Was change of government from the AOC to the Constitution a “Secession”

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wausaubob

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Still lacking evidence that the people in the states that ratified the Constitution ever considered themselves out of the US. Seems like they considered themselves the USA as soon as there were 9 ratifying states. Other people later might have described it as secession.
 

wausaubob

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It seems like the people in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania always considered themselves the USA. And they certainly had the power to defend themselves and grow westward. There was physical reality to it, which the other states rapidly recognized. Very few actual people in the states wanted the US to fracture like the German states and municipalities.
 
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ForeverFree

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The title of this new thread isn't the question I would ask.
FYI, I am specifically discussing the idea of whether or not a "change of government from the AOC to the Constitution {is} “Secession.” Which is the title of this thread.

If the thing in the tread title is not what the thread is about, then that's confusing.

And yet, neither NC nor RI had ratified the Constitution. So how were they part of the union at that time?
Your assumption is that since RI did not approve a particular form of government for the union, then therefore, they were not in the union. That does not logically follow for me. It seems to me that they would be members of the union, with their legal status as part of the government being unresolved.

There is a difference between a union or nation and the government of such nation or union... as far as I understand it. As has been pointed out in this thread, there have been many cases over the course of history where governments changed but this did not mean a new nation/union was created... those nations did not disassemble into various atomic parts. They were nations that had new forms of government.

- Alan
 

Potomac Pride

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The definition of the word “secede” is to withdraw formally from an alliance, federation, or association, as from a political union, a religious organization, etc. The AOC created a political union or confederation of sovereign states that was adopted by Congress and subsequently ratified by the states. However, the states withdrew or seceded from the political union under the AOC in order to form the new federal union under the Constitution which came into force in 1789.
 

Andersonh1

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At that point, Rhode Island had finally called a Convention to ratify the Constitution (attempt #12, the first 11 attempts did not result in a Convention) and the Convention had met (March or April?) and adjourned without reaching a decision. The Senate bill was called "An Act to Restrict Trade with Rhode Island". That was on May 18, 1790; about the same time, possibly the same bill, the Senate authorized George Washington to use whatever force might be necessary to collect the money owed to the US by Rhode Island (RI was in a financial crisis and also on the verge of civil war and a "secession" of their own; they were deadbeats not paying what they owed).

So that is May 18th. Washington and the Congress were in New York City. It would take a day or two to get the news to Providence, weather permitting. That gets us to May 20. Rhode Island suddenly decided they would ratify the Constitution after all and did so on May 29. On June 1st, Washington officially notified the Congress that he had received official notice that Rhode Island had, indeed, ratified the Constitution.
So they were bullied into joining the Union.
 
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Andersonh1

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The definition of the word “secede” is to withdraw formally from an alliance, federation, or association, as from a political union, a religious organization, etc. The AOC created a political union or confederation of sovereign states that was adopted by Congress and subsequently ratified by the states. However, the states withdrew or seceded from the political union under the AOC in order to form the new federal union under the Constitution which came into force in 1789.
Or they dissolved the old Union and set up a new one which required members of the previous Union to adopt the new government to continue membership. I'm not sure that's "secession" per se, since the goal was to preserve the United States and all the benefits that the various states derived from the Union rather than leaving it entirely, but at the same time it cannot be said that it's the same Union just because the members ended up being the same. If it was organized under a completely new piece of political machinery, and it was, it was a new Union.

There was certainly potential for any member of the old Union who had not agreed to the new rules to be excluded. The Founders even allowed for that possibility by not making implementation dependent on 100% agreement, given how much difficulty they'd had achieving that under the AOC. They did not assume everyone would agree, which is an admission that they were leaving the old Union behind and starting a new one, one in which everyone might not choose to continue.
 

trice

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And yet, neither NC nor RI had ratified the Constitution. So how were they part of the union at that time?
They were obviously independent and outside the Union.
  • North Carolina ratified the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union on April 5, 1778.
  • Rhode Island ratified the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union on February 9, 1778.
  • The Union of the United States of America was formed by the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union and continued under the Constitution. It is the same Union today as it was then.
By what specific act and on what date did North Carolina or Rhode Island leave the Union?

And since Rhode Island did not participate in the creation of the Constitution, it cannot be said that "all the States" created the new Union and the new government.
This is not so.

It is the same Union continuing under the Constitution (the Constitution itself makes this plain and clear), not a new Union.

