Restricted The meaning of "Perpetual" in The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union

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Rebforever

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
Hi Patrick, welcome to the Forum.

They didn't need to add it because it was already there. The Constitution is a true, fundemantal law constitution. The AoCs were a treaty, and treaties can be temporary or perpetual, and it was good practice to specify which was the case:

"§29. Perpetual or temporary treaties, or treaties revocable at pleasure. Nations may in their treaties insert such clauses and conditions as they think proper: they are at liberty to make them perpetual, or temporary, or dependent on certain events." – Vattel, The Law of Nations, Book II, Chpt. I.

The 1778 Treaty of Amity with France and the Treaty of Paris also specify perpetuity. In addition, perpetual confederation was itself a specific term:

"§10. Of states forming a federal republic. Finally, several sovereign and independent states may unite themselves together by a perpetual confederacy, without ceasing to be, each individually, a perfect state." – Ibid., Book I, Chpt. I.

However, the Constitution is a fundamental law, not a treaty, and fundamental laws are inherently perpetual. Are or were the states, founded upon fundamental laws as they were, temporary? Why should it be any different for the Union? Especially w/o any mention of such. I still have not gotten any response on that question from ANY secession-minded member. This point was the FIRST argument Lincoln used in his First Inaugural.

The SECOND argument he used dealt with the history of the Union. My treatment of it will be more detailed than Lincoln's to leave even less doubt. The Union began as an ad-hoc alliance among the colonies. They knew the could not hope to resist British tyranny except together. When they declared independence, it of course became an alliance among the states. They knew they could not hope to win independence except together. It then became an official, defined union/confederation under the AoCs, which declared the Union perpetual. The original draft of the AoCs was prepared by Franklin. He presented it to Congress in 1775, at which time it was tabled. Franklin's original was for a confederacy of colonies that would continue until reconcilliation, or would otherwise be perpetual. So right there the eminent Dr. Franklin seems to feel independence inherently requires a perpetual union. That specification is of course picked up by Congress. The independence of 13 small, petty states in a world of greedy, overdominent European colonial powers requires perpetual union. Just four years after the conclusion of the Revolution, the AoCs are declared a failure and are replaced by the Constitution. Your theory seems to be that the same 13 petty states, no larger or stronger than they were in 1783, suddenly decided they no longer needed perpetuity. It's possible I suppose. There could have been some reason to remove the previously highly desired quality of perpetuity, perhaps the amount of power being vested in the Union/Fed. But certainly NOT without any discussion or mention of it.

In addition, the Framers left us clues that such an abandonment of perpetuity was not the case:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Definition of posterity
1: the offspring of one progenitor to the furthest generation
2: all future generations


And then there is Art. VI, Sxn 2, which could be called the perpetuity clause as much as the supremacy clause:

"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

Hi John, Welcome aboard.

I believe you're treating the word/statement too much as a matter of fact. It's actually a matter of intent. That an arrangement is perpetual does not mean it is intended, or believed, to last forever, no matter what. It simply means it is intended to continue indefinitely, in which case it can only be terminated the way it was initiated, via consent (with some exceptions in some cases). Unless specifically provided for, no party to such an agreement can get out of the agreement on their own say so (ditto). Both documents, the AoCs and Constitution, have specified methods for their termination (and the AoCs, being a treaty, have additional established methods).

This makes no sense. A quality of union would have to be desirable to be considered "perfect." The history of the Union proves that perpetuity was very much desired. And of course, growth would be too.

That's not for you to say. It's not YOUR nation (meaning it's not your's alone). The people of the US established the Constitution, a fundamental law. As with all such constitutions, the people who enact it retain sovereign control over it, and the polity ("more perfect Union") and Gov't it in turn establishes. As such, the sovereign people can do what they wish with their creations. As far as everyone else, a constitution specifically tells everyone else what they can or cannot do to those creations. In the case of a union/federation, it doesn't just put restrictions on the government, it puts restrictions on everyone. Only the sovereign people have the legal right to alter or abolish.

"This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it." Lincoln, First Inaugural

"...my opinion is that no state can, in any way lawfully, get out of the Union, without the consent of the others; and that it is the duty of the President, and other government functionaries to run the machine as it is." – Lincoln to Thurlow Weed, December 17, 1860

Based on the supremacy clause, they cannot secede, at least unilaterally.

"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

This trumps everytting, throughout "the Land," until the sovereign people specify otherwise.
"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

I copied from your post and see nothing in this law concerning secession. Perhaps you can explain why secession is in not in there?
 

Rebforever

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
The supremacy clause is one of the most misunderstood and abused provisions in the Constitution.

Nearly every American will tell you the supremacy clause means the federal government is absolutely supreme in all it does.

And every one of them is wrong.

The problem is they leave out the three most important words in the clause.

