usually invoke the wording of the Constitution’s Preamble: “We the People.” They do this to show that the American citizens are of one body, rather than citizens of independent sovereign states. Albert T. Bledsoe’s, in his 1879 book Is Davis a Traitor?, points out that "[this] is the great stronghold, if it has one, of the Northern theory of the Constitution. The argument from these words appears in every speech, book, pamphlet, and discussion by every advocate of the North. It was wielded by Mr. Webster in his great debate with Mr. Calhoun, in 1833, . . . “
So, we have Story and Webster who are sorely opposed to the notion of “compact”. Webster even went so far as to say it was historically inaccurate or new language to call “the Constitution a compact“. But I’d like for us to consult some other experts before making a decision.
• James Madison in the 1798 Virginia Resolve, wrote that “the Federal Government as resulting from the compact, to which the States are parties.”
• Madison in a letter to Edward Everett, in 1830 said that the Constitution was “a compact among the States in their highest sovereign capacity.” Elsewhere in this same letter he refers to the states as “the parties to the Constitutional compact.”
• Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania, though a notable advocate for strong national government said at the assembly of 1787 that he “came here to form a compact for the good of America. He was ready to do so with all the States. He hoped and believed that all would enter into such a compact. . . . But as the compact was to be voluntary, it is in vain for the Eastern States to insist on what the Southern States will never agree to.”
• The first chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, who believed in the expansion of federal power, in the case of Chisholm v. State of Georgia, “expressly declares that the Constitution of the United States is a compact.”
• The sixth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams, stated “Our Constitution of the United States and all our State Constitutions, have been voluntary compacts.”
• Thomas Jefferson once explained that “[t]he states entered into a compact which is called the Constitution of the United States.”
• In the Federalist No. 85, Hamilton referred to the Constitution as “[t]he compacts which are to embrace thirteen distinct States in a common bond of amity and Union.” He also explained that, if it were to be altered in any way, those changes “must undergo a new decision of each State.”
• The representative of Massachusetts, Elbert Gerry, said, “If nine out of thirteen[states] can dissolve the compact six out of nine will be just as able to dissolve the new one hereafter.”
• Edmund Pendleton, who was president of the 1778 Virginia ratifying convention, in calling for support of the new Constitution, stated, “This is the only Government founded in real compact.”
• Massachusetts, home state of none other than Senator Daniel Webster, at its own ratification convention, issued that the citizens of Massachusetts were “entering into an explicit and solemn compact. . . .”
If that was not enough to convince you that Story and Webster were misguided, or lying, let me issue another quote; this one spewed forth from Webster’s own lips just three years before his tirade on Calhoun, while debating Senator Henry S. Foote’s resolution he referred to “accusations which impute to us a disposition to evade the Constitutional compact.” It’s strange what just three years of age can do to a mind!
Alright, so now we’ve established that Webster was wrong (we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt)-- what about their coveted argument using the Preamble to the Constitution? Their coup de grâce , “We the People”? Well, let’s take that question to the man who was head of the committee on attending to the diction, or wording of the Constitution, Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania.
Morris, in his book The Life and Writings of, wrote that the meaning behind the phrase “We the people” which he authored, and the actual Constitution itself was a compact not between individuals, but between political societies, the people, not to America, but of the United States, each enjoying sovereign power and of course equal rights.
Also worth pointing out is that throughout the whole of The Madison Papers --over 900 pages covering 1787 Constitutional Convention proceedings and the debates which took place within-- there is not one discussion to be found regarding citizens being one people outside their individual states.
Hopefully someone made it down this far. I'm shooting to post another one by Tuesday. It will most definitely have a good bit of material quoted straight from some of the earliest textbooks of constitutional theory-- specifically one which was used at West Point just after the start of the 1800's. It should prove interesting, as well as educational. I wish each and everyone of you the best, and encourage you to school your representatives on the issues we discuss. After all, they have been forced illogical and dubious history the whole of their lives as well!
Benjamin Alan Rush
P.S. If you would like to see the footnotes email me and I'll pass my pdf version along to you. I did not realize it would wipe my original formatting when I posted here. :-p