Rhode Island was invited to the Philadelphia Constitution and chose not to attend. Rhode Island thus decided not to participate in the discussions that led to the writing and recommendation of the Constitution to the Congress, leaving that to the other States.

The Philadelphia Convention had no power and thus could not and did not create the Constitution as law.

The Congress of the United States of America received the proposed Constitution, debated the Constitution, voted on the Constitution, approved the Constitution, and sent the Constitution to the States for ratification. This is completely in accord with Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.

The thirteen States each ratified the Constitution in convention. This is completely in accord with Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.

Both Rhode Island and North Carolina had every opportunity to participate in the creation of the new government of the Constitution. They were laggardly in approving it -- but the fact is that they did approve the Constitution.
 
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Andersonh1

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  • North Carolina ratified the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union on April 5, 1778.
  • Rhode Island ratified the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union on February 9, 1778.
  • The Union of the United States of America was formed by the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union and continued under the Constitution. It is the same Union today as it was then.
By what specific act and on what date did North Carolina or Rhode Island leave the Union?
As soon as the Constitution reached the required 9 states ratification, the Union was organized under it and governed by it, and consequently the AOC was no longer in effect. Which means the Union formed by that document had ended, and any state that had not ratified the Constitution was a State outside the Union.

The Union didn't just carry on in existence with no change in membership regardless. That's nonsense. Are you contending that Rhode Island and North Carolina could simply have refused to ratify the Constitution, and they would have remained members of the Union in perpetuity anyway? Of course not. Assent to the fundamental law and organizing document was a requirement of Union membership.

It is the same Union continuing under the Constitution (the Constitution itself makes this plain and clear), not a new Union.
The Constitution makes it clear that it's a new Union. The wording "... to form a more perfect Union..." speaks of a new creation. That they intend to form it using the same components (States/people) that formed the old Union does not make it the same Union. And they were well aware that not every component of that old Union might form a part of the new Union, so even the Founders would not agree with you here.

Rhode Island was invited to the Philadelphia Constitution and chose not to attend. Rhode Island thus decided not to participate in the discussions that led to the writing and recommendation of the Constitution to the Congress, leaving that to the other States.
Exactly. They did not participate. That they had a chance to participate doesn't change the fact that they were not involved in the creation of the new Union in any way. They would have been left outside the Union had they not bowed to the pressure and joined after two years of saying no.

The Philadelphia Convention had no power and thus could not and did not create the Constitution as law.

The Congress of the United States of America received the proposed Constitution, debated the Constitution, voted on the Constitution, approved the Constitution, and sent the Constitution to the States for ratification. This is completely in accord with Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.

The thirteen States each ratified the Constitution in convention. This is completely in accord with Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.
The AOC required unanimous agreement among the 13 states to make such changes. You cannot ignore the fact that the Constitution changed that, and was declared in operation on the consent of only 9 states, and you cannot say after the fact that because all 13 ultimately chose to ratify that they were in accord with the old governing document. That's twisting the facts. That's a retcon that doesn't fit with the reality of what happened.

Both Rhode Island and North Carolina had every opportunity to participate in the creation of the new government of the Constitution. They were laggardly in approving it -- but the fact is that they did approve the Constitution.
Again, it doesn't matter. The Constitution had been approved and was in operation whether or not these two states joined or not. Their decisions made no difference on that count.
 

Andersonh1

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What is your point here? They were participating in a political event and politics normally involves one form of persuasion or another.
The point is that it's inaccurate to paint Rhode Island's ratification as part of some "unanimous consent" of "we the people" to their new government when it was nothing of the kind.
 

wausaubob

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The fact that it was a new version of the United States does not mean the ratifiers were seceding. But the Constitution was definitely new. And the Bill of Rights is evidence that this new government was going to be much more powerful than the Confederation. By the time the new nation had projected power across the Atlantic, purchased the French rights in North America, and evicted the Indian Tribes from the southern areas, there was little doubt that the Constitution was intended to create a united country.
I don't think there can be secession until permanent unification has been achieved or is nearly achieved.
My understanding is that no one seceded from the Confederation, it just went out of existence due to non participation. I contend that it was strong enough to secede from.
 
