A Less Perfect Union: The Case for States Rights

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Erudite and polished, the speech, nevertheless, failed to win a following. It went too far.

Calling the British government "the best in the world," Hamilton proposed a model strikingly similar an executive to serve during good behavior or life with veto power over all laws; a senate with members serving during good behavior; the legislature to have power to pass "all laws whatsoever. Some members of the convention fully expected the country to turn in this direction. Hugh Williamson of North Carolina, a wealthy physician, declared that it was "pretty certain.

Image: Alexander Hamilton on June 18 called the British government "the best in the world" and proposed a model strikingly similar. The erudite New Yorker, however, later became one of the most ardent spokesmen for the new Constitution. Strongly militating against any serious attempt to establish monarchy was the enmity so prevalent in the revolutionary period toward royalty and the privileged classes. Some state constitutions had even prohibited titles of nobility. In the same year as the Philadelphia convention, Royall Tyler, a revolutionary war veteran, in his play The Contract, gave his own jaundiced view of the upper classes:.

By the end of June, debate between the large and small states over the issue of representation in the first chamber of the legislature was becoming increasingly acrimonious. Delegates from Virginia and other large states demanded that voting in Congress be according to population; representatives of smaller states insisted upon the equality they had enjoyed under the articles.

With the oratory degenerating into threats and accusations, Benjamin Franklin appealed for daily prayers. Dressed in his customary gray homespun, the aged philosopher pleaded that "the Father of lights. On June 29 the delegates from the small states lost the first battle. The convention approved a resolution establishing population as the basis for representation in the House of Representatives, thus favoring the larger states.

On a subsequent small-state proposal that the states have equal representation in the Senate, the vote resulted in a tie. With large-state delegates unwilling to compromise on this issue, one member thought that the convention "was on the verge of dissolution, scarce held together by the strength of an hair.

By July 10 George Washington was so frustrated over the deadlock that he bemoaned "having had any agency" in the proceedings and called the opponents of a strong central government "narrow minded politicians. A tiger in debate, not content merely to parry an opponent's argument but determined to bludgeon it into eternal rest, Martin had become perhaps the small states' most effective, if irascible, orator. The Marylander leaped eagerly into the battle on the representation issue declaring, "The States have a right to an equality of representation.

This is secured to us by our present articles of confederation; we are in possession of this privilege. Also crowding into this complicated and divisive discussion over representation was the North-South division over the method by which slaves were to be counted for purposes of taxation and representation. On July 12 Oliver Ellsworth proposed that representation for the lower house be based on the number of free persons and three-fifths of "all other persons," a euphemism for slaves. In the following week the members finally compromised, agreeing that direct taxation be according to representation and that the representation of the lower house be based on the white inhabitants and three-fifths of the "other people.

Roger Sherman had remarked that it was the wish of the delegates "that some general government should be established. For the next few days the air in the City of Brotherly Love, although insufferably muggy and swarming with blue-bottle flies, had the clean scent of conciliation. In this period of welcome calm, the members decided to appoint a Committee of Detail to draw up a draft constitution.

The convention would now at last have something on paper. During the adjournment, Gouverneur Morris and George Washington rode out along a creek that ran through land that had been part of the Valley Forge encampment 10 years earlier. While Morris cast for trout, Washington pensively looked over the now lush ground where his freezing troops had suffered, at a time when it had seemed as if the American Revolution had reached its end.

The country had come a long way. On Monday August 6, , the convention accepted the first draft of the Constitution. Here was the article-by-article model from which the final document would result some 5 weeks later.

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As the members began to consider the various sections, the willingness to compromise of the previous days quickly evaporated. The most serious controversy erupted over the question of regulation of commerce. The southern states, exporters of raw materials, rice, indigo, and tobacco, were fearful that a New England-dominated Congress might, through export taxes, severely damage the South's economic life. Pinckney declared that if Congress had the power to regulate trade, the southern states would be "nothing more than overseers for the Northern States.

On August 21 the debate over the issue of commerce became very closely linked to another explosive issue--slavery. When Martin of Maryland proposed a tax on slave importation, the convention was thrust into a strident discussion of the institution of slavery and its moral and economic relationship to the new government. Rutledge of South Carolina, asserting that slavery had nothing at all to do with morality, declared, "Interest alone is the governing principle with nations.

Mason of Virginia expressed concern over unlimited importation of slaves but later indicated that he also favored federal protection of slave property already held.

A More Perfect Union

This nagging issue of possible federal intervention in slave traffic, which Sherman and others feared could irrevocably split northern and southern delegates, was settled by, in Mason's words, "a bargain. In exchange for the New Englanders' support for continuing slave importation for 20 years, the southerners accepted a clause that required only a simple majority vote on navigation laws, a crippling blow to southern economic interests.

The bargain was also a crippling blow to those working to abolish slavery. Congregationalist minister and abolitionist Samuel Hopkins of Connecticut charged that the convention had sold out: "How does it appear. On August 31 a weary George Mason, who had 3 months earlier written so expectantly to his son about the "great Business now before us," bitterly exclaimed that he "would sooner chop off his right hand than put it to the Constitution as it now stands.

