Confederated States

Posted By on May 30, 2013

While much has been said in recent years regarding the nature of the early American Republic, much has remained hidden or even unspoken. As I continue my tutelage under the writings of St. George Tucker I uncover more and more wisdom from this shining light of the first generation of Americans that has been hidden under a basket, as it were. Often, and even worse, we hear historians, politicians, lawyers and common citizens attempting to compare, or even worse define the American Republic to earlier governments.

But the American revolution has formed a new epoch in the history of civil institutions, by reducing to practice, what, before, had been supposed to exist only in the visionary speculations of theoretical writers …. The world, for the first time since the annals of its inhabitants began, saw an original written compact formed by the free and deliberate voices of individuals disposed to unite in the same social bonds; thus exhibiting a political phenomenon unknown to former ages. (Note A, Tucker’s Blackstone)

How often have we compared our governmental form, that originally constructed within the Constitution with say the Roman Republic or Greece? How often have we heard that democracies only survive for two hundred years? How often have I, we heard others attempt to apply historic lessons from other nations to our own?

For me, the above reveal the lack of understanding of those listening to me speak, or attempting to establish their knowledge of history. On one hand I am provided an opportunity to educate and provide a better understanding, while on the other I am confronting an individual who professes, yet lack it.

We must understand that the American Constitution established something “unknown to former ages.” This type of government never, and I repeat never existed or was practiced in any nation in the world. There are those who would cite Rome and Greece, but again it must be understood that our founders, and the framers of the Constitution rejected these patterns, and eventually only incorporated a name, “Senate,” from either of these. The American Senate bears no resemblance to that of Rome. Our founders saw these two examples as wholly inadequate for a society of free men.

The foundations of the American States were laid in their respective colonial charters: with the revolution they ceased to be colonies, and became independent and sovereign republics, under a democratic form of government. (Note B, Section III, Tucker’s Blackstone)

What an interesting comment by Mr. Tucker. The “colonies… became independent and sovereign republics,” that is nations. The new nation-states of the North American continent joined together for common defense, and with a common purpose, to be free of the domination and tyranny of Great Britain.

There are those who will attempt to declare these states eventually subjugated themselves to the new Federal government, but these are only the voices of the present and not the past. There is not a single solitary voice among the first generations of Americans who would have espoused this position, in the North or South. And herein lies the basis of my statements in the past regarding how we cannot find an example of it being stated that the Federal government was sovereign.

Blackstone in his commentary (Vol. 1 page 49) writes:

By the sovereign power, is meant the making of laws; and wherever that power resides, all others must conform to and be directed by it, whatever appearance the outward form and administration of justice may put on.

This is the current model and function of the American government, but it is in contradistinction to that provided by the founders. Let’s go back to Tucker:

…the sovereignty of the people, and the responsibility of their servants are principles fundamentally, and unequivocally, established; in which the powers of the several branches of government are defined, and the excess of them, as well in the legislature, as in the other branches, finds limits, which cannot be transgressed without offending against that greater power from whom all authority, among us, is derived; to wit, the PEOPLE. (Note A, Tucker’s Blackstone)

Thus, we see the Federal government is limited in what it can and cannot do by the definition of powers and limitations provided within the Constitution, and as a result the Federal government has no sovereignty since it must answer to the true sovereigns of the land. True sovereignty requires the ability to legislate on any subject without restraint. Further, Tucker continues;

As these powers, on the one hand, are extended to certain objects, as to lay and collect taxes, duties, & on the other they are clearly limited and restrained; as that no tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state …. nor any preference given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one state over those of another, &c.These, and several others, are objects to which the power of the legislature does not extend… (Note A, Tucker’s Blackstone)

But most telling is what Tucker writes as he continues the above:

…and should congress be so unwise as to pass an act contrary to these restrictions, the other powers of the state are not bound to obey the legislative power in the execution of their several functions, as our author expresses it: but the very reverse is their duty, being sworn to support the constitution, which unless they do in opposition to such encroachments, the constitution would indeed be at an end. (Note A, Tucker’s Blackstone)  Emphasis added

Thus the power and authority of the Federal government is constrained by the States and the people. Thus we see from Tucker that the States were “independent and sovereign republics and the people were the “greater power from whom all authority… is derived.” The Federal government was intended to only be a functionary of the States and the people with very specific, defined and limited powers.

Finally, Tucker’s closing paragraph to Note A is probably the most telling. I conclude with this paragraph and only add some bolding to emphasize the above statements:

Here then we must resort to a distinction which the institution and nature of our government has introduced into the western hemisphere; which, however, can only obtain in governments where power is not usurped but delegated, and where authority is a trust and not a right …. nor can it ever be truly ascertained where there is not a written constitution to resort to. A distinction, nevertheless, which certainly does exist between the indefinite and unlimited power of the people, in whom the sovereignty of these states, ultimately, substantially, and unquestionably resides, and the definite powers of the congress and state legislatures, which are severally limited to certain and determinate objects, being no more than emanations from the former, where, and where only, that legislative essence which constitutes sovereignty can be found.


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