The nature of our government rests upon… a word game? I can see where the secessionists went so wrong.During the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania outlined “the distinction between a federal and a national supreme government; the former being a mere compact resting on the good faith of the parties, the latter having a complete and compulsive operation.” If the Constitution established a federal government, and it did, then the Constitution did not have a “compulsive operation.”
But this reasoning falls through for so many reasons. First of all, it’s just as accurate to say the Constitution established a national government. That’s because the new system was 1) entirely new: “it is in a manner unprecedented; we cannot find one express example in the experience of the world.” – Madison, VA ratifying convention. As such, a term to apply to it had not been previously devised. And 2) it was a blend of BOTH “federal” AND “national,” as the Framers understood those terms before hand: “...the principal question is whether it be a federal or a consolidated government.... I conceive it is of a mixed nature…” – Madison, VA ratifying convention.
The word games simply don’t matter. What matters is what Morris actually said, and how the Convention acted upon it. Morris was clearly arguing AGAINST a federal system which relies on good faith, and FOR a national system that has a complete and compulsive operation. He said “a Union of the States merely federal will not accomplish the objects proposed by the articles of Confederation,” that “no treaty or treaties among the whole or part of the States, as individual Sovereignties, would be sufficient,” and therefore “a national Government ought to be established consisting of a supreme Legislative, Executive & Judiciary”. And the Convention then adopted Morris’ proposal for a national supreme government. So you see, as far as the Convention was concerned, they were creating “a national supreme government” with “a complete and compulsive operation.” So, the people of the [respective] states, in convention or otherwise, can NOT interpose, or withdraw, or otherwise alter the Constitution or the Union and Gov't it establishes. Only the the people of the [collective] states, the people of the United States, can do that (again, the Constitution is a constitution).
Of course, we didn’t need to go through all that. ALL constitutions have a complete and compulsive operation (it never ceases to amaze how some seem to think a constitution is one thing in the case of the state constitutions, and something fundamentally other in the case of the US Constitution). And if it was ever in doubt, just consider “the supreme Law of the Land.” It doesn’t get any more complete and compulsive than that.
What’s with calling out his nationalism? There’s nothing here that's inconsistent with nationalism, or the fact that the Constitution has “a complete and compulsive operation.” Morris recognized the states had to separately ratify the Constitution because the enactment of a constitution is a sovereign act (i.e. the action of one, sovereign people). Again, true of ALL constitutions. And, as you say, the states previously “held sway” (i.e. they were separately and fully sovereign). So the only way to move from a confederation to a federation (the term subsequently devised to identify the system the Framers invented) was for the sovereign people of the separate states to surrender a portion of their sovereignty to the people of the United States. And that was a decision that each separate state had to make for itself, separate from the other states. So naturally, the Constitution had to be ratified “by state” (by the states separately). However ratification is merely consent, not enactment. It was the sovereign people of the US, “We the People of the United States,” who enacted the Constitution (the Constitution is a constitution).Morris, a nationalist, recognized that the states still held sway when he suggested that the Constitution be voted on by state and that the states, not a consolidated people, had to ratify the document. The Constitution as ratified in 1787 and 1788 is “a mere compact resting on the good faith of the parties.”