Mason called for a new convention to reconsider the whole question of the formation of a new government. Although Mason's motion was overwhelmingly voted down, opponents of the Constitution did not abandon the idea of a new convention. It was futilely suggested again and again for over 2 years. One of the last major unresolved problems was the method of electing the executive. A number of proposals, including direct election by the people, by state legislatures, by state governors, and by the national legislature, were considered. The result was the electoral college, a master stroke of compromise, quaint and curious but politically expedient.

The large states got proportional strength in the number of delegates, the state legislatures got the right of selecting delegates, and the House the right to choose the president in the event no candidate received a majority of electoral votes. Mason later predicted that the House would probably choose the president 19 times out of In the early days of September, with the exhausted delegates anxious to return home, compromise came easily. On September 8 the convention was ready to turn the Constitution over to a Committee of Style and Arrangement.

Gouverneur Morris was the chief architect. Years later he wrote to Timothy Pickering: "That Instrument was written by the Fingers which wrote this letter. Although close votes followed on several articles, it was clear that the grueling work of the convention in the historic summer of was reaching its end. Before the final vote on the Constitution on September 15, Edmund Randolph proposed that amendments be made by the state conventions and then turned over to another general convention for consideration.

He was joined by George Mason and Elbridge Gerry. The three lonely allies were soundly rebuffed. Late in the afternoon the roll of the states was called on the Constitution, and from every delegation the word was "Aye.

Nullification for Dummies -- States Rights, The Constitution and The Supremacy Clause

On September 17 the members met for the last time, and the venerable Franklin had written a speech that was delivered by his colleague James Wilson. Appealing for unity behind the Constitution, Franklin declared, "I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats. Weary from weeks of intense pressure but generally satisfied with their work, the delegates shared a farewell dinner at City Tavern.

Two blocks away on Market Street, printers John Dunlap and David Claypoole worked into the night on the final imprint of the six-page Constitution, copies of which would leave Philadelphia on the morning stage. The debate over the nation's form of government was now set for the larger arena. As the members of the convention returned home in the following days, Alexander Hamilton privately assessed the chances of the Constitution for ratification.

A Less Perfect Union: The Case for States' Rights by Adam Freedman, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®

In its favor were the support of Washington, commercial interests, men of property, creditors, and the belief among many Americans that the Articles of Confederation were inadequate. Against it were the opposition of a few influential men in the convention and state politicians fearful of losing power, the general revulsion against taxation, the suspicion that a centralized government would be insensitive to local interests, and the fear among debtors that a new government would "restrain the means of cheating Creditors.

Because of its size, wealth, and influence and because it was the first state to call a ratifying convention, Pennsylvania was the focus of national attention. The positions of the Federalists, those who supported the Constitution, and the anti-Federalists, those who opposed it, were printed and reprinted by scores of newspapers across the country. And passions in the state were most warm.

When the Federalist-dominated Pennsylvania assembly lacked a quorum on September 29 to call a state ratifying convention, a Philadelphia mob, in order to provide the necessary numbers, dragged two anti-Federalist members from their lodgings through the streets to the State House where the bedraggled representatives were forced to stay while the assembly voted.

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Product Highlights What we have forgotten is that the Constitution itself is a compromise between state and federal governments--a compromise the Federal government no longer respects. Historically, the doctrine of states' rights has been a powerful engine of prosperity and a protector of American freedoms. About This Item We aim to show you accurate product information. Manufacturers, suppliers and others provide what you see here, and we have not verified it.

See our disclaimer. Conservatives need to reclaim states' rights as an honorable tradition, and a necessary component of constitutional government"-- A Less Perfect Union. Customer Reviews. Write a review. See any care plans, options and policies that may be associated with this product. Email address. Could Congress use its power over the admission of new states to force those states to modify their domestic institutions?

Douglas catechized Lincoln on the issue, and although Lincoln reluctantly conceded he would vote to admit such a state, it was clear that he did not think the Constitution precluded him from doing otherwise. Douglas also queried Lincoln on whether he was pledged to abolishing slavery in Washington, D.

Lincoln answered that he would not do either, as a matter of expediency. But he affirmed the constitutional power of Congress to end slavery in the District and withheld opinion on congressional power to ban the slave trade.

see Lincoln also rejected Douglas's so-called Freeport Doctrine, which relied on dual federalist principles. Trying to reconcile popular sovereignty over slavery in the territories with the Dred Scott decision, which held that Congress could not ban slavery in the territories, Douglas pointed to the strict line between national and local jurisdiction posited by dual federalism.

The Court had merely held that Congress could not prevent a slaveowner from taking his property into a territory, he insisted. Once there, he and his property were subject to local law, over which states and territories had final, sovereign authority. Congress had no power to protect the property right by overriding state or territorial laws. Lincoln responded that wherever the Constitution granted an individual a right, Congress not only had the power to enact legislation securing that right but was obligated to do so if its enjoyment were obstructed.

But under the same principle, if Americans did have a right to carry slaves into the territories, as the Court had held in Dred Scott , then Congress was obligated to effect that right by legislation if the territorial legislatures by action or inaction tried to nullify it. This argument attacked Douglas's Freeport Doctrine and allowed Lincoln to endorse the Fugitive Slave Act, popular in southern Illinois, as a matter of constitutional obligation rather than personal preference.