Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by Mike Griffith, Jan 19, 2017.
Excellent reference (as well as excellent reference on that Washington letter, thanks for sharing both)!
Madison's comments here are especially of interest:
... 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.
Unless I'm missing something that seems to completely lay to rest Madison's views on unilateral annulment?
Founders Online Virginia Resolutions, 21 December 1798
I wrote you last on the 9th. of July and since that have recieved yours of the 16th. of June with the interesting intelligence it contained. I was entirely in the dark as to the progress of that negociation, and concur entirely in the views you have of it. The difficulty on which it hangs is a sine qua non with us. It would be to deceive them and ourselves to suppose that an amity can be preserved while this right is witheld. Such a supposition would argue not only an ignorance of the people to whom this is most interesting, but an ignorance of the nature of man, or an inattention to it. Those who see but half way into our true interest will think that that concurs with the views of the other party. But those who see it in all it’s extent will be sensible that our true interest will be best promoted by making all the just claims of our fellow citizens, wherever situated, our own, by urging and enforcing them with the weight of our whole influence, and by exercising in this as in every other instance a just government in their concerns and making common cause even where our separate interest would seem opposed to theirs. No other conduct can attach us together; and on this attachment depends our happiness.
The king of Prussia still lives, and is even said to be better. Europe is very quiet at present. The only germ of dissension which shews itself at present is in the quarter of Turkey. The Emperor, the Empress, and the Venetians seem all to be pecking at the Turks. It is not probable however that either of the two first will do any thing to bring an open rupture while the K. of Prussia lives.
You will perceive by the letters I inclose to Mr. Jay that Lambe, under the pretext of ill health, declines returning either to Congress, Mr. Adams or myself. This circumstance makes me fear some malversation. The money appropriated to this object being in Holland, and having been always under the care of Mr. Adams, it was concerted between us that all the draughts should be on him. I know not therefore what sums may have been advanced to Lamb. I hope however nothing great. I am persuaded that an Angel sent on this business, and so much limited in his terms, could have done nothing. But should Congress propose to try the line of negociation again, I think they will perceive that Lamb is not a proper agent. I have written to Mr. Adams on the subject of a settlement with Lamb. There is little prospect of accomodation between the Algerines and the Portuguese and Neapolitans. A very valuable capture too, lately made by them on the Empress of Russia, bids fair to draw her on them. The probability is therefore that these three nations will be at war with them, and the possibility that, could we furnish a couple of frigates, a convention might be formed with those powers, establishing a perpetual cruize on the coast of Algiers which would bring them to reason. Such a convention, being left open to all powers willing to come into it, should have for it’s object a general peace, to be guarantied to each by the whole. Were only two or three to begin a confederacy of this kind, I think every power in Europe would soon fall into it except France, England, and perhaps Spain and Holland. Of these there is only England who would give any real aid to the Algerines. Marocco, you perceive, will be at peace with us. Were the honour and advantage of establishing such a confederacy out of the question, yet the necessity that the U.S. should have some marine force, and the happiness of this as the ostensible cause for beginning it, would decide on it’s propriety. It will be said there is no money in the treasury. There never will be money in the treasury till the confederacy shews it’s teeth. The states must see the rod; perhaps it must be felt by some one of them. I am persuaded all of them would rejoice to see every one obliged to furnish it’s contributions. It is not the difficulty of furnishing them which beggars the treasury, but the fear that others will not furnish as much. Every rational citizen must wish to see an effective instrument of coercion, and should fear to see it on any other element but the water. A naval force can never endanger our liberties, nor occasion bloodshed; a land force would do both. It is not in the choice of the states whether they will pay money to cover their trade against the Algerines. If they obtain a peace by negociation they must pay a great sum of money for it; if they do nothing they must pay a great sum of money in the form of insurance; and in either way as great a one, and probably less effectual than in the way of force.—I look forward with anxiety to the approaching moment of your departure from Congress. Besides the interest of the Confederacy and of the State I have a personal interest in it. I know not to whom I may venture confidential communications after you are gone. Lee I scarcely know, Grayson is lazy, Carrington is industrious but not always as discreet as well meaning yet on the whole I believe he would be the best. If you find him disposed to the correspondence engage him to begin it. I take the liberty of placing here my respects to Mrs. Monroe and assurances of the sincere esteem with which I am Dear Sir your friend & servant,
Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 11 Aug 1786
It was one of the things that Madison believed, made the Constitution so superior to the AoC.
