Thomas Jefferson, Secession, and States Rights

CW Buff

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Either Madison is an authority on the Constitution, or he isn't. Which is it?

That's fair enough. In your opinion, is Madison wrong because he misunderstands the system he helped create, or is he wrong because the courts took things in another direction than intended once the system was put into operation? Or neither?

Madison is obviously an authority on the Constitution. So are many of the other Founding Fathers. But no one is right all of the time. That's why 50 some odd men took part in the Constitutional Convention, rather than having Madison do it himself. That's also why there's more than one judge on SCOTUS, and even circuit courts (the more important the decision, the more judges).

Because Madison, or anyone else, is an authority on the Constitution, doesn't mean I turn my thinking cap off and adopt whatever Madison says. As far as personal opinions, whether of Founding Fathers or anyone else, you have to assess the particular opinion against all other opinions and information on that subject. I probably disagree with at least one thing every Founding Father said or did. That doesn't mean I have to scrap the whole lot.

As far as Madison's compact theory, I have probably misunderstood it in the past, and have judged it in the light of what Calhoun & Co. tried to make of it. I do find it consistent with comments he made in the VA ratification debate, 1788. I suppose if you take states as people of the states, and recognized they have a combined sovereignty as well as individual sovereignties, that's the same thing as the sovereign people of the US. I would also have to do more reading on it. However, it would have to jive with the people of the US as sovereigns over the whole country. I find a preponderance of evidence for that, including what Gouveneur Morris said in the Constitutional Convention (which was voted on and adopted by the Convention at large), and the Convention's official letter, together and in conjunction with what I have researched about sovereignty (including period information); the fact that most states opposed the V&K Resolutions and, except for VA & KY, none expressed support for it, including not one other Democratic-Republican (states' rights) state; and yes, SCOTUS decisions on the matter, including one dated before the Resolutions, and the unanimous decisions by the Jefferson-Madison Court (three Jefferson appointees, two Madison appointees, and two Adams appointees). That body of evidence, to me, trumps Madison (assuming his idea is mutually exclusive of the sovereign people of the US) and Jefferson.

I also find it strange that Madison opposed SCOTUS having final authority in interpreting the Constitution in 1798, but he apparently didn't have much problem with it in 1787. Perhaps the reality of partisan politics, which most Founders opposed and hoped would not develop, made him think twice, but that's the Constitution they created. I would agree there should be a way of overruling SCOTUS, but I have not thought of or heard of any method better than the amendment process. The bottom line is that society needs government to function properly, and no government is or can be perfect.
 

cash

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Feel free to set the record straight. And for the record, I didn't say Madison was advocating secession. I just said the principles he laid out for interposition could lead to secession if taken far enough.

I already did when I posted his explanation for the use of the plurals. That's Madison from his own hand telling us what he meant.
 

jgoodguy

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I already did when I posted his explanation for the use of the plurals. That's Madison from his own hand telling us what he meant.
For clarity is this the post below?
Madison did accept the compact theory, but be careful. His claim regarding the last say dealt with ALL the states ACTING TOGETHER.

We know this because he told us:

"The essential difference between a free Government and Governments not free, is that the former is founded in compact, the parties to which are mutually and equally bound by it. Neither of them therefore can have a greater right to break off from the bargain, than the other or others have to hold them to it. And certainly there is nothing in the Virginia resolutions of -98, adverse to this principle, which is that of common sense and common justice. The fallacy which draws a different conclusion from them lies in confounding a SINGLE [emphasis in original] party, with the PARTIES [emphasis in original] 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. In the Virginia Resolutions and Report the PLURAL [emphasis in original] number, STATES [emphasis in original], is in EVERY [emphasis in original] instance used where reference is made to the authority which presided over the Government. As I am now known to have drawn those documents, I may say as I do with a distinct recollection, that the distinction was intentional. It was in fact required by the course of reasoning employed on the occasion. The Kentucky resolutions being less guarded have been more easily perverted. The pretext for the liberty taken with those of Virginia is the word RESPECTIVE [emphasis in original], prefixed to the 'rights' &c to be secured within the States. Could the abuse of the expression have been foreseen or suspected, the form of it would doubtless have been varied. But what can be more consistent with common sense, than that all having the same rights &c, should united in contending for the security of them to each.
"It is remarkable how closely the nullifiers who make the name of Mr. Jefferson the pedestal for their colossal heresy, shut their eyes and lips, whenever his authority is ever so clearly and emphatically against them. You have noticed what he says in his letters to Monroe & Carrington Pages 43 & 203, Vol. 2, with respect to the powers of the old Congress to coerce delinquent States, and his reasons for preferring for the purpose a naval to a military force; and moreover that it was not necessary to find a right to coerce in the Federal Articles, that being inherent in the nature of a compact. It is high time that the claim to secede at will should be put down by the public opinion; and I shall be glad to see the task commenced by one who understands the subject." [James Madison to Nicholas Trist, 23 Dec 1832]

