Sunday, August 03, 2008

Thomas Jefferson, in 1816, wrote about his view of the Union to then Secretary of War (soon to be Sec. of the Treasury) William Crawford, “If any State in the Union will declare that it prefers separation with the first alternative, to a continuance in union without it, I have no hesitation in saying “let us separate." I would rather the States should withdraw which are for unlimited commerce and war, and confederate with those alone which are for peace and agriculture.”

These views were not new to Jefferson. We see this same understanding in 1798, while he was serving as Vice-president as the United States. In that year Jefferson wrote what has come to be known as the Kentucky Resolutions, which were written in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts.

In 1804 he wrote the following in a letter to Dr. Joseph Priestley, “Whether we remain in one confederacy, or form into Atlantic and Mississippi confederacies, I believe not very important to the happiness of either part. Those of the Western confederacy will be as much our children and descendants as those of the Eastern, and I feel myself as much identified what that country, in future time. As with this: and did I now foresee a separation at some future day, yet I should feel the duty and the desire to promote the Western interests as zealously as the Eastern, doing all the good for both portions of our future family which should fall within my power.” This was written because of secession talk due to the Louisiana Purchase.

Again in 1820 Jefferson wrote on this topic again because of sectional friction because of debate over Missouri. He wrote, “The experiment of separation would soon prove to both that they had mutually miscalculated their best interests. And even were the parties in Congress to secede in a passion, the soberer people would call a convention and cement again the severance attempted by the insanity of their functionaries.” This was written former U.S. Attorney General Richard Rush. Notice, Jefferson did not think that secession at this time to be wise nor that it would last long, but he certainly believed it a viable/legal option.

On matters of religion, I differ with Jefferson at many points, because I hold to orthodox Christianity and Jefferson had rejected the Christian faith. On political issues I stand much closer to Jefferson. I am for true constitutional federalism (which was lost in 1865), and also limited government (which was lost in 1865, mostly regained after that for a time and now almost completely disappeared again and forgotten).

Deo Vindice,

1 comment:

James H said...

I am engaging some of Jefferson' views as I am preparing to write on this.A slight low grade fever has sort of derailed me from writing something I have to really think hard on the past few days

Of course Jefferson did not exactly write the Const and one must ask if perhaps his fellow Virginia hombe James MAdison.

James Madison as to the Kentucky Resolution sent Jefferson a letter asking if him if he had thought through certain implications of his views

He stated:
"“Have you ever considered thoroughly the distinction between the power of the State, & that of the Legislature, on questions relating to the federal pact[?] On the supposition that the former is clearly the ultimate Judge of infractions, it does not follow that the latter is the legitimate organ especially as a convention was the organ by which the Compact was made.”

Of course the problem is the UNited States Const was not an agreement with the states. Something that Madison went out of his way to make sure did not happen by taking State Legislatures out of the loop

Early AMerican JUrisprudence recogonized this early on

For instance
Chisolm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. (2 Dall.) 419, 435 (1793)

powers of the general Government…do for the most part (if not wholly) affect individuals, and not States:
They require no aid from any State authority. This is the great leading distinction between the old articles
of confederation, and the present constitution”); id. at 470 (Jay, C.J.) (“the people, in their collective and
national capacity, established the present Constitution”)

Or see McColloch v. Maryland:

[The Constitution] was submitted to the people. They acted upon it in the
only manner in which they can act safely, effectively, and wisely, on such
a subject, by assembling in Convention. It is true, they assembled in their
several States—and where else should they have [*69] assembled? No
political dreamer was ever wild enough to think of breaking down the
lines which separate the States, and of compounding the American people
into one common mass. Of consequence, when they act, they act in their
States. But the measures they adopt do not, on that account, cease to be the
measures of the people themselves, or become the measures of the State

Madison long after he broke with the Federalist stated this view

by the people in each of the States, acting in their highest sovereign
capacity.... Being thus derived from the same source as the Constitutions
of the States, as much a Constitution, in the strict sense of the term,
within its prescribed sphere, as the Constitutions of the States are within
their respective spheres; but with this obvious & essential difference, 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.29

I hope to have my first piece up on this by Thurdsay nigh and I am enjoying some of your arguments you are making. I was not aware fo the later JEfferson quotes