During the formation of the Constitution and its early interpretations modern students of history, have to really read the words and pay strict attention to the context of whatever was being discussed or debated in the latter part of the 18th Century.
Different people had different meanings for different words(sometimes even at different times in the same conversations or debates) So words like Contract, Compact, etc., have to be read with much closer attention to context, than we usually do today, IMO..
Isn't this just prior to the Constitution being ratified and so just a case to dump the AOC. All seem to agree that a stronger fed was needed the debate seems to be how much power they were to be given
It's Jefferson saying states should be coerced to obey the governing document, be it the AoC or the Constitution.
Actually, I believe British opponents of the claims of colonists justifying separation from the authority of British Law(peaceful or not), argued that there was no such thing as 'natural law' which could supersede the organic law of the land, except by rebellion or revolution. Exactly the claim of the Union gov't against secession. The only difference being, Great Britain's Organic Law did not even implicitly, recognize that there was such a thing as natural rights existing at all, while it was implicit in that of the United States Law
Interestingly enough, it works out that whether natural rights existed or not, made no real difference to the response of either gov't's. In either case, the separation of the colonies or the South, would have to be through the organic laws of their gov'ts, i.e., change the Law or by Rebellion, which might, or might not, lead to Revolution(successful rebellion),
The Supremacy Clause had nothing to do with secession. It certainly was never intended to mean that a state could not revoke its ratification of the Constitution. If this was part of the clause's meaning, it is very odd that not one word to this effect was uttered by any of its supporters.
When the clause was introduced at the convention, it generated heated debate, and when the Constitution was submitted to the states for ratification, the clause proved to be very controversial and supporters found it necessary to spend considerable time assuring the states that the clause was limited in scope and was not a blank check.
Anyway, what makes Jefferson's approval of a scenario where some of the territories would form states that would not belong to the Union so interesting and revealing is that this very scenario was being widely and openly discussed as early as 1787. David Stewart has an entire chapter on this in his book The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution (chapter 11).
If a state can revoke its ratification of the Constitution then can states also revoke their ratification of a constitutional amendment? For example, could New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey vote to revoke their ratification of the Second Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms disappear?
Never the less the flying fists of the Constitution were ratified and thus effectivily invalidating your assertions.
I believe, as noted by you, the anti-federalists found the supremacy clause very troubling...and with good reason. Its retention was in spite of its obvious threat of state rights, Not because Federalist arguments allayed any fears or doubts.
Madison saw the super-majority required for Constitutional Amendments coupled with the broad expanse of geography and peoples of the Union as a safeguard against changing of the Constitution, except for issues that truly were of national import; while Patrick Henry saw the same requirement as threat to a states right to change the Constitution to remedy a threat to their best interests. That no matter how necessary that change might be, it(the change to the Constitution) could be prevented by the merest minority of people at the furthest corners of the nation.
Both views were correct, according to how one tried to use the amending clause...so also with the Supremacy clause. It was benign or a threat, according to how one engaged the clause.
There are ways and means of 'revoking ratification', none of which were followed by the secessionists of 1860-61, allowed by the Supremacy Clause. They simply have to follow the supreme law of the constitution and initiate consensual protected secession by Congressional statute or Constitutional amendment.
oh yes the whiskey rebellion of which I know a thing or two a bout it with keeping with my anonymity my great great great great grandfather met with light force Harry Lee and Washington just before he was arrested in Pennsylvania he was part of the whiskey rebellion he died six months later after being in prison for three months and I'll leave it at that.
OTOH, the WR did result in the end of the Whisky tax by political means later.
I'm sorry my eyesight is not that good I meant horse sorry Harry.
This is the same old backwards argument. It would have been extremely odd indeed if they had said such a thing, since they did not consider unilateral secession from a sovereign society legal.
But since you raised the idea, when was unilateral secession discussed during the Constitutional Convention or ratification debates? It was not even an option under the Articles of Confederation. How could it become an option under the Constitution without any specific mention?
As far as the Supremacy Clause, if secession is something in the laws of a state that affects the supremacy of the Constitution, or US laws, or US treaties (the answer of course is yes to all three), then the Clause prohibits secession, whether they specifically had secession in mind or not. If they intended any alternative, whether in general, or via the Tenth Amendment, that would have had to have been specifically mentioned.
Separate names with a comma.