This is nothing more than saying the People of the United States, who are embodied in the states, have the power to amend the Constitution if they feel it is necessary. Article V of the Constitution lays out the procedure for doing this.
 

CW Buff

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I have no examples to add as i have been in the shallow end but since you and others have read more than I can you tell if Madisons views change later in life or closer to ratification and the Federalist Papers? I have only read a few of the Fed Papers, does he contridict himself there or just 20 years or so down the line??

I wouldn't say I'm an expert, but I see nothing strikingly inconsistent with Madison's interpretations over time. His idea of the states as parties to the Constitution seems to go back at least to 1788. I'd have to read his notes on the Convention, focusing on him, to be sure. I've heard some authors suggest he may have revised his own speeches in his notes on the Convention in order to make himself seem less Federalist (he kind of switched from Federalist to Republican/Anti-Federalist sometime in the 1790s, and didn't publish his Notes until years after that).

As to founders, what is your opinion as to who is included in that group. I have always left it to the big ten or so that we can all name but lately in reading I have heard that that number can be around 200 or so counting DOI, AOC, Constitution, Bill of Rights and the first Congress that ratified the Bill of Rights.

You're right. You might say there's a long list, and a short list of heavy hitters who played major roles throughout. There's also some that played major roles for a limited time. I used have a great website, it had a table of Founders showing who played a part in or signed various founding documents. If I can find it later (I just spent 20 mins looking) I'll let you know.

This to me seems reasonable as to number since they were all at one point or other in the debate. Of course in any debate who won, who decided which side is on top. Since the Document was ratified and the Bill of Rights followed do we discount the anti feds. I am interested in anybodys opinions here. This is a real question and not looking to argue any of it. Just came up in my reading last week.

Thanks

You're also right about comments, debates, etc. Something that involved a group effort obviously holds more weight than something a individual said or did. In the Constitutional Convention debates, a lot of guys put their two cents in on any subject. That's why I put a great deal of weight in Gouveneur Morris's statements on sovereignty made May 30 for instance, which he presented as a resolution, and was voted on and adopted by the Convention. While that was his personal opinion, the group as a whole adopted it.

Basically you need to read a lot, remain open minded and objective, weigh different info, what evidence is more reputable/relevant, etc., and draw you're own conclusions. I began my time on this forum arguing that secession was not necessarily illegal, and the Union was not necessarily perpetual. Those opinions changed mostly because of things I dug up and read, though there was no shortage of people trying to convince me I was wrong. There's other opinions I've had, like that the Nullification Crisis had nothing to do with slavery, that people have convinced me I was wrong on (not that it was easy for them).

Hang in there. You're asking the right questions.
 

48th Miss.

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I wouldn't say I'm an expert, but I see nothing strikingly inconsistent with Madison's interpretations over time. His idea of the states as parties to the Constitution seems to go back at least to 1788. I'd have to read his notes on the Convention, focusing on him, to be sure. I've heard some authors suggest he may have revised his own speeches in his notes on the Convention in order to make himself seem less Federalist (he kind of switched from Federalist to Republican/Anti-Federalist sometime in the 1790s, and didn't publish his Notes until years after that).



