“THE FIRE OF FREEDOM”
by Michael Gaddy, ©2016, blogging at The Rebel Madman
It is an easily understood axiom that the closer one stands to the fire, the more they feel the heat. That holds true especially for the fire of freedom. The Declaration of Independence was written when the fire of liberty was burning deep in the hearts and souls of people such as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Paul Revere and others. The Articles of Confederation were written shortly thereafter, while the Revolutionary War was raging, in 1777, but did not come in force until Maryland, concerned with incursions into the state by the Redcoats, ratified in 1781.
Once the war for independence had been won and the Treaty of Paris signed in September of 1783, the passionate fires of freedom, while recently confirmed through this treaty, began to cool to some degree. In very short order, “men of intelligence,” according to monarchist Alexander Hamilton, began to examine how the newly formed government could be exploited to their advantage. Hamilton would be joined in this pursuit by loyalists and nationalists such as John Dickinson, who refused to sign the Declaration of Independence, Tench Coxe, who traded with loyalists and the British when the latter occupied Philadelphia, James Madison, John Jay and several others of lesser note.
(*It should be noted that in the Treaty of Paris, King George III demanded that all of the 13 colonies or states be signatories to that treaty and acknowledged them to be “free, sovereign and independent states and they would be treated as such…”)
As the monarchists and nationalists sought out ways to convert government to an instrument for power and financial gain, they found themselves stymied in their efforts by two provisions in the Articles of Confederation:
“Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.”
“Every state shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions submitted to them. And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.
The form of government that would provide Hamilton and his “intelligent men” with the powers they sought, could not allow each state to retain its sovereignty, freedom and independence. It also could not be limited by “expressly delegated” powers. The form of government desired by the monarchists and nationalists would require a coercive power, a power not provided in the Articles.
Special notice should be given in Article XIII to the phrase “on all questions submitted to them.” This is most significant. This phrase established the power in the States to limit the central government in its power to only deal with issues submitted to it by the States for action. This was a limitation the “men of intelligence” knew would not provide them with the coercive power their agendas would require. The government they desired must have the power to create problems which only they could provide legislation to fix, using copious amounts of other people’s money, of course.
Well, I have used the word “coerce” and the phrase “coercive power” so where is my proof this power was desired by Hamilton, Madison et al? One such morsel of proof can be found in a letter from George Washington to John Jay written on August 1, 1786:
“Experience has taught us that men will not adopt and carry into execution measures best calculated [by whom] for their own good, without the intervention of a coercive power…Congress have too frequently made use of the suppliant, humble tone of requisition in applications to the States, when they had a right to assert their imperial dignity and command obedience.” (Emphasis added)
James Madison would write in correspondence to George Washington in April of 1787 in anticipation of the Constitutional Convention which would begin the next month in Philadelphia:
“…the right of coercion should be expressly declared. With the resources of commerce in hand, the National administration might always find means of exerting it either by sea or land.” (Emphasis added)
As depressing as it may be to those who hold George Washington in high esteem, it is most obvious from his letter to John Jay that he believed the government to possess “imperial dignity” and the right to “command obedience.” (Has anyone heard these exact sentiments expressed recently when it comes to executive orders and immigration issues?)
The Articles of Confederation were, in my humble opinion, the ultimate expression of States’ Rights and the true principles of liberty. The actions of Congress were limited to those issues submitted to them by the States and any action by that Congress required the unanimous consent of all of the States. The States remained, sovereign, free and independent; and thoroughly protected from acts of coercion. This is the very epitome of Nullification or State Interposition.
But the Constitution of 1787 changed all that and created a nationalist form of government you claim; Nonsense. As previously shown, Madison, Hamilton, Wilson and other nationalists were repeatedly thwarted in their efforts to achieve their goals, but they believed the Constitution, without a Bill of Rights, could be manipulated to suit their needs; therefore, Madison, Hamilton and John Jay set about to promote that document with a great experiment in marketing known as the Federalist Papers. The effort was designed to say what the people wanted to hear, not what the trio really believed. But, they ran head on into the buzz saw that was the State Ratification Conventions. (SRC)
Whether some choose to believe it or not, the SRC’s performed the monumental task of restoring the powers of Nullification and reasserted the concept of States’ Rights even before the presentation and ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1789.