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wausaubob

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Its difficult to envision how the AofC could remain enforce during the admission of Vermont, Maine, Ohio and Kentucky. Why would a state of the US cede territory to a new state that could declare non compliance at any point?
 

wausaubob

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I'm just baffled at the idea that states which had not ratified the Constitution were still supposedly members of the Union. How long, under this theory, would a member of the Union be allowed to remain a member without ratifying the Constitution once it was in place?
Wouldn't they have become Luxemborg or Monaco? Tiny city states existing because the national state decided they weren't worth the trouble?
 
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Potomac Pride

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As soon as the Constitution reached the required 9 states ratification, the Union was organized under it and governed by it, and consequently the AOC was no longer in effect. Which means the Union formed by that document had ended, and any state that had not ratified the Constitution was a State outside the Union.

The Union didn't just carry on in existence with no change in membership regardless. That's nonsense. Are you contending that Rhode Island and North Carolina could simply have refused to ratify the Constitution, and they would have remained members of the Union in perpetuity anyway? Of course not. Assent to the fundamental law and organizing document was a requirement of Union membership.

The Constitution makes it clear that it's a new Union. The wording "... to form a more perfect Union..." speaks of a new creation. That they intend to form it using the same components (States/people) that formed the old Union does not make it the same Union. And they were well aware that not every component of that old Union might form a part of the new Union, so even the Founders would not agree with you here.

Again, it doesn't matter. The Constitution had been approved and was in operation whether or not these two states joined or not. Their decisions made no difference on that count.
As you mentioned, the adoption of the Constitution was the creation of a new political union between the states. The AOC was a loose confederation of states that did not contain an executive or judicial branch among other things. The Constitution created a new federal union that had a strong central government which had the power to levy taxes and regulate commerce.
 

trice

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The point is that it's inaccurate to paint Rhode Island's ratification as part of some "unanimous consent" of "we the people" to their new government when it was nothing of the kind.
Fact: Rhode Island did ratify the Constitution.
Imagination: your idea that somehow their ratification doesn't count.

Rhode Island had a choice. In May of 1791 the US Senate was showing them what their future looked like. They could remain part of the Union or they could leave -- and becoming a foreign country naturally had consequences, starting with tariffs and collection of what the Congress considered their debt (Rhode Island was behind in paying the requisition for funds to the Union under the Confederation, just one of many reasons the rest of the nation derisively called them "Rogue Island").

The Rhode Island Convention had 70 delegates. The chairman could only break ties, so there were really 69 votes in the Convention. When the delegates met in March, the Country Party had a majority of about 10 votes against the Constitution, say 40-30, and they elected the chairman from their own. Think of it as about 39 against and 30 for the Constitution, with the chairman breaking any ties.

In the first session in March, the Country Party controlled everything and the Convention adjourned in a week without action. But already there seemed to be a shift in sentiment. Rhode Island itself was a mess, on the brink of their own civil war or "secession". The RI economy didn't look so good. The Governor had already been in touch with the Congress, asking for more time and specifically asking not to be treated as a foreign country. Some Country Party delegates at the March session seemed to be doubtful of the wisdom of rejecting the Constitution.

More than two months later, the Congress is getting fed up. Almost four years have passed since the Constitution was sent to the States -- still no clear answer from Rhode Island. The Senate passes a bill (May 18) to make the issue perfectly plain to Rhode Island: they need to decide if they are in or out.

The Senate bill shows them what being out will mean: tariffs and bill collection (forcible if necessary). It gives Rhode Island a time limit (apparently intended to be early December of 1791, but that could not be finalized until the bill passed the House) to decide. The rest of the Union was apparently willing to let them leave if they really wanted to go.

Within days of learning that the Senate was willing to act (the vote was 13-8 in the Senate) and the bill was going to the House, the Rhode Island Convention decided they didn't really want to be an independent country.

The second session of the Rhode Island Convention ratified the Constitution on May 29. The day they voted, 66 delegates and the chairman were present. Three delegates were not present. With the vote tied 32-32, the last two delegates to vote, both from the same town, chose to vote yes. The Constitution carried, 34-32, so obviously some of those Country Party men came over to support it.

Faced with a choice, a clear and present choice, with a specific time to decide, Rhode Island decided to remain in the Union.
 

Andersonh1

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Fact: Rhode Island did ratify the Constitution.
Imagination: your idea that somehow their ratification doesn't count.
I didn't say that it didn't count. But it cannot be used to claim after the fact that there was unanimous consent and unanimous participation in the creation and implementation of the Constitution. They joined an already existing and functioning government that was created and put into place without their partiicpation, and which would have functioned just fine without them.