You're right. You might say there's a long list, and a short list of heavy hitters who played major roles throughout. There's also some that played major roles for a limited time. I used have a great website, it had a table of Founders showing who played a part in or signed various founding documents. If I can find it later (I just spent 20 mins looking) I'll let you know.



You're also right about comments, debates, etc. Something that involved a group effort obviously holds more weight than something a individual said or did. In the Constitutional Convention debates, a lot of guys put their two cents in on any subject. That's why I put a great deal of weight in Gouveneur Morris's statements on sovereignty made May 30 for instance, which he presented as a resolution, and was voted on and adopted by the Convention. While that was his personal opinion, the group as a whole adopted it.

Basically you need to read a lot, remain open minded and objective, weigh different info, what evidence is more reputable/relevant, etc., and draw you're own conclusions. I began my time on this forum arguing that secession was not necessarily illegal, and the Union was not necessarily perpetual. Those opinions changed mostly because of things I dug up and read, though there was no shortage of people trying to convince me I was wrong. There's other opinions I've had, like that the Nullification Crisis had nothing to do with slavery, that people have convinced me I was wrong on (not that it was easy for them).

Hang in there. You're asking the right questions.

Thank you, as always well thought out and written. Your posts are top notch, thorough and easy to follow.

Thanks
 

jgoodguy

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I wouldn't say I'm an expert, but I see nothing strikingly inconsistent with Madison's interpretations over time. His idea of the states as parties to the Constitution seems to go back at least to 1788. I'd have to read his notes on the Convention, focusing on him, to be sure. I've heard some authors suggest he may have revised his own speeches in his notes on the Convention in order to make himself seem less Federalist (he kind of switched from Federalist to Republican/Anti-Federalist sometime in the 1790s, and didn't publish his Notes until years after that).



You're right. You might say there's a long list, and a short list of heavy hitters who played major roles throughout. There's also some that played major roles for a limited time. I used have a great website, it had a table of Founders showing who played a part in or signed various founding documents. If I can find it later (I just spent 20 mins looking) I'll let you know.



You're also right about comments, debates, etc. Something that involved a group effort obviously holds more weight than something a individual said or did. In the Constitutional Convention debates, a lot of guys put their two cents in on any subject. That's why I put a great deal of weight in Gouveneur Morris's statements on sovereignty made May 30 for instance, which he presented as a resolution, and was voted on and adopted by the Convention. While that was his personal opinion, the group as a whole adopted it.

Basically you need to read a lot, remain open minded and objective, weigh different info, what evidence is more reputable/relevant, etc., and draw you're own conclusions. I began my time on this forum arguing that secession was not necessarily illegal, and the Union was not necessarily perpetual. Those opinions changed mostly because of things I dug up and read, though there was no shortage of people trying to convince me I was wrong. There's other opinions I've had, like that the Nullification Crisis had nothing to do with slavery, that people have convinced me I was wrong on (not that it was easy for them).

Hang in there. You're asking the right questions.
Good summary.
 

jgoodguy

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Chasing references can be fun. We have this
from
Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions - Wikipedia
Ron Chernow assessed the theoretical damage of the resolutions as "deep and lasting... a recipe for disunion".[1] George Washington was so appalled by them that he told Patrick Henry that if "systematically and pertinaciously pursued", they would "dissolve the union or produce coercion".[1]
Chernow, Ron. "Alexander Hamilton". 2004. p587. Penguin Press.

Note that the quote was an assertion of Ron Chernow without a link to the communications. The page in question was not available on line. However I found the letter and IMHO it does not support the implication that the quote suggests-that all Washington was concerned with was the Virginia Kentucky Resolutions. Washington had a lot on his mind, I have highlighted the sentence in blue. I appreciate all comments.