“In pursuance thereof…”

The federal government is only supreme when its actions are in pursuance of the Constitution. And since the Constitution delegates very few powers to the general government, it isn’t supreme very often.

In fact, the people of the states are supreme and sovereign in the American system. The people of the states created the federal government and delegated to it a few enumerated powers. Yes – the federal government enjoys supremacy within its sphere. But once it move one inch outside of its sphere, it possesses no supremacy at all.

 

Andersonh1

Major
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Location
South Carolina
The supremacy clause is one of the most misunderstood and abused provisions in the Constitution.

Nearly every American will tell you the supremacy clause means the federal government is absolutely supreme in all it does.

And every one of them is wrong.

The problem is they leave out the three most important words in the clause.

“In pursuance thereof…”

The federal government is only supreme when its actions are in pursuance of the Constitution. And since the Constitution delegates very few powers to the general government, it isn’t supreme very often.

In fact, the people of the states are supreme and sovereign in the American system. The people of the states created the federal government and delegated to it a few enumerated powers. Yes – the federal government enjoys supremacy within its sphere. But once it move one inch outside of its sphere, it possesses no supremacy at all.

Exactly right. I can't tell you how many people get this wrong, and this belief in an "always supreme" Federal government has badly damaged our country.
 
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OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
we have added states since the constitution, how could the union be "perfect" or "perpetual" when it was flexible at the same time?


The Constitution does not claim a 'perfection' Union for itself, merely that it would be 'more' perfect than it had been under the AoC.

The Constitution is almost completely flexible, but, the Union is less so, i.e., the original Union that ratified the Constitution claimed perpetuity for their Union until such time as they(the peoples of that Union) expressly designates the Union as Not being Perptual. Until such time, the original claim of the original states stands.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
The Constitution was adopted in order to form a more perfect Union not a "more perpetual" Union. All of the states would not have ratified the Constitution if they had believed that there was not a way out of the Union. The ratification documents of some of the states even included the possibility of withdrawing from the Union if the federal government became too oppressive.



The people of each state accepted the fact of the Constitution's supremacy over state constitutions ad Laws, which means, to leave the Union a state(or, any subgroup of them) cannot overthrow or violate any of the expressed powers of the Constitution, which is impossible, so it must be done, if, at all, through the consent of the other states of the Union.
 

John Fenton

Sergeant
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Location
retired traveling
the constitution was adopted to achieve a "MORE perfect union" as opposed to a less perfect union. that allows for more states. these states accepted the constitution in order to join the union. the AoC declared this union to be perpetual and as such there is no reason to restate it. it is perpetual.
the question is or was , if the founding fathers did not intend it to be what it was , perpetual, why didn't they say so and provide a mechanism to secede.
there is an argument that ALL states must agree to any secession. the confederacy was not ALL of the states and a state could not unilaterally secede . i disagree though. there was no mechanism for ALL states to allow any state to secede.
so those parts of the AoC that were changed were stated and those that were not were already in force.

perpetual
Use the adjective perpetual to describe something that never ends or changes.
 
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unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
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Location
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The supremacy clause is one of the most misunderstood and abused provisions in the Constitution.

Nearly every American will tell you the supremacy clause means the federal government is absolutely supreme in all it does.

And every one of them is wrong.

Only by those who "see" a right to secession that is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution.

The problem is they leave out the three most important words in the clause.

“In pursuance thereof…”

The federal government is only supreme when its actions are in pursuance of the Constitution. And since the Constitution delegates very few powers to the general government, it isn’t supreme very often.

In fact, the people of the states are supreme and sovereign in the American system. The people of the states created the federal government and delegated to it a few enumerated powers. Yes – the federal government enjoys supremacy within its sphere. But once it move one inch outside of its sphere, it possesses no supremacy at all.

Glad to see you recognize the hard fact that it took "people" to create their supreme and sovereign nation, and not a piece of ground that could do nothing without them, such as a "state."

And the majority of those "people" seemed to think unilateral secession fell within the federal sphere, not in a lump of ground called a "state.".
 
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unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Lots of people assume the founding fathers were idiots. News flash, they weren't.

They chose their words very carefully when writing our Constitution. It wasn't the first draft. The fact that the word, perpetual was not in the Constitution was deliberate.
Neither was the word "secession," unilateral or otherwise.

Like you said, the founding fathers chose their words very carefully when writing our Constitution.
 