Real Patriots like Patrick Henry, Governor George Clinton and Robert Yates of New York, Samuel Bryan and the minority from Pennsylvania and the hundreds of others who would become known as Anti-Federalists fought gallantly to preserve the rights of the States. The Anti-Federalists would become the Jeffersonian Republicans who were troubled by the defects they saw in the Constitution and defined them as the Senate becoming a bastion of autocratic privilege; the presidency becoming an imperial one that would overawe the Congress and an intrusive federal court system that would create its own laws which would be oppressive, tyrannical and destroy the individual rights of the citizens. (Again, does any of this sound familiar?)
Sure, we have a written Constitution and Bill of Rights but these documents cannot interpret themselves. As long as the people do not have any control over those who interpret these documents such as the members of the federal judiciary, including of course the Supreme Court, any chance for liberty is held completely in their unelected, therefore, unaccountable hands.
So where is the proof of your allegation that the rights of the States were protected and restored by the Anti-Federalists, you ask? Very simply stated those restored rights can be found in the Ratification documents of three states; Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island. To wit:
We the Delegates of the People of Virginia duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the General Assembly and now met in Convention having fully and freely investigated and discussed the proceedings of the Federal Convention and being prepared as well as the most mature deliberation hath enabled us to decide thereon Do in the name and in behalf of the People of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will:…”
That all Power is originally vested in and consequently derived from the People, and that Government is instituted by them for their common Interest Protection and Security.
That the enjoyment of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness are essential rights which every Government ought to respect and preserve.
That the Powers of Government may be reassumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness; that every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the Government thereof, remains to the People of the several States, or to their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same; And that those Clauses in the said Constitution, which declare, that Congress shall not have or exercise certain Powers, do not imply that Congress is entitled to any Powers not given by the said Constitution; but such Clauses are to be construed either as exceptions to certain specified Powers, or as inserted merely for greater Caution.
“In That there are certain natural rights, of which men when they form a social compact, cannot deprive or divest their posterity, among which are the enjoyment of Life and Liberty, with the means of acquiring, possessing and protecting Property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
2d That all power is naturally vested in, and consequently derived from the People; that magistrates therefore are their trustees and agents, and at all times amenable to them.
3d That the powers of government may be reassumed by the people, whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness: That the rights of the States respectively, to nominate and appoint all State Officers, and every other power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States or to the departments of government thereof, remain to the people of the several states, or their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same…”
These three States, using the power of their ratification of the Constitution, reestablished Article II of the Articles of Confederation, Nullification, and State Interposition when they formally ratified the Constitution. Now, either all states have the same powers or Virginia, Rhode Island and New York are not now nor ever have been states. Obviously, the provisions listed by these states were accepted or there would have been no acceptance of their ratification.
To prove this we need go no further than Article IV Section II of the US Constitution.
“The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges, and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.
Liberty, freedom and coercion cannot reside on the same plane of existence. A government that asks you to just say no to drugs but say yes to coercion and slavery is an abomination and a complete absurdity. If a State cannot just say no to an unconstitutional law or act, they are a slave no matter how many times they sing “land of the free and home of the brave.”
The States created the central government as is in evidence with the Treaty of Paris and King George’s insistence that all 13 States sign the Treaty, absent any central authority. Also, the Articles of Confederation required the agreement of all the states on any piece of legislation proposed by the Congress. The States created the central government to protect their rights, not to minimize their influence and negate their power to decide what is best for them and their citizens.
To deny a State’s right to nullify legislation that it sees as tyrannical or oppressive is to deny the ideals and principles of the Declaration of Independence, the founders who denied the nationalists and monarchists their desires for a coercive government in 1787, and the brave representatives to the States that reclaimed their rights to nullify and interpose as was shown above in the ratification agreements of three states. To deny nullification is to embrace slavery.
I contend that if we demand the right to nullify acts of the federal government, using the tools provided by our predecessors, we could see a rapid transition from an oppressive government to a representative government. We don’t need new amendments; we need a populace with the courage to use what we already have.
(To be continued)