From George Washington to Patrick Henry, 15 January 1799

One of the reasons assigned is, that the most respectable, & best qualified characters among us, will not come forward. Easy & happy in their circumstances at home, and believing themselves secure in their liberties & property, will not forsake them, or their occupations, and engage in the turmoil of public business; or expose themselves to the calumnies of their opponents, whose weapons are detraction.
But at such a crisis as this, when every thing dear & valuable to us is assailed; when this Party hang upon the Wheels of Government as a dead weight, opposing every measure that is calculated for defence & self preservation; abetting the nefarious views of another Nation, upon our Rights; prefering, as long as they durst contend openly against the spirit & resentment of the People, the interest of France to the Welfare of their own Country; justifying the first at the expence of the latter: When every Act of their own Government is tortured by constructions they will not bear, into attempts to infringe & trample upon the Constitution with a view to introduce Monarchy; When the most unceasing, & purest exertions were making, to maintain a Neutrality which had been proclaimed by the Executive, approved unequivocally by Congress, by the State Legislatures, nay by the People themselves, in various meetings; and to preserve the Country in Peace, are charged as a measure calculated to favor Great Britain at the expence of France, and all those who had any agency in it, are accused of being under the influence of the former, and her Pensioners; When measures are systematically, and pertenaciously pursued, which must eventually dissolve the Union or produce coertion.
I say, when these things have become so obvious, ought characters who are best able to rescue their Country from the pending evil to remain at home? rather, ought they not to come forward, and by their talents and influence, stand in the breach wch such conduct has made on the Peace and happiness of this Country, and oppose the widening of it?
Vain will it be to look for Peace and happiness, or for the security of liberty or property, if Civil discord should ensue; and what else can result from the policy of those among us, who, by all the means in their power, are driving matters to extremity, if they cannot be counteracted effectually? The views of Men can only be known, or guessed at, by their words or actions. Can those of the Leaders of Opposition be mistaken then, if judged by this Rule? That they are followed by numbers who are unacquainted with their designs, and suspect as little, the tendency of their principles, I am fully persuaded—But, if their conduct is viewed with indifference; if there is activity and misrepresentation on one side, and supiness on the other; their numbers, accumulated by Intrieguing, and discontented foreigners under proscription, who were at war with their own governments, and the greater part of them with all Government, their numbers will encrease, & nothing, short of Omniscience, can foretel the consequences.
 

MattL

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What is your point? He used a phrase that was removed from the Constitution to support his findings. It was illogical and baseless. He should have recused himself because he was part of the reason the South succeeded in the first place and he was knee deep in the politics of it.

It was one of the worst rulings in history that has yet to be overturned. I do not think Chase's ruling is sound footing to stand. But you are free to believe whatever you wish. I am sure there are people who still feel Roger Taney's decision on Dred Scott was wonderful and legally sound. I'm not one to follow Supreme Court justices who try to write laws rather than interpret them like Taney and Chase.

Please clarify what about his ruling you don't agree with, meaning referencing his actual arguments and what about those arguments you find flawed and what are your actual counter arguments. I keep seeing you make a lot of claims about how flawed his ruling was without citing or arguing any specifics in context to the justification of the ruling and what you find flawed with it.

I even find it likely, based purely on what you word here, you might not have even read the arguments he gave. You keep saying it's illogical because it depends on a "phrase that was removed from the Constitution". His argument (including the continued line of thinking it represents, including previous cases from Lincoln that I quoted in his inaugural address, to Marshal before that) directly explains the logic behind referencing that... Something you haven't responded to (his actual argument and logic for such). So either you don't know it or you don't want to genuinely challenge the ruling on substance.
 

OpnCoronet

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IMHO the secession advocates are attempting an argument along the lines of.
Federal government is limited to its specifically enumerated powers.
Suppressing secession is not a specifically enumerated power.
Coercing States is not a specifically enumerated power.
Therefore the Union did not have the specifically enumerated power to Suppress secession or Coercing States.




I almost totally agree. It is, I believe, why Jefferson Davis, probably made no real distinction between the Secession of 1860 -1861 and the American Revolution, in his Inaugural Address.
 

jgoodguy

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I almost totally agree. It is, I believe, why Jefferson Davis, probably made no real distinction between the Secession of 1860 -1861 and the American Revolution, in his Inaugural Address.

The sticky problems with that logic is that secession interferes with the enumerated powers and the men implementing Secession are not the State, they are just men.

There is a passage in the letter below that struck me.
From George Washington to Patrick Henry, 15 January 1799
Unfortunately, and extremely do I regret it, the State of Virginia has taken the lead in this opposition. I have said the State Because the conduct of its Legislature in the Eyes of the World, will authorise the expression;
It appears Washington is making a distinction between a 'State' and the men who govern it.
 

