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Thomas Jefferson, Secession, and States Rights

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by Mike Griffith, Jan 19, 2017.

  1. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Do you stand by the "systematically and pertinaciously pursued" in post #308 quote as evidence. Have you located the original source.
     

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  3. CW Buff

    CW Buff Sergeant

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    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.
     
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  4. cash

    cash Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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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.
     
  5. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    For clarity is this the post below?
     
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  6. cash

    cash Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    Affirmative.
     
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  7. CW Buff

    CW Buff Sergeant

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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.
     
  8. 48th Miss.

    48th Miss. Sergeant

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

    Thanks
     
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  9. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Good summary.
     
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  10. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Chasing references can be fun. We have this
    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

     
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  11. MattL

    MattL First Sergeant

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    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.
     
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  12. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    'or' should be 'and'.
     
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  13. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Major

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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.
     
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  14. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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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.
     
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  15. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Major

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    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 ?
     
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  16. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Major

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    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.
     
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  17. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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

    In the compact that formed the Constitution, States gave up essential sovereignty
     
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  18. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 1st Lieutenant

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    And yet, Jefferson Davis and the other secessionists were so sure they hadn't, they seceded and ultimately went to war over the issue.
     
  19. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    No, they went to war to protect slavery. Sans slavery, States Rights would be a quaint political diversion.
     
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  20. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Major

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    Conviction based upon false assumptions , leading to false conclusions, has, to me, no credence, especially in the real world of power politics..
     
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  21. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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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.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2017
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