John Fenton

Sergeant
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Location
retired traveling
Lots of people assume the founding fathers were idiots. News flash, they weren't.
true, there is no need to waste words on something already stated and in force. the union was already bound into perpetuity . the constitution did not create a new union but made that union better. their deliberations empowered the federal gov't with more power, like creating sources of revenue and the like. it changed the nature of the union. as a confederation under the AoC the union of sovereign states , perpetuity was required to be stated in the document. with the adoption of the constitution the states gave up sovereignity and formed a federation and made the federal gov't superme via the supereme court and chief executive although it was the same union . perpetuity is perpetual until or unless it is revoked, in this case, by a majority of the people of all states which disregards the definition of perpetual. even so the majority did not revoke that perpetuity .
The 18th clause , the "Necessary and Proper Clause" , was added to the Constitution by the Committee on Detail without any previous discussion at all, and it was not the subject of debate in Committee, either. That was because the intent and wording of the Section was not to enumerate Congress's powers at all, but instead to provide an open-ended grant to Congress to "legislate in all cases for the general interests of the Union, and also to those to which the States are separately incompetent, or in which the harmony of the United States may be interrupted by the exercise of individual legislation."
Martin H. Kelly

ThoughtCo.
 
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CW Buff

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Connecticut
"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

I copied from your post and see nothing in this law concerning secession. Perhaps you can explain why secession is in not in there?
My answer remains the same as all the other times you’ve raised this irrelevant point Reb. Specific terms like secession and nullification DON’T need to be in there. That’s the beauty of the Supremacy Clause; it invalidates ANY and ALL attempts by individual states to take the Constitution into their own hands. It DOESN’T matter what specific terms desperate malcontents come up with when devising their fallacious, self-serving theories of unilateral state powers over the Constitution/Union/Fed. The “Constitution . . . shall be the supreme Law of the Land, . . . any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” What a perfect clause for a “more perfect Union.

But reasoning on this subject is superfluous, when our social compact in express terms declares, that the laws of the United States, its Constitution, and treaties made under it, are the supreme law of the land; and for greater caution adds, ‘that the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.’ ” – Andrew Jackson, Proclamation of December 10, 1832

The Constitution must be the supreme law of the land, otherwise it will be in the power of any one state to counteract the other states, and withdraw itself from the union.” – Governor Samuel Johnston, North Carolina Ratifying Convention, July 29, 1788

What do you have to quote in support of unilateral secession, a fallacious theory devised by Calhoun, denounced by the only major Founding Father who lived long enough to see someone actually try to promote it?

"The fallacy which draws a different conclusion from [the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions] lies in confounding a single party, with the parties to the Constitutional compact of the United States. The latter having made the compact may do what they will with it. The former as one only of the parties, owes fidelity to it, till released by consent, or absolved by an intolerable abuse of the power created." – James Madison to Nicholas Trist, December 23, 1832
 
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Potomac Pride

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The Constitutional Convention in 1787 realized that the Articles of Confederation had major problems, especially in the areas of trade and commerce and needed to be replaced. The Constitution was ratified and went into effect in March 1789. At that time, the AOC was vacated and replaced with the government under the Constitution. The term "perpetual union" was intentionally left out of the Constitution by the Convention members. Several of the states inserted clauses in their ratification documents for the Constitution which allowed for withdrawal from the Union if the new federal government became too oppressive. None of the other states raised any objections to this.

The renowned historian and politician, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge wrote in his book "Life of Webster" (1899): "When the Constitution was adopted by the votes of the States at Philadelphia, and accepted by the votes of the States in popular convention, it is safe to say that there was not a man in the country, from Washington and Hamilton on the one side to George Clinton and George Mason on the other, who regarded the new system as anything but an experiment entered into by the States, and from which each and every State had the right to peaceably withdraw -- a right which was very likely to be exercised."
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
the articles of confederation was superseded by the constitution...if the founding fathers...same guys that wrote the articles of confederation...wanted "perpetual" in it...why didnt they add it?
The United States already existed and was already a "Perpetual Union". The Union of the United States of America was the same Union as the Union of the Constitution (the Constitution says so if you read it closely, and the Supreme Court has continuously maintained that it is the same Union). There was no particular need to mention the word "perpetual" again.

It would be more logical to argue that if you wanted to declare that the Union was no longer "perpetual", then it would be necessary to actually say it was no longer "perpetual". Since they said no such thing, the most likely inference would be that the Union remained "perpetual" just as the Supreme Court has said.
 

Potomac Pride

Sergeant Major
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Location
Georgia
My answer remains the same as all the other times you’ve raised this irrelevant point Reb. Specific terms like secession and nullification DON’T need to be in there. That’s the beauty of the Supremacy Clause; it invalidates ANY and ALL attempts by individual states to take the Constitution into their own hands. It DOESN’T matter what specific terms desperate malcontents come up with when devising their fallacious, self-serving theories of unilateral state powers over the Constitution/Union/Fed. The “Constitution . . . shall be the supreme Law of the Land, . . . any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” What a perfect clause for a “more perfect Union.

