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State Sovereignty, the Articles, and the Constitution

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by ForeverFree, Mar 5, 2010.

  1. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree 1st Lieutenant

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    This is an esoteric question on the issue of state sovereignty, which has been discussed at various times.

    Article 2 of the Articles of Confederation states unambiguously that each state is a sovereign, viz

    It's notable that this language is absent from the US Constitution.

    In Texas v White, the Supreme Court which basically ruled that secession was not constitutional, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase states that

    Question: has anyone ever done any research on how or why the language at Article II of the Articles of Confederation was not kept in the Constitution? And why wouldn't this explicit language be retained, unless state sovereignty wasn't seen as vital to the "perfected" union?
     

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  3. Stonewall1982

    Stonewall1982 First Sergeant

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    From what I understand from reading the "Federalist Papers" and the "Anti-Federalist Papers", (yes that is how boring my life is) the problem with the Articles of Confederations was just that, that the states were basically like the Greek city states, minus the in-fighting every summer. There were 10 or 11 Presidents under the AoC. They were more or less "figure heads" having no real power. The way I understand it, and I could be wrong, the language was not added so that they could form a Federal government that could issue currency that was valid in all the states, and deal with foreign governments. Prior to the Constitution, or Union, if Georgia wanted trade relations with England, they could do it, where as Mass. may not. In effect the other governments of the world were dealing with 13 "city-states". The Constitution united them at the lowest common denonminator and that was it. In fact in the first draft of the Constitution there was no Bill of Rights. The Anti-Federalists demaned a Bill of Rights to ratify the Constitution, thus the 10th ammendment: “ 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. "
    Anyways, that is how I understand it, but I could be wrong.

    Thank you
     
  4. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Major Retired Moderator

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    That article was omitted from the Constitution because there was widespread belief it was a disaster. As mentioned above, there was a problem with states issuing their own currencies, but it went way beyond that. The "sovereign states" weren't honoring the peace treaty with Britain, which caused Britain to respond in kind. They weren't paying their debts to other countries, which caused Spain to close down the Mississippi River to American traffic and caused the Dutch and French to lend money at exhorbitant interest rates. They weren't even paying their debts to the Continental Army, resulting in soldiers storming the Continental Congress and virtually holding it hostage. Only 3 years after ratification of the Articles the national government was virtually bankrupt and the country went into a severe economic depression.

    Digital History, a history web-site run by the University of Houston, the Chicago Historical Society and several other respected organizations, has this to say:

    You can see the whole article here:

    http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=277
     
  5. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Captain

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    Obviously, removing it from the body of the organic law itself and , only later, reintroduced, through the amending process of the Constitution, itself, as a non-specificterm, was to make the Constitution 'more perfect' than the AoC.
     
  6. Stonewall1982

    Stonewall1982 First Sergeant

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    That is what I meant but you worded it better. Thanks
     
  7. Stonewall1982

    Stonewall1982 First Sergeant

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    In "The Federalist Papers" #15, author Hamiltion, paragraph 4, Hamiltion does refer to the trade and debt problems that arose because of the AoC. He even mentions the Mississippi being closed by Spain. Letters #15-17, all authored by Hamilton, discuss the issue of multiple soveriegns and why it was harmful to the Union.

    "The Federalist Papers" letters 1-36 authored by Alexander Hamiton, John Jay, and James Madison, are the topic of why the AoC were inadequate for the needs of the Union. Sometimes it is hard to read because the language is over 200 years old, but it helps to get into the minds of the founders.
     
  8. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    The U.S. Government under the Articles of Confederation, given the "soverignty" of individual states, was a mess. The Constitutional Convention was assembled of delegates from each state to fix the problems.

    The problems proved to be unsolvable, so the fixing soon turned into replacing.

    Ole
     
  9. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Captain

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    IMO, as noted before, the important fact was that the entire provision was completely absent from the body of new Organic Law and only later,were undefined rights and privileges substituted through the amending process provided by the Organic Law itself.(Whatever were the rights and privileges retained by the states, they would have to pass Constitutional scrutiny)
     
  10. Hugh Damright

    Hugh Damright Corporal

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    I think that the States were wary that the US Constitution didn't have something like the Second Article of Confederation, and that most of the States ratified the US Constitution while requesting that it be amended to include a declaration of their sovereignty i.e the Tenth Amendment. Of course, the Second Article of Confederation said that the States retain their sovereignty/power/rights/jurisdiction/freedom/independence, and the Tenth Amendment only says "powers", and some would construe this to mean that the States only have powers, and not sovereignty/rights/jurisdiction/freedom/independence.
     
  11. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Captain

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    Very true Hugh Damright The article was a major sumbling block to an effective National governmenbt and was therefore completely eliminated and only later reintroduced, under the authority of the Organic Law itself; greatly reduced in specificity and shorn of any power to conflict with the Constitution.
     
  12. Stonewall1982

    Stonewall1982 First Sergeant

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    This is correct about states requesting it be ammended. The Constitution almost did not get ratified. New York was the problem state that they framers knew might not ratify it. That was the reason that "The Federalist Papers" were printed in New York newspapers as letters to the editor under the psdenym "Publius". Fun little fact about the first draft of the Constitution. As stated previously, it did not have a Bill of Rights. Also, when enumerating on the powers of the Executive Branch it stated that the President would only serve one term of seven years. Also, his title was to be "Your Excellency". This, thank goodness, was removed. I don't know if he was involved or not, but I would assume that George Washington assisted removing "Your Excellency" and replacing it with "Mr. President". It was good that the AoC was removed and the USC was ratified because the nation would probably have collapsed into itself.
     
  13. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Major Retired Moderator

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    John Adams actually suggested the title should be "His Highness the President of the United States and Protector of the Rights of the Same". (I kid you not!!!)
     
  14. Stonewall1982

    Stonewall1982 First Sergeant

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    Funny how they hated "Your Majesty King George III", but wanted to call the President "Your Excellency" or "His Highness". Must have just been what they were used to, refering to people in power with special titles.
     
  15. The Iron Duke

    The Iron Duke First Sergeant

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    Lee often referred to Davis as "Your Excellency." I'm thinking it was just a phrase to show due deference.
     
  16. whitworth

    whitworth 2nd Lieutenant

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    The law in effect after the signing of the U.S. Constitution was the U.S. Constitution. Not only was sovereignty not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, there were many rights given by the states to the federal government. After the U.S. Constitution was signed, the states shared powers, among them the power to control the militias of the various states. Now how could a state be considered sovereign if it lost many sovereign powers by agreeing to the U.S. Constitution.

    The only way the Confederacy could get out of the Union was by insurrection and later war. And as it is often noted, that war ended in 1865. Some continue to make a claim of legal sovereignty, as if the defunct Conferate supreme court could magically come to life.
     
  17. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Captain

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    It always seemed to me, that Lincoln's opinion that "...no state, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void; and that acts of violence, within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, accordding to circumstances.." Lincolns emphasis.
    Certainly that opinion is based on, at the least, as solid historical and legal precedents as those of Davis'.

    P.S. the reason's for Lincoln's above stated belief, were stated clearly in his preceding four paragraphs of his First Inaugural Address.
     

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