Rhode Island had a choice. In May of 1791 the US Senate was showing them what their future looked like. They could remain part of the Union or they could leave
Can you provide contemporary documents that demonstrate that Rhode Island was legally a part of the Union? The very fact that Congress could treat them as a foreign country would indicate that Rhode Island was not in the Union, or else the guarantees of the Constitution should have protected them from such treatment. What you're arguing here is that they were on some sort of "probationary period" at the pleasure of the Congress, but there's no provision in the Constitution for that, surely.

On what legal basis do you determine that Rhode Island was part of the Union in that time period between the implementation of the Constitution and Rhode Island's ratification of it? Can you provide sources to support your view? The facts demonstrate to me that they were in fact not in the Union, but that Congress/the other states gave them time and leeway in the hope that they would ultimately join, but after a number of votes rejecting ratification, finally had enough.

That term "Rogue Island" always irks me. It betrays some possessiveness on the part of those using it towards the citizens of Rhode Island, as if they had no right to live and run their own state the way they saw fit.

Good discussion. It's interesting to see how we can see the same facts and come away with different conclusions. No wonder history is tough sometimes. :smile:
 
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Potomac Pride

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Yes, this is a good discussion. In many cases, historical events are subject to interpretation. In terms of history, people tend to oversimplify things sometimes in order to come up with an easy and convenient explanation of events that occurred. History can be a complex series of events that sometimes can not be explained in simple terms because of various factors.
 
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trice

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I didn't say that it didn't count. But it cannot be used to claim after the fact that there was unanimous consent and unanimous participation in the creation and implementation of the Constitution. They joined an already existing and functioning government that was created and put into place without their partiicpation, and which would have functioned just fine without them.
This seems to be a distinction without a difference.

The adoption of the Constitution was a process. It started when the Congress approved the Constitution (September 28, 1789). It reached a crucial first step when New Hampshire, the ninth state, ratified on June 21, 1788. The last four states took longer to ratify, with Rhode Island being last (May 29, 1790) because they did not even call the required Convention until January of 1790. This is fairly normal in a day when travel was by foot, horse and sail-powered ship.

You are wrong about the participation, BTW. Rhode Island had people in the Confederation Congress in 1787 and 1788:
  • Peleg Arnold, 1787, 1788 (a major Federalist)
  • John B. Ashe, 1787
  • William Blount, 1787
  • Robert Burton, 1787
  • Benjamin Hawkins, 1787
  • John Swann, 1788
  • James White, 1787, 1788
  • Hugh Williamson, 1787, 1788
The Confederation Congress continued to function throughout 1788, passing laws and running the country. It was the Confederation Congress of 1788 that accepted the notices of ratification from the States and set the procedures that were used to run the elections for the new government of the Constitution and the first meeting of the new US Congress in 1789. Last Confederation Congress that actually had a quorum was in October 1788, IIRR. Last ever meeting was in 1789, the day before the new Congress started organizing, but not enough members showed for a quorum (only 1, IIRR).

Rhode Island was a part of this process. You just seem to want to say that whatever they did should not count.

Can you provide contemporary documents that demonstrate that Rhode Island was legally a part of the Union?
Yes. Already done: the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. They joined the Union; they never left it.

The very fact that Congress could treat them as a foreign country would indicate that Rhode Island was not in the Union, or else the guarantees of the Constitution should have protected them from such treatment. What you're arguing here is that they were on some sort of "probationary period" at the pleasure of the Congress, but there's no provision in the Constitution for that, surely.
No. The Congress never did treat them as a foreign country. The Senate passed a bill, the House never did, and so there was no law. The Senate was clearly losing patience waiting for Rhode Island and simply decided to give them a clear picture of what being independent would mean -- and even then gave them about six months to make their mind up.

The Constitution does not apply to them until they ratify it. They are, however, still part of the Union; the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union applies to them. The rest of the country is waiting on them to start acting like members in good standing and participate instead of sitting in the corner having a snit. This puts them (as well as New York, Virginia and North Carolina)

There was no "probationary" period. As soon as Rhode Island ratifies, the rest of the country does treat them like full members. That Summer, in the Compromise of 1790, the Congress took care of Rhode Island, allocating part of the assumption of debt quota to them. About a month later, the Representative from Rhode Island arrived in New York to take his seat in the House. Rhode Island had a well-deserved reputation for being late on things.
 
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