OpnCoronet

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In the present instance, whatever different construction of the term "states," in the resolution, may have been entertained, all will at least concur in that last mentioned; because in that sense the Constitution was submitted to the "states;" in that sense the "states" ratified it; and in that sense of the term "states," they are consequently parties to the compact from which the powers of the federal government result.





In the Constitutional Convention, Madison made a distinction between Contract and Compact and how that difference made the Constitution superior to the DoI.

What exactly does your bolded ref. say about Unilateral Secession ?
 

OpnCoronet

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The sticky problems with that logic is that secession interferes with the enumerated powers and the men implementing Secession are not the State, they are just men.
There is a passage in the letter below that struck me.
From George Washington to Patrick Henry, 15 January 1799
It appears Washington is making a distinction between a 'State' and the men who govern it.




Exactly Right. IMO, the relationship of the individual colonies to the British Gov't(and with each other) was totally different(i,.e.,nothing like) the relationship that exists between the individual states and the federal gov't(and with each other) under the Constitution.
 

jgoodguy

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In the present instance, whatever different construction of the term "states," in the resolution, may have been entertained, all will at least concur in that last mentioned; because in that sense the Constitution was submitted to the "states;" in that sense the "states" ratified it; and in that sense of the term "states," they are consequently parties to the compact from which the powers of the federal government result.
In the Constitutional Convention, Madison made a distinction between Contract and Compact and how that difference made the Constitution superior to the DoI.

What exactly does your bolded ref. say about Unilateral Secession ?

IMHO the problem is one of making a philosophy from a single sentence. Especially when he expounds on the matter in other letters such as the following where Madison says outright that he was misconstrued. "the proceedings of Virginia have been misconceived by those who have appealed to them."
MR. MADISON TO MR. EVERETT.
I have duly received your letter, in which you refer to the "nullifying doctrine," advocated as a constitutional right, by some of our distinguished fellow-citizens, and to the proceedings of the Virginia Legislature in '98 and '99, as appealed to in behalf of that doctrine; and you express a wish for my ideas on those subjects.
am aware of the delicacy of the task in some respects, and the difficulty in every respect, of doing full justice to it. But having in more than one instance complied with a like request from other friendly quarters, I do not decline a sketch of the views which I have been led to take of the doctrine in question, as well as some others connected with them; and of the grounds from which it appears, that the proceedings of Virginia have been misconceived by those who have appealed to them.
1. It was formed, not by the governments of the component states, as the federal government for which it was substituted was formed. Nor was it formed by a majority of the people of the United States, as a single community, in the manner of a consolidated government.
It was formed by the states, that is, by the people in each of the states, acting in their highest sovereign capacity; and formed consequently by the same authority which formed the state constitutions.
Being thus derived from the same source as the constitutions of the states, it has, within each state, the same authority as the constitution of the state, and is as much a constitution in the strict sense of the term within its prescribed sphere, as the constitutions of the states are within their respective spheres; but with this obvious and essential difference, that being a compact among the states in their highest sovereign capacity, and constituting the people thereof one people for certain purposes, it cannot be altered or annulled at the will of the states individually, as the constitution of a state may be at its individual will.

It appears that compact in Madision's is like the following.

An agreement or contract. Usually applied to conventions between nations or sovereign states. A compact is a mutual consent of parties concerned respecting some property or right that is the object of the stipulation, or something that is to be done or forborne.

Law Dictionary: What is COMPACT? definition of COMPACT (Black's Law Dictionary)

In the compact that formed the Constitution, States gave up essential sovereignty
 

jgoodguy

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The Secession was over Slavery. States rights and Calhoun's Compact theory was the 'legal' justification to effect secession. The South asserted they were the complainant, judge, jury and executioner of the process of secession without consulting their fellow States. One irony is that Calhoun's Compact Theory mandated multilateral action.

IMHO Calhoun perverted the Constitution to get his Compact Theory and the Secessionists perverted Calhoun's Compact Theory to get secession.
 
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