But reasoning on this subject is superfluous, when our social compact in express terms declares, that the laws of the United States, its Constitution, and treaties made under it, are the supreme law of the land; and for greater caution adds, ‘that the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.’ ” – Andrew Jackson, Proclamation of December 10, 1832

The Constitution must be the supreme law of the land, otherwise it will be in the power of any one state to counteract the other states, and withdraw itself from the union.” – Governor Samuel Johnston, North Carolina Ratifying Convention, July 29, 1788

What do you have to quote in support of unilateral secession, a fallacious theory devised by Calhoun, denounced by the only major Founding Father who lived long enough to see someone actually try to promote it?

"The fallacy which draws a different conclusion from [the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions] lies in confounding a single party, with the parties to the Constitutional compact of the United States. The latter having made the compact may do what they will with it. The former as one only of the parties, owes fidelity to it, till released by consent, or absolved by an intolerable abuse of the power created." – James Madison to Nicholas Trist, December 23, 1832
The Supremacy Clause is not a blanket statement that implies the federal government and its laws are always supreme over the states. In essence, it is a rule that specifies certain federal acts take priority over any state acts that conflict with federal law, but when federal law conflicts with the Constitution that law is null and void. The Supremacy Clause does not apply to any law that the federal government makes which is not pursuant to its constitutional powers. Those powers are enumerated in the Constitution but if the federal government creates laws outside its enumerated powers, those laws are void. The States are not bound by federal acts that are not made in pursuance of the Constitution. The Constitution does not require a state to remain in the Union and it also does not expressly forbid secession either.
 
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unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
The Supremacy Clause is not a blanket statement that implies the federal government and its laws are always supreme over the states. In essence, it is a rule that specifies certain federal acts take priority over any state acts that conflict with federal law, but when federal law conflicts with the Constitution that law is null and void. The Supremacy Clause does not apply to any law that the federal government makes which is not pursuant to its constitutional powers. Those powers are enumerated in the Constitution but if the federal government creates laws outside its enumerated powers, those laws are void. The States are not bound by federal acts that are not made in pursuance of the Constitution. The Constitution does not require a state to remain in the Union and it also does not expressly forbid secession either.

If you are correct in your above opinion, then what was all that shooting about from 1861 - 1865?
 

John Fenton

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retired traveling
The Supremacy Clause is not a blanket statement that implies the federal government and its laws are always supreme over the states. In essence, it is a rule that specifies certain federal acts take priority over any state acts that conflict with federal law, but when federal law conflicts with the Constitution that law is null and void. The Supremacy Clause does not apply to any law that the federal government makes which is not pursuant to its constitutional powers. Those powers are enumerated in the Constitution but if the federal government creates laws outside its enumerated powers, those laws are void. The States are not bound by federal acts that are not made in pursuance of the Constitution. The Constitution does not require a state to remain in the Union and it also does not expressly forbid secession either.
Combine the supremacy clause with the necessary and proper clause and what do you get ?
McCulloch vs Maryland. The feds win and it was settled long before the ACW.
As Chief Justice Marshall put it, the Necessary and Proper Clause "purport to enlarge, not to diminish the powers vested in the government. It purports to be an additional power, not a restriction on those already granted." 1819
 
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Potomac Pride

Sergeant Major
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Location
Georgia
Combine the supremacy clause with the necessary and proper clause and what do you get ?
McCulloch vs Maryland. The feds win and it was settled long before the ACW.
As Chief Justice Marshall put it, the Necessary and Proper Clause "purport to enlarge, not to diminish the powers vested in the government. It purports to be an additional power, not a restriction on those already granted." 1819
Thanks for your comments. However, the Necessary and Proper clause allows the federal government to make all necessary and proper laws for carrying out only its enumerated tasks listed in the Constitution. The Supremacy Clause makes only those necessary and proper laws the supreme law of the land. The Supremacy Clause only applies if the federal government is acting in pursuit of its constitutionally authorized powers. Federal government supremacy over the states applies to only the specific powers listed. All other powers are reserved
to the states or the people under the 9th and 10th amendments.
 
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OpnCoronet

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The Supremacy Clause, is an enumerated power, that no state can, of their own volition, override, because there is no source of law or authority available(i.e. stagte constitutions or laws) for such an action.

Questions of the Constitutionality of Federal Laws, are also provided for, and, enumerated, in the Constitution. All aggrieved citizens or States, who have a case can avail themselves of that power, if they choose. But, it seems to me the South was very rigorous, in avoiding their case to the Courts; I, myself, believe they avoided it, because they knew they did not have a legal case to present under the enumerated powers of The Constitution
 

Potomac Pride

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Georgia
The Supremacy Clause only applies in cases where the federal government is acting in pursuit of the specific powers that are contained in the Constitution. The Constitution does not prohibit secession or require that a state remain in the Union. The powers not enumerated in the Constitution to the federal government are reserved for the states or the people under the 9th and 10th amendments.
 
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